Why I Now Renounce Black Nationalism and Race-Based Activism

Good morning, family! After much reflection and soul-searching, I’ve come to the conclusion that my previous political ideas and activities were misled and inaccurate. For this reason, I”m moving to Britain, marrying a white woman I met at a Republican convention, and will begin to write books and deliver speeches explaining how racism no longer exists, how Black people are to blame for all of our problems, why ancient Greece is the cradle of world civilization, and why cultural assimilation is our best choice going forward. Because I believe in organization-building, I’ve started the Uncle Rawkus Club and Ronald Reagan Publishing Inc. to spread my new ideals. I hope you will support my new mission. Hakuna Matata!

Given my political past, I owe my faithful readers an explanation. I do so with the following points:

  • Based on my new research, the TransAtlantic Slave Trade was a hoax, and whites never participated in such a thing. African people traveled to parts of the Caribbean, North and South America on their own and volunteered their free labor for 400 years.
  • Greece, not Africa, is the actual cradle of world civilization. Ancient Greece created the foundations of math, law, science, philosophy, religion and art from which the entire world borrowed and benefited.
  • Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey were FBI agents sent to warp Black Americans with hatred and finger-pointing. Their objectives were to divide the Black community and set us up for a race war we’d lose.
  • “Race” is a social construct developed by Black people to degrade innocent white folk and engender sympathy and pity

APRIL FOOLS!   APRIL FOOLS!   APRIL FOOLS!  APRIL FOOLS!  APRIL FOOLS!

The only way I’d believe and write any of that crap is if someone abducted, labotomized, and drugged me!! But since I have your attention, on a serious note, I have created a campaign to donate 3000 copies of my book Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens, to schools and youth development programs throughout the United States. To accomplish this, I created a page on Gofundme.com. Please visit the link and read more about this campaign. Then if you are willing, please donate what you can and share the link with friends, family members and co-workers. Thank you.

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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.

Please Help Me Help our Youth!

Last April I wrote a book entitled “Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens.” In a nutshell, this book provides information, skills, and habits to help our Youth become self-motivated, empowered beings in a society attempting to limit their potential.

While people are buying it across the country, many more should. It is a powerful tool and solution for the epidemic of wayward and misguided youth. I decided that I couldn’t afford to wait for a rich celebrity, government initiative, or fancy publicity outfit to promote and sell this book. I realized that schools, youth-centered nonprofits were strapped for funding. This presented me with a huge dilemma; I have an antidote and cure for a devastating disease that few people suffering from the disease know about! Also, there’s the issue of people crying broke, or lacking the compulsion to invest what they do have into solutions in the form of knowledge.

Given these circumstances, I’ve decided to work around the barriers. I calculated what it would cost to donate 3000 of my books to 30 NYC schools and after school programs. I added the cost of promotional materials and postage to mail another 500 copies to youth development leaders and programs throughout the United States. I came up with a cost of $33,375. To raise the money Ifor this ambitious but much-needed project, I turned to Gofundme.com. Individuals have used this site to raise money for health-related and other issues, totaling millions of dollars. I believe this issue (rescuing and reclaiming our Youth) is no less important or urgent.

Therefore,

I invite you all to support this campaign and after make a donation to my project. You can make large or small donations, and ALL are accepted. I realize this is a challenging task. But I was taught by and am descended from people that make the impossible possible! Please donate what you can and share my gofundme page link on your social media sites with friends, family and co-workers. I believe that with your support, this project will be successful! Thanks again for being part of the solution rather than a cynical part of the problem. Click on the link below and partner with me:

http://www.gofundme.com/pdifpo

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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.

A Short and Sweet Reminder for Black People

I promised myself that I would remember to balance my blog with long and more concise articles. I realize that certain information should be expressed succinctly.

If I were to ask members of our community about the major issues confronting our people, I’m sure I’d hear a list as follows:

  • Academically and culturally bankrupt public education
  • Imperialism and Police brutality
  • Unemployment, low wages, and lack of economic power
  • Little connection to Africa or African-centered culture/history
  • Fratricide (Black-on-Black violence)
  • Narcotic drug trafficking and other forms of criminality
  • Privatized prisons and the mass incarceration of Black people
  • Bourgeois values and priorities
  • White supremacy
  • Broken, disconnected, or dysfunctional families and communities
  • Self-Hatred
  • Drug addiction
  • Black physical and mental health concerns
  • Domestic violence, and sexual abuse in our households
  • Patriarchy and homophobia
  • Little to know political power or representation

And the list goes on, I’m sure. The vast majority of these things are actually symptoms of  larger problems that we often fail to address.

