Widgets Magazine

By J. Boney

You know, it’s hard to take constructive criticism from somebody who has never actually constructed anything. I’ve worked for people in Corporate America, the private sector and in the non-profit arena. There have been times where I’ve had to deal with people who went out of their way to either criticize my execution of a project, my handling of an assigned task or my leadership related to running the organization.

Being criticized doesn’t always feel good, but when you begin to take it personal, it can potentially stunt your growth and limit your ability to learn from the criticism and become better at what you do.

Constructive criticism is not a bad thing, however. Yet, I’ve found it difficult to receive constructive criticism from people who have always sought to critique me and my performance without offering solutions to help me. And more importantly, they had no real track record of ever having done anything significant or productive that allowed me to receive their criticism as anything more than unconstructive.

I grew up watching movies and television and I enjoyed “Siskel & Ebert & the Movies,” which featured film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel sharing their opinions about newly released films. Whether I agreed with them or not (and I often disagreed with one or both of them), it was always interesting to hear their arguments and to see them fight on camera concerning whether a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” should be given to a particular movie. I often would go see the movie myself to see if either analysis was on point. Many times, I concluded that they were not.

Today, many people are providing unconstructive criticism of the way many African-American individuals and organizations are responding to the issues that Black people face in this country every day. I found them to be as wrong as I sometimes concluded Siskel & Ebert were.

I want us to get out of our feelings and look at how we can offer some constructive criticism that can help Black people improve our current situation and address key issues.

As I look at the overall state of Black America, and the numerous issues we are faced with, I give props to the many individuals and organizations actually doing something to make a difference when calamity strikes or when we are faced with attacks – internally and externally.

We just experienced another epic flood here in the Greater Houston area, and if not for the herculean efforts of many grassroots individuals and organizations, many people would have experienced far greater problems. It was great to see the Black folks who chose to make a difference, but the question I have is this: why weren’t there thousands of other Black people out there to assist the flood victims on day one or beyond?

I have similar questions about other issues that have been affecting the African American community.

Why weren’t there over a 1,000 people at the rally or the various press conferences to get justice for Jordan Baker, an African-American young father killed because he was mistakenly identified as a criminal by an HPD (Houston Police Department) officer?

Why weren’t there over a 1,000 people at the protest or at the courthouse for Ms. Doris Davis, an 87-year old African-American woman forced into the Harris County Guardianship Program?

Why weren’t there over a 1,000 people protesting the closure and repurposing of countless schools in the African -American community?

Why weren’t there over a 1,000 people standing up for Kathy Swilley, a former HPD officer who was falsely terminated based on trumped up charges?

It is time for us to have a community-wide fire drill, like the ones we had in school, so that we can wake the hell up and get engaged. We will show up for concerts, sporting events, parties and even church functions, but won’t show up in numbers to display unity on the issues that impact us collectively.

In school or at work, fire drills are conducted several times a year to make sure everyone in the building knows how to get outside quickly and efficiently. Everybody in the building has to participate and the drills must be taken seriously. There is a pre-planned exit strategy that everyone is made aware of and are instructed to follow.

When I worked in the banking world, we would follow what were called “Morning Glory” procedures – a group of steps that at least two employees had been made aware of and that the rest of us were trained to follow in the event of an ambush or robbery. In the event of an emergency, not following those procedures could lead to a harmful or even deadly result.

We are in a really bad situation here in America y’all. We need to challenge the Black church –one of our most respected institutions – to get back to its original position of social justice and change.

There is no reason why, in advance of any major issue that the Black community needs to address, that the Black churches shouldn’t have a collective, pre-planned emergency preparedness plan to follow. Hell, I even believe that every Black church should establish a Crisis Response Ministry as a part of its overall ministry.

Some of the Black churches in the Greater Houston area have at least 1,000 or more tithe-paying members; some have memberships to 10,000 to 15,000. Now, envision this:

If Black pastors had a Crisis Response Ministry as a part of their overall ministry, and at least 1 percent of their tithe-paying church members were challenged and recruited to be a part of that ministry, can you imagine the impact they would have when called upon to show up for a protest, press conference, rally, court appearance, school board meeting, legislative hearing, city council meeting or major crisis?

I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I know that 1 percent of 1,000 tithe-paying church members is 10 people and that 1 percent of 15,000 tithe-paying church members is 150 people. If at least 20 of the hundreds of Greater Houston area churches of each size would do this, you would potentially have anywhere from 200 to 3,000 city-wide volunteers, equipped and ready to go when called upon at a moment’s notice.

When a house is burning down or a child is drowning, it’s time to move and act without having to have a meeting, three conference calls, a democratic vote and prayer. This can be done because it has already been pre-planned.

I hope my constructive criticism is received in the spirit in which it was intended – with nothing but love.

(Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Reach him at jboney1@forwardtimes.com.)