When my future grandchildren’s children look back on the year 2016, I’m sure they will go through a full range of emotions from “wow, grandad was working” to “what in the blue hell was America thinking to let Donald Trump be President” to “who is the Black Conscious Hulk Hogan?” 2016 has given as much as its taken and we still have a few more days to go to get blessed with something outrageous. I hope that when my great grandchildren look back at this year, they share some of my feelings and thoughts about all things in life, most recently, this whole beef happening in the PanAfrikan community (aka Hoteps) between “Dr”. Umar (The Prince of PanAfrikanism) Johnson and Sara Seti! To say its comical is an understatement. I won’t spend too much time discussing how utterly ridiculous and contrived these videos actually are because you truly have to see them for yourself. The amount of one-liners is pure internet gold:
“What are you, Randy Sara Seti Savage?”
“You the Black Conscious Hulk Hogan?”
“I’m the Shawn Carter of this shit! The Christopher Wallace of this!”
Like I said, pure gold. Both of these men have a following albeit, I do believe that Dr. Johnson has a much larger group of people that hang onto his every word. In his video, Dr. Johnson lamented on the fact that he’s constantly booked with speaking engagements and even a friend of mine went to a recent program he lead in Jacksonville.
As funny as these videos are, I had to sit back and reflect on the number of people that truly believe that these men are “leaders” in the community and how often, we as people, are quick to put others on this pedestal of greatness. Recently, on a Student Affairs page, a prominent “leader” took the time to voice her desire to work with “whole, happy people” and that elders in the higher education community are watching this particular page to pay attention to who is saying what and in some cases losing out on jobs.
Understandably, the backlash was immediate and the lines were drawn. There was a lot of people that agreed with what this person said (majority White) and those in disagreement could have identified as being part of a marginalized group (LGBT, African-American/Black, Latinx, etc). In some discussions I’ve heard, there were people that noted that others shouldn’t “attack” the writer of the post because of all the work she’s done and her background. It was almost as though they made her seem untouchable. To be honest, the writer is going to go back to their job and continue living their life because they’ve “made it”. They got the terminal degree, the great job, and benefits that many in student affairs strive to obtain during their careers. And there are others in student affairs that are deemed untouchable or “student affairs celebrities” that everyone gravitates towards and has to like.
Personally, I do not know the writer of that post, Dr. Umar Johnson, or Sara Seti, however, I question at what point did we make these people “untouchable”? When did we give so much power to these “celebrities” that they dictate how we move, dress, and interact? I’m sure that they’ve done something positive things in their respective realms, however, I believe that we give these people too much power. As Jay Z nicely noted in his infamous song, Blueprint 2, “cuz a n***a wear a kufi, it don’t mean that he bright. Because you don’t understand him doesn’t mean that he’s nice…”
We put these people up on these pedestals and forget that they, like us, are human too. We get surprised when they do something that we deem as “out of character” or get offended when they don’t do what we “need” them to do. Whether they’re spitting homophobic ideologies or telling a community of people to be “happy and whole”, we have to hold them accountable and not make excuses for them.
Of course, let’s hold them accountable for what they say and do, but also let’s hold one another accountable to being the leaders that WE need. We don’t have to look to other people to be consider a leader in a community, we can do that ourselves.