Intro: The following was issued approximately in 1990 by the New African Voices Alliance, a Philadelphia-based collective of revolutionary organizers and activists. This statement was written by Shafik Abu-Tahir (Asante) who died in 1997. Shafik was a leader and a teacher whose voice is missed in the struggles of today. We have some statements by New African Voices in our files and will be posting them occasionally for historical and political purposes.
A LOST GENERATION or LOST LEADERSHIP?
For a few years now we have heard talk of a “Lost Generation”. We understand that by the term “lost”, people (and media outlets) are attempting to describe a generation of youth who, it is predicted, will not surpass their parents economically or educationally. “Lost” is also used to refer to a generation that is supposedly drug-filled and worthless and which will play no significant role in society except in a negative way. More often than not, this generation is identified as young African and Latino youth.
In NEW AFRICAN VOICES, we take the position that what has been lost is not a generation of youth but a progressive leadership for this generation. By leadership we mean people, who as opposed to simply holding or running for office, actually hold leading ideas. We consider a leading idea an idea that upon its implementation solves real societal problems. In the 90s new ‘leadership’ must confront the notion that holding office is to be equated with holding solutions that can correct societal ills. We know all too well that this is not the case from the many experiences we’ve had with our elected officials (i e their bankruptcy regarding problem-solving). In fact, much of today’s leadership we experience as mis-leadership. Their main way of giving leadership is simply to ‘speak’ out on issues but not act out or organize others to act out, Because they are good at ‘speaking’ out (many of these politicians are also ministers) they draw media coverage and soon are touted as “leaders” even though they have actually led nothing, and can’t lead anything in that they have no program It is this bankruptcy of leadership that has allowed a generation of youth to grow up with very little social consciousness and with little knowledge or feelings of connectedness to our struggles waged in the past (i.e. our civil/human rights struggles).
The creation and bringing forward of new, independent leadership (Democratic and Republican party free) must become a central task of the progressive movement in this political time-period. We need a leadership that is willing to collectively study social issues and collectively search for solutions as well as for ways of ‘acting’ out. This type of collectivizing can move us from what seems like an eternal ‘struggle’ stage to a possible ‘winning’ stage.
Our movement’s historic immaturity, sectarianism and thus fragmentation has made us all somewhat weak and uninfluential If we want to impact on tomorrow’s future leaders, if we want to be ‘found’ by today’s youth and be of some service to them, we must see the question of leadership and leadership development for the 90s as a key task confronting us.
For the last two years NEW AFRICAN VOICES has raised with many organizations the need for a National Collective Dialogue (which would serve as a sort of progressive ‘think tank’). For us, the dialogue is rooted in what we believe in the need for the movement to collectively sum up some of our experiences of the 80’s (i .e. Jesse’s campaigns, Congresses’ victories over human needs like social services, Farrakhan’s growing influence, the so-called international rejection of socialism, the rise of nationalism in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the USA etc).
Part of developing new leadership for the 90s must include a new spirit of collectivizing our concerns (i e how do we build real Labor-Community Alliances), as well as principled, ideological challenge to each other’s positions (i e should we work in the Democratic party or strictly outside or both’) Building a new, collective leadership council (a dialogue center) to help provide direction for this nation’s sufferers is for us in NEW AFRICAN VOICES going to be a major endeavor. As sufferers we need all the help we can get thinking through the many challenges we face. Our youth need us and we need them We owe it to our youth to intensify our confrontation with the rich rulers of this country who would destroy them with continued oppression and exploitation We can save our future by saving our youth. Let’s recreate for them (as well as with them) some new leadership
NEW AFRICAN VOICES