A letter from the editor

May 26, 1992|By Catherine E. Pugh

We share in this issue the stories of several African-American professionals who have achieved degrees of success and find themselves in leadership roles as a result of their efforts. We hope you find these stories interesting and perhaps inspirational.

One story focuses on a group of African-American students at the University of Maryland/Baltimore County who are proof that it is not where you live, or the make-up of your family household that determines your career path. I believe that the most important message from this article is that we must ultimately take responsibility for the choices we make in our lives. It is, however, important that those of us who have leadership roles in the community, such as ministers, teachers, administrators, etc., recognize the importance of providing mentoring opportunities for young people.

There are many young people who are capable of becoming future leaders, who may live in ghettos or single family homes, but are just not aware of what it takes to become successful. These young people must know that all opportunities are within their reach. Many believe that leadership is reserved for the rich or the privileged, but that is not the case. Mentoring to them would help them to erase their fears, build their self esteem and self respect and eliminate some of the feelings of powerlessness over one's own destiny.

In a discussion we held with members of this year's Greater Baltimore Committee's Leadership Program, headed by Jon Houboult, the topic of empowering the powerless through multi-cultural leadership was addressed.

A synopsis of that discussion appears in this issue. One of the challenges offered was to describe how you would empower the powerless if all the resources were placed at your disposal. Most people concluded that changes that directly affect people need to take place. "We must invest in the people," said one participant. "If someone needs a home, then we must provide them with a home," said another. "We must guarantee proper education and education that provides more than just book knowledge, but life." My favorite phrase was the need for changing "paradigms," and I agree.

As always, the solutions appear simple, as do the steps. You must first address the community where the problems are prevalent through its leadership. In many communities, that leadership continues to be the church. Communities must assume responsibilities for addressing their ills, and many have. What is not in place is the economic resource to make the programs they've designed work. Give the resources to the people who face the problems daily and who no longer need help identifying the problem.

Drugs won't disappear from a neighborhood until the neighborhood decides it will no longer tolerate such activity, and church leadership addresses the spiritually drained individuals who participate in such activity.

In the final analysis, we can no longer afford to drive by, walk by or ignore the activities that hold communities in bondage. We have to step outside of our safe-for-now homesand address the communities with alternatives. I believe each one must touch one.

The reason the church has to assume such a great responsibility in solving these problems is because it is where the people are flocking. It stands as a beacon in depressed neighborhoods and communities because family structures are not what they were 20 years ago.

Mentoring programs must exist in the church. The educational needs that are not being met by inadequate schools systems must be addressed by the church. Churches should set up Saturday schools, weekend schools, and after-school classes.

Every church in this community ought to have some type of economic development program that provides development opportunities for its members and its community.

Programs to address the ills of the people can no longer trickle down from the top with expectations of solving the problems at the bottom. Those at the top need to acknowledge that the community and community leaders can solve their problems. So instead of state and federal programs, funds should go directly to the neighborhood to influence programs that churches and communities have defined as ones that meet the needs of the people.

As Jon Houboult put it, "We must become a nation more like Japan and Germany, who have invested in their people, which has led to them becoming world powers.

Fixing this society is not a difficult process. What is difficult is getting a nation to change. The will of the people should be exercised and community leadership must be willing to assume the responsibility for change. Even a child can lead.

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