al calloway.jpgIt is important that serious attention be focused on what those who ostensibly speak for us are doing. Without a finely honed accountability factor, political development of the people and control by the people is not possible.

We must be ever mindful of what the great Martinique-born black psychiatrist and revolutionary Frantz Fanon wrote: “Some of the oppressed don’t want to destroy their enemies, they want to be them.” Fanon wrote passionately on the psychopathology of colonization most famously in his renowned book The Wretched of the Earth. Fanon is known worldwide as “the leading anti-colonial thinker of the 20th century.”

A few years ago, David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a black think tank in Washington, D.C., published a report that said there are some 10,000 black elected officials in the U.S. Today we can say that those elected officials range from school board members to a governor but does not include a member of the U. S. Senate.

Real power

I pound away consistently at the anomaly of that vast power’s uselessness because, like the proliferation of black churches, particularly within our inner cities, political and religious leaders have developed no holistic game plan, no synergy by and through which real power of the people can be realized.


Unfortunately, so many have gotten in positions of relative power and developed on it by coalescing with the very interests that are anathema to black people. As Fanon says, even though they are themselves oppressed, too many black leaders do not align with their constituents in the struggle to be liberated but, instead, covertly and overtly imitate the oppressor.

During President Barack Obama’s long and arduous re-election campaign, the relative silence of our nation’s black leadership was often astonishing. Only when down to the wire, in crisis mode, did significant numbers of leaders jump in front “to lead” a people’s response to voter-suppression laws.

This tendency to be single-issue-orientated and crisis-motivated does not bode well for community development. It does, however, provide impetus for grandstanding and other forms of individual political promotion. For once the crisis is over, now that voter-suppression laws did not significantly depress the black and Latino vote, high-profile black leaders are jockeying to meet with President Obama on their assessment of “the black agenda.”

But have you heard tell of any black leader or group of black leaders ever meeting with constituents about an agenda? Do you know what the Congressional Black Caucus does? Do you think it is a good idea for all the civil rights organizations to meet in one big convention and map out a national political and economic community development strategy?

Oops! No, civil rights groups can’t convene together because their individual annual conventions are primarily fundraising events. A large part of their annual budgets come from corporate and foundation interests whose primary agenda with black people is the politics of containment.    

So the question is: How are black people going to get positive action from black leaders? The people will have to flip the dynamics to do so. Persons in positions where they negotiate on behalf of a constituency must become trained to understand that they serve, not lead. Accountability is to the people and the people are the leaders.

How does that happen? One of the smartest persons in the history of politics, President Barack H. Obama, told us how.


When your block is organized and the blocks of your neighborhood are organized, then your neighborhood has the power to induce positive social change. Replication throughout a city and so forth increases people power. It is not complex but it does take work.

The needed talent is within the people and their development potential has no ceiling.

The people can open church doors and call for ecumenical gatherings for strengthening individuals and communities.  Do not be misled. We the people are the leaders!

Al Calloway is a longtime journalist who began his career with the Atlanta Inquirer during the early 1960s civil rights struggle. He may be reached at