Social scientists, nonprofits and governmental agencies – with varied motives – produce large volumes of studies and reports that detail and describe these issues.

Naturally, this plethora of problems compel answers and solutions. And this I’m afraid is where we fall short all-too-often. Our responses to these social, economic and political ills often do not effectively address and resolve these concerns.

So here is my short and sweet reminder to my Black community: Acquiring political consciousness, earning diplomas or degrees, exposing conspiracies, gaining an encyclopedia knowledge of ancient Africa, becoming a more spiritual or religious being, buying Black, joining this or that cult, church or organization, debating, protesting, giving speeches, writing blogs, praying, meditating, getting a job or starting businesses …..have their place, (some more than others) but are by themselves, inadequate.

The simple fact is, our liberation requires a coordination of various efforts, consciousness backing them, institutions to promote and facilitate them, and power to implement,support and defend them. This remains our challenge going forward…..To hear this point in more detail, please take time to view the following video of Dr. Amos Wilson:

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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.

Damaging Ideas/Practices Promoted by Some Members the “Conscious Community”

confusion

This phrase “Conscious Community” is quite popular these days. I use it myself. Generally speaking, it refers to those brothers and sisters with some useful degree of sociopolitical awareness, African-centered knowledge of Black history or the Black experience, and an understanding of white supremacy. In an ideal world, this term also describes people who fuse their knowledge and understanding of such things with programs, institutions, activism, and things designed to help Black people Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up! However as we all probably agree, this is not an ideal world, but a REAL world, and definitions of “conscious community” are as confused and varied as member of this community itself. Nevertheless, I will go with this term for now, as it is an all-embracing term that provide general understanding.

I want us to spend some time being critical of this community which includes Black artists, writers, intellectuals, activists, organizers, students, workers, and national organization leaders and their members. The simple yet uncomfortable truth is that some members of this community – a community I claim for myself as well – are becoming a large part of our collective problem rather than a reassuring a liberating part of the solution for Black folkcritically supportive seeking empowerment and liberation. Why is a serious critique of the Black conscious community warranted? Note the following compelling reasons:

  • They/we sometimes attract huge followings and exert some degree of influence on their followers particularly understanding of key concepts like identity, oppression, solidarity, and resistance
  • In some cases, they/we are responsible for monies and other resources solicited and collected from our community, for the purpose of starting programs, institutions, and political movements
  • Because they/we tend to be more articulate, fearless, and knowledgeable than most,  the masses of our community tend to see us as trustworthy leaders and molders of community consensus and empowerment
  • They/we play a major role in our people’s capacity to Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up

Our people deserve the most sincere and very best people advocating on their behalf, raising consciousness, and cultivating Black resistance to oppression. While some clearly have an over-inflated sense of importance, members of this community are important for the reasons stated above, and then some. And because our integrity and the success of our efforts are so largely influenced by the conscious community, it is our duty to support those who speak, educate, organize and fight with us effectively.

However when such people are inaccurate, self-serving, or leading us in counterproductive directions or toward disastrous outcomes, we also have the duty to be critical. Neglecting to do so just because some individuals or organizations are popular,  or even well-intentioned, is not patriotic or righteous – It is cowardly, foolish and counter-revolutionary, period. As Dr. King reminded us,

Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it political? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular – but one must take it simply because it is right.

With this guiding principle in mind, I offer the following ideas and practices which some members of the conscious community champion (in sincere and opportunistic fashion), that I believe are fundamentally incorrect and destined to set our movement backwards.

  • The belief that knocking on doors, and/or holding rallies, marches and protests are the only legitimate forms of protest. We are now over a decade into the 21st Century. This is an exciting time when internet technology, smartphones and social media make the world smaller, more manageable, and this scenario radically improves our ability to conduct research and communicate. We simply cannot afford to stay in the Fred Flintstone era of activism. It’s time to leave “Bedrock” behind and explore the world of the “Jetsons” that is upon us. We must continue the best practices of traditional activism while effectively utilizing the new tools at our disposal so that we can reach more people, and better expose, challenge, and defeat our enemies while empowering and liberating ourselves.

