Home About Me Resting on a legacy: where are the next black leaders?

Resting on a legacy: where are the next black leaders?

Who's next?!

It’s February so that means countless Facebook statuses and tweets will remind us to glorify Black History month. They will send quotes and facts about the usual suspects (Martin, Malcolm, Thurgood, Rosa Parks etc) and celebrate that we have the shortest month of the year to celebrate generations of achievement. While this is inherently misguided, I won’t trash the observance too much. My concern is bigger than a pat on the back from White America. The last few decades have shown us that we have a lack of black leadership and heroes ready to be the next in the annals of the celebrated. I ask you; where are this generations Martin and Malcolm? Where are the new black leaders?

The first thing that comes out of some people’s mouths when I ask this question is “we got Obama!” Yes, I understand that Barack made history, but we can’t use him as our sole example o black empowerment and leadership. That highlights the fact that our outstanding black leadership is few and far between. We point to our Barack’s and say “we’re good.” No we aren’t! Just because a black man has the most powerful position in the world doesn’t mean we have arrived. It means there aren’t any more excuses! We should look at Obama for inspiration and strive to go higher.

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Another issue is that Obama isn’t in a position to be a black leader. He has a country to run and many more interests than just one community (even if it is his own). That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care and he won’t find time to take care of his own as you can see HERE. It means he sees the forest from the trees, and knows he can’t be seen in such a segmented and limited role when there are bigger things that the job of president requires.

Have we gotten too complacent? After our victory in the civil rights era, many African Americans feel like we just stopped. We chilled. We were happy with those baseline rights and government assistance and didn’t feel the need to mobilize any longer. This caused stagnation in our communities and we didn’t strive to see change, we just wanted to live the American dream in the monetary sense.

It is this same complacency that lets us have the same old Al Sharpton’s and Jesse Jackson’s of the world be the sole voice of modern black activism. They are older voices of the struggle, and need new diverse voices in our communities to gain the respect and the ear of the new generation. If we continue on this path, we will only have athletes and entertainers of our race being the representatives for a serious black voice. Some are cool, but I’d rather not have America think a rapper or sports star is the only type of people of color that can give an articulate and educated perspective of the plight of blacks in America.

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Maybe it isn’t cool anymore to be a leader. Maybe everyone is so concerned with getting theirs that they don’t have the time or the desire to be the voice of a people. I can’t knock anyone’s hustle or even call them wrong. I just wonder who will be next. Are we too complacent with status quo? Has that same apathy manifested itself as a lack of heart to struggle like our ancestors to fight for what’s right? Sending out a RT is the most active we want to be nowadays.

When I was younger, I always had hopes of being a prominent individual and to one day see my name amongst the black history greats. Years later, I wonder if my dream should’ve been to see black history celebrated all year round and for more than our famous, familiar legends to etch their names in history. To show that greatness has never been hindered in blacks in America. Guess we’ll have to wait a little longer.



  1. Streetz, I always thought it’s be one of us, (New York Alphas). I think it will come from one of us, too. I have no idea where it will come from. It seems like we can’t attack issues the same way we used to. This scheme has gotten so complicated. We all out here tryna get ours, by the time people realize what’s been happening, it’s almost too late to do anything.

  2. RIP TUPAC! (half-serious)

    The problem for me seems to stem from is that the certain type of Black men and women that could be leaders aren't for two reasons; they're too busy trying to distance themselves from the Black community either overtly or as a manner of circumstance. Or secondly they don't possess the language to articulate and disseminate their knowledge into consumable language. It's not like we don't have people discussing it and trying to galvanize the Black community, they just don't know how to talk to the rest of us. Their language is so packed in that you need to go through several volumes of literature just to get where they were at last year.

    It doesn't help that none of their personalities actually inspire to get people behind them on a march through hell.

    1. I agree with the language barrier (I call that dissertese, the language that develops when academics begin speaking like their dissertations), but imo most middle and upper-middle class Blacks are just trying to live, not distance themselves from the Black community. I look at prosperous Blacks as expanding the Black community not seperating from it. Despite some skin bleach shenanigans it's really not that easy to stop being Black, no matter where you are.

