goto Appendx main menu A Black Manifesto :
Darell W. Fields
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Now I am just beyond the pulpit. Here the soothing voices of my spiritual family are silenced. They are silenced by their pursuit of  an unobtainable comfort,  their lack of self-worth, their lack of self-pride, and their refusal to participate in activities that may be described as unbecoming. Regardless of which master they believe themselves to be serving, they crouch in the shadows of both: on the one hand, a moral authority seemingly having answers to the most profound questions, and on the other, a more tangible persona who controls aspects of day-to-day survival. However, this scenario provides only a simplified version of reality. In another reality I find myself, at least my black self, serving more than just two masters. There is not only God Appendx 1 page break 20 | 21and money, but any number of wonderful, beautiful, and awful things in between.  A more appropriate rendition of Matthew 6:24 would be: "No black man can serve two masters; he must serve at least this many and more." 

The two-master scenario is fathomable only from the pulpit, but beyond that place, how am I to reach such an ultimate simplicity? This is possible only if one is willing to construct or reconstruct a voice on the spot at any given moment, rather than adhere to the monolithic reinterpretations of the minister or the master—especially when these seemingly opposing forces are one and the same. To provide instantaneous clarity to any situation, one must not only nurture the voice but speak it as well. To do so allows one to assume, at least for a moment, the authorial position of the masters. Any rule, any law, must first be spoken before it is written and deployed in some more efficient manner. The infinite and pervasive reality of rulers' power is that their words became law and their thoughts the fine print. It is ludicrous and a waste of time to belittle and rail against the ruler if one is not prepared to offer an ideal voice in resounding opposition. If one wants to change the world, or at least some small part of it,  one must be willing to speak and use his own words and be guided by his own passions. 

This is particularly true of the black voice. The stereotypical singularization that occurs when it is assumed that we not only all look alike, but think alike as well, must be shattered both from within and outside lines defined by color. Therefore my voice, or any black voice, should be understood as singular—as one utterance of many but with the power to bring about resolute action. 

I remember the day that I dropped the African-American label forever.
But what is this blackness that should speak or remain silent? It is obvious, at least to me, that the term "black" is embodied with infinite meanings; if one assumes that such meanings can be isolated, he or she will be sadly mistaken.  I have begun to pay close attention to newscasts and other "formal" patterns of speech and have noted the ongoing construction of euphemistic language that attempts to veil how we feel about ourselves and how others see us. In these instances, the term "black" usually refers to some criminal person or activity, or to some type of repression by the establishment, or it is used as a manifestation of the pervasive "example" theology that sustains the belief that all of us exhibit specific types of behavior or condone particular constructs of thinking. The term "African-American," usually considered interchangeable with "black," most often refers in reality to "other blacks"—law-abiding individuals who go to church (similar to my own), aspire to higher education, and pay their share of taxes without it being necessary for them to ask for governAppendx 1 page break 21 | 22ment assistance. This term is used to represent the epitome of "good blacks." In the back of my mind, I am certain that this is nothing new and that this ideological split has occurred elsewhere. I myself have been named and renamed (Negro, black, African-American) at least three times during my lifetime. Nobody asked me. 

For awhile, I was one of the "good ones." I followed instructions. I did what I was told. I never spoke out of turn. I never questioned authority. I was a "credit" to my people, a role model for youngsters. I was a conscientious worker. I was a conscientious Christian. I was independent (in a mere financial sense). I was civil, even when circumstances did not require such consideration on my part. I was pleasant. I never initiated discussions I believed to be controversial. I was patient in all circumstances.  And, in this sense—in the sense that I was living up to everyone's expectations but my own, in the sense that I hoped to live in a world where race did not matter and was conforming myself to those expectations without dealing with my own day-to-day realities—I was one of the good ones. I was an African-American and I embraced the term religiously—that is, until I returned to my home, my mother's home, after seeing the world from the vantage point of the ivory tower. Until that moment I had never thought to critically question those situations or circumstances that found it necessary to rename me. 

My father, or at least the man I called father, used to say "the strongest man is the one who's left standing when the fight is over." In a not-so-recent visit back to the place that houses my childhood, I was reminded of this statement. The buildings most prominent and most numerous were liquor stores, funeral homes, and churches. I wondered why the church maintained such questionable company when it had taught us—me—to avoid such relationships. But in listening to my mother speak during visits to her home, the place that houses my childhood, she reiterates these interwoven themes incessantly. She speaks about the death of my father, or at least the man that I called father. She speaks about a brother who, as she sees it, drank himself to death. She speaks of another who ought to stop drinking before he too kills himself. She speaks of the loved ones who have died under other, more tragic circumstances. And most of all, she speaks of God and the church. My life is quite different from my mother's, the precious woman who raised me. Throughout my life she spoke of color only with pride, and emphasized how I should use it to nurture my self,  my black self. She spoke of how I should nurture that black self and protect it at all costs, under any circumstances. She never knew how much these teachings, these daily iterations, cut across the grain of those of the church.Appendx 1 page break 22 | 23 next page 

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