Affirmation and Succession…Passing the Torch

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What’s up family?

They say that a picture is worth 1,000 words. Well what comes to mind when you see this?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument, Washington, DC

You know what comes to my mind? Because a group of old men gave a 26-year-old kid a chance…that statue is standing their today. Let’s get into it!

*So I definitely FINISHED this post, but the site timed out and I lost my entire post. Needless to say, I had to walk away from the computer and cool down for a little bit. Only 2 hours of my life lost!!! Bear with me fam…

I am SOOO sorry for not getting a post up last week. These past two weeks have been interesting ones…Two or three weeks ago (it’s all a blur), I found myself in the emergency room at 3 AM. I have (had…I hope) and abscess on one of my molars. It actually is quite old; I was telling my professor  at Tidewater Community College (when I was in the funeral program) about a conversation we had in class back in 2010. Mrs. Jones was talking about something…whatever it was, I thought it was a good idea to share the fact that I had an abscess. I went on to tell her (and the class) how I hadn’t been to the dentist in years and had the abscess for a few years. And she looked at me with great concern and said, “Tim, that’s not good. You need to get that checked out! You could get blah, blah, blah…” That’s what it sounded like to me. Obviously I shrugged it off. Last June I went to the dentist for the first time in a long time (like 4.5 years). They told me my teeth looked great…except for a rotting wisdom tooth and that abscess…. Doc said, you may want to take care of that abscess. If you don’t do it soon, I promise you will do it later. I shrugged him off. I went back in December…same song… But three weeks ago, when I was stretched out on that hospital bed…. I did not hear doc…the first voice I heard was KO Jones and I envisioned her shaking her head at me telling me, “Tim, that’s not good.”

So they drugged me and I thought I was good to go (that was Wednesday morning). I had a root canal scheduled for the following Wednesday. I went to work Friday at 7:00 AM. If at 8:30 that abscess started throbbing again AND that wisdom tooth was shooting 50,000 volts through the top rack of teeth in my head. It was AWFUL! I called a dentist office down the street from work, (never been there before), sped there, and had them pull that joker out of my head, and dig into the other one.

Then last week I was hit with a monster cold. So that’s why I haven’t been on OUAN.

But it’s almost good that I didn’t post what I prepared last week because this video really correlates to this week’s post… First watch:

(No, I will not discuss how Vice President Biden apologized for not being there in 1965…I’ll keep my comments and concerns on that in my thought bubble for now…that thought bubble will break eventually…just not now.)

Now every time my parents tell me a story about their upbringing, the first thing I do is try to remember if I have heard it before. But I never am uninterested. I listen intensely as if it were my first time hearing it, and more importantly, as if it were my last. I understand passing a story down from one generation to the next… I get it. But the difference between what my parents do and what I see being exhibited in this video is the fact that they don’t live in the past. This may sound kind of harsh, and I don’t want to want to sound like a cynic, but to some degree I feel Civil Rights’ Movement reenactments, in and of themselves, are borderline fruitless. Now I happen to be one of the young Blacks, well, you know I prefer referring to myself as a Negro (a dying breed), that is hungry for knowledge. I know that this is Rep. John Lewis (D), congressman from Georgia. In that same breath of thought, I also take consideration at the fact that there are no black senators… But I digress. But to the average young black person, this is just another old man spouting about Civil Rights’ Movement, a bridge, and bloodshed. Why should they care about a march that happened in 1965 when blood is constantly being shed in Chicago’s South Side, and so many urban centers across the country? Furthermore, how effective is a Civil Rights’ Reenactment  when you have young people with this mindset:

While we are marching on bridges we’ve already crossed, a 7-year old and his friend are driving over mailboxes because he wanted some “hoodrat” fun. And OH this has to be another blog entry…when asked by the police if he thinks he should get it trouble…his response? Taking away his video games for a week! A generation that doesn’t feel responsible for their own actions!

I guess what I am saying is when your reminiscing of the past outweighs the relevance and effectiveness of your present, you have problems. That’s where I feel we are today. And another extension of that problem is the fact that there are a lot of older people, that experienced the struggle, still the only one’s talking. 20 years from now, when they march over this same bridge, it will be somebody with a foot in the grave, dragging an oxygen tank talking about how important that march was. But the meaning will get lost. Marching over this bridge will be as effective as a “Martin Luther King Day Prayer Breakfast.” Something that is done for nostalgia’s sake but lacks the fervor to grasp the hearts to continue in the spirit of what has already been started. I’m not for “I-have-a-dream-feel-good-spiritual-singing-moments.” That’s not enough when we have a whole generation pissing away their destiny because they weren’t taught to lead. That’s right…a generation that isn’t fit to lead and is unwilling to follow…because the older generation won’t share the mic. That’s part of the reason I started this blog…

So that’s what we’re going to talk about today: leadership…affirmation and succession.

