Noted lecturer and educator Haki Madhubuti, in Orange County on Tuesday to commemorate the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., said black Americans must take control of their own destinies if they are to defeat racism and thrive in the 21st Century.
“African-Americans have got to take control of their lives on every level of human involvement, and that means becoming responsible for the decisions that we make,” Madhubuti said in an interview before delivering a speech Tuesday night at UC Irvine.
“Ideas and creators of ideas rule the world, and I think it is safe to say that the ideas and decisions African-Americans have responded to in the last four to five hundred years have not been in our best interest.”
As keynote speaker for UCI’s seventh annual Martin Luther King Jr. symposium, the Chicago State University English professor, who is also publisher of the Third World Press, the oldest black press in the nation, said it is imperative that African-Americans reflect frequently on the struggle of their ancestors.
Madhubuti said parents should turn their homes into personal learning centers where children find out about their heritage.
“Our history is a long, painful and rich one that our children must know, and they won’t find out unless African-American parents take the Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck characters off the world and put up their own heritage, which is a far cry from Disneyland.”
Madhubuti wrote a recently published book, “Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous?” that addresses the current problems facing black males in America today, including drugs, prison and gangs.
To combat many of the negative situations facing the African-American community, the former poet-in-residence at Cornell University added that entrepreneurship combined with a strong family base must be a vital part of African-American existence in the 21st Century.
“If you study history, you will find that American wealth and power was in part built on strong family business and still is,” said Madhubuti. “But this does not exist in the black community, mostly because of the false reality of integration. African-Americans have got to have control of whatever businesses that are in our neighborhoods. Be they candy stores, barber shops, what have you, they must be ours. Malcolm X said these same things 30 years ago, and they are still true today.”
Madhubuti regularly referred to Malcolm X, whom he called his hero, and the Muslim leader’s philosophy of self-sufficiency and self-determination.
Still, Madhubuti praised King for giving his life for his beliefs and the advancement of black Americans, and said recent evidence indicating that King plagiarized his doctoral papers does not diminish King’s contribution.
“Historians have and will continue to try to discredit King as a man, but he was just a man like any other man, with faults and weaknesses,” Madhubuti said. “We can’t let that make us forget that he was also a man who fought and gave his life for his people, and no one can ever take that away.”
Madhubuti spoke adamantly against war in the Persian Gulf.
“We are talking about an armed force made up predominantly of people of color fighting people of color over a problem that is an Arab problem,” Madhubuti said. “You didn’t see the Arabs coming over to this side of the world when we invaded Panama and Grenada. I think sanctions should stay in place and be given a chance. If we have to wait for them to work in a country as ruthless as South Africa, then we should wait now.” Madhubuti said the only war African-Americans should be fighting is the war against racism in America.
“African-Americans, and in particular African-American males, have been fighting a war for the last 200 years,” he said. “We all need to realize that racism is not only alive and well, but a growth industry, and that’s war my people can’t afford to lose.”