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Seattle’s Black Community: Who Are Our Leaders?

August 26, 2009


Particularly those coming over from the Seattle Times via the comments thread on the Monfort story.  You’ve got more SV reading to do, as MANY of you have taken the post below WELL out of context.  Try this one for some perspective:

Back in the Day…

It used to be that, in any given city one only had to so far as the Black church to find the person everyone considered a “leader” of the Black community- the Pastor.  There’s a reason for this, of course.  During the civil rights movement, the Church was a cornerstone.  Churches were more than just meeting places, it is where people gathered the strength and courage to fight for equality.

The church usually intersected in some way with a civil rights organization, whether the NAACP, the SCLC or another.

During the movement, staying “on message” was critical.  Everyone had to say the same thing in order to deliver a strong message.  Spokespeople were often elected/appointed.  For the most part it worked of course, but because of that the status quo believes today that if there is diversity of opinion amongst Black people, it’s somehow counterproductive or negative, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Who decides?

What defines a leader?  Is it simply the professional position they hold?  James Kelly is head of the League, does that make him a certified leader of the Black community?  Does that mean he speaks for you and I, and that we are automatically comfortable with whatever position he might take on an issue?

The relevance and effectiveness of the NAACP could be debated until the cows come home, but the question is, is the organization, it’s local or national president a leader?

And what of the church?  Years ago there were less than a handful.  Now there are churches everywhere, and they’re spread out across the county, as Seattle’s Black population has migrated south and north.  Really all one needs to head a church is to be ordained, heck I can do that online in 5 minutes.  Does that make me a leader of the Black community?

These questions should not be considered a slight, nor are they intended to diminish the contributions these and others have made.

What about at the national level?  Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton consider themselves to be national leaders of the Black community- but are they really?  Is anyone else?

Let’s talk about it. 

Who are the leaders of/in the Black community in your opinion?  Who do you not consider a leader?

Has the need for leadership dimmed with the advances the civil rights movement has given us?

Who speaks for “us”  Or do we speak for ourselves?

I want to hear from you.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 26, 2009 10:45 am

    You write to a generation much younger than I, so I am surprised that there still exists a need for identified leadership. I came through the period of visible leadership and know that the good ones got killed. I do not come from an African American experience a bit different than you describe. I was not born or raised in the south, nor were my parents. I am of the Northeast African American culture which was steeped in Black Nationalism. Garvey, Daddy Grace, Father Divine, Malcolm X, Moorish Americans, Pan African movement. A very different mind set than the preacher as leader. It was based in the leader within and a love for Black folks wherever and whenever, seeing and knowing all African people as brilliant and geniuses in the art of survival. We always land on our feet,sometimes battered and bruised but we always make it through our storms. That is because we have already survived the worst storm and are here today typing these thoughts. We worry and fret, but when we have a job to do we do it.

    So if we need to put names to Black leaders, here are a few. Leadership is real and there are people who garner followers, and we admit you can not be a leader without followers and being effective. Jim Jones was a horrible leader, but a leader he got his followers to drink the kool aid. There are decoy leaders. James Kelly is a decoy. While others are saying he is our leader, and giving him access to our children’s money from public funds, and saying his name like people listen to James then those who are really getting the job done, can do it under the radar. That is why we love James Kelly he has allowed himself the worst leadership position the decoy.

    Greg Nickels thought he could buy political favor by parsing out meager funds to correct a problem the systems have invested billions of dollars to create. We can not buy our way out of the mess our children and their families find themselves in. But if a group of market women in Liberia can end a civil war, we can reverse the violence our children, women and families experience. When a court says it is okay to brutalize a black woman and show the brutalization on national TV, all women are at peril.

    So if you still need names and want to debate the issue of Black Leadership here are a few leaders you should know because you as a writer are an interface.

    Dr. Doreen Cato who without fanfare or even much notice by the African American community, provides housing, social services and education for some of our most devastated families. A certified school sitting right in the Central District with Black Directors, Black students and Black Board President. She is a leader on the education of poor black children living with trauma. I would listen to and follow her leadership on this issue.

    Yusef Cadbi is a leader, Somalian born he brings together other African born among us and yields political influence and works with leaders in the African American community. He is an expert in subsidized housing and knows issues of housing and how we get the short shift when it comes to housing in Seattle due to gentrification. I seek his lead and allow myself to be briefed by him.

    Josephine Howell is a gifted vocalist, she heals with her voice and has been through hell in her life and came back to claim her victory over trauma and trouble. She goes to Kenya each year to teach songs of hope to children and here I call on her when a mother’s heart hurts. She knows what it is to lose a son. She is a leader in healing hurt hearts, and bringing peace through songs.

    Dr. Maxine Mimms is 81 years old and not retired because she knows that there is a part that elders among us play as leaders. They help us remember why we are here, how we got here and gives us the education and knowledge we need to see our own visions and have the energy to move forward with them. She is a Washington Elder of Distinction, I follow her lead.

