Why We (Must) Honor Daryl Washington

dwash rest in peace2

Currently, I’m working with a group of Harlem residents and neighbors (just a block over from where I was born and raised) who’ve started a campaign to honor Daryl Washington, a young Black man who lost his life to gun violence on July 29, 2014 just feet from his residence. Touched by his inspiring life, the mourning and love of his family and others that knew him, and by our collective disgust with escalating gun violence and gang activity in Harlem and throughout the United States, many of us decided we would work to see that his memory lives on.

But family, friends and neighbors were not satisfied with simply mourning or commemorating Daryl Washington. We understood that the block, neighborhood and country of Daryl’s birth have claimed thousands of young lives due to societally-promoted ignorance, self-hatred, and a disturbing tendency to settle disputes by ending life. His senseless murder, we concluded, was part of a national epidemic of gun violence and fratricide plaguing Black and Brown communities with alarming frequency. So we launched a campaign with two objectives: 1. To have the street where he lived renamed in his honor to “Daryl Washington Way.” 2. To coordinate an annual event commemorating Daryl and raising awareness about gun violence in our community. To achieve the first goal, we launched a paper and online petition drive with a goal of 5000 signatures. To reach the latter goal, we’ve held a number of building meetings in addition to meetings with community leaders and organizations including Harlem Mothers Save and the West Harlem Empowerment Coalition.

So far, we’ve attracted many supporters (from West 144th Street in Harlem all the way to South Africa) and naturally some pessimistic cynics and people who are sincerely confused about the campaign. I’ve talked to quite a few people, including some personal friends, who’ve raised some questions and I’m writing this article to address those most frequently asked.

Question: Do you have the family’s support/permission to do all of this?

Absolutely. We never forget that at the root of this all, a family lost one of their own and they are in mourning. We make no move without first conferring with Daryl’s mom, and soliciting her input. She and other family members have signed the petition and have enthusiastically shared it on their own social media sites. As his mother recently wrote, “I really appreciate all the love and support given freely and generously to myself and my family during our tragedy. Please, if you haven’t, go to change.org and sign our petition to co name W. 144 St Amsterdam Ave to Daryl Washington Way! Ask your family and friends to sign as well, please. Our goal is 5,000 signatures. It’s not just about his name but the Daryl Washington way of life. A peaceful, courteous, kind and helpful way, done with a smile, hugs and consideration for others. That’s the way he lived and loved and I’ll do all I can to honor his legacy and his memory in the same way.”

Question: Why are you trying to rename a street? This won’t bring the young man back, and it won’t stop gun violence. What will this accomplish?

This is interesting since we live in cities and walk on streets named after all types of people, some of whom meant us no good. Why should the idea of naming a street after one of our own cause such resistance from some of our own? Our idea to rename the street came from conversations between Daryl Washington’s family and neighbors. They knew his death had a devastating impact and they wanted to know what they could do to help. His mother especially, made it clear that she wanted Daryl’s name and memory to live on. In conversations about how to do this, neighbors came up with the idea to rename West 144th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway Avenues, “Darryl Washington Way.” When we shared this idea with his family, they liked the idea and supported it. The street renaming is primarily for his family and friends We all believe it will help his memory live on, and help those who loved him through what must be a difficult time. To some degree, a street sign bearing his name will be a physical marker that might lead some people to ask about Daryl and learn about his life and about gun violence. In terms of what this campaign HAS accomplished: I’ve seen so many people talking, meeting, and working together in a spirit of love and solidarity. I’ve seen community folk getting petitions signed, determining meeting agendas, expressing their views, and thinking strategically around this campaign. In other words, the campaign to honor Daryl Washington, is also helping to identify and develop new community leaders, raise the confidence of people, and encourage community solidarity across gender, ethnic, and religious lines.

Question: But What makes Daryl Washington so special? Many other people were killed on his block and in that neighborhood. What about them?

This question is particularly disturbing because it implies an insulting type of competition between lives. As we state in our petition, “Many people are unfortunately killed by gun violence in NYC (and other large cities) on any given day. Each premature death is tragic, as no life is more valuable than another.

