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               “The test of leadership effectiveness is not what people do in your presence but rather how well they can do it without you being in the center of everything all the time. Equipping them to function without you results in them feeling empowered and creates space for you to focus on doing what is necessary to sustain the life and vision of your organization. Steering the ship all the time by yourself may look impressive to onlookers but limits you and your followers from doing more, being more, and becoming more.” ( Gil Duncan, IV) 

Some words are worth repeating and recalling as guides to daily living.  Quite often such words are associated with well-known figures, but some of these gems have been uttered by those who dwelled among us as was the case with my mother who, when I was growing up in public housing and doing without many things, taught me “The price of the hat ain’t the measure of the brain!”  She also advised, “Once a task has begun, never quit it till its done.  Be the task great or small, do it well or not at all.” 

Below, organized around two themes, is a list of some Black words worth remembering.  After you have read them and, with a request that they do the same, please add wise words and share with your friends. 




1.      TONI MORRISON:  “I tell my students, ’When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.’”

2.      KAMALA HARRIS:  “My mother had a saying: ‘Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last.’”

3.      ANGELA DAVIS: “The process of empowerment cannot be simplistically defined in accordance with our own particular class interests.  We must learn to lift as we climb.” 

4.      MARTIN LUTHER KING JR:  “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”  “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”

5.      JOHN HENRIKE CLARKE: “It's time for Black people to stop playing the separating game of geography, of where the slave ship put us down. We must concentrate on where the slave ship picked us up.”

6.      FANNNIE LOU HAMER: “You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.”

7.      W.E.B. DUBOIS: “The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.” 

8.      BARACK OBAMA: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.  We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek.”

9.      FREDERICK DOUGLASS: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

10.  MAYA ANGELOU:  “You may write me down in history; With your bitter, twisted lies; You may trod me in the very dirt; But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”



1.      MALCOLM X:  “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”  “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth.  They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power.  Because they control the minds of the masses.”

2.      MAE JEMISON: “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”

3.      AUDREY LORDE: “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”

4.      MUHAMMAD ALI: “I am America.  I am the part you won’t recognize.  But get used to me.  Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours, my religion, not yours; my goals, my own… get used to me.”

5.      ANNA JULIA COOPER:  “Only the BLACK WOMAN can say when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.”

6.      CARTER G. WOODSON:  “If you can control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.”

7.      MAYA AGELOU:  “Hey Black Child; Do you know who you are; Who you really are; Do you know you can be; What you want to be; If you try to be; What you can be”

8.      LEROI JONES / AMIRI BARAKA: “The Black Revolutionary Theatre should force change, it should be change…   and if the beautiful see themselves, they will love themselves…” 

9.      RICHARD D. MOORE: “Dogs and slaves are named by their masters.  Free men name themselves.”

10.   HARRIET TUBMAN: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer.  Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

Although the authenticity of a saying attributed to Harriet Tubman is questionable, the statement is nevertheless worth repeating, "I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves."  Oh, the progress that might be made today if people freed their minds of so much that oppresses them!


Jack L. Daniel

Co-Founder, Freed Panther Society

Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media

Author, Negotiating a Historically White University While Black

November 1, 2019

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