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Self-Development & Community Development ARE ONE & THE SAME THING…

27 May 2011 No Comment

african american children smiling

Here’s an excerpt from my upcoming book, where I talk about community development and why I think it’s not happening the way it should be. I’m using the segment here to jump-start a conversation, so please add-on with any ideas you have after you check it out:

Self-Improvement: The BASIS For Community Development

Ever seen the movie Belly??? Take a close look at the film, and you’ll notice Nas’s character (Sincere, the one who wises up and seeks to escape the life of crime) reading this small red & white pamphlet called, “Self Improvement: The Basis for Community Development.”

cover for the movie belly starring nas and dmxThe pamphlet is actually a study guide based on a speech Min. Farrakhan gave back in 1986 with the same title. (Check it out here)

Now I’m no NOI member or anything like that, but the title stuck with me as soon as I heard it, and as I became more of a social activist during college, I also became more aware of the power inside this idea. Here’s what I mean:

Let’s Break it Down

The world is advanced by individuals who REALIZE and ACT UPON the possibility for advancement. The individuals who see potential in their environment and take it upon themselves to make that potential a reality are the ones who initiate growth, and the individuals who see a problem in their environment and dedicate themselves to solving that problem are the ones who initiate change.

There’s no magic to community development: things get better when people take responsibility for making them better, and only certain people are willing to take that responsibility. Even mass social movements and large-scale organizations are founded by, centered around and channeled through “drivers” – the individuals who hold themselves accountable for creating results.

african american driving car

So This is NOT For Everybody

Again, all of us are NOT in this category. It’s particular people who expand what we know to be real and possible, and community development depends on these particular people to make the most of themselves.

Now if you’ve read this far into the book, you’re probably one of those particulars, so I don’t have to remind you to be a driver (because you already are one), but I do have to remind you to be on-point, because your ability to master yourself indicates your ability to contribute to the world.

No matter how great your ideas are or how well you can analyze a situation, if you can’t handle your own problems you won’t be able to help handle any communal problems either. However, once you have yourself under control, you become an asset to every community you’re a part of (family, friends, neighborhood, company, peer group, etc.). You’ll give off constructive energy and generate solutions by default of your existence, and you’ll benefit others with your presence alone.

You’ll Never Know the Impact You’ll Have

Also, what you do will affect people you’ll never meet. It’s actually impossible to know the full extent of your impact, because you’ll influence people both directly and indirectly.

drumline movie coverSome of the greatest books I’ve ever read – the books that inspired me to become who I am now – were written by other men centuries ago, and I doubt I’ll ever run into Charles Stone III (director of the movie Drumline, which, for me, set off a chain reaction of events that led to this book). It’s been said that the most trivial words can drastically alter a child’s life, and likewise, your contributions may drastically alter the life of people who have yet to walk the earth.

None of this is to say that you’ll become famous, or that you’ll even get acknowledged at all, because most greatness lives without proper acknowledgment.

For instance, computers are associated with people like Bill Gates, not people like Howard Mark Dean, the African-American inventor of the Personal Computer.

(Technically, Dean owns 3 of the original patents on which the PC is based: he’s the reason why we can see color on our computer screens, connect a keyboard and mouse to a central board, etc. Really, this man is the reason why average people like me and you can use computers at all.)

Nikola tesla scienceElectricity is associated with Thomas Edison, not Nikola Tesla, the Serbian scientist responsible for

>> alternating current (the electricity standard that lights up the entire world),

>> radio technology,

>> fluorescent lights,

>> remote control robotics

… and more. (Tesla’s been referred to as “The Master of Lightning,” “The Forgotten Wizard,” and “The Man who Invented the 20th Century,”)

It’s the Same w/ YOU

In the same fashion, you might spend two or three weeks working on a painting, then show someone your artwork only to get a response like “Oh – that’s nice,” right before they brush it off as if it didn’t even matter.

You might spend 2 or 3 months working on a music album, give someone the CD, and after listening to the first 30 seconds of the first 3 or 4 songs (if that), they’ll just turn back to the television and never play it again.

Think about it: most children don’t appreciate what their parents go through for them on a daily basis until much later on in life, and today’s generation is almost completely unaware of the sacrifices made for them to enjoy the freedoms they now take for granted.

Here’s Where I’m Going w/ This

People are rarely recognized for their accomplishments, but once you accept this and realize that you’ll probably NEVER be appreciated to the extent that you think you deserve, you’ll start gearing everything you do towards something greater than yourself.

In the grand scheme of things, you’re not that important, so take people not caring about you or what you have going on as a reality check

Once you’re no longer gassed up on ideas of your own importance or caught up in stories about your personal triumph in the face of “insurmountable odds,” you’ll start thinking about how you can align your own progress with the progress of the world instead.

african american elder

(This realization usually happens to elders – it’s what psychologists refer to it as “generativity”, the urge to “give back” to the generations ahead of you and make your life about more than just… your life. I’m mentioning it here so that in the future, when people treat what put your heart into as if it’s inconsequential, you won’t feel so belittled by it because you know your work is inherently significant. From that point, whether or not somebody else pays any attention is irrelevant.)

So now that you’ve advanced yourself, begin to take actions that’ll advance your community as well. Accomplish your goals not with the thought of getting acknowledged, but with the thought of expanding your environment beyond its present place.

Actually envision yourself as an evolutionary presence, and…” ~ fin

More coming soon…


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