The HistoryMakers oral history videos on Rep. Sanford Bishop and Howard University Medical School professor Dr. LaSalle Leffall reminded me of the road Black America has travelled. This history series, which chronicles the “struggle,” provides useful insight on those shoulders we are standing. A young person watching these stories should feel guilt-ridden if they aren’t striving for great things.
The leaders of the past often came from Black elite families that stress education and achievement. Dr. LaSalle’s librarian mother in Quincy, Florida, encouraged a kid to become a doctor and that kid is currently Dr. Willie Adams, the mayor of Albany, Georgia.
Where do we go next in Black leadership? I personally want to see more leaders with less than perfect upbrings like Barrack Obama because the traditional Black elite might actually be detached from the average American working families. While former congressman Harold Ford, Jr. is a glaring exception, we need an emergence of Black and White leaders with hardscrabble pasts like Senator Scott Brown or Speaker John Boehner or entrepreneurial skills like Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed. Reed is confronting the city’s budget situation in a manner rarely seen in Democrat politicians during the past few decades. President Obama met with Reed and other mayors to tell them that federal money for cities would be less and Reed went to work on budgetary hard choices.
Some people can’t understand that the Black community in America turned to the federal government when state and local governments treated us anyway they wanted…badly. We must now realize that the next step in the struggle starts with simply remembering the drive, purpose, determination and achievement of the history makers. It always seemed that Dr. King wanted each individual to stride individually rather than waiting for a leader who could be cut down—one way or another.
I was always taught to respect my elders and those who have done so much in the past; I put their many good deeds on the scale. With that in mind, we transitioning from Zell Miller and Sanford Bishop to the next phase of southern leadership. In his oral statements for HistoryMakers, Bishop said that Miller often talked about a turtle being on a fence post and that one thing was certain—he didn’t get there on his own. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a history professor, pushed for an America where every child has an opportunity to achieve. If that child squandered that opportunity, that’s life and the government can’t ensure a certain quality of life for everyone. We are in a democratic and not a socialist state. Dr. Bill Cosby says the same thing.
Every American community would be better if leaders talked plain and told regular folks what the real deal is. The next generation of history makers will contain polished children of the Black elite but also regular folks who are sick and tired of being sick and tired; folks who have always known that your success or failure ultimately being and ends with you. At the same time, we must have compassion for suffering children. The 60 Minutes segment on homeless kids broke my heart.