In the first line of his first address to a Joint Session of Congress, President Donald J. Trump stated “Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains.” This came in the same week that the President met with Presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and signed an executive order laying the framework for support for Black colleges. In his first month in office the President has met with a delegation of Black leadership, toured the Smithsonian museum of African American History and appointed Ben Carson head of the Department of Housing and Urban development in addition to dropping his proposal to institute nationwide “Stop and Frisk”.
So who’s to blame (or credit) with the President’s strong stance on African American issues thus far? Omarosé Manigault. Omarosé is the singular most important voice in Black America right now. She has the ear of the President of the United States of America and the ability to influence executive orders, budgetary items and direction that this nation will take toward issues in the Black community. In sum, she may be the most powerful Black person (not woman) in the country right now. The former reality T.V. star is effectively the cup bearer to the king.
In the Christian Bible it tells us that in the 20th year of The King of Persia, Nehemiah was cup-bearer to the king. He learned that the remnant in Judah were in distress and that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and thus asked the king for permission to return and rebuild Jerusalem to help his people. The Hebrews and the Persians had been at odds since Muslim conquest of Iran and 70 years of Babylonian rule. However, the Persian King sent Nehemiah to Judah as governor of the province with a mission to rebuild. Once there, Nehemiah defied the opposition of Judah’s enemies and rebuilt the walls within 52 days. He then took measures to rebuild the city’s population and purify the Jewish community. He enforced the cancellation of debt and assisted in enforcing the law of Moses. That is all to say, the cup bearer of the king has a tremendous ability to help their people.
Omarosé thus far has embraced this position of high influence, despite the smears and derision of her own people. She has stated that she has been chided by her own friends and family members; sunned by acquaintance and even excommunicated by business associates because of her association with the President. But despite this she remains the singular voice of Black leadership working with the President. The Congressional Black Caucus and traditional Civil Rights leadership have embraced the “Resist” movement and thus have refused to work with the administration. Anything that benefits the African American community for the foreseeable future will go through her office and must meet her approval.
So how do we interact with this most powerful of women whom wields so much influence? When Nehemiah returned to Judah he was initially greeted with distrust. Not everyone in the region was happy, especially Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian. They tried several methods to stop the efforts. They used mocking and ridicule. “Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, ‘Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall’” (Nehemiah 4:3). Second, the enemies attempted to stop the work by threats of force. “Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night” (Nehemiah 4:7-9). Third, the enemies sought to promote compromise. “Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.’ But they thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?’” (Nehemiah 6:1-3). Finally, the enemies used scare tactics to discourage the Jews. “Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. In it was written: ‘It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, “There is a king in Judah!” Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together.’ (Nehemiah 6:5-9).
There will always be distrust and opposition to anyone using alternative means to achieve change. Omarosé has pushed the President to address the issue of Black America in ways that we have not seen in recent years. For this reason, instead of working in opposition to her and her efforts we would do well to work with her. The cup bearer to the king wields great power and influence and also the capacity to effectuate change. If we reject those who seek to help us because of whom they serve, we will never rebuild Jerusalem.