It’s Time to Eliminate All Confusion, Illusion, and Distractions, Black People!

fanon quote

As you know by now (if you follow my blog), I totally oppose white supremacy  and have done so using every skill set and bit of knowledge I have for the past 29-30 years. I’ve studied the Black experience in Africa, America, and throughout the diaspora via higher education and self-education. My self-education involved decades of focused reading, reviewing documentaries and movies, and receiving the tutelage and mentorship of wise and experienced Black elders who were/are experienced scholar-activists. Among other things, these individuals taught me to be humble, critical, balanced, competent, and committed to the people.

However I didn’t spend all of this time with my nose buried in books.  Over the years I’ve been blessed to meet and work with dedicated Black college students, grade-school parents, educators, and various community folk throughout the United States. Despite some inevitable mistakes and errors in judgement along the way, we/I created a middle school, successfully challenged racist policies and practices, and organized our community to  “Wake up, Clean up and Stand up!”

It is not my intent to engage in braggadocio, but to make it clear that:

  • I am no “johnny-come-lately” activist or intellectual.
  • I have no illusions that I or my opinions are divine or infallible, but they are backed by and fused with serious study and effective and successful community activism, which are verifiable.
  • Therefore while everyone has the right and responsibility to disagree with my conclusions, these conclusions are informed and should at least be seriously considered by reasonable people.

These are important considerations when you consider that everyone has opinions, but not all opinions are valid and informed. Now on to the blog topic…..

Anytime an entity makes a decision to subjugate another, that entity must use two primary means to accomplish the task: coercion and deception. Coercive methods involve military or paramilitary forces, restrictive laws and law enforcement, and anything using intimidation and punitive measures. Coercion operates by creating fear among people and encouraging their cooperation. Deception involves using distorted history, mythology, religious concepts, negative propaganda, etc. The goal of deception is to mislead people in various ways so that they accept their subordinate place in the social order, accommodate to their oppression,  and become parties of their own victimization. Those among the subordinated group who claim to fight for their liberation, must eliminate all confusion and illusion from their people.

In this spirit, I’d like to humbly remind us that:

1. We have the right to determine for ourselves what strategies or tactics to use, who are leaders are, and what our collective priorities and values are. We refer to this as self-determination.

2. Our fight for liberation must be TOTAL. To say we are for Black liberation and to exclude those in our community that are women or members of the LGBTQ community is contradictory, divisive and backwards. Black people must come together, organize around our common interests, and allow for valid critique and disagreement with each other while doing so. We refer to this as Black solidarity.

3. Others can assist our causes and in some cases, join our organizations (honestly, that is not my preference). That is OUR call to make. However, WE must lead our movements, and protect and advance OUR interests first and foremost. History provides ample proof that other people sympathize with us, join our movements, and begin to dictate policy and strategy. We cannot continue to allow this to occur. As Frederick Douglass said, “Let he who is wounded, cry out!”

We cannot choose allies emotionally. We must do so strategically. The criteria for identifying and determining outside allies should include: those willing to accept our leadership and who respect our right to self-determination; those who have important resources that can benefit us (money, specialized skill, property, information, etc.); those with a demonstrated and credible record of supporting our causes and who share our consciousness. And if we choose an outside person as an ally, we should immediately disconnect from them if they compromise  any of the above things. As you will note from World history, nations and people are allies one moment, and enemies another moment. Alliances are usually NOT permanent. We form them for accomplish specific objectives.

4. Related to the previous point, we must be clear on who are enemies are. We must stop thinking that just whites or ALL whites comprise our enemies. The designation of “enemy” is not static, but dynamic and based on context. Collectively speaking, our “enemies” constitute organizations, institutions, and individuals whose policies and actions compromise our safety, intelligence, health, freedom, happiness, and prosperity. In this context, our enemies may (based on the context) include certain universities, school systems, corporations, fellow Black people, certain Latinos, Asians, etc. and their respective organizations or institutions.

5. The strategies and tactics we employ must effectively address/resolve the issue/problem we confront. Again, we must think strategically. We do ourselves a disservice if we use a tactic just because it worked in the past, or simply because it is popular. We don’t use a tank to kill a roach; Boycotts, rallies, protests, demonstrations, candle-light vigils and marches have become our traditional means of addressing injustice. But we cannot always rely on these methods, because they are not always effective or relevant. Tactics do not come one-size-fits-all. When we identify the issue, our resources, how we’re affected, and the major players involved (the context) then and only then are we poised to determine effective tactics. Also, it pays to be knowledgeable about effective protest strategy.

6. We waste precious time debating issues that have already been resolved, or once resolved, push us no closer to meeting an important objective.  Unless we’re trying to challenge patriarchy, what is the sense of debating if the Black woman is God? Unless we’re challenging homophobia or sexuality oppression, what’s the sense of debating if homosexuality existed in ancient Africa? Debating as a form of intellectual exercise or refinement is an excellent tool in academic or scholarly institutions. In my opinion, all Black folk should learn the proper way to structure, support or attack an argument and to detect logical flaws.

In the sociopolitical arena however, we don’t debate just to display our intelligence or scholarship. We engage real problems affecting real people who demand real solutions. In this context, debates should become less about rhetoric and logic. Our goal  is not to vanquish an opponent, flaunt our knowledge or vocabulary, or impress spectators. We seek to solve problems, create sound public policy and clarify objectives, and refine and develop strategy and tactics.

As I see it, the most effective and relevant debates will occur within an organization. Once the debate concludes (depending on which side prevailed) the organization then creates policy, refines its objectives or priorities, or adopts strategy or tactics accordingly. In this manner, a debate leads to something relevant and functional. In my hometown (NYC) and many others across the country, people host widely promoted debates between individuals in the conscious community for a fee. Some useful information comes out in these events. But many times they disintegrate into hostile shouting matches where profanity and insults  dominate and spectators cheer wildly for the person in their particular camp. It also appears that the two people insulting and attacking one another are in fact “debating” issues far better addressed by powerful Afrocentric intellectuals like Ben Yosef-Jochannon, John H. Clarke, Ivan Van Sertima, Chancellor Williams, Tony Browder, Ashra Kwesi, Phil Valentine, and brother Kaba Kamene. Most of these individuals have books, YouTube clips, and dvds available which explain the subject matter in greater detail and with more competence than do today’s debaters. Many of these contemporary debates provide good sums of money for the promoters and participants, but little new or relevant information for the spectators, let alone any organized and consistent way to implement and utilize this information for community empowerment. I humbly suggest that what we need is far less of this, and far more serious study groups. Study groups are more inclusive and participatory, and generate more focused and useful information and discussion.

7. A major difference I noticed  in the past as opposed to now, is that in the past we had several organizations and brilliant individuals represented them. Marcus Garvey headed the Universal Negro Improvement Association; Elijah Muhammad led the Nation of Islam; Malcolm X was its spokesperson and national representative who later founded the Muslim Mosque Incorporated and Organization of Afro-American Unity; Ella Baker was a member of several organizations throughout her life including the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In 1960, she also organized student activists around the country to form the the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); Dr. King led the Montgomery Improvement Association and later (along with Ella Baker and others) started and led SCLC; Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self Defense; Maulana Karenga formed the “US” organization and promoted cultural Nationalism through his “Kawaida Theory”; Amiri Baraka headed the Congress of African People; Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture) was a member/leader of SNCC and later founded the All African People’s Revolutionary Party; All of theme were charismatic people who spoke well but did so with a specific organizational program and platform. These individuals did not  speak or organize by or for themselves.

We still have several organizations in existence today (most notably, the Nation of Islam, the New Black Panther Party and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement). Unlike times of the past however, we now see a new phenomenon: individuals doing public speaking all over the country who are not connected to or representing a specific organization (including myself).  This is not necessarily a problem if those individuals are competent, conscious and committed. Organizations have the added advantages of budgets, mass membership, communications networks, offices, official platforms/programs, and a number of other resources, making them far more powerful and effective than any individual. Organizations also have the ability to outlive individuals. If we fight for liberation, and want to do so with maximum support and impact, we must either join already existing organizations, or create new ones. Pooling collective resources, ideas, and skills with like-minded people will inevitably prove more stable and effective than the efforts of scattered individuals. I myself realized this some time ago. For all the above reasons, I attempted to resuscitate brother Malcolm’s OAAU a few years ago (Until I discovered a distinguished elder had already done so) and I’m working now with other people to start a new organization focused on inclusive leadership, people’s survival programs, grassroots activism, political education, community economics, self-defense, leadership development and of course Black Power! I’ll discuss that in detail at another time once we finalize our planning and begin recruitment.”

