November 01, 1998

Obstructed Leadership

"This community needs an enema"

East Harlem finds that many of it's youth of the 1970s have reached a plateau in terms of the leadership positions open to them. Many of the leaders of the 1970s who took over from the leaders of the 1950s, have not groomed or left to make room for those who have come after them. Instead, they stay on, holding on till the last, trying desperate against time to hang on to power. This has left the youth of the 1970s with less than the best experience from which to eventually take over if and when their time comes, and also negates the community from receiving a fresh new approach to the communities' problems. The generational obstruction is seen mostly in the social programs and in the political world of East Harlem. This articles will endeavor to bring up the topic of another group which is seen as "holding us back" (us being, the youth of the 1970 and of course those of the 1980s).

Social Workers and East Harlem
It has been felt by many activists and residents of East Harlem that the time for help from Social Workers has past. Social engineering has proven a failure and the macro theories held dear by social workers (based on "change the environment and you change the man"), have proven ludicrous. Change a man's heart and you will change a man. Another objection to (especially to Anglo ) social workers is that they are not of our culture. Being removed from our culture is a hindrance in their ability to "help us". Which brings us to the next point. Who is anyone to help us? Who are they that they can help? Sometimes social work seems to help the social worker more (provides a purpose in life and a way to feel good about themselves), more than they help the general population. Though a lot of their early work did help those of the first half of the 20th century. This is not an indictment of all social workers. Just a general call for them to begin their exodus out of the communities in which they are now entrenched. Especially, African-American and Hispanic communities. We are ENOUGH, we can and now know enough to help ourselves. By staying in our communities, Social Workers are in affect saying the we are not enough and that only through their intervention can we hope to make it. We are not perfect, but many of us have college degrees and the expertise needed to advance our own groups.

Social workers would work best if they facilitate others in helping themselves than in trying to execute the actual change. You can't really want something for someone else more than they can. So if we can phase out non-indigenous social workers and only be facilitated by the remaining ones, change may actually come about. For all the East Harlem Institutions who employ social workers, please keep the above observations in mind. Social workers are not evil, it's just that they get in the way of our own maturation, our being able to make mistakes and learn from them and from our evolution as ethnic-Americans.

Political and Social Program Leaders
Another area needing some advice are the older generation of leaders who serve East Harlem in the political and social program world. Hundreds of 30-40 year olds are still playing second fiddle to many community leaders, most of which have had leadership position since they were younger the the current second fiddles. It seems that not only did they not groom new leadership or provide a mechanism for them to advance "through the ranks", but they stubbornly remain and atrophying the leadership skills of a younger generation.

This trend is especially noticeable among the clergy, former anti-poverticians, elected officials and so on. At least with elected officials, one can mount a campaign and eventually take leadership away from them. But clergy and the rest are a much harder group to take leadership away from. It is an old axiom in politics that no leaves their post to let you have their position of leadership. It must be taken from them. It seems to be the only way in politics. Like the social workers, this is not an all out indictment of all East Harlem leaders, just of the ones who wish to stay on forever. This author is over 40 and 25 years from retirement. It would be nice to participate on a higher level before social security starts sending me checks. Lastly, we look for no validation from you older leaders.

About US
We self-validate. We are quicker to learn new technologies and have of course put them to use. We are the bridge between your world and the world that comes after us. A role all generations play. It is past the time to request your absence, this is more of a way of saying, we are coming, how you choose to leave will be your business. We mean no disrespect, but being self-respecting we claim for our generation the right to participate more fully and to participate at the top. We wish to give the world a few turns, to see if our ideas will work, to make our own mistakes and to learn from them. We also seek to create mechanisms to allow the next generation to take their rightful place in our communities and in positions of leadership. Retire, enjoy the last years of your lives in the full knowledge that we have learned a lot, have been taught well, have been self taught and are enough to get the job done.

This is not a matter of petty jealousy. Some of these leaders have been around since they were 25 or 30 years old and they are now approaching 70 and 80. It is selfish not to groom the next generation and inexcusable to stand in their way, leaving only when death takes you. Or to have used us to get your work done throughout the years and now deny us the right to lead. So East Harlem leaders, please, look at what you are doing and don't make it necessary for us to create the infighting so that our generation can have it's say. jbr

I know I will get a lot of flack from the "old timers" and "Social Workers" (and I haven't even begun the teacher's union article yet). But what are we to do? Have you skip a perfectly good generation just so that you can stay on. yeah right....dream on... The youth of the 1970s need to become a laxative, clearing the way, to ensure that positions of leadership open the current obstruction on their way to lead our community.

Posted by Jose at November 1, 1998 01:16 AM