I Dare You to Read This!

Our enslaved ancestors were ACTIVE agents of their own liberation. Some chose education, escape, revolt, suicide, breaking tools, work slowdowns and other forms of resistance.

My Grandparents’ generation boycotted, marched, made legal challenges, wrote and spoke against injustice, created organizations, etc.

My parents’ generation demonstrated, created Freedom Schools, started community patrols, educated, built independent institutions, fought to build a Black nation, etc. Some people throughout these generations were reformist, others were revolutionary, and some did nothing.

While there is always room to debate methods, let us not become part of the “do nothing” group. Even an abbreviated study of the past will demonstrate that we resisted our oppression, sought to educate/empower ourselves in every historical period, without exception. It is our right and responsibility to continue this tradition by any means necessary. Our very survival and development not to mention liberation, is at stake.

fanon quote

This nation/empire – as evidenced by its policies, practices, and founding documents -has upheld the motto that “All lives matter with the exception of Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, poor, sick, or disabled people, those with limited formal education, and so many others.” We are standing at a crossroads. The doors of liberation, human dignity and social justice are locked. Who will come to open them?

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Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. In 2015, he wrote My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School and the YouTube channel Black Liberation University.

 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 do we Stop Racist Police Brutality?

This post is written in blood red to represent all the African/Black people who’ve been murdered by law enforcement agents in the United States. 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.
  7. Learn all you can about your rights and how to protect yourself from escalating interactions with police .
  8. Read and study Robert F. Williams!

9. Read Frederick Douglass’ 1857 “West Indian Emancipation speech:

Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.

10. Come out to Harlem Liberation School on July 11, 2016

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Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. In 2015, he wrote My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School and the YouTube channel Black Liberation University.

 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.

Understanding the Dynamite Sticks and the Fuses

I have found over the years, that the people who make the greatest impact on society are those with passion and vision who are willing to take calculated risks and able to organize others to join them.
 
Movements target and seek to involve the masses, but ultimately begin with a committed and relatively small core group. This core group articulates and promotes the vision, while implementing this vision on the ground. Slowly and over time, the masses begin to join the movement, inspired by their growing consciousness, repressive actions or policies of the state, and/or other experiences that politicize and radicalize them.
 
I often hear fellow community organizers express disappointment or bitterness when their meetings are not packed with people or when community members don’t seem to become maximally involved in “the movement.” When we allow these emotions to dominate our thinking, we have committed a serious but common mistake in the arena of community organizing and movement building. As a study of any Black social movement will clearly demonstrate, we are seriously mistaken if we believe that all or even most Black people need to or will assume leadership.
This dynamic even exists within the community of Black folk who are considered “conscious.” Brother Malcolm once shared a powerful parable about “House Negroes and Field Negroes.” His point was to show how middle class or more privileged Blacks were more likely to defend and assimilate with the oppressor than less privileged Blacks who were treated more harshly and who received less benefits from the system of white supremacy. I have a different point to make regarding two different classes of Black people: Those who are truly conscious vs. those who are cosmetically so (remember that being conscious not only involves being aware of yourself and your environment, but being able to act or respond appropriately to your environment. In other words, consciousness is both cognitive and practically functional). To make my own point clear regarding the so-called “conscious community,” I share a parable called “The  dynamite sticks and the fuses.”
 
We have millions and millions of dynamite sticks in the Black community. By this I mean people who are dissatisfied with things as they are, see and understand the problems, and want things to change. As dynamite sticks, they are loaded with powerfully explosive thoughts and feelings. They have tremendous potential to think critically, and confront the circumstances that rob our people of human dignity, safety, and liberty. 
Unfortunately far too often, their beliefs and actions do not correspond. Dynamite sticks will angrily denounce racism but never join an organization or become involved in a sustained movement to alter racist policies and practices. They will clap or shout enthusiastically when listening to a dynamic speaker; They will read and quote books, digest political documentaries and articles, and post the most insightful pictures, and diatribes on social media platforms. In public spaces, they may swear up and down how  disgusted they are with white supremacy and the treatment/status of Black people.
Despite all of their political comments, quotes and studies however, dynamite sticks never start or join a community organization/program, attend regular meetings of any, or lend their considerable talent/energy/insight to the movement for Black liberation. They do not return calls or follow up on their promises and commitments. They leave a string of tasks unfinished. These dynamite sticks will identify 500 reasons why a tactic won’t work, or why they cannot become involved. they only make personal or individual statements rather than organized and institutional ones.There are several reasons for this seemingly contradictory behavior. They may be undisciplined, conflicted, fearful, or fraudulent. Nevertheless, I do not condemn or judge such folks. I’m just describing them.
 