Daryl Washington’s murder resonates with so many relatives, friends and NYC residents, workers and business owners precisely because he represented the very best examples of ambition, self-improvement, community service and integrity that the “Big Apple” represents at its core. Everything from his decision to pursue a career in which he would potentially sacrifice his life to help others, from the way he died, demonstrates a central NYC and American creed: “I am my brother’s keeper.”

By launching a campaign around Daryl Washington, we are not suggesting that he was more important than anyone else. New York City has a process for renaming streets. We are simply organizing and utilizing a process that is open and available for anyone. It is unfair and impractical to hold us responsible for the fact that other people do not have streets named after them. In order to address the similar murders of other residents, we are hosting an annual event to address the issue of gun violence.

I must also address the issue of contrasting Daryl with other murder victims who unlike him, participated in selling drugs, gang activity or other forms of criminality and community mischief. When a young person is killed, regardless of his or her personal character or activities, a family and extended family grieves; a community loses a potential or actual parent, leader and productive citizen. As stated before, no life is intrinsically “better” than another.

However, we understand that a solider who dies overseas made a commitment to engage in war and therefore understood the likelihood of being injured or killed in the line of duty. But what about a civilian who did not enlist in the military, lived a life of peace and worked to uplift the community, yet gets killed by a grenade or missile launcher? Such an individual is an unfair “Casualty of war.” This civilian did not sign up to kill or be killed. Therefore his or her death is more tragic and resonates more deeply with people as a result. If you can understand this, you can understand the difference between a person like Daryl dying from gun violence, versus gang members, drug dealers and community predators dying from the same cause.

Not one Black parent I know wants their child to gang-bang, drop out of school or participate in criminal activity. On the contrary, All of them (including myself) have high and noble expectations for our children, even if WE were or are criminals ourselves! We all beam with pride when our child receives academic or athletic recognition; we brag when our child has the privilege to travel the world, do honest work for a living, win a scholarship or attend and graduate from college. So we need to be honest and stop being hypocritical!

When something tragic and undeserved happens to people like Daryl Washington, we FEEL it because people like Daryl represent the hopes and aspirations we have for our own children. People like Daryl symbolize and embody the life and meaning that our enslaved ancestors prayed and fought for, knowing full well THEY wouldn’t live to see their visions come true. When we fail to give people like Daryl the respect they deserve, and instead lump them together with any and everyone that was murdered, we do ourselves a major disservice. Instead of being hypocritical and making this a negative competition between “good” and “bad” seeds, we should strive instead to teach and learn the lessons presented by the murders of exemplary youth and their more troubled counterparts. As I noted on Facebook, “When a role model and person of high character is killed, we are reminded that our best and brightest can still fall prey to the ignorant among us, so we must always work to uplift our entire community. When a person involved in criminal activity is murdered, we are reminded that the negative choices we make have negative consequences and negatively impact our lives. The “village” has dropped the ball; We ARE our brother’s keeper….”

If we really want the best for our youth, we cannot “hate” on or dismiss those that are exemplary, nor can we continue to defend those who consciously wreak havoc among us, make our communities unsafe and threaten the future of our people (at the same time, we cannot judge them or write them off as incorrigible). No, this is the weak and ignorant approach. This approach will only continue the vicious cycle of fratricide we already see. We must encourage those doing well and educate others to do and be better! We must teach our troubled youth that despite what the world tells them, they are valuable and their lives matter! They are not natural-born “T.H.O.Ts, thugs, bitches and hos, but the victims of those that treat and perceive them as such. If we want to make things better, we must begin to do exactly what Daryl’s family and neighbors are doing….reminding people of what is good and noble in our young people and holding our community to positive expectations, while educating our people to the horrors of self-hatred, ignorance and fratricide. This point is actually self-evident; This is why we have gang-prevention programs rather than gang recruitment programs; This is why we brag about young people that do well and feel ashamed of those who bring dishonor to ourselves and our community; This is why we urge our children to stay in school rather than drop out; This is why we create programs to keep our youth from experiencing prison life rather than programs to help them “enjoy” incarceration; This is why we want our children to learn job skills and learn to run legitimate businesses of their own rather than teach them to become good thieves, murderers, and cheats.

