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By: Benjamin H. Wright 
at Washington, D.C. 
NAMD Workshop
October 27, 1967

The term or concept of "Black Power" is one that appears to be filled with unpleasantness for many persons. 

In the October issue of a regional magazine in Connecticut called the Vanguard, there is an article by a clergyman named Charles Sargent, Jr., which describes "Black Power" as he sees it. I'd like to paraphrase what he said about it:

"We live in a time when the word 'power' has taken on an all-pervasive connotation. Every facet of life has been related to 'power.' Our economic structure has become an example of 'Green Power.' The official staff of our political sub-divisions and their advisors are the 'power structure.' According to the tenets of our faith, 'all power belongs to God.' 'Power' is a gift which all persons and institutions hold in varying degrees. They can use it, abuse it or lose it. Because it is a gift, we are responsible to use it creatively. The failure to use one's power is an abuse of one of life's most precious gifts.

"The responsible use of power involves participation in the decisions of persons and structures which affect our lives, the lives of our families and the welfare of our nation and the entire world.

"As individuals, most of us are limited in the quality and quantity of our "POWER.' Thus, in order to be effective, it is necessary for persons with similar objectives to unite. Our nation was built by the creation and effective use of blocs of power."

Groups like the American Medical Association and any of the organizations represented in delegate are power blocs. Every individual and every group in a free and dynamic society such as our must have power. But, for the good of all, that power must be equitable both in terms of tension and extension.

The Reverend Doctor Eugene Callander of the Greater New York Urban League, in talking about the issue of power states that-"The white man in America has not yet accepted either the depth of his own racial bias or the repressive character of the society he controls. The black man has not yet accepted either his own human worth or the immense potential for social change implicit in Negro militancy.

"The concept of Black Power focuses on precisely these issues. Like any successful slogan, it is amorphous enough to provide a variety of popular interpretations. But there is a rough general agreement that Black Power is a movement to create among Negroes enough personal self-esteem and group consciousness to build a truly democratic political power bloc which can take its rightful share of our nation's economic abundance."

My twin brother, Dr. Nathan Wright, Jr., talks about "Black Power" in terms of black people understanding who they are-of the power of knowing that they are somebody. He, as do others, recognizes a basic fact:-
that the power derived from a sense of dignity and worth has been systematically stripped from black Americans-thus making empowerment of black people or "Black Power" a central or "top-priority" issue in America.

"Black Power", is the individual and group self-realization among-and assertion by-black Americans.

The second concept or term that I'd like to talk about is what we call 'white backlash." The very repeating of this term in any form, too, I believe, represents the great degree to which all of us have become victimized by an overpowering major culture that frequently distorts.

The term backlash implies a lashing back or hitting back based on another's provocation. "White backlash," then, would be a legitimate pursuit. However, even a cursory examination would show that black people were engaged in a lashing back at white oppression ever since they were picked up and brought to America in chains. Black Americans have hit back at the cruel and crushing lash wielded by a large part of our white society. What we are now led to talk about as so-called "white backlash," then, is no more than the intensified infliction of the same intolerable lash on the backs of black Americans ever since the founding of this nation. It is one aspect of the blatant misuse of white power.

So, within a framework of continuous oppression from a large part of our white society and the first efforts of a few black Americans to stand up with some semblance of unified power against this systematic victimization, I would like to spell out, in terms of Ben Wright's thinking-not Stokely's-not Rap's-not my brother's-some of the implications of this new-found sense of identity, the empowering of blacks, or "Black Power," and our long, hot summer.

We live in a country where we have a great regard for those who stand with dignity. Ours is a land which has sheltered the poor, but has never reached out to extend them power. It has, on the other hand, welcomed into power relationships only those who have unified and stood with power. 

[[image - black and white photo of a Vietnamese child and older woman crouching, the child with her hands over her ears]]
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