We also have within the Black “conscious community,” a relative minority of people who just like the dynamite sticks, are dissatisfied with oppression,. have outside responsibilities, challenges, personal concerns and flaws.The critical difference is that these people find ways to work around or through their personal obstacles and fears. These are the fuses. When they hear or read bullshit they challenge it strongly, in public and private. When these folks witness acts of police brutality, or see their people living on the sidewalk, or see our children being educated to be underachievers and modern-day slaves they make a commitment to do something about such occurrences. These fuses reorganize their lives and schedules to address these concerns, and they do so despite their own fears, health, financial situation, daily schedule, etc.
Fuses are compelled to connect with and help uplift, educate and empower their people regardless to whom or what. Rather than searching for excuses not to get involved, they sincerely find ways to get and remain involved. They are visionary, irreconcilably dissatisfied with oppression, and remember, they are the minority of people. However this small group has the power to ignite the masses of our people to take the actions needed to reclaim our humanity and power. 
For this reason, I no longer spend too much time trying to organize idle, conflicted or fraudulent dynamite sticks. I’m looking for the fuses. Everything else will take care of itself….
________________________

 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 lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. In 2015, he wrote My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School and the YouTube channel Black Liberation University.

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

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

Black Liberation University: A New YouTube Channel

Today – on what would have been the 91st birthday of Malcolm X – I am pleased to officially announce our new YouTube channel. It is called “Black Liberation University,” and I will take some time in this article to explain and describe why we created it, the needs it meets. and how you can become part of our team. Our hope is that Black people around the world will subscribe, view clips from our video library frequently, and help us spread the word. 

black liberation university

How this project was born

I’m sure you are familiar with several Black Power, Black Nationalist or Afrocentric YouTube channels. They all play important roles in terms of raising consciousness and exposing our people to Nationalist perspectives and empowering information. In speaking with brother and sister organizers and educators around the country however, many of us agreed that:

  1. Some of these channels focus almost entirely on ancient African history.
  2. Other channels often feature personalities who are argumentative and discussions that are divisive and hostile.
  3. Far too often, certain existing channels address topics that are of questionable relevance or issues that do not confront our most pressing issues.
  4. Because the internet in general provides so much information with so many advertisements, research can become confusing and distracting for those seeking specific information.

 

The Objectives of the Black Liberation University

Our YouTube Channel aims to provide one-stop shopping for Black people seeking information related to Black Liberation in several areas. Black Liberation University has the following playlists: history, political prisoners, racism/white supremacy, mental health, education, real estate, community organizing, and much more. By providing such a broad selection of topics/information, the BLU helps our people to raise consciousness, identify self-defeating behavior, and develop the capacity to solve problems in our communities utilizing the benefits of online technology. Below you will see a screenshot that shows our extensive selection of topics/playlists.

BLU playlists

The Benefits of Black Liberation University

The flexibility of using an online platform like YouTube, is that it allows us to create and receive unlimited amounts of customized information all day everyday, with no cost and with no geographic restrictions. The only people that will not have access to our channel are people living in countries with no internet access. Since so many people have a smartphone, tablet or laptop with internet access, a camera and microphone, Black people around the world can not only watch and hear our content, but create content for our channel as well! More about that later….

People will be able to use our network and plug into information in just about every major area without spending time surfing several different areas of the internet. Rather than presenting information in a competitive manner that promotes division and in-fighting, our channel recognizes the need for several perspectives, approaches and methods and allows people using it to make their own independent choices. Even differing perspectives are complimentary and useful in their own way, especially when received by reasonable Black folk with the ability to think critically and flexibly.

 

Join our Team!

We want to build a team of core Black people around the United States and globally who create original content for Black Liberation University. We need people to do recorded and Live streamed material in the various subject areas we cover (Review the playlists above). For YouTube Channels to be successful, they must be consistent, informative/relevant, and contain videos that are easy-to-follow and of high quality. For these reasons, we need for all of you to consider the following:

• To participate, you will need a laptop, desktop or smartphone with a good quality camera, microphone, and reliable internet access. Videos should be recorded in HD (High Definition) quality, easy to hear, and not “jumpy.”