 8. Last but not least, the project of liberating ourselves is difficult, but not impossible. However, we cannot be fooled into thinking that applying one magic solution, approach, esoteric knowledge, or political/religious affiliation will end our collective problems.  Regardless of our location and labels we are still restricted, attacked and exploited by those who oppose us. If liberation were simply a matter of adopting African or Islamic names, studying lessons, doing secret hand shakes/gestures, revoking our citizenship, owning a special document, reciting positive affirmations, speaking other languages, praying, having a Black president or speaking and wearing our clothes a certain way, we’d all be free by year’s end. As sentient people, we have a right to our preferences and political choices. But never think for a minute that your particular belief or practice has “saved” you from the horrors of white supremacy. People that do all the things I just described STILL have financial and family challenges, are harassed, mischaracterized, and victimized by white supremacy like anyone else.

The only true differences between the conscious and unconscious, is that conscious folk are aware of who we are and why we’re oppressed, we reject societal propaganda, we identify and deliberately challenge those people and things oppressing us, we create things to protect and advance our interests, and we educate ourselves and organize others to do something about it.

power reminder

____________________

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.

How to Identify Compromised or Fraudulent Black Leaders

believe nothing

A world dominated by so much war, lies, and injustice becomes a breeding ground for leaders, pundits (social commentators) and activists/organizers. These individuals take many forms including formal leaders of organizations, politicians, bloggers, public speakers, journalists, tv personalities, nonprofit organizers, grassroots activists, etc.

It is inspiring to know that some people are courageous enough to challenge oppressive systems, inform us and even organize us to improve our quality of life. Unfortunately, all of these people are not genuine. Some people are motivated by the all-too-familiar goals of fame, wealth, and status. Many of these individuals are intelligent and skilled. They simply care more about themselves than they do the people they supposedly lead. They may have grand dreams of driving expensive cars, purchasing fine homes, exerting authority over people, or having their pick of sexual activity with throngs of admiring and gullible followers.

We all desire some degree of material comfort and we all want the respect and admiration of others. Dr. Martin Luther King discussed this in a sermon entitled “The Drum Major Instinct.” Drawing from Biblical references, Dr. King reminds us that the desire for recognition, importance, leadership and  “greatness” sometimes leads us to focus on satisfying  our appetites for such things, rather than doing what really makes us great: serving others.

anakin skywalker

In the “Star Wars” series, Anakin Skywalker began as a talented warrior against injustice and was believed by some to be a messiah; But he later became an evil and murderous force due to his arrogance.

We find this drum major instinct among some leaders in the Black community. For these individuals, the goal of empowering Black people is really a noble-sounding disguise for empowering themselves at Black people’s expense. Some start off with good intentions and ability, but like the character Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars, become compromised and corrupted by their arrogance, fear or an obsessive need for personal power and authority.

daily-news-sharptonThis phenomenon doesn’t just occur in science fiction movies. Back in 2014, the New York Daily News broke a story that implicated longtime activist Al Sharpton as a FBI informant who who attempted to gain information on the whereabouts of Assata Shakur, who was on the run after escaping from prison in 1979. According to the Smoking Gun website Sharpton also wore a wire to gain information on mob bosses for the government.

Once exposed to the benefits of fame, wealth, travel sexual favors, etc., some lose their way. What began as a sincere effort to help uplift the Black community morphs into a desire to satisfy their personal appetites. The desire to serve the community dwindles and the desire for applause, power, comfort and recognition become supreme. Instead of valuing constructive criticism, these folk resent what they falsely view as jealous challenges to their leadership or authority. Compromised Black people/leaders begin to demonstrate some  or all of the following behaviors:

  • They attempt to silence or attack critics
  • They develop feelings of entitlement and elitism
  • Seeking shortcuts or alternatives to years of solid study, work, and activism, compromised leaders resort to get-rich-quick schemes, poorly planned projects, and in the worst cases, fraudulent activities or dishonesty about their credentials or past achievements.
  • They create cult-like organizations to satisfy their appetites for sex, money, recognition and unchecked power and influence.
  • They are reluctant to collaborate with others or seek outside expertise and opinion; they NEED to lead or run everything, even things for which they are unqualified.
  • Because of their obsessive desire for money and power, they are easily seduced to become paid government agents/informants.
  • They take high-paying jobs, occupy important positions or associate with people/organizations which oppress their people and compromise their leadership.

Such behavior leads the larger Black community to great disillusionment, failure and deception. We have the right and responsibility to protect ourselves against such fraudulent and compromised individuals. Fortunately, there are things we can do to protect ourselves These things take the form of questions or things to look for:

  • Are they qualified? Simply put, you want to know if someone is qualified to do the work they proclaim to do, either through education, life experience or both. And if the person blatantly lies about their qualifications, be wary of them. People who truly care about community empowerment will do the work/study necessary to provide excellent service.
  • Do they display humility and gratitude? Authentic leaders don’t wear their resumes on their sleeves or repeatedly brag about their accomplishments Other people speak about them with admiration and respect or recall their accomplishments.  Authentic leaders should thank the community and individuals for their support. Here’s an interesting bit of advice. Pay attention to their use of pronouns. Do they always use the words “me” and I”?” Or, do you hear them often say “We,” “us,” and “our?” This often provides clues to whether a person is self-absorbed or whether they focus on the collective. As no one is perfect and we all make errors in judgement or fall short, you also want to know if this person is accountable. Do they apologize when they fall short, or do they blame others and attempt to shift responsibility away from themselves? Do they admit when they don’t know something, or do they avoid and attempt to refocus the question?
  • You want signs that the person has successfully collaborated with others in the past. No leader can be effective without working with others. This means there should be evidence of teamwork and collaboration in a person’s background. If a person does everything him or herself, this is a sign of trouble.
  • The person should have a documented background of successful leadership and activism: This separates genuine leaders from “talking heads” and mere social commentators. What organization did they lead or belong to? What role did they play in the organization? Did they bring honor and success to the organization, or shame and failure? This research should reveal a general record of jobs well done, effective organizing, and good reports from those the person worked with in the community. Compromised leaders will often display evidence of stealing, poor decision-making, dishonesty, self-absorption or other negative behaviors in their past experiences. Good or bad leaders are not born overnight.
  • Who are their mentors? Effective leaders are typically guided and advised by wise and credible mentors. The politics, reputation, and past activities of mentors also reveals things to us about those they advise. Compromised leaders will often have no mentors or have very questionable ones with shaky backgrounds/beliefs themselves. Also, mentors who are credible can and will vouch for those they mentored. If a person’s mentors are unwilling to vouch for them, or if they speak negatively about them, this naturally raises suspicions.
  • What do the people who live in the community where this person organized in the past have to say about them? If someone did organizing in a particular city, people in that community should have favorable memories of this person and their work.
  • Do they have a plan, program or platform designed to improve conditions in our community? Anyone can give an opinion or complain about injustice. Leaders distinguish themselves by providing relevant analysis, methods, strategies, and plans to address important issues and solve problems. In addition, you should see evidence of this person implementing these methods or solutions.
  • Do they just proclaim and pontificate, or do they educate and inform? Genuine leaders work hard to teach and inform the masses to do better and be better. They expose societal and in-house contradictions, teach people how oppressive systems work, and equip people with the knowledge or tools to challenge injustice and discard self-defeating thoughts and behavior. To do this of course, the leader must have this knowledge or skill set themselves.
  • Do they see themselves as THE leader of Black people, or one of many? The limits of the messiah complex are self-explanatory and well-known. but here’s another point to consider: Genuine leaders work to develop and produce other people to assume leadership, because they realize no one person (regardless of their talent or intelligence) can truly empower or liberate millions of Black people!

If you ask yourself these questions and do the proper research, you will most likely be able to distinguish genuine and effective leaders from those who are compromised, incompetent, or fraudulent. Doing this will protect you from wasting time, money and loyalty to those who don’t deserve them.  Taking this approach does not make you a enemy of the people, but a wise and informed person.

Finally, do not assume that wide popularity, a full schedule of speaking engagements, or recognition in social or traditional media makes a person authentic or effective as a leader or activist. Sometimes these are indicators of legitimate accomplishment. Sometimes, this just means someone has an effective publicist and marketing strategy. It could also mean that the people supporting this person are uninformed and gullible sheeple that drank the propaganda Kool-Aid! As powerful Hip Hop artist Immortal Technique says in his song, “Industrial Revolution“Cause if you go platinum, it’s got nothing to do with luck, it just means that a million people are stupid as fuck.”

