Why Kimberly Foster’s Position on Eric Garner’s Murder is Misguided

ChokeholdSome of you read this title, saw my name and picture above, and thought, “Another Black man (a Nationalist at that) is bashing Kimberly Foster for her controversial article “Why I Will Not March for Eric Garner.” Foster’s July 22nd article on the forHarriet.com website has sparked the righteous indignation of many in the progressive Black community, and in my opinion, rightly so.

But this is not a feminist-bashing article nor is this a personal attack of Kimberly Foster, who I believe is a conscious and committed Black woman dedicated to exposing and challenging patriarchy while empowering other Black women.

This article simply represents my disagreement with the position she’s taken, explains how she has confused the real issue, and describes what I believe to be her misguided and divisive approach of galvanizing the Black feminist population by suggesting they not respond to acts of racist violence against Black men simply because some Black men are ignorant sexists. I am not a feminist per se, (the growing trend of Black men openly proclaiming themselves as such annoys me and reeks of self-serving political correctness) but I am a student of the Black experience. And it is in this role that I write.

In her article, which I again encourage you to read for yourself, Foster explains how she finds Eric Garner’s murder via police choke-hold personally disturbing. Look at the incident for yourself and you’ll be disturbed as well (especially when you hear him repeatedly say, “I can’t breathe.”

However, Foster notes that she is equally disturbed by some Black men’s lack of empathy when “Black women attempt to discuss the everyday terrors we experience both in the world and at their hands.”

Her frustration with ignorant Black men that defend patriarchy and insulate themselves from the suffering of our sisters is valid. Such lack of compassion for the oppression of Black women by white or Black men is unacceptable, period. To the same degree that white supremacy conditions most whites to harbor racist attitudes, sexism conditions most men to harbor patriarchal attitudes and/or behavior. Both are reprehensible. So if Foster believes that both men and women should be free from oppression and violence, reasonable minds should agree!

However she goes on to make a few statements that are particularly disturbing:

…if the NYPD or the City of New York fail to act, I will not march for Eric Garner. I will not rally for him because I am reserving my mental and emotional energy for the women, the Black women, no one will speak for.

In concluding she notes:

Many women continue to believe that offering unconditional support to the men who dismiss their calls for help will result one day in a return of care–as though they are watering a seed. But I have yet to see the fruit from that tree of hope, and I’m tired of waiting.

So I will mourn Eric Garner and I will cry bitter, broken tears for him, but that is all that I can do.

The problem with her position is obvious. Only narrow and dogmatic ideology cloud the issue here. First of all she is the founder and editor of a website that wants to “raise the level of discourse surrounding Black women,” and that pays tribute to a number of strong and activist Black women including Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, Angela Davis, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Septima Clark, Assata Shakur, NIkki Giovanni, Shirley Chisolm, Toni Morrison, Ida B. Wells, and other notables.

From what I know and understand about all of these sisters mentioned, they all understood that Black people were collectively oppressed from within and outside. They all struggled with racism, sexism and class exploitation. And in varying degrees, they all saw Black men as their compatriots and comrades in the struggle, and often fought FOR and WITH them.

It would be easy for me to quote various Black feminists to support my argument. But our history itself if far more instructive. For example, Ida B. Wells fought valiantly against the lynching of Black men; Angela Davis challenges sexism while also challenging the disproportionate incarceration of Black and Brown men and women; Assata Shakur fought alongside brothers in the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army; Ella Baker mentored young brothers and sisters in SNCC (while challenging Dr. King’s own patriarchy), and the site’s namesake Harriet Tubman worked to help both Black men and women escape the horrors of bondage.

Way before the term “feminism” and the first and second waves of the Feminist Movement existed, countless  Black women fought to empower themselves AND their brethren even while confronting the sexist views and values of those same brethren. Fighting patriarchy within the race and fighting white supremacy outside of our race are not mutually exclusive projects! We have indeed reached a tragic moment in our history when we fail to recognize this. Foster’s public decision to do nothing about this incident is both unprecedented and decidedly defeatist.

Secondly, Foster conflates the issues of unbridled police brutality and Black male patriarchy. Try as she might to argue otherwise, these are separate and distinct issues and must be treated as such. She is correct to call brothers out for being backwards and insensitive to how sisters suffer and the roles they may play in that suffering. She should continue to fight for our sisters’ FULL empowerment both in the workforce and at home. Her work in these regards is commendable and there will be times when her voice and perspective causes brothers to feel uncomfortable. If brothers embody and manifest anti-woman values and practices, they should feel uncomfortable!

