In these times… Where is Moses? Where is Martin?

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The Republican-dominated state legislature is set to wrest control of the water and sewage system from Jackson, to take police and judicial control of one-quarter of the city, and to eliminate the state sales tax, which will lead to the loss or curtailment of many social services upon which many citizens rely. Meanwhile, it is turning a deaf ear to Medicaid Expansion and the plight of rural hospitals and the public schools.

As these things happen, there are many town hall meetings held all over Jackson and Hinds County. More than what even a conscientious person can attend. Some provide new, valuable information; some just provide an emotional outlet. The Democratic Party and the Legislative Black Caucus call news conferences with more of the same. Many leaders of civil rights and religious groups call for massive action to be taken. Amidst it all, many people silently search for a Moses or a Martin Luther King to lead Black people out of this mess.

Depending upon how one interprets the Biblical account, Moses had a difficult time trying to lead his people from bondage. Depending upon how much one knows about the Civil Rights Movement, there were many Black people who were not following King. Aside from both accounts, and as much as people look for it, there is no Moses or King coming to “save” Black people.

On these legislative initiatives, the overwhelming Republican majority is simply driving forward, no matter how their opponents feel. It is reminiscent of the mad drive of the ex-Confederates in the late 1800s. Moses nor King is coming and there is not likely to be any miracle occurring.

The key to solving the problem, the way out of the morass, is to be found in three factors – competence, courage, and cooperation. Each leader, group, and individual must find or develop and utilize their talent and skill to competently work on the part of the problem represented by their expertise. Each leader and individual must develop or summon the courage to stand-up and do what needs to be done on that part of the problem within their purview. Every leader must be willing to put aside his/her ego and come together with others to coordinate their efforts in confronting and resolving the problem.

We realize that verbalizing this solution is easy. Such has perhaps been done before. It is the implementation that is the difficulty. 

As long as there are workers, administrators, and public officials who are not willing to function as correctly and competently as they should, who are looking out only for themselves, or who are willing to cooperate with racist political leaders or overseers, things will not change and people will refer to them, now or later, as “back-stabbers” “sell-outs” or “Uncle Tom” or “Aunt Thomasina.” As long as any civil rights leader(s) calculate, jockey, or bicker among themselves about who leads or gets credit for such and such a protest or press conference, the efforts will be splintered and the racist politicians and business people will have won. As long as any city, county, and state leader(s) fail or refuse to put aside petty differences, they will not be strong enough to lead their deserving constituents to victory.

We all know these things. We have seen it play-out before. One of the last times that local Black people in Jackson came together with an excellent chance of winning a major political victory was the Grassroots Political Convention in the summer of 1992. On the national level, it was the Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana, in the summer of 1972. In both cases, things fell apart when some political leaders acted on their individual ego rather than the goals and decisions of the group. Nevertheless, each developed a promising model.

Regardless of how things turn out this legislative session, there is enough experience and there will be enough time to unite for the legal battle that is likely to be engaged. There will certainly be enough experience and time to organize for the next battle, perhaps to undo whatever is done during this session.

There is no need to keep looking for Moses or Martin. The key is now in your hand, just as it was in the hands of John Lynch and his colleagues before it was taken away by L.Q.C. Lamar, J.Z. George, and other determined ex-Confederates. We must buckle up and realize that we have the key and must use it wisely, not selfishly. Our competence, courage, and coordinating efforts must be used for the best interest of the Black community, which is the development of a livable, prosperous democracy that respects the God given rights of every human being.

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In these times… Where is Moses? Where is Martin?

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
February 20, 2023