Another fact that bears repeating: We must also realize that our enemies attack and oppress us in almost every major area of human activity and that they use multiple means to do so. We cannot successfully counter such a sophisticated multi-level attack by using one mode or weapon. If we members of the conscious community are serious about removing the shackles of ignorance and oppression, we need to recognize, support and participate in varied forms of consciousness-raising and resistance including but not limited to: blogging, social media, internet conferences, building alternative and African-centered institutions, in addition to using traditional forms of activism and education. White supremacy is a twenty-headed and twenty-hearted beast with body parts that regenerate themselves when damaged. We cannot defeat that beast with one sword or one tactic.

  • Degrading, insulting, and using unnecessarily crass and vulgar language, against fellow members of the conscious community with whom we disagree. I don’t know when it became acceptable to demoralize and belittle other activists, intellectuals, leaders and community organizers simply because we disagree with their tactics or strategy. Elements of fundamentalist Nationalism exist among some members of the conscious community. This narrow-minded, dogmatic, intolerant, and simplistic mode of leadership/activism is dangerous and threatens to create violent and unproductive tribalism in our community. Fascism is NEVER fashionable. I find that many “conscious” people who claim to follow and respect brother Malcolm,  tend to behave this way. Malcolm himself behaved this way, insulting Dr. King and other Black leaders with whom he had ideological and tactical disagreements. He later recognized his mistake, and attempted to correct himself by apologizing publicly to those he insulted, and by attempting to work with civil rights leaders he believed were sincere. We cannot on one hand proclaim to our community that we need “all hands on deck,” then on the other hand, insult and question the authenticity of those who have differing opinions or who participate in varied forms of activism. This of course, does not suggest we should allow opportunistic, self-serving Black collaborators of oppression to exist without challenge. To the contrary, we must challenge them vociferously.

There is room in the struggle for several organizations, perspectives and approaches. The only thing we absolutely cannot tolerate in any circumstance, are insincere and opportunistic types whose lust for fame, money or recognition compromise our forward movement, and government informants. We must learn to disagree with fellow conscious folk in a mature and responsible fashion, that allows us to still work together and share resources and networks down the road. We can all agree that life for those of us in the Black liberation struggle is often uncomfortable, lonely, and highly-pressurized. We need support! Therefore, we should work on heightening movement morale, giving credit where due, promoting/supporting other people’s activities,  and building sustained and productive relationships with fellow activists, rather than insulting them

  • Failing to emphasize and promote universally empowering qualities/virtues of personal development. The conscious community famously emphasizes our need to be culturally and historically connected, appreciative of Africa’s contributions to world civilization, and vigorous in exposing and challenging white supremacy. These are in my estimation, absolutely mandatory and pivotal to our collective development. However, we cannot forget the equally important role of personal development. We compromise all efforts at collective empowerment if we fail to promote and model the qualities and virtues of being organized in thought and practice, embodying a strong work-ethic, striving for academic and general excellence in all we do, developing good character and exercising  self-discipline. These tools helped our ancestors to advance/develop themselves despite seemingly overwhelming societal oppression and persecution, and we do ourselves well to remember and emulate this. DuBois, Malcolm, and Ella Baker weren’t just dedicated opponents to white supremacy, they were also devout practitioners of personal empowerment, starting with themselves. Do the research and observe their meticulous time management, tireless work-ethic, and self-discipline. Do not allow ignorant people to deem these qualities “white” or counter-revolutionary. Realizing the importance of this point, I wrote a book entitled, Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. This book teaches our youth how to manage time, make solid decisions, avoid societal traps develop self-love and confidence, and the importance of education and excellence. It is a must read for teens and their families.
  • Creating or promoting a climate of anti-intellectualism.Brother Malcolm wrote, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” If education (research, reading, studying, analyzing) give us the power and mobility to move forward and explore possibilities, then ignorance is our prison sentence of long-term solitary confinement allowing for isolation, deprivation, and the inability to exercise mobility and self-reliance. If you did not obtain a college education,  you can still read, study and be analytical. If you are college-educated,  realize your education did not start nor will it end with earning a degree. But however you acquire education, formally or informally, ACQUIRE IT! Ignorant, misinformed people who are heavy on opinion and light on study do us little good. We need people who can not only consume, understand and explain information, but who can also create, publish and put information into practical use. Not everyone will be an intellectual or scholar. Nor will everyone be a hardcore “boots-on-the-ground” activist. Our ancestors revered and respected knowledge and those who possessed it. Somehow, we’ve gone backwards on this issue. People can’t do the right things unless they know the right things.We will also have to agree that the purpose of research and study is not simply to accumulate a bunch of facts or trivia, but to gain information and the ability to use that information to understand the world, past and current events, and to positively impact present and future circumstances. I’m personally not impressed with people who can regurgitate tons of trivia. I’m more concerned with uncovering meaning and analysis, and discovering ways  to use that information to advance ourselves and/or solve problems.