  3. I'm a leader for my nieces, nephews and my God daughter. At 21 I just graduated from Morehouse. My folks have their degrees. Outside of my family I don't owe the community anything. I'm young, black and child free. I am currently mentoring to younger brothas. I have them in etiquette class and they have a private tutor that I'm paying for. I'm showing them a better way of life Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner within my family. My folks have been married for 28 years now. You actually try and help our folk in the community take your kindness for weakness. Yet they wanna cry and complain about someone helping them.

  4. A black leader is coming.

    I'm all for being a successful person in a middle class medium I would never knock anyone for having a good job, being educated, working to pay the bills but that seems a little stagnant to me. Settling. Someone's going to take it upon themselves to go beyond that and pull the community up by the boostraps. Maybe not a Martin or a Malcolm X but someone who focuses on the QUALITY of our community. I compare it to the state of the world. Third world countries have very successful people because they need doctors and scientists to move their nations forward. Other nations have solid infrastructure and energy and healthcare and finances. America has an extreme deficit and is behind in the global race across several aspects of its functionality.

    Obama may be the President but someone is going to be the person who takes America from deficiency to a resourceful nation to having an overflow of successful people. It's a matter of time and it's gonna trickle down the ladder in the black community we just have to remember to pull one another up.


  5. I think that trying to be a leader in today’s time is a little more than folk are willing to do. You’d actually have to MEAN what you say… STAND UP for what you believed in. Lip Service won’t cut it, and TODAY, there’s just not even an UNDER abundance of those traits.

    Speaking personally, I’ve never WANTED to be in a spotlight where folk need to look AT me or UP TO me. Is that a bad thing, not wanting the spotlight? Perhaps, but when I can be honest abt it, I hope I don’t get judged too harshly. Also, I think that a STRONG relationship with God (not just a “higher power”) is a basis for being a leader and too many ppl are too busy trying to make sure that folks understand that they are “spiritual” but not “religious” and they aren’t really focusing on God, or Allah, or even that “higher power”. To be a leader one must forget HOW the world is going to see them and focus on the fact that the world, or people, are LOOKING TO THEM.

    You gotta do more than talk it out…most folk are not ready to walk it out like our prestigious leaders of the past. Those people put their lives unselfishly on the line for causes they believe in. This day and time, I don’t think there is anything to many of us would die to stand up for…

    1. "I think that trying to be a leader in today's time is a little more than folk are willing to do. You'd actually have to MEAN what you say… STAND UP for what you believed in. Lip Service won't cut it, and TODAY, there's just not even an UNDER abundance of those traits." Cosign on this.
      Very good and thought provoking post Streetz. I myself often wonder the same damn thing.
      I think the entire Human Race has become more mentally enslaved than ever before and we are worshipping money, wealth, and all things material…..not spiritual and not that concerned about the political unless it affects the taxes we pay and/or the money we make.

      1. I think nowadays we as black folks in the U.S. feel like we have no reason to fight and protest on the same level as Dr. King and Malcolm X. We feel like we have all the things they fought for and we are where we want to be. Even though there is still no true equality in every sense of the word and I know the "glass ceiling" still exist and there is still racism it's not to the extreme it was in the early and mid 1900's. As a society we have come a long way…..especially with the growth of technology and ways of thinking and modernization.
        What we do not see and many are not aware of is the extreme unrest, prejudice and war in other countries outside of the U.S. But many are probably not too concerned about it because it's not here and it doesn't directly affect us.
        If we look at ourselves through the eyes of people from other countries we will see that we arespoiled, complacent and slaves to the system and government.

    2. "I think that trying to be a leader in today's time is a little more than folk are willing to do. You'd actually have to MEAN what you say… STAND UP for what you believed in. Lip Service won't cut it, and TODAY, there's just not even an UNDER abundance of those traits." Cosign on all this.
      I think many of us don't think we have a reason to freedom fight on the same level as MLK and Malcolm X did in the early and mid 1900's. The U.S. has grown so much in technology and modernization and much of what MLK and Malcolm X fought for has come to pass. We as black people can no longer legally blatantly be denied our equal rights. However, there is still the "glass ceiling" and racism is as much in existence now as it was then. It's just no longer legal and not as out there as it was then.