However she fails to  separate one issue from the other and she does this in a way that subtly empowers racist police to continue killing us with impunity! When political-minded, articulate Black folk take a hands off position, we empower the enemy by default. This is simply irresponsible and contradictory for one who considers herself a voice or advocate for the oppressed and marginalized. Rather than employing a weird and apolitical tit-for-tat approach, Foster might have lent her voice and considerable following to a powerful attack/critique of the growing trend of police using tazers, billy clubs, guns, and choke-holds in their interactions with Black PEOPLE.

Lastly, she frames the issue as a dichotomy, as if police assaults do not also occur to Black women. So-called law enforcement agents assault Black men AND women on city streets and in prisons when I last checked.

Sometimes we become so entrenched in our ideals and isolated in our political bubbles that we forget a simple point: Our political ideologies should identify, critique and resolve conflicts, not compound or ignore them. Neither Foster’s feminist politics, our long rich tradition of Black feminist activism, or even the deeply entrenched patriarchy of some brothers justifies her apathetic and divisive position in this matter. What Foster essentially says is: “Since I’m frustrated with some brothers’ participation in or failure to address the domination/violence of Black women, I will protest by refusing to raise my voice to address the state domination/violence used against Eric Garner.” In the abstract ideological world of ideas, some will find peace with this logic. But in the tangible world of political practice and power, this amounts to putting one’s personal frustrations and ideals over the ruthless murder of yet another Black man in America. In fact, her position almost subtly suggests that other Black women should take the same position. How dies devaluing Garner’s life or refusing to engage the police make Black men more sensitive to sisters?

The cops will rally to support the actions of their colleagues for sure.  Unfortunately WE will be divided and conflicted in our supplier for Eric Garner because of feminist ideals? How does this serve Black women? How does this impact all the mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, and daughters who’ve list Black men to police violence? What values or qualities does this promote? And finally, how dies this position help to resolve our issues and empower us?

In conclusion, I believe all of us, Black feminists included, should unite to intelligently inform our sister Kimerly Foster that with respect to this matter, she is misguided, on the wrong side of the issue, and has taken a position that sets us back rather than pushing us forward.

Those cops that killed brother Eric Garner must be brought to justice, and Black people must organize to prevent such tragedies in the future. And this should be done WHILE addressing the intersecting issues of gender and class. If you are Black and progressive, and your political ideas don’t bring you to these conclusions, you most likely need new political ideas. Sister Kimberly, don’t allow your bitterness and frustration with some of our ignorant and insensitive brothers to make you ignorant and insensitive as well….

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Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

Black Inspiration for Black Souls

keep your head up

Fighting for Black liberation, or any form of social justice is not simply a sociopolitical or economic fight. Working to challenge injustice and create empowerment is also a spiritual fight, involving as it does, the decolonization of minds, views, values, and habits. Many great soldiers in this war suffered nervous breakdowns, mental illness, suicide, isolation, burnout and worse, because they were not prepared for the spiritual aspects of their activities.

This essay provides inspiration to brothers and sisters out there working to improve the lives and circumstances of others and to everyday Black folk. Because keeping one’s “mind right” is a difficult but necessary task. I hope you find this useful.

