today in black history

April 14, 2024

Elston Howard becomes the first Black player on the New York Yankees baseball team on this date in 1955.

What Now?

POSTED: September 24, 2020, 11:00 am

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Black people again stood witness to the hypocrisy of America, as it was revealed that the officers responsible for the murder of Breonna Taylor would go unpunished and a Black family would again experience undeserved pain and suffering. It is a scene played out time and again in the United States as this so-called democratic experience fails Black people. The anger is palatable, and the rage justified, and today many more White people join us in the call for true change and justice. However, in this moment we ask – What Now? – as we search for some redeeming quality in a nation that is led by a maniacal White supremacist who has resuscitated a hate that many of us thought had been given a proper burial.

Like many Black people, my first reaction is to seek ‘an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth’ justice in believing that racist White people must experience the same pain that Breonna Taylor’s family and other Black families have experienced. My Christian upbringing use to make me guilt ridden in thinking that way, but I have learned that is simply a human response to injustice. While I subconsciously cling to that sentiment my focus is now on harnessing that rage and thinking strategically on what I can do to prepare future generations for a victory that I accept I will not see. What I cannot do is surrender to my anger and allow the wretchedness of America to sacrifice my culture and the rightful legacy of Diasporic people.

Black people have many tools by which to not only survive this period of transparent evil, but to conquer demonic rule and oppression. No doubt, we are a resilient people and this particular episode, though vile and violent, pales in comparison to what our ancestors experienced during enslavement, the Black Codes and Jim Crow. My belief is that our resiliency is divinely gifted and the measure of grace we have been gifted to maintain our sanity before we claim the ultimate victory over racism. Nothing else can explain our ability to endure and withstand the inhumane treatment that has been inflicted upon us.

At this moment Black people must take care of each other. We must look inward and see that it is our responsibility to attend to each other’s needs. This means something as basic as food and shelter, to education and more advanced modalities such as investing, business development and procurement. We are an intellectually rich people and have far greater resources than prior generations. Yet, we do not catalyze these resources strategically and too often fail to harness our own power. It is time we use our resources in a different way and reject the rampant materialism that has infected many of us. Too many of us make becoming what we purportedly despise a priority. It is time we choose us. No Black child should go hungry or untaught. No Black family should experience homelessness. No Black child or young person should go unprotected. No Black elder should be isolated and in need. Chronic and preventable diseases should be addressed and prevented. We must make our health and wellness a community priority.

While we engage in this internal inventory, we cannot divorce ourselves from the civic structures that weigh heavily on our daily quality of life. After all, we are American citizens who pay taxes and whose ancestors were principally responsible for the wealth and economic power the nation possesses today. While voting seems like an abstract exercise in the face of so many injustices, it is a universal tool that we possess that can alter the arc of our eventual ascendancy. Many Blacks, particularly Generation Z and Millennials, bemoan voting as a fool’s folly, they don’t have the memory that allows them to see what preceded the fight for voting rights. They can’t imagine being lynched for showing up at a county registrar’s office to register to vote or publicly encouraging Black people to vote. They have no recollection of a time when a Black person could be murdered on the spot for looking at a White person or having your home or church burned to the ground based on a rumor that you offended a White person. The fight for voting rights was one of the most courageous campaigns for human rights the world has ever witnessed, and the simple act of voting unlocks the potential of America. Voting can put in place moral leadership, change the disposition of our criminal justice system through the election of judges, prosecutors, and the composition of juries, and locally recreate public schools as equitable institutions and reimagine public safety in a way that eliminates militaristic policing. Voting is never a quick fix and it requires consistency, but ultimately it can force systemic change.

“Too many of us make becoming what we purportedly despise a priority. It is time we choose us”

While we go about this work there are institutions that we control that must also be deployed for our true liberation. Our historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are gems that we have yet to fully embrace. They are the only institutions in America that have perfected the art and science of taking raw, Black, and youthful talent and transforming it to extract its intellectual brilliance. I know because I am a product of an HBCU – Morgan State University. We must commit to full enrollment at all of our HBCUs, which means making sure our young people can afford a college education. There are two funds, the United Negro College Fund for private HBCUs and the Thurgood Marshall Fund for public HBCUs, that should receive checks from us every year, and Black college alumni must make investing in their Alma maters a priority. We must also turn our faith-based institutions outward and the Black church must see community service as part of its holy mission. This is particularly true of the connectional Christian denominations, such as the AME, AME Zion, CME and COGIC, that have a structured network of local churches and infrastructure that allow them to provide layers of services to meet the needs of our people. Then there are our Black Greek-letter sororities and fraternities, many of them already heavily involved in community service, that represent an opportunity for self-dependent community economic development. Lastly, technology gives us the capability to communicate, educate, inform, organize, engage politically, and raise money in ways that were once unimaginable. Too much time has been spent using social media as an entertainment platform and not as a means to harness our political and economic power.

Despite the murderous habits of White supremacy, Black people at this time in history can ill afford to engage in deficit thinking and wallow in self-pity and despair. We are in a do something moment and we are quite capable of rising to the occasion. Through our tears and heartbreak, we must summon the same resolve as our ancestors but with the attitude that they overcame, and our responsibility today is to exercise power.

Walter Fields is Executive Editor of

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