Hopefully, this sheds some light on the Daryl Washington campaign for those with questions. Anytime that Black and Brown people work together, plan together, and fight together in positivity, we should support this in principle even if we ourselves don’t personally get involved. There is indeed a problem when people in our own community (typically those who do little or nothing to uplift the community and are part of the problem rather than the solution) spend so much energy attacking those of us who are trying to do something to improve our condition. I realize that some people are deeply cynical, while others are genuinely curious. But we believe in Daryl, his family, and the righteousness of this campaign, and we will proceed in our efforts regardless of whether people agree or understand it. We have the backing of the Washington family, and we believe, the backing of the Creator….

Again we ask that you read, sign and share our petition and stand for something bigger than yourself….

______________________

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-Span, NY1 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.

You can contact or learn more about Agyei Tyehimba by visiting Agyei’s website.

 

Racist Police Brutality Part I: History of The American Police State

uncle sam[Because I want to give important elements of this issue the attention they deserve, this will be a two-part series on racist police brutality in the United States. This article will address the history, role and sociopolitical function of American police as they relate to Black people. The second article will explore traditional methods we've used to confront police brutality, and offer new or alternative  ideas. ]


With the escalation and reemergence of racist police brutality in the United States, the media, civil rights groups, and concerned Black citizens find themselves discussing and organizing to confront the American terrorist police state. By “police state” I refer to the law enforcement, legal, and political power structure and how they work together to use terror, fear, propaganda, murder and captivity to oppress and control dissent and political organizing among the masses. This agenda reveals itself on American streets, within Congressional legislation, imperialist foreign policy, and within the prison systems of this country.

eric garner chokehold

Members of the NYPD place Eric Garner in a fatal (and illegal chokehold).

The Trayvon Martin murder and Eric Garner’s murder-by-chokehold, along with the unjustifiable slayings of MIchael Brown, Renisha McBride,  and Jonathan Ferrell, (all committed by white men in or out of uniform), bring us back to conversations about racist violence against Black people in the United States.

As Hip Hop legend Jay Z has said, “Men lie and women lie, but numbers don’t.”  Nor do numbers lie concerning Black death by white hands. According to the 2012 “Operation Ghetto Storm” report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, statistics taken between January and June of that year demonstrated that a “Black person was killed every 36 hours by white police, security guards or self-appointed vigilantes.”

Disturbing data like this compels the intelligent and concerned among us to ponder why Black lives in so-called “post-racial America are still criminalized and devalued. All across this country, Black people seething with righteous indignation are protesting and discussing how to protect ourselves from agents of the American police state (the second part of this series will focus on this issue.)

ghetto storm

2012 report on police murders of Black people by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

Concerning this question of resolution, I’ve heard and read intelligent and well-meaning Black folk offer the same traditional approaches we always hear regarding police brutality: Marches, demonstrations, rallies, protests, teach-ins, filming police, police sensitivity training, clinics on how to cooperate with and peacefully engage police, and the like. While I am not completely resistant to these strategies, I am admittedly  skeptical. I am inclined to believe that our wholehearted and patriotic devotion to such methods reeks of naivete. Somehow we have come to believe that murderous and repressive police  are acting outside of their official duties. And this is where we are wrong. The first intelligent step toward ending or at least effectively neutralizing police brutality is to understand the sociopolitical role and function of police in the United States.

Understanding the true role of police in our nation requires that we know the true history of police forces in this country. Mainstream scholars of police history spin the narrative that America inherited its idea of policing from Britain in the form of constables and night watchmen. According to most accounts, early forms of public policing began first in Boston (1636), then New York City (1651), and then Philadelphia (1705). As populations grew and territories became more industrial and based on specialized labor, other cities adopted volunteer and later professional and more organized police departments. 

This history is factually accurate, but does not explain the political and sociological function of police in modern society. For this, we must dig a little deeper and examine the development of police institutions in the early South. As you will see, this history helps us understand why police brutality is a mandated, deliberate, and organic part of our society. 

The advent of police departments, if we trace its southern origins, began with slave patrols in the colonies and later states of America. As revealed in the article, “The History of Policing in the United States: Part I,”

Slave patrols had three primary functions: (1) to chase down, apprehend, and return to their owners, runaway slaves; (2) to provide a form of organized terror to deter slave revolts; and, (3) to maintain a form of discipline for slave-workers who were subject to summary justice, outside of the law, if they violated any plantation rules. Following the Civil War, these vigilante-style organizations evolved in modern Southern police departments primarily as a means of controlling freed slaves who were now laborers working in an agricultural caste system, and enforcing “Jim Crow” segregation laws, designed to deny freed slaves equal rights and access to the political system.

