Re Thulani Davis's "We Need You: It's Time to Call for New Black Leadership" [February 18-24]:

I just want to thank Davis for her excellent analysis of the state of leadership in the black community. The day of the one-man show is over. The nature of political struggle has changed and it's time for the black community to stop waiting for some black (male) messiah to come and save us.

Change is made from the bottom by those who occupy the bottom, not single-handedly by omnipotent "leaders." Each of us has the passion and ability to participate fully in the shaping of our lives and our communities. We can lead together. Let's get busy doing the work of social change in our homes, our schools, our jobs, and our neighborhoods. I invite all our so-called leaders to join us after they're done getting famous.

Courtney Morris
Austin, Texas

I enjoyed reading Thulani Davis's "We Need You" and agreed with much of its contents. The leadership impasse that Davis describes spans several decades and stems from a number of reasons, which include political repression, internal contradictions, underdevelopment, crack, and globalization.

There are black leaders out here providing direction; however, they are not in the glare of the spotlight. I believe that some of us have become seduced into the celebrity definition of leadership and the cult of idolatry that it spawns. A great or effective leader has a coherent program or vision. Nationally, Sharpton is not a leader since he has not used his platform to articulate a coherent program for urban America. At least Jesse Jackson did have a program (the Rainbow Coalition), which he and others simply betrayed. A spokesman is not necessarily a leader, but a leader has to be a spokesman. In Sharpton's case, the question is: Who does he speak for and who is paying him to speak?

Christopher Williams
Cambria Heights, Queens

Re "We Need You": Perhaps the black community should ask itself, What is a leader, and where do leaders come from? Davis fails to mention one name in her article.

My vote goes to William H. Gray, who has announced he will be retiring as the leader of the United Negro College Fund. Mr. Gray gave up his seat in Congress in 1991 to take the position of president of the UNCF. Mr. Gray felt that you had to "learn to earn," and that "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

Change does not come overnight, and true leaders are not going to come from sport stars or rap singers.

Ken Stemmer
Greenwich Village


Ta-Nehisi Coates's story "Black for Blue" ["Black for Blue: Learning to Love Tha Police," February 18-24] was frighteningly Tommish and shortsighted, especially for The Village Voice. The maturation of the hip-hop generation will not include a mass forgetting that the police remain a very dangerous element of our communities.

Coates is more accepting of the police because he's a parent, but with the death of Timothy Stansbury Jr. so fresh, does he not realize that the cops he praises could take his son from him at any time, whether or not he's done anything wrong?

Fort Greene

It's a war going on outside. A friendly ride in the back of a pig car for your girls pocket change does nothing to erase the systematic harassment, brutality, and human rights violations that the Black community suffers daily. Wish u cld've caught a ride to the Louis Armstrong houses last Tues. nite when Neri went home unchecked as usual. The kids we were talking to cld've relieved u of a few more dollars.

dream hampton

Ta-Nehisi Coates's valentine to the NYPD brought to mind the night, two summers ago, when I needed the police. Unlike in Coates's situation, they did not deliver. After being pushed down a flight of stairs by a young man outside my place of employment, the Mount Morris Baths in Harlem, I called 911 three times. The police never showed up.

Two paramedics arrived about 20 minutes after the unprovoked attack. By then the young man and his buddies were long gone. Fortunately, the only damage was a scraped knee and broken eyeglasses, but it could have been much worse. I thought about writing a letter to the precinct commander, but then I changed my mind, thinking that it would be a waste of time. Maybe the quick response of the police to Coates's partner was because a female was the victim. And maybe because my location was that of a gay men's bathhouse, the police didn't feel it was necessary to exert themselves by making an appearance.

Whatever the reason, it certainly didn't make me think that they cared about me, the victim of a crime.

Charles Michael Smith

Ta-Nehisi Coates replies: Thank you to everyone who took the time to write in. Feedback is a vital part of any attempt at responsible journalism. I'd like to extend my condolences to you, Mr. Smith, for that terrible incident and NYPD's lackluster response. As your case so poignantly demonstrates, there is still work to be done, in terms of police-community relations.

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