NATIONWIDE DAY OF PROTEST, JANUARY 19, 2015!

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#WEFIGHT2BREATHE is not a formal or traditional organization, but a campaign against police brutality and the repeated murder of Black people by police all over the United States. Our supporters include political and social justice activists in Harlem, New York in addition to concerned and outraged brothers and sisters who have declared, “Enough is Enough,” after witnessing escalating acts of police using excessive and deadly force against members of our community nationwide.

We support and encourage the role of traditional Black organizations (so long as they are effective and genuine). Yet we recognize that the emergence of the Internet and social media networks have eliminated some of the bureaucracy and challenges of traditional organizations. We are now living in a time where concerned individuals can act decisively on a mass level and have great impact without the cumbersome and time-consuming challenges of developing group consensus, approving budgets, appeasing a board of directors, or a need to validate one media-recognized celebrity leader to advocate for all Black people/interests. The name of our campaign is inspired by the last agonizing words spoken by NYC resident Eric Garner before police choked and killed him…. “I can’t breathe.” These tragic words inspired a protest call by the same name heard around the country by outraged protesters.

In a society that devalues Black life, and that constantly threatens our survival, we proclaim that #WEFIGHT2BREATHE. We take this to mean that we are part of the movement to actively protest and resist police brutality against Black people, and to remind ourselves that our survival and freedom will not come from moral reasoning with those who oppress us, but from sustained protest and resistance to such people and forces. This campaign is a NONVIOLENT direct action campaign that seeks to encourage, support, and participate in peaceful protest activities that oppose police brutality.

FIGHT TO BREATHE FLIER

NATIONAL DAY OF PROTEST

We are inspired and impressed by the sea of protests around the United States challenging the unfair and racist decisions not to indict the killers of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. We are taking our stand and making our contribution by calling for a National Day of Protest on January 19, 2015. This date is meaningful, being that it is the Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday. We can think of no better day to conduct a nationwide protest against injustice. We encourage young people to participate and play an active part in this protest and learn to appreciate the activities and legacy of Dr. King himself. As students are out of school and many parents have a day off from work, this date helps to increase maximum participation throughout the country.

At 1:30pm Eastern Standard Time, we request that Black people and others in every United States city wear all-black, assemble at their local City Hall building, and coordinate marches, rallies, and/or die-ins to protest police brutality. We respect the authority and ability of local leadership and organizers, and we know variables like weather or police actions will affect your plans. We trust you will provide the leadership needed to make this day a success in your respective cities. All we ask is that the protest, march, rally, or die-in be peaceful, well-attended, occur at City Hall, and begin at 1:30pm Eastern Standard Time. Larger cities will have several sites of power. In NYC for example, it might be effective to conduct protests at City Hall, One Police Plaza, and the United Nations complex.

EDUCATING YOUR COMMUNITY

Many of the people you’ll be recruiting to this protest will not be seasoned and experienced activists. Some have never protested before, and know little about the issue of police brutality other than what they see on the news. Therefore we encourage you to educate them on the issue during the weeks leading up to the National Day of Protest. Teach-ins should occur in your local churches, community centers, and even in homes. This site offers excellent sources of teaching about police brutality including poetry, video clips, timelines, and pamphlets. Speaking of unfair and abusive police or law enforcement, you might encourage people to sign the petition calling on President Obama to drop all criminal charges on Assata Shakur!

You will also want to emphasize that this is a peaceful protest. Caution against members of your community taunting cops, throwing things at them, or hitting them. Also remind them that this is not about looting stores or burning property. Our goal here is to make a united and powerful statement against unfair and excessive police force in our communities. Protests like this can force mayors, city councils and police to the table to negotiate effective reforms and better policing policies.

WE WANT TO HEAR YOUR VOICE!

The presence of YouTube offers exciting and creative ways to interact with our community. We want to hear what you have to say about police murdering and assaulting Black people in this country. We’d love for people all over the country to record brief YouTube/Instagram videos stating your first name, what city, state you represent, and your thoughts about why we should fight to breathe. Make sure to include #WEFIGHT2BREATHE as a hashtag in the description or on the video itself, and leave a link to your video at our Facebook page.

WHAT ARE WE DEMANDING?

Disjointed protests are not as effective as coordinated protest movements. It is not enough to simply protest without an agenda. What exactly do we want or hope to achieve? The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement has developed an excellent set of demands, which all serious police brutality activists should seriously use and refer to.

The Limitations of Boycotting as a Protest Tactic

mytruesense:

This deserves repeating…..

Originally posted on MY TRUE SENSE:

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The decision by a Missouri grand jury not to indict police officer Darren Wilson  for the murder of black teen Michael Brown, has caused national outrage among black people. It also inspired activists and others to do something about this injustice.