• Identify and provide content in one or two areas of expertise. People will only come to trust and use our channel is they believe we offer them accurate and useful information. We seek qualified and energetic team players. We demonstrate qualification by experience, study, or formal education. Ideally, we want everyone to establish themselves as a go to person in one of the specialty areas (playlists) we have. You will need to be honest with yourself to distinguish those areas in which you are strong or have expertise, from areas of personal interest.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

If you are Black, you meet these qualifications, and this sounds appealing to you, please review and follow the instructions in the graphic above. We hope to hear from you no later than June 1. 2016! In the meantime, please visit Black Liberation University, subscribe to our channel, check out our videos, and help us spread the word!

____________________________

 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 lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. In 2015, he wrote My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School and the YouTube channel Black Liberation University.

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

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

Black Educators Must Take our Rightful Place in the Movement to Educate our Youth!

Black people’s concern with the U.S. public education system – it’s intent, policies, curriculum and practices – is longstanding. Our forced entry into the colonial system later the United States was anything but fair and democratic. Whites brought us here to exploit our labor, amass their industrial and agricultural wealth at our expense, and then devised various laws and practices to maintain our servile and powerless position in the social hierarchy. Education therefore was an important weapon in their attempt to maintain and expand white supremacy. In other words, education as it related to Black people was hegemonic, not empowering or even neutral.

Nonetheless, even a cursory glance backwards demonstrates that our people, in every historical period, valued education. Long before we endured the horrors of European imperialism, we not only developed educational philosophy but also family and societal institutions designed to transmit intergenerational knowledge.

egyptian books of instruction

Coming as this did before the development of capitalism (or modern considerations of”industrial development”) our educational philosophy was holistic and not focused solely on material gain, career advancement or status. Unlike many people today, we viewed education both as a means of character/ethical development, and vocational preparation. Without going into voluminous detail, proof of these facts are found in the Egyptian Books of Instruction, and the University of Sankore (containing over 700,000 manuscripts) for starters.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

University of Sankore

Even after the Transatlantic Slave trade where we were viewed and treated as scorned objects and where learning was officially prohibited, our people used the Bible as a primary tool for literacy and our educated brethren as teachers. Scholar James Anderson notes that by the mid-19th century our enslaved ancestors created approximately 500 schools to educate themselves in this country.

This coalition of slaves that wanted to learn and those that knew how to read and write is instructive for those of us today who want rescue our children from miseducation and social conditioning today.

Allow me to digress. As I explained in a previous essay, the “emancipation” of 4 million Black people during the 19th century concerned whites gravely – so much so, that they held three education conferences (Capon Springs Conferences For Christian Education) to determine:

  • If Blacks should be educated
  • What the content/nature of that education should be

These conferences gave rise to the creation of education boards across the country, and models of education designed to keep Black people disenfranchised, servile, non-resistant, protective of U.S. interests, and languishing in the lowest economic strata of this country for generations to come. We see the results of this educational agenda: Confused, culturally disconnected youth with inadequate social, emotional, leadership, financial, and academic skills who become easy prey for gangs, privatized prisons, broken families and unfulfilled lives.

Those of us who are serious about reclaiming the minds and hearts of our children realize that education is the primary tool in this regard.The problem is that noble intentions in this area and political ideology are simply not enough to accomplish this task.

First, we must be clear about what proper education is and does from our perspective. An adequate education empowers people to understand, participate in or transform the world they inherit. It prepares a person to sustain themselves, solve problems, make decisions and embrace/manifest values that are beneficial, and that exert power in their lives. From the perspective of an oppressive society however, education as noted by Paolo Friere, is a project in social control and hegemony.

pedagogy of the oppressed

The educational systems we develop accordingly, include but involve far more than teaching African history, Black pride and Black solidarity. Our alternative and reformative educational theories and systems cannot be guided by political ideology alone We must be thoroughly and accurately familiar with our children’s holistic educational needs (i.e. academic, psychological/emotional, cultural, sociopolitical, ethical, vocational , and economic). In confronting the problem of Black miseducation, we must be careful not to oversimplify the problem and instead develop solutions that are practical and take into consideration the realities we face, rather than imposing our political ideology alone.

We must understand our children’s preferred learning styles, effective and humane methods of discipline, effective and alternative diagnostic methods, and how to create structures that can combine all the above effectively and affordably so that the majority (if not all) of our children can benefit, not just those of privileged classes.

carter g woodson

 Just about every Afrocentric or Black Power speaker, author or activist has said (or will say) “We can’t send our children to their oppressor to be educated!” The logic behind this is simple. Oppressors will never educate their subjects to become free and empowered. But simply acknowledging this fact is not enough. Several compelling questions remain: How do we create engaging, relevant and empowering curriculum, practices and environments that maximize our children’s ability to lead, solve community problems, love/value themselves and their people, and develop the creativity to sustain themselves and create much-needed community institutions/movements? How will independent Black schools be funded to make sure our poorest students can attend? How can we support via information and funding, the Black homeschooling movement? In summary, how do we properly educate almost 8 million Black children (most of whom are poor) in a country actively working to keep them ignorant, poor, and powerless?

