There is no doubt that one of the most peculiar developments within the so-called ‘conscious community’ has been the ascension of a host of leaders whose very embodiment betrays the leadership post that they have fought others to claim. Over the past forty years, we’ve witnessed the appearance of a series of charismatic leaders that would have in previous periods of our struggle been summarily dismissed before they ever mounted a stage and pretended to direct the fight for racial uplift.
Beyond using their charisma to captivate an audience via copious amounts of style without any substance, organizing skills, or vision regarding the complex issues hampering Black America, figures such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and most recently Umar Johnson have proven to be “all sizzle, no steak.”
Considering the voluminous vitriolic hatred that I experience each time that I address black leadership, it is evident that there is a large segment of Negroes who have yet to raise their understanding of racial matters to even a pre-school level.
I long ago realized that when addressing the Black community it is not always what or how you say things, rather, our people for some wrong reason are greatly influenced by who is uttering the political analysis and social commentary that they would otherwise ignore. It is for that reason that I reached into my book, Creating Revolution as they Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and grasped the following quote from Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton. Maybe those who have issued emotionally-charged criticism of my position on Umar Johnson will listen if the same analysis emanates from the Panther leader.
From my perspective, the only reason that Black America continues to entertain charlatans such as Umar Johnson is that they consider the African-American Freedom Struggle to be little more than a vehicle that should entertain them. Absent sensational language, unrealistic assertions, and slick phraseology, the ‘conscious community’ is not particularly interested in anything being offered; even if the offering is a reasonable blueprint that holds the potential to solve many of the politico-economic issues facing the community today.
After his release from prison, a disappointed Huey P. Newton realized several things about the ‘conscious community’ that are still relevant today. During a speech, the Panther co-founder realized the following about the audience he was addressing.
As I talked, it seemed to me that the people were not really listening or even interested in what I had to say. Almost every sentence was greeted with loud applause, but the audience was more concerned with phrase-mongering than with ideological development…the people were not responding to my ideas, only to an image, and although I was very excited by all the energy and enthusiasm I saw there, I was also disturbed by the lack of serious analytical thought.
Anyone who has spent years studying and seeking to execute the plans that have been laid out by African-American intellectual giants will tell you that during the past forty years the ‘conscious community’ has devolved into a population “more concerned with phrase-mongering than with ideological development.”
Although many will dispute this fact, the core of the ‘conscious community’s current problems emanate from its hostility to intelligence and refusal to engage classic texts whose workable liberation plans lay dormant inside the cover of a book; watching Youtube videos are not a substitute for reading. It is the alluded to pervasive ignorance and conscious decisions to ‘not know,’ let alone formulate and execute a politico-economic plan that explains the rise of figures such as Umar Johnson.
The gaping holes in the logic and understanding of the current ‘conscious community’ that are attributable to their refusal to study classic texts are the pathway to the rise of an “all sizzle, no steak” charismatic leader such as Umar Johnson. Were the ‘conscious community’ less concerned with phraseology and more concerned with developing a real path to liberation, figures such as Umar Johnson would be irrelevant! However, as long as the ‘conscious community’ remains committed to being entertained by slick-talking leaders whose lack of character, self-control, and modesty guarantees boatloads of drama fit for a reality television show, Black America’s problems will worsen by the day.
I wonder how long the ‘conscious community’ will remain unconscious. Quite possibly the greatest barometer of the ‘conscious community’s’ decision to remain subordinate will be the popularity of Umar Johnson.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017