Who Influences Black America?

Each generation has its challenges; it’s leaders; it’s era that distinguishes this generation from the previous and the following.  Each generation has it’s defining moments, it’s ups, and it’s downs. During the 1950s and 1960s our leaders were Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Kwame Ture (then Stokeley Carmichael), James Farmer, Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, and so forth and so forth. Who does our generation look up to now?  Where do we get our news from and who decides what is important enough to talk about and take action?  Some of us wouldn’t know there is a drought in East Africa if it wasn’t for the ending of Jay Z and Kanye West’s Otis.  Beyoncé defines femininity while Lil’ Wayne complicates the idea of masculinity. I have compiled a list of the TOP FIVE Black leaders that deserve notoriety.

5.  PRINCIPAL STEVE PERRY is  mostly known from his segment on CNN Black In America.  He is a principal at Capital Preparatory Magnet School.  One Hundred percent of his graduates go on to a four year college.  Education is a hot-button topic within the black community and he takes it upon himself to not only educate but also prepare his students for life after.  His new book, Push Has Come To Shove, tackles education reform and inspires the next generation of educators to do the same.  He has been described as the “hardest working man in education”.

4.  BENJAMIN JEALOUS is the youngest CEO and President of the NAACP.  Also, he is the author of Threat and Humiliation: Racial Profiling, Domestic Security, and Human Rights in the United States.  During his collegiate career, at Columbia University, he led boycotts, protests, and pickets for homeless rights.  As the national leader, he is leading the NAACP to seek justice in the case of Troy Davis.  Additionally, he is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated.

3. DR. CORNEL WEST is one of the leading and most profound intellectual and a professor at Princeton University.  He has appeared on numerous albums (as a spoken word artist), films, and weekly on Tavis Smiley’s radio show.  Additionally, he is the author of Race Matters.  He can be seen occasionally on CNN, Colbert Report, PBS, and C-Span.  More recently, he launched a poverty tour with Tavis Smiley and traveled to nine states and 18 cities to highlight the plight of the poor, despite the “political cowardice.” Additionally, he is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.

2. OPRAH WINFREY is credited as the first black woman billionaire.  In addition to hosting her own nationally syndicated talk show from 1986 to 2011, she gives back to her community through numerous philanthropies.  Following Hurricane Katrina, she created Oprah Angel Network – Katrina and raised over $11 million dollars for hurricane relief.  She helped 250 African American men complete their education at Morehouse College and listed by Business Weekly as one of America’s 50 most generous people (given an estimated $303 million in 2007).  Additionally, she gave 50,000 presents to children in Africa that live in poverty.

1. BARACK OBAMA is the first African American president of the United States of America.  Previously, he served as an Illinois Senator.  He was the President of the Harvard Law Review.  He was a civil rights attorney and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School.  As commander-in-chief, He authorized a “surgical raid” of infamous terrorist, Osama Bin Laden.  In 2009, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”.  More recently, he authorized the Justice department to investigate police discrimination and brutality to achieve a judicial reform.  The election of President Barack Obama is not equivalent to a post-racial society but it’s a step in the right direction.  This moment is a culmination of millions of African-Americans that fought, walked, sat, boycotted, and protested.



Filed under Opinion

5 responses to “Who Influences Black America?

  1. swandiver

    1. Steve Perry – I did not really know about him but will read his book to get his perspective.

    2. Ben Jealous – May have good intentions but is head of an organization that has made itself largley irrelevant to the day to day lives of most African-Americans and is seen mostly as a conscienc-soother of the upper eschelon so they don’t feel like they’ve abandoned black people.

    3. Cornel West – Brilliant intellectual and philosopher but offers very little in terms practical application but that’s not really his job. Much like Noam Chomsky, his power lies in laying out the philosophical arguments that influence other leaders.

    4. Oprah Winfrey – A very generous woman who gives back on a constant basis. However, much of her wealth is very dependent on white people believing she is a “safe Negro”, one that won’t disrupt the status quo. If she were to organize her wealth toward a more systematic effort to help African-Americans she would quickly find herself labeled a “radical” and the beef industry lawsuit would seem minor in comparison.

    5. Barak Obama – He has tremendous power as leader of the free world and the capacity to understand the ramifications of his decisions (a refreshing change). But because of his office and the refusal of the majority of Americans to deal with racial oppression seriously, his hands are tied on a lot of issues that matter to the African-American community.