While the following video targets fraudulent and compromised white “truth leaders” in the United States, you will find some of the information relevant to Black leadership 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 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.

Hypocritical and Opportunist Black Leadership Has to Go!!

hypocrites

My dear people, the time has come to “keep it real” with respect to the heavily conflicted and contradictory Black leaders and spokespeople in our community. Liberation requires that we both build and destroy, create and eliminate.

In terms of “building,” we must do the important work of building independent institutions, raising consciousness, and organizing our people to do the work necessary to solve our problems. With respect to “destroying,” we must dismantle oppressive systems that subjugate us, and simultaneously identify and eliminate our own self-defeating attitudes and behaviors.

Brother Malcolm brilliantly summarized these efforts: “Wake up, Clean, up and Stand up.” Many dedicated and authentic Black people around this country consistently do the work of helping Black folk wake up (by raising their consciousness) and stand up (by organizing, protesting and building the independent institutions we so desperately need).

Unfortunately too many of us want to turn Malcolm’s three-part process into only two parts: Waking up and standing up. When it comes to cleaning up, we leave much to be desired. We can courageously and fiercely challenge white supremacy and those who support it. But we fall short when it comes to challenging ourselves to be better and do better. Why is this so problematic? Because when we skip or dismiss this crucial step in the process of liberating ourselves, we actually sabotage and compromise our entire liberation process. Bitter, insecure, envious, arrogant, fraudulent and self-serving individuals spoil our best efforts by causing disharmony, division, confusion, and ugly in-fighting.

This problem becomes compounded when so-called leaders and spokespeople – presumably our most informed and experienced community folk – exhibit these qualities and provoke their negative outcomes. What precisely am I referring to?

arrogance-4

Arrogance: A leader is first and foremost, a servant of his/her people. Their role as a leader is not self-appointed, but conferred upon them by the people based on meeting certain qualifications. When an individual forgets this and begins to see themselves as THE movement rather than a part of the movement, they automatically invalidate their leadership.

A leader or public speaker for Black people should never act as if they are entitled to our money or support. We earn such things  through hard work, effectiveness and productivity. If a person has not produced or effectively challenged anything or has not improved the quality of our lives in meaningful ways, they are no more deserving of our time, work, support or money than con artists or beggars. As you will note, anything we give such folk is at our discretion, but they are not entitled to it, and therefore cannot demand or expect it! Lastly, when a prominent spokesperson, public speaker or leader blatantly violates leadership protocol or the mandates of leadership, he/she should be mature and considerate enough to apologize for their behavior, indicate a desire to improve, and specify a plan for improvement. Failure to do this implies arrogance of the highest order, since we know that everyone makes mistakes or exercises poor judgement. This also implies that the person in question thinks him/herself superior to the rest of us.

disrespect

Disrespect: Any leader in our community should be righteously indignant. This means he/she should be angry about the horrors we experience daily in courtrooms, boardrooms, classrooms, prisons, and in our neighborhoods. However, they organize, study, fight, and speak out from a place of loving Black people and wanting us to be safe, healthy, intelligent, competent, and empowered. I’m hearing and reading too many individuals speaking to Black people who support or disagree with them, employing vile and profane language, name-calling, and personal attacks. This is not the behavior of a leader, but a deranged gang/cult leader or dictator. Publicly referring to our people as “niggers,” “hos,” “bitches,” or the like is unacceptable. People who disrespect us in such manners are not deserving of our support in any way, nor should we defend their disrespect.

Hiding-information

Lack of Transparency: The same goes for individuals who come to us for money and don’t have the decency or inclination to be transparent (to inform us of how our money will be used, report how much money is raised or attempt to silence or disregard our valid and intelligent questions. If someone conducts business effectively, there is no reason to hide anything. If a leader refuses to answer your questions, or be held accountable, we should refuse to support or defend them until they do….

dishonesty

Dishonesty: We should be able to trust those in leadership positions. This means we should trust their abilities, intentions, and stated objectives. This can only occur when such people are honest and straightforward with us. Small “innocent” lies slowly morph into larger and more dangerous forms of dishonesty. If someone repeatedly refuses to be honest with us, they are by definition, untrustworthy and they fall into the category of “fraud” or “con artist.”

i got this

Messiah Complex: There is no “king,” sole leader or spokesman in the Black Liberation Movement. There has never been (notwithstanding those arrogantly chosen for us by our enemies) and there will never be. We have a plethora of issues and interests that no one man or woman can effectively address or resolve. Some people may be more articulate, knowledgeable, accomplished or charismatic than others, but the idea of a messiah is absurd and only interesting as a character in a science fiction movie or mythology. Just as it took networks of people to put us in this condition, it will take teams and networks of our own to liberate us.

Any authentic person advocating for us knows this. Rather than craving spotlight and attention for themselves, they share responsibilities, network, and promote collaborative and inclusive leadership. They identify and prepare others to assume leadership roles. Study the Abolitionist, Civil Rights, Black Power, Black Arts, Feminist, Anti-War, and African Independence Movements and this point becomes abundantly clear. Individuals die but organizations and institutions can live much longer. We need millions of activists, organizers, intellectuals and “leaders” working together in an organized fashion to have any hope of liberating our minds and bodies.

impulsive

Impulsive and Non-Strategic: Our most effective leaders throughout history were people with the ability to strategize and think critically. They were decisive when they needed to be, but they did not say or do things without adequate planning. Social movements require planning and blueprints just like businesses and cities do. Individuals that make hasty decisions or articulate the “what” without considering the “why” or “how” set themselves and us up for defeat, disappointment and failure. We should be suspicious of people who endeavor to accomplish monumental tasks with half-baked ideas and inadequate plans. We should not extend our trust to people who can’t explain what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, or who fail to provide adequate timelines and evidence of a competent team backing them.

malcolm critics

Rejection of Constructive Criticism/valid critique: I’ve written about this important red flag in a previous article. In another article I wrote:

We employ legitimate and principled criticism in a preventative manner: It helps us to identify and guard against fraud, opportunism and disingenuous personalities. For example, good critique, which often involves research and investigation, can prevent people from investing hard-earned money in scams or scam artists.

Criticism is not simply reserved for shady characters or ventures, however. There are times when sincere people with authentic motivations make errors in judgement or handle a situation inappropriately. Corrective critique helps us to improve or enhance our plans or ideas and make us more effective. Empowered people strive for excellence. Legitimate corrective critique empowers us to develop more accurate analysis, more effective strategies, and more relevant or useful objectives. We can learn and grow even from the opinions of foes or outsiders. But we have a special mandate to welcome and respond to valid critique from those we serve, who we ask to support us, and who make it possible for us to earn a living.

Authentic and progressive leaders not only welcome critique, they have a circle of wise and experienced mentors with whom they regularly consult for advice and constructive criticism. I personally don’t trust the competence of a leader that has no such cabinet of qualified advisers. It means he or she relies solely on their own judgement and experiences, which is a sure of immaturity and arrogance.

In conclusion, I strongly urge you to consider these danger signs when evaluating any speaker, leader or activist in our community. Doing so may save you untold amounts of time, money and ill-feelings. Doing so in a larger sense, will also help us go forward rather than backwards as a people. Given these stakes, I urge us to challenge and expose such behaviors/attitudes when we see them. Sometimes our challenge and critique can help a hypocritical and self-absorbed person change their ways and become more effective. If this doesn’t occur, then maybe our efforts will cause people to remove such folk from their positions, or refuse supporting them.

_________________________

 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.

Embrace Constructive Criticism or Suffer!!

constructive criticism1

“When people stop giving you constructive criticism, they have most likely given up on you.”

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Those of us who are activists, organizers or leaders should know the importance of constructive criticism. I can expand this group to include students, parents, business owners, employees, members of organized sports teams, spouses, and boyfriends/girlfriends.

The contemporary world we occupy (though seriously flawed) contains a plethora of ways to improve and become more effective.  However, as much as we may read spiritualist and motivational books, meditate, live a natural lifestyle, or deem ourselves “positive,”  “empowered,” and “working to improve ourselves,” many of us DO NOT APPRECIATE the importance of constructive criticism. And to the extent that we don’t, we severely compromise all of our efforts toward self-improvement/empowerment.

What is Constructive Criticism?

