2001-06-02 / Columnists

From the G-Man by Gary G. Toms

Where Are The Black Leaders?

Hey people! Okay, let me get this straight. The Reverend Al Sharpton is considering a run for President in 2004? Well, I think his chances of winning fall into the category of slim and none, and slim just left town.

I’m almost positive that some people cringed at the thought, and others had a smile on their face as big as the Empire State. I have to be honest and say that I was not smiling or laughing. I’m not really sure what I was feeling when I heard the news, and I began to wonder why.

I guess I started feeling this way because it looked as though another respected leader of the Black community was starting to play the political game. It started with an announcement that Sharpton might run for Mayor. The next thing you know, he’s doing what many consider to be a goodwill tour. He bounced from the Sudan to Vieques in a matter of weeks, and this led you to believe that he is after the votes of certain groups, if he does decide to run for either office. Al, you need to fire your public relations team because they are doing a lousy job.

If you are considering a run for any office, don’t go anywhere that other candidates have been, especially if they are the likes of Governor Pataki. How many candidates have gone to Vieques in effort to obtain the Latino vote? How many more will go to Africa just to get the Black vote? Every candidate, or potential candidate, is jockeying for position, and it is not only insulting to the targeted voters, since no interest had ever been shown to them before now, it is detrimental to the character of the potential candidate. How can anyone view a candidate as "different" from the rest, when they do the same thing that other candidates do for the sake of the vote?

The political pundits claim that Sharpton is attempting to dethrone the Reverend Jesse Jackson and become the new voice for Black America. The National Action Network, the national organization headed by Sharpton, is growing in membership across the country. It seems as though he is indeed building a "machine", but at what cost?

While I support Sharpton as a fighter for civil rights, I am having a hard time viewing this man as a true leader in any capacity. I say this for a number of reasons, and those reasons can be used to judge any and all so- called leaders of the Black community, not just Al Sharpton.

Firstly, a true leader is not afraid to tell it like it is, even if it means becoming the victim of scorn and ridicule from those who share their culture. Reverend Al has tackled many racial issues, and he should be commended for that. However, if I were his advisor, or an advisor to any Black politician or leader, I would make him address the issue of Black on Black crime just as vehemently as he does racism. If he wants to be taken seriously, a discussion of this issue is the perfect way to do it.

Secondly, a true leader of the Black community knows how to work his or her power. They would conduct a media blitz, not just on racial injustice, but also on the injustices being committed right in our own neighborhoods against our own people. We can only blame the white society for so much, and we can no longer deny the fact that we, as Black people, have some serious issues within our culture that must be dealt with. They would call for an end to drugs, guns, prostitution and gangs in our communities, and they’d do it with a "pinch" of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a "sprinkle" of Malcolm X.

Thirdly, a true leader does not sit in an office in Washington, or at a Fortune 500 company, for 340 days out of a year! They get up and get out to meet and greet the people of the community they represent or came from. I see nothing wrong with a surprise visit to the hood every couple of weeks just to see how my constituents, or "peeps", are doing. It builds a kinship, and that is one African word that many Black leaders have forgotten about on their way to the Congress or the private sector.

Finally, a true leader is not afraid to call names! If Black people are in positions of power and influence, and they are not doing anything positive or constructive for their people, they need to be held accountable. I don’t care if you’re "P. Diddy", Master P. or the Wayans brothers. You need to be kept in check if you’re representing Blacks in a negative manner.

If Sharpton started doing a number of these things, the political world would become a very scary place. Like it isn’t already, right? More people would begin to take him seriously, and his critics would have no choice but to keep their mouths shut. Furthermore, all Black people, young and old, from New York to Tennessee, would no longer have to wonder where our Black leaders have gone. All they would have to do is look for the dude in a Brooks Brothers suit and one bad ass perm.

See you next week!

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