Writing in an article for Rebel Press,  Auandaru Nirhani reminds us that: 

The US police force was modeled after the British Metropolitan Police structure; however, the modus operandi –especially when policing poor working class, migrant, brown and black neighborhoods- in the present, resembles the procedures of the 18th century Southern slave patrols, which developed from colonial slave codes in slave-holding European settlements in the early 1600s.

Actual slave patrols badges worn by patrolmen during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Actual slave patrol badges worn by patrolmen during the 18th and 19th centuries.

We should add that white vigilantes and their organizations also played a role in “policing” Black people.  In 1865 for example, former Confederate soldiers formed The Ku Klux Klan to intimidate and brutalize newly-freed slaves and derail the political and social progress afforded Black people during the Reconstruction era following the Civil War. Vigilante groups like the Klan, the White League, and the Red Shirts hung Black folk, burned Black churches and Black homes in an effort to deter us from voting, organizing politically, and enjoying the rights of U.S. citizens.

In short, white citizens deeply feared the threat of Black power and Black rule so they aimed to solidify white male control of the United States. Often times, these racist vigilante groups worked closely with established law enforcement agencies and more often than not, counted sheriffs, police officers, elected officials, attorneys, and judges as members.

Not just the legal establishment, but political powers-that-be worked in conjunction with police and vigilantes. In the 18th century, the state of Georgia passed legislation requiring that plantation owner and their white male workers join the Georgia Militia. This militia was required to do monthly patrols of slave plantations looking for weapons among slaves and to repel revolts or escape attempts.

While many of us can cite our Second Amendment rights, we don’t often think about the motives that led to the amendment. The “white founding fathers” of the United States, especially those from the South, were slave owners who lived in constant fear of Black insurrection. It is no surprise then that these men passed the Second Amendment authorizing the right to bear arms for the maintenance of militias. In school we were taught that the second Amendment protects citizens from corrupt government forces (a fact we should strongly consider in any discussion of police brutality!) But never forget that a key role of this amendment and its support of armed militias was to monitor and control slaves, and prevent or repress slave revolts in the the South. 

In conclusion, as far as we are concerned, the broken bones, bruises, spilled blood, paralysis and death we suffer in addition to the tear gas, pepper spray, stomping, chokeholds, bullets and billy clubs unleashed on Black bodies throughout contemporary America are nothing but modern-day manifestations of racist slave patrols.  Acknowledging this fact brings us to the logical conclusions that 1. Black people are to a large degree, perceived and treated by state agents as neo-slaves, people whose labor, mobility, and freedom is subject to control. 2. We are therefore seen as physical and political threats by the established order, which both explains why we continue to be unfairly criminalized and subject to physical attack by law enforcement agents (and even white vigilantes) on any given day. 3. While decent and fair-minded police officers of all racial and ethnic origins do exist, the police department is an institution that “serves and protects” certain class and race interests, and their repeated acts of brutality against us are not incidental or arbitrary, but constitute a mandated, deliberate and organic part of the American social order. 

The sooner that we understand this, the better we’ll be. Our tactics will also improve, as we discard bourgeoisie notions that speaking properly, dressing better, teaching police officers to be “sensitive” or educating ourselves, will in any way deter the American police state from spilling our blood. WE are not the problem. The racist and belligerent American police state that unfairly criminalizes and murders our people is the problem.

___________________

* Please sign our petition to honor murder victim Daryl Washington and to raise awareness of gun violence in our communities!

 Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker. Agyei earned his Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Syracuse University, his Master’s Degree of Professional Studies from the Africana Studies & Research Center at Cornell University, and his Master’s Degree of Afro American Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he is enrolled in a doctorate program.  If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization or school, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

 
 

 

Sign Our Petition: Eliminate Gun Violence!

mytruesense:

We have about 1000 petitions signed in paper and online form. We are aiming for 5000. This article explains why you should sign and help us raise awareness about gun violence.