Basic Tips

  1. There are a million issues to join or organize around. Trying to get involved in too many of them will make you ineffective and scatter your energies.Choose one issue you feel strongly about and do your best to be informed and engaged with respect to it. It is far better to be an excellent advocate around one issue than to give a mediocre effort around several.
  2. Budget your time and schedule your life. You must take inventory of how to best utilize your time and energy each day to avoid being scattered, ineffective or simply worn out. If you schedule time for rest, study, recreation, etc., you can live a well-rounded life without “stretching yourself too thin.” In this way, you will know what events you can or can’t attend, and what responsibilities you can take on. Never be afraid to say “NO” if you can’t do something or assist someone.
  3. Good people, especially activists, are somewhat idealistic; we believe we can change the world, starting with changing people’s way of thinking. This is true! However, we must always realize that all people are creatures of habit. We’ve been thinking, and behaving in certain ways for many years. So when we’re trying to raise consciousness in the community, we must remember that this is a process; it is not a sprint, but more of a marathon. This means we must be patient with ourselves and those we’re trying to reach. The more dysfunctional and counterproductive a person is, or the longer they’ve lived in a culture of misery and defeat, the harder and smarter we must work to raise his or her consciousness. Often, we will find ourselves arguing with the very people we want to assist. Listen, give your perspective, and gracefully bow out from arguing. If what we’re saying is true and wholesome, the truth we speak will play out at some point.
  4. Be honest with yourself and see the role you play in all of your conflicts. This level of internal honesty allows you to improve undesirable or counterproductive aspects of yourself, which ultimately allows you to grow and become more powerful and effective. Don’t fall into the convenient but immature habit of blaming your problems on other people. None of us is perfect or without blame. It takes nothing from you to admit when you’re wrong or being immature. Lastly, knowing exactly who and what you are (by taking self-inventory) protects you against the insults of others or their attempts to project their shortcoming on to you.
  5. Make time to laugh, be grateful listen to good music, and enjoy yourself.
  6. Reserve some alone time for yourself everyday. Use this time to rest, plan, reflect on your day, or meditate, invoke the spirit of your ancestors, or pray.
  7. Don’t take everything someone says or does to you personally. If you do, you’ll be fighting and arguing all day everyday. Sometimes people act in insulting or ugly ways because they are tired, ill, or any number of things that have nothing to do with you. It’s okay to say, “I see you’re not in a good mood, so maybe we’ll talk later.”  If the person in question is someone you don’t know, like a clerk in a department store or a waiter, simply ask for someone else to help you and speak softly if they yell. Doing this will dramatize that they are the one with the problem and might even get them to calm down. Yelling back rarely works and usually escalates the problem.
  8. If you’re going through conflicts in life, always keep the situation in proper perspective. Resist the temptation to exaggerate or blow things out of proportion. Also remember that your conflict is not unique and that several other people on your block, in your city or in the world are experiencing the same or similar conflicts. We tend to become more depressed when we feel that we are the only ones going through a particular conflict. Also, refrain from constantly complaining or giving voice to the problem or replaying the negative emotions you feel in your mind or aloud. Give yourself 5 minutes to be really upset then spend the majority of your time and energy identifying what the real problem is, what factors caused the problem, and then coming up with a plan to resolve the problem. As the ancient Chinese taught us, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
  9. Keep a healthy distance from people that always have something negative to say or who get joy from deflating your good mood. These people are draining to the spirit.

Good songs that promote tranquility:

I find that good music or poetry really help me to calm down or keep things in perspective. The following are some songs that help me get through tough times. Maybe they will help you as well. Of course, I would suggest that you identify songs or poems that fit your personal taste:

1. “Optimistic” by Sounds of Blackness

2. “Keep on Moving” by Soul II Soul

3.” Sun Goddess” By Ramsey Lewis featuring Earth, Wind, and Fire

4. “Moody’s Mood for Love” by James Moody

5. Breezin’ by George Benson

6. Cruizin’ by D’angelo original by Smokey Robinson

7. “Happy” by Pharrell

8. “Simply Beautiful” by Al Green

9. “Keep Rising to the Top” by Keni Burke

10. “Sweet Thang” by Chaka Khan

11. “Gotta Be” by Des’ree

12. “Zoom” by The Commodores

13. Whenever, Wherever, Whatever” by Maxwell

14. “My Life” by Eric Robeson, Original by Mary J. Blige

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 Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

 

 

7 Tips for Succeeding in College

college success

{Note: I recently released my third book, “Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens.” While the target audience is 13-17 year-olds, the information it provides is also very helpful for young adults. You can purchase it here.}

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With so many young people attending community or 4-year colleges in September, and the realization that some will unfortunately not succeed, I must address the issue of how to do well as an undergraduate student. This article will provide insights on how to excel academically, and how to live a balanced collegiate life as an undergraduate. This last consideration is important because life doesn’t stop once you begin college. Therefore you must know how to put forth your best academic effort while balancing the other responsibilities of life (social, political and spiritual) that co-exist with your labs, exams, and research papers.Though I will focus on 4-year liberal arts colleges/universities, you will find that much of the information provided here relates to community (2-year) colleges as well.