One of the most prominent ideas that emerged from the tragedy in Ferguson was the national call for black people to boycott white retail establishments on “Black Friday,” “Cyber Monday,” and in some cases, indefinitely.

We heard a similar call when George Zimmerman was cleared of criminal charges for murdering innocent teen Trayvon Martin in Florida. The strategy in that case was for black people to launch a national boycott against the state of Florida, with a focus on its tourism and retail industries.The battle cry was, “Don’t shop in Florida, don’t buy products from Florida, and don’t vacation in Florida!”

As a general rule, organizing strategies and…

View original 847 more words

The Limitations of Boycotting as a Protest Tactic

image

The decision by a Missouri grand jury not to indict police officer Darren Wilson  for the murder of black teen Michael Brown, has caused national outrage among black people. It also inspired activists and others to do something about this injustice.

One of the most prominent ideas that emerged from the tragedy in Ferguson was the national call for black people to boycott white retail establishments on “Black Friday,” “Cyber Monday,” and in some cases, indefinitely.

We heard a similar call when George Zimmerman was cleared of criminal charges for murdering innocent teen Trayvon Martin in Florida. The strategy in that case was for black people to launch a national boycott against the state of Florida, with a focus on its tourism and retail industries.The battle cry was, “Don’t shop in Florida, don’t buy products from Florida, and don’t vacation in Florida!”

As a general rule, organizing strategies and tactics should be relevant to the issue we’re addressing and strategically designed to produce desired outcomes. The tragic incident that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri is about police brutality and how the state murders Black people without remorse or consequence.

The simple question for us then,  is “How does boycotting retail businesses  eliminate or reduce the assault or murder of black people by hyperviolent and over-militarized police?

I’m all for boycotting malicious and greedy corporations in an effort  to use our $1.1 trillion purchasing power with people and in ways that empower us. But this tactic doesn’t adequately address and resolve the issue of police brutality.

Effective boycotts target institutions or businesses directly responsible for the oppression we’re challenging, or closely involved/invested in entities that are directly responsible.

For example the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott that catapulted Martin Luther King to national recognition, made sense.Black people in Montgomery were tired of paying the same bus fare as whites, but having no power to choose  where they sat on the bus. Furthermore,  we paid our fare on the front of the bus, then had to get off and board via the back doors. White bus drivers often took off without allowing black people who already paid to board the bus!

The injustice didn’t stop there. Once on the bus, we had to sit in the “colored section.” And if the white seating section became overcrowded, we had to relinquish our seats to white passengers! Rosa Parks was arrested if you recall, for refusing to relinquish her seat.

Activists in Montgomery, primarily Black women, made a good call by asking Black folk not to ride public buses. Why should we support a company or service that cheats and mistreats us? The rest, as you know, was history.

In this case white retail stores –  while guilty of harassing Black shoppers, charging exorbitant prices, and underpaying Black workers – do not murder us and are not directly tied to the police  that do.

If we choose to boycott, it should target either the police or court institutions or institutions directly involved with or supportive of them. Courts and law enforcement agencies don’t sell retail items to the public. Therefore we can’t boycott them, and we have yet to identify outside institutions that directly support their ability to attack and kill us. A boycott simply isn’t relevant or effective given these considerations.

There is another major point for us to consider. By targeting establishments not responsible for police brutality, we potentially punish “innocent” people or institutions (innocent of committing police brutality, at least).

Since many black people work as cashiers, sales clerks, and low-level managers  in U.S. retail establishments, the boycott being called for will likely cause many black folk to lose much needed jobs in a very tough economy. How do we justify a tactic that punishes innocent people and negatively affects US, more than it does our opposition?

For these reasons, I do not believe a nationwide boycott of U.S. retail stores will effectively address or resolve the issue of anti-Black police brutality,

There are, to be fair, some advantages to boycotting: doing so will keep the issue current, create and promote Black solidarity, and raise consciousness among our people while mobilizing us to resist our oppression.

However, as already mentioned, the targets of the boycott are too broad and vaguely defined, they are not responsible for the issue we raise, nor do these businesses wield the power or responsibility to resolve the problem. Also, the boycott can result in massive layoffs that may harm us more than it punishes our opponents.

Nevertheless, the boycott has many supporters, is gaining ground, and has a few advantages like those I’ve identified above.
To be clear, I support Black resistance to oppression, and I applaud and generally support attempts to make us wake up and stand up against the racist devaluation of Black life.  I’m not suggesting that we abandon the boycott. I’m suggesting we tweak it to make it more relevant and effective.

In conclusion and going forward, perhaps we can target a specific retail chain or other institution that is highly supportive of police, donates money to murderous police officers or “Police Benevolent Associations,”  or that has publicly defended his/their their acts of aggression against us. Even this wouldn’t end or reduce police brutality, but it would at least punish those who collaborate with or defend belligerent police.

