Recently, the Black community has lost some of its most effective warriors. U. S. Congressman John Lewis, nicknamed “Good Trouble,” passed away at the age of 80 from pancreatic cancer. He is famously known as a tireless and principled fighter for civil rights who truly believed in the freedom tenets attributed to the founding of the United States. During his early days as a freedom fighter he was brutally beaten during a demonstration on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a march in Selma, Alabama more than 50 years ago. He nearly lost his life. In spite of knowing the dangers, he continued the struggle. There is a move on to have the Edmund Pettus Bridge renamed in honor of him. That would be a fitting tribute.
Earlier that same day before Congressman Lewis’ passing, we lost the venerable civil rights fighter and leader, Reverend Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian. He died of natural causes at the age of 95. Vivian participated in the Freedom Rides and worked alongside Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. In addition to the foregoing, last year we also lost a proud and important voice in the U.S. House of Representatives, Representative Elijah Cummings. He was a civil rights advocate who played an important role in the Donald Trump investigations.
These are just a few of the greats who have fought mightily in the struggle for freedom and justice in the U.S. for Black people. Other Black champions who have passed on include Dr. Conrad Worrill, Balm L. Leavell Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Vernon Dahmer, Marcus Garvey, Medgar Evers, Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, Harry and Harriette Moore, and numerous others.
Today, there are still members of the “old guard” who are fighting for our freedom and justice. These include, but are not limited to, Reverend Al Sharpton, Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, and Minister Louis Farrakhan. These leaders, with the exception of Sharpton, are up in age, and are at a point where they should be winding down to pass the torch. They deserve to rest, though it is doubtful that they will give up the fight until forced to do so.
Who do we have today who will fill the void left by the disappearing old guard? Attorney Benjamin Crump is one who comes to mind. The founders of Black Lives Matter also qualify. Outside of these, there are certainly others laboring in the vineyards but who have not yet emerged on the national stage.
Interestingly, the ones in the Black community who receive the most attention tend to be in the entertainment field, especially rappers. People listen to the likes of rappers “T.I.” (Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr.), Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, “P. Diddy” Sean Combs, Jay Z (Shawn Corey Carter), and Common, among others. Some of these individuals are starting to use their celebrity to influence the political and economic thinking of Black people. Make no mistake; they ARE influential and most likely well-intentioned.
One of the most controversial of the young Black voices is Kanye West. As we have said in a number of editorials, these are very crucial times in America. What we do now will determine the future of this country for years to come. With that said, Kanye West has come out as a supporter of someone who is arguably a great nemesis of the Black community, President Donald J. Trump.
Though Kanye is an avowed Trump supporter, he has decided to run for president of the United States, suspiciously during a time when Trump is trailing in the polls. Even Trump said that Kanye could take votes away from Biden, which points to one of the possible motivations for a Kanye campaign. Kanye has surprisingly garnered a lot of support among young voters who see him as a viable alternative to Trump and Biden.
Recently, Kanye held his first campaign rally in South Carolina. Incredibly, during that event, he expressed the opinion that Harriet Tubman did NOT free the slaves! Basically, he said “Harriet Tubman never actually freed the slaves, she just had them work for other white people.” It is also being said that he called Tubman a “liar.” This is an egregious lack of respect for one of the most important leaders of our times! Let’s hope Kanye is an anomaly.
When we compare the new leaders with the likes of those who came from previous generations, we can wonder how our community will fare in the face of increasing hostility. We are at a crossroads, and we must have a unified vision, one that hopefully bridges the past with the future. A Luta Continua.