Am I not a man and brother?
Ought I not, then, to be free?
Sell me not to one another,
Take not thus my liberty.
Christ our Savior, Christ our Savior,
Died for me as well as thee.
Am I not a man and brother?
Have I not a soul to save?
Oh, do not my spirit smother,
Making me a wretched slave;
God of mercy, God of mercy,
Let me fill a freeman's grave!
As I reflect over the words of the proclamation carried by General Granger, in 1865 to men and women in the state of Texas, these words standout to me. “This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor" (General Order #3) Encapsulated in this order was the medicine needed for a racially sick country which held people as product. A country whose body was torn apart by a cancer of racism and revealed itself in a destructive Civil War. A change was moving throughout the nation and the answer to the question, “Am I not a man and brother” was to be answered.
General Order #3 announced you are “a man and a brother” by stating a change in relationship as the freedman and woman were to be viewed as possessing equality in terms of existence and ownership. We are unique and unrepeatable human beings. We are human beings marked with royalty and the potentiality to live remarkably. This is an absolute quality which can not be diminished by any legislation, incarceration, or dehumanization. Juneteenth marks a celebration in which the ears of black and white skinned human beings would hear an absolute truth, “You are equal.”
General Order #3 announced you are “a man and a brother” by stating a change in relationship between masters and slaves. Previous to the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation the relationship between these persons was one of White personhood and Black commodity. White personhood was able to participate freely in the economic, social, and political development of the small infantile nation. Whereas Black bodies were commodities, bought, trade, and sold to accomplish the development, cultivation, and sustainment of the new Egypt. Black bodies and White personhood related to one another in the form of a transaction in which White personhood extracted the emotional, physical, and spiritual capital from Black bodies to create a structure which would benefit the power of White Egypt. With the announcement on Juneteenth, Black bodies experienced a change of relationship as they heard they were qualitatively the same as their White counterparts. We are not commodities and cattle to be auctioned. We are creatures and a collective mass of human beings who can create, labor and earn a wage.
General Order #3 finally announced a change in relationship as participants in the market place. General Granger’s Order #3 impacts approximately 250,000 slaves in Texas according to Dr. Henry Louis Gates. The impact of a quarter of a million persons learning they would no longer be existing and functioning as free labor is without measure. Consider for a moment if 10% of these persons now have the opportunity to work, negotiate a price for labor, and receive compensation for that labor. The terms of slave and master begin to erode in Texas and the South for our common terms of employer and laborer. These persons now have the opportunity to function as laborers and dare we say new entrepreneurs who would lay the foundations for great enterprise efforts such Black Wall Street, Madame Cj Walker, and others. Our participation in the marketplace requires a reevaluation of our economic education and the support of more entrepreneurs who will own businesses and not simply patronize a business.
This qualitative change in relationship among Whites and Blacks, the labor context, and market place did not come without its challenges. There was and there would be opposition. Sharecropping, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow were all forms of opposition to the good news “We are human beings.” Opposition arises from those who benefit from the status quo. The beneficiaries of the status quo act out of fear over the loss of security, comfort, and affluence. Fear created the unjust economic practice of sharecropping. Fear created the inequitable practice of the Homestead Act in the which the federal government supported White brothers and sisters seeking to make a new life West while Black freedmen and women struggled to move freely with economic shackles still around their ankles. Yet it is the steady rain of heavenly plagues which begin to wash away the existing reality and reveal a fresh soil of new landscapes for many to enjoy.
