Black Leadership Is Dead; Long Live Black Leadership

Kevin Powell checks in on the state of black leadership in a piece at the Washington Post. He says that well-meaning Americans have been lulled into thinking that we can have only a few black mouthpieces at a time.

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Matt McClain/Washington Post

Writing at the Washington Post, Kevin Powell weighs in on the state of black leadership. He chides Americans for believing that African Americans need only a few mouthpieces at a time. He argues that it is the farthest thing from the truth.

Somewhere between the assassinations of Malcolm X and Dr. King and the presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson, the ascension of Louis Farrakhan, and the rhetorical flourishes and marches of Al Sharpton, well-meaning Americans of all stripes got lulled into the notion that we could only have a few black mouthpieces at a time. And that is simply the farthest thing from the truth.

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece titled “Black Leadership Is Dead” for Ebony, the venerable magazine that has documented African American life, culture and politics since the 1940s. As you can imagine, the essay caused a firestorm in black circles.

But it’s not so much that black leadership is dead, as that our standard notion of it is no longer useful.

It may look as though Black America has fallen into a terrible rut around our leadership today, but that’s in part because a faulty image -- that of the singularly powerful national black leader -- has been perpetuated out of the upheavals of the Civil Rights Movement. Yet Dr. King was never the lone leader of Black America in his day. There was Fannie Lou Hamer, Dorothy Height, Malcolm X, Ella Baker and a wide range of women and men of various ages and backgrounds.

Read Kevin Powell's entire article at the Washington Post.

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