THE BLOG

Beyond the Charleston 9: A Call to Honor Our Community Leaders More

06/23/2015 03:13 pm ET | Updated Jun 23, 2016

I can spend all day vilifying and talking about a reckless and dangerous individual who carried out one of the most blatant acts of white supremacy in recent history.

But I would rather think about what has now become "The Charleston 9" and what they represented.

I can't ignore the strong connection this tragedy has with another American tragedy - the horrific 1963 KKK bombing of the 16th Street Baptist in Birmingham. At that time, the world was introduced to the "4 little girls" who lost their lives during an act of hatred. Nothing can stop us from wondering where those young black lives would be today.

Looking at who we lost this week during what many consider an act of terrorism, invaluable service is an understatement.

A state senator, a prolific community coach, a revered black barber are some of the staples that make black neighborhoods across the nation thrive.

It is a shame that most of the world and their home state of South Carolina will hear of their civic efforts after their death. Unfortunately, they do not have the privilege and the space to get publicly acclaimed for the often selfless work they do among a sea of celebrity spotlights and more "worldly" breaking news.

For the work they do isn't viral, trendy, or glamorous enough - and yet it is most likely impacting lives more.

Which has led me to the point of requesting that as a culture, we return back to honoring those in our very own communities who are putting in that work that goes unnoticed more.

Our brothers and sisters who are community organizers and activists that are ensuring that black lives matter way beyond just the hashtag and black t-shirts. The teachers and academics that are mentoring and educating our youth to think beyond just what they see on the surface level, but bigger. The local black politicians that we actually trust that are doing what is best for our survival and success. And despite our various levels of faith, the black churches and mosques that are doing the kind of civic and interfaith outreach work that strengthens us.

And yes, let's not ignore the ethical blacks in blue uniforms that protect us and the firefighters that save us.

For too often the only time we acknowledge them is the same time we mourn their loss. Too often do we hear about a fallen soldier or slain activist - it's never too late to appreciate their role and improving our society.

In a world where we celebrate celebrities and overrate them on their impact in our culture, let's stop taking for granted the real everyday citizens who step up to the plate when those same stars remain silent and bought. More often than not, we have seen that mainstream appeal works against ordinary people of color who are faced with systemic distress. Let's call it what it is - most black celebrities only show up to the party when it's safe and mutually beneficial for their brand.

But our community leaders are forever there before and after it. Where is their endless respect and praise if we can continue to spend our cash and attention to famous faces for just showing up?

The best way I can commemorate the legacy and lives of The Charleston 9 and many other angels, is to further proliferate the work and advocacy that they do.

Donate to help support the black churches and community centers in your neighborhood more than you do on the latest gadgets and accessories. Vote for more black leaders like Clementa C. Pinckney, who advocated for our protection while a Confederate flag still flew after his death. And start getting more familiar with the work and volunteering efforts of the leaders in your community.

These are tangible and proactive ways we can all make a difference. And just because we are still waiting for our national government and justice system to get it together - that's no excuse for us not to in our own way.

That is the only way we can further fulfill and promote their work for generations to come. I refuse to just seek justice for their deaths, but to also continue to push their efforts even broader. This is the only way we can truly reduce the stigma that projects that we are currently lacking effective black leadership.

To all those out there with blogs, websites, and publications - stop spending so much time gossiping about celebrities and more of it spotlighting the everyday folks who actually give a damn. It is fun to get a laugh in every now and then, but we also need not lose sight that across this country our very existence is being threatened.

Who is going to blog about that?

And lastly, let's not forget that the very pillar of black power came from our community leaders--Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, Bayard Rustin, Dr. King, Malcolm X, and many more. They weren't celebrities; they were everyday people we all can aspire to be.

Right now there is a young black leader in our neighborhood that embodies their spirit -- let's encourage that before it's too late.