THE HACKLEY REPORT By Eric Hackley
EH: Any comments about Frost Illustrated bringing people together to fellowship at a picnic like this?
Joe Ayers: I think it’s about the kids—to bring them out and have a good time and also fellowshipping with the parents. Our community needs to come together to understand that it’s the next generation that we need to look out for. Teaching them how to communicate with each other as well as how to mingle with other races. But, I think what Frost does is bring about communication through the newspaper. If it wasn’t for Frost, our community wouldn’t be able to communicate within itself about different activities that go on within the African American community as far as successes, education, entertainment and positive stories. I’m really proud to be part of Fort Wayne and have Frost Illustrated as part of my life.
EH: Do blacks have a fear of expressing themselves publicly on issues?
Joe Ayers: Well, I grew up in the Civil Rights Era where churches and resource organizations came out and spoke about issues going on in our society.
Now days, people are afraid to speak out because retaliation and not realizing that by speaking out actually helps the movement go forward. The generation today is speaking out through music. They’re not necessarily trying to make changes within the community. I think people are scared to speak out because they don’t think they’re being heard.
EH: Do you want to see black pastors speaking on community and national issues?
Joe Ayers: My thing about pastors is they’re here to save souls and lives. Sometimes it’s out of place for them to be speaking out. Back in the day yes, when Martin Luther King, Rev. Jesse White and Rev. Bledsoe, were speaking out, that was the era then. This time and day, they don’t speak out as much. They want to stay in their lane. Because if they speak out on the wrong thing concerning God, it may fall back on them. I think in a way it goes both ways. I think they should speak out more but I also think they should stay in their lanes and focus on God’s vision to them.
EH: Leaders 50 years ago were talking about social and political issues and the issues we’re talking about now haven’t changed in the past 50 years. But yet, we don’t have a strong nucleus of black people’s viewpoints being expressed. Hearing from people like yourself is great, but we don’t have a strong diet of that of that to show younger blacks.
Joe Ayers: It would take our generation to pull the pastors together and have meetings with them as a group and have them to speak on political and social injustices, including why people are being ostracized because of the color of their skin. Yes, I do feel that pastors need to speak out more, but not necessarily on TV. They need to come to events like this, where they can speak to the public and be hands on with the community. That’s what leaders did 50 years ago and you would see them at events like this.
EH: You would also see them on TV.
Joe Ayers: Yeah you would see them on TV doing more rallying in the community. I grew up in the 1960s in the Inner City of Fort Wayne. You would see Rev. Bledsoe, Rev. White and the Walkers and they would speak be at events and speak on TV if that platform is open for them.
EH: This is 2013 and a lot of people don’t respect the Willie Lynch letter. In the letter it says if you keep the slave mindset away from a “substantial original historical base” the mind won’t be able to self-correct itself over time, resulting in a generational self-perpetuating enslavement mindset. Are we there now?
Joe Ayers: I think the time is now to address the issue of slave mentality. As we get older, we recognize the younger people don’t have a clue about the slave mindset. They don’t understand the bondage they’re in as a result of slave mentality thinking. They don’t understand it, even tough they read about it and they see it on TV. We lived through it. We lived through racism and they don’t concern themselves with racism. It’s up to us to teach them about slave mentality so they understand the mindset. Because when we get older, who’s going to teach them. If we don’t, they may become mentally enslaved and not even know it.
EH: Young adult black men and women constantly tell me they want to discuss black issues and solutions to problems. But they don’t want to discuss the 1960s or slavery. How do you communicate this message to them?
Joe Ayers: You have to communicate through song. Young people will listen more quickly to a song than to us standing here talking. If you put your message in a song or text, it’s sad to say or you can put to on face book or some social media. That’s this new generation and that’s how they comprehend.
EH: Do you consider yourself a warrior?
Joe Ayers: I consider myself an activist of the past concerned with social networking. I consider myself a warrior to the extent that I can show people where I’ve been: you can go there but you don’t have to stay there. You’ve got to know how to get out of the grasp of the storm, because in life, we’re all going through something. In the 1960s and 70s, we went through not only Civil Rights, but social and economic hardship. We don’t use the term poor anymore, it’s now lower income. I just want to show the next generation that you don’t have to stay at that mentality. There are too many opportunities out here in life. If you don’t take advantage of them, they’ll pass you by.
All this starts at home. The parents have to start teaching their young people that they can be anything that they want to be. If you want to become president, go for it. A doctor or lawyer, go for it. Don’t let any issue in life stop you, including a divorce, relationship breakup or issues with your kids should stop you from striving for your dream. We’ve got to teach kids how to dream and go you’re their dreams.
This article originally appeared in the July 10 print edition.