Sometimes it’s just a number. Sometimes, it’s a symbol. Sometimes, it’s a time that it’s time.

Sometimes it’s just a number. Sometimes, it’s a symbol. Sometimes, it’s a time that it’s time.

As I mentioned on the air at WVON-AM/1690 during my show last week this is my time of the year to become more reflective about the times, about my time, and about what we will do collectively about the times.

Yes, birthdays do that to a person.

Yet, they do that so much more when you hit certain milestones. For me, although people may believe that the big 4-0 should be the number that frightens a birthday boy or makes a birthday girl think about the next stages in life, the age 39 is the one that made me pause.

After all, on the heels of another MLK Day celebration, it brings things into clearer focus for me how young some of our greatest leaders over the past 50 years were when they were taken from us prematurely.

Both the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X both lost their lives at the age of 39 due to the tragic means that have been taking out thousands of Black men nationally ever since: the thunder and chaos brought on by bullets via hatred – be it self-directed and/or misguided.

And as I sat there – not just at a significant age, but at a significant number of days (39) left before the 2011 mayoral election – I thought about it deeply and painfully:

Where is the next generation of inspiring leaders? Are they coming? And how long will we have them with us once they’re here?

For all of the great work of the older generation of Black leaders that we have in Chicago and throughout the nation – and we certainly respect and appreciate their fine work – we must also acknowledge that, at this point in time, we are in need of a an infusion of energy, vision, creative leadership, and kinetic motion that young people specialize in. Mind you: that leader may be an older man, just as Mandela was when he was released from prison in the early 1990s. It may come from an older woman, just as it did from the inspiring words of Maya Angelou over recent times. However, in all likelihood, we are in need of this generation’s batch of young leaders that are fearless, vocal, eloquent, and focused on changing the dynamic of Black America – and subsequently, all of America.

There’s a reason why I mention how the renaissance will be launched in 2011: simply, we don’t have time anymore, and as we all collectively sit at 39 – be it at 39 days (or now less) left before the February election or within the fertile moments immediately after the assassinations of King and Malcolm X.

Whether it is through our votes in February, our collective activism in the media and grassroots of America, or the philosophical leadership flowing from the words and deeds of the next generation, it is time for us all to act. As far as I am concerned, regardless of who becomes the next mayor or regardless of those designated the "next generation" of leadership in America, Chicago – and, for that matter, Black America – is not allowed to look and interact the way it does right now. It may take a while to change the collective dynamic, but just it did in the days of Malcolm and Martin, that dynamic will change. Further, it will change at the hands of new leaders working together out of love and with remembrance of the work done in the past – before the tragedy of 39 struck us with a painful blow. It is time for a detailed, concise plan of action to reinvigorate our communities for social, academic, political, and employment advancement. A leader could inspire that, but a movement of leaders will deliver that. If anything, despite the clock striking midnight for some of our great leader as they hit 39, the movement they inspired has the potential to live beyond, but only if we reflect on the past, react to the crisis and reinvigorate the inspirational fires within. For some of us, perhaps it takes a birthday to determine how to proceed from here effectively; for all of us, it takes a rebirth as a proud people, a fearless collective, and a focused constituency to effectively – and perhaps finally – begin the process.

Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the host of “Launching Chicago with Lenny McAllister” on 1690-AM WVON ( and he will be on BET’s “Our World with Black Enterprise” this weekend. He is the author of the upcoming edition of the book, “The Obama Era, Part I (2008-2010): Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative).” Follow him at and on Facebook at .

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