    Liz Thomas retired and then committed her life to keeping the African American community healthy. She is a nurse extraordinaire, I go to her when I want to know what the blood test numbers mean or if a child seems to be failing to thrive though their parents take them to the doctor. She is our leader in health, as is:

    Drs. Ray Lewis,John Vassell And Patricia Dawson are medical leaders not only for African American Community but for all people, they are running Swedish Hospital where so many of us get medical care. They are teachers of those who run the clinics in our communities. They are the best in their field and they have saved many Black lives of children and adults. They are leaders.

    Dr. Kelly Washington a young wife and mother left here went off to Howard U, came home brought her father Dr. Michael Washington’s Dental Clinic she is second generation African American provider of oral health care and thus supporter of Black leadership in other areas. NO ONE CAN LEAD ANYONE WITH A RAGGEDY MOUTH.

    Chukundi “Kun Luv” He is a trained leader trained by his Mother Harriet Walden who is a leader, always has been. He was sent off to SC to get an education, came home sent to me to teach elements of leadership, and then went and got his own experiences and ideas and is a clear leader for the emerged generation of 30 somethings. He is a communication genius. When I want generations much younger than myself to know something, I tell Kun Luv.

    Marcia Tate Arunga is a leader. She is a professor who is influencing excellence through her students and the 70 African American women who have traveled with her to Kenya for Cultural Reconnection. We operate on collective action in that we lead with our best self, so each of us are leaders with a following.

    I, Dawn Mason I lead by knowing who is best on the issue and supporting them in leading. The new issue is the ban on assault weapons. I was voted on by the people and take that seriously. Though no longer in office I maintain an ear for what is going on for Black children and families, and maintain the kind of relationships that allows me to get things done most often quickly and quietly. I am leading on legislation to ban assault weapons in Washington and will speak for all Blacks when I tell the powers that be, we want the weapons out of our community. No, I do not have one penny of they Youth Violence Prevention money.

    Leadership brings with it some requirements:
    An inspired self, it is the fuel that allows you to keep going when it gets difficult.
    A following means you have influence (this does not mean you are a good leader, but s
    An ethical self, honest and being held accountable for doing what you say you will do.
    A principled self, living and leading with a set of principles that people can wrap their arms around
    A love for the people you are leading all of our spiritual leaders expressed love of the people(Christ, Buddha, Mohammad, Moses) You can not lead a people effectively on anything if you do not love them.
    An ability to pass the baton. A leader can teach others to lead.
    Be an example, a model of success and effectiveness.
    You speak of James Kelly by name, as are so many these days within a 24 hour period Dr.Mimms and I who were holding court yesterday, heard person after person bemoan the fact that the Urban League has our children’s money and they know that he will not make a difference. Is James Kelly a leader, he used to be. He used to be inspired. Black people are not stupid we are shrewd that is how we got to still be here and knowing how to use new communications. Obama won his election online and Greg Nickels lost his re-election online. Nickels gave public funds to James Kelly as a political ploy. He thought Kelly was the leader. I bet the next time a politician puts money into our community to divide us, they will think a bit clearer. The Black community did not divide over this appropriated administration of these funds. We just voted for anyone but Nickels.

    The preachers are leaders in their church not outside of their buildings. You are correct, they used to be. But God is like that, He is in charge of his creation. Different times brings about different measures of need and leadership. A good name is worth more than gold.

    In closing this very long response, to maintain my leadership I seek out leadership on issues, I am not looking for names, degrees, titles, looks. People who want a good name among us need to earn it, be a good voice, be accountable, be accessible, be humble, and speak to the truth of our situation. It is easy to be a Black or African American leader, it is very difficult to lead the African American people to excellence when they have no intent of being lead. We work against many forces when it comes to our people, negative messages passed down in families, negative messages coming from schools failure to education equitably, negative messages about our love for each other as males and females. Black men adore Black women, they really do. Black parents really suffer when their children do not do well in school, or get into gangs, or die, they really do.

    So, Ms. Sable you are a leader, I see you, I read you and I applaud your application of the art of the written word to educate our community.

    I write one thousand words a day, I think today you received all of them. God bless you and thank you for what you bring to the table.

  2. West Seattle Dan permalink
    August 27, 2009 10:26 am

    Dawn Mason,

    What an awesome piece you wrote above. Thanks for today’s education. I have a few questions can you drop me a line?

  3. publicadministrator permalink
    September 2, 2009 11:22 pm

    For better or worse in this day and age it is increasingly difficult to identify a leader OF the Black community compared to IN the community.

    nationally, expecting to see an increasing stature from Van Jones

    locally, no mention of Larry Gossett? Ouch.

  4. Sable permalink
    September 2, 2009 11:27 pm

    That was the point of the post. And NO ONE here is slighting Larry Gossett.

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