Black Agenda 2000 Clarence Lusane analyzes the challenges facing the African American community today and emphasizes the need for "A Vision, A Plan, A Strategy." CROSSROADS IS PLEASED TO BE ABLE TO BRING YOU THIS EXCERPT FROM CLARENCE LUSANE'S TIMELY NEW BOOK, AFRICAN AMERICANS AT THE CROSSROADS, FORTHCOMING FROM SOUTH END PRESS. LUSANE PLACES CURRENT EFFORTS TO FORGE A BLACK AGENDA IN THE CONTEXT OF HISTORICAL ATTEMPTS TO COLLECTIVELY ASSERT AFRICAN AMERICAN POLITICAL INTERESTS AND AFFECT NATIONAL POLITICS. HE INSIGHTFULLY ADDRESSES THE SPECIFIC CONCERNS AND GRIEVANCES OF BLACK AMERICANS, THE CONCRETE STRATEGIES THAT HAVE BEEN PROPOSED TO ADDRESS THOSE CONCERNS, AND THE CONTROVERSIAL MATTER OF THE BROAD PRINCIPLES AND VALUES THAT SHOULD GUIDE BLACK LEADERSHIP. DESPITE THE GRIM REALITIES WE CURRENTLY FACE, LUSANE ENDS WITH THE AFFIRMATION THAT, IN THE COMING CENTURY, BLACK LEADERSHIP WILL BEGIN TO SUCCESSFULLY TAKE ON THE CHALLENGE OF RESTORING HOPE AND A SENSE OF PURPOSE TO A COMMUNITY THAT HAS BEEN BATTERED AND BRUTALIZED. * * * GIVE US A PLAN OF ACTION...A 10 BLACK COMMANDMENTS; SIMPLE, STRONG, THAT WE CAN CARRY IN OUR HEARTS, AND IN OUR MEMORIES NO MATTER WHERE WE ARE AND REACH OUT AND TOUCH AND FEEL THE REASSURANCE THAT THERE IS BEHIND EVERYTHING WE DO A SIMPLE, MORAL, INTELLIGENT PLAN THAT MUST BE FULFILLED IN THE COURSE OF TIME EVEN IF ALL OF OUR LEADERS, ONE-BY-ONE FALL IN BATTLE. --OSSIE DAVIS Which way forward? As Black America stands at the crossroads of its future, this question gnaws at the intestines of the Black community and its leadership. The current state of debilitating circumstances confronting large and growing sectors of the Black community demands a new, imaginative vision, a new agency by Black leadership, and a new sense of historic purpose on the part of African Americans. The construction of a new Black agenda of struggle requires a grasp of past efforts to achieve group solidarity, a sober and critical awareness of the obstacles to group solidarity in the present period, and an exploration of the possible remedies to these obstacles with a turn toward the next century. The African American effort to collectively forge a "Black agenda" dates back to at least 1830, when fifteen representatives from five states gathered in Philadelphia. These ministers, ex- slaves, business leaders, and newspaper editors, as noted by political historian Hanes Walton, "adopted programs aimed at improving the status and security of the Free Negro population." This process started the National Negro Convention Movement (NNCM) which would meet six more times between 1831 and 1836. The movement would eventually split over the issue of whether the most efficacious strategy for African Americans was to remain in the United States and struggle for reform, or go to Canada and set up a colony of Black American emigrants. In 1853, the NNCM again gathered and created a Black agenda of issues and concerns. Among the items demanded by the group was the "complete and unrestricted right of suffrage, opening of admission to all colleges and universities, equal justice for all under the law, and repeal of America's racist laws." They also sought the abolition of slavery. In the post-slavery era and in the first half of the 20th century, similar agendas and manifestos were developed by Black and civil rights organizations of the period. These included the Niagara Movement, NAACP, Marcus Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association movement, the Nation of Islam, and the National Negro Congress, among others. In addition to serving as fulcrums for ideological debate within the Black community, these programs shaped the ways and manners in which African Americans related to the broader political status quo. In the period prior to Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party's turbo assault on the Democratic Party, the major-parties ignored these agendas with a snickering impunity. Since the 1964 Democratic National Convention, Black agendas inside and outside of the body politic have flourished and multiplied. From the insurrectionary platform of the Black Panther Party to the revolutionary writings of Black theorist James Boggs, programs that called for the overthrow of the system challenged the normative paradigms of reform that generally defined Black political participation. The Panthers 10-point program, "What We Want; What We Believe," demanded for African Americans full employment, decent housing, exemption from military service, and the release of all Blacks held in jails and prisons in the United States. It echoed the program of the Nation of Islam, from which it was derived. While most of these programs made demands on the state, one important document focused on the "White Christian churches and Jewish synagogues" as the source of racial power in the United States. In 1969, led by activist James Foreman, the National Black Economic Development Conference meeting in Detroit issued a Black Manifesto that called for $500,000,000 in reparations to Black America. These funds would be used to establish a southern land bank for Black farmers, publishing and printing facilities, four television networks, a research center, a labor strike fund, a Black university, and to organize welfare recipients. In his speech to the conference, Foreman called for armed revolution and guerrilla warfare in the cities in order to "bring this government down." He called for massive sit-ins and disruptions at White churches and synagogues. It should be noted that the conference was sponsored by the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizations