By Vincent L. Hall
“Let us be those creative dissenters who will call our beloved nation to a higher destiny, to a new plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humanness.”– M.L.K. Community or Chaos – 1967
In a critically-acclaimed book during the Civil Rights struggle, Dr. Martin Luther King warned Black America and the world that we would either build “community” or risk a total immersion into chaos. He also prophetically predicted a Black president “within the next 40 years!”
Dr. King was right on both counts!
Most of us refer to “The “Black Community” as if it has borders with latitudinal and longitudinal lines. In pre-integration, there once was such an organism, order, and orientation, but there is little evidence of it now.
Today’s Black Community label refers to the 13% of America’s population with no homogenous movement, momentum, or mandate. We traded our solidarity for sole proprietorships. The Black Community was never impenetrable, but its power was at least identifiable and measurable.
Whites, by virtue of their power and population, still enjoy the trappings of America’s community. Their commune is fortified by wealth, White Privilege, and majority in number.
Latinos are culturally well-connected and enjoy an explosive population growth that will construct a formidable political and social nest. Whether legal or illegal, their significance to the overall health of the American economy is inarguable. Asians are on the rise everywhere. The Vietnamese population in Dallas reached 5%, and that’s why you see voting materials in their language.
The LGBTQ community has flourished on the urban and national fronts because it adopted and repackaged our fight for the “underdog.” Gays have fused their fiscal strength to create an anvil of activism for unmatched causes.
The Trump Republicans have amassed their own monolith and community. Both groups operate under the thematic thrust that the time is now or never. That “sense of urgency” is what created the original Black Community.
But today’s “Black Community” is at a loss to define or defend itself. We languish in a state of chaos that threatens both our reputation and future viability.
And while many learned and unlearned critics would assail the idea of “community” as socialist or anti-American, King did not. King realized that for the fiber of America to be strong, each thread must be coarse enough to support all the hems in the singular gar-ment.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, without question, one of Black America’s foremost intellectual and insightful voices, could very well have been the basis for some of King’s thoughts on community. In a lecture delivered on February 23, 1953, on his 85th birthday, Du Bois sounds like he taught M.L.K.
W.E.B. outlines the need for all humankind to sacrifice for their own and on behalf of one another.
“All that is asked is that each of us do what we can; first to supply our own wants in food and shelter, health and learning. But more than that, that we do for others what they need done and cannot do for themselves, and yet which must be done lest we suffer.
Even if ten-thousand men combined, and in sweat and sacrifice, make steel, wheat, corn, meat, or shoes, the result of a combined labor belongs to one or a few of them, while the others scramble to keep from starving. What has gone wrong?
It is clear that the workers do not understand the meaning of work. Work is service, not gain. The object of work is life, not income. The reward of production is plenty, not private property.
We should measure the prosperity of a nation not by the number of millionaires, but by the absence of poverty, the prevalence of health, the efficiency of the public schools, and the number of people who can and do read worthwhile books.”
W.E.B. was right! We need to read some worthwhile books, and Dr. King’s “Chaos or Community” is a great place to start. Reading history that fuels activism will lead us to “a new plateau of compassion, a more noble expression of humanness.
We need to build community!
Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and an award-winning columnist.