Lessons From the Ferguson Decision and Repeated Police Brutality

brutality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why The Negroes Suffer

black fist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 7 Deadly Black Sins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

saving and investing resources in our education.

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

7. Trivializing education or intelligence. Learning is a habit/practice that our people have always valued. Learning makes our skill-set more diverse, broadens our thinking, and
makes us potentiallly more helpful to ourselves and others.
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Aguei Tyehimba is and educator, activistand author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he published “The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook,” a leadership and organizing manual for Black Student Unions on college campuses. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, Huffington Post Live, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” 

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

Syracuse University: Agree to Student Demands!

Chancellor Kent Syverud:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agyei Tyehimba,
-Syracuse University class of ’91
-Editor-in-Chief, The Black Voice, 1987
-SAS President, 1988-1990
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Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he published “The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook,” a leadership and organizing manual for Black Student Unions on college campuses. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, Huffington Post Live, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” 

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

Black People: STILL America’s Best Kept Secret?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How “The Lion King” Relates to Black People

mytruesense:

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

Originally posted on MY TRUE SENSE:

lion king1

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

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

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

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Beware of Relationship Killers!

protect love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

haters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Will It Take, Black People?

atrocities

Everyday on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, blogs, and news programs we see them: blatant atrocities perpetrated against Black people. Whether we’re talking murder or assault of our people at the hands of white “vigilantes,” or police officers, drugs, diseases, unfair criminal justice proceedings, rampant poverty, etc., we have no scarcity of oppressive acts committed against us at the hands of the U.S. government, its agencies, or its “patriots.”

Earnest activists and social commentators (including myself) repeatedly expose and discuss such atrocities using every means possible. We do this to raise consciousness and spark righteous indignation among our people in hopes that we will organize and challenge our oppression strategically, consistently, collectively, and effectively.

Our betrayal, death, poverty, dysfunction and political impotence brings wicked smiles of satisfaction to the thin lips of white supremacists, helps to keep white people in power, increases media consumption and keeps the corporate checks coming. These things we (should) know by now. But what impact do such attacks on our minds, bodies and souls have on Black people in this country?

And why are we so shocked when we hear of such acts? Why do we act as if bloodied Black corpses, biological warfare, racist legislation, and corporate plunder/exploitation are somehow new or novel occurrences?

Has anyone reviewed the last 200 years of United States history as it relates to Black people? When will we recognize that “Life ain’t been no crystal stair” for our people? Or more pointedly, what will it take Black people, for us to in the words of brother Malcolm X, “Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up?” We don’t need another article, book, documentary or news program to convince us of the adversarial relationship we have with the United States government. Police brutality, which is simply the modern-day form of lynching is not new, nor are any of the contemporary tragedies we encounter. The only thing new is perhaps, the manner in which we relay the news or our seeming inability to confront such issues!

The great Frederick Douglass reminded us that “the limits of tyrants are prescribed by those whom they oppress.” In other words, “The more torture and brutality you accept, the more you’ll receive.” And make no mistake, we’ve been on the receiving end for centuries. News flash people: Chattel slavery, the assassination of our leaders, the Tuskegee Experiment, chain gangs, sharecropping, erasure of Black history and ingenuity, mass incarceration, gentrification, job discrimination, character smearing, surveillance and destruction of our organizations, police brutality, genocide, anti-African imperialism, gender and capitalist exploitation, propaganda…targeted to Black people…all of these things are OLD NEWS!!

We cannot depend on compromised establishment “negro leaders” or media puppets to do the work we so desperately need. That is work for the conscious, committed, and competent among us. Stop getting (temporarily) upset and disturbed by news of Ebola, police brutality, discrimination, gentrification or any other setbacks. Be PERMANENTLY UPSET AND RIGHTEOUSLY INDIGNANT! See such things not as occasional incidents, but as parts of an ongoing pattern of brutality and inhumanity as old as the United States itself! Organize, agitate, resist, unify, and fight for your right to exist peacefully and powerfully. Do this using whatever skill-set or talent you have (scholarship, music, acting, poetry, leadership, institution-building, organizing, writing, etc.). But do SOMETHING.

As Frederick Douglass noted in 1857, we will continue to receive all the punishment, torture, deprivation and misery we are willing to accommodate. Let’s do less reporting of news and more making of news, by becoming active agents of our liberation and empowerment. Here’s my manifesto for starters. Use mine, someone else’s or develop your own and IMPLEMENT IT! If you pray, let it be a revolutionary prayer. If you invoke your ancestors’ spirits, ask them to guide you in fighting back and organizing. If you don’t know, learn. If you do know, teach and implement. And if we insist on posting every atrocity under the sun, do it with commentary that puts such incidents into a sociopolitical perspective that calls for action! And let me not forget, woe to those of you who defend our torture and agony for personal recognition or blood money.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE, BLACK PEOPLE?

