When good people essentially do nothing

Power, politics, and policy and the influence they have over African American people

According to Pastor Terrance Jacobs, former director with the Gamaliel Organization who was appointed to Africa, power is the concentration of “organized people and organized money” (taken from the Alinsky model). Pastor Jacobs went on to explain, at the Minneapolis Neighborhood Hub’s Health Disparities training that was held in late October, that a state of powerlessness is a sin!

My interpretation of his remark is that there is a whole lot of sin going around in Minnesota! In that one instance he essentially declared that seeking power is not a bad thing. Yet many of us have formed opinions about power to the effect that it is bad, that we don’t need too much of it,  and that anyone seeking too much power should be watched closely.

Ultimately, many of us have been fed a lie! Power is not a bad thing! Power is something that we all face on a daily basis. Power in its simplest definition is the ability to influence others’ behavior with or without resistance.

As a community, Minnesota recently went to the polls and exercised their power to vote against mandating a photo I.D. for elections. On a daily basis, those of us who have children nourish and cultivate them to grow up to be successful and a positive influence upon their community, which is power. Some of us are managers in our day-to-day lives who have the ability to influence how a work flow should take place — that is power.

Rev. Dr.  Martin Luther King, Jr. back in the 1960’s led a group of people who had limited money to essentially change our American governmental system as we know it. Who would have thought that a Southern Baptist preacher could lead so many poor folks to fight for civil rights?

Power is around us every day of our lives. It is up to us to embrace and analyze that power so that we can use it to benefit the greater good of our communities.

So if power is organized people and organized money, then where do we stand as an African American community? Do we have organized people with the sole purpose of benefiting the African American community? If so, who are they? Where are they? How have they been effective and remained relevant to the times?

Do we have organized money? If so, what does that look like? How has that organized money benefited the African American community? Who has taken responsibility for that money?

My last question is this: If both organized money and organized people are all we need for African Americans to be empowered in Minnesota, then why are so many suffering from the disparities that plague Minnesota? I put some of these questions to Nick Muhammad of Torchlight Minnesota, and he stated that in order for us to gain power as an African American community we must do the following:

• Change our cultural perspective on how we look at wealth, Black-owned businesses, building Black-owned institutions, and being intentional about supporting each other.

• Analyze our tax base (such as the $4 billion of buying power African Americans of Minnesota have)

• Build up constituencies to support an African American agenda, not wavering to other people’s causes but instead building our own allies.

I am not here to tell you everything on the subject of power, but more so to challenge you to think about how you can use power in your own community to make a difference. Is what Nick Muhammad and Pastor Jacobs shared the right model for our African American community?

I will continue this discussion on power when I return for my January column. I would like to challenge each of you to write in and tell me how we can build power in the African American community.

I have fortunately received a small donation from a private source who would like to challenge you all as well by giving a $50 gift to a reader who can give a detailed account of what is power and how we can build power in the African American community. The winner will also have a portion of their thoughts published in my next article.

So as always I look forward to hearing from everyone! Thank you to all of my followers; I have had an overwhelming response from people around the world, and the Spokesman-Recorder has received a record number of hits to their website due to the last article.

Please continue to support my articles and the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. If you would like to get the MSR in your mailbox, please call 612-827-4021, email subscribe@spokesman-recorder.com, or write to Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, P.O. Box 8558, Minneapolis, MN 55408.


Mary Anderson is a community engagement facilitator for a local nonprofit in the Twin Cities area who has served more than 17 years in civic engagement, community organizing, and a host of philanthropic initiatives in the U.S. and abroad. She welcomes reader responses to mnaaac@gmail.com.

18 Comments on “When good people essentially do nothing”

  1. We have all that we need in money, political office holders and knowledge with record numbers with college education and higher degrees. We have a lot of potential power but potential power not used is waste. So we have a lot of waste too. What is now needed is the will and personal sacrifice to exercise that potential.

    Why do I say will and sacrifice? What is it that we need that we truly can’t afford to buy as a group with over a trillion dollars? Can’t be a lack of money.

    We have our on Caucus in Congress and was the only group to vote 100% of their population. 13% of the population and voted 13% in the election. So it isn’t a lack of political prowess.

