I was prompted to write this ‘Black Paper’ in response to a question from my elder daughter, Malaika, who recently became involved with our “One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors” (OMCBV&C) campaign. Because her mother and I separated and divorced when she was only 11 years old, Malaika grew to adulthood without being exposed to the Black Nationalist and Pan-Africanist ideology which has been the driving force in her father’s life since the age of 15 or so. Like the vast majority of people of African descent in America, my daughter is not attuned to whatever it is that causes people with beliefs like mine to feel the way we do about matters related to our African race. Realizing that like Malaika, most black people coming into contact with the term “conscious black” could find it confusing, and they might not understand who we are referring to when we use it, it is indeed appropriate that I make an effort to shed light on this matter. First, a bit of background.
Use of the term “Conscious Blacks” began to emerge in the 1980s in the aftermath of the devastation caused by the government’s use of the “Cointelpro” program during the 1970s to destroy the effectiveness of the black liberation movement. That movement was led by people who referred to themselves as “Black Nationalists” (Nationalists) and “Pan-Africanists.” Key to the effectiveness of the Cointelpro scheme was its almost total destruction of any semblance of trust among Nationalists. Government agencies adroitly planted the impression that every other Nationalist was an informant for the government, which led wives and husbands of Nationalist activists to believe that their spouses were only pretending to advocate for the uplift and advancement of black people, and were in fact using the movement as a cover for assorted sexual affairs with members of the opposite sex among their supposed comrades. Having thus been routed, Nationalists came to be viewed as incompetents capable only of spouting empty rhetoric. Many started to distance themselves from use of, or identification with, the term. Subsequently, the term “Race-Conscious” came into use as an alternative frame of reference. Now-a-days, one seldom hears the term Black Nationalist used, even by many who consider themselves to still hold to beliefs that were once associated with Nationalists exclusively. The term Conscious Black is devoid of any such taint, but unlike Nationalist, few people have a clear understanding of what it actually means. It is quite likely there are as many different interpretations of its meaning as there are people who purport to adhere to it.
My personal preference as a formal definition of Black Nationalism is that given to us by Dr. Maulana Karenga in his seminal work: “Kawaida Theory: An Introductory Outline,” to wit: “Kawaida defines nationalism as the concept and conviction that we are a distinct people with a distinct historical personality and that, therefore, we should unite in order to gain the structural capacity to define, defend, and develop our interests as a people. He goes on to add that “…nationalism is social analysis and strategy for social change.” For me then, this definition also applies to “black consciousness” as is used in today’s parlance. Therefore, a conscious black person knowingly and deliberately prioritizes the enlightened group interest of black people above and beyond all others — without apology! A conscious black voter would apply this mindset to the arena of partisan electoral politics.
Black Nationalists were those ideologues among their race who genuinely loved black people; we were the only ones who could claim that distinction. A person today who claims to be a conscious black ought to love his/her people, even though that love is more likely than not to be unrequited these days – but that will be the subject of another black paper!
The One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors then refers to black individuals who are fully aware that our race needs the best-and-brightest we produce to place the interests of our people collectively in “first-position.” In doing so, we put into practice what all other racial and ethnic groups do routinely and automatically. I will use the people known as “Jews” to illustrate this latter point. The people known as Jews today are not the people referred to in the Christian Bible or the source material from which that Bible was constructed. They are an eastern European people who converted to Judaism to take advantage of the concept of a “Chosen People” as referenced in the “Old Testament.” (That too will be the subject of another black paper!)
The principal institutions used by those converts to Judaism were 1) the FAMILY; and 2) the SYNOGOGUE (church). From birth, the converts’ children were taught who they were based on what their parents and religious leaders wanted them to believe. They were taught from whence they came and their purpose for being on Earth. Seldom do “Jewish” children attend non-Jewish schools during their formative years (from birth to early teens). This period corresponds to today’s formal schooling from pre-school through middle-school, or the completion of eighth-grade. At that point, modern-day Jewish children are subjected to a “rights-of-passage” known as Bar-Mitzvah for boys and Bat-Mitzvah for girls. They then “pass” from adolescence into adulthood, fully indoctrinated with the belief that they are to uplift and advance the best interest of their group. Jewish children are thus immunized against the “vagaries-and-vicissitudes” of the non-Jewish world as they enter adulthood. In sharp contrast to those practices by Jews, neither the black family nor “black church” of today emphasizes or teaches racial history, heritage, and culture of and for people of African descent. The importance of that contrast is readily evident in the comparative relative difference in the status and position of Jews in society and the world, as opposed to that of black people. Jews practically control the world, while blacks are controlled by nearly everybody and everything in the world!
By calling the best and brightest among us to join forces and pool resources to build the capacity of our race to advance and protect its collective interests, the One Million Conscious Black Voters and Contributors campaign seeks to have black people do what other groups have done and do every day: Lift ourselves out of our lowly condition by our own collective efforts! A conscious black voter would do this by voting as part of a solid block of black voters determined to influence public policy decisions so that they favor rather than hurt black people, and open pathways to a better future for our children.
Correspondingly, a conscious black contributor would readily pool his/her financial and other resources and resourcefulness to provide the wherewithal to underwrite the costs of projects and programs designed and intended to serve the needs and interests of our people.