Lastly, It might also be a good idea to couple a “Buy Black” movement with this boycott. We can develop a list of Black-owned businesses throughout the U.S. that provide important goods/services we desire, and help Black businesses and Black consumers simultaneously. Of course these businesses would show their appreciation by lowering prices in return for their increased sales volume.

But even these boycott tweaks will prove to be of minimal influence if we fail to openly and persistently confront, embarrass, disrupt and neutralize police precincts, prosecutors’ offices,courthouses, and propagandist news networks (like Fox) that defend police, devalue Black life, and mischaracterize activists fighting for justice and safety in this nation. Black Consciousness, Black Power!

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Lessons From the Ferguson Decision and Repeated Police Brutality

brutality

As Thanksgiving approaches in three days, it would be sacrilegious for me to suggest that Black people in the U.S. have little for which we are thankful. Yet, when it comes to our experience under racist and irresponsible policing in our communities, this sentiment is valid.

This is one of those posts that really disturbs me. It disturbs me to write this post simply because I shouldn’t have to write it. It disturbs me that many fellow Black people will call me a “fanatic” or “irresponsible militant” for drawing conclusions and making suggestions that are logical,  effective, and drawn from a keen analysis of history. The fact that I must STILL address the issue of anti-Black police brutality says so many unfortunate things about Black people, Black leadership, and the future of Black people in urban areas managed by the occupying force we refer to as “The Police.”

I addressed this issue at length in an earlier article, but the recent news of a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict Mike Brown’s killer, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson, and our shocked reaction to this news, indicates I must revisit the issue. You might want to view the press conference remarks by St. Louis’ prosecuting attorney, Bob McCullouch, below:

You might also want to view the understandable reaction of angry Black folk in Ferguson, Missouri as they realize that yet another white police officer was not held accountable for unfairly taking Black life:

If police murders of unarmed Black people rarely occurred in the United States, we might understand. If police officers were routinely punished for murdering us, we might be more tolerant. If the Ferguson grand jury was not composed of 9 whites and only 3 Black people, we might understand. To make matters worse, the Black President that 96% of Black people voted for in 2008, responded to this disturbing no-indictment decision by ironically and insultingly stating, “We are a nation of law,” by speaking to all the “racial progress” the U.S. has experienced, or spending more time addressing the violence of righteously indignant protesters, than he did the violence of Mike Brown’s murderer or the other acts of police brutality across the nation. See his remarks below:

Despite the president’s diplomatic, sanitized and somewhat ambiguous remarks, none of us who are reasonable are prone to be to very understanding or tolerant as we witness another example of how Black life in this country is devalued, and how that devaluation is justified by government agents.

For the love of God, Black people, and for the sake of our current and future safety, Please read and absorb the following words:

  1. Several decades of police brutality in our neighborhoods strongly suggest that police sensitivity training, candlelight vigils, marches, and “knowing our rights,” simply do not prevent police officers from murdering our people. In fact, such acts have escalated over time.
  2. The reason such tactics or strategies do not work is because they assume that the police exist to promote peace and safety in our communities. This is a false and dangerous assumption. As my previous article on this subject demonstrates, the racist and belligerent police forces that currently exist have their roots in early slave patrols in this country. The objectives of slave patrols were to prevent Black revolt and insurrection against the white privileged class, intimidate enslaved Blacks into submission, and monitor for any activity or sentiment that might lead to rebellion. The officers we see today are the ideological and political descendants of these slave patrol officers, and their objectives where poor and so-called “minority” people are concerned, remain the same. The police as an institution therefore, play a deliberate and conscious role in assaulting, intimidating, detaining, and even murdering our people to quell Black dissent or resistance in a country which by the way, STILL sees us as a cheap and docile labor force.
  3. Since all the approaches I mentioned clearly don’t work (and will NEVER work, for the reasons I just suggested),  we will continue to endure physical and psychological terror at the hands of police forces in this nation, just like our people across the Diaspora do at the hands of U.S. military forces throughout the world.
  4. Mainstream Black leadership in this county makes its living by teaching us to accommodate to our pain and suffering or use means they KNOW don’t work to give us the feeling of protesting or blowing off steam, without actually solving our problems (Brother Malcolm referred to this as learning to “suffer peacefully”). Most of these leaders are far too invested in their expense accounts, jobs, and status to commit to the organizing and sacrifice that is needed to end police brutality.
  5. As former NYC Mayor Rudolph Guiliani harshly reminded us, the persistent violence Black people perpetrate on ourselves compromises our ability to focus squarely on racist violence. While he argued that point from a racist and conservative angle, the point has validity. As we confront police brutality, we must also confront Black fratricide.
  6. No amount of education, candle-lighting, legal representation, knowing your rights, lawsuits, boycotting, marches, or scholarly debates have ended police brutality, or will end it. The only way to end police brutality….is to end police brutality! The only way you save your life when an enemy has a gun pointed at you or has you in a choke-hold, is to disarm that person and render them physically unable to hunt you down afterwards. As I’ve posted before, the Nation of Islam successfully did this, and we can also draw from Robert F. Williams’ example. No one’s life is more important than another’s nor is anyone’s family and community more important. The corrupt and malicious police forces of this country, will at some point push Black people to a position of what I call “irreconcilable discontent.” And when that happens, injuries and casualties will occur on both sides. Every creature in existence has a system for defending itself. When we begin to say “enough is enough, when we understand the nature and objectives of the police, courts, and government agencies, begin to value our lives, and cease hiding behind misinterpreted and revised scriptures, along with our fear of death and prison, I suspect the issue of police brutality will cease in frequency and importance.

