Young black leaders are taking their place at the top table, as Dr King predicted. James Gill looks to the future
‘Everyday create your history, everyday you are writing your legacy’ – Michael Jackson
As so aptly stated by the late pop star, history is the story of mankind. Every so often an individual or social movement comes along to change the national or international demographic, sometimes for the worse, yet often for the better.
I, as a young black individual, feel it is appropriate to celebrate a historical moment for black people especially. The fact that Barack Obama is the most powerful man in the world is testament to the change that shows black people as capable individuals who can easily have their share in the big, wide world.
A world where black people are fearless innovators, one where instead of wallowing in urban inner cities with nothing to do, black people are out there contributing to the world stage solving problems increasingly complex and globalised.
Since 1960s, there have been legions of black entrepreneurs, politicians and entertainers who have dominated their respective fields.
Although they might not have been politicians or financiers by profession, the late entertainers, James Brown and Michael Jackson were black men who used this medium to achieve a political coming of age as well as disposing a form of black occupation of the music industry and what Brown himself coined ‘Black Capitalism’, giving black people the same opportunities and chances for economic and political prosperity as their white counterparts.
Brown and Jackson not only recorded chart-topping funky tracks and soothing ballads, but also socially conscious and politically encouraging songs. Brown hit the top with Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud, Unity and Don’t Be a Dropout; Jackson chimed off to Earth Song, They Don’t Care About Us and Man in the Mirror.
Brown struck up relations with then vice-president Hubert Humphrey (who subsequently endorsed Brown’s Don’t Be a Dropout campaign to encourage young people to stay in education) and Richard Nixon to name a few.
Jackson broke the invisible colour divide on MTV, making the way for numerous African-Americans to dominate the entertainment medium. Along the way, he founded his Heal the World Foundation (with Jimmy Carter as the chief Ambassador of it, no doubt!) and spoke at the Oxford Union on the subject of how best to rear children in a world packed with consumerism and digital excess.
Martin Luther King and Malcolm X preceded Barack Obama in bringing black consciousness to the surface. Chris Gardner, the subject of the Will Smith film The Pursuit of Happiness, started his own stock-brokerage firm, Gardner Rich LLC (with offices in New York, San Francisco and Chicago) in 1987 going on to become a leading philanthropist too, assisting with charities to cure homelessness, a challenge he had to overcome in the mid-1980s when working on a trainee course which got him his eventual job.
Updating oneself to the present, we can see this dream of the baby boomers has finally come to fruition with the arrival of Adam Afriyie and Simeon Williams.
Adam Afriyie made history in 2005, becoming the UK’s first black Conservative MP for Windsor and has subsequently been appointed by Tory leader, David Cameron, to be Shadow Minister for Innovation, Schools and Universities.
With the Conservative’s electoral prospects looking the best they have done for years, Mr Afriyie looks like he will be joined by Shaun Bailey and Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, breaking an ensuing political mould that black people are frequent charity cases which consistently rely on the Labour party and welfarism.
My former college and university colleague, fellow Afro-Caribbean, Simeon Williams has been trailing the world in the form of Cradles and Co, the new information services provider firm he co founded, dealing with themes of sustainable development in China, acting as a dynamic middleman between inter-governmental relations and businesses looking for ways to invest sustainably in one of the world’s largest economies.
Simeon is the living epitome of James Brown’s ‘Black Capitalism’ – a bold, intuitive and innovative personality with mountains of experience in the financial and political systems which guide domestic and international political-economic relations, ranging from IPPR, Deutsche Bank and at DLA Piper’s Global Government Relations department.
On the academic-political side, two of the UK’s most prestigious universities have elected within the past two years the first ever black presidents of their respective student unions.
Oxford elected Lewis Iwu as student union president for the 2008-2009 academic year, while York elected Tim Ngwena as student union president for the upcoming academic year of 2009-2010.
Having won the university’s mini-Apprentice competition and successfully staging one of the university’s most successful events of 2009 – the Fusion dance extravaganza – Tim covered, in one year, the entertainment, political and economic opportunities I mentioned at the beginning of this article.
The future for black leaders is looking brighter than ever. In an ever-increasingly diverse and changing world, blacks are increasingly coming to dominate the political and economic domains like never before.
The dream of Martin Luther King has finally come true, and the nightmare that Malcolm X so vigorously campaigned against is finally coming to a close.