I have not joined the Coffee Party, but it's because of a schedule that did not allow me to attend the meetings. But I will be there shortly. But in the meantime, I still wonder about what we are trying to achieve and whether any of us have a really clear idea of what kind of America we are trying to create.
The conservatives in the Tea Party movement have the same problem: How do you take so many different groups with so many different visions of America and create a real movement? It's easy to come up with a list of things you are against because anger at something is the real reason people get up and get active.
But it's a lot more difficult to talk about what you are for, and that is where I hope that the more liberal organizations do better. When you say you are for something you must be specific about what it is and what you want to do with it. When you are mad at something, all you need to do is criticize what other people are doing, and oftentimes, you really cannot give a clear idea about what they should be doing.
Rethinking and restating
That was the reality of the health-care debate: a lot of rhetoric from the right wing about why the bill was so bad and very few ideas about what should be done.
It's really time for America to have a clear agenda from the liberal to independent wing of the Democratic Party. We need to clearly articulate what kind of vision we have for America if the Democratic Party is to hold on to its majority in the House and Senate during the midterm elections.
Within that party framework it's important for the various racial, religious or social groups to also define what they want from the party and what they can offer to make the whole thing work.
For example: To say that African Americans want jobs does not really tell anyone anything. Sure, we have the highest level of unemployment, especially with black males, and if that is addressed, it will have a huge impact on the unemployment figures, and reduce crime and the size of the police force.
But what we want still does not help anyone help us. We need to be clearer than that and be able to say, We need jobs that fit (1) the educational level of a population with a high school dropout rate of nearly 50 percent, (2) a population that has a high degree of males with prison records and (3) a population that needs to be retrained for the jobs of the 21st century. All of these issues have a major bearing on what kind of jobs are available or can be created for this population.
So if we look at those issues and realize that the current job market cannot or will not accommodate this population we need to have the ability to rethink and restate what we really mean.
According to economist Thomas L. Friedman, in his New York Times column, a report by the Kaufmann Foundation stated that nearly all of the new jobs between 1980 and 2005 were created by firms in business five years or less. Obviously, that means that a huge pool of new entrepreneurs must be developed within the African-American community because study after study shows that new businesses tend to hire people of the same ethnic or religious background.
That means that we need a World War II style Marshall Plan for the African-American community to jump-start these new businesses, and we need a new relationship with the banking community so they will loan the money necessary to get this job done.
So just that simple request for jobs turns into something far bigger, and now we need to work with the banking community and governmental agencies to create a framework to make all of this happen. But someone or some group must have a vision to articulate these things (or adopt an old vision of the Black Dollar Days Task Force) and have the ability to sell that vision to the community and to the powers that be outside our community.
But we cannot get the support we need from the Democratic Party or anyone else to do these things if we don't have a clear vision about where we are going and clearly know what we can put in the pot to make this happen. How can our religious and social institutions, businesses and professionals work together with the banks and governmental agencies to create the right framework?
On top of that, we need to be able to say that we can put our share of voters out on Election Day and contribute thousands of dollars to various candidates. We need to work together collectively, pool our resources and learn to form partnerships to help get these businesses started.
What we want and what we get is often decided by what we do or don't do for ourselves. So when we go to have that drink of coffee with an activist trying to create a different agenda than the Tea Party's, we need to bring more than what we are against. What we are for and what we are willing to do to make it happen will be the glue that binds all of the groups under this new tent into a real movement.
Charlie James has been an community activist/writer for more than 35 years.[[In-content Ad]]