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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 Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

Why The Negroes Suffer

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This blog does not contain much writing. Today I’m using poetry to get points across. Some of you may know I’ve been an educator, author and activist, but many don’t know that I grew up in Harlem as an aspiring Hip Hop emcee. I wrote rhymes, practiced all the time, and really took it seriously. Most of my high school buddies thought I would eventually become a famous rap artist. In fact, two of my high school classmates and friends did become well-known artists. You know them as “Fatman Scoop” and “Diamond D.” But as I became older and more disenchanted with the violent and minstrel-like direction of Hip Hop, I moved away from being an emcee and evolved into more of a spoken word poet.

Please watch the video below to hear me perform my poem entitled, “This is My Thesis” or “Why the Negroes Suffer.” It provides a summarized and abbreviated sense of my political views. It is more dynamic of course, when I perform in before a crowd either at a poetry open-mic night or as an opening to a speech. Therefore, this rendition is not as dynamic or energetic, but content wise, it stills gets the points across.

In a larger sense, the poem provides a simplified but (in my opinion) valid critique of white supremacy while offering a sociological analysis of why and how Black people are oppressed, in addition to how we Black people unfortunately internal the negative messages about ourselves and contribute to our own victimization.

There are some minor uses of profanity, and I sometimes use the N word to convey meaning. Please be mindful of this if viewing at work, in a formal environment, and around young people.

I encourage you to share this on your social media networks, classroom discussions and sessions designed to develop political consciousness among young people. I also encourage you to post responses to the poem whatever they are as long as you do so respectfully, and to click the “like” button if you are so inclined. Black Consciousness and Black Power! Enjoy….

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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 Black Student Union Handbook.” 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 Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

The 7 Deadly Black Sins

Fighting for dignity, empowerment and liberation, as I’ve noted before, requires that we build and destroy. In other words, we must create systems, habits, institutions, etc. But we must also eliminate self-defeating habits and practices as well.

Listed below are “7 deadly Black Sins,” or practices that compromise our forward motion as a people:

1. Assimilation: Attempting to adopt the values, priorities and behavior of any culture when those things disarm and cripple us is not a good idea. We can learn from others without abandoning the values that serve our best interests.

2. Giving people a “pass” just because they are Black. Being “Black” in phenotype does not mean someone represents the best interests of our people. And if this person is an elected official, they should be exposed. Failure to adequately critique someone because they are Black is ignorant and leaves us open to being oppressed and misled by those who look like us. Can you say, President Obama?

3. Excusing or tolerating our own mediocrity, failure and/or ineffectiveness. A people who have historically been the world’s most despised,brutalized, belittled, and unfairly treated, have no room for anything less than excellence.  We value and reward excellence in our dancers, comedians, athletes, and other entertainers. We should extend the same standard to our teachers, leaders, professionals and others involved in work that can potentially being us forward or undo years of hard work and struggle. The standard of rendering excellent service/performance should be taught in our homes, places of worship, schools, and organizations. Specifically speaking, this translates to being prompt, informed, articulate, and observing best practices as it relates to honesty, following-up, and keeping promises, and apologizing when needed. We should also observe the principles of hard work, serious research, and making good decisions. When we fail to observe the standard of excellence, we become accomplices to our own ignorance, mistreatment and oppression.

4. Fighting other people’s battles before our own. There is no law stating that Black people cannot join outside groups or fight for causes that go beyond those that impact us immediately. Gender, class, sexuality, imperialism, and environmental issues impact Black people too. We should develop the capacity to understand how various issues and interests intersect. However, joining with other people to fight their battles why we have tons of unfinished business ourselves, is irresponsible and foolish. When the people we join have more power, resources and influence than we, our unique perspectives and issues tend to be placed on the backburner. Charity and empowerment begin at home.

