A Word About Our “Allies”

As victims of – and hopefully rebels against – white supremacy, we should recognize by now, that we also fight against patriarchy and class exploitation. We also recognize that other people suffer from similar forms of oppression.

Therefore we often discuss and attempt to identify  which traditionally oppressed people constitute our “natural” allies domestically and globally.

For the record, whites collectively were our chief external enemies for centuries. However we don’t know what the future holds, and we shouldn’t lock ourselves into the notion that only whites compose enemy forces to us.

As  political, economic, and demographic trends shift, Blacks might find that other “people of color” will emerge as our new exploiters. and oppressors. Certainly we’ve had the experience of betrayal at the hands of allies before.

interesting-group tension like this naturally occurs when people compete for what they believe to be limited resources, and when deep hostility exists toward the other group. This problem escalates when people are in denial about it.

“Natural” alliances might exist between wild animals in the animal kingdom, but we humans are another species altogether. Humans, unlike wild animals, are not imprisoned by instinct. We can strategize, be vindictive, jealous, and self-serving. We feel shame, guilt, and have the underestimated power of choice. Given this, the subject of alliances is not that simple in the human jungle. Alliances are but on shared interests or experiences, shared consciousness, and relationships of trust. Alliances in short, must be cultivated.

As you read this, a new generation of people are investing heavily in African infrastructure, technology, finance and medicine. In Guyana, they hold numerous timber contracts. In many cases, they hire their own folks to do the work and ignore Guyanese workers, with whom they appear to hold contemptuous feelings. This group is neither white nor capitalist.

In our local neighborhoods, some fellow “people of color” look upon us as lepers, harbor deep hostility toward us, refuse to work in solidarity with us and neglect to share economic and political resources. They are not white but are heavily capitalist, culturally disconnected, and becoming increasingly corporate and reactionary by the minute.

Some will come talking “solidarity” but practicing clannish and divisive behavior. Some preach intergroup alluances with us but don’t even respect and support Black activists.

We are vulnerable to such treatment because we are sometimes too welcoming and trusting of others, and we are fractured and powerless in certain regards.Vulnerable groups, dependent on others for employment, goods and services, have little political leverage with the group’s upon whom we depend, and who resent and mistreat  us in daily interactions. Beyond dogmatic proclamations, how do we trust or struggle with people who disrespect our heritage and perceive us in demeaning ways strikingly similar to our white oppressors?

In this climate, I urge us to be shrewd and strategic Black folk! Study Marcus Garvey more closely, especially his ideas about group political and national interests.

Regardless of who our enemies or so-called allies are, we must develop power to sustain, advance and protect ourselves and our interests! We also must have the capacity to make people pay for betrayal and duplicity!

This doesn’t imply that we don’t have allies. It means that we can no longer think in terms of seeing this or that group as a “natural ally.”Simply being “of color” means nothing to us politically, if that group sides with establishment thinking, anti-Black practices or illusions of supremacy over us.

Every racial or ethnic group contains people who absorb anti-progressive ideas. Likewise some members of every group are self-hating and deeply conflicted on matters of group solidarity and political empowerment or identity. Don’t get caught with your “pants down.” Take ancestor John Henrik Clarke’s words seriously and follow local, national and global news/trends.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5h5ENxQWx9E

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Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and protest. 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.

In Memory of Brother Malcolm X on His 90th Birthday

Malcolm collage2

Today – May 19, 2015 – marks what might have been brother Malcolm’s 90th birthday. That possibility ended when assassins comprised of misled Black folk and U.S. government intelligence/law enforcement agencies, killed brother Malcolm on February 21, 1965.

Malcolm X was a complex man who embodied various personas and political beliefs Malcolm-X-mugshot-1throughout his 39 years. As Manu Ampim notes, we can discuss Malcolm in four distinct periods of his life that correspond with different names he used: The “Malcolm Little” Phase (1925-1941), “Detroit Red” (1941-1952), “Malcolm X” (1952- 1963), and “Malcolm X/El Hajj Malik El Shabazz” (1963-1965). We might say he truly embodied transformation and authenticity, at each stage of his life.

