Making a pitch for tapping the power within

Opinion: Arlene Jones

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By Arlene Jones

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In 1857, Frederick Douglas gave his most memorable speech in Canandaigua, N.Y. Many parts of that speech have been quoted, and for good reasons.

My favor line is this:

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both."

More than 150 years later, those words are still as prophetic as when he first uttered them.

Today we find Austin and the black community in general in a struggle with power — both real and perceived. And far too often when the subject of "power" is applied, it is always in the sense of that power being used against us as opposed to highlighting the power we have within ourselves.

If you look back at this past November election, the black community all across this country demonstrated its power in the purest and rawest of forms. Against all odds, the black community came out in massive numbers to vote.

We paid no heed to all the talk of voter ID laws and possible voter suppression. Even the possibility of long waits in line at the polls didn't diminish our quest to re-elect the president.

It is also very interesting that very little talk has gone on about the power of the black vote as it applied to this past election. Rather, political pundits have gone out of their way to talk about the Hispanic vote and the Asian vote. It has become quite commonplace and even fashionable to overlook our vote.

As the year 2013 approaches, I am going to focus this column on things the black community can demand and get. Because "power" can be both tangible and intangible, my push will be for both.

Some things that I will focus on will be large issues while others may be small. But pebbles can become mountains if you have enough of them. Plus, small successes can become large successes if you go after enough of them.

I am hoping and sensing that others like myself are finally at the Fannie Lou Hammer moment of "sick and tired of being sick and tired."

And speaking of successes, we lost a warrior the other day when Rev. Lewis Flowers laid down his sword to go to the House of the Lord.

I can't remember where or how I met him, but he was a good friend, a respected colleague in the world of community activists and a genuinely nice person. His leadership was one of quiet resolve that got the job done. His smile was infectious and his laughter hardy.

His shoes now stand empty, and I hope and pray that we have young people in the community willing to step up and take his place. I send to his family my condolences. Rev. Flowers will truly be missed.

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