To adequately address and resolve these questions, WE MUST INCLUDE PROGRESSIVE AND BLACK POWER EDUCATORS IN THE DISCUSSION!  Education, contrary to popular belief, is a serious vocation like any other. Fiery rhetoric and political pontification without strategic thinking and educational expertise will not rescue our children and might even compound their problems! To make the point clearer, if you wanted to build a bridge you consult engineers and construction workers; To defend yourself in court you hire an attorney or someone well versed in the law; You expect a trained surgeon to perform your operation; You include an architect in a discussion of erecting a building. Education too, is a serious field requiring trained, experienced and knowledgeable theorists, teachers and administrators. That we don’t readily understand this, only demonstrates the low regard we hold for education and teachers, even as we shout “Knowledge is power and Save our babies!”What all of this means is: the movement to properly educate our people absolutely must involve Black folk with classroom teaching and school administration experience, background in Afrocentric educational theory, and successful school creation.

By writing this, I do not come from an elitist perspective suggesting that non-educators cannot contribute meaningfully to the Black Education Movement. To the contrary, I am arguing that we cannot leave trained, experienced and informed educators out of this discussion. Only a determined coalition of sincere, committed and informed organizers, parents, students, Black educators/scholars and Black philanthropists will accomplish the task of reforming the existing educational system and creating viable alternatives. Black educators, and school administrators MUST take their rightful place in this movement by dispelling myths, identifying/modeling best practices in education, and lending our expertise and experience to this important discussion. This might bruise the egos of some in our community. Others might become defensive, but it must be done. Our children’s very lives and the future of our people depend on it…..

_____________

 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 lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. In 2015, he wrote My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School.

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.

Ideology and Dogmatism Vs. Black Power

Anytime you read or hear an organizer, leader or spokesperson discuss their ideas, policies, concerns, solutions or projects, you are observing elements of his/her ideology.

When these ideas come across as contradictory, confusing, ridiculous or scattered, we are witnessing either their  inability to communicate effectively, or evidence of weak ideology.

Ideology is no light or trivial matter.  We can define it as an ethos or set of principles that guide and direct a person or organization’s worldview, policies and practices. All institutions and organizations operate from an ideology, including the military, schools, places of worship, fraternal organizations, community organizations, police, the medical establishment, etc. One’s ethos or ideology shapes how they think, their values/priorities, what they do, and how they do it. You can clearly see how important ideology is to say, a community organization.

Sound ideology develops in response to real circumstances (i.e. concerns for safety, law and order, miseducation or political empowerment) sound analysis of these circumstances and their causes, and a good understanding of community culture, history and sensibilities.

Ideology should respond accurately and effectively to a group’s actual circumstances/reality. When our ideology conflicts with or proves ineffective to address the realities we confront, we are compelled to seriously reconsider, adjust or dismiss our ideology altogether. If we continue believing, promoting or operating on inaccurate or irrelevant ideas, we compromise our organizing and put ourselves in danger of becoming reactionary (pro status quo, politically backwards or ultra conservative).

Instead, we must be disciplined and mature enough to acknowledge when our conceptual frameworks are inadequate/inaccurate and do what is necessary to rectify our thinking. To do otherwise is simply irresponsible…

Signs that our ideology needs reshaping

  1. It leads to policies/practices that encourage innocent segments of our community to be discriminated against, bullied, isolated or dismissed.
  2. It paints large segments of our community with a broad brush without allowing for difference and nuance (i.e “Black Christians are sell-outs,” Black single-parent mothers are the primary cause of delinquent Black children,” “Black gays and feminists are the reason we are no longer unified or strong as a people”).
  3. It suggests policies or practices based on assumptions that are false or contain logical fallacies leading to weak arguments.
  4. It suggests policies that divide our community, generate unnecessary resentment, and make us more vulnerable to the system of white supremacy.
  5. It is driven by fear, hatred and insecurity rather than an accurate analysis of historical, economic or political conditions, and love.
  6. It articulates policies, sentiments and practices identical to those endorsed by the maintainers and beneficiaries of white supremacy.
  7. It leads to policies that create an oppressive and oppressed class of people in our own community.
  8. It is too rigid and dogmatic, leading to a feeling among some that their perspective is the ONLY valid one, or that those who disagree with it are government agents worthy of persecution and attack.