Once in the Nation of Islam, Malcolm began an intense 13-year journey of atonement, self-development, challenging oppression, and consciousness raising. This journey had deeper roots in Malcolm’s childhood; His parents were not only members of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, his father was a Garveyvite preacher, his mother wrote for the UNIA newspaper, and both recruited for the organization.

malcolm and maya

Malcolm in Ghana with Maya Angelou

it’s important to note that Malcolm did not isolate himself simply within the ideological confines of his  organization. Although loyal to Nation of Islam doctrine (prior to his departure in 1964), he also read widely and voraciously, incorporating studies in history, psychology, political science, etymology, and sociology.

In addition, he maintained close friendships with a circle of renown Harlem-based intellectuals, activists and writers (including Dr. Ben Yosef-Jochanon, John Oliver Killens, John Henrik Clarke, and a young Maya Angelou) among others, who added to his understanding of Black politics, the Civil Rights Movement, literature, history and culture.

malcolm with newspaperIn addition to these factors, brother Malcolm in the post – NOI period, began expanding his understanding of Black Nationalism, refining his Pan-African thought, and developing an appreciation for aspects of socialism and anti-imperialism. He also sought to become more involved in grassroots organizing and activism, leading him to seek working alliances with prominent nonviolent civil rights groups like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, among others.

During his final year of life, he met with African heads of state (to develop Pan-African political alliances and gain support for getting the U.S. indicted for its human rights abuses of Black people), and he started two organizations. The Muslim Mosque Incorporated and the Organization of African-American Unity.

Malcolm having a light moment with Tanzanian Revolutionary leader Abdul Rahman Babu in 1964.

Malcolm having a light moment with Tanzanian Revolutionary leader Abdul Rahman Babu in 1964.

He had plans to internationalize the Black Liberation Movement, by linking up with newly independent African nations, framing the struggle as one of human rather than civil rights and petitioning the United Nations World Court against a racist and oppressive U.S government. In July of 1964 Malcolm attended a summit of the Organization of African Unity and presented a memorandum that outlined his message of Pan-African solidarity and his intention to take the U.S. to “court” at the United Nations.

For all of these reasons and more, it is difficult and perhaps unfair to pigeon-hole Malcolm or limit his ideas to a NOI or post-NOI timeline (as many people attempt to do). As a result, it is no exaggeration to say that Malcolm X remains one of the most respected but misunderstood and misrepresented figures of the 20th century.

Nevertheless, Malcolm X is universally regarded as a charismatic Nation of Islam spokesman/organizer, brilliant Black Liberation theorist, and Pan-African/Black Nationalistmalcolm praying revolutionary and anti-imperialist.  We can describe his tremendous sociopolitical influence by acknowledging how he helped to inspire/inform the Black Power and Black Arts Movements and inspired the demand for Black Studies in his death. His tremendous influence also explains serious government attempts to silence him and his message and activities.

His example and legacy are so strong that attempts to misrepresent, absorb, or attack him have largely failed by white and Black pundits alike. Even today, his call for Black people to ” Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up” remains strong and vibrant. Indeed, Brother Malcolm addressed issues that still find relevance to Black people today, like police brutality and the importance of knowing our history and having an African-centered historical perspective.

My objectives here are 1. to help readers understand his importance, 2. identify his key ideas, and 3. inspire people to spread and implement those ideas. As I see it, these represent the most effective and relevant ways for us to honor him. This is highly important, for while Malcolm theorized, he was no idle philosopher; He used anecdotes, theories, and analogies always to have Black people “Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up.” Therefore no one can genuinely proclaim themselves his students or followers if they fail to do the same.

