Cleve Francis
cardiologist, musician

Cleve Francis

Cardiologist; President, Mount Vernon Cardiology Associates, Alexandria, Va.; musician.

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Activism's new look

Q: Dorothy Height, the longtime leader of the National Council of Negro Women, died recently at age 98, prompting President Obama to honor her as "the only woman at the highest level of the civil rights movement." Do leaders of equal standing and notoriety exist today in any social movements? If so, who are the most successful? Has there been a change in the ways in which people seek social change?

There will always be leaders of the caliber of Ms.Dorothy Height, but rising to the level she achieved will be very difficult.

Back in the days of Ms. Height, the social environment was very different. At that time there was a need to lead millions of people who collectively had no voice. Thanks to such efforts, millions now have voices.

This same type of leadership was seen in the likes of Gandhi, Dr.Martin Luther King, Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the leaders of many other social movements.

Today, even though injusticies and inequalities exist, the world in which we live is very different. The struggle and resolution is very individualized, at least in this country. Many of the obstacles faced in earlier times have been "removed" and those that remain are overcome by individual efforts.

Our leaders are now found in very focused areas like education, religion, technology, politics, sports and entertainment, to mention a few. Most of the meaningful leadership is by individuals who through their own achievements become role models for those who choose to go in a particular discipline.

Because of the lives and effors of the Dorothy Heights of this world, we take for granted many of the hardships that they sufffered to get us to where we are now. Because of these individuals, we now have the opportunity to show that their efforts were not wasted.

By Cleve Francis  |  May 6, 2010; 4:24 PM ET  | Category:  Making change Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Thank you for referencing Elizabeth Stanton. In an age of blog activism much of our history gets lost. Stanton fought for broader causes that impact all of us whereas Susan B compromised the fight for women's rights and it took us another 50 years to regain the ground. Such is the way of blog activism. Voices are lost and heroes are made from snippets of information or funny utube videos. Podium speeches with substantiated arguments are considered too long and boring. I worry our fight for causes lacks the leadership, knowledge of history and analysis of facts needed to make solid decisions going forward.

Posted by: gnews2 | May 10, 2010 10:14 AM
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Activism of today is more decentralized, thanks to mass media and the internet. There will never ever be central figures like MLK, Height and others of the civil rights era. They planted the seeds in the conscious of many, who are now making their voices heard in many ways through the blogosphere, internet forums, political action groups.

Posted by: demtse | May 10, 2010 7:21 AM
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Activism of today is more decentralized, thanks to mass media and the internet. There will never ever be central figures like MLK, Height and others of the civil rights era. They planted the seeds in the conscious of many, who are now making their voices heard in many ways through the blogosphere, internet forums, political action groups.

Posted by: demtse | May 10, 2010 7:20 AM
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