We should support our radical intellectuals and activists. Instead of arguing over who is most important, we should encourage mutual respect and cooperation. Activists should read the work of radical intellectuals (alive and deceased) to better refine their analysis of the sociopolitical terrain. End this nonsensical hatred of scholars. If you’ve read or quoted Chancellor Williams, DuBois, Carter G. Woodson, Yosef Ben-Jochannan, John Henrik Clarke, Amos Wilson, Kwame Nkrumah, Huey P. Newton, Ella Baker, Stokely Carmichael, Khalid Muhammad, Sister Souljah, Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, Walter Rodney, Angela Davis, or Cheikh Anta Diop, you actively respect and utilize the work of college-educated Black folk and are hard-pressed to question their revolutionary credibility; Likewise, If you admire Frederick Douglass, J.A. Rogers, Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Patrice Lumumba, Malcolm X, Minister Farrakhan, Fannie Lou Hamer, Maya Angelou, or George Jackson, you appreciate self-taught organic Black intellectuals whose revolutionary credibility  is also above reproach.

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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.

The Importance of Brother Malcolm X 50 Years After His Assassination

malcolm angry

As any regular reader of my blog knows by now, I have tremendous respect for brother Malcolm X. In addition, according to my studies, I credit brother Malcolm with being a key ideological catalyst of the Black Arts & Consciousness  and Black Power Movements, the formation of Black Student Unions on college campuses, and their successful demand for Black Studies Departments throughout the nation. I’ve written a number of articles about my posthumous mentor, including one that discusses his general significance, one explaining meaningful ways to honor his legacy, an article that explores poetry written in tribute to him, and two fictional accounts of my interactions with brother Malcolm (Interview I and Interview II).

This is both Black History Month and more immediately, the 50th anniversary of Malcolm’s assassination. And while brother Malcolm remains a powerful icon for many of us (in one poll, 84% of Black youth between the ages of 15-24 viewed Malcolm as a “hero for Black people”), he is also still largely misunderstood and misinterpreted.

brothers talking about malcolm

Top Row from Left to right: Kitwana Tyhimba, Agyei Tyehimba, and Ishmael Bey Bottom left to right: Yusef Bunchy Shakur, Ngoma Hill, Jerome Walker

For these reasons, I asked 5 brothers – fellow activists and educators – from around the county and whom I deeply respect – to host a conversation about Malcolm X. They agreed, and we held a live and televised discussion about brother Malcolm over the internet on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. We did experience a few technical glitches, but the commentary was highly informative and powerful! I’m still receiving messages via Facebook, email and text from people expressing their appreciation for the show, and asking us to do more.

Many thanks to brothers Ishmael Bey (Syracuse/Florida), Ngoma Hill (Virgina/New York), Jerome Walker (Syracuse, NY), Kitwana Tyhimba (Oakland, California), and Yusef Bunchy Shakur (Detroit, Michigan) for their powerful insights and for all the work they do advocating for Black folk. I encourage you to view the recorded discussion below, and to support these good brothers in their various endeavors. In their own ways, they all are implementing the ideas of brother Malcolm and continuing his legacy.

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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.

Black Lives Matter: Get Out of Your Cotton-Pickin’ Minds!

Engraving of Slaves Working In Field by Horace Bradley

Disclaimer: This article attempts to expand our understanding of the BlackLivesMatter slogan. It is not my intent to slur, critique or degrade the BlackLivesMatter Movement to challenge racist police brutality against Black people in ANY way. I respect and generally support any attempt to make Black people Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up.

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When I was a young boy, I sometimes heard Black folk use the expression, “You must be out of your cotton-pickin’ mind!” This expression was meant to suggest a person was crazy or disconnected from reality. The passionate way people said it, gave you the notion that you’d be well advised to STAY in your “cotton-pickin'” mind.