which received its funding from Christian and Jewish organizations. Other agendas that specifically sought a response from the political system and the major political parties also developed in the post-1965 era. As Robert Smith notes, these include: the platform of the 1972 National Black Convention in Gary, Indiana, the CBC's sixty Recommendations to President Nixon and its watered-down version of the Gary platform called "The Black Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights," a series of "True State of the Union" messages inserted in the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD in response to the annual addresses by Presidents Nixon and Ford, a series of recommendations developed by ad hoc meetings of Black Democrats in 1976 and 1980 for presentation to the party conventions and nominees, a series of "mandates" issued by the National Institute of Black Public Officials, meetings of several thousand people convened several times since 1973 by the Joint Center for Political Studies, and, most recently, the alternative CBC budgets developed in response to administration budget proposals since 1981 and the platforms developed by Jesse Jackson as part of his campaigns for president. One of the most full-blown and ambitious plans to develop which outlined a particular role for every sector of the Black community, from the churches to those incarcerated, was the Black Leadership Family Plan (BLFP) put together in February 1982 by Black organizations and individuals affiliated with the Black Leadership Forum, the Black Leadership Round Table, and the Congressional Black Caucus. Activist Ben Chavis, now NAACP Executive Director, wrote that the plan "comes closest to being a plan that can not only effectuate a progressive change in the condition and state of Black America, but also, I believe that the Plan is a plan for African American self-determination." Among the responsibilities with which it charged the Black community were to "support the Black church, protect the elderly and the youth, excel in education, oppose crime, contribute to the Black Development Fund, buy and bank Black, register and vote, hold your elected officials accountable, support Black family and community life, challenge and boycott negative media and support positive media, secure and defend the Black community, and support mother Africa and the Caribbean." One of the goals of the plan was the creation of a Black Development Fund that would be built by contributions from the African American community. Based on estimates of how much would be received if the community promised monthly to follow through on its donations. The Fund would grow to about $1.5 billion annually, or roughly 10 percent of the estimated national Black income (circa 1982). The plan also called for the development of an Action Alert Communications Network, which would respond to crisis situations, and for building coalitions with "Whites, Hispanics and other minorities whose interests coincide with ours." The plan, dependent upon the voluntary participation of the Black community, had little success. Unfortunately, it also made little demand on the institutions and systems of power that exerted decisive control over the lives of African Americans. In hindsight, the central defect of the BLFP, as well as other agendas cited above was that -- despite their necessary and timely response to the perilous state of Black America -- they failed to meet the challenge of outlining a wide reaching visionary projection of the future of the nation, the global community as a whole, and the role of African Americans in it. It is within that broad scope that concrete proposals -- from inner- city Marshall Plans to grassroots political campaigns -- are best articulated and struggled for. Without that vision, no useful or galvanizing strategy (or viable leadership) is possible. A Black agenda for the next century, determined by what is done now, must have clear goals and demands, and concrete objectives, but also much more. It must have an engrossing vision of the new century, rooted in a solid theoretical grasp of the economic, social, political, and cultural dynamics that move society's engine forward, and a commitment to principles of democracy, inclusiveness, and equality. A Black agenda for the next century must promote and constantly recreate a new leadership prepared to tackle the issues and political demands of the coming decades. Any liberating vision must embrace principles and values that have too rarely existed in Black leadership praxis. These principles include, but are not limited to: *the goal of democracy and democratic practices both within the movement for social change and equality, and in society as a whole; *ideological pluralism that allows for a broad array of viewpoints and ideas about the organization of society, including those that are critical of capitalism; *the leadership of women at all levels of political, cultural, and economic life; *the inclusive incorporation and recognition of the particular contributions that each generation brings to the struggle; *the necessity of ongoing coalition with other people of color and Whites that may sometimes mean following the leadership of non-Blacks; *strict accountability on the part of those who claim to represent Black leadership; *collective leadership that does not inhibit or repress individual contributions and talents, but also does not elevate individual interests over the collective need. These principles distinguish an approach to Black leadership that has begun to emerge from the electoral and non-electoral struggles of the last