We are men, women, brothers and sisters. Juneteenth only affirms what is already in each and everyone of us. We are powerful and remarkable image bearers of God. We are men and women who have a long lineage which does not begin in chains and the bowels of slave ships. Our lives begin on West African shores, North African landscapes, and in the shadow of great pyramids. We have the intellect of kings, queens, scientist, theologians, and entrepreneurs. Thus our relationship to one another should be one of persons who are actively pursuing opportunities and partnerships which uplift the wellbeing of one another. We have come from different families. We have ancestors from different plantations but we are here now…together. We are here now. And just as our forefathers and foremothers huddled together for comfort and courage in dark fields to sing praises to God in whose image they were made. We need to rally together around common economic interest to achieve economic goals for the common good. Leave this place with an commitment to find your way to improve the social, economic, political, and religious situation of your fellow African American brother and sister. But not only them…let us commit to being a people who provide such an influence to the state of Arkansas and our nation, all people will rise up and say with one loud voice…
“We are men. We are women. We are sisters. We are brothers. We will all die free.”
We are the image of blessed hands.
The universe with its millions of stars.
Planets, moons and nebulas from afar,
We come from blessed hands.
There are years of intense labor.
Final exams, passing grades and diplomas,
Found jobs, hard work, and unemployment.
But these gains and losses don't change the fact,
We are the image of blessed hands.
The water fall of children’s tears.
The sweet sound of first words.
Of soccer games, ballet recitals, movie nights, and leaving years.
Are the hopes of images made by blessed hands.
Blessed hands will bring peace to your home,
Establish love as the building block of relationships.
Realize the one who challenges you,
Is the one you hold most dear.
You are confident in the decisions you make,
And scared about the promises you will have to break.
Your smile is the image of daybreak,
Sunrising over the love you create.
But all of these come from blessed hands.
We are the image of blessed hands,
Whose lives are planted by the rivers of life.
We and all that we do are the products of blessed hands.
Hands that formed us in the belly of our mama’s womb.
Hands that laced our heads with every single hair.
We are the image of blessed hands.
Our journeys are shadow and light,
And on this road we will continue to be…
Faithfully, lovingly and respectably…
The image of Blessed Hands.
Dr. Martin L. King (1929-1969) stood as one of America’s most influential leaders in the twenty-century. Dr. King’s contributions toward the recognition of African Americans as human beings and participating citizens in the United States, represented a critical turning point in the history of the United States. Dr. King represented a strong example of an organizational leader who effectively communicates vision, supports that vision with intellectual depth, and implements self-critique in order to benefit those around him.
Transformational leadership consists of four behavioral categories; idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Bass, Avolio, & Atwater; 1996; Sun & Anderson, 2012; Yukl, 2013). Idealized influence represents a behavioral manifestation in which the leader’s behavior galvanizes a group of persons to achieve a particular vision through selfless acts, integrity of values and actions, and willingness to share in the difficulties. Bass, Avolio, and Atwater (1996) state inspirational motivation represents a leadership behavior in which a level of “meaning and optimism” which serves to press followership forward (p.10). The behavior energizes the skills of the group surrounding the transformational leader to accomplish a vision through “symbols to focus subordinate effort” (Yukl, 2013; p. 322). Transformational leaders communicate to followers and the larger context; language, concepts, and words to engage the intellect. A transformational leader illuminates the apparent inconsistencies in the given culture and applies an intricate level of thought, arguments, and persuasion to mobilize followership. The final behavior involves individualized behavior which manifests as development for future leaders. The individualized behavior works towards reformation of a people to arrive at a higher ethical behavior which has implications for the greater society.
The Transformational Leadership of King
Dr. Martin L. King Jr. lived as a transformational leader who demonstrated leadership behavior which mobilized diverse persons by a compelling vision; communicated a stimulating and diverse nonviolent philosophy; and conducted himself with a high level of emotional strength to lead the Civil Rights Movement and eliminate racial inequality. In 1956, Dr. King becomes a leader in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, followed by the cafeteria sit-ins of the 1960’s (Garrow, 1987). Dr. King’s signature moment is the “I Have a Dream” speech that he communicates in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963 within the larger context of The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (Godwin et al). Farris (2009) identifies how the sixties cannot be properly understood apart from the influence of Dr. Martin L. King and his work in the Civil Rights Movement. Dr. King’s behavior and actions offered one of America’s strongest demonstrations of transformational leadership which extended beyond the African American context and affected all aspects of the American human experience.
