Masses Leading the Leader

root - Posted on 02 June 2003

by Leroy F. Moore Jr /Illin’ And chillin’ Executive Director of DAMO

It's a common trait to follow the rules of your family, your household and society at birth or at a young age. Once you enter this world your head and all of your senses are fixed upward from doctor to mother to teacher to supervisor or boss for guidance, advice, information, rules and some times material items until you become the person giving advice and guidance. What makes the title so interesting is that the two, the masses and leader need one another but the masses has the real power in this relationship.

If you look at history you'll see that the masses were and are leading the leaders. Slaves led President Abraham Lincoln to act on the issue of slavery. Rights movements or any other movement have to have masses of people. From the masses comes the birth of leaders. Leaders can't do their work without the knowledge, foot power, voices, struggles and determination of the masses. The masses controls the leader but once the leader separates or overlooks the concerns of the masses then the masses must split from the leader and start their own movement. Does the leader need to know everybody or certain people that have the same goals as he/she has in the masses? What happens when the leader can't communicate and have different issues than the masses? Splitting from the leader is the subject of this short essay.

I've read, studied and researched very closely civil rights movements in different communities’ i.e. African Americans, women, gays, and lesbians and individuals with disabilities and I noticed that every one has a ladder and are very tunnel vision in the beginning. Although civil rights movements demand civil rights and equality for all, they often leave great numbers of members at the first step of the ladder. Once the movement starts climbing this ladder of equality, the mass movement becomes the few and elitist at the top looking down and fearing the masses who look, act, talk and live differently compare to them. In this situation, the masses of the movement have two oppressors (1) the mainstream dominate culture who pushes their rules and life styles on them and (2) the top elitist of their own movement who are disconnected from the masses and are representing only issues they can relate to.

We've seen it time and time again when splinter groups break off from the main movement to educate the main movement, the mainstream dominate culture and to rescue their own history, voice, legal rights and to provide a sense of empowerment. Authors like Bell Hooks, Angela Davis and others are writing and speaking about the concept of Race & Sex. They are looking at sexism and racism in society and in the Women\Feminist Movement and how we are or aren't dealing with it. Authors like Keith Boykin and Cheryl Chark and more are writing and speaking about the role of Race & Homosexuality in the gay and lesbian movement. Many splinter groups have created their own national and local organizations to get their voice and issues on the 'mainstream civil rights movement' and into mainstream society. Organization like the National Black Gay & Lesbian Leadership Forum is representing a group that's been oppressed by the dominate White heterosexual society and the dominantly run White gay and lesbian movement. Without Authors like Patrica Hill Collins and the late Essex HemPhill and national organizations representing and giving a voice to the most oppress of the oppress than who would take on their issues? Like Martin Luther King's title of one of his book, Why We Can't Wait, these splinter groups can't wait any longer. They've gave their hearts, time and foot power to the cause of the main movement to only see a lack of progress, awareness and equality in their lives.

Some people will say that splinter groups\movements are attacking their own people and only creating stumble blocks for the whole movement. I disagree! In today society, we can't focus on one subject or goal because life is not always so simple. The Black Civil Rights Movement dealt with racial equality and as a Black man I've benefited from that Movement, but wonder if the Black Civil Rights Movement dealt with sexism, homophobia and disablism. A Black disabled lesbian has to spread herself very thin between three movements and communities that haven't connected yet! I think the only way Blacks or any other disabled people of color can really voice their views and educate the two or three communities and mainstream society is to split from the Disability Rights Movement and form their own organizations. In his book, Here I Stand, Paul Robinson writes about the power of organizations. Could this be our downfall as disabled people of color because until very recently there were no organizations for and by disabled people of color? A shocking element today is that there is not one major national organization for and by disabled people of color in the US.

Are we calling the movement racist, sexist, disablist or homophobia when we set up our own organizations? Yes, I think so, but the bigger issue here is a lack of awareness of our issues. The finger that splinter groups are pointing points to themselves too for letting the main movement overlook them for so long. I see it as the leader\teacher going back to school and letting the splinter groups/students or masses teach them. Leaders are climbing down the ladder to the masses and learning because splinter groups are demanding to be heard. Splinter groups are an educational process, but the question is when is graduation! When can splinter groups rejoin the main movement and work as one?

To graduate two important things must happen: (1) The splinter group\movement must see that the main movement is listening and taking real action to the splinter group\movement demands, issues, laws and their life styles and (2) the main movement must outreach to these groups and make them feel apart of the movement. This is easy said than done! The reason why is power and fear. Like many people in power it's hard to give this up. Can you see the director of the National Black Gay & Lesbian Forum or any other national or local splinter organization let go their organizations and fall back to the main movement? The sense of fear of not knowing if the main movement will go back to their old ways of overlooking the demands, rights and issues etc. will always be the reason why splinter groups and their local and national organizations will continue to educate and be a source of empowerment for their members.

So to end this discussion on the masses and leaders, I return to the question, who leads? The masses can't be trusted to lead themselves because nine times out of ten the masses will become disarray and fight among themselves. Once there is a leader than the masses give him or her the knowledge and issues to do their job, lead. The leader provides structure and leadership skills but in this frame lays the picture. What I'm saying is that the masses have provided the picture of the movement but some times the frame is not big enough to include the whole picture.

You can reach Leroy by emailing him at


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