In fairness, I should mention that the entire notion of attending college itself is debatable. Some people correctly suggest that college education is not synonymous with achieving worldly success. They support their argument by listing hundreds of “successful” people who either didn’t attend college at all, or who dropped out before graduating. Poets like Suli Breaks explains this perspective in the excellent poem below:

Speaking to some of the excellent points raised in this poem, I begin our Tips for college success list by suggesting that we be clear about the actual purpose of a college education.

1. Be clear on what you should gain from a college education. Liberal arts colleges have two basic purposes: A. To provide you with a well-rounded general education that allows you to have several philosophical, historical and academic references in your life. B. To provide you with specific skills and information that will serve as the basis of your professional life and career. Most parents present college as a non-negotiable option for their children, focusing on the career preparation. They argue that a college education in our technical and technological world provides the necessary credentials and preparation you’ll need to get a job and launch a career. This perspective is valid. However a college undergraduate experience should additionally provide you with the networks, skills, information, and habits to amass POWER and to wield it in ways that advance and protect your people and communities, while facilitating your ability to sustain yourself financially.

2.Organize your time! Taking away 8 hours for sleep, you have 16 hours each day with which to handle your business as a student. That is more than enough time to eat, accomplish academic excellence, maintain physical fitness have a social and spiritual life, and do personal grooming and preparation. Develop a sense of what things you MUST do vs. what things you WANT to do. Use your smartphone’s calendar feature (Googlejuggling time Calendar is excellent) to plug-in the days, locations and times of your classes, assignment deadlines, study times, and recreational times, then set your phone to notify you about an hour before each event. This will help you to avoid scheduling conflicts. It will also give you an accurate representation of what you must do and what “free” time you have each day. I would suggest that you view the following video on time management for college students.

3. Actively participate in class.This does not apply as much in large stadium-seating classes with 150 or more students. But in normal classes where the professor can actually see and identify each student, you are expected to ask and answer questions and participate in discussions/class activities. How else does a professor know if you actually did your reading or if you understand the information? In fact, many classes factor participation into your grade. In order to participate intelligently, you must be prepared for each class.

4. Create (and follow) a good study schedule.  When using the word “study,” I’m referring to: doing assigned readings, reviewing class material, preparing for exams, writing papers, and getting tutoring if necessary. All of these activities fall under the general studyingcategory of studying and all of these activities should be organized. This goes back to the second point about time management.There are different theories concerning how much time you should spend studying each day. The common belief is that you should study one hour per credit you’re taking. Another suggests that you allocate 4-6 hours per day to study. Find what works for you. In the meantime, check out the following video. It is long, but well worth your time.

5. Determine as early as you can if you’re struggling in a class, and get tutoring if you need it. Within two weeks, you should know if you understand the material in a class or not. If you determine that you’re drowning in information you do not understand, GETtutoring HELP! All colleges offer free tutoring services. Most tutors are Juniors or Seniors who have an excellent understanding of the subject they tutor. Take advantage of these services if you need to. Getting the help you need to succeed does not make you stupid. But failing to get the help you need, just might!

6. Make time for a social life. Contrary to what some parents will tell you, college is not just about studying. College is an experience. Your college experience is better when its balanced. All work and no relaxation can make you depressed and even negatively affect your physical and mental health. There are three main categories of college life: academic, social, and spiritual, and I strongly suggest you participate in all three. Social life includes college social lifeparties and other extracurricular activities like sports, physical fitness, and campus organizations. Spiritual life includes things you do to maintain a positive and ethical life. This can include attending a place of worship, meditating, praying, etc. Even atheists and people who practice no religion can still take time each day to meditate, visualize success, or do things that bring them inner satisfaction and direction.

7. Participate in a campus organization. Perhaps no extracurricular activity does more for college students than this one. College campuses have literally hundreds of student organizations including those that are political, cultural, social, religious, and recreational. During my undergraduate and graduate school experiences, I  became a student leader and these experiences really helped my personal and political development. Involvement in campus organizations often helps students gain leadership skills, develop confidence, do community service and sharpen their writing, speaking, and networking skills. Many of these skills, experiences, and contacts you make as a student leader will benefit you years later in the workforce, in addition to in your family and community. Trust me.

In conclusion, college is not an impossible mission. You can succeed if you are organized, work hard, and have a balanced experience. One final word of advice. While it is important to meet people and learn about other cultures and philosophies, you can do this without losing sense of your own cultural identify. As we are reminded in “The Wizard of Oz,”There’s no place like home.” College is often the training ground for future activists and leaders. Take some Black, Women’s and Latino Studies classes and learn about past and present struggles for liberation and empowerment. Remember: education is not simply preparation to get a job, but preparation to go out and empower the people and communities from which you come!