Originally posted on MY TRUE SENSE:

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In a previous article entitled, “Ending the Epidemic of Violent Black Death,” I wrote about Daryl Washington, an innocent victim of gun violence. I urged readers to see this as a nationwide epidemic rather than an isolated incident.

Since that time, I attended Daryl’s emotional funeral service, listened to some

African American self-hatred is a loaded gun pointed backwards

African American self-hatred is a loaded gun pointed backwards

grieving friends and relatives bear witness to his warm smile, inspiring spirit, and powerful presence, and witnessed an entire community mourn yet another promising person victimized by ignorance and self-hatred via gun shot.

But things did not end with Daryl’s murder, moving testimonies, or tearful pleas for violence to end. Not this time. I’m proud to write that this community, my community, refuses to bury this young man’s spirit in the coffin with him. They/we have decided to honor his memory and raise awareness about gun violence in the Black…

View original 551 more words

A Black Power Outline…(My Manifesto)

mytruesense:

An oldie but goodie! My Black Power Manifesto

Originally posted on MY TRUE SENSE:

black fist

You will notice this article is entitled “A” not “THE” Black Power Outline. This is to connote that it is not the definitive, exclusive, or “divine” plan – just my own thoughts on how to transform our collective condition in the United States. The reference to an outline, suggests that this is not an exhaustive plan. Everything is not spelled out or filled in here, nor should it be. Use your imagination and intelligence and apply or reject as you see fit.

Finally, this plan is not novel, new, or any indication of some “genius” on my part, but simply an attempt to apply some common sense and draw from great minds of the past. You will also notice that the following remarks draw from a number of my previous articles which generally address the questions of how we are oppressed, why we are oppressed, and what we must do…

View original 2,017 more words

A Word About Black Cynics

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You’ve seen their scowls, smirks, folded arms and indifferent eyes. You’ve observed their tendency to derail hope, passion and talk of change and social justice. This world, with its greed, dehumanizing manner, and lust for domination,  mass produces them. I’m referring to that population of people we call “cynics.”

A “Cynic” is one who does not believe in the goodness or sincerity of people’s motives or intentions.

As an activist and one fighting to educate and improve conditions, I have dealt with many cynical folk over the years. You can easily identify cynics. They rarely fly under the radar. Typically they emerge in discussions involving hope, forward movement and social improvement or justice. Their classic attitude is summarized as follows:

  • “That’s just the way things are. They’ll never change.”
  • “I don’t trust anybody.”
  • “I used to be like you, but I got smart.”
  • “I’ve heard it all before.”
  • “Everybody is out for themselves.”

Such people (if you allow them) will cause you to suffer without fighting back. They will crush your dreams and suffocate your spirit. They will have you succumb to despair and hopelessness, or make you feel powerless in the face of conflict. For these reasons, cynics represent the polar opposites of activists.

All social activists of all varieties operate from the premise that economic, political, or social injustices are problems that can and must be solved by the people most experiencing them. Beneath all of the rhetoric and activism lies a belief that “We the people” CAN organize, research, confront and ultimately resolve problems or improve conditions.

Cynics scoff at such people calling them idealistic, or overly optimistic. They insist that the systems and individuals running them are all-powerful or at least richer, more intelligent and more committed than we. On top of this, they argue, “We the people” (particular those with melanin) refuse to organize, are self-absorbed, materialistic, and plagued with division and discord. Such statements sting because they bear elements of truth we cannot overlook.

And yet, Black cynics seem to suffer from severe bouts of historical or political amnesia. They forget for example, how enslaved and largely illiterate Africans still managed to create their own schools. Memories of how free and enslaved Black folk fought physically and politically in the 19th century via civil war, plantation revolts, the underground railroad, establishment of Maroon societies, and the Abolitionist Movement to end Black bondage. Forgotten as well is how our people organized to challenge and dismantle legalized Apartheid (Jim Crow) in this nation, waging nonviolent war in the courts and in the streets against powerful and violently uncooperative opposition.

Black cynics also suffer from short-term memory loss. Somehow they forget or are unaware of the Black Power Movement, Black Arts Movement, and Anti-war or Free Speech Movements led by ordinary and extraordinary Black students, teachers, musicians, intellectuals and others just 5 decades ago.