 

dogmatism

Let us underscore that last point. When we become dogmatic, we make our opinions or ideas more important than people and the quality of their lives. The irony is obvious; Community leaders and organizers are (or at least should be) concerned with people, the quality of their lives, and their happiness.

This group – by virtue of their mission – should be the least dogmatic, and yet when it comes to some elements of the Black “Conscious Community,” be they Socialist, Nationalist, Pan-African, Religious, Atheist, Feminist, etc., we find large pockets of highly dogmatic people.

I regularly read social media posts, watch YouTube clips, and observe community discussions that are disturbingly narrow, prejudiced and inhumane toward other brothers and sisters.

I’ve literally heard Black people angrily suggest that members of the Black Gay community should be killed, along with our petty criminal element and those with an appetite for non-white dating partners. I’ve heard/read others label all Black Christians as “ignorant tools of the white man,” or openly advocate removing Black churches in our community (One of the the institutions in our history that most advanced literacy, civil rights and community organizing). And each one of these individuals considers him or herself an activist, leader or community organizer for Black people.

Such words and ideas often get packaged as “Keeping it real,” but make no mistake – history reveals such to be the thinking of dictators and tyrants. They begin by fighting for the people and eliminating an oppressive regime.

Once in power, they claim absolute authority and power over the very people they set out to “liberate.” Next they choose what books people can read, what things people can say, and what affiliations people can have. These people become leaders for life, hold corrupt elections or ban them altogether, and live in luxury as the people starve and endure lives of squalor. Check the history of revolutionary leaders and you’ll find that more than a few commmitted horrific acts of torture and genocide against their countrymen whose only “crime” was difference of opinion.

Some embrace brother Malcolm but forget his political transformation and evolution. Take the statement he made at the March 1964 press conference announcing his departure from the Nation of Islam:

“Now that I have more independence of action, I intend to use a more flexible approach toward working with others to get a solution to this 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.”

…The problem facing our people here in America is bigger than all other personal or organizational differences. Therefore, as leaders, we must stop worrying about the threat that we seem to think we pose to each other’s personal prestige, and concentrate our united efforts toward solving the unending hurt that is being done daily to our people here in America.”

In the same year, in his presentation at the Oxford debate, he said:

I, for one, will join in with anyone—I don’t care what color you are—as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”

Malcolm clearly came to realize the need for Black solidarity. He recognized his attacks of people he disagreed with as a mistake. He acknowledged that he had to work with various segments of the Black community and even some of those outside of our community who were sincere. In other words, he developed compassion and  adjusted his beliefs and methods to address the realities he observed. If he was willing to work with serious and sincere whites, can we conclude that he might also work with Black feminists, Christians and members of the LGBT community? One’s gender, sexuality and spirituality don’t dictate their politics necessarily…

Today, we have more knowledge of ancient African societies, more understanding of economics and sociopolitical struggles, more knowledge of how to create alternative schoo than did Malcolm -and yet, we have lost compassion for members of our extended family whose spirituality, sexuality, and other beliefs/practices are different.

To be clear, I am not Christian (nor any other religion), atheist, gay, or feminist, nor does this matter. My position stems from being clear on one point: Black people – our lives, health, liberty happiness and concerns – are more important than my opinions or those of anyone else. I believe in “unity without uniformity.” I also agree with comedian Dave Chappelle: We don’t have to hate or fear those whose lifestyles we do not understand or condone. Nor do we have to agree with everything someone we love says or does. “We don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

dave  chappele compassion

Some of you reading this article will disagree. That is your right. I just hope you truly UNDERSTAND. When we lose compassion for our people, and allow our opinions to become more important than their lives and right to choose, then we become part of the problem. Where is the love, Black Conscious Community?

_________________________

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 lead. 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.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School.

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.

Who are We? A Question of Identity

I’d like to think that my essays/articles have meaning or resonate with a wide circle of reasonable people. However, my unashamed focus is always on helping Black people in particular to “Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up!” 

Throughout my life, I’ve addressed in one way or another- via activism or scholarship – the issues of economics, politics, incarceration, police brutality, fratricide, Black Nationalism, corporate exploitation, nation building and other pertinent issues to the Black community.

It is truly difficult to rank such issues in order of significance. And yet the issue of who we are as a people and how we identify ourselves, is surely one of the most important, given that it directly impacts all of the others.

