I’ve had several conversations over the last few weeks or so about the definition of being FREE.
This one particular discussion that took place over the weekend really touched my soul and nearly brought me to tears thinking about its reality. I’ve been asking this question as part of a personal survey I’m conducting. There have been people from all walks of life in which I’ve asked what does it mean to be FREE. I also asked if they considered themselves FREE.
I found the answers in some cases very disturbing and also very profound. Now, just because people gave great soundbites doesn’t mean that they’re truly FREE. Yes, today, no one is actually in ball and chains. No one is being held in the modern civilization against their will. And no Black person is being strung up on a tree for sport for all to witness. Now, people say that slave-like tactics are still being practiced in certain areas of America. I would not doubt that, but in a normal society, especially in major big cities, there’s no visible evidence of FREEDOM being physically restricted.
The kind of freedom I’m referring to is completely mental and/or psychological, in which people either in impoverished communities or within professional offices are actively conducting themselves in non-FREEstyle performances. They’re afraid to challenge the status quo. They’re fearful of being displaced or left without other opportunities to succeed or barely maintain. That’s what happens when the hidden hands of power have captured the spirit and soul of so-called educated and supposedly mentally stable Black folks. These Negroes believe they can’t provide for their families without the assistance of certain corporate structures keeping them in play.
During my remarks as host emcee at the Cook County Bar Association’s annual Installation and Awards Dinner last Friday, I asked what was the role of the Black professional? I made reference to the late, great Lew Myers, Jr., who was being saluted with the President’s Award for his courage and fortitude (his wife accepted the honors on his behalf). Attorney Myers did exactly what he wanted in terms of serving Black people without pause. And after my acknowledgment of him, I kindly and aggressively stated, “That Negro was FREE!”
Again, what is the role of the Black professional? I need for current and future Black professionals to write that question in their journals and attempt to answer. Your response will truly help move the needle of progress either backward or forward. If you can’t, in good conscious, figure out your role other than making money to provide for your immediate family, then progress will be stalled, at best, until you understand the bigger picture of why you exist on God’s earth.
During several of these conversations throughout my journal with paper and pen, I’ve been designated as the voice of many who can’t say exactly what I’ve expressed in my writings. But, I always ask, “Why can’t you state exactly what I’m saying? If what I speak is the truth, then what stops you from speaking truth?” It’s normally the same old response: “I have a family and responsibilities and my (JOB) will not allow me to speak out or be vocal on issues relevant to my (Black) community.” I often wanna say, “are you a FREE person?” Because I truly understand their plight, I don’t go there! But for those who’ve ever made that cowardly statement to me, these Works of Words are for YOU and the corporations who prevent FREE Negroes from being FREE!
Let them be FREE! American companies, isn’t it enough that you underpay Black people? Hidden hands of power, isn’t it enough that you have restricted Black folks from dwelling peacefully where we have earned the right to dwell? Corporations, isn’t it more than enough that you’ve not provided adequate accommodations for Black excellence to progress and obtain the highest power within your establishments? Where are the board seats? Where are the CEO and president titles? Where are the partnerships?
Being FREE is not just walking openly without bondage. Being FREE is so much more than making money and running to the suburbs, or within the last ten years, relocating back to communities like Bronzeville, which you abandoned decades ago because you thought you were FREE. Now, that FREEDOM cost you even more because of gentrification. Your parents and grandparents’ homes are being oversold back to you. And you call yourself FREE? LOL!
True happiness and FREEDOM for me is to be in a community filled with FREE thinking folks who not only fight for their FREEDOM but allow for those who wanna be FREE, to be FREE! Therefore, don’t criticize me for wanting FREEDOM.
For those FREE folks who know history, remember what slave abolitionist Harriett Tubman screamed: “I could’ve helped more Negroes if they only would’ve recognized that they were already FREE!”
Carl D. West is the CEO/Publisher of TBTNews and founder of the TRUTH 4 Literacy Foundation, Leadership Luncheon, Legend and Pioneer Awards, all powered by Midwest Gap Enterprise.