I’m taking a risk and playing the race card.
Where, oh, where is the black moral majority?
There was a time when blacks stood on solid religious grounds to uplift our race, even when that entailed overcrowding pews to take on the national Democratic Party and Southern Democrats who crowed, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
There was a time when men like Lawrence Guyot, a native of Pass Christian, Miss., went from the Bible Belt to the Midwest to the Northeast raising Cain, reminding blacks and whites alike that America had long ago decreed freedom and justice for all from sea to shining sea.
The death of Mr. Guyot, a voting rights, civil rights and D.C. statehood activist, stands as a loud reminder that opportunities for a black moral majority are at hand.
The question is who stands at the ready?
Mr. Guyot was 73 years old when he died last week, and like a lot of aging black and white Americans of his generation, he had been bruised and battered by the batons and fists of angry segregationists and lawmen.
He also was among those countless blacks in the movement who landed in the nation’s capital in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, determined to leave a deep and wide racial footprint.
And they did, from electing Walter Washington as the city’s first black mayor and Marion Barry as school board president to making sure that a black firebrand named John A. Wilson would become chairman of the D.C. Council.
Indeed, the black political gains made in the District of Columbia during the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s led to the beginning of the solid middle-class white and black strongholds now perched comfortably inside the Beltway, as well as in burgeoning Northern Virginia and in Maryland.
The faith community led the way, while today the moral black majority remains undefined.
Mr. Barry, a strident leader like Mr. Guyot, is still around, but the decline in black moral leadership is obvious, even though Barack Obama will be around another four years.
Many are the growing number of black U.S. politicians who become Democratic embarrassments, from Kwame Kilpatrick in Detroit to Kwame R. Brown in the District.
Yet in the case of U.S. Rep. Allen B. West, a respectable military veteran, conservative and one of only two black Republicans in the U.S. House, black Americans do not stand as his phalanx because he is a Republican.
That speaks volumes, while here in the District, stakeholders await the word of federal prosecutors who could announce that our current black mayor, Democrat Vincent C. Gray, is a criminal, too.
Blacks were killed and jailed to get the right to do things small — like drink from a water fountain — and large — like vote and become president of the United States.
Soon we will come together to pay homage to Mr. Guyot, who was no shrinking violet even as his body gave way to heart problems and diabetes.
As Keith Silver, president of the D.C. chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said of Mr. Guyot: He brought “down south” service and commitment “up south.”
Perhaps focus should be placed on a single key word: leadership.
Leaders become leaders naturally and by design.
The role of providence in such organizations as the SCLC is obvious. The role of Mr. Guyot in founding the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to upset the national party’s segregationist ways was by design.
How many more black leaders must be lost before we take a moral stand and redesign black leaders, whether their party designation is Democrat, Republican or other?
Seems this is the time for a reckoning among blacks — the time for a moral majority of blacks to preach to and begin seriously grooming a new generation of black leadership.
Our leaders should become our leaders by design, not by chance.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.