I can see it now, some black folks looking for President-elect Barack Obama to make Pookey pull his pants up and his big sister to act like a lady. Adult capitulation is now at an all-time high, both in the inner-city and the suburbs – and not just among black people. But, I wonder, just how will African Americans behave under Obama?
Too many people of African descent defer to preachers, teachers and the streets for most, if not all, the cultural intake their children get, which is miniscule at best. Oh, kids get a steady diet of rap “music” because “That’s what they like,” but what do they know about spiritual singer Mahalia Jackson or jazz artists Miles Davis and John Coltrane? What do they know about dancer Katherine Dunham and choreographer Alvin Ailey, and the great art of Jacob Lawrence and Charles White? Nothing!
Some of the best jazz concerts in South Florida are held in a white church in Coral Gables. Every Friday evening, great jazz and food are served at a Presbyterian church in downtown Washington, D. C.
So-called jazz is American classical music created by African Americans and loved around the world, but scorned by too many Negroes in the religious community as “the devil’s music.” Will this ignorance prevail under Obama?
Foolishly, the African-American intelligentsia allowed public schools to eliminate arts and cultural curricula while housing and job patterns reinforced segregation. Therefore, school systems acceded to white suburban demands to only teach arts and cultural programs in specialized schools within schools, thereby separating students with exposure from those with no exposure.
So the universal damage to children of African descent (including some Hispanics) is the actual elimination of how they mostly learn – through arts and culture. Both educators and suburban whites began to understand that so much of American arts and culture is traceable to African Americans, which means that pre-colonial Africa and slavery in the Americas has to be discussed. Unlike literature, American music, dance, painting and sculpture cannot be easily sidestepped.
Will churches in stratified African-American communities embody “Yes we can” and open their doors, bringing in educational and cultural programs for neighborhood people of all ages? If the message of
“Hope” in all its biblical ramifications is preached everywhere while organizing “from the bottom up” is actualized, won’t the churches grow and the neighborhoods prosper?
As we venture into 2009 and look forward to the Obama era, perhaps we ought to revisit a problem that is as relevant today as when it was written about 41 years ago, and focus on finding a solution. In his phenomenal 1967 book, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, author Harold Cruse examined black leadership in a chapter on the “Role of the Negro Intellectual.”
Cruse wrote that there is “one great weakness of the Negro movement. The Negro movement is at an impasse precisely because it lacks a real functional corps of intellectuals able to confront and deal perceptively with American realities on a level that social conditions demand.”
Cruse went on to say later that, “It is a reflection of the general intellectual backwardness of the Negro thought that the Negro movement has failed, so far, to deal with structural problems pertaining to American society.”
Therefore, a cultural transformation is necessary for the relevancy of the NAACP, Urban League,
Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Congress of Racial Equality, Congressional Black Caucus, black lawyers, educators, physicians, administrators, etc. Otherwise, people of African descent will need to develop different, newer models. The lost period of merely restating civil rights slogans and the rhetoric of civil rights politicians and poverticians is over.
Remember, Obama cannot help Americans of African descent unless they help themselves. And, as a Christian, Obama must believe that “God helps those who help themselves.”