Sean "Diddy" Combs helped lead the "Vote or Die" campaign. Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter helped the United Nations with a "Water for Life" campaign. Tiger Woods has a learning center to encourage students to pursue fields in science and math. Oprah Winfrey has done so many good things it's hard to keep up.
But, on many degrees, these efforts remain under the radar. And, subsequently, they may be under the influence as well.
By under the radar I'm talking about within the African-American community.
For example, when a certain radio/TV show host says a racial slur spurring calls for his firing and CNN appearances by Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the like it seems as if we're all behind it. Even if we don't completely agree with Jesse or Al, the black community is certainly talking about what just happened. And we're all putting in our two cents.
But when Diddy is trying to get young black people to vote or when Jay-Z is encouraging us to conserve water or when Tiger Woods is trying to improve science education, our community fails to provide traction for these issues to become important to the African-American community.
Why is this? Is it because racial slurs have more influence on us than concern for the environment or education? I need evidence to the contrary.
Sometimes I wonder if this simply means that we would rather gravitate toward issues affecting us in the media (i.e. racism, classism, etc.) because it's much easier than to acknowledge our lack of wide success and influence in the political sphere.
Barack Obama is the only black U.S. Senator. Deval Patrick is the only black governor in the country. Even the Democratic Party doesn't have any black leaders...just look here: http://www.democrats.org/a/party/ourleaders.html.
So while we have famous entertainers and athletes standing up to support pivotal issues facing 21st Century America (and with all sincerity, thank you!), we'll need more African-Americans to join them.
In short, the black community's radar must have a wider scan. Otherwise we'll remain under the influence.