Look at the picture above, and repeat the phrase “cotton-picking mind” five times slowly. If it hasn’t dawned on you yet, I’m sure it will: A cotton-picking mind is an enslaved mind, or a mind bent toward subservience to others. Free-thinking and empowered Black people whose ancestors were forced to  actually pick cotton, tobacco, and rice  for the enrichment of others should never want to possess a cotton-picking mind. In fact, we should do everything possible to avoid obtaining such a mind.

It is an honor and a statement of empowerment to say you are OUT of your cotton-picking mind, unless of course, you value being used and abused by another human being or group that falsely believes itself to be your superior.

I’ve worked most of my life as a teacher, activist, public speaker and writer, to help Black folk get and stay out of their “cotton-pickin’ minds,” and I will continue to as long as I have breath in my lungs. By taking this stand, I proudly place myself in notable company. History confirms a long line of people who spoke out against injustice, protested mistreatment and brutality, and actively resisted attempts to subjugate us. Those great ancestors had differences of opinion and methods, but they all fought to advance and liberate us. Throughout our history in the United States, we also witnessed some people who attempted to collaborate with, defend and support our sworn enemies inspired either by cowardice, ignorance or greed. Such people were and are today, IN THEIR COTTON-PICKING MINDS!

In the 21st century, Black folk have the advantage of several liberation theories, models of leadership, and examples of liberation movements. We can easily become inspired or deeply confused and conflicted with such a flood of options, information, and sometimes highly intellectual ideas. But regardless of what leader we follow, or ideology we align with, one thing we cannot afford to forget is that slaves are considered the property of someone else. They are seen as OBJECTS to be controlled, exploited, and used to promote/fulfill another person or group’s interests. They are THINGS to be acted upon, but not to act in their own interests. They are NEVER taught to think, build, or speak for THEMSELVES. Nor do the generally agreed upon rules or rights of humanity extend to them.

This sobering realization explains why Black people had to fight against enslavement, Black Codes, Jim Crow, lynching, and still must fight against mass incarceration, police brutality, and poverty/class exploitation. Simply put, (as the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford Supreme Court decision highlighted) we have no rights “that white men are bound to respect.” Why? Because only people and citizens have rights. Dehumanized slaves are perceived as THINGS. In a society that reinforces this view in every way imaginable, it is easy for the enslaved to begin devaluing their own existence.

BLACKLIVESMATTER, therefore, is much more than a rallying cry against police brutality created in response to the Trayvon Martin tragedy. It is more powerful and enduring than a slogan across a t-shirt. It is a brilliant reminder of our own humanity and value. It is in fact, not simply a reactive statement of resistance to white racial oppression and degradation, but more importantly,  a proactive call for Black people to think and act in ways that empower, advance and protect US. In this sense, Black Lives Matter is both a statement TO THEM, and a statement FOR US. To them it defiantly says, “Who the FUCK do you think you’re dealing with? We’re not going for that bullshit anymore!” To us it says, “You are valuable and it’s not enough to proclaim it, you must do the things that people with self-worth and dignity do!” So for me, the statement Black Lives Matter means that we must:

  • educate ourselves and our children to be masterful and self-reliant leaders and problem-solvers
  • lead our own organizations, mount our own movements for justice, and never allow ANYONE (especially outsiders) to divert our attention or energy from the cause of Black liberation on all levels, or determine our tactics, issues, or leadership
  • be concerned with our  physical mental and emotional health
  • resist attempts within or outside of our community to limit our possibilities, curb our freedom, crush our spirits, or bring us physical/political/financial/psychological harm
  • express ourselves creatively, truthfully, and unashamedly
  • hold ourselves to a standard of excellence with respect to our organizations, studies, professions, relationships, and homes
  • become invested in our history and culture in addition to the ideas and struggles of our ancestors, and then implement and continue their tradition
  • set the collective concerns, success, and liberation of Black people as our first and primary priority

If we review our history in the U.S. we will discover that every one of our sociopolitical movements along with every push for independent Black institutions, had as their subconscious motto “Black Lives Matter.” I work for the day when these three words become more than a cry against police brutality, and more than a reactive statement to white folk, but a conscious, internalized and deliberate part of our culture. But first, we must get out of our “cotton-picking minds” IMMEDIATELY….