    Many can go to community college and some universities for free. We are turning out record numbers of college graduates so it can’t be a lack of education. Maybe a lack of certain knowledge but not education.

    Did the Black folks on Greenwood in Tulsa Oklahoma have more than us in Money, elected office holders and education? They were still subject to segregation, Jim Crow and diminished rights. Some were even ex-slaves and the children of slaves but they built Black Wall Street.

    During the 50’s and 60’s all of our storied civil rights Icons were under almost the same oppression as the folks in 1920’s Greenwood but yet as stated in the article, they changed America.

    The difference between both groups and us now is their will and desire to have more and work towards achieving their like minded goals through personal sacrifice.

    How did they do it you ask? They were willing to set aside their differences and areas of conflict to focus on what they had in common. They were willing to plan, act and never take their focus off the prize. Once a battle was won they refocused on the next goal and worked just as hard and determined until that battle was won. They repeated this same simple process until victory was won.

    With the will to do mixed with sacrifice, we can do at least as good as the folks in Tulsa that built Black Wall Street back in the 1920’s.

    Here is a project to exercise your will and ability to sacrifice that cost no money.
    There are many children in your community that don’t have computers at home and fall behind in their education. Christmas season is almost upon us where many will get new computers, tablets and other devices. After Christmas many working and computers that need minor repair will be set on the curb for the garbage man to dump in a landfill. Use social media to request those people drop off those computers at central locations or set a time for a pick up. Use the same method to request professionals and your technical training schools, if they are willing to help. Collect those computers. Fix the ones that need to be fixed and verify the others. Load free open source software where needed. Establish a process to distribute those computers to those children in need.

    Do you have the will?!

    1. Wow Bro Rodney! You are jumping ahead to my next article and it is not even published yet! The concept of Potential Power is something we must explore as many African Americans feel powerless. Your example you gave is an excellent example of how we as a community can empower each other.

      Black wall street is definately a great example of black power! The Power that was in Black Wall Street should be examined and put into action. I also believe that we must study ways to protect that power as you see what happened to Black Wall Street! Great post! I hope you continue to build with us here at the Spokesman and by all means send me your address at Mnaaac@gmail.com. I would like to send you something in the mail I think you will enjoy reading.

  2. This is a very good article!!! and i would like to add that educating the African American community would play a very vital role. There are people in our communities that are not aware of the access, lack support to understand the power that we do have. Many times when being faced with poverty or life challenges it is hard to think outside the box and also some are just not taught otherwise. Many are in survival mode… I feel in order to obtain power we need education and a strong support system. Many say it starts in our homes but sometimes it don’t. And thats when our communities need to step in. We all need support in order to grow and strive to be a powerful force. 🙂

    1. K. Givens thank you for your insight and comments. You are right education is vitally important when it comes to power. However it depends on who is teaching and what! In the last article I referred to the “talented tenth”, these are people who are educated. We have more African Americans “educated” now than ever before, however have the worst disparities throughout the nation. We have more college educated A.A. Unemployed in this country than any other race. So what went wrong? What happened to the Power we once had with less education, little money, and limited resources? The Civil Rights movement is a great example of the type of power we ounce posessed.

      1. Hi Mary, First Love the article and the topic, and yes education is the key but the type of education is paramount,that means learning of just who you are and where you come from then we tackle the books by rewriting them and not leaving out the important contributions that African Americans made to this country and to the world. Self-Pride is a good motivator to challenge ourselves to reach for the stars, and sharing your light with others by their brightness as they soar across the skies, as you do thanks. looking forward to the next article… Second Chance …

        1. Brother Dexter, thank you for reading. I am glad you enjoyed the article and would love to hear more about how African Americans in St. Cloud are building Power and how African Americans in the Twin Cities can support you all in the North. I know as a Second Chance Executive Board member you speak out all the time, but what are others doing as a collective? What institutions support you all? I hope you stay in contact and I am looking forward to reading your response to this post! Stay warm up there!