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Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

Puerto Rican History: What We Don’t Learn in School

BlackLatinoUnity_1000px_hi_res_

Enslavement – even that of people with primitive technology – is not an easy task. Oppression is a complicated process. When people come to exploit another group’s labor, steal their land and other natural resources, that invading group must create systems to facilitate their oppressive intentions. This process typically involves introducing artificial divisions among the people, assaulting and confusion their identity, justifying their mistreatment through religious and political ideologies, preventing rebellion, and creating laws and structures to punish those that do rebel.

Latinos comprise the largest and fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States.  Like any oppressed group, they take pride in their history and culture as evidenced for example in the popular Puerto Rican Day Parades in New York City and throughout the United States.

But when we examine the history of Puerto RIco and its people prior to and after Spanish conquest, we see many similarities between them and African people, including a long history of political struggle against forces of domination. Unfortunately this important history of conquest and resistance is often obscured behind a campaign of miseducation and our own misguided attempts to assimilate  “American” values and cultural identity.

So we have populations of Black people who are “proud to be Black,” but can’t soundly articulate the source of their pride beyond a roll-call of Black high-achievers and Black History trivia. Sadly, the same holds true for some of our Latino brethren who like us, ignore the American nightmare, buy into the “American Dream, and find themselves lacking a solid understanding of their indigenous culture, how they were/are oppressed, and their long history of resistance.

Seldom do we think about the languages we speak, religions we practice, or flags we salute and how these were imposed on us for particular reasons. This brief article will address this by exposing the history of Puerto Rico we never learned in school (As a NYC social studies teacher I proudly taught this to my students). Having large numbers and “pride” means nothing if we don’t educate and organize our people to love themselves, wield power to address our problems, and resist those that keep us all exploited and divided. We must begin to address the triple heritage of Latino people (Spanish, African, Native American), and be more inclusive and honest about Afro-Latino history.

THE CONQUEST OF TAINO PEOPLE

THE HONORABLE PEDRO ALBIZU CAMPOS

THE YOUNG LORDS

ELDERS OF THE PUERTO RICAN INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT

AFRO-LATINOS: THE UNTAUGHT STORY

That some of us still fight among ourselves, discriminate against each other, and view dark skin as ugly or inferior is both shameful and saddening. White supremacist and corporate propaganda leads us to view one another in hostile ways without realizing how as brother Malcolm said, “The same dog that bit you, bit us.” It’s time for us to revisit our elders’ activities in the 60s and 70s, and work, organize, and fight together.

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 Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013 he wrote “The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook.” In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, Huffington Post Live, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

Afrikan Fundamentalism: I remember Marcus Garvey – died June 10, 1940, reborn August 17, 1887.

Originally posted on Moorbey'z Blog:

The time has come for the Blackman to forget and cast behind him his hero worship and adoration of other races, and to start out immediately to create and emulate heroes of his own. We must canonize our own martyrs and elevate to positions of fame and honor Black men and women who have made their distinct contributions to our racial history. Sojourner Truth is worthy of sainthood alongside of Joan of Arc.

Crispus Attuck and George William Gordon are entitled to the halo of martyrdom with no less glory than that of the martyrs of any other race. Jacques Deselines’ and Moshesh’s brilliancy as soldiers and statesmen outshone that of a Cromwell, Napoleon, or Washington: hence they are entitled to the highest place as heroes among men. Africa has produced countless numbers of men and women, in war and in peace, whose lustre and bravery outshines that of…

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6 Powerful Black Women We Should Know

I know what you’re thinking. ” Brother Agyei only appreciates 6 Black women?” No. There are many sisters I admire, have studied, and whose ideas and practices I try to emulate. Since there is not enough time or room to cite ALL sisters I admire, I’m highlighting 5 Black women that I believe are important.

1. Queen Ann Nzinga:

2. Ida b. Wells

3. Assata Shakur

4. Nina Simone

5. Ella Baker

6. Sista Souljah

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Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Agyei earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his masters of professional studies degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his master of arts degree in Afro American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please visit his website.

