Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
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It is a providential time to reassess the meaning and challenges of Dr. King’s legacy for Black America in this year of profound change, anxiety, and hope.
Nobody said that the road to freedom, justice and equality would be easy. In the wake of the results of the national elections across the United States, it is crystal clear that the aspirations, hopes and dreams of 47 million Black Americans are neither in vain or hopeless.
In all democracies, the right to vote is fundamental to the legitimacy of an elected government chosen by the participatory action and will of the people eligible to vote. For 47 million Black Americans, the right to vote is a sacred responsibility without the fear of reprisal, retribution or repression.
There are nearly 47 million Black Americans living in the United States that have diverse interests politically, economically, socially, and culturally. But no demand or interest is more important than equal justice and opportunity. Let me be crystal clear: There will be no peace without justice and there will be no justice without equality.
There is an old adage that posits “The more things appear to change, the more they stay the same.” Once again, millions of Americans are engulfed in what has become a reluctant national debate and dialogue concerning race and the urgency to reform the nation’s criminal justice system. Finding and identifying transformative remedies and solutions are long overdue.
There is no debate concerning the irrefutable fact that The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the greatest leaders recognized, admired and affirmed by millions of people across America and throughout the world. King’s activism and leadership changed America and the world, as did Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela in their respective global impacts.
Black Americans continue to face serious disparities in education, employment, and in economic development. While over 45 million Black Americans have made some type of progress during the past seven years of the Obama Administration, there is still much more to be done to end the vast racial and socioeconomic differences between Blacks and Whites in the United States.
Seventy-five years ago a freedom fighter was born in Greenville, South Carolina. His name is Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr. and I need to say something about this brother that I have known and worked with for decades in the ongoing Civil Rights Movement in the U. S. and in the overall freedom struggle internationally.
What is important to 45 million Black Americans today should be important to all Americans. Yet, as the economy in the United States continues to gradually recover from very a difficult and complex set of economic woes, the recovery of economic well-being of Black America continues to lag behind.
Whenever I have an opportunity to rejoin the transformational activities of the civil rights organization that was founded and led by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I am always eager to participate. Such was the case July 23 in Baton Rouge, La. The occasion was the 57th annual convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and I had been invited to participate as part of a panel on criminal justice reform.
Some people are now saying what was really obvious to me before President Barack H. Obama was re-elected to continue leading the United States of America.
This month marks what would have been the 107th birthday of the late United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Given our long struggle for equal justice in America and the need to continue to press forward to ensure freedom, justice and equality for all, it is important to reflect on the key principles upon which Thurgood Marshall achieved his monumental success.
Serena Jameka Williams is more than one of the greatest tennis players in the world. She comes from a Black American family that has come to epitomize what it means to consistently struggle and triumph to success in professional sports and in family life. Most importantly, however, is Serena’s demonstrated commitment to freedom, justice and equality.
Hip-hop culture is about transformation. It is more than a global genre of music. Hip-hop is a transcendent cultural phenomena that speaks to the soul, mind, body and spirit of what it means to dare to change the world into a better place. Hip-hop is not just about acquiring funds or “stacking paper.” It is also about giving back. I have personally been a long term advocate for the unbridled intellectual genius and social consciousness of hip-hop.
I know from firsthand experience that the “criminal justice system” today in the United States is in serious and urgent need of reform, repair and restructuring. Millions of families have been devastated by the “overcriminalization” of people in America. Black American families in particular have suffered and continue to suffer disproportionately as a result of an unjust system of justice.
It is important for all people of African descent throughout the world to be ever conscious and aware of how our quality of life is improving.
There are two related violent phenomena in that are now getting renewed public attention and research around the world, as well as considerable debate and denial. The twin evils are terrorism and racism.
Whether it is in an inner city neighborhood across America, the Caribbean, in Europe or in a sprawling mass of people in an African or Brazilian urban area, millions of Black youth throughout the world are crying out for a better quality of life. They should always have a better life than their parents.
The best way to celebrate Black History Month is to make more Black history.
Has Black America made significant progress politically, socially and economically over the past 50 years? This is not only an important question to pose, it is equally important to answer. And the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, 1965 to 2015 has been a remarkable period in the history of Black America. But make no mistake about it: all of our progress has come as a direct result of a protracted struggle for freedom, justice and equality.
Black Americans and others who want to contribute to the future progressive transformation of our nation and world have an upcoming strategic opportunity to make the critical difference. In less than 60 days, the November elections will be held. Once again, the United States is at a pivotal political moment in history.
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. a global business leader, educator, and longtime civil rights activist, was elected interim president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association at the group’s annual meeting.