Over the last few months members of the indigenous African-American community and the more recent members from Africa have been engaged in a spirited debate about how we can work together. But as this conversation has progressed it's obvious that there is yet another issue that must also be dealt with.
If the entire African-American community comes together and develops a collective agenda, what do we do with it? The point I am making is that any agenda put together by African Americans must be created as a part of a larger American agenda. It must be designed to fit into the agenda of the city, the county, the state of Washington and the United States.
If we decide that education is a priority and outline all of the issues we have surrounding education, those issues will not see the light of day if they do not become part of the school system's agenda. It's the same with issues pertaining to the police department or streets.
It's also the same with foreign policy issues. African Americans need to be clear about what we want America to do around the world. What would an African American foreign policy initiative for Africa, Central and South America or the Caribbean look like? Where do we stand on the issues in the Middle East or the killings of thousands of people in Sudan?
What kind of trade policies do we want to see and how can we help some of these African nations throw off the yoke of the old colonial powers that still control their economies?
Those of us who are descendants of slaves and live with a memory of constant oppression sometimes find it difficult to realize that we can now impose our will on this nation. That is what a citizen does as part of their responsibility in shaping the nature of the nation they live in. But the Baby Boomers are the first generation of African American children who enjoyed a first class citizenship in America from birth, so this process is still new to many of us.
However the recent African immigrant steps into a recently transformed society. They are suffering from none of the mental and emotional exhaustion of the African American who fought and died to open up this society.
The older African American is still talking about the battles we fought to get here and the recent immigrant is talking about his plans to be successful in America. Where one sees battles and obstacles the other sees opportunity.
This dialogue between us is necessary as we share the history of this nation and the role we played in it, and they can share their optimism, their business skills and their version of cooperative economics.
Together we can use the knowledge of one group to create a domestic agenda and the knowledge of the recent immigrants to create a foreign policy agenda. Then we collaborate with each other and people of like mind to merge those agendas into the city, state and national agendas.
The dialogue that Africans are having in Martin Luther King County can eventually become a national American dialogue. I believe that this is our mission as residents of this county. We should take the vision of Martin Luther King Jr., the realities of today's world and the collective experience of the African family and offer a new vision of America.
Join me in pushing for the Martin Luther King Institute for Social Change and, if you have any contacts at the Gates Foundation, share this vision with them.
A nation should be a reflection of the hopes and dreams of its people, but it's the people who are not included that must take the responsibility of putting their agenda on the table.
I believe that the African community in Seattle is taking the first step in creating an Afri-American vision of where America should be in the future and it's appropriate that it's coming from Martin Luther King County. If not us, who?
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