Last Friday, African Americans in Los Angeles convened for the first annual Knowledge Transfer Summit.
The African American Knowledge Transfer Summit™ (or “KTS”) is a one-day event designed to strengthen African American intergenerational links – particularly between 30-55 year old (or “21st Century”) African American leaders and the key surviving leaders of the civil rights era (or “20th Century African American leaders).
Participants included Dr. Jeremiah Wright of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, Dr. Maulana Karenga, founder of the holiday Kwanzaa and the US Organization, Civil Rights Movement strategist Rev. James Lawson, civil rights attorney Connie Rice, Brother Tony Muhammad of the Nation of Islam, various local, state and Federal elected officials including Congresswoman Diane Watson, and more.
With over four hundred people in attendance, the Summit brought together multiple generations of Blacks.
On Friday, I sat on a panel entitled Critical Issues in Leadership, yeah my favorite subject. My co-panelists included Rev. James Lawson, Distinguished Visiting University Professor, Vanderbilt University; Constance L. Rice, Co-Director, Advancement Project Los Angeles; Dr. Sylvia Rousseau, Professor of Clinical Education, University of Southern California; and Jimmy O. Valentine, Esq., Counsel, SEIU-United Long Term Care Workers Union.
My panel was charged with answering three questions.
The first, how do we establish and maintain a common Black agenda while healing past wounds and resolving working conflicts?
I think that’s it’s pretty clear that we already have common Black agenda. Food, shelter, and employment. I don’t know about you, but that seems to be the most universal of agendas. At the end of the day behind all of our struggles we are human have basic needs for survival. I would add to that liberty, justice, and peace while we are in pursuit of those universal needs.
We were then asked our thoughts on how to build a leadership accountability process to ensure the integrity of balance between personal and mass interests.
Accountability means just that, to be accountable. During the panel this questions phrased in relationship to our elected officials, and of course the obvious answer to that is to not re-elect them. If there’s the person elected to represent you at any level of the government isn’t doing their job to your satisfaction, not voting isn’t the solution, rather showing up and voting for someone is will is the answer. Most Blacks can’t tell you who their representative at any level of government is and that’s just the truth of the matter. I think if Black people woke up and actually became participants in the electoral process some of the people in office would be out of a job.
I’m not sure about your city, but in Los Angeles, most of our elected officials are treated like celebrities instead of public servants. Some justifiably and other not. And that’s just keeping it real. The elected officials for the most want it, like it, and have been known to down right demand it.
The treatment of elected officials reminds of the time I spent serving on a board where the board members acted as if the executive director was their boss…instead of the other way around. Hello!
Our final question was on the issue of passing the leadership baton.
How do you justify pushing young adults to excel in school, graduate from college, and then not making room for them at the leadership table because you don’t want to pass the baton?
There is no justification for it and it’s quite hypocritical if you ask me.
I remember during the Summit that particular question was posed to an elected official whose held their office for over ten years, who in turn quipped, “we’ve got to run in areas that aren’t considered Black or safe.”
In other words, I’m in office for life, I’m not moving over to make room for you, go out to the Valley or the Inland Empire and try to get elected but it ain’t happening here in Los Angeles.
But that’s pretty much the truth when you really look at it. Sure there’s been a few openings here and there where someone new is able to get in, but for the most part it’s a never-ending game of musical chairs.
Add to that the notion that in order to be a leader, elected or otherwise, you must be of the male species, heterosexual, over 50, and preferably with Reverend before your name and we’ve drastically cut the pool from which to choose prospective new leaders from.
For more no concrete answers came out of the Summit, but I did get a renewed sense that there are Black people still left in Los Angeles…that care.
I suggested to the audience and the planning committee that we take this act on the road and stop preaching to the choir and have these discussions in the hood. If the mountain won’t come to Mohammad, then Mohammad will go to the mountain type of deal. I want to hear from the sistas and brothas who you don’t usually see at that types of events. I want hear what’s on their minds and how they feel about Black leadership and our elected officials. Because you and I may read the Times, our Black newspapers, and watch the news, but we’re the minority. Many of us don’t but that doesn’t mean that their thoughts and feelings are any less valid.
Thanks to the planning committee for all of their hard work and dedication in bringing us together and including me in the fold. Looking forward to our next steps.