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The Talking Heads?

    If history has taught the Black community anything, it’s that we should pay more attention to what someone does rather than what they say. Though there is no shortage of strong-willed Black leaders, our community is too often a pawn in a seedy game of brand-building and image-making that benefits the few, rather than the many. Some of us are often too willing to accept grandiosity when we should be demanding sincerity. This must cease.

    As we listen to the Black pundits of our age — Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Tavis Smiley and The Great Black Speakers — many of us buy into their message. These talking heads have ascended to a position from which they can tell a much different story than mainstream media. While we can applaud the diversity these men bring, we must be skeptical of their motives. As they’d like you to believe, their thoughts align with the needs of our community. However, once the layers of bullshit have been peeled back, you may discover they have said more than they’ve ever done. In the end, they have elevated only themselves.

    When listening to the many feel good sermons, massive conferences or panel discussions presented by these men —all done for a fee— it’s easy to fall into believing their bullshit. All of these persons have become brand masterminds, creating their own shtick, persona or character. Just to sell a higher, purer brand of bullshit. It’s really no different than P.T. Barnum.

    Let us not forget how we became great orators. For centuries, the only Black people in America allowed to be literate were ministers. White plantation owners allowed these men to perfect their craft with the intent of placating the masses, keeping them intoxicated with verbiage so their work ethic wouldn’t be affected. Perhaps when these oratory skills were inherited, sinister motives followed suit.

    Most of these guys spew talking points through well crafted, rehearsed performances of what is, in essence, their sales pitch. Much like the committee men and women who worked as agents of the Democratic Party to direct Black voters to the polls after the Civil Rights Movement, these community hypnotists have benefitted themselves for decades. There is no regard to the detrimental effects on the Black community as a whole.

    Fear not, Cornel West and Tavis Smiley are not the only examples to pull from. Even personalities like Charles Barkley, Kanye West and Jay-Z are often nothing more than controlled clowns who profit for themselves, rather than lead a rising tide to lift all boats.

    When will these men encourage us — and join us — to pool resources to build something for ourselves? We need tangible results we can use instead of flowery rhetoric that helps sell books, create traffic for websites and TV appearances.

    Ultimately, words don’t produce change; only actions can do so.

    While there’s nothing wrong with being outspoken about the ills of the community, talk is cheap. We must start challenging leaders to physically provide. We must challenge them to step down from the pulpit and out of the camera lens and act.

    We should be living in a golden age. The presence of our first Black President of the United States should be the dawn of a new era of Black thinking. These ‘great thinkers and voices’ should aid the president in building a more beneficial community instead of demonstrating their use of the King’s English to fool and capitalize on the ignorant.

    It’s time for all these talking heads to ante up because we are too deep in debt by their words.

    There was no such thing as a Civil Rights discussion; but a movement. The talking must cease and be replaced by action. All the pretty nouns and adjectives don’t mean shit if there’s no physical verbs to back them.

    In this land of milk and honey, you have to take what you want out of life.

    Culturally, no one can better understand that but our own. We must stop looking for people outside the community to save us.

    We must increase our level of respect for each other. We must work harder, offering more support and money to Black businesses. We need to physically show what we can do, instead of allowing people who don’t do to build their brand on the backs of the poor, uninformed and disenfranchised. We cannot afford for our livelihood to disintegrate any further.

    To all preachers, pastors, personalities and self-appointed spokesmen who are morphed sheep in wolf’s clothing, I offer this challenge. Measure your success by jobs created, lives changed, and the amount of scholarships you create instead of

    showing off the money you make, the number of followers you have and the size of the houses you own. It’s not about you!

    As a businessman, I understand personal success, but the buck cannot stop there. Sometimes all we do is brand build rather than make a difference. We allow idle rhetoric to win the day, when commitment to action would rule the world.

    If we really care about the Black community, we’ll show it. Change and action are long overdue. We must start paying attention to what works for all of us, rather than being distracted by something that only helps one of us.