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Monday
Apr 21st

Keeping our eyes on the prize: Black History Month 2008

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By Paul Edward Hamilton

America in general, but Black America in particular, is at another important crossroads. As we celebrate Black History Month this February all across the country, we are seeking to understand our collective American past as well as our unlimited future potential. It is important for us never to forget both the positive and negative aspects of this history, because it is through this dichotomy and what Martin Luther King Jr. called the "fierce urgency of now," which has helped to identify who we are, how far we have come and now, how far we still have to go. Factoid: A woman interviewed for the landmark PBS program "American Experience" asked, "Are you going to live outside the American culture . . . if you're going to live here in America, don't you have to conform to the American System?"

America in general, but Black America in particular, is at another important crossroads. As we celebrate Black History Month this February all across the country, we are seeking to understand our collective American past as well as our unlimited future potential. It is important for us never to forget both the positive and negative aspects of this history, because it is through this dichotomy and what Martin Luther King Jr. called the "fierce urgency of now," which has helped to identify who we are, how far we have come and now, how far we still have to go.

It is paramount that we as Black people in America recognize that the continuing struggle for our political, economic, educational, civil and human rights has always come at a price. And it requires people within our own community to summon the better aspects within ourselves in order to be successful. Can you demand equality with your mouth while you decide not to vote with your hand? How can you make demands for better schools and educational opportunities while you languish on your behind, refusing to work and treating education as a joke versus something worthwhile to strive for? And even worse, on welfare, collecting food stamps, living in public subsidized housing while having illegitimate child after illegitimate child. How can we as Black men say that we want to lead our individual homes and communities while at the same time undermining our own current and future moral authority by throwing around the N-word with impunity, selling drugs or murdering members of the same Black community we all belong to; but would be ready to crucify a white person for this same bad behavior? Enough already.

Let's get our own house in order first, before we look outside North and South Minneapolis. I want to see and feel the fierce urgency of now in the positive and productive attitudes of our predominately Black communities in Minnesota. Isn't that really the crux of what the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama and the much-ballyhooed mantra of "change" can mean for the African-American community in this country? What about a change in the amount of respect we show one another? How about putting the emphasis back on the communal and off the individual? Whatever happened to Blacks looking out for Blacks?

But I don't want anyone to misunderstand; this change I am referring to is not to the detriment of any other group. Although it may involve that dreaded (by some) but all-important redistribution of wealth. Nor is it a call to rise up under the "any means necessary" doctrine. It is at its core a call to accept responsibility for our communities and ourselves all across this country. It is a shout out to bring back moral values, to be responsible and accountable. It is in fact the maturation of the political, social, economic and moral aspects of Black community in this country. No longer should we be expecting that someone is going to give us anything. Yes, we have historical disadvantages, but we are a great enough people to overcome it all. And because it begins with the man in the mirror, there is nothing to it but to do it. Especially if each one can teach one and say it loud, "I'm Black and I'm proud."

So, let's get to it.

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