(NNPA) Whatever is on your mind or in your spirit and soul, it is an expression of your consciousness. Your state of mind should be governed about how you feel about yourself, family, community, race, tradition, history, humanity, values and principles, and the overall quality of your life in the context of your quantitative ability and capacity to provide for yourself and love ones. Fifty years ago, back in the 1960's, in particular for Black Americans, there was an emerging, self-determined Black consciousness movement that first affirmed the humanity of Black people in America, Africa, the Caribbean and throughout the Pan African world. It is timely, I believe, to ask the question today: "What is the state of Black consciousness of African Americans in 2011?"
Another fundamental purpose of the evolution of the Black consciousness movement was to expose the falsehood, myth and destructive stereotypes of white supremacy, both in its historical and contemporary institutionalized forms. Of course, the Black consciousness movement in the 1960's also had its antecedents in the Pan African movements for Black solidarity, liberation, self-determination, freedom, justice, and equality during the previous 500 years of the systematic slavery, colonization and oppression of African people throughout the world. Any study of the history of Black literature, our writings and spoken words over the last six centuries shows the central theme of the love and passion of Black people for liberation, freedom and justice universally not only for all people of African descent, but also for all people in the diversity of God's creation.
The purpose and focus of this column is simple: Black Americans cannot afford to be idle spectators while others in America have a clear agenda for power, money, prosperity and empowerment, both politically and economically. In other words, we need to be re-awaken to the importance of having a Black consciousness and perspective about all that we do and desire. The truth is we should not be upset with other ethnic and racial groups when they express and organize around their own self interests. The problem is when we as a people appear to be hesitant or reluctant to state clearly and strategically an agenda for the empowerment of the Black community. Each generation of Black people in America and throughout the world must rise to the occasion unapologetically to state our priorities, issues and interests.
The first place to reject the persistent poverty that continues to engulf millions of African Americans is in our own consciousness. Yes, that's right, we have to reject and combat the poverty mentality that exists is too many of our own minds. The fact that poverty persists in the African American community even amidst the current economic recovery across the nation is problematic. But we should not be narrowly convinced by the forces of our oppression that our situation is hopeless and beyond redemption. Our situation can and will change for the better, but it will require much more to raise the consciousness of African Americans with a stronger spiritual fortitude together with an irrepressible sense of self-determination and Black consciousness.
I remember well, and we should never forget Steve Biko and the BCM (Black Consciousness Movement) in South Africa. The youth of South Africa, first through the ranks of the young activists of the ANC (African National Congress), and secondly the youth who joined Biko and the BCM all worked together to raise the level of consciousness among the masses of Black people in South Africa to the point that the weakness of the apartheid was exposed and dismantled. These young people and others had made up their minds that they were not going to tolerate that brutal form of racism any longer. Nothing is more powerful than a mind that is made up. That's the power potential of Black consciousness. Before Steve Biko was beaten to death by officials of the apartheid regime, he wrote a truth that warrants repeating now: "The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."
Today the Tea Party and other right wing elements are determined to confuse and to destabilize the mind set of Black people. Currently in many states there are acts of voter suppression in an attempt to prevent a large African American voter turnout in the 2012 national elections. Continuous negative campaigning tactics and media advertising are also aimed at dulling the sensibilities of African Americans to sustain a nonproductive syndrome of hopelessness and apathy. Just at the time when we should all be mobilizing and organizing around the core issues that impact the quality of life of Black people and all others that remained oppressed, we appear too splintered, divided and immobilized. This is due partly to the low level of overall Black consciousness among millions of African Americans in 2011. At the end of the day, however, through the use of the Black Press and other progressive media outlets, we can begin to increase once again the level of Black consciousness.
During a recent broadcast of Fareed Zakaria, the scholar David McCullough, who has written extensively on the effectiveness of various Presidents of the United States, was interviewed. Zakaria asked McCullough how President Barack Obama was doing in comparison to other U.S. presidents? McCullough, as a noted historian, said the President Obama was doing an outstanding job thus far given what he inherited from President George Bush in 2009. But what caught my attention more was McCullough's assessment about how presidents and other leaders are to be ultimately evaluated in the eyes of history. MuCullough said, "It is in the power of the spoken and written word." Let's check out where we are today in terms of the quality of the content of our culture in language, art, politics, economics and spirituality? What are our youth speaking about? What's on the mind of our elders? Articulation of the word is a function of knowledge, experience, education, faith and wisdom. Yet, how we speak and write is also a function of one’s consciousness.
Thus, the power of Black consciousness in 2011 and into the future will be measured by how effective Black people and leaders will stay focused and active on the agenda to rid the world of poverty, misery and oppression in the pursuit of liberation, freedom, justice, equality, prosperity and empowerment for all.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is Senior Advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Education Online Services Corporation.