With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.
BLACK PROPHETIC FIRE
Welcome back, Brother West. Let me correct something right away. I mentioned you co-wrote this book but I neglected to name the other writer.
That would be the tremendously insightful Christa Buschendorf, a philosopher and professor in Germany. Sister Buschendorf and I share a passion for African-American history and how it shapes our current socio-cultural landscape. The book is a culmination of several discussions we had on this very subject.
Thank you once again for your time. I want to leap right back into what we were discussing before. Ida B. Wells and her unstoppable fire. I can see why you chose to talk about her last. She is the culmination of all the others. Here you have this former Mississippi slave, like Douglass, who later grows up into an educated bourgeoisie society, like Du Bois, edits a newspaper, akin to Booker T. Washington and his white money used to take over all black newspapers and organizations, launches her crusade against American tyranny of blacks, like Malcolm X, even going as far as to carry a gun to protect herself, is a devout Baptist, like Martin Luther King Jr., as well as an activist, like Ella Baker, co-founding the NAACP and being a member of several local women’s organizations.
Yes, Brother Davis, she certainly tries to do it all.
There is no doubt she is a woman of extraordinary achievement. She’s a woman who perseveres under all conditions. And she suffers terribly for it. Often by the hands of black men and women. Once again we are at the crossroads of reverence and criticism. We’re talking about telling truths and trying to solve a problem. Wells saw the problem as American terrorism as evidenced by lynchings. She further explained that the terrorism came out of fear of black upward mobility. After Reconstruction, many blacks were beginning to take opportunities, grow in wealth and amass land. White America, especially in the South, was not prepared to let go so soon. Now, Booker T. Washington did not see it that way. As one of the upwardly mobile men, at one point owner of the very newspaper Wells worked on, New York Age, in the 1890’s, while lynching went on, Washington remained silent. And she called him on it. Predating King, Malcolm and Baker, she stuck to her guns, and basically said it is the capitalism that is root of evil. Black folk get a taste of the white man’s success and sell their soul for a mess of pottage, losing their identity in the process. By wishing to stay in the successful social circles the few remained blind to the tyranny of the great. Washington called her ridiculous.
I wonder, Brother Davis, what you think of her in today’s world. How would she appear in Obama’s America?
I know you’re critical of the president for a lot of same reasons Wells was critical of Washington and Du Bois, black men who got the keys to the city, able to speak truths and instead stay silent on the oppressed for fear of losing power and status. Ambition breeds hypocrisy. You’ve got this woman, with the same potential, a pioneering correspondent, a respectable churchgoer, an intelligent socially connected woman. But does she rest? Hell. No. She refuses to give up her first-class coach seat and fights in court. She loses the battle but not the war. She doesn’t just champion working-class blacks in Chicago, she go into the areas, where other members of her organization refuse to go. She starts the first black kindergarten in the city. She says she carries a gun because “we have to police the police so they do not kill you”. What do I think of her in today’s world? My god, we need Ida B. Wells! Today!
What I appreciate about Sister Wells is her spiritual fortitude and moral integrity. We have lost our way in this country with regards to faith. There are truth telling preachers out there today demonized for speaking the truth. Like Brother Jeremiah Wright of Chicago. Religion has been politicized and commoditized and the ones who suffer are our black brothers and sisters.
I like what you’re saying, Brother West. I’ve been trying to think of how we can move forward, how the Movement can grow in the age of big corporations and a fractured political system. Maybe it is through religion. Ida B. Wells believed in her God, the same God who white men prayed to even as they strung up black boys and men. She was honest and hit hard when she had to, using the vengeful God and the loving God in the same breath.
So true. And it brings up a final thought for today. What does social change look like? Is it like an Occupy Wall Street Movement with no discernible leader, in the mold of Sister Ella Baker or do we still believe in the charismatic leader, the Martin, Malcolm, having been recently burned by the promise unfulfilled of President Obama?
That’s a good question. One to explore further tomorrow, perhaps. Thank you once again.
Until tomorrow, brother Davis.