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 Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and protest. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” 

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

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

Why We Must Support Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby

marilynmosby

In case you’ve missed national news over the past two weeks, Marilyn J. Mosby is the recently elected State’s Attorney for Baltimore, Maryland. She is a shero, and a rather unlikely one. At just 35-years old, she is the youngest person in the United States to hold such a powerful position in a major city. She’s only been in the position for about 4 months.

mosby

Why is Mrs. Mosby a shero? Most times when police kill unarmed, innocent and non-threatening Black people, cops either are not criminally charged, or they are exonerated in court. Marilyn Mosby not only charged six Baltimore police officers involved in Freddy Gray’s death, she did it in public and bold fashion, reading the entire report from her office for Baltimore citizens and the press. Unprecedented.This is a much heralded but rarely displayed quality called “transparency.” Watch the entire press conference below and notice her passion and conviction.

Her speech clearly explained all the events involved in the cops’ interaction for Freddy Gray on April 12, 2015. She identified by name the officers involved and their respective criminal charges. Moreover, she took time to acknowledge national protests against police brutality, mention her intention to make sure the law applies to everyone, and empathize with youth rebels while cautioning them to protest peacefully while she guides the case going forward.

To summarize: She made a distinction between “good” cops in Baltimore and those involved in Gray’s death. She discussed how her office conducted a thorough independent investigation into the incident, in addition to how they worked with local police. She explained that Gray was illegally arrested. She detailed how police used excessive force and how they all failed to get Gray the medical attention that might have saved his life. She mentioned that the medical examiner ruled Gray’s death a homicide likely caused by injuries Gray sustained while riding in a police van without a seat-belt. She reminded the public that she appreciates cops and has no vendetta against ALL law enforcement, by mentioning that both her parents, many aunts and uncles, and her grandfather was a cop. She thanked (peaceful) protesters. She encouraged peaceful and productive rallies by Baltimore residents to “develop structural and systemic changes for years to come.” In short, she demonstrated tremendous courage, competence, transparency, clarity, and empathy for local and national victims of police misconduct.

But her exemplary, decisive, and solution-oriented leadership didn’t end with that press conference. Mosby has also dropped charges against Baltimore residents who violated the unlawful curfew imposed by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ( it turns out only the Governor had such authority). She also created the Aim to B’More Program, which provides educational and employment assistance to first-time nonviolent drug offenders, leading their criminal records to be expunged. Unlike typical heartless prosecutors “just doing their job,” Mosby seeks to transform her job, by providing social services to those needing them in an effort to prevent young people from becoming life-long criminals/inmates.

From where I sit, THIS is the type of visionary and transformative leadership needed in America’s oft-neglected urban centers. She gives hope to the hopeless, acknowledges and attempts to remedy problems, and holds racist police accountable (I wouldn’t be surprised if Mosby runs for Mayor in Baltimore one day). Just take look at the speech she delivered when she ran for State’s Attorney:

Of course, certain whites, the Baltimore police union, and others can’t stand to see a strong and intelligent Black woman take police thugs to task. In the traditional old-boy’s network, the prosecution sides with the police and helps hide and defend their misconduct. Mosby is the new sister in town, who understands and relates to the suffering of her people, and the forces-that-be can’t stand to see any departure from their unfair protocol on OUR behalf. Notice the Fox News commentary:

Predictably, forces in Baltimore are moving against to discredit, defame and generally sabotage Marilyn Mosby and all of us by extension. Both the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police and the attorneys representing the six officers are calling for Mosby to step down and or appoint an independent prosecutor. Their goal is not simply to exonerate thug police officers, but to intimidate and crush Black leadership an organized movements for Black liberation.

This leaves Black folk with an important responsibility. We must support Marilyn J. Mosby in an organized and public manner. She put her job and career on the line for us, and we stand in solidarity behind her. Please sign this petition calling on Mrs. Mosby to stay on her job and keep fighting the good fight. We can’t have it both ways. When Black people in high positions, fail or betray us, we attack them, but when someone stands up for us, and sticks their neck out, we fail to support them. Please read, sign and share this petition!

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 Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and protest. 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.