Dr. Martin L. King offered what could be described as “communicating an appealing vision, and uses symbols to focus subordinate effort” (Yukl, 2013; p.322). Dr. Martin L. King operated in what Brueggemann (2001) termed the “prophetic imagination.” The prophetic imagination involves the speaker in the living process of vision execution working for the realization of that compelling vision through “criticizing and energizing” (Brueggemann, 2001, p. 4).
The second aspect of communicating vision involves the usage of symbols to communicate the vision and focus efforts. Dr. Martin L. King’s ability to invoke a strong vision combined with words of visual imagery owed its genesis to the Black Church.
The symbols and descriptions Dr. King commonly evoked originated from the Bible such as, “let justice roll down like water” or governmental documents such as the Declaration of Independence which Dr. King stated was the “promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” These symbols worked to critique the existing situation and compelled listeners to see in some measure what the transformational leader desired to see as a reality.
The ability to influence extends beyond persons and includes the influence of events, contexts, or extends from a larger group. Dr. Martin L. King Jr’s appropriate use of power and influence created the opportunity to communicate intellectual stimulation which consists of Scripture, Gandhian philosophy, and human concern which compels groups and government towards a more just society. Dr. Martin L. King Jr. executed his will through the use of cogent, Biblical arguments on the larger stage of public speaking and his personal participation in nonviolent civil disobedience which represents the application of his philosophical approach.
Second, Dr. King implemented power in the form of conflict resolution. Dr. King’s involvement with the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and the bus boycotts represented an opportunity for Dr. King and his Southern White counterparts to engage in discussions to achieve larger goals.
The third manner in which Dr. King used in the implementation of power manifested in the large pockets of the Civil Rights Movement which acknowledged Dr. King as the leader of the movement. Dr. Martin L. King Jr. demonstrated through the appropriate use of power and moral authority, both shaped by Christian philosophy and Gandhian methodology to offer intellectual stimulation among many followers, the South, and the larger nation.
Emotional Stability and Maturity
Dr. Martin L. King Jr. crafted an approach of nonviolent civil disobedience, which compelled followers to illuminate the issues of segregation and to rescue the soul of the oppressor. This behavior is emotional stability and maturity. According to Dr. Martin L. King, he wrestled with fear and anxiety at the beginnings of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. King (1967) illustrated in some two years prior to his assassination his emotional stability found solace in God speaking the words to encourage Dr. King to stand for righteousness and truth with the certainty of God’s presence. Garrow (1987) comments, “the vision in the kitchen allowed King to go forward with feelings of companionship of self-assurance, and of mission that were vastly greater spiritual resources” (p.442). Dr. Martin L. King’s experience reminds the reader of Jesus emotional experience prior to the crucifixion (Matthew 26:36-46, English Standard Version). While Dr. King’s experience of emotional instability is qualitatively different than that of Jesus Christ, the experiences both contain the subjects under duress because of the situation and the responding encouragement of God.
Therefore, transformational leaders have a level of self-awareness about themselves which compels him or her to pursue personal care before proceeding to lead others to care for others. Dr. Martin L. King approach to nonviolent civil disobedience requires an emotional stability and maturity that demonstrates a care for other people.
Dr. Martin L. King Jr. represented himself as a transformational leader who demonstrated leadership behavior which mobilized diverse persons by a compelling vision; communicated a stimulating and diverse nonviolent philosophy; and conducted himself with a high level of emotional strength to lead the Civil Rights Movement and eliminate racial inequality.
Organizational leaders in diverse contexts possess the opportunity to communicate a vision that critiques the current situation which leads to the energizing of a group of people to draw the compelling vision into reality. Additionally, leaders have the responsibility to develop themselves and those around them in a manner that elevates intellectual capacity and emotional stability for the good of humanity.