H O W A R D   U N I V E R S I T Y

Faces & Voices 5
An Anthology
of Verse and Prose

the Composition
for Honours Class,
Howard University,

E. R. B

Faces & Voices 4


To Today’s Black Leaders
Part 1: You’re Misleading My People

By Tracy Hunter
      I feel that it’s safe to say that there are just as many great leaders in the African American community today as there are not so good ones. Too bad there is solid truth to the old saying “One bad apple spoils the bunch.” 
It is my desire to completely support whatever it is that my black leaders are fighting for. The problem is I don’t know what that is. I keep hearing something about “The Black Agenda.” Can anybody tell me exactly what the black agenda is? There is no black agenda. In fact, our leaders are trying to fight for a group collectively that doesn’t really see themselves as a collective group.
      I was so hurt recently when I heard an excerpt from a paper written by a fellow college student. In the paper she made mention of “us” and “them” and not wanting the two to be confused. So, who were “us” and “them?” “Us” was supposed to be the more sophisticated Blacks; the ones who speak well, dress well, have good jobs. “Them” was supposed to be the “niggers,” the ones who continue to mess things up for everyone else.
      Whoa! I’ve always thought that a group was only as strong as it’s weakest link. We’re never going to get anywhere putting each other down. We’re never going to get anywhere by simply blaming each other for our problems and then refusing to do no more than shun those whom we feel to be less than us. What ever happened to “I am because we are. We are because I am?” What happened to “We must rise up, but unless we rise united-pushing one another, lifting one another-success will not be ours to celebrate?”
      How can our leaders form a “Black Agenda” for a hostile group which has separated themselves as we have? And if indeed there is such an agenda, for whom does it fight “us” or “them.”
      Many of our black leaders want us to believe that we are involved in an incredibly tough battle and the “White Man” deserves all the blame. It seems as though they attempt to raise such anger in us that their own anger begins to cloud their perceptions. 
      Many of our leaders carry the title of “Reverend.” Reverend? I have always thought that a reverend was a preacher of the gospel. Maybe it’s just me, but there are quite a few of our leaders who carry this title and I’ve never heard them preach anything short of praise for themselves, even when they’re standing in the pulpit.
Have you every stopped to really analyze some of the concepts for which our leaders claim we should be angry? “Police Brutality,” “Crack Rock vs. Powder Cocaine?” If you haven’t, maybe it’s time you did.
      True, police brutality has gotten a bit out of hand. OK, more than a bit. But should that be our primary focus at this point? What happened to taking care of home first and then worrying about everyone else? If I’m not mistaken, black on black crime has been out of hand for a while. The rate at which we’re brutalizing each other is outrageous. I find it amazing how we can get fired up, organize rallies and major marches when a cop kills a brother on his front porch in New York, or when a cop follows a college student across multiple border lines and then kills him, yet, we do nothing when a brother kills a brother in the hood. This goes back to the inability to effectively demand respect from anyone until we respect ourselves.
      On top of police brutality, our black leaders will have us to believe that we should be upset because the justice system imposes tougher restrictions on “crack rock” predominately used by African Americans than “powder cocaine” used most by Caucasians. OK, maybe that is unfair. So? What do we want? Do we want the penalties for the use of these drugs to be the same? Ok, how do we best achieve this objective?
      What if the system were to lower the bar to where the same penalty imposed on powder cocaine was imposed on crack rock? Black leader, tell me what my community gains from that? More drug overdoses in the black community? More crack heads? More drugs being carried and sold to our children? Yeah, that’s a whole lot to fight for!
      So, what if the system were to raise the bar to where the use of powder cocaine was penalized as severely as the use of crack rock? Well, we still have our people behind bars for drug use. Yeah, the “White Man” is there too, but so what? What benefit does this have for the black community? We don’t have any less of our people behind bars for substance abuse. Furthermore, what good is a law that probably won’t be enforced anyway?
      Black leader, I know you think you’re doing the best you can, but maybe you need to redirect your focus. Maybe instead of trying to find others on whom to place blame for the problems within our communities, we need to look at out communities themselves. Attack the brutality issue from the inside our; attack the drug issue from the inside out. And maybe, just maybe, if “The White Man” sees that we are serious about our purpose; if “he” sees that we don’t go around killing ourselves and we don’t expect “him” to either; if “he” sees that we don’t want the drugs in our communities so stop bringing them, maybe we’ll gain a little more respect. 
      When we began to rekindle some of the attitudes of togetherness and power that our ancestors possessed, maybe then we can effectively push a “Black Agenda.” Until then Black Leaders, I stand convinced that you are misleading my people!

© 2001 Tracy Hunter

© 2001 Howard University.
(First Published in limited print edition, An Anthology of Verse and Prose, by the Composition for Honours Class, Howard University, Spring 2001. Professor E.R. Braithwaite)
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