decade. History teaches that strong, charismatic individual leaders will arise regardless of desires to the contrary. The significance and role of those individual leaders must be seen, however, in the proper context. Cuban leader Fidel Castro, in an enlightening interview with former Congressman Mervyn Dymally, provides some instructive insight on this point. He says: History is full of leaders. Wherever a human community has existed, a leader has emerged. The times determine what is required of them...It's a mistake, a serious mistake, to think that these qualities are rare or infrequent. I'm convinced of this. For a leader to emerge, the only thing needed is the need for a leader...I believe that human beings, all human beings, have a great capacity for political leadership. What must have happened on countless occasions is that the possibilities for developing those abilities did not arise, because the person lived in a different era, under different circumstances. The contributions of individual leaders will be significant and, in many instances, decisive. The Black community, however, must not succumb to the dangerous tendency to believe that individual leaders, with their immense strengths and weaknesses, should be allowed to determine the political agenda, strategy, and program of the entire Black community. The appropriate balance between the will of strong, charismatic leaders and the necessity of collective decision making will be a difficult one to maintain, but one that must be struggled for if the movement is to advance. Where will and where should the Black community be in the 21st century? This is the pivotal question that must be addressed jointly and collectively by the Black community and its leaders at all levels. In a report issued by the Congressional Task Force on the Future of African-Americans, five possible futures -- ranging from worst-case scenario to best-case scenario dependent upon changes in the social and economic conditions of the nation -- are identified. The five paths are responses to either major economic and social collapse, moderate economic and social collapse, business as usual, moderate economic and social expansion, or major economic and social expansion. In all instances but the last, Black life declines. This means that even if there is moderate economic and social expansion, poverty will continue to rise among African Americans; Black health will most likely deteriorate relative to Whites; communities may become somewhat more stable, but violence is likely to escalate; access to higher education will remain stable or decline; and racism will persist. Racism in this sense is seen as institutional and systemic rather than just as individual practice. In other words, by even the most optimistic congressional estimate, unless there is major economic and social transformation, "there will be increasing calamity for African Americans." Most Black leaders and, indeed, the African American community as a whole, have expressed similar dismal projections. If the Black community is to be rescued from a calamitous future, it is clear that Black leadership in the days and years ahead must be bolder, more strategically efficacious, and more politically astute than it has ever been in the past. The struggle for and over the future of Black America gets to the very essence of the historic crossroads that African Americans confront. AGENDA SETTING: THE ROLE OF BLACK POLITICAL LEADERS If there is any lesson to learn from struggles and agendas of the past, both successful and not, it is that a progressive vision must be broadly institutionalized and organized and not just left to spontaneity. The need for organization has never been greater. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.,: "If we realize how indispensable is responsible militant organization to our struggle, we will create it as we managed to create underground railroads, protest groups, self-help societies and the church that have always been our refuge, our source of hope and our source of action." In this context, progressive Black political leaders and Black intellectuals have distinct roles to play in the restructuring of society toward equality, expanded democracy, and development. A "Black agenda" for the future must make as a priority a number of concerns both external and internal to the African American community. The crisis of the cities -- specifically the material poverty and spiritual despair -- must be addressed without delay and with mammoth urgency. More than twenty years ago, writer William K. Tabb wrote prophetically in his classic THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE BLACK GHETTO that if there was no change in policies towards the inner-city ghettos, those policies would lead "to racial warfare and urban apartheid." Unfortunately, much of that prediction has come true. A Marshall Plan of historic proportions must be put forth. An idea that has most aggressively been articulated by the National Urban League, and supported by a wide array of Black political activists and Black, liberal, and civil rights organizations, the Urban League plan calls for a $500 billion investment in the cities over a ten-year period that would "address both long-term economic productivity goals and short- term improvements in social well-being." Seen as both halting the U.S. economic decline and advancing the educational and skill levels of African Americans, the plan advocates comprehensive, long-term financial investments, major reform in education, and the rebuilding of the nation's physical infrastructure. Due to the concentration of African Americans in urban centers and their expanding role in the workforce, "the nation's interests are intimately tied to the conditions of African Americans," writes the National Urban League's Billy Tidwell. Critical of the federal government's lack of investment in youth and infrastructure maintenance and development, and cuts in funding for employment training, the Urban League argues that these trends disproportionately impact African Americans and, unless reversed, will see the nation ill-prepared for economic growth in the coming century. The focus on improving the skills of the U.S. workforce through education and investment echoes the views of many of the liberals in the Clinton administration. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, for example, argues that in order for the United States to address the increasing "globalization of economic competition" and the "accelerating pace of technological change," it must "reform primary and secondary education...[develop] a system of voluntary skill standards to let citizens improve the payoff to training investments...[create] a school-to-work apprenticeship...[and increase] direct college loans." As noted earlier, Jesse Jackson's "Rebuild America" plan demands a similar, though larger, outlay of funds. He supports the ten-year, $500 billion proposal of New York financier Felix Rohatyn and would focus spending on jobs for the inner-cities, universal health care, educational equality, and the creation of an American Development Bank that could seed a national network of urban development banks. Reductions in military spending, fair and progressive taxation, sensible borrowing, and judicious investment of workers' pension funds would be the chief means of raising the necessary capital. In 1992, the Congressional Black Caucus, in response to the Los Angeles uprising called for a $30.90 billion package of emergency aid to the cities. This included $5 billion for job training, $3.45 billion for housing, $10.09 billion for education, $4.12 billion for economic investment, $7.6 billion for community development, and $640 million for crime and violence prevention programs. The CBC insisted that funding could be obtained by lowering the spending cap on the defense budget while elevating caps on domestic spending. Unfortunately, this proposal (and other legislative maneuvers) required the agreement of President Bush which was not forthcoming. In the end, as mentioned earlier, a scaled-down version of urban aid was finally passed by Congress -- and later vetoed by Bush. PERIOD OF TRANSFORMATION This period of transformation through which U.S. capital is working its way provides a somber context in which to view the reformist and radical economic proposals being sought by Black leaders and activists. Reforms, though necessary, have in the past insufficiently addressed what amounts to the recurring structural crisis of capitalism, i.e., the inability of a system based on profit to rationally eliminate unemployment, poverty, and perpetual crisis. The historic challenge confronting Black leaders (and others) is to fashion a program of economic reform that, given the global economic crisis, must assume a long period of instability and transition that at the same time progressively meets the needs of the nation's poor and disadvantaged. While it is clear that the socialist models of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and elsewhere did not have the answer to either questions of economic development, mass democracy, or political pluralism, it is equally clear that Western-style capitalism, as noted even by Black leaders of the past such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Martin Luther King, Jr., has reached its historic limits. Not only has economic restructuring become necessary, but the political will and movement to create the kind of economic democracy that begs for deliverance must be mobilized, organized, and institutionalized. The next century will witness the abandonment of both leftist and rightist models of political institutions that, in effect, undermine democratic participation and act out assumptions that can't serve to move humanity forward. Much of the debate within the Black political community over whether African Americans should remain in the Democratic Party, migrate to the Republican Party, or participate in third party efforts misses the point. The further democratization of the nation, essential to the advancement of the Black community and other ill-served sectors of the society, will not be achieved through traditional political party activities, be they right, left, or center. A genuine democratic flowering will witness numerous political models -- some in the form of parties, others not -- that will correspond with the real needs, interests, and political culture of those most in need of those vehicles of empowerment. This is not a call to or sanctioning of anarchy or social chaos; it is a recognition that traditional political party structures and cultures are non-democratic in nature and depreciate the contributions of those who are unable to negotiate the political and ideological norms that inevitably develop. Participation in party politics should not be abandoned, however. Indeed, a more intensified and strategic involvement in major- and minor-party politics is necessary. As long as the major parties determine policies and institutions that affect the lives and destinies of tens of millions of people, it is suicidally foolish to surrender opportunities to shape, influence, or control those decisions. Third-party efforts have also been important to African