      1. Very good and thought provoking post Streetz.
        I've asked myself the same damn question. I think now the U.S. as an entire society is more "mentally enslaved" now than ever before and we worship money and wealth instead of God.
        I think we as a society have grown very complacent with the way of life and the way of the world in it's current state.

  6. Good post Streetz..I must agree it does irk me to see no great leaders who resemble those of the past. I believe we individually need to find what our interests and passions are and contribute in that way. Become your own leader in your community is what I say. Fight for the injustices that occur and be a catalyst that sparks a solution. While we may never have another Malcolm, Martin, or Rosa Park, we can still play our role in eliminating the disparities in the African American communities. Organize a free health drive, start a turtoirng group for kids, speak at career day at a local school, mentor a young man or woman, or whatever your heart desires. You are also right about black history should be 365 days a year and we must teach our kids to embrace their culture everyday and not just in February. In the words of the great Gil Scott Heron, "The Revolution will not be Televised." I want everyone to really think about that!

  7. I see Black leaders and leadership everyday. They are out here in the community trying to rally folks (which is nearly impossible in a society preoccupied with fame and the media-famous)… and they are busy trying to improve the lives of our Black youth and community. Will they get play? Well, nowadays practically "everyone" who can create a username is getting play so it's not always easy to see who's really grinding for Black folks and who just has good P.R. Plus, most of the ones I know aren't all about themselves or boosting themselves, so you'd have to look out for them and their projects, and not expect the media to boost them and what they stand for.

    1. Good point Tea. This is definitely true. There are many "local heroe's" and freedom fighters that we don't hear about. Just because we don't hear about it doesn't mean it's not happening.

    2. "They are out here in the community trying to rally folks (which is nearly impossible in a society preoccupied with fame and the media-famous)… "

      That's the problem. When fighting for equal rights, people were more galvanized. Now that we theoretically have equal opportunities, people feel there is nothing to fight for.

  8. I'm gonna ask a question. This blog is a black community. Now that SBM, who I assume to be the founder, is engaged, what happens to the writers? Is this a hobby or is this meant to move the community forward because if it is…shouldn't the writers be married or engaged as to influence the readership into positive relationships? I would think if this is his blog and he gets married, another writer would get engaged the other writers would be influenced and then the readership would use the positivity as a standard.

    Maybe YOU guys are the next black leaders you just gotta make a decision to be serious about it. And toughen up. I'm gonna start calling you Krillin, Streetz.

  9. …i think that there are black leaders, however, the main difference, is, the lack of urgency. for example, when Malcolm Little was my age (early 30s)…he WAS Malcolm X, same as Martin King Jr., because folks saw what needed to be done.
    …i think during the 70s…*something* led to a 'dropping of the ball' in this aspect. maybe civil rights for blacks, took a back step to civil rights for other underrepresented groups.
    …i also think that while you can legislate how the government can operate, and what people can or can't do under the law, but you can't legislate how people feel. so we're dealing with that.
    ..i agree with Malik, in the fact that the 'leaders' that get the press, that do the talking, aren't really explaining it so that 'everyone' gets it, they explain it as the pundits that they are. those that have that ability to do that on-the-ground connection, don't get the press time like that…so the black leadership thats coming down the pipe (pause) will have both of these aspects combined…
    ..but i feel you on wanting to be promiment . i still do, myself. perhaps that's where my ego/ambition is.

