The Revolution Ain't Gonna Be Televised (on C-Span)
The Commercialization of Black Nationalism
There was a time when the mere mention of the words Black Power would shake the very foundations of the earth and have white folks and nervous Negroes runnin' for the hills. But in 2009, the reaction to Black Power reminds me of the Arsenio Hall Show from back in tha day.
'Umm...Yesss...Black Power...Woof! Woof! Woof!..Now Sheila E, take us outta here with some of that ole nasty, pasturized homogenized, fried, died and laid to tha side, National Public Radio type funk.....'
This weekend C-Span will air the latest Tavis Smiley State of Black America Forum that will dwell into the deepest crevices of the black problem and sometime before 6PM come up with the miracle cure for all that is ailin' black folks. While this article may come off as the rant of someone who is playa hatin' or just mad that his first class ticket to the forum got accidently sent to Dr. Professor W.E. Dolittle, dean of African American Studies at Pale University ,the issue at hand is the real state of Black leadership in the 21st Century.
The question of who speaks for the Negro has long posed a problem for black and white folks, alike. Whether it be white reporters , scrambling to find a responsible and sober minded "Negro" to denounce another brotha for having the audacity to not only think black but to talk and live black as well. Or black folks jockeying for the coveted position of HNIC. The need for a national black spokesman has always been the source of great debate.
Over the decades, Black folks have fought each other tooth and nail to see who would be in charge of determining the destiny of the race. The paramount issue has always been segregation vs integration, whether African Americans would determine their own destinies or would forever be satisfied to accept the crumbs from "massa's" table. Whether the masses of black people should be organized into a mighty black nation and wage war against white supremacy to secure the Freedom of black children once and for all or whether the strategy is to invade corporate America, one by one, until 100 years from now we have a small ( yet intellectually militant) army of Brooks Brother suit wearing, BMW drivin' , suburb livin' CEO's of (still white owned) corporations. The division has always been there between those who determined to nudge their way into building the white man's heaven on earth and the bad boy outcasts who would have just as soon seen Babylon burn down. Whether it be Marcus Garvey vs W.E.B. Dubois, Malcolm X vs Martin Luther King Jr or Chuck D vs MC Hammer the issue has remained.
White America has had a vested interest on who would carry the mantel of black leadership and which ideology would be most beneficial to her interests. Since the integrationists were at least willing to sit down and talk to white folks, this ideology won out and has received the financial blessings of white mega corporations. While many "mainstream" black organizations depend on white dollars for their spectacular conventions and plush office furniture, the black nationalists are reduced to meeting in the back of book stores and barbershops and praying that it doesn't rain on their "convention" in the middle of tha 'hood in Martin Luther King Park.
This has resulted in a kind of dual Black Power Movement. One side made up of a collection of middle to upper class doctors, lawyers, preachers, professors and anyone else who is deemed capable of articulating the "black thang" in proper English by white folks. The other side is made up of a rag, tag fugitive fleet of street activists who are in the constant struggle between working to feed their families and working for the people.
So the question becomes do the middle class black folks that are given all the air time truly represent the feelings of the masses of black folks or are their ideologies more closely aligned with the white middle class. Are the values espoused by the 2009 Civil Rights all-stars the blueprint for the future of black America or just a Eurocentric, capitalist ideology in black face? Although many at the forum will no doubt speak on the need for unity, the class division in the Black Power/Empowerment Movement must be addressed.
This class division is best exemplified in the wild world of Hip Hop. If Hip Hop is indeed the parallel universe of the Black Power Movement (In a Bizzaro World kind of way) then the struggle being waged by underground Hip Hop artists against commercial Hip Hop should be reflective of the struggle against commercialized Black Power by the black nationalists.
Just as white owned mega companies have hand picked the commercial artists to head the Hip Hop Movement by promoting them heavily in magazines and making sure that they are the only voices that are heard on urban radio, have these same corporations also picked black leadership?
The rebellion against commercial Hip Hop is evident in the works of North Carolina artists such as Da Poet Tim Jackson, Queen Sharon and the rapper Crown King, who have decided to put out their own CD's and present them to the masses of people instead of being another one of 'tha man's' commercial Hip Hop clones. As these talented artists may never get a spot on Def Poetry Slam or get signed to a multi-million dollar contract with Universal Entertainment, our most intelligent black minds may never be a guest on the Tavis Smiley Show or get invited to one of the symposiums.
So, I probably won't watch the symposium on Saturday as the black intelligentsia get together to discuss how best to divide there millions of dollars in corporate assets to develop another generation of Black Power Urban Professionals, I like the other outcasts will be in tha hood, trying to do the impossible with nothing.
***originally written 2005**
Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots Fired.com