Americans. As vehicles of radical anti-racist proposals, third parties have the potential to construct the type of coalition politics that can collectively pressure policy makers to institute necessary reforms and broaden the level of participation of those dispossessed in the governance of society. These activities do not prevent the creation of other political forms that more appropriately address and meet the interests of local, state, and national groups. Specifically, these emergent forms, already in existence from coast to coast, can more effectively attack the problems of the current system in ways that are more progressively democratic, egalitarian, and concrete. The need to build coalitions will grow in the years ahead. There are compelling political and practical reasons why African Americans dare not attempt any "go-it-alone" strategies. African Americans and whites will continue to be a shrinking proportion of the population as Latino and Asian population groups grow. In 1990, African Americans represented 12.5 percent of the population, non-Latino whites 74.2 percent, Latinos 9.5 percent, and Asians 3.8 percent. The Census Bureau estimates that by 2050, the non-Latino white population will have shrunk to 53 percent while the African American population will have increased slightly to 15 percent. The big gains, however, will be in the Latino community, which will grow to 21 percent, and among Asians, who will increase to about 10 percent. The Native American population will remain about 1 percent. These new racial configurations will either create new tensions between racial and national groups, or become an opportunity for a truly pluralist, non-racist foundation upon which to build U.S. society. It should be noted that differences between African Americans and other groups may become secondary to differences within national ethnic groups, as Latinos break down into various Central American groups who will probably occupy a lower socio-economic status than the older Mexican or Cuban communities. In a similar way, older Asian immigrants, such as the Chinese, Korean, and Japanese American communities will probably separate from the newer Southeast Asian groups of Vietnamese, Cambodians, and others. Black leaders will need to grapple with the complexities of these new relationships even while confronting classical forms of racism and discrimination. In the short run, political reform within the present system is desperately needed. This includes everything from campaign finance reform -- not normally seen as a "Black" issue -- to ballot access. In terms of electoral politics, easing access to voter registration and voting at every level still is an unfulfilled goal. The Motor Voter bill, signed into law by President Clinton, is a significant step in the right direction. The new law allows for registration when drivers' licenses are renewed, at military recruitment centers, and at social service centers, thereby reaching millions of unregistered voters. Supporters of the bill also wanted unemployment centers included as sites, and sought to have codified into law provisions that would allow same-day registration for federal elections. These recommendations were gutted in the congressional bargaining that surrounded the bill. Although organizers could claim victory in getting the bill passed, they were quick to point out that it does not address the more numerous instances of democratic violations which occur at the local and state levels. In too many jurisdictions around the nation, it is still a burden to register and vote. Inconvenient locations, insensitive registration hours, and lack of registrars dilute the voting potential and democratic involvement of millions of voters. Also, ballot access provisions that prevent or make it difficult for non-major-party or individuals to get on the ballot must be overturned. Currently, the leading advocates of this reform have been activists affiliated or tied to the New Alliance Party, with which many Black activists have difficulty working. In 1992, non-major-party Black federal candidates Ron Daniels, Gerald Horne, and Gwen Patton all struggled to get on the ballot against unfair state ballot access laws. An expansion of democracy clearly means equalizing the playing field so that candidates not tied to the either Democratic, Republican, or traditional state parties can get on the ballot without extraordinary and biased effort. Outside of the electoral arena, other political goals and strategies must also be applied. Historically, protest has been a critical part of the arsenal of weapons used by African Americans to advance their agenda. On civil rights issues, such as statehood for the District of Columbia, it is clear that nothing short of massive and ongoing protests that disrupt and create an atmosphere of political disequilibrium will shock the national consciousness into addressing the concerns being raised. Howard University political scientist Ron Walters often points out the difference between SYMBOLIC protest and DISRUPTIVE protest. In the former, there is a preemptive agreement with the forces of the state or target of the action about the limits and parameters of the protest. Pre-arranged arrests or bargains ensure that neither side is made uncomfortable for any extended length of time. More important, there is a tacit, though often explicit, understanding that there will be no fundamental change in the behavior of those being protested against. In disruptive protests, however, the goal is to stop business as usual over a prolonged period or as long as necessary. Protesters are willing to disobey