The moral of this story, per examination of our history, is that we’ve made significant degrees of progress and have resisted our oppression at every step along the way, in every historical period with various tools, ideas and methods. While we are justified to perceive government bodies and officials with cynicism, we cannot afford to turn this inward on ourselves without serving the interests of our oppressors and causing incalculable damage to our ongoing instincts for freedom and justice.

History in other words,  even when we account for all the broken promises, in-fighting, and remnants of injustice still present, proves all of the cynics WRONG. 

So the next time you have a discussion with a cynical brother or sister, listen to them, debate them if you choose, but NEVER internalize his or her defeatist or apathetic attitude. Recognize that they too enjoy benefits a, privileges and rights fought for by Black people who dared to dream, and dared to visualize and fight for better conditions for themselves and their posterity.

Our story has always been one of people who defied the odds, conquered giants, and survived every obstacle our enemies devised for us. Our story is one of faith, hope, Vision, and work despite opposition. If 2000 tears from now Black people no longer existed, and someone told our story, people would assume it was a tall-tale or mythology. With all of our flaws and contradictions, WE ARE A MIRACULOUS PEOPLE, AND LET NO ONE TELL YOU DIFFERENTLY.

___________________

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-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

Sign Our Petition: Eliminate Gun Violence!

IMAG0273_1

In a previous article entitled, “Ending the Epidemic of Violent Black Death,” I wrote about Daryl Washington, an innocent victim of gun violence. I urged readers to see this as a nationwide epidemic rather than an isolated incident.

Since that time, I attended Daryl’s emotional funeral service, listened to some

African American self-hatred is a loaded gun pointed backwards

African American self-hatred is a loaded gun pointed backwards

grieving friends and relatives bear witness to his warm smile, inspiring spirit, and powerful presence, and witnessed an entire community mourn yet another promising person victimized by ignorance and self-hatred via gun shot.

But things did not end with Daryl’s murder, moving testimonies, or tearful pleas for violence to end. Not this time. I’m proud to write that this community, my community, refuses to bury this young man’s spirit in the coffin with him. They/we have decided to honor his memory and raise awareness about gun violence in the Black community.

We have begun on online petition calling on NYC Mayor Bill Dr Blasio, Manhattan Community Board 9, and the New York City Council to rename West 144 Street between Amsterdam and Broadway Avenues (the block where Daryl lived and died) “Daryl Washington Way.”

The petition reads as follows:

This petition comes from the parents, family, friends, neighbors, proprietors, and local residents that knew Daryl Washington and/or were impacted by his inspiring life and tragic death.

Daryl Washington was 27 years-old. He was a college graduate, gainfully employed, law-abiding, humble and mannerly young man. He was not involved with street gangs or criminal activity and was never arrested or in trouble with the law.

On July 29, 2014, Daryl died from a fatal shot to his head at approximately 10:50pm. Contrary to erroneous news reports, Daryl was shot by young men who came to assault his family member. Daryl, always a peacemaker, died trying to prevent the altercation. Daryl had long dreamed of serving fellow New York City residents, which prompted him to take the NYC Fireman Exam. Daryl scored 96% out of 100% but his senseless murder prevented him from fulfilling his dream.

Many people are unfortunately killed by gun violence in NYC (and other large cities) on any given day. Each premature death is tragic, as no life is more valuable than another.

Daryl Washington’s murder resonates with so many relatives, friends and NYC residents, workers and business owners precisely because he represented the very best examples of ambition, self-improvement, community service and integrity that the “Big Apple” represents at its core. Everything from his decision to pursue a career in which he would potentially sacrifice his life to help others, from the way he died, demonstrates a central NYC and American creed: “I am my brother’s keeper.” For all of these reasons and in an effort to raise awareness about gun violence, we request that Manhattan Community Board 9, The New York City Council, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the City of New York, where we live, work, own businesses or do business, co-name West 144th street between Amsterdam and Broadway Avenues, “Daryl Washington Way.”

