Two leaders, different styles


The following post was published in the New York Times. It was written by Peter Baker and Matt Apuzzo. 

By:  Peter Baker and Matt Apuzzo

The two men in open-collar shirts sat facing each other, papers and a BlackBerry strewn on a coffee table, sober looks on both their faces. One leaned forward, gesturing with his left hand, clearly doing the talking. The other sat back in his chair, two fingers pressed to his temple as he listened intently.

When violence erupted last week after a police shooting in Missouri, President Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. huddled on Martha’s Vineyard where both were on vacation. But as the most powerful African-Americans in the nation confront its enduring racial divide, they come at it from fundamentally different backgrounds and points of view.

Black Male Achievemnt: Public Allies Experts Advise the White House



African American men face pressing challenges that often prevent them from tapping into their full talents and capacities. That’s why in May of 2014, with the generous support of the Open Society Foundations, Public Allies brought together 30 leaders from our nationwide network to meet for three days in Washington D.C. for a Black Male Achievement Summit.

The Problem with Speeches from “Great” Leaders

I’ve gotten the chance to hear a few speeches from a few “great” leaders of today, and I have a slight reservation about what I’ve been hearing. If you ask me, there are two types of great leaders and they give two types of great speeches.







The first kind of leader is the Dr.-Martin-Luther-King-Jr. type of leader (or feel free to insert your favorite transformative historical figure—I recommend those of the Jim Crow or decolonization persuasion). What characterizes these types of leaders is the sense of moral and historical brevity that seems to imbue the very words that come out of their mouths. The speeches they give seem to strike somewhere at the indefinable space between their passion, and the spiritual economy of our hearts and minds. In essence, there’s something greatly at stake when they speak. And we, as an audience, feel the weight of the stakes, and are compelled to act. The words of these leaders are not just words. They are catalysts for change, and you feel their weight. These speeches take risks. These speeches are change agents because they have no choice but to be.

Then, there are these other speeches that I hear as of late.

What Makes Difference? The 99% and 1%

In the past few weeks I have observed the occupy movement show up in more headlines, gain substantial attention, and impact crips and bloods alike who identify as the 99%. In light of this movement I am led to wonder why this moment has been chosen as the breaking point for so many who feel disenfranchised. Furthermore, I question what the basis of such a movement must be in order to create and sustain the momentum we are witnessing with the occupy movement. The foundation of the occupy political stance as I understand it is about exploitation of the everyday person and lack of accountability of the elite.

While I am not able to assert that the occupy movement is a political stance colored by race, it does remind me of a film I watched about racism in all its ugly forms. Below is a link to an excerpt of The Color of Fear where Victor passionatelyexplains his belief that in this present day every man is not enabled to stand on their own ground.


How Can I Lead A Generation?

We hear it everyday, “Somebody should do something about…” or “this generation needs a good leader”. I have found that in my generation there is hope for such remarks. Many of my peers are not only in agreement but actively pursuing leadership in different ways from leading marches for a trauma center on the south side of Chicago to working Obama’s campaign. I am inspired by the power that we have as youth but also cautious because power without direction can be fatal. I find myself examining my role in this climate of change.

A recent experience in a school caused me to look my responsibility in the face.

Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations: Part 2 Leadership



There is a problem with leadership in America, particularly black America. From every angle when we think of our leadership there are three main themes (i.e., the problematic, the self-aggrandizer, and the bad).  Leadership is a tricky thing when you think about it. No one is at birth (here in United States of America) destined to be a leader.  Particularly for African Americans, how do our leaders become  ‘our leaders’ and then how do they become viewed by the larger society as leaders of black America?  How does black America come to find a space in which to critique and offer guidance to ‘our leaders’?

Barack Obama is the perfect example of the problematic leader. The problematic leader is one that gains power and position through his/her work in a particular (often times minority) community without being voted to that position.  As a result, he can never be checked by this community in a formal way (i.e., power of the vote).  Yet and because, he gains access through the formal (i.e., power of the vote) to a majority community (read: often times white) he becomes loyal to not upsetting the apple cart of the community that will use the formal process to remove him.  This is particularly, true in Obama’s case. At every turn he uses his race and the fact that there are no formal processes to check him for any transgressions (read: truth telling) against Black America.  As a result he chastise black America (without fear of retribution) while white America goes unscathed (because of fear of retribution). I first became concerned of this problem in 2008 while he was on his presidential campaign trail.

I remember on June 15, 2008 when he, before being president, made the truthful Father’s Day speech.    He rightful said “…too many fathers are MIA,…they have abandon there responsibilities…and the foundation of our families have suffered… no where is this more true that in the African American community.”  It was the Friar Roast heard round the world, and he was praised for it unlike Bill Cosby’s speech. The Apostolic Church of God’s black people clapped for a national (read: mostly white) prime time audience to view. Moreover, His self-help message knows no bounds as it spread over to Accura, Ghana on July 11, 2009 .  In both of his recent speeches (i.e., at the NAACP centennial celebration and press conferences about Professor Gates), President Obama’s panders (read: caters) to white America’s sensitivities and he blatantly disregards black America’s sensitivities.