According to Wikipedia, constructive criticism is,

The process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one. The purpose of constructive criticism is to improve the outcome.

Let’s examine what this means. According to the definition, when a person offers us constructive criticism, they do so in a manner that is balanced. They state positive things along with the criticism; They offer valid and well-reasoned opinions, meaning that what they say makes good sense and is accurate; They offer their opinions in a friendly manner, meaning that they are not yelling, do not speak in a condescending manner, and do not name-call or insult us. Lastly, constructive criticism intends to improve an immediate or future outcome; In other words, the advice or opinion given is designed to make a person more effective or productive.

constructive criticism2

I begin with this because all criticism is not constructive. The criticism may simply be untrue. Or, if the opinion is insulting and delivered disrespectfully, most people will not be open to receiving it. This is normal and should be expected. Also, if the criticism involves yelling, profanity, and attacks on a person, it is not constructive. When people offer this type of criticism, we have the right to challenge them and refuse it.

However, there are times when a person offers valid opinions that are helpful; they thank or commend us before offering the criticism; they express appreciation for our idea or plan; They explain how something we did or failed to do caused them wasted time or money, or caused an activity to fail; They explain how our actions made them feel disrespected; They give us good suggestions to help us avoid making the same mistake in the future. And although the criticism offered is constructive and pleasantly presented, we become defensive and even argumentative. Instead of acknowledging the criticism as valid, we rush to explain our good intentions. Sometimes we even offer a variety of excuses instead of a simple apology, admission, and statement of intent to do better next time.

The dangers of not embracing constructive criticism

When we respond to constructive criticism in the ways mentioned above, you do great damage to ourselves and others in the following ways.

  • We identify ourselves as a very immature person
  • We cause people to distrust our character, judgement and leadership
  • We set ourselves up to keep repeating the same mistakes
  • We cause those offering criticism to resent and lose respect for us
  • People stop offering constructive criticism and allow us  to fail without intervening
  • We cause our relationships, jobs, businesses, and other important endeavors to fail
  • We fail to improve and become wiser/more effective

How to deal with constructive criticism

  • Listen closely to the criticism to make sure you understand exactly what’s said
  • Ask yourself if the criticism is valid (accurate or true)
  • Acknowledge that the criticism is valid, apologize if necessary, and explain what you’ll do to improve in the future
  • Express appreciation to the person for bringing the issue to your attention. Only people who care about you offer constructive criticism.
  • Avoid whining, crying, tantrums, or negative attitudes and refuse to make excuses or attempt to justify your actions. This only makes you look weak and immature.

I’ve been in several situations throughout my life where constructive criticism came into play. As a football player, poet, writer, activist, student, employee and business owner, I’ve benefited immensely from constructive criticism. Like anyone, I  am sometimes sensitive to criticism. Sensitivity isn’t always a virtue, especially when it causes us to have several blind spots. I’ve learned to see such experiences as opportunities to improve and become more effective.

Nowhere is this realization more important than in cases where the critic is someone we love and respect. How can you say you love or respect someone if you cannot welcome their valid, balanced, and well-meaning criticism? We also need to understand that refusing valid criticism is arrogant. There are people walking this Earth who consider themselves “humble,” but can’t handle valid criticism!

The brazen, hard-headed type is destined for a life of failure, misery and loneliness unless they learn this vital lesson: Accepting and welcoming good advice doesn’t make you weak or unintelligent; doing so makes you empowered and wise. In fact, I actively solicit constructive criticism from others.  And I put distance between myself and those who can’t handle it. A word to the wise is sufficient…  Embrace constructive criticism or suffer the consequences!! You’ve been warned…

 constructive criticism3__________________________________

 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.

July 5th The Black Power Cypher Discusses “Tensions in the Conscious Community”

Black Political Cipher logoThe Black Power Cypher is composed of 6 Black men, all activists and educators from Detroit, Syracuse, Harlem, and Oakland who address issues of relevance to the Black community from a Black Nationalist perspective. We try to do our internet tv talk show once a month. So far we’ve addressed the issue of police brutality, and the significance of Malcolm X. You can view those shows below:

The Black Power Cypher returns tomorrow on July 5, 2015 to address the topic, “The  “Tensions in the Conscious Community: Leadership Issues.”  On this episode of the Black Power Cypher, Ishmael Bey, Yusef Bunchy Shakur, Agyei Tyehimba and Kitwana Tyhimba, will discuss controversial issues within the Black Conscious Community with a focus on leadership ethics and important areas of disagreement among Black folk. Topics will include the issues regarding Umar Johnson, Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam’s controversial partnership with Scientology, and Al Sharpton’s relevance as a spokesman and leader for the Black community. You don’t want to miss this important and historic show. Join us for 90 minutes of Black Power with our team of informed, uncompromising, opinionated, and passionate Black men, live and uncensored!

You can watch the show live on July 5 at 9pm Eastern Standard Time by visiting the Google Events Page or Youtube. If you miss the show at that time, you can still see the entire recorded version at the previous Youtube link. We encourage you to type and submit questions and comments to us live by clicking the appropriate link that will appear on the video screen either at the Google Events or Youtube page. If time permits, please view and share the links.

We hope you will join us as we address tensions in the Black Conscious Community around questions of leadership.

_________________

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 Black Conscious Community Must Resolve Our Contradictions!

steve biko quote

The issue of Umar Johnson and his mission to build a new academy for Black boys, provoked a number of issues and perspectives, either from his tenacious supporters or steadfast critics. I’ve engaged some of these issues by writing an article supporting his mission to build the academy, an open letter asking him to respond to community questions concerning his leadership ethics and fundraising transparency, and a third article arguing that we have a right and responsibility to question and critique Umar, or anyone else for that matter.

These three articles have helped to stimulate plenty of engaged and intelligent dialogue around the topics of Black leadership, and the role of legitimate critique in the Black community, all across the country and in other parts of the world.

My articles, and hundreds of posts on social media pertaining to Umar Johnson, have also stimulated some of the most backward, reactionary and oppressor-friendly conversations and comments I’ve heard/read in quite some time.

This article will identify and address some of those perspectives, with an attempt to demonstrate how each is problematic and counter-revolutionary.  Why take the time and energy to explore these things? Because at the end of the day, I want myself, my children/loved ones, and our people to truly be free and empowered. All of my organizing, intellectual and activist pursuits begin and end with this objective in mind. Put another way, I’m constantly trying to promote and realize brother Malcolm’s brilliant call for us to Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up!

I also place such importance on this issue because the debate over Umar Johnson reveals disturbing traits within the Black conscious community, that very segment of our people  presumed to represent a radical leadership segment in our community. To summarize, the debate over Umar Johnson is actually much larger than the controversial psychologist/public speaker himself; I argue that the the often hostile exchange of words and ideas in this case, reveal and force us to examine some contradictory and reactionary elements of thinking among those who proclaim themselves or are perceived to be informed, sociopolitically aware, and progressive.

Do us a favor

Many of these folks claim brother Malcolm or Marcus Garvey as their political mentors, yet fail to see how their policies directly contradict these leaders or fail to learn from their mistakes. If these people (conscious Black folk) exhibit deep conflicts around pivotal issues in our community, it’s safe to say the masses of our people and our struggle for liberation are in grave trouble.If such individuals honestly believe many of the things I’ve read in the last two weeks, then many of those folk calling themselves “conscious” are in fact positioning themselves to be conscious sellouts, or elements whose policies and practices ironically help to keep us oppressed, divided and powerless. Our collective oppressors facilitate this arrangement in every way they can. For as South African revolutionary Steve Biko noted, “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor, is the mind of the oppressed.”

Let us then examine and deconstruct some of these reactionary and counter-revolutionary policies and practices revealed by the Umar Johnson controversies:

1. “It is unpatriotic or disloyal to criticize those attempting to advance Black issues and interests.”  I addressed this at length in my previous article. I noted that:

It appears that Umar Johnson and many of his supporters/followers do not appreciate critique, even in its legitimate forms. He/they characterize ALL critics or detractors (whether their critiques/questions are valid or not) as “agents,” “maggots,” and “haters.” Yet any of us who are community activists, intellectuals, organizers, students, workers, athletes or business owners know that as brother Malcolm stated, “If you have no critics, you’ll likely have no success.”