5. Defending, internalizing or promoting negative Black stereotypes. Some of us are habitually late, violent, disorganized or prone to being divisive. This is just as true for other groups of people. We have no monopoly on bad character traits or self-defeating practices. Our oppressors taught us to doubt our value, competence and intelligence so that we would never be a threat to them and always be our own worst enemies. We must stop saying we can’t organize, be in loving relationships, be on time or work together. These are lies, and behaviors that are not hing others and aiding in our own poverty, we must  of us all.

6. Conspicuous consumption of depreciating goods. Although Black people have a trillion-dollar purchasing power, we tend to purchase/consume things that lose value and are entertainment or vanity-based. Unless we want to continue enriching others and aiding in our own poverty and deprivation, we must change our values and practices. No commercial purchase should put us in serious and ongoing debt. Most of the things we buy should have the potential to generate income. We should also develop the habit of

saving and investing resources in our education.

Being broke and financially impotent is not a virtue, but a serious impediment and disadvantage leading to the crippling outcome of poverty. This keeps us slaves for or dependent on others.

7. Trivializing education or intelligence. Learning is a habit/practice that our people have always valued. Learning makes our skill-set more diverse, broadens our thinking, and
makes us potentiallly more helpful to ourselves and others.
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Aguei Tyehimba is and educator, activistand 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 published “The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook,” a leadership and organizing manual for Black Student Unions on college campuses. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, Huffington Post Live, 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 Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Currently, he lives in New York City and in addition to speaking and writing, provides consultation in the areas of activism and community organizing.

Syracuse University: Agree to Student Demands!

Chancellor Kent Syverud:

A broad coalition of Syracuse University students, with support from faculty, alumni, parents and community members, has launched a well-organized movement.

They have essentially called for the university to create policies and take actions to make the university more diverse, democratic, safe and responsive to students.

This coalition – which represents a cross-section of gender, racial and class interests – has done an impressive job. It has done a fine job of educating the public about the issues and their grievances; it has compiled research to support student grievances, and crafted a list of demands with timelines ins 43-page document. It has attracted national news coverage along with the support of parents, alumni, faculty, and community members; they’ve organized protests and demonstrations culminating with the current sit-in in the Crouse-Hinds Administration building.

In response to these developments, what have you, the university administration done? You’ve participated in a long and protracted series of negotiations and issued a “final” statement that fails to adequately address students’ concerns and proposed reforms.

As you know, Thanksgiving break, exams,  and Christmas break rapidly approach. By failing to move more assertively in negotiations with students, and neglecting to address their grievances and reforms, you are facilitating extended and heightened resistance from The General Body coalition and their supporters.

Chancellor Syverud, will you as representative of Syracuse University act decisively and collaboratively to make SU an example of inclusion, safety, and diversity, or will you choose the weak and dangerous path of continuing to stall progress, engage in piecemeal negotiations, or play power games with students, who (with no disrespect to the Board of Trustees), are the true power of the university?

Behind door #2 are mass student arrests, possible acts of anti-student brutality/persecution, continued bad press and loss revenue in the form of significantly decreased admissions, and alumni donations.

Behind door #1 is renewed cooperation, faith and harmony on the SU campus, SU distinguishing itself as a beacon of democratic leadership, inclusion, and increased student, community, parent and alumni support and morale.

Bring closure to these negotiations. Allow students to fully engage their studies and research. Allow yourself and your peers to rest comfortably while focusing on attracting funding and support to make Syracuse University one of the finest research institutions in the nation. Agree to The General Body demands in principle, then modify timetables and discuss logistics as needed with input from students and administrators.

The students are righteously indignant, and rightly so.They envision a university responsive to all and responsible for all. The world beyond campus sees this and supports them. They are  unstoppable. But you on the other hand, are not. The university cannot exist without every student enrolled. But it can exist without YOU. And if you fail to take these students seriously, it most likely will. Play ball in good faith Chancellor. Define and solidify your legacy. Don’t tarnish or compromise it. Do the right thing. Agree to the General Body demands, NOW!

Agyei Tyehimba,
-Syracuse University class of ’91
-Editor-in-Chief, The Black Voice, 1987
-SAS President, 1988-1990
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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 published “The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook,” a leadership and organizing manual for Black Student Unions on college campuses. 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.” 

Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Currently, he lives in New York City and in addition to speaking and writing, provides consultation in the areas of activism and community organizing.

Black People: STILL America’s Best Kept Secret?

Whenever we endeavor to write history, and to use historical developments to generate and define the context of contemporary developments, we truly engage in a necessary yet complicated  task. The task is necessary because we understand that all present-day circumstances and events find their roots in those preceding them. It follows that identifying and analyzing these historical events allows us to better understand and engage things taking place today.