 

 

The Power of Good Parenting

me and parents

Contrary to popular opinion, a purposeful life is not created by a few dramatic or grandiose highlights, but by the consistent application of small but empowering principles and habits on a day-to-day basis. Nowhere is this truth more evident than in parenting. I’m drawn to this subject because today is my mother’s birthday. Please indulge me by enduring this positive rant about a phenomenal Black woman, because honestly, she really deserves it. Furthermore, in an era in which we witness many parents being selfish, short-sighted, and dysfunctional, I believe she serves as one example demonstrating the power of good parenting.

My mother was educated in the segregated South… in Montgomery, Alabama to be exact. Her mother worked closely with her pastor Rev. Ralph Abernathy and his best friend Dr. Martin Luther King, to break the back of racism in Montgomery. Pushed toward academic excellence, cultural appreciation, community service, and character development, my mom later graduated from Fisk University, moved to Chicago briefly, then landed in Harlem, NY where she met and later married my dad. What distinguishes her in my opinion, are 3 things.

1. Her ability to put her energy into the truly important things in life. She had me (I believe) in her mid-twenties. Rather than frequenting the popular clubs, buying the latest fashions, or spending enormous amounts of money to be seen and be cute, she did her own hair and nails, went without things she couldn’t afford and that were not important, and worked and stayed home, where she taught and modeled principles and habits for me that still serve me well to this day. She knew how to stretch a dollar and she saved money and invested much of it into me, via parochial schools/educational camps, and recreational/educational trips. She did not allow the television or my peers to raise me. Instead, She, my dad and grandparents, and the Black church raised me to be conscious, competent and committed to Black people.

2. She set clear and consistent parameters and high standards for me, enforced them, and did not allow me to have my own (immature) way. My mom clearly saw herself not as my buddy or pal, but as my parent and co-leader of the household. She relentlessly corrected my English, encouraged me to be articulate, polite and to take my life seriously. During those times she stayed home, she played educational games with me, reviewed my homework, and explained the importance of aiming for excellence. C grades were unmentionable, B’s were decent, but she expected me and prepared me to get A’s and always do my best. Dishonesty and disrespect and mediocre performance were not tolerated in the least and she never allowed me to get away with blaming other people for my misdeeds or misfortune. Understanding that children often mirror the behavior and attitudes of their peers, she kept a close eye on who my friends were, and did not allow for much idle time. If I wasn’t in school, camp, church, a community center, library, playing organized sports, enjoying safe recreational time or studying, I was at home (or at my grandparents’ house) where the environment was stimulating and peaceful. She was a stickler for being organized and responsible. If I didn’t clean the tub, she woke me up early in the morning and made sure I did. I could not play until I correctly completed my homework. I couldn’t stay up late at night, but had to honor my bedtime. I was not allowed to be around inappropriate adult conversation. If I violated house rules, I couldn’t go outside to play, or got spanked, or got lectured (and sometimes all three) depending on the infraction. She never awarded disobedience or poor performance with nice gifts or privileges. She cooked delicious and nutritious meals, made me do non-negotiable chores (including dishes, cleaning my room and the bathroom,  and my laundry), and had no problem saying that powerful parental word, “no.” And she modeled good practices for me. She listened to good music, read, watched educational television programs, never used profanity toward me, and kept her circle of friends small.

3.  She emphasized the importance of thinking and making decisions. Tantrums, poked-out lips, whining, crossed arms, and bad attitudes didn’t faze my mother. She would repeatedly say, “How could you have done that better?” “What better choice will you make next time?” “One day you’ll be a grown man, and crying and whining won’t get you anywhere. My son will be mature and able to solve problems.”

Her example and leadership serves me well, and has also shared my daughters well, as I’ve adopted her ways and tweaked them to fit my own preferences.

Generally speaking, “they don’t make too many moms like mine these days.” And if they do, they either are not made of the same durable and well-crafted parts or are hiding somewhere from public view. I truly love and admire my mother, not out of some biological obligation, but because she has truly earned my love and admiration. Among other things, she taught me what a strong a good woman looks like, and (although I have ignored her example in some relationships, and suffered as a result) I find myself evaluating women professionally and in relationships by the examples she set. Perhaps her sacrifice and good parenting have been rewarded. She is retired now, heavily involved in community service via the church, dependent on no one, and has become a literal “Harlem Globetrotter (She has traveled to Egypt, Greece, Morocco, Italy and will soon visit South Africa).