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

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

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

8 Jewels of Wisdom

jewels
Famous people and common folk alike often compare life to a roller-coaster ride: It has ups and downs and frequently occurs at neck-breaking speed, leaving us feeling reckless and out of control.
Regardless of our intelligence, age, or past accomplishments, life will sometimes have us feeling lost and despaired. However wisdom (accurate knowledge plus the ability to apply it successfully) can help us maintain balance – or at least recover quickly – through the most turbulent times.
What follows are a few powerful words of wisdom that can serve us well, particularly if we apply them to our lives:
1. “Mind your business”: We often use this expression in frustration, and at these moments; we are basically advising people to stay out of our affairs. But the saying goes deeper than that. Rather than being an insult or warning, it simply reminds us to pay close attention to our own affairs so that we can be successful.
2. “It is better to light a candle than it is to curse the darkness.” This Chinese proverb encourages us to focus on solving our problems rather than complaining or getting stuck in frustration mode.
3. “Charity begins at home.” A reminder that we take care of the issues and people closest to us, as we seek to make an impact on the larger community or world in which we live.
4. “A jack of all trades is a master of none.” Most of us are complex people with several interests and skills. We are curious about various things. This is fine. However, scattered energy is not as powerful as focused energy. Even in our world of multitasking, we gain more proficiency, productivity and success when we concentrate on developing mastery of one thing rather than squandering our time and effort in several different directions.
5. “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” More than just a clever play on words, this speaks to the power of making choices and defending or honoring them. Neutrality has its place, but the practice of forming informed opinions involves research and reflection…practices that also guard us against being duped or misled.
6. “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” We might debate the accuracy of inventor Thomas Edison, but the point is clear. Consistently high-caliber performance and extraordinary outcomes are not simply a matter of  having an occasional epiphany; more often than not, and almost without exception, such things stem from constant work (study, practice). Identity any entertainer, athlete,or person successful or acclaimed at anything, and you will discover that they’ve invested thousands of hours practicing and/or studying in private. Even those we deem highly creative or innovative spend vast amounts of time reflecting on problems and experimenting with various ideas and techniques.
7. “It takes a village to raise a child.” This proverb from ancient Ghana is timeless, which explains its overuse. It reminds us that the proper preparation and development of children or any worthwhile project usually requires a collaborative effort. Interestingly, the inverse is also true: It takes a village to destroy a child as well, which reminds us to build strong, viable communities.
8. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr. King’s insightful statement reminds us to think universally/globally, not just on the micro or local level. If oppression is wrong when practiced against one segment of the population, it is equally unjust and inhumane when applied to others as well. In fighting cites/practices of oppression, we must remember to see linkages and intersections beyond the struggles we immediately identify. Not only should we guard against isolating social justice struggles, but King reminds us to guard against becoming oppressive ourselves. Various historical examples demonstrate how revolutionary figures overthrow oppressive regimes only to become oppressive dictators themselves.
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Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” 

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

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

The Secret of Making Miracles

 thegreatescape4
Religions create complicated (and sometimes counterintuitive mythology) to describe it. Societies on the verge of technological advancement believed they could use a combination of science and magic to realize it. In contemporary times, Hollywood’s powerful science fiction brand spins fanciful tales about it to the tune of billions of dollars every year.
Whether we’re discussing the Holy Grail, massive wealth, immortality, or our fascination with superheroic powers/characters, it seems we repeatedly miss the point entirely. Miracles ARE possible! But this point is forever lost on those who cannot decode or make sense of the countless mythology, allegories, and tall-tales that bear the clues.
The 2011 movie “Limitless,” starring Robert De Nero and Bradley Cooper, provides fertile ground for our discussion. It explores the pitfalls and triumphs the protagonist experiences once he takes (and struggles to maintain access to) a pill.
Of course, this is no ordinary narcotic. ” NZT” enables its user to use 100% of his/her brain capacity. For example, Cooper’s character writes a best-selling novel in a couple of days, seduces the women of his choice, becomes a wealthy Wall Street mogul, learns several languages with ease, and even becomes an aspiring presidential candidate.
But even sensational Hollywood movies include negative consequences and cautionary tales in their storylines: withdrawal symptoms include paralyzing headaches, unaccounted for lapses of time, and death.
What most  religious traditions, mythological systems, and science fiction tales lead us to believe is that the road to miracle-making and superhuman feats involve divinity, drugs, exposure to radiation, or biological mutation.
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What we rarely learn is that a masterful and powerful energy force (obviously superior to us, despite what the atheists say) has given us the magic pill and potential to peform superhuman tasks and think at genius level. Our brain, more specifically, a disciplined and fine-tuned mind, supplemented with unwavering faith and preparation is the elixir and secret we’ve searched for throughout the ages.
The experiences of Black people in this country clearly demonstrate this. Pore through the pages of our rich history and you’ll rediscover superheroes, miracle-makers, and master magicians.
Learn about Imhotep, the world’s first physician and master architect whose writings are still used today by doctors some 5000 years later; Note how members of Ancient Ghana established Timbuktu as a world center of learning and commerce; how an enslaved woman who could not read or write successfully led her people out of bondage several times, braving darkness, wilderness and ruthless slave patrols; think about how
A former addict, house burglar and hustler emerged from 6 years of incarceration to eventually become a great libera,tion theorist and organizer known all over the world.
Consider that all of these individuals suffered deprivation and discrimination we cannot imagine. Yet they and others like them, “mutated” into real-life superheroes unrivaled by any comic book story.
Societal gatekeepers set themselves up as the arbitrators of truth, success and style. They use religion, mythology, scholarship and the media to hypnotize us into believing that only “special” “divine” or “exceptional” people are capable of brillance or achievement. We are taught that only certain people are “born” to lead, fight for justice or accomplish great things.
Yet our very history teaches us what few institutions, movies or belief systems dare to: The secret to making miracles involves determination, vision, discipline, faith, and hard work. Everyone is capable of calling upon such power and amassing such accomplishments, even amidst the concrete realities of racial, class and gender oppression.
In short, we are all potentially “LIMITLESS” if we choose to identify, develop and use our own special powers. Of course you are free to sit around and wait for the so-called “natural-born leaders to solve your problems and advocate for you. But then that would literally be more fictitious than anything Hollywood could ever create, now wouldn’t it?
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Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” 

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

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