  3. I love the reference to power as organized people and organized money, but probably because I hail from the same organizing tradition as Pastor Jacobs. The disparities the poor and communities of color face in Minnesota can often feel daunting. In fact many people have decided that things won’t get better and, therefore, don’t take up the mantle and lead the fight to create the equity that they want to see in the world. I am hopeful every day to be in relationship with the few who have not given up that fight and who recognize that we will not realize the more just community God desires for us if we don’t work together. I find hope in those organizations that are yielding their power to make positive change in the Black community (and the many other communities that also suffer). The road ahead is rough, but we have come mighty far by faith. Groups like ISAIAH, Take Action Minnesota, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Vigilant Promotions, Torchlight, Harrison Neighborhood Association, Jewish Community Action, Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, and numerous others are on the front lines daily building power. It’s up to all of us to step up and join forces with these groups because power comes in community, not in isolation, with other people working together towards the same goals.

    1. AboundingJoy,

      Although the organizations you mentioned have great value, they have struggled with keeping communities of color at the table ( with the exception of NOC and Torchlight). I myself am involved with the ones you mentioned and find it difficult at times as they conflict with cultural values and customs. I believe as African Americans we need to be the number one voice for our issues. I believe Torchlight Minnesota is the one institution that African Americans can join and build the type of power that is lacking in Minnesota. Not to knock other organizations as I am very involved with many, but it is long overdue for a org like Torchlight to come forth! I hope you continue to build and read my articles. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

  4. Quite an interesting article, was quite a bit less challenging than the previous articles, was well written asked some questions that have been put to our community in the past in which we as a community seem to still be waiting for answers or should I say the next mosiah to rally around.

    1. Mr. Ekereke,

      Please allow me to take one step at a time. This Column is suppose to appeal to those who normally don’t get involved or discuss politics, community work, or feel they belong. As a writer I will do my best to appeal to all audiences, however ultimately I must fulfill the purpose first. Have a great day!

    2. Just a note, I do not think that we as a collective black folks are waiting for any one person, it is the issues that we had lost value with; of our past, to get to our future, and until we reclaim our value system, of we fall and stand together, for if my brother or sister is hunger, feed them, for we are our brothers and sisters keeper. We all will do better when we all do better collectively why wait, act now, save our children, who are the future. Stand up and be glad that someone is taking a stand. Thanks Mary and the answer comes from within not the next best thing Just Say’en
      Oh and Mary We have a strong core group of Black men here promoting African Americans here call the African American Male Forum who promote ethnic pride through a number of events and a Saturday youth academy with history classes, art, self-respect and respect for others groups sessions, we are sponsoring our 17th annual Kwanzaa Celebration tomorrow for we do it early for a lot of people go out of town and we do Juneteenth, and other things throughout the year. Hope you can join us sometime in the future or tomorrow?

      1. Dexter let’s talk! I would love to learn about the Organizing efforts in Duluth. Sounds like you all have a good thing going on up there.

  5. wonderful article great research to support some ideas and beliefs;the first step to utilizing the power we possess in our black community you have already exposed. That is getting people to realize that they possess this power and the extent of power they possess.You as the writer Mary have now opened that door up wider so now more people can look inside. Now we must continue to widen that door even more and fill more with the knoweledge. so then we as a people can start to exercise what we have so long sit idle.Power in the black community has long long long been tried to keep under wrap because the other masses realize how powerful we as a people really are>>together. Example:and i quote “THAT IS TO MUCH POWER FOR ONE MAN”& get a statement directed at a great man MALCOLM X..even then through the great depression the power of the black community was recognized..SO MARY continue to open up our mind to thought, and change will happen. EXERCISE YOUR POWER to reach and educate the MASSES..Looking to your next article and Too bad we have to wait a month!

    1. Terrance your words are so kind. You are right the first step in obtaining power is getting people to realize the power they posess themselves first. Please share this article with others, till next time!!

  6. Great subject and great perspective. And, if I may add, power is knowing and knowing that you have power is vital to change; as it is often said, “change starts with you.” Hence, in order for us (African American/African/Minority Community)to organize our money or power, we must first know we have money or power.

    1. Seyon,

      You are right! Most people see wealth as only having money! However we have an abundance of wealth which is called buying power. Buying power was utilized in the Civil Rights movement when they boycotted the buses. The amount of money lost placed pressure on the government to move in their favor. If we grasp the concept of just how powerful we are, we can make a difference as a people. Thank you for your comments and for reading the Spokesman! Please share and I definately look forward to hearing more from you next month!

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