“If it is to be, it is up to me (us). (Dr. William Johnsen, Among Others)
“We must realize that our future lies chiefly in our hands. We know that neither institution nor friends can make a race stand unless it has strength in its own foundation; that races like individuals must stand or fall by their own merit; that to fully succeed they must practice the virtues of self-reliance, self-respect, industry, perseverance, and economy.” (Paul Robeson)
“I have only just a minute, only sixty seconds in it…just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.” (Dr. Benjamin E. Mays)
Noting today’s media, one could become very distraught and disheartened about the status of and projected future for some black Americans. For example, it has been estimated that upwards of 30 percent or more of black youth may be “functional illiterates.” Also, there are a disproportionate number of young black males in the criminal-justice system compared to those in the educational-vocational system. As some critics say, “There appears to be an overabundance of black American problems and a paucity of viable solutions, especially in some of our inner cities and large urban areas.
In my humble opinion, there are two basic grass-roots solutions for this so-called black dilemma. Simply stated, these two solutions are the paths and means of education and entrepreneurship. Knowing it and owning it is what it is all about.
First, let us take a look at education. The labors and fruits of education allow you to dream the impossible and to be the impossible. Education is the path and the key for an individual and a people. It doesn’t guarantee you first place in life, but it does allow you to enter the competition for first place.
In the aggregate, education will empower us to achieve our potential and destiny on this planet. We as black people have a problem among ourselves, and the only immediate and long-term solution is among ourselves. Basically, if it is to be, it is up to me (us).
Many may say: “There we go again, blaming the victim for those things that he has no control over.” I, for one black person, am tired of this unrelenting and unfulfilling slavery mentality. We, as black people and as human beings, do have control over our destiny and our future.
We are a capable and competent people. We are intelligent toward and perceptive of the trials and tribulations of life. It may not all be fair or right, but we can overcome the obstacles and barriers that have been put before us. We are a noble and proven people, and we can overcome anything and anybody, if we only put our minds and backs into the tasks at hand.
We are not slaves emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, morally, physically or spiritually. A slave is a person who is waiting for another person to set him/her free. Understanding and accepting that reality of life and fate, we are quite capable of setting ourselves free.
To accomplish that monumental task, however, requires uncommon hard work and extraordinary smart work. Education and competence are the means to such an end. It can be done, and we must believe that it can be done for us and by us.
The scope of this commentary will not allow the addressing of the myriad problems that need to be resolved. Therefore, I shall mention a few of the more urgent and pressing problems that we as black people face.
We should do everything within our power to rid ourselves of these debilitating social and familial ailments: black-on-black crime, black children having children, black youth trafficking in and using drugs, black family deterioration, black youth school dropouts, black under-employment, and black failure to become savers, investors and producers.
We must educate our people about these (ongoing) ills and negatives that have been debilitating us. Again, many of them have in-house solutions and remedies. Until we address these kinds of problems on a local, regional and national basis, we will always come up short on our fair share of life and its rewards. We must learn to work together for the common good and overall improvement of our people.
To quote Paul Robeson, among others, “We must realize that our future lies chiefly in our hands. We know that neither institution nor friends can make a race stand unless it has strength in its own foundation; that races like individuals must stand or fall by their own merit; that to fully succeed they must practice the virtues of self-reliance, self-respect, industry, perseverance, and economy.”
Second, let us take a look at entrepreneurship. Ownership gives you a stake in life and an investment for the future. If you don’t own anything, you don’t feel you have anything to lose. In effect, a lack of ownership can cause a feeling of impotence and ineffectualness in a person/people. If not corrected, it can erode your sense of self-worth and personhood.
Entrepreneurship is the Golden Rule of Economics: “He who has the gold gets to make the rules.” This is a fact of life, like it or not – right or wrong.
Economic might (entrepreneurship in its various forms) almost always ensures the collateral social and political powers. Moreover, economic might does provide access to and authority in today’s and tomorrow’s real world.
Now knowing the rules of the entrepreneurial game, we must become an enterprising and cohesive people. We must become providers and producers as well as consumers and spenders. We can demand respect all day long; we can beg for our fair share; we can talk about what’s owed to us. None of that will get us anywhere in the real world of economics and politics.
To accomplish the notable feats of education and entrepreneurship will not be easy. It never is. All of Earth’s peoples have experienced the pain and persistence of this struggle. Notwithstanding our special uniqueness in American history, it is now time for us to transform ourselves from the pitiful to the powerful. It is time for us to proceed onward and upward to our rightful place in the economic and political future of mankind on this planet.
Most of us are capable of giving a lot more than we do to our common cause. All of us are needed in this pivotal battle for our survival. All of us can give something to the cause. For those of us who know the difference and who give a damn, let us educate and encourage others to do the right thing(s). It is of paramount importance that the followers and the lesser of us (educationally and economically) become proportionately empowered along with the leaders and the gatekeepers.
Eventually, it must truly become a movement (educationally and economically) of the people and for the people. It is time for us to learn from our past and present so that our future will be better for all our people. Let us remember that our task can be accomplished, and there is something in it for all of us. More essentially, let us learn to use education and entrepreneurship to realize our potential on this planet.
In summary, let us echo and realize the sage and profound words of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays: “I have only just a minute, only sixty seconds in it…just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it.”