In reading the book Here I Stand by Paul Robeson I learnt that I think it is important and we need to keep our eyes on the prize. No-one is excused from the responsibility that comes with blackness. While we have had many celebrities that have helped in moving the fight forward we have to always remember that all celebrities, politicians, or political parties will not always do what is best for Black people.
Some do, some are frauds, some try in their own way usually in a manner that is not harmful to themselves as an individual. However as a marginilized community we always have to keep in mind that those that are trying to change institutional problems are also restricted by those same institutions.
Today you can think of Colin Kaepernick, he tried to do speak out against an institution but was he punished for it. I think of Zanu PF or Fidel Castro they tried to challenge the international community and their populations have suffered dearly as a result.
Stopping oppression is not the job of one person it is for all of us to do what we can, when we can and in regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in.
Here are the quotes that stood out to me in the book:
“Reed is dead now. He won no honours in classroom, pulpit or platform. Yet I remember him with love. Restless, rebellious, scoffing at conventions, defiant of the white man’s law – I’ve known many negroes like Reed. I see them everyday. Blindly, on their own reckless manner, they seek a way out for themselves; alone, they pound with their fists and fury against walls that only the shoulders of many can topple” pg 13Here I Stand by Paul Robeson
“And here there were white working men, too, many of them foreign-born, who, unlike the Princeton blue-bloods, could see in s workingman of a darker skin a fellow human being ( a lower paid worker, of course, and perhaps a competitor for a job, but not a person of a totally different caste” pg 17
“Later I came to understand that the negro artist could not view the matter simply in terms of his individual interests, and that he had a responsibility to his people who rightfully resented the traditional stereotyped portrayals of negroes on stage and screen. So I made a decision : if hollowed and broadway producers did not choose to offer me worthy roles to play, then I would choose but to accept any other kind of offer.” pg 31
“Furthermore, as long as other Americans are not required to be silent or false in reference to their interests, I shall insist that to impose such restrictions on negroes is unjust, discriminatory and intolerable” pg 66
This idea is called “Gradualism.” It is said to be a practical and constructive way to achieve the blessings of democracy for coloured Americans. But the idea itself is but another form of race discrimination: in no other area of our society are lawbreakers granted is an indefinite time to comply with the provisions of the law. There is nothing in the 14th and 15th amendments, the legal guarantees of our full citizenship rights, which says that the constitution is to be enforced “gradually” where Negroes are concerned. Pg. 75
“It is easy for the folks on the top to take a calm philosophical view and tell those who bear the burden to restrain themselves and wait for justice to come” pg. 76
And we should you do more than listen to speeches and then go quietly home. I was spokesman should go to the White House and to Congress and, backed by the massed power of our people, present our demands for action. Then they should come back to the assembled people to tell them what “the man” said so that the people can decide whether they are satisfied or not and what to do about it” pg 94
“If today it can be said that the Negro people of the United States are lagging behind the progress being made by coloured peoples in other lands, one basic cause for it has been that all too often Negro leadership here has lacked the selfless passion for the people’s welfare that has characterized the leaders of the colonial liberation movements. Among us today is a general recognition – and a grudging acceptance- of the fact that some of our leaders are not only unwilling to make sacrifices but they must see some gain for themselves in what ever the do. A few crumbs for a few is too often hailed as “progress for the race.” To live in freedom one must be prepared to die to achieve it, and while few if any of us ever called upon to make that supreme sacrifice, no one can ignore the fact that in a difficult struggle those who are in the forefront may suffer cruel blows. He who is not prepared to face the trails of battle will never lead to a triumph. This spirit of dedication, as I have indicated, is abundantly present in the ranks of our people but progress will be slow until it is much more manifest in the character of leadership.” Pg. 103
“Negro womanhood today is giving us many inspiring examples of steadfast devotion, cool courage under fire, and brilliant generalship in our people’s struggles; and here is a major source for new strength and militancy in negro leadership on every level.”