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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.

Five Important (But Overlooked) Figures in the Black Liberation Struggle

mytruesense:

Another article from the crates for Black History Month

Originally posted on MY TRUE SENSE:

unsung heroes

We Live in an Encouraging Time!

Notwithstanding the continued legacy of white supremacy, anti-Black propaganda, and racial oppression, we  live in a time where we have more access to our true history more than ever before. Black intellectuals unearth more pieces of our historical jigsaw puzzle via books and articles while Internet search engines point us to pictures, documents, and multimedia clips  to supplement the information provided even in the most deficient social studies textbooks and mainstream media outlets.

Yet history is broad, and even with these encouraging developments, important people, information and experiences remain obscured in our historical narratives. For example, we can all name some significant figures in the Black Liberation Struggle, but our list often contains the same celebrated names recycled redundantly across generations. Therefore, we must reclaim our history and its meaning by expanding our pool of references and actively using them.

Objective of This Article

This article…

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Black People: STILL America’s Best Kept Secret?

mytruesense:

I dug in the crates for this. Completely relevant for Black History Month.

Originally posted on MY TRUE SENSE:

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…

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Making Black History Month Relevant Part II

black history matters

As Black History Month approaches,we face the typical avalanche of Black firsts, Black trivia facts, and a roll-call of all-too-familiar heroes and sheroes. Based on where you are in knowledge of self, these things have their place. I already wrote one article on the topic of using Black History Month (and all other months) much more fully than we currently do. This article constitutes the second part to that article.

As suggested in my first article,  I hope BHM becomes a time when we do more analysis of our condition and focus on learning and applying those lessons on the ground rather than in strictly theoretical ways. Imagine with me how beneficial it would be if BHM involved:

1. re-examining our understanding of key people like Malcolm X, Dr. King and others whose work and significance are routinely oversimplified and misinterpreted.

2. Discussing the concept of self-determination for Black people and how to implement this concept responsibly. Far too many people (including those of color) STILL insist on telling us what  issues to address, how to address them, and how to be more inclusive, without doing that same work in their own communities.

3. Exploring historical attempts to protect Black life (beyond proclamations that our lives matter)  from state-sponsored AND self-inflicted brutality.

4. Developing our people’s capacity to identify and prioritize issues, articulate them effectively, and engage in effective activism, organizing and INSTITUTION–BUILDING (the work of SNCC and Ella Baker are good models). This would include offering valid critiques of traditional organization and activism models and possibly creating alternatives or modifications to already existing models.

5. Studying government efforts to disrupt, spy on and destroy our organizations/movements and developing ways to neutralize these efforts

6. Finding ways to involve class and gender along with racial analysis in ways that make our political ideology/organizing more accurate, effective, and inclusive.

7. Determining how, when, and with whom to form alliances and to do so in ways that don’t compromise or dismiss our own needs/interests as we strive to accommodate others.

8. Identifying and studying unsung and obscured Black people, plans, experiences and organizations that might offer direction and remedies to problems we face today

9. Exploring ways to develop non-exploiting financial literacy and wealth-generating institutions to empower our communities to be more self-sufficient

10. Creating curricula in conjunction with a network of schools and extracurricular programs that make our children culturally, academically, financially, politically and spiritually literate and competent

11. Deconstructing and expanding our view of “activism” in addition to our understanding of who our “enemies” are. While others dominate and exploit us in every way imaginable, some of us hold on to outdated and rigid ideas of what “real activism” is. Technology and emerging issues and new forms of domination require expanded and more diverse views of organizing and activism. We also cannot afford to see our enemies as simply “the white man,” as corporate power and repressive policies/actions transcend simplified notions of racial affiliation. Nor can we fool ourselves into thinking that activism only consists of the “boots-on-the-ground” variety.

In addition, our concept of booking speakers must radically change. Churches, community centers and colleges have meager funds in these days of austerity. In light of this, speakers must make their fees more reasonable. Groups should not exhaust all or the majority of their budget to hire one speaker.

Not just the fee, but the content of speeches must change as well. Students, activists and members of the larger community need specific information and skills more than ever. The old Black History Month speech template included references to our ancient greatness, calls for Black unity and activism, bold statements against the U.S. government, references to great ( and often male) Black leaders, and a focus on attacking white society while inspiring Black folks.

