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CommUnity Matters: Vital Connections

By Dr. Gloria Latimore-Peace Presented by Omni-University

"For if the word has the potency to revive and make us free, it also has the power to blind, imprison, and destroy."[1] Ralph Ellison This H30/ Art of Life Blog grew out of exchanges, during a Family Prayer Meeting, in response to the question of whether or not it was/is desirable or beneficial for Us to have the National Guard called into the areas where we live that are besieged by "crime- on- black crime". The discussion quickly became centered on what We, ourselves, could do to quell the epidemic of violence that continues to proliferate. With all respect due to Black people, I think the term "area(s)" -rather than "community(ies)" - more aptly applies to the places where we reside because my experience with the concept of "community" goes beyond its sociological meaning as "a group of related neighborhoods." Such a definition implies that a "community" can be constituted of people who have no more in common than individuals or families living in close proximity to each other. You don't have to be a Black person who resides in a majority White neighborhood to know that residency does not a community make. Defining a community as "a group of people who share values" more accurately depicts the nature of "community." This is an even more compelling reason to examine the use of the term "community" as it applies to Black people. In "Home Is A Dirty Street: The Social Oppression of Black Children", Useni Eugene Perkins coined the most precise term for defining these areas by combining the terms "ghetto" and "colony" hence, "Ghettcolony." A "ghetto" is defined as, "a part of a city, especially a slum area, occupied by a minority or group." A colony is "a country or area under the political control of another country." The areas that Black and poor people inhabit have variously been called "ghetto," "inner city, "slums" and so on but, never a colony. By conceptualizing our habitat as a "Ghettcolony," Brother Useni tells Us like it is: "While the [B]lack community does not have all of the characteristics common to a colony, its oppressive status clearly indicates that it is exploited by another group. Also, since Black people were brought to this country as subjects of a foreign country, they were denied citizenship until the so-called Emancipation Proclamation. But [B]lack people have never gained full equality as American Citizens, and, therefore, can still be considered subjects under foreign domination. And if the oppression of [B]lack people in America is to be truly revealed, it must be identified by political terms and not sociological jargon."[2] We pause here for a quick review of the social studies lessons we were taught about colonies, specifically, the "Thirteen (13) colonies," whose occupants waged an 8-year war (1775-1783) for Independence from the tyranny of external control by the British. This apt depiction is evidence that a colony is not a desirable place in which to live. And, it is not likely that we will fare any better with more military among us than the Colonists did with the "Red Coats" in their midst. But, whether or not a people who must abide in a "Ghettcolony" can determine what goes on there, or who or what comes in -or goes out- of it, is a matter that warrants scrutiny. For example, it is a matter of fact that, as in the case of far too many movements initiated by Black people to improve the quality of their lives, the struggle for "community control" of the public schools in the Black "community," was co-opted by outside forces whose objective was to retain control of its "community, its people and its resources. Thus, the focus was soon shifted, by these external interests, to "community involvement" and "community participation" both of which excluded the decision-making process, the key element of any demand for "community control" of schools or any other institutions including law enforcement. Whether or not more armed forces are called into the Black community is, in the final analysis, not up to Us. However, the decision that is still ours to make revolves around the question of whether and when we are going to make "commUnity" matter. Finally, a word from our Beloved Brother and Sister, Kwame Steve Cobb and Chavunduka: "When all is said and done, To be One's our revolution, We never stand alone, Unity's our resolution. Umoja is the message, A call for Unity..."[3]

Recommended Viewing "A Tale of Two and a-Half Cities" H3O Art of Life Show Featuring Dr. Kasey Hendricks Recommended Reading Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? Ralph Ellison. Shadow and Act Recommended Listening: Umoja- Steve Cobb and Chavunduka Blognotes 1.Ralph Ellison. Shadow and Act 2. Useni Eugene Perkins. Home Is A Dirty Street: The Social Oppression of Black Children 3. "The Seven Principles" Album by Kwame Steve Cobb and Chavunduka

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