College students and community leaders filled Morehouse College’s Shirley Massey Auditorium on Sept. 24 for Autopsy 3: Looking for Leadership town hall meeting.
The event was organized by the Influencer Coalition, a group dedicated to educating African Americans about the problems in the Black community. Panelists included Minister Sharieff Muhammad (Nation of Islam), Rev. Dr. Richard H. Cobble (Concerned Black Clergy of Metro Atlanta), Dacari J. Middlebrooks (Full Gospel Baptist Church), Nelini Stamp (Rise Up Georgia), Angele Karen (My Revolution Worldwide), India Shawn (My Revolution Worldwide), Taj Anwar (Feed the People Movement, United Zulu Nation), and social activist Michael Render. Render is also known as rapper Killer Mike.
The eclectic group of speakers tackled issues ranging from church funding to COINTELPRO and the need for African Americans to use grassroots efforts to unite. Rev. Cobble spoke of his own experience as a civil rights activist during the 1960’s and 70’s. His movement began while a soldier stationed in Texas. “Back then,” Cobble stated, “the church didn’t want to get involved, many of our religious leaders were in the pocket of those that oppressed us.” Cobble moved to Atlanta and helped to desegregate Fort McPherson. He works today to incorporate local churches into the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Recording artist Killer Mike had some very strong words regarding the city of Atlanta and impending gentrification of the Westside. “If we lose Atlanta, we lose it all,” Killer Mike went on to talk about the many rappers that help the community, yet are shunned due to their raunchy lyrics. He asked, “How do we get people to recognize 2 Chainz as a social justice leader?” Adding, “For me, blaming and castigating rappers is just as foolish as telling your cousin who might’ve done some street things you don’t want the money to help pay for your grandmother’s funeral. Atlanta is one of the few places where you can look up top black restaurants and bars and see 50 black restaurants and bars. The people that are behind these restaurants and bars are not just hard working people who kept a job and saved, a lot of them come out of your entertainment community.”
Minister Sharrieff Muhammad stated, “We don’t believe in begging, we pool our resources and do something for ourselves. We can clean up our own community.” Taj Anwar echoed his sentiments, “There is nothing special about me that ain’t in you. You don’t have to be rich to reach out.” Her organization provides groceries and clothing to low income single mothers.
The Influencer Coalition’s president and discussion moderator Christine White added, “I focus on education through conversation, dialogue, revolution, personal revolution. My goal is to persuade and be an evangelist for social change. So, I want people to use their own skills and whatever special gifts God has given them to do what they can in their community in a way that makes sense for them. People are making meaningful actions. There aren’t enough of us doing it together for it to have the impact that we want it to have.”