This template and formula are not sufficient today. Today’s speakers must help audiences understand how oppression works, provide specific tools/information in a relevant area of expertise, and provide materials we can reference once they depart for their next speech. Speakers should consult with the group hiring them to determine their specific needs, so they can provide relevant and useful information rather than generic, one-size-fits-all presentations. We must move forward, refine, and progress as a people, constantly working on improving and becoming more effective.

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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.

Maintaining our Voice in Narratives of Activism

sas protest

Activists are human beings. As such, some harbor some of the very oppressive attitudes they are sworn to oppose: racism, patriarchy, elitism, self absorption, racial, gender, sexuality or class privilege, etc. I’ve found that white activists for example, often frame their conferences and issues in such a way that privileges white narratives of feminism, white supremacy, homophobia, over Black perspectives of the same things. We cannot rely on others to tell our stories. express our pain, or articulate our issues better or more powerfully than WE.

Nor can we allow others to tell ANY story of activism or social justice and omit or trivialize the pivotal role and contributions of BLACK PEOPLE!  Study American history and observe how Black people have always been the radical conscience of the U.S. Observe also how our movements and activism have inspired other oppressed and dominated people to organize their own liberation movements. Then observe how we’ve had to fight with white activists over what stories to tell and WHI should tell them . Read Frederick Douglass’ issues with William Lloyd Garrison, Sojouner Truth’s issues with white suffragists, Dr. King’s issues with white clergy members, or Black feminists’ issues with their white counterparts.

This does not imply that Black people cannot or should not work with others to address issues of social injustice. It does mean that if we do choose to enter alliances/partnerships with others, we do not allow those partners to dominate the discussion, determine demands, strategy or tactics or policies for us or without our input,  or to privilege their issues and interests over our own.

Take this advice lightly at your own risk. These considerations manifest in every oppressor/oppressed dynamic: men attempt to dominate and frame discussions of gender and patriarchy; whites do the same with discussions of race; middle class interests impose its values and leadership on the working class, white feminism often excludes the leadership, issues and achievements of Black or Latina feminists.

I’ve accepted an invitation to participate in a two-day student activism teach-in at Syracuse University, where I completed my undergraduate education and was president of the highly activist Student African American Society. SAS, as it was known, launched an 8-month campaign to improve and rejuvenate our African American Studies Department on campus.

This campaign involved political education and propaganda, widespread community outreach and coalition-building (among professors, students, and the larger community), a petition drive, an array of press conferences/radio and television interviews, and two semesters of intense protests, rallies, meeting disruptions, and building takeovers. We out strategized the university and compelled Chancellor Melvin Eggers, Arts & Sciences Dean Samuel Gorovitz, and Vice Chancellor Gershon Vincow (with permission from the Board of Trustees of course) to agree to all 13 of our demands. The university’s attempt to punish me for leading this campaign resulted in a list of false charges against me including inciting a riot, destroying school property and assaulting campus security. If found guilty at a university hearing, I faced expulsion from school. Because SAS did such an excellent job of community outreach, political education, and coalition-building, NOT ONE student, professor or Syracuse community member serving on the hearing board showed up to the hearing! This tremendous display of solidarity forced the university to drop all charges against me and other SAS leaders. The entire school and larger community (residents, pastors, civil rights and interracial pacifist groups) got involved. All demands agreed to. No student punished. MLK Library moved, refurbished, and developed into an award-winning institution. The hiring of a full-time chairperson and more graduate teaching assistants. The creation of a Master’s degree program in African American Studies. The complete overhaul and increased funding for the Community Folk Art Gallery (R.I.P. to professor Herb Williams).

I’ve reviewed the list of activities, topics, and speakers at the teach-in I’m attending. There appears to be a strong emphasis on white woman feminists, gay/transgender activism, and “activist history” from particular perspectives.

I’m supposed to speak on a panel of current and former SU activists, after viewing a documentary about campus activism. I get the uneasy sense that the triumphant struggle of Black students at Syracuse University will overlooked and reduced in terms of its impact and significance. What WE accomplished on campus and in the community is poised to be suffocated between discussions of feminism, heteronormative oppression and other narratives of resistance by more privileged people/issues. But then again, this will not occur on my watch, not while I’m still breathing. It appears that not just Black lives but Black resistance, collective memory and agency matter as well…

_________________________

 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.