I went on to argue that valid criticism helps to guard us against fraudulent leaders/initiatives, and helps to improve the efforts/strategy/thinking of authentic leaders and initiatives. The only people who reject or resent legitimate critique are cult leaders, their followers, and narcissists. Some people use the “if you criticize me, you’re a sell-out” tactic to hide their shady dealings and have unscrutinized access to our minds, labor and wallets.Others in the conscious community make the false assumption that critique translates to a complete rejection of the leader or program. This reactionary position stems from overly rigid and dogmatic thinking. This approach keeps us stagnant and sets our entire movement backwards. True revolutionaries or conscious people welcome well-supported and accurate critique, and become better for having done so. Malcolm X himself taught us the value of being open to critique ourselves, and of critiquing others. Stop quoting and referencing our brilliant brother if you refuse to quote and reference him accurately. It is in fact, disloyal and reactionary to allow someone you respect to act or speak in ways that divide, confuse, and abuse our people, or potentially retard our forward motion. Think about that.

2. “We can challenge oppression and intolerance in some areas, but allow it in others.”  Many of us in the Nationalist community challenge racial bigotry and political ultra-conservatism. When confronting white supremacy, we fiercely defend our right of self-determination, arguing that we are entitled to think for ourselves, identify ourselves and advance our interests as we see fit. We refuse to allow the so-called “dominant” group or mainstream society make such decisions for us. Yet some of these folk completely disregard and even ridicule similar rights for Black women, and members of the LGBT community. And to make matters worse, they don’t even see the glaring contradiction.

In the Black community, Black heterosexual men are the dominant and mainstream group. Like whites in a white supremacist framework, Black heterosexual men set and enforce the rules and standards of belief and practice in our families, places of worship, and community organizations. Like oppressive whites, some Black men presume to tell other Black folk what is acceptable and appropriate, using pseudo religious, scientific and other justifications. Racist whites used similar reasons to justify our enslavement, degradation and oppression. We act as if patriarchy and homophobia don’t exist; like women and members of the LGBT community are not routinely attacked, murdered, and discriminated against. We turn a blind eye to domestic abuse, because women are “the weaker gender,” and need to “stay in their place” and be submissive to the Black male agenda. We “love Black people” but remain indifferent to legions of our people that because of our ignorance, are forced to live in shame, leading them to marry or date women or men they don’t love or in the worse case, kill themselves. This is an oppressive posture and one that threatens to keep our community infinitely divided and hostile. The only intellectually valid concern (in my opinion) about the growth of a Black gay community is that it raises the possibility of reduced reproduction and therefore the possible depopulation of our people. But there will always be a significant heterosexual population based on probability and free choice (even with the existence as some believe, of a conspiracy to turn the entire Black community gay).

To my fellow Black Nationalists and members of the conscious community: Liberation from oppression and intolerance must be TOTAL. Let people be (and also remember that some of the people who articulate the most vitriolic anti-gay sentiment and policies often tend to have gay inclinations and curiosities themselves!) The last time I checked, white men and women (some members of the LGBT community) work together to subjugate us. They may disagree on methods or ideology, but they do agree on lording over us. As much hell as we collectively catch from ALL TYPES of white folk and their collaborators, we need ALL competent and trustworthy hands on deck anyway! As I wrote before:

Everyone has the right and responsibility to fight oppression however that may manifest (even if that makes other people “uncomfortable). If Black people are not thieves, rapists, sell outs, serial killers, or con artists (regardless of their gender or sexual lifestyle/identity)…..I can find room to work with them.

I will also share some pointed words my (now deceased) uncle shared with me some 20 years ago when he challenged my rigid views on homosexuality at the time:

 “You say you love Black people and Black history, right? Well Langston Hughes was gay. Bayard Rustin was gay. James Baldwin was gay. Hoyt Fuller was gay. Alice Walker is gay…. and so were/are many others openly or otherwise. Many political activists are gay as well, and by the way nephew, I’m gay….are you going to wipe all of us out of history? Will you disown all of us as members of the Black community? Are we all sick or living in sin? How is your position any different from the racist whites you oppose?”

At some point, the Black conscious community will have to determine that our fight is for total – not selective – liberation. This doesn’t mean we all need to become feminists or march in a gay parade (I won’t). It doesn’t even mean we need to agree with all elements of feminist ideology or co-sign a LGBT lifestyle. But it does mean that we extend the same freedom of choice and right to self identification and determination that we hold so dear. By the way, isn’t this what we mean by the expression BLACK SOLIDARITY….working together and defending each other around common areas of interest, despite our other differences?

3. “An agent or sell-out is someone who disagrees with a member of the conscious community.” This belief is strongly related to the first one I addressed. A person that disagree with someone, is simply that….a person who disagrees with someone. Why and on what grounds that person disagrees, is another story altogether.

The word “agent” needs real clarification, as it is a term that is frequently (and sometimes inaccurately) used to characterize people.  In the context of politics or political struggle, an “agent,” is someone who works for or with a government “agency” (usually law enforcement or intelligence) to specifically advance its interests.

Agents take different forms in the United States. An agent provocateur is a person sent by a police department, the FBI or CIA to induce people in the infiltrated organization to break the law or do something unethical. This gives the police or whomever, the ability to arrest people in the organization. This is done to disrupt leadership in the organization and thereby make it less effective, confused, and non-productive. This tactic also sabotages the organization’s finances, as it must raise money for frequent and costly attorney fees. A provocateur that infiltrates an organization will do things like persuade a member to steal, commit an act of violence against another person or property, or engage in a fraudulent act. Another thing they might do is tell members that a certain leader or member is a “snitch” or informant. This tactic was effectively used against the Black Panther Party. This creates distrust in the organization, and often leads members to assault, murder or expel this member from the organization.

An informant is another type of agent. As the name suggests, an informant infiltrates an organization, establishes a trustworthy reputation, and then provides information about the group, it’s leadership, finances and plans to the police or intelligence agencies. This information can include financial records or “books,” minutes of meetings, leadership charts and duties, upcoming protests, names and addresses of members, or in the case of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, an exact diagram of a leader’s apartment, supplied by bodyguard-turned-informant William O’Neal (who received $10,000 for his services). View the handwritten diagram below:

Fred_Hampton_floor-plansTrue agents destabilize our organizations, frustrate our liberation movements, and receive money for their deeds. Their sneaky and shameful actions often lead to false arrests, expulsion and humiliation of authentic and committed Black people, and even murder. It is therefore highly irresponsible for any member of the conscious community to label someone an “agent” without sufficient proof to support the accusation. When people do this without discretion or proof just to punish people that disagree with them, such people should be called out for their unacceptable behavior. And, we should give thought to whether people who resort to such inappropriate methods deserve to speak on our behalf or be considered “Conscious.”

4. “We can invoke the names and legacies of great Black leaders, without following their example or learning from their mistakes.” Anyone who has seriously studied the Honorable Marcus Garvey should not just invoke his name, accomplishments, or elements of his ideology. We should also be familiar with the factors that led to his  personal and organizational demise. It’s very easy and convenient to blame it all on the white man. I blame most of our issues on the white man, with some degree of enabling from ourselves! We already know the external factors, starting with J. Edgar Hoover’s infiltration and sustained attack on Garvey and the UNIA. I own the collected writings of Marcus Garvey (a huge four-volume set) which in addition to Garvey’s fliers, reports, and articles, includes informants’ notes, and Hoover’s own twisted plans to destroy him.

What we seldom explore are Garvey’s own actions that helped facilitate the UNIA’s and his own demise. We often do this because in our adoration for authentic leaders we sometimes romanticize them as infallible, forgetting that they like us are imperfect. Yet, this type of critique and study is essential if we are to continue and improve upon their legacies. The most reliable and well-researched books and documentaries on Marcus Garvey note the following points which are relevant to the Umar Johnson issues: Garvey didn’t take kindly to legitimate critique or suggestions from those in or outside of his organization;  He resented and distrusted bi-racial Blacks (then called “Mulattoes) whom he believed suffered from a superiority complex, and were loyal to white interests. This led him to verbally attack and ridicule his bi-racial contemporaries including some of his own Caribbean brethren; He had a tendency to think he could perform any task himself (including some for which he was unqualified, which led him for example to act as his own lawyer in the infamous mail fraud trial which along with government and negro sabotage, ultimately led to his imprisonment and deportation); He was notoriously poor at managing money and keeping financial records, often mixing personal with organizational finances; He alienated and attacked Black intellectuals (DuBois) and Black Marxist leaders (Cyril Briggs) with whom he could have built powerful alliances; While he renounced American and European imperialism toward Africa, he nevertheless crowned himself “President” of the entire continent and saw the UNIA’s partial mission as “civilizing the backward tribes of Africa” and promoting “a conscientious spiritual worship among the native tribes of Africa.” In other words, Marcus Garvey – like all great leaders – had blind spots, weaknesses, and some contradictions. Shouldn’t we learn from our great brother whom we love, rather than make his same mistakes?

