Recently the perceived danger of the expiration 1965 Voting Rights Act made headlines news around the nation and around the world.  Leading Black civil rights leaders, politicians and entertainers marched in Atlanta to push for the extension of key provisions in the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Meanwhile, back at home in Los Angeles, Crenshaw High School, the school in the Los Angeles with the greatest number of African American students lost its accreditation.  Residents in Compton and Los Angeles continue to battle escalating gang warfare and LA’s African American community remembers the 40th anniversary of the Watts Rebellion, while admitting that not much as changed since 1965.  To top it off, gas prices reached an all time high tipping over $3.00 per gallon.

I commend Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Stevie Wonder, Dick Gregory, and all of the other who’s who in Black America who lent their voices and time down in Atlanta to march for the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but we have issues right here at home that demand our immediate attention and action.

It does the community a disservice when popular Black leaders fly into Los Angeles to tell citizens about what they need to do about their problems, usually through some sort of press conference, and then leave. 

Likewise, Black leaders who live in Los Angeles and fly all over the country in an attempt to solve everyone else’s problems except their own community’s is a disservice. 

Education, gang violence, crime, homelessness, access to health care and jobs, and high gas prices…those are the issues that we need to mobilize, strategize and rally around.

There’s a huge disconnect in our communities on exactly who’s responsibility it is to solve these problems.

The responsibility belongs to all of us.
Elected officials and leaders who are silent or who don’t do enough to provide greater resources, and opportunities to combat these critical issues are not completely to blame either, we elected them.
Our schools and neighborhoods are under attack.  We are living in a war right here at home.  Forget about overseas, we have domestic issues that need our immediate attention. 

Black leadership today is operated more as a business venture complete with media hype, photo-ops, corporate indulgence, and cult personalities.  It’s to the point now, where certain “leaders” won’t attend events where they are not the main attraction, some even go as far as to charge an honorarium for their services. 

Even more obvious in today’s leadership is the lack of voices from anyone under the age of 40.  On the eve of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote, today’s leaders are still predominately male and over fifty years old.

The days of being “down for the cause” are over and have now been replaced with corporate sponsorship.  Prophetic voices from our leaders and community have been drowned out by our perceived need of money to address critical social issues.

Since when did we need Wal-Mart to fund a rally for better schools in our communities?

Today, the people come behind the media and special interests.

There’s an abrogation of responsibility by Blacks to take responsibility for our own community.

Our community has become too self involved.  We have car notes, rent and mortgages, and children to rear to take a real interest in anything outside of our immediate family.

The problems that Crenshaw High School, Compton College and King Drew are facing today didn’t happen overnight and certainly didn’t garnish the attention that they are receiving now until the media stepped in and gladly shined a spotlight on what else is going wrong in our communities.  The gangs didn’t take control of our streets without our consent.  Our silence was our consent.

Instead of holding town hall meetings on the war in Iraq, we need to be holding town hall meetings on how to combat our gang problem and what we can do to turn around our school system.

I wonder if the Cindy Sheehan method would work back here at home on domestic issues.  If 100 mothers of children slain in gang violence were to sit on the steps of the State Capital, would that force our Governor into action?

Our future as a people will continue to look bleak and dismal as long as we continue to take our eyes of the prize.  The prize is our community and our people.  However, we’re not much of a prize uneducated, unhealthy, prematurely dead, homeless, and unemployed.