Black wisdom: for our collective prosperity in 2012

Critical thinking in the Black Independence Movement


“We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends,” a lesson from Mary McLeod Bethune.

This year, we can work to broaden our own experiences and, when possible, to broaden the experiences of those around us. Our kids need to know that there is more to the world than Minneapolis and St. Paul. If our kids never see a play at the only Black theater in the Midwest, our very own Penumbra, how will our people help to shape and create the next August Wilson?

We need to be open to listening, not just hearing, what our young people are saying. We must drop our old divisions, our title holding and instead breathe life into our young leadership. We must, simultaneously, use our individual access and opportunity to better the whole village and take collective responsibility for all of our futures, those bright and those filled with challenges.

Depth from Marcus Garvey: “A people without knowledge of their history, culture or traditions is like a tree without roots.”

In 2012, we can grow our roots and the roots of those around us. You don’t have to return to formal school so that you can learn — you can use the public library or the Internet, a good old-fashioned book, or a brand new Nook — commit to building our collective knowledge by building your own, then sharing it liberally with others.

Make sure you place a high value on education for the young and old around you. Insist on education — not degrees, but education, expansion of thought through the learning of new things, the sharing of new perspectives, broadening our possibilities beyond our collective miseries.

Did you know that 1973 was the only year that Black Minnesotans had our own float in the annual Aquatennial Parade? Among the people responsible for this historic event were some of Minnesota’s first Black millionaires and politicians. I learned this at a preview of the Minnesota African American Museum, another priceless resource that will stand in honor as an affirmation of our presence today and our contributions to Minnesota history. Take the people you love, donate what you can — time, talent and treasure — and help our museum SING!

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today,” said the one and only Malcolm X. We need to commit to thinking, and acting, collectively, transparently, and cooperatively on the realities that bind our collective futures. We need to be actively involved from the beginning of the political process. We need to get our kids involved at an early age — we need to understand how our politics work because those politics govern everything from our trash collection to the White House.

We must research, refine and implement our own solutions; no other community finds the need as urgent as we do, and nobody else, said Dr. King, can do this for us.

“Reach down into the recesses of your own soul, and sign on the dotted line, in ink, your own emancipation proclamation!” Fire from Dr. Martin Luther King that isn’t widely shared; the status quo would rather we be reminded that “He had a dream” as though his commitment to nonviolence was evidence that he was pacified.

This year we can refuse to repeat the myths of the ideology, stop expecting our Black-owned businesses to do badly, and stop throwing myth and accusation at our Black-led community organizations. We can stop reading blogs replete with lies and innuendo, we can drop the viewer-ship of Internet and television shows by refusing to tune in, and we can exhale the negative spirit that delights in tearing the people of the village down, making room for the beauty of our Blackness to fill that space instead.

Finally, a gift of common sense honesty from the brave Fannie Lou Hamer:

“With the people, for the people, by the people. I crack up when I hear it; I say, with the handful, for the handful, by the handful, ’cause that’s what really happens.”

Happy 2012, amazing people of the village; here’s to our collective faith and well-being!


Hear Lissa Jones’ radio show “Urban Agenda” on 89.9 KMOJ-FM Thursday nights at 6 pm, stream her live at, or read web posts from Lissa at She welcomes reader responses to