• Reginald Henderson

A Call to Action


There is no more room for community advocates. I urge anybody identifying as such to reconsider their approach. Our communities need direct political action, not moral support. Unfortunately, we’ve relied on these so-called “leaders” to take the charge of improving the material existence of our daily lives. They get invited to “the table,” but fold under the glamour of fancy meals and meaningless gifts and falter to the fascination of people with titles and money. Community advocates love to talk about change, encourage folks to have hope, and may even support a community initiative, but they don’t transform society.


That is the work of activists. An activist is the person who organizes workers to hold a strike when the conditions in the workplace are unbearable. Activists are the ones who organize boycotts of businesses and institutions who aren’t serving the community. They petition elected officials to change policies, help fulfill the basic needs of the people, and protects them by any means necessary. However, words like activist, revolutionary, and radical have been demonized by popular culture, so people are hesitant to explore their significance.


I get it though. Since the black power movements of the 1960s, people who have received those labels or proclaimed themselves as such, have been neutralized, imprisoned, and ruthlessly killed. The tragedies of activists like Fred Hampton, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X have stunned our people into gentler approaches to controlling and sustaining our communities. Were it not for our resiliency, Blacks would be beaten into submission, but we move on under the guise of advocacy.


With blatant violence and discrimination no longer socially acceptable, we’ve landed in a “sweet spot” where we can preserve our bodies and speak our truth. The Black community has never been so integrated into American society, but is that still our goal? Are we not responsible for educating our own children? Have we refused our duty to nourish and protect our people? Do we not feel the knee of injustice that America has been planting on our necks for centuries? While both community advocates and activists want better quality of life and more opportunity, being supportive of freedom and self-determination will not make it attainable.


What will agitate the systems of oppression and give our community power is politically motivated, collective action. We all have grievances and complaints about society, but how are we going to change the narrative? I believe it starts with folks who take a bold stance against injustice, who won’t tolerate second class, who speak truth to power no matter what the consequence and fight in the face of fear. These people are sacrificing their wellbeing, time, money, and status to demand change, not promote it.

We are better served when we entrust community leaders that actively work with us instead of advocating on our behalf. This work is not just a community clean-up, a meeting of the minds, or back-to-school giveaway. The task at hand requires hassling elected officials, businessowners, and heads of institutions to make decisions on our behalf. It necessitates understanding the laws and policies which work against us and organizing to change or eliminate them. When there is beef or conflict, it calls for intervention to keep our people alive, safe, and thriving. Activism is about inspiring and enforcing a cultural change by doing even when others aren’t.


I’m no longer accepting the community advocate role in our spaces; that is for allies. I only want to work with those who are prepared to speak truth to power and put their power to the pavement. There are enough issues on the Westside alone for everyone to get a piece of the action. We’re missing black-owned restaurants and coffeeshops. We need hubs for innovation, business development, and artistry that are geared towards really moving the meter. There are abandoned buildings and underutilized land everywhere. Poverty runs rampant. Storeowners treat us like criminals putting their goods behind cages. Our children need guidance. Just pick an issue that has worked your nerves and let your nerves start working. When you see someone speak up, amplify that voice into action. If we are the change we’ve been waiting for, who’s ready to pop off?


P.S. You have every right to be angry. Don’t sway from your inner mad black woman or man. We’ve suffered for too long to pretend we’re good. Nothing is good, and it won’t be until what’s owed is given or taken.

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