By Danette Mitchell
Vallejo NAACP Vice President and upcoming City Council candidate Hakeem Brown recently delivered a no-holds-barred speech last week at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration hosted by Hogan Middle School in Vallejo. Brown caught everyone’s attention when he began his speech stating that Pres. Donald Trump cannot be blamed for Vallejo’s problems.
“Trump cannot be blamed for low parent participation, the school-to-prison pipeline, lack of job opportunities and affordable housing or livable wages – he’s 3,000 miles away,” Brown said.
Brown went on to describe President Trump as a distraction because he is not on the school board or part of the local decision-making arena. “He’s not on the school board or the City Council and we must keep our eyes on the prize.”
While mentioning Dr. King’s dream, he stated the dream is deferred due to the disparity in black and brown schools, business and politics. “If you are not at the table, then you’re on the menu,” he said, while adding that the African-American community has been the main course for too long.
Brown shared his own vision with the audience in creating “diversity in our local politics and local leadership that is reflected in this room.” He stated the next generation does not see enough local leaders that look like them. “It’s time for change, and it’s time to build,” he said.
Brown recognized students of excellence in the audience. “We want to celebrate our honor roll students, but also lift up our kids in the hood.” Brown acknowledged that no student is perfect, but the ones struggling still have a chance to be nurtured and trained as the next generation of young leaders.
Brown emphasized that the Black community should choose its own leaders and does not need others to speak for it. He also stated that when Black leaders are attacked the community should stand with them.
“We do not need anyone to speak for us because we can speak for ourselves. The community does not want or need your (non-Black) leaders. We will pick our own leaders and if our leaders are not to your liking, oh, well.”
Brown said the Black community can collaborate with others, but will not surrender control (to non-Black) leaders. He also emphasized that the African-American community must control its organizations like the NAACP, Black Women Organized for Political Action and the African American Alliance. “If the community allows others to infiltrate and control our organizations, we become puppets to be used at their will.”
Brown’s call to action list included the need for Black people to vote in every election and teach young people voter education and its impact on the community. “We will work on behalf of the Black community and hold elected officials accountable, asking them, “What are you doing to help the Black community?”
In conclusion, Brown stated he anticipated the audience expecting a “Kumbaya” speech. “But, I am not your Negro. I am a Black man in America who is fed up with the status quo. It is time to dream big, dream bold, dream of acquiring power and true equality. It is time to fight for our community, our children and our future.”