Ever criticized a “Black leader?” Does this response sound familiar? “How dare you talk about me? At least I’m doing something?” Is it getting tired yet?

Let’s be real. You can organize rallies. You can make speeches. You can get a new batch of kids, who don’t know your history, to parrot you every year. But what about everyday life, when the cameras aren’t around?

People don’t forget you treating them like shit. They remember the fake smiles. The schemes between campaign seasons. The ostrich syndrome when the community hurt itself.

But they’re supposed to respect you? Trust you? Call you a “leader?”

I said it last week but it bears repeating. Unity in a time of chaos is not real unity. Gathering for a rally doesn’t mean you have community. If relationships depend on rallies, which depend on injustice, what does that say?

Community spawns from real relationships, not political alliances. These political alliances, or more accurately, business relationships, come and go like buses. They’re built on agreement, not love. You can’t build trust without love. When the time comes, we ride for those we love.

We can agree that murdering Black youth is wrong. Does that mean I can babysit your child? Look after your house? Would you tell me your deepest secrets?

But I’m supposed to believe you’d give your life for me? Baby steps please.

It’s no secret that Oregon has no Black community. It just has Black people. As someone put it, we’re “close strangers.” So how about tackling that?

Many want to be Martin but need to put the mic down. Pause the photo ops. Have some real conversations. Not panels. Not speeches. Not interviews.

Bring people together for something not involving you. Give me a chance to trust you and you a chance to trust me.

And please, stop saying you’re the only ones “working” or “doing something.”

This may come as a surprise, but there are others out there “doing things.” You probably missed them because they weren’t doing it with cameras around. In fact, many prefer it that way. They mentor, advocate, watch people’s backs, give when they see need, and they do it every day. Not to make the news but to get results.

They take shit daily, often from “leaders,” and rarely, if ever, see a reward. Yet they keep going. It’s not about climbing ladders. It’s not about the politics. It’s just their character.

Leaders don’t appoint themselves. They just lead.