We Can’t Save People, We Can Only Empower Them

save yourself

Not too long ago, I began doing a daily devotional. This is a time I set aside each morning to get and keep my spiritual house in order. There are many types of devotionals used primarily by religious people. My spiritual time is non-religious. It involves the following components:

  1. Giving thanks
  2. Reading and reflecting on a daily affirmation or other reading
  3. Writing down what I learned and developing an action plan to implement it
  4. Asking for certain blessings, guidance or protection for myself and loved ones

While doing my devotional this morning, I came across the affirmation, “We are not superheroes.” It begins this way:

I cannot save the world.

I cannot save anyone.

I can love. I can support. I can empower. But it is not my responsibility to save.

The article went on to explain that we can give others advice, listen to them, reassure them, and teach them empowering skills, knowledge or habits. The responsibility of “salvation” however, falls on each individual, and on them alone.

Passionately attempting to do something that is literally impossible (saving others) has predictably negative outcomes for those operating as “saviors.” When they don’t see the results they expect from the child, lover, friend, or group they’re attempting to “save,” they risk  becoming bitter, drained, arrogant, resentful, and to feel deeply unappreciated.

But the savior approach also harms those we attempt to “save.” They tire of our constant (and increasingly frustrated or angry) pleading. They can begin feeling demoralized (“I’ll never get it right,” “Nothing I do is good enough”). They can become resentful (“I wish he would mind his business,” “She must think she’s PERFECT!”). They not only deafen their ears to the “savior,” they can become so frustrated and rebellious that they exhibit worse thinking and behavior than they did before! Finally, we rob them of the choice and power they have to save themselves.

Therefore, I agree with the affirmation. We are not superheroes or saviors. To believe we are is both impractical and arrogant. Are there people we love or work with who live in deep dysfunction? Yes. Do some of these people participate in a seemingly never-ending cycle of misery, failure, and pain? For sure. Do we tire of hearing their complaints and frustrations, when they refuse to do the things they need to improve their situation? No doubt. But these are situations they CHOOSE FOR THEMSELVES. These frustrating and toxic situations will continue as they continue to deny them or enable them.

Our goal is simply to provide the tools (knowledge, wisdom, skills, habits) to help them make better choices, readjust themselves, develop confidence, and thus be their own agents of salvation. If we do this in a loving and patient spirit, we can help them become successful.

I understand and implement this lesson pretty well in my personas of parent, educator and activist, but sometimes fall short in other areas of my personal life. I/we don’t want to come off to others as arrogant and impatient taskmasters, do we?

In conclusion, I’ve developed a few tips I think might be helpful to many of you reading this article (especially when it comes to friends, our (adult) children, love-interests, co-workers, etc. :

  • Don’t get into the practice of giving unsolicited advice.
  • When asked, patiently offer your perspective, with the objective of empowering, not “saving” them.
  • Remind the person that his/her life is theirs to live and only they have the power to change it or make it more fulfilling.
  • Remember that a person has the right to ignore, disagree with or reject your perspectives.  If they choose to be in denial or continue to  enable their problems, that is their choice and they have to live with those outcomes.
  • When you’ve already attempted to empower them, they neglect or refuse to the tools you’ve shared, and they complain about the same problems, listen to them without interjecting, and calmly remind them, “Seems like you have some choices to make, and I’m sure you’ll choose well.”
  • Remember that just as they have the right to choose, you do as well. You can change the topic, or politely remove yourself from the conversation.
  • If the person is someone with whom you live or someone whose choices negatively affect YOU, reconsider if this is a relationship you want. You are responsible for your own happiness, and to SAVE YOURSELF you might need to disconnect from this person permanently or until they prove mature enough to make better choices. You have the right to be affected by empowering choices, and to shield yourself from the toxic behavior/decisions of others.
  • Make sure you are open to good advice and constantly working on SELF-EMPOWERMENT or you are not qualified empower others!
  • If the person is open to empowering ideas/tools, and they do make positive changes that are noticeable to you, mention it to them! We all need support, and sincere words of congratulations or acknowledgement are POWERFUL tools.

