A man fell in a hole and was hanging for his life on the edge shouting, "Help... help me!"
A preacher walks by, sees him in distress, gets on his knees, and starts to pray for him.
An intellect walks by, hears the praying, and immediately starts to pontificate with words containing at least four syllables about how this man needed aide. On the spot he started writing a research report which hypothesized how others could be adequately informed of the multitude of complexities which could lead to a similar demise.
An organizer walks by and saw the man in the hole, saw the preacher praying, saw the intellect writing a research report, and got very upset. He couldn't understand how these people couldn't see the need to call upon elected officials and hold them accountable for fixing the holes in the streets. He immediately whipped out a "Fix the Sinkhole" petition and began collecting signatures from others who walked by. He was very successful in garnering so much attention that an elected official came by and made a statement declaring the necessity for repairing the streets. The organizer gleamed with pride as he was able to introduce the elected official and raised more funding for his newly formed political action committee as a result of the impromptu event.
While the elected official was speaking, a little 13-year-old boy came by and saw the crowd. Curiously he went closer to see what the commotion was about. He heard the cries of help from the man and simply went to him, reached out his hand, and pulled the man up to safety.
This story isn't against prayer... personally there isn't a day that goes by that I don't pray to the Lord above.
This story isn't against intellects...I have always believed in surrounding myself with people much smarter than I am and have always said, "If you are the smartest person in your circle, you need to find a new circle."
This story isn't against those who organize and hold elected officials accountable... I have canvassed, collected signatures, lead voter registration drives, and written letters to elected officials urging them to take action.
This story is about the urgent need within the community for tangible, immediate, and urgent action!
On April 10th, immediately after my panel discussion at Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network, Dr. Dyson spoke amongst the other panelists and had some choice words in response to criticism from Dr. Cornel West. Last year Dr. West stated, "We saw, of course, the coronation of the bonafide house Negro of the Obama plantation, our dear brother Al Sharpton, supported by the Michael Dysons and others who've really prostituted themselves intellectually in a very ugly and vicious way."
As he spoke about the state of black intellectualism, Dr. Dyson addressed Dr. West's criticisms.
"The prophetic temptation is to believe your voice is the only voice," said Dr. Dyson. "[You think that] your vision is the only vision. That's what makes you a genius at a certain level. That's the nature of genius -- but you're tripping, because you're not the only one."
I knew instantly this would hit news and social media outlets. As stories lit up the waves the following day all I could do was shake my head saying, "We just don't get it."
To the preacher... we need you to continue praying, but in crucial times we need you to instruct your parishioners to get off of their knees and take action. The man in the hole didn't need your prayers, he needed your hand. In our communities we have millions of men, women, and children who are figuratively dangling on off the edge of a hole of poverty, oppression, and systemic repression that need your hand.
"Our love must not be a thing of words and fine talk. It must be a thing of action and sincerity." 1 John 3:18
To the intellect...you are smarter than most and for that you ought to be congratulated. However, knowledge in the absence of action is vanity. The people don't need to hear how smart you are or be caught in the middle of an amusing intellectual sword fight. One of the most tangible efforts I have seen from an intellect has to be Dr. Chris Emdin. Here you have a Ph.D. in Urban Education who used his knowledge acquired to use hip hop as an educational tool to teach youth math and science.
Both Dr. Dyson and Dr. West are doing some phenomenal work in our communities, but it doesn't send a positive message to the community if the only headline they are getting is from fighting with other intellects. Malcolm X said it best when he said:
"Instead of us airing our differences in public, we have to realize we're all the same family. And when you have a family squabble, you don't get out on the sidewalk. If you do, everybody calls you uncouth, unrefined, uncivilized, savage. If you don't make it at home, you settle it at home; you get in the closet -- argue it out behind closed doors. And then when you come out on the street, you pose a common front, a united front. And this is what we need to do in the community, and in the city, and in the state."
To the organizer...your work is valuable and a necessary part of community advancement. However, it is not the only part that is necessary. There are certain times when it might be necessary to put the clipboard down and lend a hand. If you can't lend a hand yourself then support other organizations that are providing more direct services to those people who need it most. It is vital you realize the people need help RIGHT NOW while we wait on the elected official to make the changes you want to see.
To the community...we all have a role to play in our economic advancement. It can be very easy to get caught up in the debate of who is correct between Dr. West and Dr. Dyson, but the attention garnered to that discussion is not as important as the attention that should be put towards advancing and empowering our community. What community resources have you found that can be shared with others? On each day, how have you marched closer towards your God-given purpose of making the life of others better? These questions and more should be answered as we need an "all hands on deck" approach towards lending a hand to those in need.
LESS TALK... MORE ACTION!