On Monday April 11, 2016 Harlem Liberation School will host a panel discussion to address this issue of group identity. Our three panelists have distinguished themselves as resources on this topic, through intense study, writing, presenting and lived experience, or any combination of the above. While all three were/are “God Body,” or adherents of the Five Percent Nation of Gods and Earths, each panelist brings a slightly different perspective to the identity discussion.

Brother Laheen Allah, learned much of his information while enduring more than a decade of captivity in the U.S. prison system. While others spent vasts amounts of time in other pursuits, Laheen educated himself in the library, and gained an impressive knowledge of sociology, law,  history and psychology. He is now working to finish a book on criminology in which he offers his own theories about why Black people commit crime, along with methods to rehabilitate them. 

Born M. Allah, a highly respected community organizer and educator, teaches biology from a Black consciousness perspective, owns a music entertainment group, and approaches the question of identity from a historical and  scientific perspective. 

 

sharif debateBrother Sharif Anael Bey, a member of Noble Drew Ali’s Moorish Science Temple of America, is a longtime martial arts practitioner/instructor, and founder of “Ali’s Men,” a group of lecturers, researchers and writers around the country that specialize in Moorish Science history. More recently, Sharif has distinguished himself as a much sought after debater on the topics of history and identity. One day before the panel discussion at Harlem Liberation School, Sharif will debate the popular Afrocentric street scholar Brother Reggie, at the National Black Theater in Harlem.

Clearly, we cannot underestimate the importance of group identity. For this reason, and because we want to avoid the insults and combativeness that often occur in the street debate culture, Harlem Liberation School is proud to host a conversation on April 11, 2016 focusing on identity.

We expect all panelists to present their perspectives on the subject, support their perspective with facts and reason, and do so in the spirit of respect and community learning.

I should emphasize that our objective is to challenge and broaden our community understanding about how we identify ourselves, the factors that constitute individual and group identity, and ways to identify ourselves that are empowering and self-determining. I do hope you will consider attending this free event.

My own thoughts on this subject are as follows:

1. Identity is an issue of self-determination. This means we have the power to choose how we identify ourselves. Regardless of how well we argue our point, or our own beliefs, the bottom line is that everyone has the power to choose how they define themselves.

2. Ideally, our choice concerning identity should be informed and empowering. We can certainly choose to identify ourselves as “Thots,” “Gangsters,” “Bitches,” or “Niggas.” The questions then become: Are these identities empowering? Do they liberate us or contribute to enslaving us? Do they represent the best of ourselves, or the ugliest factions of our character? Do they produce and encourage confidence and love, or humiliation and self-hate? These questions and their implications are amplified for we Black descendants of Africa who’ve been systematically taught that we are nothing, have nothing, and can do nothing. I believe that we should identify ourselves in ways that unite us, benefit us and empower us. Identify is a matter of choice, and is relative, but it is by no means neutral. When we identify ourselves, we consciously or unconsciously align ourselves with some things, and detach ourselves from others. It is in fact, a political choice.

3. Several factors impact how we identify ourselves. We can choose to identify ourselves based on geography/place of origin, language, race, gender, religion, and political ideology to name a few. The issue of identity is not simplistic, but complicated. This also implies that identity is not fixed but fluid, which goes back to the first point. This is why we are advised not to impose our views of identity, but to educate people on the issue so they can make informed and empowered choices.

4. We should be careful about adopting the identities of those who subjugate us. At the risk of insulting some brothers and sisters (which is not my intention), I don’t understand why we identify ourselves as Muslim, Christian, American, French, or any other designation of our enemies who imposed these identities upon us. These identities are not neutral; they come with values, and a imperialist history replete with colonization, forced conversion, and persecution. In the case of religion for example, we must stop erasing historical record. These major religions some of us subscribe to, in fact, stole much of their mythology and doctrine from African civilizations then distorted them. These religions also work to serve and benefit white supremacy. These religions were not indigenous to ancient Africa; They were imposed upon us, often at the penalty of death. 

5. I interchangeably identify myself as “African” and/or “Black.” “People of Color” is a vague term born from the politics of multiculturalism. It does not unite people around a common experience. “African-American” is a compromised term that attempts to fuse our African origin with an American nationality. But I do not view myself as “American.” That red, white, and blue flag and those representing it, did everything imaginable to mistreat, exploit and murder us. Africa is our motherland from which we were snatched and dispersed all over the world. It connects us to a rich land base and even richer history and culture of values and practices. “Black” refers to our phenotype, color or race. It is the essence from which all other hues come. It is genetically dominant, and an all-encompassing term we can use to unify our people around the world. However, despite what I believe, I still recognize that our people have to choose identity for themselves.