Further Reading

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Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and protest. 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 Problem With Black Exceptionalism

Originally posted on MY TRUE SENSE:

TEAMWORK

In April of 2014, I released my third book, “Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens.” Every time I appear on a radio show to promote my new book, I’m asked why I wrote it. My answer is generally the same every time and I think it’s important enough to share with you, as it speaks to issues much larger than my book.

I’m tired of how we as a community promote Black exceptionalism: “my child got accepted here,” “my child won a scholarship,” “I’ve accomplished this or that.” “She’s the first Black something or other…” Black people usually can point to any number of individual superstars and high achievers. But for every one child or adult that is exceptional, hundreds of thousands more are low-performing, content with mediocrity, and destined for lives of poverty and failure.

I was an exceptional young person, and my parents were proud of me…

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Why We have a Black President, and Black Voter Participation, But No Political Power

malcolm blackpowerIt disturbs me that nearly two decades into the 21st century, so many of us believe that having a Black president, or thousands of Black elected officials, translates to actual Black political power. This article will briefly address that misunderstanding.

Famous figures like Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Ho Chi Minh, Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X theorized on about political power. Their thoughts are all a matter of public record via speeches, books and websites, which I encourage everyone to explore. I define as “The ability to meet objectives, secure goods, services, and support for one’s group/constituents, and to protect and advance group interests regardless of opposition.”

This power I write of is not innate; The group must develop, organize, and express it effectively. In one sense, it derives from effectively organizing group economic strength, and developing a group consciousness of pride, assertiveness, solidarity and shared interests/agendas (racial, ethnic, religious, ideological, geographic, gender, etc).

This self-empowerment component however, will not by itself create genuine or lasting political power. Building strong, independent bases of power is essential, but not sufficient. The question becomes, “How does this empowered group stop competing or opposing groups from sabotaging its agenda, harming its citizens, destroying its thriving business districts, and institutions or passing legislation to limit its freedom?”

This brings us to the more defensive component of political power… a component I might add, that Black people generally do not exercise. In addition to developing the ability to independently sustain, express, and effectively organize itself, the group must have the capacity to help or threaten the finances, influence, image, property, safety, and self-interests of the ruling elite or other groups. This has obvious implications concerning propaganda/media, armed defense, lobbying, and other things that don’t need further elaboration (watch “The Godfather” part I and II for a better understanding).

When we examine the question of power within these parameters, we quickly realize that the presence of Black elected officials doesn’t measure up. At last count, there are approximately 10,500 such people. This number includes The President, United States Senator and Representatives, mayors, governors, state senators, city council members, district attorneys, and countless other positions. We should also note that Black voter participation in the United States has increased since years past. In 2012 for example Blacks voted at a higher rate than whites in national elections. That year, 1.7 million new Black voters emerged to lift Barack Obama to a second presidential term.

When we consider this fact along with an estimated Black purchasing power of $1.1 trillion, and the highest number of Black college graduates in our history, we should see a set of positive outcomes with respect to the protection of our civil liberties, at minimum. Instead, we find ourselves still championing traditional routes to empowerment that rarely pay dividends for Black people collectively.

If our politicians are in the pocket of corporations, are bought off by lobbying groups representing another group’s agenda, or don’t see themselves as beholden to and advocates for Black people, they are not truly OUR politicians.If we have no agreed upon agenda, no lobbying groups to persuade politicians to support it, and no organized power behind it, we have no political power, just the semblance of such.

If we had actual rather than symbolic political power, we wouldn’t need to assert that our lives matter, or remain victims of unbridled police violence….Unfortunately, the (very bad) joke is still on us….

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Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and protest. 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.

11 Qualities of Effective Leaders

mytruesense:

An oldie but goodie

Originally posted on MY TRUE SENSE:

stamp collage

Leadership. So often spoken about, so rarely exemplified. This is especially true regarding effective Black sociopolitical leadership.

