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QUESTION:

How come prominent and/or wealthy so-called Blacks/African Americans aren’t doing more to help “our” community?”

A fellow scholar-sista’s inquiries is directed toward hip-hop moguls, professional athletes and entertainers; as well as those who are regarded as our foremost thinkers (i.e. Ivy League affiliated professors, politicians, etc.).  Basically, this gentry of people are assumed to have the financial wherewithal to make things happen. Through our discourse we explored reasons and rationales of why these resources may have a less than direct presence in so-called Black/African American communities that have become educationally bankrupt and rampantly violent.  As we dialogue I immediately turned my attention to who I believe is one of the most underrated yet effective so-called Black/African American leader in our history: Congressman Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.  Someone I believe foots the bill of a Black man making a difference.

Despite personal shortcomings pastor and politician Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., he tends to get lost in the history of the African in America between the integrationist non-violence stance of Martin and the pro-Black self sufficiency mantra of Malcolm.  Powell is rarely discussed in his full effect as a Black man who in the words of the late historian John Henrik Clarke who “got the job done!”  More legislation passed under his watch and work, Powell was deep in the trenches of Harlem, using his lifelong privilege to bridge gaps between his congregation of the famed Abyssinian Baptist Church and the country’s politics.  He was so adept at how he did business Harlem thrived off of Powell’s charisma, charm, and power – and Congress, much to their chagrin…had to love him; regardless.  Regardless that a towering, well dressed articulate educated unabashed Black man refused to cower, and reveled in his power in the presence of White men who possibly believed he should be no more than a butler; the help.

Unfortunately, many are fearful of “going there.”  Even though Powell came from privilege, he showed up and showed out.  Certainly, he did not always measure up morally; his exploits were major and many.  Yet he was inadvertently teaching the so-called Black/African American community what sacrifices were necessary where the collective could thrive at levels that no one thought possible; and others feared would come to pass – an all encompassing BLACK POWER!

So when I ponder my scholar-sista’s inquiry I think of the position President Barack Obama is in.  As Powell’s genetic lineage gave him skin color privilege where he could easily pass for White, our president’s mother was White.  As Powell grew up “Black”, President Obama grew up “White”.  As Powell was clear about how to use his light skin to code switch and retain his blackness all in one fell swoop, President Obama had to “step into” his blackness – one step at a time;” life for him ain’t been no crystal stair.”

It has been argued that our president has done little or nothing for the so-called Black/African American community; yet he has attempted to follow in Adam Clayton Powell’s footsteps.  Maybe not as brash or forthcoming; maybe not as assertive and demanding.  But in his own way President Obama is navigating through an often harsh atmosphere in which he may not have fully realized is boldly racist toward his quest and agenda.

In an effort to not come off as a scary “angry” Black man, President Obama appears more reserved yet powerful in his own right; and possibly lacking the one aspect of hutzpah that is necessary to make a deeper impact worldwide, most specifically in the so-called Black/African American community – the spirit of Congressman Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.  I dare say his picture should hang prominently and fearlessly in the Oval Office as a constant reminder to President Obama to always

…Keep the faith, baby! 

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