Nobody said that the road to freedom, justice and equality would be easy. In the wake of the results of the national elections across the United States, it is crystal-clear that the aspirations, hopes and dreams of 47 million Black Americans are neither in vain or hopeless.
We have been disappointed before. We have been joyous before. But today we are all called to be vigilant, persistent and resilient.
‘Stayed on freedom’
As one of our sacred freedom songs refrains in an upbeat, “Woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom…ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around…Got a keep my mind, spirit and soul focused on freedom…no matter what happens…we gonna keep on marching…we gonna keep on shouting…we gonna keep on marching down freedom’s road.”
You have heard me affirm before within the printed and digital contours of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) that our collective sense of righteous optimism and moral imperatives were really never based exclusively on one event or one defeat or even one victory. Ours is a long protracted struggle for freedom and equality.
Our brother freedom fighter, writer and author, James Baldwin, once told me, “We have to look at the future without a moment to blink, with our heads unbowed with a transcendent determination always to rise above the cynicism of the day and never let giving in to wrong creep into our souls…for nobody knows or even cares about our suffering, if we ever stoop to be silent or indifferent after the bloody lash of history has once again hit out bare backs.”
On Election Night, Nov. 8, the entire world waited for the election results into the wee hours of the next morning. Black Republicans were overjoyed and repurposed. Black Democrats were dismayed and disappointed. Black Independents were challenged and confused. But interestingly, some of our elders as well as many of our young activists that night and morning gained renewed strength to fight on for another day and era of progress.
We will continue to pick up our pens to write and speak truth to power. We will continue to publish in the grand tradition of motivating and informing the masses to be ever aware of what’s happening now.
Every day brings teachable moments and lessons. The National Black Voter Poll, done by Howard University’s interdisciplinary group of faculty and student scholars and the NNPA, turned out to be the most accurate when it came to the Black American vote across America.
Voting in our communities is not just a right. It is a historic and contemporary responsibility. As we prepare to enter 2017 with a new political regime in the White House, each of us should ask, “What can I do to help improve the quality of life of my family and community?”
How can I and those who I trust in the solidarity of the struggle for freedom and empowerment work together to increase the economic development of the communities in which we reside?
How can I contribute to ensuring that our children receive the highest quality education pre-K-12 to college and post graduate? How can I help raise awareness about the healthcare issues that specifically impact our communities? How can I make a positive difference to make our world a better place?
We have come too far to even contemplate resigning, giving up or throwing in the towel. President-elect Donald Trump has been given the opportunity and responsibility of a lifetime.
Will the United States go forward? Or will the nation go backward? The answers to these critical questions will not be limited to what President Trump will do or not do. Each of us will also contribute to what the future holds.
From my perspective, Black America must do what we have always done: Speak out. Stand up. Keep fighting for freedom, justice and equality with renewed vigor, faith and energy. Resilience is in our DNA.
My optimism is based on the enormous progress that we have made in our long movement for freedom in the U.S. and throughout the world. I refuse to join the chorus of the cynics who think erroneously that we are at that apocalyptic time when the world is about to end as a result of the elections. That is not the truth.
We must keep struggling forward. As Maya Angelou reminded us, “We shall rise…and we shall continue to rise…” again and again.
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.