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Quality Black leadership begins at home…

April 15, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( Upon my return from the recent commemoration of the life and death of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis, the lens through which I viewed leadership was made clearer. I saw men, women, Blacks, Whites, poor and wealthy marching together.

As Dr. King’s former aides such as the Rev. C.T. Vivian, Dr. Joseph Lowery, Dorothy Cotton, Ambassador Andrew Young, Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, and Rev. Jesse Jackson shared the tragic and triumphant events of the 1950’s and 1960’s, I considered the question: What made Dr. King a good leader?

Dr. King began his march for justice with the personal challenge: “if not me, than whom?”

A sense of Godly duty to end the isms of the world-racism, militarism, totalitarism-was his battle charge. As an aspiring leader, Dr. King’s pursuit of the “Beloved Community” was propelled by preparation. After all, he apprenticed under intellectual giants such as Dr. Benjamin Mays, Dr. Vernon Johns, Ella Baker, and his father Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr.

He used the isms of the world to inspire him to move beyond academic analysis to aggressive action through membership in the NAACP and the formation of institutions which included the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Progressive Baptist General Convention. The idea of challenging unjust policies of the U. S. government through well-organized institutions rested on hypocrisy of this nation’s words as opposed to its ways relative to the denied and dispossessed.

Dr. King’s “dream” envisioned a day when America would breach the “broken promise” of equal protection under the law and life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness for all citizens, regardless of race, religion, or resources. Forty years after Dr. King’s example of leadership, today’s leadership model is being re-birthed.

For example, the Black Leadership Forum, Inc. (1977), an alliance of 35 national Black organizations – such as the Congressional Black Caucus, The Links, Inc., National Urban League, 100 Black Men of America, NAACP, The Hip Hop Caucus, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, National Council of Negro Women, Operation Hope, TransAfrica, National Pan-Hellenic Council, and the National Black MBA Association – is actively addressing issues in the Black community on a national and state level.

The renaissance of African-American leadership is shifting the paradigm from a pyramidal model (one leader; many followers) to one in which leaders share a conversation circle-a forum-to affect policy change for Black people, based on their respective areas of expertise. The circular frame ensures that each national leader has an equal value radian to the center of change.

In Dr. King’s day and now, the quality of Black leadership is measured by harnessing the collective competence, courage, compassion, and commitment of informed leaders toward common-ground goals. The horizontal connection of BLF member organization, one to another, is critical to the further development of a virtual, vertical wall-defensively to protect the policy interests of Black people; and offensively to clearly convey a consensus policy agenda. Like Dr. King, today’s model of leadership must reach ordinary folk who become leaders in their locale.

Conversely, the responsibility of ordinary folk who deride Black leadership must begin where Dr. King did: What am I doing to change the Beloved Community?” Individuals who are not a member of a civil rights organization; have not founded an organization of change; or do not contribute to a civic organization relinquish their right to criticize. All of us are leaders in one way or another. We all have talents, resources, and ideas needed to rid the world of the isms.

But, Leadership begins in the mirror. Leadership is informed. Leadership is inspired. Leadership is institutionalized. Leadership is idea-oriented.

If it is true that ideas are intellectual currency, than all who dare to care must deposit their ideas in the bank of truth, justice, and righteousness, and invest in building a better world, beginning with self. Leadership begins at home.

Written By Gary L. Flowers

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