the rules of the game and go beyond what is acceptable to the state or the opposition. The civil rights sit-ins are an example of disruptive protests that confronted a hostile populace and an even more hostile police apparatus. Although marches, rallies, and symbolic protests have been and remain important weapons in the arsenal of resistance, protest leaders must also be prepared to advance peaceful tactics that disrupt systems of discrimination and inequality. A march on Washington, whether with 100,000 or one million people, does little to challenge the system except in symbolic or rhetorical forms. On the other hand, a poor peoples' march on the nation's capital with the commitment to pitch tents and stay until legislation is passed that addresses the concerns of those constituents quite dramatically challenges policy makers and political leaders to respond. THE STRUGGLE WITHIN Black and White conservatives have consistently declared that neither Black nor civil rights leaders have addressed the issue of Black behavior, and they demand internal changes. In fact, in no period in history have Black leaders avoided the need for internal and external change. In the 1980s, neoconservatives were able to set the parameters of the political debate about the value and utility of the Black and civil rights agendas. At the same time, cuts in social programs, from housing to education, removed any semblance of a social safety net and contributed fundamentally to the very real deterioration in material conditions in Black life, inaugurating an era of internal violence and self-destruction virtually unparalleled in Black history. Yet these changes must also be seen as a form of (negative) response and resistance to racism and Reaganism. It is within this context that the current wave of apocalyptic behavior has matured and must be understood. While Black political leaders must be careful not to fall into the ideological trap of Reaganism, and like some Black conservatives consistently blame the victim, it is critical that the crisis of spirit and escalating self-destructive behavior that has come to grip too many Black communities be addressed. In particular, the savage Black-on-Black violence, dramatized brazenly in Hollywood films and rap music, poses a new challenge for Black leaders and political activists, who must propose concrete resolutions to a situation that has left Black, Latino, and poor communities terrified and open to draconian, final solutions. Professor Amos Wilson in his BLACK-ON-BLACK VIOLENCE reminds us that Black violence, criminal behavior, or self-destructive proclivities do not happen in a vacuum. He provides some valuable insight in his argument that racism has fueled false notions of a Black criminal class, fostered the criminalization of Black male youth, and led to the deadly and pathological consequences being played out on the streets of the cities. He contends that "Black- on-Black criminality and violence represents quests for power and outraged protests against a sense of powerlessness and insignificance." He argues that this behavior operates as a response to racism and in the interest of racism. This perspective echoes the views of other Black political psychologists such as Frantz Fanon, William Grier, and Price Cobbs. Wilson recommends as a preventive measure the "appropriate socialization of children, equitable and fair organization and distribution of national and community resources, the provision of Afrocentric educational training and of equitable occupational opportunities." While Wilson's perspectives are important in framing the context in which Black violence and self-destruction occur, they do not address the means by which communities and Black leadership can reverse these trends in a timely manner. Writer Cornel West has been another voice attempting to sort through what he terms the destructive "nihilism" that has created widespread despair, frustration, and fear among many African Americans. He states in frustration that "the major enemy of Black survival in America...is neither oppression nor exploitation, but rather the nihilistic threatýthat is, loss of hope and the absence of meaning." He and others point out that African Americans went from having the lowest suicide rate in the nation before the 1970s to having the highest suicide rate in the nation in the 1990s. West believes that there is a direct link between the self-destructive and outer-destructive behavior of young Blacks, capitalist market relations, and the crisis of Black leadership. An omnipresent corporate and consumer culture has promoted a market morality that places little value on human life, caring, or service. He concludes that "new models of collective Black leadership "must emerge that promote an "affirmation of Black humanity" that rescues Blacks from the despair and hopelessness that prevents movement forward. This collective leadership, West argues, "must exemplify moral integrity, character, and democratic statesmanship within itself and within its organizations." Only in this manner can Black leadership intervene effectively and positively in halting the murderous cycles of Black violence permeating the community. BLACK RESISTANCE AND THE CALL OF HISTORY A number of futures face the Black community. It is critical that Black leaders not dwell on what is certain to be the bleak and desperate future if current trends remain constant, but instead focus on a positive alternative future that can be a result of disciplined and committed struggle. New leaders must bring to the Black community another vision of development and of the future. In the