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Stepping up

11/4/2009, 3:18 a.m.
“Man, it looks like we’re getting it together.”

Stepping up

An inexorable law of nature is that the younger generation will eventually succeed to the status of their elders. An efficient and organized society prepares for this succession. Unfortunately, life has been so insecure for African Americans in the past that it has been difficult to plan for change.

During the civil rights movement, there was substantial cross generational cooperation. Everyone understood that the effort to enact laws against racial discrimination required a massive involvement. Victory came in 1964 with the lawful end to racial discrimination in employment, education and places of public accommodation.

The focus then shifted to individual achievement by those eager to take advantage of the new opportunities. The black professional class began to grow, but there was no substantial improvement in the percentage of African Americans still struggling with poverty. There seemed to be a decline in volunteer public service as people became overwhelmed with the demands of professional and family life.

It became apparent to Dan Rivers, a graduate of Dartmouth College and an investment advisor, that the black leadership in Greater Boston was aging and there was little talent waiting in the wings. He called together some like-minded friends to form an association to cure the deficiency. Thus was Nexus Alliance born.

There is a great need in black society for a group of competent men to step forward and assume responsibility for more than the welfare of their individual families. As Rivers has pointed out, they also must burnish the image of the black male that has been so tarnished by the major media. But in order to be most effective, Nexus Alliance must have a well-conceived battle plan.

There is always an overwhelming desire to relieve poverty, but it would be wise to resist this temptation. As Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “For ye have the poor always with you, but me ye have not always” (Matthew: 26-11). This is an admonition to focus on even higher principles than programs that will temporarily alleviate the pain of poverty.

During the civil rights movement it became clear that the objective was to establish laws to make racial discrimination illegal. The strategies to achieve these goals were lawsuits, political action and non-violent demonstrations. Also, some boycotts were used, such as the Montgomery bus boycott. It is important to note that blacks lacked the power to make the change in society. Blacks were limited to applying social pressure for change.

The goal now is for economic development and the establishment of political clout. The task confronting Nexus Alliance is even more difficult than the civil rights days. There is no constitutional requirement that African Americans become wealthy and politically powerful. The law prohibits undue interference with those objectives, but it is up to people, working together, to attain those goals. Nexus Alliance must develop the strategies to provide the motivation for success.

There are many strategies to promote the economic, political and social advancement of African Americans. Nexus Alliance must carefully decide which ones are most practical for their organization. However, since the history of blacks in Boston is so rich, the Alliance would be well advised to use the historical successes of the past to inspire the future.

Nexus Alliance has assumed a great responsibility and thoughtful Bostonians pray for its success.