Nothing turns me off about Black Organizations (including Black Fraternities and Black Sororities) like being preached to as soon as I walk in the room, having to “worship” the organizational leadership without criticism, “falling out” over finger pointing, and then having con-artist “leaders” skip town with my dues money.
Unfortunately, most Black organizations suffer from one or all of these turn-offs and are a waste of time.
*For the purpose of this article, Black organizations are those dedicated to addressing social issues, not for-profit businesses.
Lets break it down:
Any organization based on religion is doomed to fail. Religion is a subjective (personal) issue, and if a would-be member isnt a “believer”, he or she is automatically excluded from membership in the organization. Do you want to have to convert to Islam to join the NOI?
Even if two members were of the same general belief system, idiotic “I know more about the Bible/metaphysics/Dwight York than you do” fights lead to fall-outs. Malcolm X said it best in his speech, The Ballot or the Bullet
“Were we to come out here discussing religion, we’d have too many differences from the start and we could never get together. So today, though Islam is my religious philosophy, my political, economic, and social philosophy is Black Nationalism. You and I — As I say, if we bring up religion we’ll have differences; we’ll have arguments; and we’ll never be able to get together. But if we keep our religion at home, keep our religion in the closet, keep our religion between ourselves and our God, but when we come out here, we have a fight that’s common to all of us against a [sic] enemy who is common to all of us.”
Personal note: I dont want to be preached to when I show up to talk about how we are going to solve the Black male prison problem. I dont want to hear about prophesies in your Bible that talk about Obama being the savior that will set all Black folk free. I wouldnt even know what version of the Bible you would be talking about in that situation. Fun fact: there are hundreds of different versions of the Bible, with hundreds of excluded books. Here are just a few
The Septuagint – 250 A.D. Written in Greek
The Vulgate- 400 A.D. First version of the Bible which is canonized at the Council of Carthage in 400 A.D. Written in Latin
The Luther’s German Bible- 1534 A.D.
The King James Version- 1611 A.D. This is the most widely used versions however it has large number of errors given that none of the writers had a decent understanding of Hebrew!
The Revised Standard Version- 1952 A.D. Literal translation into American English which used the earliest possible text
The New International Version- 1960′s & 70′s A.D. This is a very good contemporary English version. Another good contemporary English version is New King James Version (NKJV)
The Young’s Literal Translation is as close to the originals as you can get, translated by Robert Young in 1898 A.D.
The Codex Alexandrinus (A) – Also contains III & IV Maccabees
The Codex Vaticanus – Except I & II Maccabees and The defaulter of Manassah
The Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph)
The Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus – Includes Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus
The Chester Beatty Papyri
The Dead Sea Scrolls – Including the books of Meredith and the Apocrypha
on, and on, and on.
So I don’t care how much you think you know your Bible..if we grabbed the Vulgate version, or quoted passages from the Apocrypha, you wouldn’t know ish. (Meanwhile, brothas rot in jail and we continue to fall behind the rest of the world by every measurable standard).
2. Personality Over Policy
Many Black organizations become cults of personality. Organizational leaders are turned into prophets and messiahs whose every word is beyond reproach.
We see this in the Nation of Islam with Farrakhan, and even more with Noble Drew Ali and the Moorish Science Temple. I have witnessed people verbally tarred and feathered on social networks and during BlOG Talk Radio shows for disagreeing with something said by Noble Drew Ali that was completely opinion based. Shortly after that, a devoted and productive foot soldier is disenchanted, and a “falling out” happens.
The organization then suffers from attrition and ultimately the only members left are the hard-core “believers” who battle amongst themselves over passages in the Bible, Koran, or The Holy Tablets. No real change is brought to Black men and women, no social issues addressed, no problems solved. Just spectacles of Black men in turbans or bow ties raising hell to no one in particular.
Think about what happens to the organization when its leader dies. People that were more committed to the personality than to the organization itself end up jumping ship and the whole thing dies. Malcolm X and the OAAU? Gone. Dwight York’s Nuwabians? Gone. Huey Newton’s Black Panthers? Gone. If you have any real love for the mission of your organization, you dont let it become a cult of personality.
It is wrong to assume that because an organization is headed by a charismatic leader, that it is an effective organization. The same is true of politicians. Pay attention to policy and procedures, not personalities!
Re-read Policy, Not People
3. Lack of Accountability
Everyone in the organization must hold themselves accountable to the standards and performance of that organization. Doing so empowers the members and managers of that organization to focus on solutions and commit themselves to its success.
While everyone will gladly take ownership of a success, ownership and responsibility for dealing with the problems must be addressed as well. Pointing the finger elsewhere is not only irresponsible, but counter-productive and leads to “falling-outs”.
Management must be willing to say, “This happened while on my watch, and if I wasn’t willing or able to change, then it’s my responsibility and no one else’s.” Members must also accept responsibility for their role in the failure, analyze the flaws in the plan or operation, and move forward with improvements made.
Being accountable is a crucial step to overcoming the obstacles that face all organization. Without someone taking ownership of a problem, nothing changes.
4. Poor Management
It seems that nothing tears black organizations apart faster than poor management.
Tight control has to be kept over the administration of the organization…especially organizational finances. Marcus Garvey’s UNIA was plagued by financial problems after his death because unscrupulous leaders came in and pillaged organizational coffers. Members of any dues-paying organization have to be completely clear about what their money is used for, under what circumstances it can be used, and what their return on investment is. For reference purposes, here’s an example of procedures from my Accountability Group:
Dues and fees will only be collected by the Treasurer immediately following accountability segment and before he delivers the Treasury Report. Immediately following group session, Treasurer will be accompanied by moderator to deposit all funds collected. Deposit receipt will be placed in Administration Binder. Ledgers will be balanced using Quickbooks and made visible on the group Intranet.
Aside from finances, clear, concise, and inspiring mission statements and bylaws should be the bedrock of all group activities. If you want to screen out a BS organization, ask them what their mission statement is. Leadership should know it by heart, and members should be able to speak intelligently on it. If they cant, don’t waste your time. Find out how to write a mission statement for your organization here.
Transparent and intelligent procedures combined with a clear mission statement gives members confidence that your organization is legitimate and effective. Again, this is lacking in many organizations that I have been a part of. I’m not saying that the way you do business should be publicized (see: Identifying a Black Informant), but members should know that you have things under control. Here’s a great reference on getting started: How to Organize & Manage Your Organization
Observation of these issues are the direct result of my participation in dozens of different Black organizations, Fraternities, and the management of United Black America, Inc. The information here should help you create and manage your own Black Organization…and it is ONLY through the power of collective activity that we can hope to improve the condition of our people.
Go and fix your ish!