‘Drum Majors for Justice’
By Steve Furay
“Hearts are the strongest when they beat in response to noble ideals.”
— Ralph Bunche
Khalid El-Hakim is an educator from Detroit who is passionate about teaching youth about important individuals who are often left out of textbooks. His recently published book, “Drum Majors for Justice: 101 Quotes by African American Politicians,” is a unique introduction to the names of historical figures, who have laid significant groundwork for contemporary U.S. politics.
“Drum Majors for Justice” features inspirational quotes from African American leaders who faced challenging odds in paving the way so there would be equality for all in future generations. Collected here for easy reference, the words of these leaders reflect the importance of understanding civic engagement, which includes participating in elections.
This is the first book from Khalid El-Hakim, a former Detroit Public Schools’ teacher who has dedicated himself to working full time with the Black History 101 Mobile Museum. As the entrepreneur and director of the museum, he has traveled across the nation. El-Hakim has over 5,000 items in his collection, with exhibits featuring Black political leaders, hip hop culture and Detroit history.
The inspiration for “Drum Majors for Justice” came during his time as a teacher at DPS, where he spent time considering news ways of teaching politics to his students.
The achievements of Black politicians are often neglected in school textbooks and some teachers find it necessary to look outside of their assigned materials for ways to introduce these important figures, says El-Hakim.
“I would say the materials in the schools didn’t include a lot of the people that they should have in terms of having a strong African American representation in textbooks,” he told the Michigan Citizen. “For teachers, we would have to supplement a lot of that. We would have to pull from outside of the textbooks to get information that would relate to the students.”
The book’s title was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the push he gave the African American community to engage in politics, which led to a large number of Black men and women taking office throughout the country on a local, state and federal level in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. The history of Black civil rights leaders like Dr. King and Rosa Parks are regularly taught in classrooms, but the names of Black politicians who represented their communities are equally important.
“Coming out of the hip hop generation, we usually dismiss politicians period, because we don’t trust them, they don’t reflect the views of the masses of people,” says El-Hakim. “But when I started doing research on Black politicians, I came to respect the political process more through the lens of some of these Black politicians who actually were down for the common man.”
“A nation is formed by the willingness for each of us to share and the responsibility for upholding the common good.”
— Barbara Jordan
“Drum Majors for Justice” is published independently by Moore Black Press, a Detroit-based company owned and operated by poet jessica Care moore, who spends time in classrooms and jails teaching the art of writing to students.
“I’ve been friends with Khalid for going on 20 years and I used to sit in on his classes when he was a teacher. He is such a good brother and so really about walking the walk,” says jessica Care moore. “This seemed like the perfect book; both of us are into education, and this is a book that I can take into the jails, into the schools and write curriculum around.”
Publishing the book independently has allowed El-Hakim the opportunity to create a full presentation with the Black History 101 Mobile Museum in support of the book. He has already toured the “Drum Majors for Justice” exhibit extensively in 2012, including at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art in Detroit, with many more dates being prepared for 2013.
“Reading these quotes, you have to look deeper into the core democratic values of America and society,” says Khalid El-Hakim. “When you want to teach about rule of law for example, you have quotes in there that relate to that, if you want to teach about truth and justice and what freedom means, you can look at some of the quotes about what freedom means for these politicians.”
“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.”
- T hurgood Marshall