Breaking the code of silence

Published 9:29 am Tuesday, May 26, 2009

WINTON – Dating back to the days of slavery, blacks have felt regulated to that of being a second-class citizen.

Now, despite the passage of 55 years since the Civil Rights movement, some still feel the same way….with a twist.

At a press conference held last week at the National Elks Shrine in Winton, several African-American organizations broke an unspoken code of silence as they questioned the leadership of their own race.

The African-American Policy Council, headed-up by founder and chairperson Tee Ferguson; the six counties of the NAACP District 11, represented by Carl White (who also spoke on behalf of the Hertford County Black Caucus and the Eastern North Carolina Civic League), and Tony Riddick, chairperson of T.R.U.T.H (The Righteous United Through Harmony) each took turns addressing the economic, social, moral and religious needs of blacks.

The groups laid out eight steps in a commitment to bring about change. Topping the list was two items – recreating an economic infrastructure such that black business owners can access capital for business creation and expansion and addressing growing instances of black-on-black racial discrimination.

Riddick pointed out that blacks generate $850 billion annually in retail sales. He added that black churches raise $52 billion per year, one-half of which is deposited in banks controlled by whites.

“This is not about what white people are doing; it’s about what black people are not doing,” Riddick said. “At least in slavery we had leaders who gave us hope. The black leaders of today who are not supporting blacks are our enemy. The black churches of today not supporting blacks are our enemy. The black politicians of today not supporting blacks are our enemy. The black leaders of today need to be held accountable.”

“Racism is not the reason we find ourselves in dire straits; we need to stop raising hell with the white community for not giving us jobs,” Ferguson said. “That’s our job…for blacks to build their own economic future. Blacks in power are far more racist to people of their own race than whites are to blacks.”

Point #3 was bringing an end to the wholesale slaughter of young black men by young black men.

“We have lost our black consciences,” Riddick said. “Where we would once help our own, we now step on them. Now a black man will pull out a gun and shoot into a crowd, not knowing or caring who is struck.”

Riddick mentioned the high rate of unsolved murders in his home county of Perquimans. He said of the 17 most recent homicides there, 10 involved blacks and seven to eight of those are unsolved.

“That sends a message to young blacks that they can bring crime to Perquimans County and get away with it,” he said. “That has led us (T.R.U.T.H.) to patrolling the streets on our own, but we need to put more pressure on law enforcement to solve these crimes.”

One of the most intriguing portions of the press conference was the groups’ effort to expose the refusal of black politicians to address the issues of their black constituents.

“We need to change within our own ranks,” Ferguson stressed. “We have given our black politicians a pass as we continue to vote for them because they are black. We need to start supporting those, no matter the color of their skin, who support black issues. I would urge all within my race not to vote for a black politician just because they’re black. Look at the person…look at the issues.”

Ferguson said he had spoken to blue-collar blacks, black senior citizens and even to younger blacks and they all agree…there’s a strong sense of dissatisfaction of black elected leaders.

“Black politicians running for state and national offices don’t even campaign here in our area because they feel like they have our vote,” White stated. “That’s got to stop. We’ve got to support those who support us.”

Riddick pointed out the homicide rate and the infant mortality rate was high among blacks…“but yet our black leaders are afraid to pick-up the cross and address these issues. They need to be held accountable. Our blood is on their hands.”

Another point was reclaiming the African-American church such that it addresses the spiritual needs of the congregation and ceases to serve as a haven for greed, avarice and ungodliness in the pulpit.

“We raise enormous amounts of money in our churches,” Ferguson said. “We see the black clergy living in luxury while the black elders in the congregation cannot afford to heat their homes….it’s ungodly. The black clergy is pimping the black congregation.”

Ferguson cited what he hears as the same old message from black ministers…“Be still, wait on God and you’ll get yours on the other side.”

“It’s an ungodly message; it’s a Judas message,” he stressed. “They are pimps in the pulpit.”

Point #6 of bringing about change was the development of a new southern strategy which seeks to develop business partnerships between indigenous low-income communities and non-black business leaders.

“In order for us to change, we need to change the mindset,” Ferguson noted. “Until we change the way we think, we’ll continue to bring up the rear. We’ve got to be innovative and creative to break the cycle of welfare.”

Ferguson repeatedly stressed the importance of changing the mindset of blacks.

“We’ve seen all types of government programs, all designed to bring the black race up to the level of other ethnic groups, but they have all failed because of our mindset,” he said. “I could ride around with a truckload of money and give it to black people, but in two days it will all be gone because of a lack of mindset to know how to invest in the future.”

Ferguson said black leaders don’t want to hear this message.

“They don’t see anything as broken,” he stated. “They can’t see that we keep pulling each other down. I call it the crab syndrome. That’s having crabs in a bucket where each has their own agenda to climb out. They don’t realize that if all work together they can all climb out of that bucket.”

Other points of change included a cessation of the systematic prosecution and incarceration of African-American males and an insistence upon the installation of an Afrocentric curriculum in public schools in order for African-American children to develop a healthy sense of self and prove less prone towards delinquent behavior.

Ferguson said the next step in the process is to hold an economic summit, one where he hopes to attract additional stakeholders within the black community. That summit is tentatively scheduled for July 11 at the Elks Shrine.

“We want to seek out black professionals, black celebrities and athletes to put something back into the community,” Ferguson said.

The only obstacle in Ferguson’s eyes is what he referred to as “the negro gate keepers.”

“We’ll be loathed by what we’re saying today,” he said. “They will not allow us to get by without a fight.”

Ferguson closed by saying he understands the code of silence practiced by his race.

“I was brainwashed at an early age, but thanks to God he opens my eyes more and more every day,” he stated. “Plain and simple, our race fears white people and until we accept that fact and deal with it we’ll continue to be a dysfunctional race. We need to move forward and not feel that we’re making the whites mad with our efforts.”

For more information on the efforts of the groups represented at the press conference, contact Ferguson at 252-794-2018.