A float is a cultural and historical billboard

The Bottom Line

If you are serious about winning in a competitive environment, you quickly learn the things that you need to do to win, and you discard the habits and strategies that have proven a failure.
But too often we mistake whining for working. We whine about our problems rather than do anything tangible about them. But because we talk about the problem so much, we convince ourselves that we are actually doing something to solve them.
As I get older and slower, I realize that every step must be taken wisely if I am to get from Point A to Point B. I don't have the energy or time to get lost and backtrack and start a journey over. But every once in a while I need to go back and revisit something in my past because it's messing with my present and may impact my future.
One of those things for me is a float in the Seafair Torchlight Parade for the African-American community. I have been here before and was the chairman of the black community festival 25 years ago, the last time we had a float in the parade. It never occurred to me that it would be the last one in two and a half decades.
The Seafair Torchlight Parade is the preeminent social and cultural affair of the year in Seattle. It is the only time that every racial, religious or social group has the opportunity to tell the rest of us something about themselves.
A float is a cultural and social billboard that can be historical or cultural, but it enhances other people's understanding about who you are. The African-American community has missed this opportunity for 25 years. We have missed an opportunity to display our past, interpret our present or project our hopes and desires for the future. An entire generation of our children have been born, raised and have children of their own and have never seen a float representing our community in this parade.
That is why I and others are working so hard to raise the $35,000 to get an African-American float back in the Torchlight Parade. It's going to be difficult to pull this off, but it's worth the effort.
To make it easy for anyone who wants to donate, we have a bank account at Chase bank, on the corner of 23rd Avenue South and South Jackson Street in Seattle's Central Area. It's under the name of the African American Float Committee. Because we are under the wing of a 501(c)3 organization, the Pacific Northwest Black Community Festival Association, your contribution is tax-deductible. We will give the community a running tally every week on who has donated and what we still need.
We will try to reach our athletes, our churches, our businesspeople and our social and political leaders to get them to contribute or help us find the resources we need. If you know any of those people or of anyone else who wants to help, pass the word that we need every dime we can get. I can be reached at (206) 852-1390 for further information.
This float is also about a willingness to partner with other groups to showcase our city and commit ourselves to doing our part to make it a more livable city. Our participation says that we have embraced being a member of this community, and we believe that we have a future here that must be nurtured and protected.
My hope is that we also put together a major Seafair Queen contest as well for many of the same reasons I have outlined for the float. Our participation is important - for our children, for our public image and for the city of Seattle.
I don't mind tough challenges, and sometimes I don't win the battles I fight. But losing doesn't scare me as much as being so afraid of failure that I no longer try. Let's take this challenge, put our pennies together and build this float, and let that be the cornerstone that we use to build a new and stronger relationship with this city and live up to the honor of living in Martin Luther King Jr. County.
Whining about what is wrong with our city, our family or community is one thing; doing what we need to do to make them better is another. This float sends a message that we know the difference between whining and working.
Charlie James has been an African-American community activist/writer for more than 35 years.[[In-content Ad]]