How to be a community activist: just show up

Booker H.I.TWhile speaking at a local college, I was recently asked a question by a student that I felt I would answer publicly. I was asked what does one have to do to become a community activist and how do you maintain your integrity once you become a community activist.

The student also reminded me that this column is 10 years old this year — boy how time flies. The next column will showcase the highlights and history of this column over the last 10 years. Now, onto the question.

It has been my experience that no matter what community you are in, all you need to do to become a community activist is start showing up to community meetings, and while at those meetings, express your opinion demonstrating your passion for whatever community issue is at hand. After doing this you need to make some connections with other activist and you can do this by continuing to show up to meetings.

I know it sounds simple, but this is all you have to do to be a community activist. Although becoming a community activist is relatively easy, remaining true to your cause seems to be extremely difficult for many who become community activist. Many community activists start out bright-eyed and pure, but very quickly many of them end up becoming sullied. Many of them end up becoming poverty profiteers.

Given the fact that it’s so easy to become a community activist, and the fact that there is almost zero accountability for such activist, it’s an attractive occupation if you want to call it that for the uneducated and unethical profiteer. As all these construction projects begin to go up around the metro you may see some of these activist come out claiming to be able to perform task such as deliver services that God knows they have no ability to deliver.

Here lies the problem that I have with most community activist. Those who promise to deliver services that they can’t perform mess it up for those who can perform the services but are not as vocal. I don’t have enough space in this column to discuss some of these activist at this time, but rest assured we are investigating some of these people and we will be exposing them for who they are.

Over the last four years there has been some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for local communities of color to level the economic playing field, but as usual, community activist messed up for the community, but not without lining their pockets first. Target Field, TCF stadium, light rail, you name it. These people line their pockets while those they are supposed to be helping get nothing. The sad part is that these people keep getting the opportunity to pillage.

It’s 2014 and we still don’t have minority compliance on a lot of these projects and we never will as long as these same people get to keep making promises that they have not, nor will they ever be able to deliver on. I don’t think all community activists are out to make money off the backs of those in the community, but the activist who have gainful employment and ethics are often overrun or outlasted by those who don’t. I know this from personal experience.

Those activists without gainful employment have no choice but to sellout. You can’t put a biscuit in front of someone who hasn’t eaten for days and expect them not to eat it, right? Here is where the problem lies.

The unemployed activist has all the time in the world to attend every community meetings and all the incentive to eat the biscuit and in most cases the crumbs. I would suggest that if you want to be a community activist that you have gainful employment so you don’t take the biscuit when someone tries to hand it to you. Today’s biscuit is tomorrow’s crumbs.


Booker T Hodges welcomes reader responses to