My beloved brother Malcolm X too, had blind spots and made errors in judgement. The major difference is that he acknowledged some of them and spent time attempting to address and correct them. Malcolm’s patriarchy is addressed in his autobiography:

As a young minister I wouldn’t have considered it possible for me to love any woman. I had too much experience that women were only tricky, deceitful, untrustworthy flesh.

Yet Malcolm would evolve to see Black women as competent companions in the Black Liberation Movement. Returning from his second trip to Africa in 1964, he noted:

In every backward country you’ll find the women are backward, and in every country where education is not stressed it’s because the women don’t have education. So one of the things I became thoroughly convinced of in my recent travels is the importance of giving freedom to the women, giving her education, and giving her the incentive to get out there and put the same spirit and understanding in her children. And I am frankly proud of the contributions that our women have made in the struggle for freedom and I’m one person who’s for giving them all the leeway possible because they’ve made a greater contribution than many of us men.

William Sales in his book  “From Civil Rights to Black Liberation: Malcolm X and the Organization of Afro-American Unity,” notes how Malcolm challenged and began to evolve on the issue of women in leadership. In fact, brother Malcolm observed the stubborn patriarchy among some member of the OAAU, and made a conscious decision to involve  a sister named Lynn Shefflet and another named Sarah Mitchell, in its leadership.

Prior to 1964, brother Malcolm abrasively attacked and name-called other leaders whose ideology he disagreed with. It was not uncommon for him to call leaders like Roy Wilkins or Dr. King “handkerchief heads,” Uncle Toms,” or “Sell-outs.” Prior to his  departure from the Nation of Islam, he  began to articulate the need for a Black United Front in his “Message to the Grassroots” speech. Upon leaving the Nation of Islam, he again articulated our need to work together, and actually apologized for making personal attacks against other Black leaders:

I’m not out to fight other Negro leaders or organizations. We must find a common approach, a common solution, to a common problem. As of this minute, I’ve forgotten everything bad that the other leaders have said about me, and I pray they can also forget the many bad things I’ve said about them.

Lastly, Brother Malcolm encouraged critique, questioning, and continuing to learn and grow:

“If you have no critics you’ll likely have no success. ”

Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds. I have always kept an open mind, a flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of the intelligent search for truth.

All of us should be critics of each other. Whenever you can’t stand criticism you can’t grow. 

In conclusion, the recent controversy surrounding Umar Johnson are much bigger than him. The Black conscious community has some serious soul-searching and studying to do and equally serious choices to make. Will we expand our views to make them consistent with ethical leadership and the revolutionary principle of total liberation, or will we remain imprisoned by rigid and reactionary views? Will we continue and improve upon the legacies of our beloved leaders whose names we readily invoke, or will we fall victim to their same issues? Will we become part of the solution, or remain a stubborn and backward part of the problem? The choice to resolve our contradictions, is ours.

P.S. One more thing. We need to critique the RBG concept. Being “Gangsta” is NOT revolutionary.

_____________________

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.

We Have a Right and Responsibility to Critique Dr. Umar Johnson

malcolm critics

Not long ago, I wrote an article in support of Umar Johnson’s mission to create an academy for boys, followed by a June 19th open letter asking him to respond to legitimate community questions.

I knew that Dr. Umar’s response would be revealing. If he chose not to respond, it would display his disregard for the Black community he presumes to lead; If he responded by respectfully answering the questions posed, he would reveal himself as a sincere man of the people with a humble spirit and nothing to hide.  Umar, I thought, could also take a third approach and respond with bitterness, accusation, and bravado, without adequately addressing the questions raised to him. Umar chose the third approach. Johnson posted the following indirectly direct response on his Facebook page:

“I’ve been made aware of all the hate that has been directed towards me via social media during the past 48 hours, but please keep in mind that it is nothing compared to all the love that I receive. The hate filled articles, youtube cameos, so-called open letters, interviews, & upcoming events that seek to approximate, directly or indirectly, either the drama, my political platform, or both, have done nothing to derail me from my goals. When shit gets spilled the maggots cannot help but to play in it, so let’s let them have their 5 minutes of fame. My attorney has been apprised of the situation and paperwork for the major players in the “Umar Must Go” campaign will be served accordingly. On the other hand, I’ve been receiving nothing but positive letters of support from around the world. FDMG fundraiser donations have seen an increase, and requests to travel the world to address the plight of our people has skyrocketed as of late. In a very ironic manner, these recent attacks have served to strengthen the support for Dr.Umar & FDMG, not weaken it. As for these opportunistic haters in the conscious community, less fortunate “scholars” and con-artists, I see everything, and when the smoke clears your asses will be as irrelevant as before. Throwing rocks at the throne is a waste of time; if you want the crown you gotta come and take it…..”

His response was accusatory, bitter, arrogant, and most importantly, did not address any of the legitimate questions posed (in my open letter). In response, I wrote the following on Facebook:

My two blog articles regarding brother Umar Johnson and his mission to educate our youth have attracted thousands of views and mixed responses from others including one from Umar himself (though not directed specifically to me). This is my response to those who’ve turned an opportunity for mature dialogue into an opportunity to be ugly, competitive and accusatory:

“I wrote this open letter and a previous article regarding brother Umar’s mission to educate our youth. I believe both writings are self-explanatory, but some have attempted to misrepresent my words. I am not accountable for others’ comments. My own words speak for me. I don’t know how anyone could read those articles and suggest that I’m a sellout, or that I’m “hating” on Umar. If the Conscious Community cannot tolerate legitimate critique and cannot recognize when they/we are wrong or inappropriate, then we must reconsider if we have a viable Conscious Community at all. Only cult leaders, their followers, or narcissists behave or think in this manner.”

Curiously, Umar Johnson answered none of the questions raised, but instead referred to those questioning him as “maggots,” and “opportunistic haters;”  He refused to explain or apologize for his demeaning and insulting behavior; He even promised  legal action against some of his critics; Lastly, he insinuated that he was the “king” (of what  exactly will have to be determined) and tauntingly suggested that “throwing rocks” (criticizing his words and leadership) was not sufficient; If we want the “throne” (that he possesses or occupies) we must “come and take it.”

It appears that Umar Johnson and many of his supporters/followers do not appreciate critique, even in its legitimate forms. He characterizes ALL critics or detractors (whether their critiques/questions are valid or not) as “agents,” “maggots,” and “haters.” Yet any of us who are community activists, intellectuals, organizers, students, workers, athletes or business owners know that as brother Malcolm stated, “If you have no critics, you’ll likely have no success.” I write this article to argue for our right to be critical or question anything and anyone. Contrary to what others may say or believe, being critical is our right and responsibility. This especially applies  to prominent individuals .who come to us asking for large sums of money, and who promote themselves as leaders.

All we need do is read Chester Himes’ 1965 novel, “Cotton Comes to Harlem” (later

Reverend Deke O'Malley in

Reverend Deke O’Malley in “Cotton Comes To Harlem.” O’Malley hustled the Black community with false promises of relocating back to Africa.

done as a movie) to understand our need to be critically supportive of Black leaders/spokespersons or their empowerment initiatives.

In this book/movie, a con man disguised as “Reverend Deke O’Malley,” masterfully uses Black Nationalist rhetoric and bogus references to Marcus Garvey to scam Black Harlemites into paying him $100 each for shares to purchase a ship called “Black Beauty.” This ship, according to the con artist preacher, will take them back to Africa. Eventually O’Malley seduces $87,000 from the Harlem community and they eventually realize his fraudulent intentions.

In a capitalist framework, nearly everything and everyone gets reduced to an object of value, or labor to develop wealth, while material wealth and those with it become false gods. Add to this false consciousness, an oppressed people desperate for relief from poverty, despair, and exploitation, and compromised leadership in addition to a socially inflicted sense of nobodiness. When we witness a Black man or woman who seems to embody elements of courage, intelligence and vision, one who unapologetically articulates our pain and desires, and who inspires us to think big and be self-sufficient, we  want to support them. This is fine, but our support must be critical. I argue that valid criticism or critique are both preventative and corrective.

