Our Black Leaders
The historical civil rights movement may have come and gone, but the effort for new civil rights continues.
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Though many of the people here consider themselves black leaders, most simply consider themselves leaders. “We got where we are today with leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, but now our influence has to expand to a broader and more economically driven community,” says State Senator Margaret Rose Henry. So the work toward true civil rights has shifted from winning voting rights and equal housing to economic justice. Reverend Lawrence Livingston refers to effective leadership as being “black enough.” “If you can understand the nature of oppression, whether you are white, Hispanic or any other ethnicity, then you are black enough.” That means black leadership today extends beyond color and ethnicity.
As chair of the Wilmington HOPE Commission, Tony Allen oversaw an increase of resources for troubled Southbridge: a family crisis therapist at its elementary school, a juvenile probation officer for Southbridge only and an outreach worker. Says Allen, founding president of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, former special assistant to U.S. Senator Joe Biden, co-chair of Governor Jack Markell’s transition team, and chair of Bank of America’s United Way campaign, “While my mother and stepfather wanted me to have more than they did, they instilled in me a sense of never getting heady over my accomplishments and always finding ways to give back.”
Sylvia Banks and Harold Stafford
Sylvia Banks of Wilmington, Harold Stafford of Camden and Bernice Edwards of Milton (below) direct the African American Empowerment Fund of Delaware through Delaware Community Foundation. “From the beginning, I wanted to be part of an initiative that focused on causes important to the education, social and economic empowerment of African-American Delawareans,” says Banks. Stafford, the fund’s new chairman and a past secretary of labor, hopes the commitment “will help leave Delaware’s African-American communities in better condition than they might have been when I moved here 35 years ago.”
Don Blakey and Reuben Salters
Currently working with Delaware State University to develop a theater program, Don Blakey has followed 20 years as a Caesar Rodney School District administrator by serving as a state representative and writing and directing a theatrical exposé of the Harlem Renaissance, which became a five-day festival at Delaware State. To find actors, Blakey turned to an old friend, Dover Councilman Reuben Salters, who founded the Inner City Cultural League in 1991 to use the arts “to raise academic standards and make better citizens.” Salters founded the Sankofa African Dance Company in 1994, which performs throughout the region and at the annual African American Festival in Dover.
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