The jury of Black historical experience has deliberated for decades, and the verdict is in: Both our local communities and larger national landscape are witnessing a void in effective leadership. This doesn’t imply that we have NO competent or sincere individuals pushing agendas, advocating for people, challenging injustice or implementing solutions to our problems. Any brother or sister living in any U.S. city can produce a list of such people with respect to their own  locality.

And yet, we cannot allow idealism or a tendency toward  brown sugar-coating to obscure the sobering reality: all across this country, the masses of Black folk emphatically decry an absence of effective leadership on their behalf. Even if no one verbalizes this sentiment, it is self-evident. In virtually every indicator of human empowerment (educational attainment, gainful employment, job…

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A Tribute to Black Mothers

black moms rock

May 10, 2015 marks the 107th celebration of Mother’s Day in the United States. Held on the second Sunday of May, we take this time to show love and appreciation for mothers, often unheralded champions in the Black community.

This important day comes with a bittersweet flavor. I cringe to think of how the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and others like them will feel on Mother’s Day. Their children and the hope and possibilities which accompanied them, were executed by the police, media, and a criminal justice system that fails to recognize and honor their humanity and value ( hence the relevance of the resistance slogan, “Black lives matter”).

At the same time, we realize that Black women themselves, biological mothers or not, are also devalued in our society. In the case of mothers, we too often blame single Black moms for the “erosion” of Black family values, youth criminality,  mass incarceration, etc. We seem to forget that just as it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to destroy one. Therefore to the extent that our community fails, negligent fathers, along with impotent and disconnected places of worship, learning and organizing centers (and let us not forget a racist and patriarchal society) are equal partners in our community dysfunction.

This scapegoating and degradation of Black women is a modern development. In ancient times, long before our tragic interactions with alien invaders, our people revered women. Societies were matrilineal, and we acknowledged goddesses in addition to gods.

On this Mother’s Day, precisely because of all the above, I/we send positive vibrations and love to all biological mothers in addition to those that serve as surrogate moms (coaches, teachers, pastors, foster parents, mentors, aunts, etc.) for our youth.

Despite societal messages to the contrary, Mothers of Hue, you are beloved, invaluable, and most appreciated.

We thank you for your countless acts of love and sacrifice in a thankless and often cruel world. We thank you for putting others first at the expense of your leisure time and finances. We thank you for being the world’s greatest multi-tasker, as you seamlessly play the roles of chef, food inspector, teacher, referee, psychologist, tutor, disciplinarian, coach, financial planner,  and the list goes on. We thank you for doing the best you can with what you have and know. We thank you for putting up with our foolishness and for seeing the best in us despite our shortcomings.

Fairness dictates that we send a special shout out to those of you who are invisible to this society: the poor, single-parent Black and Latino moms raising children in turbulent and neglected communities with little help, money or compassion from others. In the name of our ancestors, we urge you to keep pushing, and keep your head up.

I write this to remind you that some of us see you, value you and support you. Your struggles are our own struggles, and we pledge to struggle with you in the home, streets, schools, and boardrooms, rather than against you.

______________________

Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and protest. 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 Suffering and White Reassurance

bow down

As I mentioned in my previous article, Black people currently live in perilous times. Statistics detailing unemployment, education, mass imprisonment, police brutality, mental and physical health, and poverty all bear witness to this fact. As if these societal issues weren’t enough to contend with, some members of our own community take curious positions that enable our oppressors to continue their mischief in good conscience.

For example, I’ve heard the following comments from some Black folk concerning police brutality:

  • “Some Black police officers participate in police brutality and some whites are attacked by police, so police brutality is race-neutral (not based on race).”
  • “Some Black people are just as racist as some whites, so we need to stop being hypocritical.”
  • “Police are just doing their job. Most of the Black people that get harassed by police are committing crime, being rowdy, or dressing like thugs.”

