It seems every couple of weeks or months we have the same conversation: Do uptown clubs discriminate against black people? I don't doubt that some club owners don't like black people coming into their clubs, just as I don't doubt that some restaurants don't like black people coming to eat. We can't determine whether people accept us, but we can demand that they don't block entry or give us lesser treatment.
Bottom line is that it's time we stop whining over bars and clubs and start making a real difference by working to change a system we see as flawed. Our cries of racism only show our powerlessness and inability to get our voice out. We run to Patrick Cannon, or to Power 98 whenever we have a problem or suspect racism, and neither of them can do anything about it. Cannon is a retired civic leader; Power 98 is a radio station focused on providing the soundtrack to our daily shuck and jive.
It's time we black people became leaders; not just complain about issues, but drive decision-making bodies to right the wrongs. We have to get involved with Center City Partners, Charlotte City Committee, Leadership Charlotte, the Charlotte Chamber, the Rotary Club, the Arts and Science Council, the Afro American Cultural Center ... the list goes on. You want to create a more diverse downtown -- then we have to go to the people directing the growth.
I want Power 98 to get on the radio and hold a leadership drive to get black people involved. Bring together all the nonprofits, city council committees, county commission committees and philanthropic foundations. I don't give a damn about the void of black people in clubs and bars downtown; I'm angry about the void of black people stepping up to get involved in this city. We as a "race" are in desperate situations in this city, county and state. There are some young people in schools who share our pigment and live out hopeless lives, void of direction, instruction and protection. We have a crime problem that is affecting our neighborhoods at an alarming rate. As much as the news tries to scare rich people about the violent crime problems in our city, in the end it is us killing us. We argue on the radio about clubs being open to us while less than a mile away our historic neighborhoods are suffering from gentrification that is concentrating poverty and many of our people in small geographic areas.
I am not angry at Stefan Latorre or Ménage -- I'm mad at us for marching and singing "We shall overcome" over a damn club, while our children, our communities and our lives continue to suffer. We need leaders, not clubs, and reducing the conversation of racism to whether a club makes me feel welcome or not is sad. We should be ashamed.
Instead of talking about clubs welcoming black people, lets talk about whether the library is welcoming of black people, whether the city council meeting, the school board, the county commission are welcoming of black people. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to make Charlotte better, and that doesn't happen by relegating our issues to e-mail forwards or town hall meetings amongst ourselves. Let's get active in changing Charlotte to give it a black perspective on boards, committees, councils and foundations. Let's don't just get entertained, let's get involved.
Decker Ngongang, a native of Charlotte, is a financial professional and committed citizen. He has previously written for the Charlotte Observer.