It seems to me that "Black leaders" were defined early on, in the early era of television, because television couldn't focus on the many Black people who made up the Civil Rights Era. The idea of "Black leaders" made it "easy" to deal with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the people who followed him. But I maintain that while he was a prominent voice and indeed did lead, he wasn't a leader of the Black masses but a symbol of the southern Black masses. In fact, what seems to get lost is, many Blacks were against the "agitating" of the Blacks who were a part of the effort.
That is not to diminish the MLK's work, because he did a lot in the short time. However, at the same time, the laziness of the media and the aggressiveness of some have made the idea of "Black leadership" essential to deal with the many people in the Black community. Think about this point for a moment: how many other "unsung" or "unknown" people took part in the Civil Rights struggle?
For example, now that Corretta Scott-King has passed, more of what she did before she started her family with Martin. The same goes for the background of Rosa Parks. Again, think about it. Who helped organize the marches? Who helped with the strategy meetings? Why aren't they also Black leaders?
Let's get to today. Why does the media look at Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson as Black leaders? I think it is because, in our sound bite, microwave society, they have mastered the art of the sound bite.
But look at Al Sharpton. He leads the National Action Network but what have they done on a large scale?
After the Democrat presidential primaries, it was reported that Sharpton won only one majority Black voting district during his run for the "nomination of the Democrat candidate for president." That's right, one voting district. So, on a national level, is he really a "Black leader"?
The idea that the Black community -- the phrase which in itself can be said to be suspect -- needs a leader or has a leader is wrong and does a great disservice to Blacks and to America at large, in my opinion.
The men who happen to be friends and family, and who are doing what it takes to raise a family, are they not Black leaders? How about the people who help raise the children of family and/or friends? Are they not Black leaders? How about the people who volunteer? Take a peek at Black Self Help Information. Are the people involved in those efforts not Black leaders?
The media wants to focus on a few people because it is easier for the media to handle. But that doesn't mean that "we" have to focus on those few people. Frankly, it is my contention that those who focus on "Black leaders" such as Sharpton and Jackson, do so to advance their own agenda, be it quick sound bits to show their world view of the Black community or to build themselves up as critics of the Black community.
That's what I think and the more I see, the more I become sure of it.