In conclusion, my mom was no perfect parent. She admits now that there were some things she would do differently, and that she didn’t have it all figured out. But she didn’t need to be perfect. She just needed to be excellent. And she was. Such is the power of good parenting, specifically good mothering. It equips children to be their highest selves, accomplish good things in life, make good decisions, and be empowered and empowering beings.  If we want to transform the United States and the world, regardless of our political ideologies, we will need to become better parents and role models for our children. Our deeds must mirror our proclamations, and we must have the maturity and vision to sacrifice for our children if we want future generations to be and do better. Politics, families, relationships, classrooms, organizations, and our communities are suffering greatly from emotionally damaged, insecure, incompetent, and shallow individuals who did not receive what they needed in the home, school, community institutions or places of worship. We cannot afford to forget that the first teachers are parents, and the first and perhaps most pivotal classroom is the home. As the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass wrote, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

___________________________

Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Agyei earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his masters of professional studies degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his master of arts degree in Afro American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please visit his website.

My Interview with Malcolm X, Part II

 

malcolm collage

I had just returned from my daughter’s college graduation ceremony and settled myself in for some much-needed sleep. I fell asleep after reading “Malcolm X: The FBI File,” containing the FBI’s actual files, notes, and letters gathered during their ongoing surveillance of the Pan-African revolutionary.

Early the next morning, a familiar voice awoke me from my slumber: “Pardon me my brother, but may I bother you for a cup of coffee?”

I nearly fell out of my bed upon seeing brother Malcolm X standing above me holding a copy of The Amsterdam News. He startled me just as much as he did upon his first visit. The date was May 19, 2014, what would have been brother Malcolm’s 89th birthday.

“Uh, Yes sir, and happy Born Day, brother Malcolm” I replied, still very groggy from the previous day of interstate driving and celebrating.

Pointing to the desk where I do much of my work, he politely asked, “May I sit, brother Agyei?” “Yes, of course,” I replied, stunned and flattered that he even remembered my name.

As I went to prepare his coffee, the legendary former Nation Of Islam spokesman and founder of the OAAU and Muslim Mosque Inc., settled his lanky 6 foot 4-inch frame into my chair and noted, “I’ve been doing some research on the Internet, and much has transpired since my last visit; The deaths of brother Mandela Amiri Baraka, Sam Greenlee, Elombe Brath, Vincent Harding, Chokwe Lumumba, the MURDER of my grandson (he paused, clearing his throat)………The Supreme Court decision upholding Michigan’s ban of Affirmative Action, the curious relationship between the Nation of Islam and Scientology, the gentrification of Harlem and other Black communities, and that disturbing report concerning the state of Black youth in the U.S….. whatever so-called “progress” we’ve made appears to be eroding.”

Clearly, my posthumous mentor had much to say on this visit. He was deeply troubled about the state of affairs for Black people, and deeply disappointed in us as well. I had a feeling this was going to be an interesting visit.

And I was right. Sipping from his coffee, he caught a glance of my gigantic poster of him hanging above my bed, and continued:

“You see my young brother, once I became a conscious person, I stopped using drugs, getting drunk, being a predator of my community, and chasing women. I saw the complete liberation of my people not as a side hobby or fascinating phase, but as my life mission. I devoted my energy, my time, my thoughts, and my activities to helping Black people understand that we must wake up, clean up, and stand up. In other words, we must develop consciousness, eliminate self-defeating vices from our lives, and strengthen our moral fiber, then go out and do the things necessary to empower and liberate ourselves. Too many of our people claim to admire me and follow my example, and think they can do this simply by hanging up posters or wearing t-shirts with my image, or quoting my speeches!”

He apologized for raising his voice and continued:

“And the problem is NOT with the masses of our people who have been made deaf, dumb and blind by white supremacy, but with those who call themselves conscious, who read the books and fail to do the work, quote people like myself and others, but don’t fully appreciate or implement our ideas, or who use their knowledge in condescending or opportunistic ways. Look at all the work Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Fannie Lou Hamer and Elijah Muhammad did with little or no formal education. Now think about all of our people who in this day in time have bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees, but are not producing institutions, theories, and an analysis that lead to our liberation. By the way, my brother Agyei, if you haven’t already, you should read Vincent Harding’s essay, ‘The Vocation of the Black Scholar.’