Black America that can be in the next century, there will be startling differences in the political, social, and cultural life of African Americans. Black women will play a much more visible and central political leadership role than in the present. The new (and perhaps some of the old) civil rights organizations will be woman-led and more profoundly democratic. More African American women will be elected at the local, state, and national level. More African American women will guide community organizations and cultural enterprises. From local community politics to national and international concerns, leadership in the Black community will be more diverse and gender- balanced. In the next century that can be, a revitalization of positive and developmental values will also have been reborn within the Black community. Black leaders will exhibit and demand a morality and value system that is nurturing, caring, sacrificing, and humanistic. These values will translate into attitudes and perspectives on social and economic policies. A commitment to educational excellence, for example, will be the norm. Anything less will be unacceptable to students, parents, teachers, administrators, school board members, and political leaders. A new spirit of community and willingness to serve will also exist. The sense of contributing to community and society, discouraged in this age of materialism and individualism, will dominate and be a major component of child-rearing and educating. The impact of this new spirit will be broad and revolutionary in its impact on how people in the community relate to each other and to those outside of the community. Homicides, as well as substance abuse, will drop considerably as communities also wrestle changes in the criminal justice system that no longer criminalizes whole generations and as alternatives to trafficking are implemented. Community security will be rooted in the organic community. A visionary perspective on Black life in the next century does not necessarily or romantically see an end to racist views, personal discrimination, and racial intolerance, but it does see a path to the elimination of systemic and institutional racism. How we think about race and what actually constitutes "racial relations" will continue to expand beyond the paradigm of Black and white. A cultural flowering will witness more cross-cultural, multi-ethnic patterns of living and relating while, at the same time, preservation and promotion of the rich, uplifting, and valuable cultural heritage of African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Arabs, Native Americans, and other peoples. It will be important for the Black community to acknowledge both similarities of conditions as well as important differences that give rise to critical policy questions that for the most part have not affected the Black community. These would include issues such as language and legal status. Battles will be fought on a much higher plane to redefine popular culture and to purge the racist, sexist, and nationalistic images that contribute to the climate of discrimination and hate that currently permeates much of U.S culture. As part of the world community, images of internationalism will also become more common and necessary. The central task of Black leadership in the period ahead is to restore hope and a sense of purpose to the community. It is unlikely that the politics of accommodation will be able to meet this challenge. At this point, however, neither is it clear that those who have been critical of the move from protest to politics will be able to rise to the occasion. The difficult days of which Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in his last hours are upon us. Perhaps the most important step that Black leaders can take at this point is to recognize the means and manners by which African Americans resist oppression on a daily basis. In this time when frustration with leadership is high, the Black political movement is in retreat and on the defensive, and conditions rapidly abrade, it is critical to identify and grasp the significance of individual resistance. As the brilliant young historian Robin D.G. Kelley observes, the gulf between the "everyday" and what is thought of as political struggles must be bridged. In his writings on the struggles of working class African Americans during the civil rights era, Kelley examines the means by which the Black community forged a collectivist view of itself that had important relevance to the political struggles of that era. His insights on the period, I believe, are of immense value in the present as when he writes, "In the end, whether or not African Americans choose to join working class organizations, their daily experiences, articulated mainly in unmonitored social spaces, constitute the ideological and cultural foundations for constructing a collective identity." A Black collective identity, fettered and molded by class and gender experiences, still exists and must be creatively melded into the effort for progressive social transformation. Breaking through the Black rage that has engulfed so many and channeling that passion into a movement for collective social change is the challenge before Black leadership across the political and ideological board. Encouraging signs abound as lessons from the distant and recent past are being absorbed and analyzed. If changes on the Black political landscape that have occurred in the last decade have clarified the mission and responsibilities of Black leadership, particularly of the new radicals, then a future of hope is not only possible, but well within our grasp.