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Have Blacks Lost Their Spirit for Social Activism?

Written by Jessica Williams-Gibson, Special from The Indianapolis Recorder on 20 August 2012.

(NNPA) Some are concerned that the kind of activism advocated by leaders such as Rev. Derek King (left) and Rev. Al Sharpton is not as strong in the Black community today as in the past. During the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s, African-Americans mobilized and marched for issues such as segregation, racial discrimination and voting rights.

Issues Blacks face today include unemployment, health disparities, mass incarceration, education declines, voting hurdles, gun violence and the deterioration of the Black family among many others. These issues matter to African-Americans, however many would argue that very little action is taken on these issues or if an outcry does occur, the passion soon fades.

Have Blacks lost their spirit for social activism? Have Blacks forgotten how to come together to affect change?

Dr. Derek B. King Sr., a professor at Martin University and nephew of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Rev. Thomas L. Brown, son of local civil rights activist Dr. Andrew J. Brown and pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church; and Barbara Bolling, a member of the national board of directors and the Indiana State President of the NAACP, give their thoughts.

The Black church has changed

King believes that Blacks have lost their spirit for social activism for several reasons. He says that during the civil rights movement, issues of racism were clear and victories that were won because of the movement caused people to believe “the fight” was over.

Most importantly he believes the Black church has changed.

“The messaging has changed. There are some Black pastors who try to keep their congregants aware of issues that affect Blacks disproportionately. But the majority of the messaging coming out of the Black church does not speak to systemic challenges,” said King.

“One of the people who was well respected in the Black community was pastors. Much of the messaging that comes out of Black pulpits today is prosperity preaching…get paid…get your breakthrough. When we talk about things that affect Blacks, we’ve fallen asleep behind the wheel.”

Despite his strong opinion, he said there is considerable concern in the Black community about homicide rates, however there is a laundry list of important issues that Blacks are either unaware of or don’t care about.

“We’ve gotten selfish. If it doesn’t affect me, it’s not my problem. During the civil rights movement, it didn’t matter how much money you had or how much education you had, Blacks in the south sat on the back of the bus. Up until 1965 Blacks in America could not vote. These issues affected all Blacks,” he said.

“Unless it affects a measurable population of Blacks, we will raise our voices and take some sort of action, but generally, (we have the attitude of) ‘if it doesn’t affect me, it’s not my problem.’”

Apathy has increased

Brown agrees with King and says that Blacks have lost their social activism because they’ve lost their spiritual activism.

“We have become lazy and apathetic. Our religion has become part of the secular movement and not the spiritual movement,” said Brown. “Our Black church is about religion, not spirituality.”

He also echoes King’s sentiments on rampant selfishness in the Black community.

At 70-years-old, Brown not only actively demonstrated during the civil rights movement, but his father, Rev. Andrew J. Brown was a local leader fighting for justice. Brown has also sat amongst noted Black leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy and even Malcolm X.







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