“When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the Land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.” Jomo Kenyatta
One of the missing elements of the Black Conscious movement is a lack of leadership. I don’t mean the hyper-egotistical leadership that we see today, but genuine leadership that both encourages and commends the deserving while correcting the wayward with RIGHT KNOWLEDGE. In studying Black history, these are the leadership lessons that we should glean from those who have succeeded where we are failing.
This post is a long one, and is therefore divided into 3 SEPARATE PAGES. Make sure you click over when you are done reading each page!
Who is Jomo Kenyatta?
Jomo Kenyatta was an important and influential revolutionary in Africa. He is the one responsible for leading Kenya to independence and setting up the country as a relatively prosperous capitalist state. He pursued a moderate pro-Western, anti-Communist economic philosophy and foreign policy, oversaw a peaceful land reform process, built independent institutions, and oversaw Kenya’s admission into the United Nations.
During his reign, the country was peaceful and stable, the economy developed and grew rapidly and attracted high levels of foreign investment, and a Black Kenyan professional and business middle class was established. Born into the dominant Kenyan Kikuyu culture, Kenyatta became its most famous interpreter of Kikuyu traditions through his book, Facing Mount Kenya.
This post will examine the leadership behind one of the most successful African administrations of the 20th Century.
Leadership Lesson 1: Make a Name for Yourself
Kenyatta was born in 1890 with the name Kamau wa Ngengi. It wasnt until he was baptized a Christian and given the name John Peter that he rejected white culture and changed his name to Jomo. During World War I, able bodied Kikuyu were forced into work by the British authorities. To avoid this, Jomo took refuge with the Maasai, where he worked as a clerk. He took to wearing a traditional beaded belt known as a ‘Kenyatta’, a Swahili word which means ‘light of Kenya’.
By 1922 Kamau had fully adopted the name Jomo (a Kikuyu name meaning ‘burning spear’) Kenyatta. In that same year, he joined the East African Association – an organization to campaign for the return of Kikuyu lands given over to white settlers when the country became the British Crown Colony of Kenya in 1920.
A name is ones direct link to ones history, ones culture, and thus to ones psychological bearings. It was only after reclaiming his cultural name and beginning tradition anew that Jomo Kenyatta made the transition from John Peter to a revolutionary freedom fighter.
Leadership Lesson 2: Clearly Communicate Your Mission
Early in his rise to power, Kenyatta set out his 5 point Party platform. These 5 points were:
• The security of land tenure and the demand for land taken by European settlers to be returned
• Improved educational opportunities for Black Africans
• The repeal of crushing Hut and poll taxes
• Representation for Black Africans in the Legislative Council
• Freedom to pursue traditional customs (such as female genital mutilation)
His letter concluded by saying that a failure to satisfy these points “must inevitably result in a dangerous explosion — the one thing all sane men with to avoid”.
Organizational leadership must always be centered around a very specific mission. The Civil Rights movement here in America was successful due to the ability of its leadership to focus on a handful of objectives; repeal of Jim Crow laws, desegregation, establishment of voting rights. Compare hese objectives with the objectives of the Occupy movement.
Wait…what are the objectives of the Occupy movement??
Without a mission that is clearly communicated to and understood by subordinates, there are no markers to indicate whether the organization is moving in the right direction. With a clear and well-defined mission, your ability to attract supporters will multiply.