Monday, March 12, 2007

The Winds of Civil Rights Change

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I become a little idealistic within earshot of a skilled orator, espousing rhetoric that moves even the most politically lacking individual to action. I grew up in ‘The Church’, and though Christianity is no longer my first religious language, I know a good preacher when I hear one. And, while the Reverend Al Sharpton has been dismissed as an “opportunist” and a “publicity seeker”, he is among the few that can without a doubt successfully draw attention to issues concerning black people.

So, you ever get the feeling that a prophetic wind is blowing and you just want to be in its path? I had that feeling this weekend, and wanted to be in the room when Reverend Sharpton spoke. It was more like, I didn’t want to be like those who dismissed Martin Luther King, Jr. and decided to stay home and play dominoes when he marched in Selma. I didn’t want to miss out on a potentially historical moment. So I attended a rally for the National Action Network’s newest Atlanta Chapter. NAN is a “political, social, and activist-oriented organization” founded by Sharpton, and he was in southwest Atlanta to help promote the organization’s local group. The Atlanta Chapter leadership, founded by Marcus Coleman, is surprisingly youthful, professional and seems as full of promise as was the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was at its inception.

During his visit and recently on his syndicated talk radio show, “Keeping It Real”, Sharpton has suggested that some African Americans have become so economically comfortable that they don’t believe there’s anything left to fight for. I propose, also, that there is an uncomfortable divide between African American haves and have-nots that we rarely, if ever talk about. Or, is it that maybe our forgotten connections to one another run deeper than we care to consider?

If nothing else, Sharpton’s political preaching skills sends listeners off with some social and political food for thought and conversation. He drew an uneasy laughter from the crowd when in reference to computers and the internet he said, “We have fifty ways to communicate, and nothing to say.” He did not mean it as a joke, but a reprimand. Sharpton kept it real indeed when he told the crowd that “we must use the commitment and dedication of our grandmothers,” who incidentally, did not have the benefit of modern technology in their struggle for civil rights.


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