What makes this task complicated is that people record and analyze history. These people do not exist in a vacuum, but are connected to social classes, privilege (or the lack thereof) and with them, ideological biases and slanted perspectives.These biases and politically loaded perspectives often lead historians (professional and novice) to focus on some events and people at the exclusion of others. Indeed, much of what is called “U.S. history,” is in fact  an amalgamation of privileged, wealthy, white,male narratives.

This disturbing realization pushed formally trained and self-taught Black intellectuals like J.A. Rogers, Anna Julia Cooper, W.E.B. DuBois, Ellen Watkins Harper, Vincent Harding, John Hope Franklin and innumerable others to do groundbreaking research and storytelling to illuminate and give meaning to the Black experience in the United States from the informed perspectives of Black people. The repeated erasure or misrepresentation of Black perspectives/experiences likewise pushed radical and sympathetic white intellectuals like Howard Zinn for example, to publish books like “A People’s History of the United States,” in which he recalled U.S. history from the perspectives of poor, Black, female, and indigenous people rather than whites with status and privilege. In many cases, Black and some white scholars alike have not only provided alternative historical narratives, but corrected blatantly inaccurate versions. To note that there are numerous examples of this fact is an understatement.

For example, prior to DuBois’ classic “The Black Reconstruction,” mainstream scholars and the public commonly believed that the attempt to politically empower Black people after the Civil War failed completely because newly freed Black folk were ignorant, violent, and “not ready” for the responsibilities of freedom. DuBois convincingly proved that the Reconstruction could boast achievements like public education and a more democratized government. He also proved that Black people played an active and impressive part in their own advancement, contrary to popular belief.

Prior to Herbert Aptheker’s book, “American Slave Revolts,” scholars believed and taught that enslaved Africans were content with the brutality and labor exploitation they  regularly faced, and that the institution of chattel slavery was not as inhumane, violent, and oppressive as it actually was. Aptheker destroyed both arguments by documenting widespread reports of violent slave revolts throughout the South. His logic was simple and effective: If Africans were “happy slaves,” and slavery itself was not inhumane, why would enslaved folk secretly organize and use weapons (at great risk to themselves) to kill slave owners and flee their captivity?

This same dynamic also exists in the Diasporan context. For years, mainstream political economists and historians attributed Africa’s poverty and civil woes to African mismanagement and “primitive” intellect and understanding of politics and economics. Guyanese scholar-activist Walter Rodney’s anti-imperialist classic,europe underdevloped africa “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,” took serious issue with white scholarship on this matter. Rodney demonstrated how European colonialism/imperialism – and its practices of exacerbating local indigenous conflicts, crafting labor and trade agreements unfair to African societies, and robbing the continent of its natural resources at gunpoint – was the true culprit explaining both Africa’s underdevelopment and Europe’s capitalist expansion and political empowerment.

As a graduate student who would later become Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, Eric Williams also challenged misrepresentative white scholarship on the question of European advancement. Prior to Williams’ masterful book, “Capitalism eric williamsand Slavery,” white scholars cited Europeans’ superior intellect, assertiveness, technology and business sense as the explanations for Britain’s 17th-19th century wealth and political stature. Williams shattered these pompous claims by explaining how the enslavement of African people led directly to the economic development of British shipping companies, insurance companies, its sugar, cotton and wool industries and even the British industrial revolution itself!

We have discussed how white scholars have misrepresented and attempted to erase the Black experience. We have also noted how white America in general attributes Black failure to the incompetence of Black people without providing any understanding of white supremacy’s role via brutality, enslavement and propaganda.

But our indictment against privileged and biased white scholarship can’t stop there. As if depicting Black folk as ignorant and primitive fools responsible for our own poverty and underdevelopment wasn’t enough, they have also trivialized or omitted (As Rodney and Williams demonstrated) the indispensable role Black people played in global and national wealth in addition to freedom movements in the United States. To hear some traditional white scholars tell it, Black people played minimal roles in the Abolitionist, Reconstruction, Suffrage, Communist, Free Speech, Anti-War, or Feminist (First or Second Wave) Movements in this country!

Case in point: I recently read an otherwise well-written and informative article attempting to connect an impressive current campus movement for inclusion, diversity, safety, and environmental concerns, to the Free Speech Movement started at Berkeley 50 years ago. This claim has some validity, and is well-argued I might add. However in writing his narrative, the author glosses over the overwhelming significance of the Civil Rights Movement, especially the Black student activists (and later white activists) of the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. This is odd, considering that no other mass social justice movement politicized, mobilized, and organized students, intellectuals, and community folk to challenge oppression during the mid 50s and early 60s to a greater extent.

