By David L. Horne, Ph.D | Oped Contributor
Ahh, the wins and the losses.
We have been in a steady losing streak lately, losing many California behemoth sequoia trees that had survived hundreds, even a few thousand, years. Additionally, we just lost the smooth one, Attorney Randall Robinson, flush with his outstanding portfolio of groundbreaking wins and losses for Black folk. We may very well lose, at least from the public scene, Dr. Mark Ridley-Thomas, the consummate career civil servant who may have made one deal too many as he aged in office.
The roll call of Black achievers who’ve just passed on could easily continue with such as actor Max Julien, attorney Lani Guinier, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Andrew Woolfolk of Earth, Wind and Fire, Mary Alice, the brilliant, electric actress, Bill Russell, the 11-time basketball champion, Nichelle Nichols, Lt. Uhura of Star Trek, jazzmen extraordinaire Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, Roy Hargrove and Terence Blanchard, etc. But that would require a couple of books, not an editorial article.
To say we have not been much more than merely present, but outstandingly fertile and inspiring in building up the American citadel of creativity would be a tepid insult, so even the average American usually fades when asked what accomplishments have Black folk brought to the table. Even the average Joe can name at least one creative giant who’s Black.
Mr. Robinson, for example, left the famous quote, “If there are not some principles you have that are worth dying for, then your life is not worth living.” Besides founding the influential activist group TransAfrica, which spearheaded much of the successful community-based effort in the U.S. and other countries to help get Nelson Mandela out of prison, Mr. Robinson also engaged in a long hunger strike to pressure the Clinton administration into treating Haitian refugees with more dignity and due process in the wake of the Jean Aristide affair. He wrote several well-received and influential books on the Black struggle in America, Africa and the world, including: “Defending the Spirit: A Black Life in America” (1998); “The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks” (2000), (one of the best known, concise books on reparations in America) and “The Reckoning: What Blacks Owe to Each Other” (2002): and “Quitting America” (2004), in which he explained why he was moving to St. Kitts to continue his work, which is where he recently died.
Mr. Robinson left a huge packet of how-tos for the succeeding generation of Black activists. His bell has tolled, and it tolled fully and loudly for his life well-lived in service to the Black community.
Mark Ridley-Thomas’ federal trial for felonies while in office finally began in Los Angeles last week after several lengthy delays. He faces 19 federal counts of conspiracy, bribery, and honest services mail and wire fraud, and he is in very serious trouble. His co-defendant, a female ex-dean at USC (University of Southern California) has already capitulated, leaving him standing alone and grasping for a logical way to explain away the evidence compiled by the federal authorities.
After over 40 years of community and elective service---he is the former head of Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Council in Los Angeles, he was a long-time member of the L.A. City Council and the only African American male member of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in its history. He too will leave a legacy of good works that may just be interrupted and maligned at the end. We must fight through the end tape, or it doesn’t really count.
All does not always end well, either for good people or bad. We just know as Black folk, we cannot stop moving forward, no matter what.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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