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In Numbers, chapter 24, Moses gave a heartfelt prayer to God out of his genuine concern for the wellbeing of the Israelites. That petition was that God appoint a leader that for the congregation that would “guide them wherever they go…so the community of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” God made it clear that Moses would see the Promised Land, but would not enter due to his disobedience. Moses was to climb Mt. Nebo, to Pisgah Peak, view the Promised Land and die. Knowing death was eminent, he wanted to ensure a smooth succession of power and authority. Interesting, after Joshua was anointed and affirmed in chapter 24, he was given authority and responsibilities to cement his role in the hearts of the people…but it wasn’t until the death of Moses that he became leader. But with Moses foresight, Israel was never without a leader; there was no gap, but a continuation of what was. The concepts of affirmation and succession aren’t widely embraced in the Black community, thus resulting in crippling gaps in command.

One of the greatest examples of affirmation and succession recorded in the annals of Black history would be the rise of the modern day Moses. The catalyst was Rosa Parks taking a stand by taking a seat. On December 1, 1955, Mrs. Parks disobeyed the directive of Montgomery bus operator, James F. Blake, to yield her seat to a White person. But behind the scenes, the Black community leaders were conspiring to form organization that would be able to effectively make a statement to the Negro’s dissatisfaction of segregation in public transportation. On December 5, those seasoned pastors, business owners, and community leaders met to discuss the forming of the ad-hoc organization that would spearhead the bus boycott. But the question arose: who’s going to lead us? In the room were men with formidable reputations, know how, and local connections. But who did they unanimously elect? A 26-year-old kid that was fresh off of his doctorate, fresh in town, and fresh in a new pastorate. This young man was a proverbial “nobody” in town. In his words:

“As soon as Bennett had opened the nominations for president, Rufus Lewis spoke from the far corner of the room: ‘Mr. Chairman, I would like to nominate Reverend M.L. King for president.’ The motion was seconded and carried and in a matter of minutes I was unanimously elected. The action had caught me unawares. It had happened so quickly that I did not even have time to think it through. It is probable that if I had, I would have declined the nomination.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Dr. King at Mass Meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church, 1955.

Dr. King at Mass Meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church, 1955 to communicate the Montgomery Improvement Association’s Bus Boycott.

All of the older men stood behind a young man and affirmed him; even in the presence of his unwillingness to lead. They undergirded him and offered support and guidance, however he was placed in a leadership role. It took nothing away from these seasoned veterans; they were still leaders in the their respective roles…but because a group of older people affirmed and empowered one young person to lead a “simple” bus boycott in one southern city, look at the result! Imagine if he had the opportunity to do the same? What if he established young leaders in different regions of the country to complete various tasks. The struggles in Watts, California wasn’t the same in Chicago, IL, nor was it the same in Selma, AL. But all of these areas had race struggles…Dr. King could have been a ceremonial leader and an overseer but this younger leaders would have been the foot soldiers on the ground to get it done. There was a quality pool of young people to pick from…you had the Freedom Riders and SNCC. What if he positioned this young people in prominent spots where they were giving speeches, they too were leading marches, and they were making a difference…then if April 4th still would have came, the work would have continued to go on. Unfortunately, Dr. King ran out of time; but I don’t think it’s too late…

But this problem of succession in leadership transcends just the “Black struggle;” it is prevalent in all aspects of the Negro community. Take a moment to reflect…how many Black churches, businesses, organizations, even families can you think of that were either severely impacted, or even folded, due to the lack of affirmation and succession plans? When you turn on the TV, and Black scholars discuss various issues of the community…commonly known as “the struggle,” why does it appear the same few faces are consistently framed by the borders of your television screen. When the question arises of Black leadership today, why is it those that were actively involved with the Movement in the 1960s still the first to come to mind?