From the historical records we have available to us, it is safe to say that the Civil Rights Movement radicalized, energized and to some extent, gave birth to and set precedents for the Free Speech Movement and Anti-war Movements in the 60s. This is important to note because both the Free Speech and Anti-war Movements were largely middle-class white student movements. By citing these as the reference points or benchmarks of student activism in the U.S., we ignore the agency of Black students, pastors, menial workers and intellectuals that preceded them. Hence yet again, the Black presence is ignored or trivialized, even by a sympathetic and well-meaning writer. No story of mid-20th century college student activism is complete without mentioning the Black Power and Black Arts & Consciousness Movements (led by Black students, intellectuals and community folk) with its bold demands for Black solidarity, economic development, anti-imperialism. self-defense/self-reliance, Black pride, Black cultural expression, and Black political and artistic perspective and aesthetics.

These social justice and freedom movements radicalized college students of every stripe, and led to a critique of western capitalist education, calling for colleges to prepare students to empower and liberate their communities beyond the college campus, and to be more inclusive and democratic. This in turn led to the creation of Black Studies Departments around the country, which inspired women, Latinos, and other ethnic and marginalized groups to follow suit.

If we are going to tell the story, tell it accurately. Talk about the indispensable significance of Black resistance, ingenuity and struggle, and how it politicized and energized other oppressed or neglected American citizens to take up their own struggles for expression, dignity and freedom. No matter how you slice it, Black people have always been the “radical conscience” of the United States. More than anyone, WE, this nation’s most despised, rejected and oppressed, have always been the people to call America out for refusing to practice what it preached. The shameful display of our suffering and brutality in an effort to realize rights and privileges denied us by a nation we built has created the blueprint for white feminists, the gay community, and countless other ethnic groups, oppressed people and movements. We are not arrogant or myopic enough to believe we are the only examples of resistance and social justice; And yet we tire of being a footnote in the history of this country and the world. And it is a damn shame that as we approach year 2015, with a Black president and all, BLACK PEOPLE ARE STILL AMERICA’S BEST KEPT SECRET!

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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 published “The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook,” a leadership and organizing manual for Black Student Unions on college campuses. 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.” 

Agyei earned his Bachelor’s Degree in sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Currently, he lives in New York City and in addition to speaking and writing, provides consultation in the areas of activism and community organizing.

How “The Lion King” Relates to Black People

mytruesense:

An older post that is still relevant….If you like it, please share it.

Originally posted on MY TRUE SENSE:

lion king1

{Note: I released my third book entitled, “Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens,” on April 6, 2014. Check it out, and help me spread the word!}

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I know….I know…. you’re thinking “First this guy writes about the Wizard of Oz, then The Godfather, and now the Lion King? Brother Agyei Tyehimba is overly-fascinated with fiction movies. He’s crazy!” In truth, wise people (which we are or hope to be) can glean truth and insight from ANYthing which contains it. And this includes: music, art, speeches, cartoons, movies, etc.

Disney released the original Lion King movie in 1994. At the time, my oldest daughter Nubia was two years-old. We saw the movie in the theater and later purchased the movie on video.  I don’t exaggerate when I say that Nubia watched that movie almost every day. I did as well. And this had much to…

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Beware of Relationship Killers!

protect love

Based on the overwhelming popularity of “Chick Flicks,” romantic comedy movies, and romantic novels alone, we can agree that despite obstacles and mutual distrust, romantic relationships are still very important in our society.

While we have tons of television shows, websites, and magazines showing us how to find, nurture, and communicate love, less attention goes toward showing us how to protect our romantic relationships. It’s worth mentioning that anything we value we mustpreserve-love also be willing to defend. And because our romantic relationships (especially marriage or long-term coupling) are precious we absolutely must guard them against people who seek to sabotage them.

Yes, I used to term “sabotage!” Observe any barbershop, hair salon, church, or street discussion about relationships and this topic will inevitably emerge. Who would want to create distrust, tension or disaster in your relationships you ask? Strangers don’t know you or your significant other, so eliminate them as your primary suspects (although this is possible.)  Sadly enough, the main people who might want to ruin your blissful love are those you know well and even trust. The key culprits are family members, close friends, and co-workers.

Now you’re asking, “But why would my relatives, friends or co-workers want to destroy my relationship? Aren’t they happy that I”m in love?” Relationship killers are usually people who are bitter due to their own past (or present) experience of being in disappointing, dishonest, abusive or dead-end relationships. Perhaps the person they really loved and sacrificed for, slept with someone else…maybe even a friend or relative of theirs. The potential for relationship bitterness grows when the person in question has a long pattern of sad or hurtful dating experiences. You know the type. They can’t name one relationship that was loving and rewarding…every man or woman they ever dated stole from them, hit them, made them feel ugly and worthless, or cheated.