6. We may never be able to determine a historical identity with precision. Are we Moors, Kemites, Hebrews, Asiatics, Muslims? The answer is not definitive. Because of lost or destroyed historical records, and contemporary limitations of archaeology, it may be impossible to say with precision who we are historically. We can say with authority that we are the original people of the Earth that created civilizations which have benefitted all of humanity. We can say that our people have been among the world’s most creative, influential and underappreciated. We can say that we are some of the world’s most resilient people, having survived and overcome the most horrific and enduring forms of oppression. Perhaps those realizations might suffice for now. Whatever identity we claim should make us loving toward each other, unified, productive and confident, and help us to be purposeful, forward-thinking and powerful. 

________________

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 lead. 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.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School.

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 Community Organizer’s Toolbox: “Rules for Radicals”

Contrary to the stereotypes cultivated by the corporate media and government agencies, authentic and effective community organizers are invaluable to the modern civilization (if you choose to call it that) we occupy.

Among other things, organizers develop indigenous leadership in our communities, raise collective consciousness , inspire hope, and teach people to work together to effect change individually and collectively.

This generation is fraught with contradictions and misunderstandings which often leaves even our community organizers conflicted and compromised. We can fight back and become more effective in our efforts by understanding and embodying key princples from the outset. Organizers must be clear-minded and refuse to hold any illusions or to promote them in the community.

To do this, I introduce you to an invaluable part of my organizing toolbox, Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” (this link provides you with the entire book). Take note that some community organizing entails internal work; The information below concerns challenging external sites of power:

  1. “Power is not only what you have, but what your enemy thinks you have.”
  2. Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
  3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
  8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
  10. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”

________

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 lead. 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.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School.

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.

4 Ideas I Reject (and maybe you should too)

Before we can stand up in unity and acquire true power, we must be crystal clear about our condition. This becomes difficult when some of we Black folks enable our dysfunction with inaccurate or self-defeating ideas or beliefs. Let us strike a blow for liberation by dismissing some of the bullshit some of us say and believe.

1. Equality: This is a myth and misunderstanding. We want to be treated equally in terms of the law for example. However, we are not the same as other people. No other people has endured the level of brutality, scorn and oppression that Black people have, for as long as we have. Other people share aspects of our experience but not our experience in totality. We are not equal. Therefore, we don’t seek the illusion of equality, but the reality of power and fair treatment.

2. Multiculturalism: To facilitate the demise of radical political development ushered in by the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, “liberal” whites introduced the concept of “multiculturalism.” Soon this idea infiltrated and influenced political and educational circles. It encouraged us to view ourselves as “People of color,” rather than “Black” people. It encouraged us to embrace and unify with Asians, Arabs, Latinos, American Indians, (white) women, the LGBT community and other traditionally oppressed or marginalized groups. But by linking arms with these groups, we linked our issues and interests with theirs. This weakened our political movement by creating diversions we could ill afford. This also gave members of these other groups the impression that our issues and interests are the same. It is not uncommon to hear people say things like “Gay is the new Black,” for example. As mentioned previously, our issues are similar in some cases, but not the same. I should add that significant elements of these groups we allign ourselves with, harbor deep and unresolved resentment toward Black folk!

White women do not receive the same treatment, respect or power as white men. Yet, they are not generally as poor, mistreated or mischaracterized as Black women.

The discrimination one endures for being Black differs in some aspects from the plight of the larger gay community. While they suffer from sexuality-based discrimination, we suffer from discrimination based on phenotype (skin color). One’s sexual preferences and activities are technically private manners which only become public when observed or suspected by others. One’s pigment (which is conspicuous at all times) is a different matter altogether. Furthermore, both white women and white members of the gay community enjoy larger rates of formal education, social mobility, political access and income than Black people.

I believe it is unethical and contradictory to mistreat any women or members of the LGBT community. Liberation must be total. However, our attention and priority must focus on Black people.

It is foolish and counterproductive to further fragment our already divided people by treating any of our folks as lepers or outcasts. I also disagree with using our scarce energy and resources to advance and defend non-Black women or others. Our primary concern should in my opinion, be our own survival, development and liberation. This is especially true given that white women and the larger gay community are far better funded, organized and powerful than Black people. Multiculturalism obscures these objectives and observations.

