After a summer of driving 4 hours from my home in suburban Kansas City, MO to Ferguson, MO shouting “Black Lives Matter!”, a summer and fall of watching in utter disgust and disappointment of Grand Jury decisions of no indictments of police officers in Ferguson and my so-called “liberal” hometown of New York, again taking to the streets marching again marching and shouting, “Black Lives Matter!”, “Hand’s Up!”, and “No Justice, No Peace!” until my throat was raw and my voice hoarse; after celebrating a “national” holiday for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, a holiday that not all Americans celebrate or even recognize. Today brings us to the day another “extraordinarily common” brother who was eulogized as our “Black Shining Prince” Malcom X on the anniversary when he like Dr. King was suddenly taken from us. Dr. King gave us the strength to March. Malcolm gave us our identity of African-American. Negro was too small a word. Negro was their word forced upon us. Our greatness as a people extends much farther than Negro can even attempt to define.
Fifty years later, we have continually been called to stand against injustice. However, this time I would like to outline a strategy. A strategy that has been coalescing in my mind for years as I live my life as not just at Black man in America but an African-American man in America.
The time of non-violent peaceful demonstration has not passed. Gandhi inspired King. King inspires us. However, unlike those two great men we live in the age of technology. Organization must occur not just through word of mouth but through social media. Non-violent protest is only one tool in the box. Non-violent protest is a visible tool to illicit support from others who may not be aware. It allows a platform to the established media forms of television, newspapers, and radio. While this is going on however, the larger social media tools must still be engaged and continuously inundated with the message we wish to deliver.
This needs to work in parallel with a financial component. In America, to find truth you must follow the money. Therefore to illicit change we must also engage tool number two from our toolbox – a financial embargo. The Montgomery Bus boycott of 1955-1956 worked in part due to the fact that it made the city’s public transportation system financially insolvent. African-American buying power was estimated to reach $1.1 trillion dollars this year, according to the State of the African Consumer Report composed by Nielson. $1.1 trillion dollars is more than the annual GDP of 207 countries of the world (including the West Bank) according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s The World Factbook. $1.1 trillion dollars of African-American buying power! If we were our own nation, $1.1 trillion dollars would place us in the company of our hemisphere neighbors Canada and Mexico, as well as Australia, South Korea, and India. Our buying power is half of Russia’s GDP. At $16.72 trillion our buying power equals roughly 6.25% of America’s GDP. Target a withdrawal of those monies from a company or industry and rely on ourselves like we did during the bus boycott and we would yield a very, very powerful weapon.
With that power requires great responsibility. Our message demands it to be succinct, narrowly focused, and above all clear and transparent. During the civil rights movement, there was disagreement. Disagreement is part of the human condition. However, there was compromise made for the larger goal. Today requires us to be not the party of one but the party of many melded into one.
Only with the first two tools in place can we develop the third-political action. Through non-violent protest and economic embargo we have more than attracted the attention of those in government. We at that point, can deliver the message we have created to those in power. Government today seems to move by the dollars of Political Action Committees and special interests constantly lobbying for changes their corporate customers want. At this stage we have more than demonstrated we are our own PAC. At this stage we have the other PACs negotiating on our behalf so that the economic spigots again flow to the industries they represent.
In preparation for these actions, we must educate ourselves not just politically but economically. Learn not just our history, but the organization the US government and our local government. Listen to candidates with a critical ear and challenge them by asking, “What have you done for me and my people recently?” If the answer is not beneficial pick the other candidate, if suitable. What if there’s not another suitable candidate? Organize and run for the office yourself.
We must also engage other minority communities. African-Americans, Latinos, LGBT and other communities whose freedoms and civil rights are under threat need to band together and support each other in the non-violent public protest, financial embargo, and political action to bring about change. In the 21st Century it will take more than marching, chanting, and shouting, under threat of tear gas, dogs, flash and pulse projectors to illicit change.
Change is no longer promised to come someday; it will come utilizing the three tools in unison.
The Soul Brother