Economic power is an absolute must | 4/9/2008, 7 p.m.

Dr. Ajanaku

In a visit to Memphis a few months ago, Dr. Charles Steele, national president of the Southern Christian Leader Conference, made the sobering observation that in a very real sense little has changed in the 40 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Some will decry such a statement. Still, it is time to face the truth embedded in the observation:  Little has changed.

Where is that truth?

You won’t find it in statistics about the numbers of “middle class” African Americans living in Greater Memphis and America. It’s not present in the number of African Americans elected or serving in public office since April 4, 1968.

And it’s not in the argument that Congressional District 9 is an “African American district” that only can be represented by an African American.

The truth is that if you do not have economic power, you are not going to do real well, regardless of the ethnic background of your Congressional District representative.

After all, “In The End, It Is About Economics,” declared Professor William Spriggs, chairman of Howard University’s Economics Department, and a group of African American economists on Friday, April 4, 2008, in the Atlanta Journal – Constitution.

On a very fundamental level, the African American community in Memphis doesn’t have economic power because there is no existing structure through which the community can actually talk. A bunch of people making $100,000 is not a bunch at all, if they have no vehicle through which to exert concerted action.

This is our plight at present. We must change. And as I called for last week on the editorial page of this newspaper, we must have a Model Memphis plan expansive enough and scientifically sound enough relative to African American people and the community at-large.

On the record for the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Board of Commissioners is their action in unanimous support of using new research to embark on creation of such a Model Memphis plan. We must dust off the unanimous vote of these two bodies and explore the resolutions they passed.

Grassroots efforts to do just that are underway. These efforts have not yet garnered widespread attention. No matter, the Defender in ensuing weeks will ratchet up its efforts to shine light on these developments.

It’s important to remember that the movement Dr. King championed had roots beyond the so-called mainstream and has proven that it planted a seed that has come down to us to nourish.

In last week’s edition in an editorial entitled “Setting the Table for Resurrection,” I wrote: “Let us now today, create the American Dream in Memphis in the honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr…. How do we – as Memphians – do that?  We create a Model Memphis Plan that fits the total dimensions of this great man.”

We must write our own programs from now on and put our collective interest in every political office before we vote!

In a very real sense, we need orientation before education. Every baby in the nation and the world needs to have the proper orientation at birth about the great conception and birth capacities that nature endowed her and him with and the great heritage that America has locked up in its historical bosom.

Memphis should be the home of that orientation and we can anchor that thought by the time the 41st anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination rolls around.