My friend EC is concerned with hope about the accountability of black public intellectuals who have subscribed to the Involuntary Black Poverty Theory. The theory is more of an assumption which helps determine the burden of proof regarding whose responsibility black poverty is. Without going into any extremes of qualification, suffice it to say that the difference between Voluntary and Involuntary still must deal with economic structure and civil infrastructure. In many ways it's an existential, and thus to my way of thinking, somewhat inconsequential matter. That is to say if the best minds could determine the size, scope, budget and schedule for the final project to mitigate the spread between average American poverty and black American poverty, it shouldn't much matter to someone like me, who would be an engineer of that solution, where the funding is coming from. Rather, I'm worried that the nature of the solution itself has some fundamental implementation issues.
The one we are discussing now has to do with the roles and responsibilities of the leadership of such a project. EC is shaping himself up to be a world beater on the legal front and has picked out a locale for his, the third generation of movement after Brown. What we are confronting now is what we conceive of as the shortcomings of my generation's legacy.
I raise the question of the way you get this work done. Specifically, how do you set up a communications network that enables a virtual organization that can coordinate information about localities? This is something I have been doing, on and off, for the past 17 years. It's how I became an online writer.
First of all, where do we agree? We agree that there needs to be a colloquy of intellectuals who are capable of situating the sorts of problems of black poverty in an accurate context. There needs to be the kind of thoughtful people who might, for example, understand the shortcomings of trying to recruit a black male militia in Philadelphia in order to combat the high murder rate. We also agree that such folks need to have some real understanding about how real economies and businesses work.
EC and I agree that the current crop of intellectuals are not and cannot be held accountable, but any future such group must be accountable. Moreover, they must be effective. There are several reasons for the current lack of accountability & effectiveness.
- They are not elected.
- They are not independently funded.
- They do not own their own communications.
- They are not locally focused.
- They are not thematically focused.
- They are not coordinated.
That's plenty enough hurdles.
How would I go about it? Start an online portal as a joint exercise by a coalition of the top five black organizations in every metro. I did this during college for the 12 or so black clubs and organizations on campus. My group was called the Executive Central Committee, the ECC. It was only moderately successful and ultimately failed. That's because it was informal and had no budget, but the basic idea was sound, which was to coordinate calendars. What I attempted was to get an officer from every organization to attend ECC meetings and share what their group was doing. Nobody had the time, even though everybody agreed that communications were necessary because you would get low turnouts if events were double booked on campus. Where you might have enough people to make one event profitable, you wouldn't have enough to make two profitable. What I should have done was to have runners from the ECC to attend each of the clubs meetings and report back, then have the ECC calendar created from those reports.
This is the power of a decentralized communications organization. It works much better and cheaper than a summit. At a summit, the top leadership has to stop what they are doing and repeat their messages to some super group that gets together once a year. Except that nobody is accountable to the super group. This is why Tavis Smiley will fail if he hasn't failed already. You cannot herd all them cats. You just have to have a cat backchannel.
Right now, as Kevin Ross knows very well, that black American backchannel is black radio. But they're having their own economic crisis. The political end can actually be accomplished on the cheap. When that starts to happen, that will be the beginning of the beginning of a renaissance in black leadership addressing the issue of poverty and other black partisan politics.
BTW, if you don't know Kevin Ross, then get to know him. He's about action, and he's got the connections.