So far, we’ve gathered over 200 signatures, but our goal is 5000. We are appealing to his relatives, friends, fellow Harlem or NYC residents, and all those concerned about gun violence to sign this petition and spread the word. You can reach the online petition by following the link below. We thank you in advance:

https://www.change.org/petitions/bill-de-blasio-mayor-bill-de-blasio-please-change-west-144th-street-to-daryl-washington-way?recruiter=2213413&utm_campaign=share_facebook_mobile&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition

_________________________________

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

Ending the Epidemic of Violent Black Death

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On Tuesday evening,  at approximately 10:50pm, 27 year-old Darryl Washington died of a fatal gunshot to his head, literally feet from his Harlem residence. Just 15 minutes earlier I stood feet away from where he drew his last agonizing breath.

This young Black man was killed by other young Black men, because he  intervened to protect his family member from being assaulted.

IMAG0261_1_1

Beloved 27 year-old Darryl Washington, tragically killed on July 29, 2014

During the days following this incident, relatives, childhood friends, neighbors, and even passersby acknowledged this young man’s life with a shrine including beautiful flowers, candles, his pictures and large sections of oaktag with various R.I.P.messages of other heartfelt expressions.

Everyone I spoke with – and I mean EVERYONE – noted how Darryl (also known as “D-Wash” or “LeBron”) was a law-abiding, humble, and well-raised gentleman undeserving of his fate. Tragic.

But this individual tragedy unfortunately represents one teardrop in a mighty ocean of mangled Black bodies, blood-stained streets, and emotionally charged funeral services all over the United States. with disturbing frequency.

Cruise through every city with a sizeable Black/Latino population, you will find hundreds of shrines like Darryl’s, or colorful portraits of Black people (typically men) spray-painted on the walls of barbershops and corner stores honoring the slain. Funeral after funeral along with floods of news reports, neighborhood tributes, and the horrific wailing of mourning parents demonstrate this sad truth: Perhaps the greatest tragedy outside of the obvious, is that incidents like Darryl’s are occurring far too frequently in American cities.

Black violent death – whether by racist law enforcement, white vigilante, or ignorant Black hands – is not a few isolated incidents, but rather an EPIDEMIC.

It makes me cringe to note that according to a 2013 report by the Children’s Defense Fund, gun violence is the leading cause of death for Black children and teens.

I am no expert on this issue. I come with no specific legislative remedies. What I do know is that Black households, schools, places of worship and community organizations must place this issue high on their priority list (along with domestic violence, mass incarceration, the miseducation of our youth and rising unemployment). Alll of us, must leave our political and religious bubbles and begin teaching our children to value life, beginning with their own, and to develop nonviolent ways to mediate their conflicts with peers.

This greed-driven and shamefully misogynist and racist society, along with our own negligence and failure to exercise leadership, is mass-producing generations of young brothers and sisters who lack confidence, feel hopeless and lost, or like the Tin Man character in “The Wizard of Oz,” have no heart.

Patriotic Black folk waiting for federal agencies or corporate sponsors to effectively address this problem should not hold their breath. Booker T. Washington’s call to “Cast our buckets where we are,” is most appropriate at this time. Right in our communities-turned-battlefields, we must create local and national movements to literally save our youth.

No college degrees are necessary for those that volunteer for this task. No long list of past accomplishments, impressive resumes, or claims to divinity needed here. The antidote to this epidemic will be the stuff of which all social movements are made: fearless, optimistic, clear-thinking, spirit-intoxicated, sincere and committed Black men and women young and old who are prepared to spread the Social Gospel of character development, self-love/empowerment, skill-building, cultural connectedness, and emotional intelligence through individual or organizational efforts to young people throughout this nation. As the phenomenonal reverend Dr. Charles G. Adams once noted, “We will either live and work together as intelligent women, men and children, or die separately like fools.”

 _____________________

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In concluding she notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________

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

Black Inspiration for Black Souls

keep your head up

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

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

Basic Tips

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

Good songs that promote tranquility:

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

1. “Optimistic” by Sounds of Blackness

2. “Keep on Moving” by Soul II Soul

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

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

5. Breezin’ by George Benson

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

7. “Happy” by Pharrell

8. “Simply Beautiful” by Al Green

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

10. “Sweet Thang” by Chaka Khan

11. “Gotta Be” by Des’ree

12. “Zoom” by The Commodores

13. Whenever, Wherever, Whatever” by Maxwell

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

_____________________________________________

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

 

 

7 Tips for Succeeding in College

college success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________________

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