To the younger generation of Black warriors, ‘thank you and be encouraged’

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Dr. Ivory Phillips

Two weeks ago, we expressed a sense of loss resulting from the retirement of Professor C. Liegh McInnis as an English professor at Jackson State University. There was such a sense of loss because McInnis is one of the younger scholar/activists for whom the writer is grateful. Time and time again, he has expressed in clear and no-nonsense ways where we are as a people on various issues. He has not avoided tough issues nor taken the accepted, compromised positions on them. We are grateful that he is not leaving the scene of public discourse. Voices like his will long be needed in the community to guide it toward liberation, just as it has benefitted students, guiding them in their education.

As we lift him up, we are also grateful for others who have occasionally stepped up to do battle for the benefit of Black and other oppressed and marginalized people. As we express this gratitude, it should be understood that no attempt is being made to claim that what follows is an exhaustive list of the warriors. The ones mentioned herein are merely some young individuals who come to this faltering mind as the writer puts pen to paper. Others out there who fit that mold should realize that we see and appreciate you. Just keep on doing what you have been called to do for the benefit of your community and humankind. Due recognition will come, even though that should not be why you labor.

Several weeks ago, Governor Tate Reeves decided to terminate the extended unemployment benefits being provided by the state and federal government. His reasoning was that the heightened benefits were making it difficult for many businesses to secure employees. Very quickly, at least three young state legislators – Jeramey Anderson of Escatawpa, Chris Bell of Jackson, and Zakiya Summers of Jackson – stepped up to not just challenge, but effectively refute Reeves’ position. They rightly asserted that the solution to the problem would be the adoption of a living wage as the standard for workers rather than expecting them to work for what often amounts to “slave” wages.

It is more than obvious that Reeves is among those conservatives nationwide who are opposed to a vibrant working-class, who prefer a trickle-down economy wherein the wealthy keep getting wealthier, and who are willing to have a large pool of working poor as is promoted by a system of “dog-eat-dog” capitalism. We are simply delighted that there are young leaders and spokespersons who are willing to get up and stand up for the rights of workers.

Last week, the Mississippi Supreme Court, on a technicality, struck down the medical marijuana law that had been initiated and approved by a large percentage of the voters. While there has been no call by the governor for a special legislative session to fix the problem, at least one legislator – Derrick Simmons of Greenville – indicated that if the medical marijuana law was null and void because of the outdated initiative process through which it was approved, then the voter identification law passed a few years ago must also be removed from the books.

His willingness to immediately go after this earlier law reflected what has become a pattern. He is one of the young political leaders who has demonstrated a willingness to speak-up for the Black community, even in cases where it may be clear that he is in the minority and when others may not have yet even noticed the problem.

We are ever grateful for such local leaders. It is inspiring to see that their numbers are growing as education and the media expand the universe of people who are informed or have been awakened.

These local leaders and spokespersons are joined by an increasing group of the same on the national level. It is generally inspiring to the writer to listen to the arguments and discourse of the likes of Joy Reid, Stacey Abrams, Zerlina Maxwell, Hakeem Jeffries, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Jason Johnson. It is also very gratifying to see the activism of a growing group of athletes, such as LeBron James, who refuse to be silent when their voices are so critically important.

We realize that this article is not saying anything that is earth shaking. We are, nevertheless, pleased to get it out because too often some elderly leaders and spokespersons are not willing and welcoming to the emergence of young leaders. They hate to have to say good-bye. On the other hand, too often it happens that some young would-be leaders make such a break with the older generation until not only is momentum lost, but movements get completely side-tracked.

Therefore, we assert that those who find themselves in the position of ultra-elderly leaders or spokespersons must be willing to mentor, support, and give way to younger ones who have the energy, ideas, connections, and rapport with the growing masses. At the same time, the younger leaders/ spokespersons need to be willing to first become grounded enough to do an effective job before flying off to take on the world, often trying to re-invent the wheel in the process. The elderly and the young need one another, if we are to achieve maximum benefit. One must not stay around after he/she has outlived their usefulness; the other must not rush ahead half-cocked.

Let’s return, however, to the original message, lest we get lost in a digression. That message is that we should appreciate and encourage the younger generation of warriors who are making a difference.

It is true that there may be nothing new under the sun; that the issues that have gone around will come back around. Likewise, we should understand that these issues, whether old or newly manifested, can be more effectively dealt with through new technology and new terminology in a new environment.

With that thought in mind, the writer desires to reiterate loudly and clearly that he is truly grateful for the emerging crop of younger warriors stepping forward. At the same time, he would caution these young warriors to not yield to the temptation of ego-tripping in order to promote themselves nor accept the economic or other incentives offered by the powers that be, as they attempt to crown you HNIC. (In case you are not familiar with the expression HNIC, ask some older Black people what it means.) The movement is too important for that kind of self-promotion or selling-out. History shows that too often people of the earlier generations have succumbed to such things, preventing Black people from having progressed any further than they have.

Show by your actions that you are a new breed and that this is a new day. For what you have done and are doing, we are most appreciative. For your good work that still lies ahead, we thank you in advance.

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To the younger generation of Black warriors, ‘thank you and be encouraged’

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
June 14, 2021