Black and Independent

By Selle, Robert | The World and I, October 1998 | Go to article overview

Black and Independent


Selle, Robert, The World and I


Raised on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, in South Philadelphia, J.A. (Jay) Parker had every excuse to stew in self-pity and to poison his life in futile fuming over white hegemony.

Instead, when he was yet a boy in an America where racial segregation was a seemingly inoperable cancer in the land, he stolidly set for himself a goal of financial, intellectual, and racial independence.

"Today," the 61-year-old Parker says in an inter view, "I'm an investor in various businesses and financial markets and still do some consulting on the side, mainly for businesses, individuals, and governments in Africa." This is the culmination of decades of hard work from which he assembled a nest egg that allows him to live as he wishes.

Not beholden to an employer nor fettered by work hours, deadlines, and company responsibilities, he's free to invest his money as he chooses in the stock market and his time in causes that excite him.

The latter include clamoring for smaller, less intrusive government; helping to lead Washington, D.C.-area nonprofit organizations like Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, the Salvation Army, and Goodwill Industries; and cultivating proteges like current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who can take leadership roles in public life.

He is also president and founder of the Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, a nonprofit, independent public policy organization in Washington, D.C., and editor of its quarterly journal, Lincoln Review, and its newsletter, Lincoln Review Letter. In addition, he's president and founder of the Abraham Lincoln Foundation for Public Policy Research.

Parker, one of seven children, says reverentially of his parents--and of his grandfather, who founded one of the largest black Baptist churches in Philadelphia--that they taught him the difference between right and wrong, the basic Christian tenets, and a sound knowledge of the Bible. Due to his training in the bosom of his family, he became disenchanted early on with the power structure in the black community.

"As a teenager, it struck me forcefully that the black Baptist ministers who led the community had their own interpretation of the Bible--which was different from what I knew to be the traditional interpretation. It almost disillusioned me.

"And not only black Baptist ministers, but other mainline ministers, including Presbyterians, Methodists, and Southern Baptists, did not adhere to the fundamentals of the faith: the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, hell, heaven, and so on."

Many of these clerics were also members of leftist political movements and were "staunch political activists." So he became aflame to oppose their agenda.

Parker, moreover, was disgusted by the prejudice that he says permeated the black community--much more so some decades ago than today--in which light-skinned, Caucasian-featured, college-educated blacks would play the aristocrat and hobnob together. They would even cluster in certain sections of various Episcopal churches, he says, while affecting a patronizing manner toward their otherwise endowed brethren--all this ironically at a time when Jim Crow had blacks pinned beneath his bootheel. …

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