  10. Great post… This is a conversation I’ve had with a few people in the last few years. Its very disappointing. I don’t believe there is a good enough reason why we COULDN’T have black leaders like Malcom/Martin in our generation. Its far easier now than ever to get a message out there. There just is a lack in folks attempting to do so. Whether its like someone said prior that they aren’t “boosting” about their efforts or its the fact that like someone else pointed out they don’t have the “personality” to rally folks I don’t know but neither options are good enough answers. Folks have taken a new look at being relevant in our time. Its not about making an impact on a larger scale and more so about making an impact on a much smaller scale…i.e. in their OWN life. The last few generations (mine included I’m 28) have become complacent, lazy, and self-fish. We’re like the spoiled offspring of parents who worked hard to make their millions. So many folks are out for self. Someone else mentioned that we could do things on a smaller scale in terms of volunteering our time and efforts by way of mentoring and opening centers.. but working in the social service field myself it gets harder each year to get folks to come in and pour into the lives of youth. So folks aren’t even trying to do that much. In undergrad I worked with a dropout prevention program and it was almost impossible to get male mentors for the boys. I’d be running around campus asking friends, fellow greeks, anybody and it barely yielded results. There needs to be a shift in the minds of folks. And how many times have BGLOs (mine included) have had to argue their relevance today? Our founders and past memebers are of some of the elite African Americans… people who did the MOST with the LEAST…There needs to be a shift in the minds of folks in order for a leader to emerge amongst us. There are some folks making a name for themselves recently but we will have to wait and see I suppose. We have the tools, the knowledge, the numbers… it seems like we just don’t have the heart.

  11. I wouldn't want to be in a high profile position, no matter what the cause. But, I'm committed to the folks in my community. My family, friends, church folks etc. I think that the nature of oppression has changed since the Civil Rights movement and the great folks who led the fight against it. As defined by the goals of that movement, we've achieved a lot of we asked for. Legally. In truth, the leopard just changed into a zebra costume. We have to address the issues differently now – if we want equality in the workplace we need to strive for management and entrepeneurial positions. I look at immigrant groups that are in my neighborhood. Whatever they want – they make it. They create it. We need to do the same. Don't know if we need national leaders for that.

  12. You can't lead anyone until you've effectively proven yourself to be a leader in your own family or home. Our families are all jacked up. We can barely keep those together due to selfishness and misguided aspirations. Who are we gonna lead outside of our jacked up situations…and to where? What's the goal? We're barely taking advantage of the achievements of MLK and Malcolm. We haven't perfected that but we're gonna move on to another fight? What fight is that?

    Iono. Maybe somebody simply needs to rise up and get folks back on track in regards to what we should already be doing as Black U.S. citizens first. Then, maybe we can set a new/next level agenda…

  13. I had this nice little post typed up…no clue where it disappeared to, lol.

    The meat of it was this…we can't lead anyone without first conquering our own families. And a major part of adequately steering your family is imposing a demand for them to respect other families (selflessness). If our families are jacked, we can't reach out to the community/world. Our families are in shambles. They are way less stable than black families in the 40's/50's and earlier…so of course that era bred leaders. We need to perfect and work the lessons/legacies left to us by previous leaders before we go embarking on a new/next level agenda…and embarrass ourselves.

  14. Good post, Streetz! The first things I think about prohibiting the emerging of a next "leader" like MLK is

    1. Institutionalized racism: the prejudices facing Blacks in America aren't AS overt so it's more difficult to really pinpoint what we're fighting against. We have a million little issues but the actual monster is not as tangible as it was in the 30s/40s/50s/60s when there were laws denying basic freedom and rights.

    2. Conditioning: The history of Blacks in America has really conditioned us to be a reactive people and not a proactive people. This is something I really struggle with everyday. Complacency vs. Activism and how far do you go before you're satisfied?

    3. Co-signing on what was said earlier about language barriers and Black people who make it out and don't look back.

    With all of this though, I DO strongly believe that we have plenty of "next Black leaders" working hard every day to make great history. I just think they are overshadowed by WSHH.

  15. I’m off the Monday that we don’t have to have a black leader like days past. Too often we get limited into thinking alike and that’s usually not the case. Having a leader would only make things worse. Like others mentioned, the leaders are in our communities working with little to no recognition.

    And everyone knows Alpha South is where it’s at.

  16. The plight of black Americans is that of a tremendous sense of entitlement, complacency, and a blame whitey complex. Couple these attitudes with an average IQ one standard deviation lower than that of your average white American, you get the black community.

    It doesn't matter how much money you donate (set on fire) to these inner city communities or how many overzealous "successful" blacks (most of which got there due to affirmative action anyway) who attempt to mobilize the black youth to develop contentious skills and become education focused, it will not change much of anything on a significant scale so I wouldn't pin the apathy and degradation of American blacks on a lack of feel-good. lip service paying black leaders.