3. Trusting electoral politics: A common phase I hear from well-meaning Black folk around election time is, “Our people fought and died for the right to vote.” If we study our history, we know this statement bears some truth. However, this applies specifically to participants of the moden Civil Rights Movement who engaged in acts of civil disobedience for voting rights, which resulted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In describing our struggle in the United States, it is more accurate to say, “Our ancestors fought and died to be free, safe and treated fairly.” In saying this, we acknowledge that grassroots organizing, legal challenges, revolutionary activities, radical journalism, institution building,  and scores of protests and demonstrations – more than voting – comprised our most effective tactics of choice. These tactics pressured sympathetic and adversarial politicians to write, pass and enforce legislation for Black people.

4. The definition of power: Our history clearly demonstrates both what power is, and how to acquire it.

Power is the capacity to advance/protect one’s interests, solve problems, and meet objectives. We often confuse this with “influence” which is the capacity to appeal to those in power in an attempt to shape or affect other people’s thinking or behavior in our interests.

To exercise power in relationship to adversaries, we must also demonstrate an ability to enhance or threaten their image, finances, safety/comfort, success and/or stability. If we cannot do these things, we cannot expect those on power to advance or protect us. We are naive to think they will do so on a moral basis.

My hope is that we will proceed forward as strategic and informed thinkers who perceive things/people as they are, not as we want them to be….

_______

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 lead. 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.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School.

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’s the Big Deal about “Knowledge of Self?”

It is a phrase many Black activists and Hip Hop artists use with almost obsessive regularity. Indeed, the phrase “Knowledge of Self,” joins other terms in the pantheon of Black expressions that have become cliche.

But exactly what is knowledge of self, what does it refer to, and why is it so important that we Black folk acquire it?

We should begin by noting that the knowledge of self idea is not new. In ancient Kemet (Egypt), initiates in the “mystery schools” learned the phrase “Man know thyself and you will know the universe.” Early Black Nationalist pioneers like Noble Drew Ali and Marcus Garvey urged Black folk to know our history as early as 1913. Groups like the Nation of Islam (via Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, and Khalid Muhammad) and its offshoot, the Five Percent Nation of Gods and Earths (via Clarence 13x), popularized this idea in the mid-20th century.

The $1 million questions at this point are: “What exactly is knowledge of self,” and “What do we gain by having it?”

“Knowledge of self” refers primarily to empowering information about our past. This includes: our geographic origins, our ancient values and culture, our accomplishments, and even our defeats and miscalculations.

More specifically, a Black person demonstrates knowledge of self when he/she:

  • Acknowledges Africa as the cradle of world civilization.
  • Acknowledges the pivotal role Africa played in the development of spirituality, law, music, astronomy, mathematics, education, technology, architecture, agriculture, etc. Furthermore, people with knowledge of self understand that European development in all its forms, was facilitated, borrowed or stolen from African ingenuity, knowledge or labor.
  • Realizes that African civilization/contibutions to humanity, were deliberately attacked, omitted and trivialized by Euopeans.
  • Understands how and why  Black ancestors were enslaved, assaulted and discriminated against by whites all over the world.
  • Develops pride and meaning from the past accomplishments, struggles and treatment of their ancestors.
  • Is familiar with, references and respects Black leaders and organizations of the past who fought to advance and protect Black people and interests.

It is important to note that one’s “knowledge of self” is relative to each individual. Some know more than others, can articulate this knowledge better than others, or embrace and manifest this knowledge more than others. Thus we must realize that this term means and manifests itself in different ways to different people.

Now we must grapple with the question of “Why is it so important that Black people have knowledge of self?” Those familiar with my “Wizard of Oz” framework, understand that the characters (Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Tin Man), represent archetypes of people who are lost, believe themselves unintelligent, fearful, and ruthless/inhumane). Don’t you know brothers and sisters who seem lost and disconnected, feel themselves incompetent and “dumb,” act like cold-hearted thugs, or who refuse to exert leadership and authority? Of course you do!

Knowledge of one’s Black self has the potential to heal those in our community who have been taught (and who believe) they are nothing, have nothing, and can do nothing. Having a strong grasp of our history is both a shield against such propaganda, and a weapon we can use to challenge and dismantle it.

Lastly, knowing one’s history is not just a matter of developing pride or of healing damaged psyches; It also equips us to accurately understand our problems, identify their causes, and develop blueprints and remedies to liberate ourselves. For this reason, knowledge actually is NOT power; It is POTENTIAL POWER. Knowledge of self is only relevant if it empowers an individual and leads that individual to empower and liberate others.

_______

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 lead. 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.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School and National Director of Education for Souljahs of the People.

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.