I’ve been involved in toxic relationships, but only a grand total of two. One woman cheated on me, and unfairly attempted to disrupt my financial health for years afterwards. The other was verbally and psychologically abusive, manipulative, and very selfish and controlling. However she expected me to be loving, nurturing and toxicpeopleemotionally accessible whenever she  demanded it, and wanted to have control of my finances as well! But I’d be lying if I said ALL of my relationships were toxic. In fact, some were healthy and satisfying. We simply grew apart or came to see we had different expectations or priorities.

So any person that has one toxic relationship after another is probably bad news. People like this blame all their relationship woes on their partners and fail to hold themselves accountable for any of the dysfunction. Such individuals will never experience happiness in the romantic realm until they first deal with and overcome their own demons and self-defeating thoughts and behaviors. Only then will they be able to freely love and be loved in return.

Not all relationship-killers operate from the standpoint of bitterness or past hurts however. The second category of people want to destroy or “throw salt” on your relationship simply because they are jealous of you, and/or the love you share with your partner.  It literally upsets them to know you are so in love, meanwhile they don’t have a mate at all or one as loving (or attractive, sexy, intelligent or successful) as yours. They find themselves privately asking, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t’ I have someone who loves me, speaks to me and treats ME like that?” “Why does he/she have the type of relationship or mate I want?” “He or she is not better than ME!”

haters

Whether motivated by bitterness, insecurity or jealousy, these are some of the signs that your friend, relative, or co-worker might qualify as a relationship-killer:

  • They act inhospitable or unnecessarily hostile with your mate: They may fail to acknowledge his or her presence, speak to your mate sarcastically or not at all, or they may directly insult them in any number of ways.
  • They accuse your love interest of being dishonest or unfaithful without evidence to suggest the charge. Sometimes this will come indirectly in the guise of “I know you think the world of this guy/girl, but none of these men or women are faithful, you know.”
  • They confront you with a barrage of negative questions designed to make you distrust or doubt the integrity or intentions of your partner: “When is he finally going to propose to you? What’s taking him so long?” “Yeah that was a nice gift she gave or poem she wrote, but don’t you think he/she does that with everybody?” “I know you say you love him, but are you REALLY happy with him?” “If he/she REALLY loved you, they would have bought you this, took you there, or gave you this much money.” “She’s always busy. Are you sure she’s really going or doing what they told you?”
  • They will try to make you feel guilty for spending quality time with your mate and not enough time with them…even though they do the same thing when they’re in a relationship! Let’s keep it real…
  • They will compare him or her negatively to your former love and even suggest your ex was better for you and that you should go back to them.
  • Without having the inside information to make such an assessment, they may suggest that your love is more sincere, demonstrative and reliable than your mate’s and that you “deserve better.”
  • They will plead for you to hang out with them more, which in normal circumstances, would be completely understandable. But a relationship-killer has ulterior motives. They either want to take up all of your leisure time in an effort to cause problems with your partner, infect you with distrust in him/her, or they will make repeated efforts to “hook you up” with other people at the club or bar/lounge.

Any trustworthy friend, co-worker or relative that cares about you should be protective of your feelings and happiness. There are times when any one of these people might make accurate and sincere observations about your relationship, but this should be based on accurate information. When they become too pushy in their efforts or overly negative without good cause, you should beware of ulterior motives.

Thankfully, there are ways you can deal with a relationship-killer who has malicious and unreasonable suspicions or intentions concerning your relationship:

  1. Develop an open and honest line of communication with your mate.
  2. Trust your own understanding of your mate, how he/she makes you feel, and your own relationship instincts.
  3. Be discrete about what information you share with people.
  4. Be balanced. Create quality time for your love interest and your friends and other important people in your life.
  5. Truly strive to know your partner and resist the temptation to see him or her as perfect. You cannot do this until you have observed them when they are angry, sad, happy, tired, disappointed, and grumpy. When you truly know and understand the person you’re dealing with, no outside opinions can misguide you in the first place.
  6. Always remind yourself of the person giving you all of this “advice.” Are they involved in a loving and honest relationship, have they ever been in one, and if not, are they qualified to advise you about yours?
  7.  Identify the people in your circle that truly love and care about you when things are great and when things are shaky. Remember the people who tend to practice what they preach and tend to be level-headed in their own lives. Identify those who are honest with you and offer reasonable advice. These are usually the people whose observations are the most sincere and relevant to you.
  8. Remind yourself that you are entitled to have a healthy romantic relationship if you so choose, and that if your relationship ends, it will be the choice and input of yourself and your partner, not outside forces.

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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 Master’s Degree in Africana Studies from Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree in Afro-American Studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com