by James Clingman
“Well done beats well said every time…When it’s all said and done, much is said and little is done.”
There are many Black folks who can tell us what “we need to do” in the context of economic empowerment and other issues that matter. They have all the answers, but too often deal with them from a symptomatic perspective rather than a problematic perspective. Some of us believe that simply talking about a problem, mainly by delineating its symptoms, is actually doing the work necessary for a solution. Think about it. We cite criminal justice symptoms and educational symptoms, we talk about the wealth gap and the health gap and the income gap, and we regurgitate statistics that justify our symptomatic approach to the dire situations we face every day. But merely talking and writing about the symptoms have never solved our problems. Someone has to execute.
I hear and read a great deal of information as I look for the solution to our problems. It’s almost to the point of information overload. You would think that with all of the activists we have within our ranks that some actual activity, beyond mere exercising our powers of speech and penmanship, would take place. That is especially true on radio talk shows. Those I call “Radio-Activists” are adept at identifying the symptoms and saying what “we need to do” while seldom, if ever, laying out the problem and offering a solution—a solution on which they are willing to work and help implement. Mere “Radioactivity,” and I would add “TV Activity,” while they may inform us, if not acted upon is just more information. And just like knowledge, information is not power unless you use it—use it to your own advantage.
So all the pontificators, prognosticators, pundits, and philosophizers who simply offer their assessments of our problems by describing their symptoms, should do a little introspection to see if they are really interested in contributing what they can to solve our problems. Instead of, or at least in addition to sounding the alarm, they should also offer real solutions and then prepare to contribute some time, talent, and treasure toward solving those problems.
Radio activists are usually busy telling others what must be done, as they continue to sit on the sidelines and critique problems. They seldom are willing to get into the game by initiating the solutions they espouse; instead, they tell others what to do and how it should be done. Radioactivity, when it comes to economic and political action, is dangerous and seldom results in any real progress, that is, unless someone other than the Radio-Activist picks up the gauntlet and executes a strategy that evolves into a movement to empower our people.
Don’t be a Radio-Activist. The next time you have the opportunity to speak on the air—or via any medium—don’t just say what “we need” to do; follow it up by saying what you either are doing about the issue or what you are willing to do about it. Besides, after making your transition, wouldn’t you rather have folks speak of you in terms of what you did in addition to what you said? Don’t you want to leave a legacy of putting your words into action? Don’t you want your children to know you for your work on their behalf rather than what you said we “needed”?
We can see what our ancestors did, many of who never gave a speech or wrote a book; they simply worked to leave something better for those who came after them. It’s more about the actions than it is about the words anyway. Frederick Douglass told Harriet Tubman, “I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by the few trembling, scarred, foot-sore bondmen and women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage… The midnight sky and silent stars have been the witness of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism… ‘God bless you,’ has been your only reward.”
Everyone can do something. You don’t have to be rich; you don’t need to be an intellectual; and you don’t have to be a leader. You have something more than words to give to our people. Love, trust, respect, encouragement, a smile, a hug, a couple of dollars to a person in need, the willingness start a project, a movement, or an organization, are all things we can do as individuals. As a collective we can unify, organize, and work on building something for ourselves, because just talking about it will not get the job done. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.