The Movement that wasn’t, Pt. 1

What’s up fam,

I just want to say thank you to all my people that wished me a happy birthday (Aug 31st). I was in Minnesota getting trained with some dynamic folks over at Wellstone Action. The retreat was out in the woods and I was out of cell phone range. So for all the folks that sent me love, I apologize for not responding in a timely manner.

Something that has been on my heart for a couple weeks is the lack of meaningful communication between people. The two groups I have in mind are based on W.E.B. DuBois model of the “Talented Tenth.” In short, the “Talented Tenth” represents the most gifted and talented among us and it is their responsibility to provide the necessary leadership to improve the condition of the masses.

For simplicity, I will use the name Earl to refer to the Talented Tenth and use Brian to refer to the ninety percent.

For a more concrete vision, imagine Earl to have graduated from college with thoughts of going to graduate school. He is politically savvy via his reading of various newspapers, magazines, and blogs. Earl strongly prefers listening to conscious music. Of the three major vices most people find controversial (smoking, drinking, sex) he consciously restricts himself to two or is in denial that he actually enjoys all three. He is optimistic that the world will get better and thinks he is partly responsible for building the progressive movement.

Now imagine Brian to have either graduated from high school or have taken some college courses. He is politically savvy but doesn’t use terminology like prison-industrial-complex or neo-cons. Brian primarily listens to hip hop but doesn’t filter his music for whether or not it is conscious. Of the three major vices most people find controversial (smoking, drinking, sex) Brian doesn’t get uncomfortable with himself or others that engage in any combination of the aforementioned. He does not use talk about the ” movement” and finds it difficult to be optimistic because he is always on the grind.

Please do not get caught up in my descriptions of Earl and Brian. They are meant to be illustrative and not be taken as the absolute truth. I just want you to get a clearer of idea of who I am talking about. Below is a list of how I think about Earl and Brian. I will revisit this list from time to time.

1) The problem as I see it is that Brian and Earl never talk and if they do, it is rarely in a way where each man sees the other through non-political lenses. When Brian talks to his friends about how “they” don’t get it, he is referring to Earl. When Earl talks to his friends about how “they” don’t get it, he is referring to Brian.

2) When Brian and Earl talk to each other, there is a subtle, but poignant sense of discomfort. This discomfort is managed by discussion of neutral topics like sports.

3) Earl wrongly thinks that he is able to be himself and feel comfortable around Brian.

4) Knowingly or not, Brian and Earl don’t see each other as qualified to lead the people.

5) Earl is often unable to hang with Brian because of what he doesn’t do. Earl doesn’t watch BET, eat pork, smoke, listen to vulgar music, or go anywhere without his laptop.

6) Brian thinks that Earl is too trusting of White people.

7) Earl thinks Brian’s life will be better if he made a concerted effort to get a college degree.

8) Brian’s networks of friends provide the hook-up on a variety of things that he assumes (rightly or wrongly) Earl would never oblige.

9) When Brian and Earl talk, both men quietly assume that the other can’t speak on their “level.”

10) Earl and Brian often exist within the same family. Often times the only entrée’ they have into each other’s world is through family and not through work or friends.

My feeling is that whatever world we want to live in will not be possible until we break down the barriers between Earl and Brian. What are your thoughts?

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

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