Evolving from Agendas to Action Items

Two events this weekend will take differing approaches to solve the problems facing black Americans.

Getty Images

The popular trend these days has been to state that black America does not need a specific agenda to cure its ills; that, in essence, black America's agenda is America's agenda. Tavis Smiley's counterargument does ring true in many regards: Without the strength, talents and support of black America, all of America suffers.

There is also a clear and present danger that the ills of the black community are quickly being swept under the rug by the very people that learn less, earn less and die faster than the rest of the nation. This dysfunctional acceptance of civic decay, done mainly for the sake of being "on the right side of history," comes on the heels of the accomplishment of one man and the emotional investment (appropriate and overstated alike) of many black people who falsely believe that they, too, have won something tangible with his win, despite their collective losses and social inactivity since January 2009. They celebrated a winning campaign that promised positive change for many, yet has yielded very little positive change for most, so far.

Let's hope that changes with two significant events going on within black America this weekend: the "We Count! The Black Agenda is America's Agenda" event by Tavis Smiley in Chicago and the Frederick Douglass Foundation Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. Each event takes a different approach to address the same reality: the re-evaluation of the American agenda from the African-American perspective, based on challenges and experiences unique to black people. Although the former event takes leftist perspective while the other slants to the political right, both approach the question: Is there a need for a black political or social agenda that advocates for our people in much the same way that the Hispanic Caucus does for Spanish-speaking people in the United States on the brink of immigration reform, and American Jewish coalitions are likely to do in light of the recent tension between the White House and Israel?

I say yes. Furthermore, because of the severity of imbalance within our families, churches and neighborhoods, we must come from not just from one angle for solutions, but from two effective perspectives.

The Frederick Douglass Foundation --a collection of black Republicans that include a record number of modern-era congressional and statewide candidates--is holding its 2nd annual leadership summit at a time when black unemployment remains in double digits and black social and educational realities are grim with no sign of relief or change in sight. The Douglass Foundation's approach directs attention to community challenges and focuses on congressional possibilities for action. The politically active group of GOP party officers, candidates and activists is working to fill the void of legislative leadership in Washington and social leadership within our communities.

Non-partisan organizations such as the Congressional Black Caucus and the NAACP have their merits, with powerful alumni such as Rep. Shirley Chisholm and President Barack Obama. However, the era of non-partisan groups that retain a strong partisan tilt must end if balance and prosperity are to be restored to all realms of black life. Current leaders of the Douglass Foundation hold key positions within the Republican Party, faith-based organizations and community endeavors. Founders Dr. Tim Johnson (vice-chair of the North Carolina GOP), Rev. Dean Nelson and Mr. Troy Rolling (vice-chair of the Michigan GOP) are well-positioned to effectively bring about social change for future black generations. In order to defeat our challenges within black America, we must follow the model that the GOP is putting into place for black political diversity if it is truly committed to change.

Smiley's "We Count!" event will look to do the same as the Frederick Douglass Foundation, to bring about needed change to save lives. It only differs in that it will take its cues from the academic and social leaders within black culture to shape a set of goals that must be driven home immediately in order to right our collective ship. We have been blessed with some of the greatest minds in academia and social sciences, yet we have not been able to make the academic data dynamic enough to change the dreary realities of today into the dream. People may criticize Smiley for inviting many of the same people to the event on Saturday, (including noted scholars Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson) but until younger generations begin to actively challenge the intellect, direction, vision and dedication of the "greatest generation" of black people in the 20th century--like the civil rights generation--then Smiley and others will draw from that generation in order to carve out the right blend of cultural esteem, social activism and educational awareness to prod black America in a better direction.

However, "We Count!" and the Douglass Foundation event will get it right this weekend. In a time when more of us--be it because of a black president or in spite of him--have agendas in motion for black America, it is time for our true leaders within black America to create action item lists to put people into motion. Once we shift the talk and imagery to action item lists, then we will talk about people doing something consistently to the point of completion. For example, the Frederick Douglass Foundation's events will focus on conservative policies and issues like concern about the federal funding of Planned Parenthood that will alleviate the death and destruction within black communities. Both organizations will focus on the steps needed for better schools and safer neighborhoods. Some participants will advocate "school choice" while others may speak to the need for increased funding and government standards to save students. Either way, the work must be tangible and documented, moving from mere talks to action items with timelines, clear expectations, and consequences (if need be) if not met on schedule. With that in place, it will be enlightening to see who is willing to work to save our communities and who is working solely to save a legacy, a relationship or some perceived "hook-up."

All that said, it does not mean that President Obama has to prioritize the black agenda over the Hispanic agenda, the Jewish agenda, and the pro-choice agenda, but he absolutely must be regularly confronted with the black agenda just as he is with other agendas.

Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the author of the book, Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative). He is featured regularly on outlets including CNN, Fox News and XM Radio. Follow him on Twitter.