This brief holiday weekend has allowed me to catch up on some shows that have been sitting on my DVR for a while. I must admit that I watched some mindless material before getting to recordings with some substance. As I sat here watching CNN’s “Black in America: The New Promised Land- Silicon Valley” I was brought back to thoughts I have had a number of times in recent years about preparing Black folks and other underrepresented minority groups for the political arena. We need organized and systematic programs to accelerate the learning curve in politics and make access easier to come by for young people of color with drive, ambition and ideas.
In Soledad O’Brien’s well put together piece she shows young Black entrepreneurs who are working to make a way for others to step through doors in Silicon Valley which are often closed to Blacks. They have provided a place for the upcoming aspirants to live and work. They set up coaching sessions, meetings and other activities to get the potential entrepreneurs ready for successful pitches of their ideas to executives in the tech industry. All of this reminded of my work in political science and my passion of being a scholar-practitioner working to help people get proper political representation.
About a month ago, I had the privilege of attending the NAACP’s Illinois Statewide Convention when it was held down the street from Augustana College at the I-Wireless Center in Moline, Illinois. It was an eye-opening experience. There is much passion for politics in the Black community. This was very evident from what I saw and heard from leaders of NAACP Chapters from around the state. But there is also a need for more education, information, training and preparation when it comes to understanding politics and the government.
There were leaders who were thirsty for information about the strategies used by political parties, interest groups and campaigns. There was heightened interest when the issue of candidate recruitment and training was discussed. I came to realize that the candidate recruitment and training that was done in other communities was not as prevalent in the Black community. Interest groups and other organizations can remain non-profit while doing such. That is as long as they do not promote partisan views in such training.
The same programs that are highlighted in Soledad O’Brien’s piece could be very useful when it comes to bringing more Blacks into the political process as candidates, campaign managers, lobbyists and other professions or positions. Many Black people are very interested in politics but do not recognize all of the in’s and out’s of gaining access, gaining trust and “working the system.” The information that is readily available in the “old boy’s network” needs to be available to energetic young people of color who want to get involved and represent their communities. This information combined with a thorough understanding of government structures and basic political science can prove to be invaluable.
The same information that would be able to be provided to potential leaders on a non-partisan basis could also prove to be very valuable to already-established leaders in the Black community. That could include ministers, NAACP Leaders, community organizers and others. People with prominent positions in the Black community would be of even greater benefit to the Black community if equipped with these skills and knowledge. None of what I am saying is to in anyway imply that there are not plenty of educated and highly knowledgeable individuals in these positions nationwide. But if it became more of an expectation the entire Black community could benefit. The resources are there, they simply need to be organized. There are Black political scientists all over the nation in organizations such as the National Conference of Black Political Scientists (NCOBPS) and other groups. Communities could tap into the skills of scholars in their midst. There are also many people with experience in local, state and national government who could be tapped to assist in bringing along the next generation. There is a real need for these accelerators. In months to come I will revisit this topic since the dearth of Black people in decision making positions on many levels will become more and more evident as we get closer to election 2012!