    If you define the term “leader” has someone whose main goals are the upliftment and protection of the African-American community from oppression, we don’t have any leaders that can influence policy on a national scale. Simply being successful and black does not make you a leader.

    As far as who is influencing black people. Simple look at who controls our means of media output and its results. We have been groomed to be the perfect consumers of corporate goods, the go-to demographic when companies want pure profit with very little social pushback.

  2. Well, who would you put on this list in place of these leaders?

    That is funny that you talk about the irrelevance. You can say this about any other organizations. Older orgs are constantly fighting to stay relevant while adapting to contemporary society. We live in a post-civil rights era so you won’t see the NAACP at the front fighting for equal rights. You will see them fighting for education, employment, justice (Troy Davis), and stand up when isolated events threaten our community. Also, to improve their relevancy, they could focus more on these issues rather than arguing with the Tea Party.

    Barack Obama deserves to be on this list because his candidacy was miraculous. He held the 99th seat in the senate and became the front runner of the democratic nomination. He was the underdog and received backlash around every corner but didn’t give up. He inspired our community whether anyone admits it or not. He didn’t deal with race because He is the President of the US not just of Black America. However, recently, he is doing things and making adjustments such as appointing the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic Woman (Sonia Sotomayor) and investigating police brutality/discrimination. He is the face and motivation for minorities, not just for Black America.

    “Simple look at who controls our means of media output and its results”. Bob Johnson, the founder of BET? I wouldn’t look at who controls our means so much as who inspires us to become more than drug dealers, pimps, hos, and murderers. I wouldn’t look at the people that exploit our image and negate the fact that we were once kings and queens.

    • swandiver

      It’s hard to get into the nitty gritty of a discussion that has so many dimensions in comments but I can’t think of one person on the national stage who I would think of as a “leader”.

      As far as the NAACP goes, the three things you pointed out as their main focus are precisely the reasons why they should be on the front line. Though you state we live in a “post-civil rights era” (and that could be argued), we do not live in a post-oppression era and the threat to African-American success has not gone away but merely morphed to sustain itself. I highly recommend “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander who can prove this point more effectively than I can.

      You do make a compelling argument for Barak Obama. It’s a perspective that I may not have looked at because I’m becoming disillusioned with his constant caving to GOP positions. The fact is, when dealing with the issues of the black community, I never looked toward him because you’re right, he’s the President. I look more to people like the Congressional Black Caucus who have been in politics for years, sometimes decades, many with districts that are 90% black and they have yet to really do anything.

      As far as BET goes, Bob Johnson has not owned it now for 10 years (sold to Viacom in 2000) and left as CEO in 2006. Everyone also agrees that the BET of my youth that would balance Rap City and Donnie Simmons with Teen Summit and BET News is a thing of the past.

      I hate to sound like an old geezer but when I as a teenager (I was 14/15 in 1990) yes, I would sneak and listen to 2 Live Crew or NWA. But then i also listened to Public Enemy, Sistah Souljah, Paris, Arrested Development, A Tribe Called Quest. And these were not some obscure underground groups, their videos were played right along side the other ones.

      I read Sista 2 Sista magazine but I also read YSB (Young Sisters and Brothers). Our family subscribed to Emerge magazine, not just Ebony.

      Who, in modern mainstream black culture is the antithesis of Lil’Wayne? Our young people have become so bereft of successful images that Kanye West’s narcissicistic ravings (as much as I like them) are seen in most circles as “conscience” rap and the bar for their success is whether or not they become a crimminal. There is no more balance left in black youth culture.
      This is a direct result of outside corporate interests controlling the images our children watch and produce. These corporate interests have no investment in the character delvelopment of our young people. They need them to buy things.

      • That book is next on my list. I agree and also look up to the Congressional Black Caucus (I will be attending a few of those events this year).

        As far as the antithesis of Lil’ Wayne, it depends who you ask. Some may just credit whoever is “beefing” with Lil’ Wayne at the moment (i.e. Jay Z). In terms of lyrical content/conduct, i’d say Lupe Fiasco or Nas. In terms of Black academia, I would say Michael Eric Dyson because he reaches the youth with his colloquialisms and dissertations backed by lyrical content (i.e. Illmatic).

        Yes, BET has gone down since BET News, Teen Summit, and other educational shows were canceled. In that regards, the antithesis of our character development might be us (the ones that feed into the exploitation of our culture and demise of our morality).

  3. Well, this is extremely interesting indeed. Would love to read a little more of this. Excellent post. Thanks for the heads-up.

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