LEADERSHIP THAT MATTERS

By Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq.

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A lot of people call themselves leaders, and Lord knows we need leaders now. Politics should be making things happen for us now, but in fact, there are certain politicians who seem to be doing all they can to tear down what we

have instead of building on what has been done to bring about a more perfect union. We’re not enjoying the leadership as we had come to know it. We have people at the highest level who know only how to tear things apart.

Real leaders have come before us at the 2020 Democratic Convention. Sometimes the analysis of a political campaign can raise as many questions as it answers. From discussion around the current Biden-Harris campaign we’ve learned that there’s still kindness and decency in our country.

Kamala Harris asked a significant question when she asked in essence when our children ask, what did we do, we must know that what we said is not sufficient. We will be asked what did we do? A real leader does more than talk.  Real leaders act.  Throughout the Democratic Convention, we’ve been told how important voting is. It’s important because when we vote change happens.  The more we vote, the higher are our chances to get things done.  The marches and protests we’ve witnessed over the past several months are reminders that so many people are tired of the talk.  They want action!

People are often reminded to vote, and many remind us of the importance of making sure we are registered. That point is so important in view of all the people who’ve been arbitrarily removed from voter rolls.  President Obama’s plea convinced me, and I believe many others, that our democracy is at stake. Should the Biden-Harris ticket be victorious in November, they’ve got a lot to do to bring some semblance of peace and justice to our nation. They should take comfort in the fact that they’ll have a master teacher and helper in Barack Obama. His convention remarks shook up a lot of people who may not have understood the urgency of not allowing the person now in the White House to be there another 4 years.

The man in the White House had the audacity to get up after President Obama and Senator Kamala Harris spoke at the convention still trying to blame everything that he has wrecked since he has been charged with leading the country, on President Obama. One would think a true leader would understand that if he found such bad things when he arrived at the White House, as President it was his obligation to fix them. Obviously, he’s no leader because all he has done is try to tear down the accomplishments of his predecessor.  Hasn’t he learned anything when he sees so many members of his party speaking out against what he has done to make our nation worse—not better?

This November 3, 2020 election is one of the most consequential ones we’ve ever faced.  President Obama reminded us that we need to be afraid that we might lose our democracy if the current administration continues in office.  So many are probably asking if there is any way we can quickly change the 22nd Amendment that limits a President to two terms.  Many would like to see President Obama back for a third term! He could definitely help us to recapture what we lost since he’s been out of the White House.

When you look at the role women played in this convention, you realize just how important women are if you’ve never thought about it before.  All women should be proud of where we’ve finally come.  It’s taken a very long time to get where we are, and we Black women are finally getting some of the recognition for which we’ve worked for years. It’s time for the benefits.

 Given the examples of ambitious Black Women in the history of this nation, we can ask whether a woman like Harriett Tubman was arrogant or ambitious, or whether her goals, over objections of the slave-holder class, served a higher purpose. She was a no-nonsense freedom-seeker and leader who tolerated nothing less than total commitment from others as well as herself. 

When we speak of the accomplishments of women, it’s usually about white women, but even they’re having to fight to get full rights under the constitution. Most people don’t realize women are not equal under the constitution. We’re still working to get an Equal Rights Amendment. So many Black women have worked so hard against brutal conditions, but still receive less than one third of what a white male receives for the same job.  That must change. Black women commit so much of our time to serving our communities.  Many of us are leaders for our people and we deserve better.

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Who would dare question the capabilities of women like Mary McLeod Bethune, Ella Baker, Rosa Parks, Diane Nash, Amelia Boynton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Shirley Chisholm or Dorothy Height?  Rosa Parks sat on that bus for us. Mary McLeod Bethune risked her life to provide an opportunity for Black youth to educate themselves. At great risk, the women named herein placed their convictions and bodies between those who would attempt to hold-on to the social and cultural restrictions that established the boundaries of Jim Crow-ism. They didn’t do the things they did for self-aggrandizement. They were selfless and their actions were based upon service for a greater good. They represent real leadership.

The tradition of Black women in service to our communities is further highlighted with great women like Shirley Chisholm who was the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress and the first Black woman candidate for a major political party to run for the Office of President of the U.S.  Barbara Jordan was the first Black woman elected to the Texas legislature, and later the first Black woman elected to Congress from the deep south. Chisholm and Jordan laid the foundation for the current lineup of Black women politicians and other leaders, and we look back on them now as our sheroes who got us where we are today.

It’s doubtful that in 2013, when Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi founded Black Lives Matter they realized it would evolve into a human rights movement with the ambitious goal of eliminating violence and systemic racism towards Black people.

Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells and Black women by the thousands number among those in history who overcame, instilled, motivated supported a better life for us—not just for themselves as we see so many who call themselves leaders doing today. 

 We wouldn’t see the brilliant Black women who were considered for Presidential candidate Biden's Vice-Presidential running mate were it not for women who have risen up as leaders to play a huge role in forming “a more perfect union.”  We are better off for their leadership and their ambition. So, women should never be afraid to be ambitious—to want a bigger share of the pie. It is their ambition that has gotten them to become leaders.

 If we think critically and answer honestly, where would our communities, our nation or our world be now without the ambitions and leadership of strong, thoughtful Black women? Without argument, women shape the world and there’s nothing wrong with the desire to shape it in its best form.

 (Dr. E. Faye Williams is President of the National Congress of Black Women.  She also hosts “Wake Up and Stay Woke” on Wednesdays, at 10:00 AM EST on WPFW-FM-89.3 FM. https://wpfwfm.org/ )