    The sort of black leaders I'd love to see are those actively opposed to affirmative action, those who are proponents of free birth control disbursement at inner city schools (especially Plan B contraceptives and implantable IUDs), and those who are proponents of very strict welfare regulation among a host of similar efforts. Until I see black leaders rising up to to push for these things, black people will remain complacently at the bottom of society.

  17. The Black Problem is economic on the surface and spiritual at its root. This problem can drain on society as well. Our unity would solve 95% of our problems and uplift our condition overnight. Fasting cures 90% of our health ills. A sound body, mind and spirit is necessary to lead and be led. How will they know unless there is a Teacher? And how will there be a Teacher unless one is sent?

    We work with the talented tenth, honing their skills, connecting them to the issues and removing their fear to prepare for leadership now! We also bridge the gap by helping develop our generation into professionals concerned for their community. Lastly, an earlier commenter is right. The humility of those leading can make for less P.R. We ourselves are seeking better P.R. Our organization is called “YBP” and can be viewed/joined @ http://www.YoungBlackProfessionals.org.

    Thank you SBM for all that you do! Your efforts are very much appreciated!
    Stay Connected!

  18. Jeff, great post!

    Let me ask you a question, what are your expectations of a black leader? There are black leaders out there, but maybe they don't fit the description or vision you have for them. There are black leaders in science, technology, and medicine…..as well as sports and entertainment.

    Is your search, based on a notion that a black leader should resemble Rev. Bro. Dr. MLK Jr.? If so, you might be hard pressed to find that black leader…..

    1. Bruce thanks family!

      I think my definition is someone who steps up to injustice, is consistent with their views and their causes… I just want people to be great. Maybe people are in their communities doing this without the fanfare, but iDK. I just think we rest on laurels too much. Good question!

  19. Great post Streetz! As I consistently have said, black people seemingly want to have this feudal discussion in the age of Obama. All we seem to hear about is post-racial politics and post-racial society, when in fact none of those things are reality. You were right to point out that the achievement of an individual does NOT define a people, but people don't seem to be able to grasp that basic notion.

    I will go on to say as well that it seems that we have endured a shift of focus in the African American community. The lack of leadership is a testament to what we glorify and care about. We seem to be more reactive and not very proactive. The Troy Davis case is an example. There was a great deal of hype when it was in the news, but that attention has since ebbed. Furthermore, we haven't seen too many selfless leaders who are willing to put the public interest before their private comforts. What I mean is that too much ambition has in a sense plagued many of our "Joshua's" Dr. Michael Eric Dyson makes reference to this in his book "April 4, 1968" in a chapter on the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

    I am optimistic however (cautiously) that we have some good young black leaders in our respective communities. I do think that bar has been set high as well for someone to come along and be greater than a MLK or a Malcolm X, or a Thurgood Marshall and it is possible, but we just have to shift our focus back to the things that matter and not so much the frivolities of society.

    Again, great post. This is something I talk about a lot in my circle so it was so relevant.



  20. Streetz I enjoyed this post bro!

    I've been having and acting on this discussion for quite some time with those in my circle. One major problem I feel is that we have shifted from the real focus on what we need to concentrate on as a people. Case in point, we seem to engage in this almost feudal discourse in the age of Obama. All we hear is post-political and post-racial society, when neither is true. Most feel that we have in a sense reached the promised land with the election of a man of color to the nation's highest office, a point you made all too well.

    I think it really speak to our morals, values and principles. People have to realize that leadership is a selfless task. Furthermore, its a 24 hour 7 day a week job that offers no time off and a lot of people haven't been willing to commit. However, those who have been willing to carry the banner for our people often do it for selfish and self-aggrandizing reasons, which hurt us more than help us. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson alludes to this is his book "April 4, 1968." He speaks about a "Joshua" who is supposed to finish the task of "Moses" who came in the form of MLK, Malcolm, and Thurgood (just to name a few). However, those who have tried to wear the mantle have not been fit because they can't seem to put the public interest of the community before their private comforts of fortune and fame. Look as guys like Jesse Jackson, who is a wonderful spokesman for the community, but his often selfish ways sometimes got him into trouble. The same can be said of Al Sharpton. I see a lot of us as too reactive and not proactive enough. When we can master the latter then we might get that leader.