This oppressive and devaluing sociopolitical environment makes Black people prime targets for being misled, hoodwinked, and bamboozled. This helps to explain why our people have long been victimized by scams, half-baked ideas, poorly organized initiatives, false prophets and “righteous hustlers” in white and Black skins, peddling all manners of magic elixirs to line their pockets under the guise of “solving our problems” or liberating us. Given these realities, we employ legitimate and principled criticism in a preventative manner: It helps us to identify and guard againstmalcolm critique1 fraud, opportunism and disingenuous personalities. For example, good critique, which often involves research and investigation, can prevent people from investing hard-earned money in scams or scam artists.

Criticism is not simply reserved for shady characters or ventures. There are times when sincere people with authentic motivations make errors in judgement or handle a situation inappropriately. Corrective critique helps us to improve or enhance our plans or ideas and make us more effective. Empowered people strive for excellence. Legitimate corrective critique empowers us to develop more accurate analysis, more effective strategies, and more relevant or useful objectives. We can learn and grow even from the opinions of foes or outsiders. But we have a special mandate to welcome and respond to valid critique from those we serve, who we ask to support us, and who make it possible for us to earn a living.

Perhaps being uncomfortable with criticism is somehow coded into our DNA. We like to feel confident and secure. Outside criticism might make call our skills or ideas into question. We might worry that people will question our competence or knowledge. It’s fair to say that we all can remember times when we didn’t handle criticism well. However, it’s also fair to say that we harm ourselves when we shun legitimate critique. We can also concede that a well-meaning individual with nothing to hide, does not attempt to silence valid critics with legal or physical threats, or immature name-calling.

As I mentioned in my Facebook post, “If the Conscious Community cannot tolerate legitimate critique and cannot recognize when they/we are wrong or inappropriate, then we must reconsider if we have a viable Conscious Community at all. Only cult leaders, their followers, or narcissists behave or think in this manner.”

cult

At this point, I think it’s premature to characterize Dr.Umar as a cult leader or a narcissist. However, some of his actions and words are leading many to view him as such and to question his intentions. As more people come to this conclusion, his fundraising drives, career goals and personal credibility as a Pan-African Nationalist man and leader will likely suffer greatly. Fortunately, Dr. Johnson can avoid that fate. He might find it fitting to apologize for his arrogant, insensitive and evasive Facebook response. He can also demonstrate great maturity, integrity and respect by respectfully answering the questions posed to him from members of the Black community he works to educate and empower:

Question 1: Do you have a transparent system of financial records or accounting that allows supporters to know exactly how much money you’ve accumulated without having to depend simply on what you say? 1a.How much as of this date have you raised via check, cash and Gofundme, and how much additional money do you need? 1b. Why did you cut the sister off from her legitimate line of questioning and refer to her in such a derogatory manner? 1c. If for any reason, you are unable to secure the properties you mentioned, how will you use all the monies you’ve accumulated in your fundraising campaigns?

Question 2: Can you respond to the above criticisms/observations of your words/behavior in this clip? 2a. Is there anything for which you’d like to apologize?

Question 3: Do you have a video clip or document that explains a comprehensive and strategic plan regarding the academy? 3a. If so, can you provide that link or document? 3b. Creating a school requires a collaborative team effort. No one individual can effectively raise money, plan curriculum, coordinate hiring, educational materials/supplies and other concerns alone. Do you have such a team or board in place? If so, who is on this board and what are their qualifications?

____________________________

 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.

Open Letter to Brother Umar Johnson Concerning Your Plans for a New Boys Academy

June, 19, 2015

Dr. Umar Johnson:

Days ago, I wrote an article in which I supported your mission  to create the Frederick Douglass and Marcus Garvey RBG International Leadership Academy for Black boys. I hope you will read my article of support at the link above when time permits. I also hope you will read an article critical of you which I referred to in my own article.

As you will note when you read my article, it was balanced and fair. I referred to you as “a brother using his voice and knowledge to push a strong Black agenda for our people.” I included a link to your Gofundme page and encouraged people to support you. I included video clips of you speaking for yourself. I addressed concerns from some in the Black community alleging that you are sexist and “homophobic.” I attempted to argue that Black folk representing these concerns  have a right to raise questions with you and even challenge your positions, but that we should still support the proper education of our children and your mission to build a new academy. I specifically supported your institution-building and educational endeavor rather than you specifically, because I didn’t think our people should see this as personal issue specific to you, your personality, academic credentials, fundraising methods, speaking style, etc.

Over 2,000 people (at last count) read that article, and I’ve naturally received a number of supportive and critical responses. Of those who were critical of you, some sent selected video clips of you and raised questions concerning your level of humility, gratitude, transparency, accountability and strategic plans for the school. I should add that many of these people are themselves credible Black activists, educators and organizers with a long and deep record of service to our people. They are not “Uncle Toms,” “sell-outs” or to the best of my knowledge, informants or agents. I myself am a fellow Pan-African Nationalist. As such, we believe that no one is above legitimate criticism, and members of our community have a right and responsibility to raise questions whenever someone takes the mantle of leadership, endeavors to speak for us, or asks us for financial contributions. I write to you humbly asking you to respond to the following questions/statements raised from our brothers and sisters concerning your plans to build a new boys academy.

One brother who responded to my article of support for your academy, sent me a link of you on a talk show:

In this audio clip, a sister asks you questions about transparency and financial accountability (“How do we know how much money you raised?”) and we hear you ask the show host to take a break, adding that the sister is “a reactionary.” The sister didn’t seem to be accusatory or disrespectful, she just asked a valid question.

Question 1: Do you have a transparent system of financial records or accounting that allows supporters to know exactly how much money you’ve accumulated without having to depend simply on what you say? 1a.How much as of this date have you raised via check, cash and Gofundme, and how much additional money do you need? 1b. Why did you cut the sister off from her legitimate line of questioning and refer to her in such a derogatory manner?1c. If for any reason, you are unable to secure the properties you mentioned, how will you use all the monies you’ve accumulated in your fundraising campaigns?

Another brother who happens to be a committed and credible activist in Detroit shared the following video clip with me upon hearing my support for you:

In this clip, you come off as arrogant, mean-spirited and ungrateful for the small contributions some in our community made to your fundraising effort. I watched it at least 5 times and was quite honestly, shocked by your words and spirit. Such words and spirit seem contradictory to your status as a spokesperson or leader for Black people. Like the previous clip, this one makes it difficult to get people to support you or your efforts. Some have said you sound entitled, callous, money-grubbing and self-serving. People (including myself) were especially disturbed by your statements “Trifling-ass Black people,” your insistence that people send you monthly payments, and your suggestion that you won’t advise or help (and would even hang up on) Black parents who didn’t contribute to money to your school effort.

Question 2: Can you respond to the above criticisms/observations of your words/behavior in this clip? 2a. Is there anything for which you’d like to apologize?

Another major critique is that you have yet to announce or produce a comprehensive plan of this proposed school (operating costs, curriculum, proposed annual budget, hiring, etc.). If you haven’t yet, doing so might help your fundraising efforts.

Question 3: Do you have a video clip or document that explains a comprehensive and strategic plan regarding the academy? 3a. If so, can you provide that link or document? 3b. Creating a school requires a collaborative team effort. No one individual can effectively raise money, plan curriculum, coordinate hiring, educational materials/supplies and other concerns alone. Do you have such a team or board in place? If so, who is on this board and what are their qualifications?

As I wrote in my previous article of support for your school:

“If people believe he has some growing to do on the issue of gender and LGBT issues, challenge, debate, and educate him. He and we must understand that homosexuality is not new and is likely not going to end. I’d bet money that some of the teachers, students, and parents involved in the academy will be gay. How will they deal with this reality?

But I encourage us not to sabotage his efforts to build a much-needed learning institution for our children. The education they receive in public schools is destroying their esteem, academic potential, and love of their Black selves and community.

Existing schools led and staffed by our collective enemies have an agenda. They are raising generations of folks who will be non-critical thinkers, and semi-skilled docile menial laborers (or over-achieving and brainwashed middle-class negroes) in a white capitalist system. And all of us who graduated from elementary, middle, or high school and college need to remember that many of those institutions were created and staffed by white folk, some of whom were racist, sexist, and had issues with the LGBT lifestyle.”

Unlike others, I do not believe you are a “fraud,” based on all your previous work, the courageous stands you’re willing to take on our behalf, and the way you respond to brother Malcolm’s call for us to Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up!” I do however, believe you – like myself and everyone else – have room to grow and improve. I also believe our people (even those with whom we disagree) have the right and responsibility to question and critique you. Likewise, you as a prominent leader and educator have a right and responsibility to explain, defend, clarify, and if necessary, apologize and tweak your public positions or ideas. This is especially true given that Black people have historically been vulnerable to fellow Black people with ulterior motives, hidden agendas, and disingenuous schemes.

