On Coalition-building

I am convinced that one of the biggest obstacles to Afrikan organization and institution building besides individual egotism is the lack of understanding of what a “coalition” is. So many would-be leaders claim they want to do this or do that, create this or create that FOR THE PEOPLE. But when you start working with them, you find that they are really all about themselves and their interests and some personal agenda. In a sense, they actually believe their personal agenda IS the people’s agenda. They seem not to understand that for some of us this is not about them personally or their personal interests but the people’s and the community’s interest. When we become more concerned about ourselves than the people as a whole, we have erred. Each of us has every right to make whatever decisions you choose about our personal affairs, but that is NOT a coalition. When you join a coalition, you throw your personal issues into the hopper and the decisions that come out are not just about you, but about the mission and objective of the coalition itself. A lot of these egotists really don’t want a coalition on behalf of the people, but a STAFF where people work directly unpaid for them and their personal interests. That’s not a coalition. I always end up butting heads with them, getting dismissed, or resigning when I find out that folks are using the conception of community coalition to cover for egotistic self interests. If you have a STAFF, particularly a paid one, you make decisions and everyone just follows. If you have a coalition, the coalition has a mission, takes a vote, works through a process, and makes decisions towards the realization of the mission. You and I may not always agree with those decisions. Its about the mission and not about the personal agendas or personalities. I have often been a member of coalitions that chose to go in directions that I did not think was best. But the price of working with others is constraining your personal interests for the larger cause. My objecting to a group decision does not then give me the right to ignore the decision and just go off on my own. And if I do, I can not then expect the coalition to ratify my unilateral actions or the people to support me. You can go with the people or go it alone but not both. An Afrikan proverb says the would-be general who marches without the army of the people is just a well dressed fool going out for a walk.

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