By John Horton
With all the recent “police vs. black men violence” occurrences and racially divisive incidents throughout the nation, many communities and organizations are turning to “marches” as the answer and resolution. These marches are the culmination of grass roots activism and (mostly) black leadership to get the ball rolling in order to address the various crucial needs and shortcomings in the black community.
Over the past two decades, we have witnessed the “Million Man March,” “Million Woman March,” “Million Youth March,” “Million Mom March,” “Redeem the Dream March,” “Million Family March,” and the like. While “marches” are highly symbolic and can be galvanizing, I now say it is high time to roll up our sleeves and “go to work” if we are to get the job done. As Frederick Douglas so eloquently stated over 125 years ago, “…A man may not get all that he pays for, but he must certainly pay for all that he gets.” This is especially compelling for African Americans and their present day social, political and economic woes.
Marches and gatherings will fall short and eventually lose their meaning and effectiveness if we fail to do the “hard and smart work” that lies ahead for us to truly overcome our shortcomings and deficiencies. We must clearly understand that these “marches” are only the preliminaries for what needs to be done. The lower portion of the iceberg lies before us, and we must figure out how to safely and competently navigate around it.
There are some debilitating predicaments that face us as we head into the 21st century. Many of these struggles and challenges will be centered around the cornerstones of familial, social, political and economic amelioration. Simply put, we must learn how to coalesce and compete as we move forward into the new millennium. As Paul Robeson saliently stated over 50 years ago, “We cannot expect others to do those things that we should do for ourselves….”
In that regard, I offer some basic advice and viable suggestions. Admittedly, it will not be an easy task, but it can be done. However, it will take immense self-discipline, tenacity, persistence and lots of hard and smart work.
First, parents and other adults have to accept collective responsibility for making a positive difference in the lives of their children and communities. Others – schools, agencies, organizations, governments, etc. – cannot “make it happen” for us, if we do not want to “make it happen” for ourselves.
Second, to empower our families and communities, our children must learn to be(come) successful in school. This achievable feat has three basic components: (1) attend school daily; (2) behave properly; and (3) do the work (classroom and homework). This will require significant parental involvement, for the school, alone, cannot do this for our children.
Third, as many leaders and advocates have been saying all along, our youth must learn to practice self-discipline and prioritize their goals in life: (1) finish at least high school; (2) get a job(s); and (3) become adults and get married before having a family.
Fourth, As adults and parents, we must vow that not another generation of black children will live in communities of poverty, ignorance, violence, apathy and abuse. We must give our children a safe, sound and stable environment in which to grow and flourish. Otherwise, we will have betrayed them and ourselves with broken promises and unfulfilled futures.
If as a cohesive and competitive people, we begin to instill these kinds of values and priorities, then all the “marches” will not have been in vain. There will have been “substance,” as well as “symbolism.” It will have been worth the effort, time and expense.
The “messages” of the “marches” will have reached home. For, it is now time to get the job done for our children, families and communities. Enough marching. It is now time for persistent action and fruitful results.
John Horton is a resident of Norfolk and frequent contributor to this newspaper.