Who Will Continue the Race for Social and Civil Rights?

Last week, I read a USA Today column by DeWayne Wickham discussing the legendary Jesse Jackson’s plan to rally against black-on-black violence.  A major crusade, Wickham writes that Jackson plans to galvanize followers and march in 20 cities “hard hit by the gun violence that has made the streets of America a bigger killing field for young black men in the United States than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been for U.S. troops.”

I don’t know if the marches will be an effective solution or not, but Jackson is definitely tackling one of the more important issues devastating the Black community along with mass incarceration and unemployment. In another space, we can discuss tactics and strategies, but here it’s necessary to address leadership and participation.

As Wickham mentioned, Jackson turned 70 in October. While many individuals have been questioning the civil rights leader’s relevance, the writer of the column suggests that this may be Jackson’s “last big campaign.” For many, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Simply but respectfully affirmed, the man is old. He doesn’t have the energy and influence that he had in his heyday of his career.

But the question now shouldn’t be, “How do we expedite the process of getting Jesse out?” The questions we should be asking are, “Who will continue where Jesse Jackson left off?” and “How will we transfer his and his contemporaries’ leadership position to some new organizers?”

From a historical perspective, it was the young people transitioning into adulthood who were leading the Civil Rights Movement. They were Black men and women in college executing marches, freedom rides, rallies, sit-ins and voter registration drives.

With voter suppression laws, black-on-black carnage and mass incarceration, there is no time better than now to stir up and usher in a fresh group of young and energetic leaders. As a young man in college, I’m more than willing and able to take on the role, but I don’t have the training or the blueprint for action.

Although times have changed, the same social ills plaguing the Black community remain. Jackson’s relevance lies in taking under his wing, the 18-year-olds through the 30-somethings and teaching them the strategies that earned victories in the Black community. Combining those age-old tactics, education, new media and the youthful energy of the present, we may successfully exterminate black-on-black bloodshed.

It will take the cooperation of both the older and younger generations. The older generations must be willing to reach out to the younger generations and teach them how to organize. The younger generations must be willing to reject apathy and the diversions that distract us from the real issues. The youth must also be willing to sacrifice, which is the foundation of service and leadership. We must be willing to sacrifice status and prestige. We shouldn’t concern ourselves with appealing to a liberal, conservative or mainstream media’s agenda.

Jesse Jackson is one of last veterans still running the race for social and civil rights. Many of the men and women that were running with him have dropped out and have earned the right to do so. They either no longer have the energy and ability, or they are no longer with us.

For the leaders like Jackson and his contemporaries who are still with us, we should be waiting in the hand-off zone to receive the baton as they run their last 200 meters of this relay for human rights.

For the leaders like Jackson and his contemporaries who are still with us, we should be waiting in the hand-off zone to receive the baton as they run their last 200 meters of this relay for human rights. The livelihood and preservation of our Black communities and people depend on a new movement supported by the leaders of yesterday and spearheaded by the young leaders of today.

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Faith of Our Mothers Part 2: From Pain to Power

At the beginning of our Mother’s Day service at Calvary Baptist, we had a special alter prayer for the mothers and their children. Sons, daughters and grandchildren stood next to each other, touching and agreeing while the pastor prayed for their faithfulness, unity and encouragement. After the alter prayer, everyone returned to their seats and had a moment of silence for the mothers who were not among us anymore.

The assistant pastor also suggested that we pray for those mothers who may be going through painful times. I prayed for the mothers who passed and for the mothers enduring pain. In particular, I lifted up the mothers who lost children, and that time of meditation reminded me of a recent story in The Final Call.

The article told the stories of mothers who lost children to violence and how they are turning that pain into power; using their faith to remain hopeful while leading the movement to prevent other mothers from feeling that pain.

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, lost her son in February when he was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman. She has dealt with the pain by reminding herself that “God is still in control.” She said she would tell mothers who lost children to “read their Bible, remain prayerful and keep pushing forward.”

Dealing with the pain of losing a child is unimaginable and has to be increasingly overwhelming on Mother’s Day, a day that is suppose to be a joyous time where children show their appreciation towards their mothers. But the faith of Ms. Fulton and the many other mothers is the catalyst that transforms their pain into power.

Wanda Johnson’s son, Oscar Grant, was shot and killed in 2008 on a train station platform by a former Bay Area Rapid Transit District officer. Johnson attributes her strength to endure and remain hopeful to her faith.

“Had I not had a relationship with the Lord, I probably would have fallen into depression.”

She also said that prayer not only gave her power through God but it gave her the strength to encourage others. The article entitled “Mother Love Conquers Adversity” also told the stories of Theresa Williamson, Valerie Bell, Enola Causey and Wanda Hawkins, all mothers who lost their children to violence but found power in their faith.

As I reflect on this subject, I think of Nardyne Jefferies, the mother of 16-year-old Brishell Jones who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in southeast Washington, D.C. in 2010. I met Ms. Jefferies a couple of months ago when she spoke to the male students in the chapel at Howard University on the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting. We prayed with her, and it was evident that her faith was keeping her grounded during those trying times.

I also think of the mothers of Tylik Pugh, Saahron Jones, Shakur Prince, Sha’Ron Jackson, Jonathan Paraison and the several other names from around my way who are gone but never forgotten. My prayer is that those mothers find the faith and peace to turn their pain into power on this Mother’s Day.

My heart goes out to all mothers who may be experiencing the pain of lost. Lord willing they keep pushing forward, remain faithful and keep the memory of their children alive so another mother will not have to experience the same pain.

Happy Mother’s Day

Peace