Black Power! Still needed! Still relevant!

ASSEMBLYMAN CHARLES BARRON | 10/31/2019, 12:36 p.m.
In the 1960s, when we shouted, “Black Power!” we did the “Black,” but we didn’t get the “Power.”
Charles Barron Bill Moore photo

In the 1960s, when we shouted, “Black Power!” we did the “Black,” but we didn’t get the “Power.” We did the Black by wearing natural hairstyles and afros; abandoning European names and changing our names to African names; calling ourselves African or Black; creating our own holidays (Kwanzaa and Black History Month); demanding Black history be taught on college campuses; wearing dashikis and adopting African culture; demanding and getting more Black political representation in the electoral arena and much more. But we didn’t get the Power! Power is the ability to control the political and economic destiny of our Black communities. Power is the ability to control the land, means of production, cultural and social institutions that govern our Black communities. That means the police, the hospitals, the schools, the businesses, etc. We didn’t gain that power in the 1960s, and we don’t have that power today!

Historically, Black leadership has presented various positions to define what constitutes “real” Black Power.

On May 29, 1966, during a commencement address to the graduates at Howard University, the great Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. presented this from his speech to the students as a definition of Black power: “Our life must be purposed to implement human rights:

The right to be secure in one’s person from the excessive abuses of the state and its law enforcement officials. The right to freedom of choice of a job to feed one’s family. The right to freedom of mobility of residence. The right to the finest education [the] social order can provide.

And most importantly the right to share fully the governing councils of the State as equal members of the body politic.

“To demand these God-given rights is to seek Black power, what I call audacious power, the power to build Black institutions of splendid achievement.” That was Adam, as he was affectionately called!

In 1967, Kwame Ture (formerly known as Stokely Carmichael) and Charles V. Hamilton in their book “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation” had this to say about Black Power: “The adoption of the concept of Black power is one of the most legitimate and healthy developments in American politics and race relations in our time… It is a call for Black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for Black people to begin to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations and to support those organizations. It is a call to reject the racist institutions and values of this society… Black Power therefore calls for Black people to consolidate behind their own so that they can bargain from a position of strength.”

They further state this about Black power.

“It does not mean merely putting Black faces into office. Black visibility is not Black Power. Most of the Black politicians around the country today are not examples of Black Power. The power must be that of a community, and emanate from there… The Black politicians must stop being representatives of ‘downtown’ machines, whatever the cost might be in terms of lost patronage and holiday handouts.”