I will not address these misleading claims, as I’ve already done so at length in several of the 200+ articles I’ve written on this blog. However, I am compelled to raise a few important points.

In the name of my ancestors who endured unimaginable and unjustified cruelty while laboring to build this country, I challenge white supremacy, it’s architects, promoters, beneficiaries, and those who collaborate with it. This latter group includes Black folk that are so obsessed with placating/reassuring whites, that they trivialize or dismiss white brutality and Black suffering.  It’s one thing to provide balanced and nuanced commentary. Ignoring centuries of history and contemporary occurrences is another thing altogether. Doing this to soothe and accommodate white guilt and denial is unacceptable, cowardly, and traitorous. Simply put, sparing your white spouse, co-worker, or friend’s feelings does not take precedence over the suffering of Black people for centuries. If you need to lie to keep someone’s friendship or soothe their feelings, that’s a “friendship” you don’t need! Stop buckdancing to win others’ approval. Tell the truth and shame the devil! Or as Mari Evans put it in her poem, “Speak Truth to the People,”

Speak the truth to the people
Talk sense to the people
Free them with honesty
Free the people with Love and Courage for their Being
Spare them the fantasy
Fantasy enslaves
A slave is enslaved
Can be enslaved by unwisdom….

In conclusion, we must understand that the objective of social justice demands truth and accountability. I’d like to leave you with an excerpt of James Baldwin’s penetrating essay, “White Man’s Guilt.” Perhaps it will demonstrate how no amount of defending, apologizing  or otherwise excusing white naivete or brutality will help white folk confront and resolve their fear, guilt or denial. These are things they must do for themselves:

“…I concluded long ago that they found the color of my skin inhibiting. This color seems to operate as a most disagreeable mirror, and a great deal of one’s energy is expended in reassuring white Americans that they do not see what they see.

This is utterly futile, of course, since they do see what they see. And what they see is an appallingly oppressive and bloody history known all over the world. What they see is a disastrous, continuing, present condition which menaces them, and for which they bear an inescapable responsibility. But since in the main they seem to lack the energy to change this condition they would rather not be reminded of it. Does this mean that in their conversation with one another, they merely make reassuring sounds? It scarcely seems possible, and yet, on the other hand, it seems all too likely. In any case, whatever they bring to one another, it is certainly not freedom from guilt. The guilt remains, more deeply rooted, more securely lodged, than the oldest of fears.

And to have to deal with such people can be unutterably exhausting for they, with a really dazzling ingenuity, a tireless agility, are perpetually defending themselves against charges which one, disagreeable mirror though one may be, has not really, for the moment, made. 0ne does not have to make them. The record is there for all to read. It resounds all over the world. It might as well be written in the sky. One wishes that – Americans–white Americans–would read, for their own sakes, this record and stop defending themselves against it. Only then will they be enabled to change their lives.

The fact that they have not yet been able to do this–to face their history to change their lives–hideously menaces this country. Indeed, it menaces the entire world.”

____________________

Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and protest. 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.

11 Qualities to Enhance Black Love Relationships

mytruesense:

Timeless…

Originally posted on MY TRUE SENSE:

love yin yang

As evidenced by tons of successful books, romantic comedy movies, Valentine’s Day and the popularity of musical ballads, romance is a billion-dollar business and important topic in America. That’s much more than we can say about romantic relationships themselves which appear at times to fluctuate between the illusion of ecstasy and  the reality of misery. Perhaps that explains the allure of romantic comedies, erotic novels and sex symbols. These fantasies fascinate us precisely because they produce scenarios and feelings desperately missing from our real life relationships.

I am obliged at the onset to admit that I am no relationship expert or love guru.

Steve Harvey's Bestselling book on relationships, targeted to women Steve Harvey’s Bestselling book on relationships, targeted to women

Throughout past and current intimate relationships I have been stubborn, selfish, and immature at times.I do think about this topic often however, and have formed some opinions on the matter. Besides, if Steve Harvey – a comedian married three times –…

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