Reconnecting Individual Plight with Common Struggle
Well, he hands you a nickel,
He hands you a dime,
He asks you with a grin
If you're havin' a good time,
Then he fines you every time you slam the door.
(Maggie's Farm, by Bob Dylan)
Civil Society, which includes nonprofits, unions, and artists, needs a common vision that reconnects individual plight with common struggle nationwide. I was reinforced in this conviction by three articles that appeared Tuesday in my local paper, the News Journal of Wilmington, Delaware.
The first deals with the dearth in funding for Delaware non-profits, as reported by Mary Kress Littlepage, author of Philanthropy in the First State. According to the report, state non-profits lack the organization, financial stability and sufficient support from foundations, corporations and individuals to handle the state's growing needs. If this is true in tiny Delaware, U.S. banking capital and home to half the nation's corporations, it is replicated, I am sure, all across the United States of Maggie's Farm.
The second, an AP story by Brett Zongker, describes President Obama's salutary interest in the arts, evidenced by White House performances, arts workshops there, and an infusion of stimulus funds into the arts sector, which, according to the article, employs nearly six million people at a hundred thousand nonprofit art groups.
The last, seemingly unrelated to the other two, actually strikes the common theme: the atomized approach to the human condition that focuses on individual plight rather than social solutions to that plight.
The story touts a visit by celebrity scold Bill Cosby, who brought his personal responsibility message to inner-city youth at Wilmington's West End Neighborhood House. Author of "Come on, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors," Cosby asserted in an interview that "[s]ome people seem to use the fact that racism exists to create an inertia of entropy, adding that [s]ome 'poverty pimps' want us to not move to become unstuck."
Now, it is a recurrent myth that Black leaders from Frederick Douglas to W.E.B. Dubois, Martin Luther King, and Al Sharpton trade responsibility for victimology.
Not so fast on connecting the Cos to that myth. Maybe he agrees with Frederick Douglass in how taking individual responsibility can turn folks from victims to victors: "He who would be free must strike the first blow."
Striking the first blow is not the recommendation of Littlepage's nonprofit study, which was prompted by the Public Policy Institute, an affiliate of the state Chamber of Commerce. It prescribes more robust leadership so the nonprofit community can speak with a stronger voice to donors and local governments.
Don't expect John Taylor, formerly of the News Journal and now Institute Executive Director, to invite anyone to challenge corporate wisdom at the follow-up forum scheduled at the University of Delaware March 22 and 23.