In this sincere Pan-African Nationalist spirit I write to you, and ask that you respectfully respond to the questions posed by those in our community who do see value in independent African-centered education and leadership.

Black power and Black solidarity always,

Agyei Tyehimba

______________________________

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.

I Support Dr. Umar Johnson’s Mission to Educate Black Boys

umar johnson

As some of you may know, acclaimed Pan-African Nationalist brother Dr. Umar Johnson is a brother using his voice and knowledge to push a strong Black agenda for our people. I listen to many of his unapologetic speeches, which I generally support because they echo brother Malcolm’s call for Black people to “Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up!”

Dr. Johnson made a power move recently when he announced his intention to create the Frederick Douglass & Marcus Garvey RBG International Leadership Academy for Black Boys. To facilitate that enormous task, Johnson started a Gofundme campaign to raise $5 million. You can learn more about Dr. Umar’s vision by viewing the video clip below:

Like any Black person who is well-informed, unapologetically Black, and focused on solving problems rather than just talking about them, brother Umar generates a flood of criticism ( I have personally endured this for decades and can strongly relate). Some of this criticism is fair and comes from members of the Black feminist and gay communities) who are offended by some of the brother’s public statements which they describe as blatantly sexist and homophobic. To a lesser degree, he also has some critics from the Nationalist community who question his scholarly credentials and character (I’ll leave that issue for someone else to debate). I do encourage you to view the following exchange he had with a feminist/gay rights advocate during one of his speeches:

I believe EVERYONE should face legitimate criticism, especially those of us who are leaders, activists and problem-solvers. Because of Johnson’s perceived position on homosexuality, Charing Ball – writing for Mademnoire.com – argued that we shouldn’t support his mission to create the new academy for Black boys.

I believe that liberation must be total; it is highly contradictory to wage war against white supremacy while failing to wage war also against patriarchy, class, and sexuality-based oppression.

As a man raised in a male supremacist country and world, there is no doubt that I was conditioned to have patriarchal thoughts and behaviors myself. The same applies to me growing up heterosexual in a world where gay/effeminate boys and men, along with lesbian/masculine girls and women, endure ridicule, assault and social discrimination to the point where many commit suicide or live embittered, embattled, and disgraced.

To the degree that I’ve become more sensitive to this issue, I’ve done so from taking classes, reading, and having my thoughts challenged by members of the LGBT community. My beloved uncle who was gay and died of AIDS-related complications, once challenged me on this point:

“You say you love Black people and Black history, right? Langston Hughes was gay. Bayard Rustin was gay. James Baldwin was gay. Hoyt Fuller was gay. Alice Walker is gay….  and so were/are many others openly or otherwise. Many political activists are gay as well, and by the way nephew I’m gay….are you going to wipe all of us out of history? Will you disown all of us as members of the Black community? Are we all sick or living in sin?”

Before you mistake me as some highly evolved brother on LGBT issues, I must say that I still struggle with this issue. I still cringe or shake my head when I see a transgendered person. I still get that WTF look on my face when I encounter a “flamboyant” gay man, or a lesbian couple kissing. (And like many of you reading this) I still occasionally wonder if there is a multimedia conspiracy to endorse and promote LGBT lifestyles. But while I won’t march in a gay parade, or consider myself an activist or spokesperson on those issues, I do understand that people have the right to choose and exercise their own sexual lifestyle. Such people should not face discrimination, brutality or ridicule for doing so. Furthermore, everyone has the right and responsibility to fight oppression however that may manifest (even if that makes other people “uncomfortable). If people are not thieves, rapists, sell outs, serial killers, or con artists (regardless of their lifestyle)…..I can find room to work with them.

How does any of this relate to Dr. Johnson and his school? I write all of this to suggest that LGBT activists have the right to challenge Dr. Johnson or anyone else if they deem doing so is warranted and legitimate. Many of us Nationalists have much to learn in this territory. Perhaps Umar Johnson does as well. In any event, people have the right to challenge him and he has the right to explain or defend his position. In the process, he and people on both sides of the issue may grow and expand their consciousness. If we as Nationalists and Pan Africanists call for “Black unity,” we can’t advocate for, educate, and defend only heterosexual Blacks or those that subscribe to traditional notions of gender.

At the same time, our boys (and girls) do need proper academic, cultural and professional preparation and they will only receive that in independent Black-centered institutions. If that is what Dr. Umar is trying to achieve, I’m with him and he has my support.

If people believe he has some growing to do on the issue of gender and LGBT issues, challenge, debate, and educate him. He and we must understand that homosexuality is not new and is likely not going to end. I’d bet money that some of the teachers, students, and parents involved in the academy will be gay. How will they deal with this reality?

But I encourage us not to sabotage his efforts to build a much-needed learning institution for our children. The education they receive in public schools is destroying their esteem, academic potential, and love of their Black selves and community.

Existing schools led and staffed by our collective enemies have an agenda. They are raising generations of folks who will be non-critical thinkers, and semi-skilled docile menial laborers (or over-achieving and brainwashed middle-class negroes) in a white capitalist system. And all of us who graduated from elementary, middle, or high school and college need to remember that many of those institutions were created and staffed by white folk, some of whom were racist, sexist, and had issues with the LGBT lifestyle.

In the meantime, additional things we should focus on, pertaining to the school include:

  • Making sure the money donated for this cause is properly accounted for and handled appropriately
  • Making sure the curriculum is sound
  • Making sure the school admits students with a range of abilities, backgrounds, and income levels
  • Making sure the teachers are excellent and qualified academically and culturally

The times in which we live, mandate that we find ways to resolve our issues while providing the things we need to survive and prosper as a people. True Black solidarity involves getting unplugged. It’s about consciousness and character. Think about it. Again, I encourage you to support Dr. Umar’s efforts to build an academy for our children.

_________________________

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.

25 Things I Do NOT Believe

-You expect me to believe THAT--

” (They’re) good at the game of tricknology, but I got knowledge of myself, they ain’t fooling me.” – Brand Nubian, “Wake up”

_________________________________

1. The Republican or Democratic parties give a Damn about Black and poor people.

2.  White supremacy/racism ended during the Civil Rights Movement. Get over it!

3. Black people’s salvation, survival, liberation and safety depend on the good hearts, intentions, and benevolence of good whites or “people of color.”

4. We can wage an effective liberation movement without serious and sustained study, organizing, consciousness-raising and activism .

5. If we “just got right with God,” we wouldn’t be poor, divided, or oppressed anymore.

6. We can only attain spiritual or political empowerment through one prophet, leader, organization, method, religion, or book.

7. Black people should only study books, films, etc. written by Black people.

8. Patriarchy doesn’t exist within our community, and sisters have no legitimate right to identify and challenge it.

9. Conspiracies don’t exist at all, or every conspiracy you’ve heard about does exist.

10. People don’t have the right and responsibility to defend themselves against repeated and unwarranted violence.

11. Black people are the only group that struggles with issues of low esteem, disunity, violence, envy, unrealized potential, and ignorance.

12. Acquiring financial wealth, and developing an entrepreneurial spirit (without dismantling capitalism and class) will liberate Black people.

13. Black women are evil, selfish, argumentative, gold-digging sluts, AND these attributes don’t exist in other groups of people.

14. Black men are lazy, hypersexualized, violence-prone, heartless thugs and these attributes don’t exist in other groups of people.

15. Offering good advice or legitimate critique means you’re “hating” on someone.

16. All advice and critique are legitimate or sound.

17. Things/people are always what/how they seem or appear.

18. Artists have no responsibility to produce quality music, poetry, movies or images that  are inspiring, empowering, critical of injustice, involve skill or are understandable by the average person.

19. Everyone has a right to do or say whatever they choose, without regard for the damage or negative consequences that may follow.

20. Truth, beauty, hope, authenticity, and love no longer exist in the world.

21. Any one group is innately or biologically more honest, intelligent, virtuous,  (or their opposites) than any other group.

22. The United States of America is the “Greatest nation on Earth.”

23. Collective oppression is caused by God, not greedy or power-hungry men and women.

24. Poverty is a problem that results from individual character deficiencies, not corporate greed and exploitation.

25. People can achieve freedom and empowerment just by praying, meditating, thinking positively, or having good plans and intentions.

_______________________

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.