The Protocols of Social Action In The Black Community

By David Rambeau

That we are facing challenges there can be no doubt. How we respond to them is the key question. Let me delineate our usual, our ritual responses. Not the ones that Sun Tzu listed in his book, The Art of War. But so what.

Marches – We do long ones all across the country. Detroit, NYC, Selma, Chicago. You name the city; it has had a march.  Marches on top of marches. From here to there and back again. Without rhyme, reason or significant results. They are led by self-styled leaders, always strutting out front in the center, self important. Self-selected mostly.  At other times simply chosen or appointed in back rooms by a cabal of other self-styled pretenders.  No thought of the concept of the anti-leader.  Or just plain follower-ship. Like leading from the middle of the pack or from the rear. So when you’ve seen one march you’ve seen them all.  Don’t take my word, do one. If not yesterday, today, then fifty years hence.  After a march everybody goes home satisfied. They’ve thrown steps or words at the problem. If held outside, there’s litter everywhere.  Then comes the party or parties. Lots of laughter, hollering. Why not. Play is a good thing. Necessary for health. So is walking.

Speeches – These are rendered by so-called leaders, comedians, e.g. Dick Gregory, some hustlers – Cornell West types, locals (you already know the usual suspects and wannabes) and those from out-of-town, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, etc. Pose for the cameras, leaders. Get ready to perform. Places please.  Of course, they’ll take up a collection. Then leave town. See you when the next crisis comes. We have problems or challenges in search of speeches. We have speech-makers in search of problems. What is the answer? Ranting, raving and rhetoric. Posturing, posing and performing. Full of rhymes and metaphors. Ok.  Now what. Nothing. No minutes taken. No review. No follow-up. No evaluation. No financial accounting. Heard enough of that. Too much in fact. We are not deceived.

Praying. My every breath is a prayer.  So you know I believe in prayer. I don’t need any help breathing so I don’t need any help praying. When I used to go to Detroit City Council meetings an elderly woman who wore Easter Sunday hats would attend and offer a prayer.  One-minute Pugh, our city council president, would let her pray on…and on. Didn’t do him much good.  He was forced to resign under accusations of improper behavior and was last seen waiting tables in New York.

Celebrations or commemorations We do tons of these which feature ear-shattering Drumming, Dancing and Singing. The favorite song. Not Que Sera. Too existential. Not Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Too phlegmatic. The clear winner, the dirge, We Shall Overcome….someday. And, of course, more speeches.

Lie-ins.  We have a new social action, the lie-in. Who came up with that? Someone in Ferguson, Mo. to bear witness to Michael Brown who was murdered by police and left to lie in the street for four hours. Somehow it migrated to Detroit for the Detroit Institute of the Arts protest.  Why it was used here I’ll never understand.  The only thing one could think about lying on the ground protesting in Detroit is ”What am I doing here?”  The homeless do lie-ins all around the downtown, but they do it for good reason. 


During winter on E. Jefferson, a stone’s throw from downtown, the homeless did a tent-in in a park. The Mayor stopped that in a hurry.  Police implemented the removal.  No downtown tent village while the International Detroit Auto Show is in progress.  No way.  Another form of Urban Renewal is Negro Removal, the 2015 version.  
Sit-ins. At lunch counters.  Another relic from the 60s. I do mine at the Rosa Parks Transit Center downtown and on E. Jefferson  For hours sometimes waiting on the bus. Did a sit-in at a bus stop recently for two hours, forty-one minutes. At least the area was clean.  The transit center is so dirty city officials ought to take her name off of it.

Recognition, tributes, and awards ceremonies with more speeches, certificates and plaques.  But not many parades.  Too much work. Making costumes and exhibits. Storage and plans. Construction and transportation.  Too much like work.  

Threats.  Recently Sharpton threatened to do a hunger strike.  With all the obese people in the black community who obviously love to eat I doubt that that idea will gain much traction, especially with the bar-b-que season coming on.  And in Flint a coalition of pastors threatened a lawsuit about the filthy municipal water.  Sure.  
There’s a story about threats.  Two fellows were having a heated argument.  Finally one pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot his adversary.  So the adversary said, “Are you going to shoot me?” “No,” the gun-man said.  “How insincere,” was the response.  That’s the problem with Sharpton and the pastors; they’re so insincere.  Just do it.
So what are we left with?  No reading, references, research or writing. No critical or comparative analysis. No history, no discussion, no science. We suffer education to get a job, not a vocation, not knowledge.

No change. 1960 or 2015….The more things change, the more they remain the same. Are all of these protocols part of our cultural DNA?  I believe that after 400 years they are, that preachers, politicians, poets and lawyers can’t change their modus operandi.  It’s who they are.  With no signs of change on the horizon these will remain our protocols for social action.  

David Rambeau is the producer/host of the television program, For My People, which airs on Saturday mornings on Ch. 50.  He is also the publisher/editor of a litany of websites collectively titled Concept East Institute. He is a member of the Saturday Irregulars which meet weekly from 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. at E. Jefferson & E. Grand Blvd. across from Belle Isle.  

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