Friday, December 9, 2011

Cousin Replaces Allison as Chair of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People: Now What?

Philip Cousin has been chosen to lead the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. During a brief speech prior to the vote, Cousin emphasized his service as a member of the Board of County Commissioners, the Durham Public School Board and twenty years as Pastor of the St. Joseph AME Church.

The pews at the Community Baptist Church were filled with Black residents of Durham County hoping to cast a vote to begin a new saga for the once powerful organization. This was their chance to voice an opinion related to who should replace Lavonia Allison, who stepped down after 14 years as Chairwoman. A few voiced the opinion that everyone should be granted a chance to vote. Only 24 people were allowed to vote due to the constitutions definition of active membership.

The constitution may have helped Cousin’s win the election. Allison voiced her support for Cousin, but it’s possible that many present showed up to cast a vote for Hester. The issue of contention with those who supported Hester was his commitment to the Durham Committee. Cousin has not attended meetings which didn’t set well among those who have been present over the years. Allison’s support of Cousin served as the passing of the torch to one capable of restoring integrity and galvanizing support among those who have walked away.

Many who backed Hester fear the connection between Allison and Cousin. Could this be her way of maintaining control by using Cousin as a puppet dangling from her strings? Hester is perceived as one who can effectively create distance from Allison. The perceptions that Cousin will be used by Allison both underestimate the character of Cousin and overestimate the influence of Allison. The endorsement of Allison should be construed as a sign of good things coming for the Durham Committee.

Among those interested in participating in the work of the Durham Committee, serving with Hester was never an option. Despite the good he has done, the need was for a complete break from the way business has been handled over the past 14 years. The Durham Committee has become depicted as a divisive body incapable of moving toward any form of compromise. It has been fractured by a leadership style and organizational culture that pits all things black against all thing that aren’t black. As a result, the Durham Committee has failed to generate interest among those fed up with a lack of productivity.

What the Durham Committee needed wasn’t within the organization. Cousin talked about formulating a plan, following through and holding leadership accountable. That’s what has been missing, a lack of clarity of vision and purpose that get’s people excited about participating. The Durham Committee was suffering due to an assumption among those who held on the best they could. The strength of the Durham Committee is not its historical bearings. It’s not the command of blackness. The Durham Committee is not significant due to the solidarity among those who share the same hue. Its vision and purpose that makes the difference. That has been missing.

Allison and Hester represent an antiquated methodology when it comes to activism. The Durham Committee has failed to solidify collaborative efforts among other groups with similar visions. They have failed to energize a collective body around a vision beyond who gets elected for public office. More is needed than black folks serving on the school board.

The black community has been strangleheld by an old assimilation agenda that needs serious revision. The Durham Committee needs to fast forward to a world that has evolved and adapted beyond the old protest songs of the movement. It’s time to recognize those weeping in the valley. They have no clue regarding the battles for leadership of the Durham Committee. To all that I say, shame on all of us. Shame on us for fighting over who has the right to vote to lead the organization. Shame on all of us for getting stuck on maintaining what was needed long ago while failing to see what is required today.

Hester represents an outdated assimilation model for community engagement. Fight the white man, fight for black owned businesses, and keep the enemy away from what belongs to our people. There is a time and place for that form of conversation, but wait a minute. Do you see your Latino brothers and sisters who are suffering to maintain life? Have you noticed the poor not benefitting after you get your candidate into public office?

It’s time for massive change in the way black people function in leadership. It’s time for communities of faith to change. It’s time for leaders to change, and, yes, it’s time for the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People to change the way black leadership is viewed in Durham.

Do your thang Rev. Cousin. The foot soldiers are coming home.

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