When the youth are empowered to lead, and given a voice, and stake, in a movement, they can achieve exploits. Consider the level of youth engagement and participation in fruitful endeavors during the 1960s in contrast with today… look up the rapper “Lil’ Poopy” on YouTube if you need a little help to understand what I’m trying to say. Aw shucks… I’ll save you the trouble:

I’m about to wind this up, but I think about King David and King Solomon. When you read in 1 Samuel about the reign of David, it is known of all the great things he did. But one thing he wanted to do was build a temple where the Name of the LORD God could be worshiped. However, God didn’t want David to do it because David was a mighty warrior and had shed too much blood. Instead, God said that David’s son, Solomon, would build the temple. And as you read on, you see that Solomon did just that…however, it’s not until you get to Chronicles that you see the story behind the story. Although Solomon built the temple, David furnished everything necessary to build it from the land that the temple was built on, to the floorplans (written by God’s), to gold and precious jewels, to the preparation to get the timber and stone. All Solomon had to do was walk onto the scene and execute.

Now is the time to groom the Joshua generation. Now is the time to train for leadership. The leader loses nothing by giving the proverbial microphone, to a young person and empowering them to lead. On the contraire, they gain an extension of themselves that can continue their work; and who is to say to what level they will take it? Like David, we need to not only prepare our young people to live without us, but to live on without us. Now is the time to take a chance on the youth; while you are yet here to see them through. Now is the time to affirm them to be great, empower them to lead, and prepare them to take your works to higher heights.

Closing thought, it’s actually a song. Growing up, my parents didn’t allow me to listen to hip-hop. My father was my first pastor, and once your pastor, always your pastor. I remember I got in trouble to listening to 103 Jamz (The hip hop station in Tidewater, VA aka 7 Cities). My father gave me his radio, but it didn’t turn off because I think I broke that function. It would turn down so it was silent, but when you switched the knob (volume knob doubled as power switch…old school) to far to the left, you could faintly hear the station playing. (Knob and a needle to find the station…old school!) My mother heard it and she was floored. I didn’t a spanking or anything, but I got  good talking too… so I learned how to manipulate that stereo a little better…like leaving it on a gospel station before I left. Lol… But I don’t fault my parents at all; I would do the same thing…sheltering your children is not the same thing as supressing them. In the time of storms, what do you seek? I appreciate being sheltered because it has kept me from a lot of unnecessary nonsense in life.

But while I listened to it a little, I didn’t really get entrenched in the culture. Gospel was my first and still is my main love. But my friend Maia, reintroduced me to the genre about two years ago. And I told her that it was one of the best gifts I had been given in a long time… I’ve got to write a blog about why I love hip-hop… Not the new stuff…that she refers to as “Hip-POP,” but the old soulful stuff…not rap…but HIP-HOP. The age of the MCs. As an adult, I have the understanding of how to differentiate right from wrong as well as fact from fiction. In short I know how to eat the meat and throw away the bones. But in the spirit of today’s post, this particular song by a couple of my favorite MCs that have managed to still be relevant to this day: Busta Rhymes and Q-Tip. It’s called, “You Can’t Hold the Torch” I looked really hard for a edited version of the song, but I couldn’t find it so pardon their language. But the essence of the song is talking about an older generation of MCs (or rappers) seeing the degradation and digression of their art form. As a result they are unable to find anybody worthy of passing their legacy to to carry it further. In the words of the hook:

Aiyyo these niggaz in the game don’t sound the same
Bust, these niggaz in the game don’t sound the same
Aiyyo what happened? {They ain’t got in ’em to make a classic}
Aiyyo what happened? {These niggaz can’t hold the torch, so why pass it}

That’s the same spirit by the older generations of today. They know that times have changed and things are the way the used to be. They see the crime rates, the drop out rates, the broken homes, and all of the other social maladies that plague the community. But to counter the school of thought Bust and Abstract (Q-Tip’s nickname), I think it is a cop out for the older generation to settle for not passing the torch. It’s like King Hezekiah showing off all the splendor of the kingdom to the Babylonians. The prophet of God told him that this action would lead to Babylonian taking Jerusalem over and plundering their wealth…after King Hezekiah would die. The scripture says how Hezekiah thought to himself that this was a good thing because by the time it would happen, he’d be dead and gone…not affected. Leaders of yesterday, don’t think that it’s good just to be the sole voice because you won’t have anything to worry about when you’re off the scene. We are still bone of you bone, flesh of your flesh, and blood of your blood, birthed from the same struggle. Do what you can today in passing the torch. Affirm a young man or a young lady. Empower her to lead. Support them with wisdom and guidance. Give that young person a voice and when your mouth lies silent in the grave, your voice will still live on. Pass the torch.

Next blog post…we have an interesting anniversary taking place this week in the Negro history. What is it? Stay tuned and see… Until the next time…

Familuv,

TWJ the HNIC
John 3:30

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About the Author

TWJ
My name is Timothy Wright, Jr.... this is my blog. Um...read the autobiographical posts to learn more...lol.

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