    Again, this was a great post bro. Thanks for sharing it. Real Talk.


  21. I wasnt gonna comment cuz I’m on this thru my phone (please excuse typos and shortcuts). Jeff we rarely ever agree, but I like to converse with u cuz u will listen to other opinions openly, evwn if u disagree. My issue with this post is ur apparent disregard for work that ppl do everyday. Ppl like mlk, Malcolm, rosa, etc came from organizing, during a time when a lrge mass of ppl saw the importance of fighting for social jstice, and understood the fight was more than just what they would gain from it, it was beyond their personal needs. U also didnt have money…tho trust me it isn’t a lot…that supports grassroots organizations, and also limits the scope in what we do. The entire context of where those fights came from is diff than what is going on today. As someone who does tjis work, is on the ground day after day, I know first hand. And tho we have tons of tech advantages, 24 hour news cycles…people of color dont own nor getrhe media to dictate what it puts out. Back in the day ppl flyered and used leaflets. A neg of the internet age is ppl are disensitized to info cuz they get so much of it, while on the other hand not all our ppl have access to the internet. I do agree that there is no clear “leader” in America. But that doesnt mean there isnt leadership. Too many in our community are just sitting waiting for someone to take reigns. But what are they taking the reigns of?

  22. There are definitely a lot of black activists, advocates, and organizers, but it seems like black America is generally not very organized or unified to have clear prominent leaders for the whole.

    Everyone's in their own silos, with their own ideas about the way forward. Which may not be a bad thing. This is clearly a time for regrouping. Honestly, I think it really has to start very very local. So many neighborhoods, FAMILIES, alone aren't organized to their full utility. But it's happening, and I see good things in the future. People are working hard even if its not being broadcasted.
    My recent post Chinese people do not "TAKE" your jobs

  23. I disagree with you big time on Obama – I see him more as a disillusion that actually hinders our standards for what we consider a leader and you've GOT to do better than give his race speech from years ago before he even was president as an example of being a "black leader." And maybe that's a problem in itself. Consider how the issue might not be that there aren't many black leaders, because there are, and they're not nearly as known, nearly as publicized, and nearly as popularized for the masses. We don't need more of black history, we just need more black people IN history period. And the same goes for leadership. We don't need more black leaders, we need more real leaders who happen to be black. I don't mean to offend you because I think you hit the nail on the coffin with the rest of your piece. There are too many plastic and vanilla young black men and women out there in terms of student leadership on college campuses to count. This is the medium (college student leadership) that I am currently in and therefore know the best, and it's also where I feel as the most critical stage where future leaders are born to begin with. It's sad because they feel that they are doing just that (being articulate and bold leaders) without recognizing how scared, middle of the road, and conservative they really are. They will nod their heads in agreement and try to talk but will never act; never experience. Then, even worse, those very same attitudes carry on and stagnate into the adult world; especially once their careers and networks are in check. And this really goes for the greater majority of the so-called progressive student leaders no matter what their race or ethnicity. But since we are talking about black, as a black man myself, let me be the one to state how uncomfortable I am when I've come to realize how true that counts for us.

  24. I realize how far past Black History month is, however I was watching a documentary on African American leaders, and I found myself asking that very same question – "Who will be the next leader of our community for this generation?" when I happened to stumble upon this page….

    It seems in this day and age, we are far more concerned with trying to fit the sterotypes, instead of breaking them. We've stopped fighting the system and have become the system through self destruction and selfishness. We went from having peaceful protests, to black panthers, to having black-on-black crimes. Sometime after the black panthers, our generation has forgotten the reason and cause of fight. There are still many things that we need to better our communities yet not many put in the time to voice them or care to protest. We've become to self-involved to worry about the next person or the racial issues at hand.

  25. Until there is a selfless mind shift in our generation and the generations to come, I think finding the next leader will be near-by impossible (though I am still hopeful). We are living in a time of greed and selfishness and we are too busy being foes instead of trying to find solutions, and without voicing the issues and needs of our communities, we are only failing ourselves.


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