New Black Leadership: Looking Back, Reaching Forward.
(ThyBlackMan.com) Our heroic Black historical struggle should be the foundation for what we build as Blacks in the future. The transition of leadership from those who moved us to this point in the past to those of us who will move us forward in the future is critical. This is particularly true today as the position of America globally shifts and local economic challenges threaten not just Blacks specifically but the average citizen in general. Learning from our past leaders is a blessing, is motivation, and helps provide a historical narrative and context to our Black development. This has never been more evident to me than my wonderful experience with Dr. Reverend Virgil Wood recently.
For those of you who don’t know him, Dr. Wood worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., serving as the youngest member of his executive board. Now 81, Dr. Wood’s life has been dedicated to the civil rights struggle and addressing issue of poverty here in America. The man is a legend. He has a Doctorate in education from Harvard, was instrumental in the foundation of the Opportunities Industrialization Centers, author, and much, much more.
I was blessed to sit on a panel discussing issues and solutions to Black poverty with Dr. Wood. In truth, I felt totally inadequate. Here I was a young, somewhat conflicted, leader in a medium sized city sitting next to this legend. He is a living encyclopedia of the civil rights struggle. He fought for Black equity longer than I have been alive. But in his graciousness and dignity he not only acknowledged me, sought to connect with me, but also took notes on what I had to say!
Black progress is a marathon and not a sprint. Any, even cursory, view of our history in America will show you that. So the question of leadership succession, old leaders handing off the baton to new leaders, to move the struggle forward is critical. The ability to simultaneously engage young leaders, providing them with a historical framework to help them address modern issues, is essential. Dr. Wood is a living example of how you do this. His acknowledgement and affirmation of me, coupled with his rich narrative of our historical struggle and reflections on how it applies to today did a few things.
It affirmed me, and other young leaders like me, as an individual that had purpose and value as part of the next class of leaders in our 400 year American struggle.
It challenged me to take the mantle of leadership seriously, but also with humility in deference to those who fought and died in the past to put me in this position.
It provided a frame of reference, a historical context by which I could reflect, adjust and refine my modern philosophy of social engagement and change.
It provided me with unneeded, but much appreciated implicit approval by my elder to go forth and make a difference.
Leadership transition is necessary to our community. As young leaders we need to confer value and status on our elders who have worked so hard to position us for today. Old leaders need to take a page from Dr. Wood’s book and affirm, support, and send out with a blessing to the world those they see potential, desire, and compassion to serve those who need it most in our community.
Thank you Dr. Virgil Wood, I appreciate all you and your generation have done for us!
Quotes by Dr. Wood:
-Moses is almost through but where is Joshua?
-You need folks who now how to deal with downtown as long as they don’t forget uptown
-Black people are the only people I know who get in a position of power and do less for their people. Worried about “I don’t want to be seen as prejudiced”
-We have to love the families AND the children to deliver the children
-We haven’t worked on eliminating poverty, we worked on eliminating the symptoms of poverty
-When you get the right public policy you change behavior all over the place
-We’ve allowed the school system to become a feeder system to the prisons
-We are so passive in the face of this machinery which crushes our children
Staff Writer; Dell Gines
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