He stopped abruptly, began pecking away on my laptop, and came to a Facebook page. I couldn’t help but chuckle seeing brother Malcolm on Facebook.

“Oh yes brother Agyei, don’t be surprised. I use social media to keep my finger on the pulse of my people and world events,” he noted after hearing me chuckle. It seems brother Malcolm planned to attend an event he saw posted in a discussion group, and he needed to remember the address.

Sensing he was preparing to leave, I asked, “Brother Malcolm, you’ve been very critical of our people during this visit. Based on what you’ve observed, what are your 5 top criticisms of Black people today?”

Pausing to write down the information he found concerning the event, brother Malcolm replied,

“I’m sorry to say these things about us, brother Agyei, but they’re true. And since my critiques of the masses are already well-known,  the critiques I have are for those in our community that call themselves “conscious. I have 10 of them:”

  1. Too little emphasis on serious study and research
  2. A tendency to focus on history trivia rather than on historical analysis
  3. A failure to connect research and study to actual problem-solving and nation-building activities.
  4. Far too much debate and division around trivial issues
  5. Far too little emphasis on creating independent, Black-centered institutions that work in our interest.
  6. Failure to create a viable national Black cultural and political movement that affects public policy, raises consciousness, and challenges oppression
  7. Failure to build leadership capacity in our own communities, especially among our youth
  8. A sad dependency on the enemy’s finances, job market, and economic assistance. We must create ways to sustain ourselves and our people.
  9. Little or no capacity to defend our people from police brutality or murder by white vigilantes
  10. We have not been critical enough of American imperialism nor have we been critical enough of the President because of his symbolic and racial importance to us.

With that, brother Malcolm disappeared, presumably on his way to the event he had to attend. As always, I learned so much from his visit, and can’t wait for him to return. In his trademark display of humility, he spent his birthday without thinking much of himself.

_______________________________

 Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Agyei earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his masters of professional studies degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his master of arts degree in Afro American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please visit his website.

Truth for our Youth Official Press Release

OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE FOR AGYEI TYEHIMBA’S NEW BOOK

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Agyei Tyehimba, Author, 872-222-6764
Truself143@gmail.com

TRUTH FOR OUR YOUTH
A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens
by Agyei Tyehimba

Distinguished by his passion and commitment, Harlem-born educator, author and activist Agyei Tyehimba has mentored and empowered at-risk teens and their parents for the past two decades.

In TRUTH FOR OUR YOUTH: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens
(CreateSpace Independent Publishing Paperback; $12.95; April 4, 2014), Agyei Tyehimba draws from this solid background in youth development. Over the course of 234 fun and engaging pages, he teaches young people that they can successfully navigate the awkward and challenging terrain of adolescence (regardless of their place of origin, family income or ethnicity) by employing pivotal information, skills, and habits.

Blending teen-friendly language with engaging activities and practical techniques taken from his professional experience, Agyei Tyehimba’s book will inspire and edify teens while equipping their parents and teachers to collaborate in the process.

About the Author:

Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a  consultant and public speaker providing advice on youth development. Agyei earned his Bachelor’s degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master of Arts degree in Afro American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

TRUTH FOR OUR YOUTH: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens
by Agyei Tyehimba
Paperback
April 4, 2014 – $12.95 – ISBN: 978-1497420434
Visit the website at: https://www.createspace.com/4472824

Source:
Agyei Tyehimba

Date:
May 25, 2014

Links:
About “Truth for our Youth”
Order Agyei’s Book on Amazon

The Defeatist Attitude of the Domestic Violence Movement: The Need for Prevention

Originally posted on Lyn Twyman:

Originally posted on Time’s Up

By Lyn Twyman

There’s a defeatist attitude in the domestic violence movement in this country.  There are several state coalitions and organizations that instead of coming together and finding solutions, they bicker, whine and complain about why things aren’t working.  They are keeling over in the wallow of despair and have become more concerned with the continuous band aid remedy instead of writing a prescription (words in part by Susan Murphy-Milano) for the domestic violence epidemic.  They lack the utilization of prevention, intervention and technology to keep victims and the public at large safe.  As a result, newer, more comprehensive methods like the Mosaic Method, The Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit, and now the National Domestic Violence Registry are being embraced in growing numbers throughout the United States in response to the lack of prevention in this country.

Recently I spoke with the executive director of one…

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