The Black Panthers challenged us to “be part of the solution or part of the problem.” Sure, this approach is oversimplified, but powerful nevertheless. As we languish in the enormous sea of poverty, corporate domination, miseducation, violence, and government corruption, we can feel overwhelmed and yield to the temptation of apathy and indifference.
At times we hear the negative and paralyzing whispers of doubt, fear and confusion that discourage us from getting involved: Better people than me tried to change things, and they failed. I don’t have a high school diploma or college degree, so how am I going to improve anything? I don’t want to be imprisoned or killed. Somebody else will do it . Nobody seems to care, so why should I? This world is destined to end so why try to save it? But I’m not a good speaker or writer so I can’t lead anyone.
We can choose to do something
You’ve heard those whispers, now here THIS: everyone one of us is blessed with important attitudes, skills and a purpose. Everyone one of us will benefit when justice and peace run the world. None of us knows when or if this world will end, but we do know that many people are suffering.. Involvement is a choice just like apathy. We are capable of improving things, and we can choose to do so. There is no one way to lead or fight for social justice and everyone can play a part regardless of his/her income, level of education or skill set.
There is a role for everyone to play
Mainstream history tends to recognize the accomplishments of extraordinary people. But we often forget how ordinary people displayed extraordinary courage and commitment to accomplish great things. Or the millions of ordinary people who did the best they could with what they knew and had at their disposal. This brings to mind our enslaved ancestors, many of whom could not read, write, identify their date of birth or boast of any material wealth. Yet they led courageous rebellions, escaped plantations, had their experiences published in the form of slave narratives, supported the abolitionist movement, created schools, and fought in the Civil War. In the spirit of encouraging us to release our fears and work to fight oppression, I’d like to share 5 practical things we can do in this regard.
Things you can do to fight oppression
1. Raise/Mentor empowered children: “Children are the future” is more than a tired cliché. It’s the truth. Raising children with integrity, important skills, and compassion for others helps to ensure the world will have capable leaders and problem-solvers in the not-so-distant future. We can no longer afford to coddle, mislead, or fail to give our children proper preparation. I wrote an article about parenting and another about education that might prove informative in this area.
2. Join or create an organization: Our individual talents, ideas and strength are increased through organization. Working with like-minded people pursuing the same objectives provides us with opportunities to learn, grow and become involved, while increasing our chances of success. There are several types of organizations you can join including fraternal, social, business-oriented, neighborhood, civic, political, Church-based, etc.
3. Run for local political office: Any U.S. citizen is eligible to hold a City Council seat provided that they are the minimum age and that they live in the district they’re running for. There are no educational requirements. I have no trust in national elections (i.e. Presidential) because they are largely controlled by corporate money, press and interests, and do not produce significant outcomes for voters. However, local political campaigns are more accessible to common people, require far less funding, and local government has powers that affect voters in direct ways. It is possible to win some of these elections, especially in districts where people of color are the majority population and white liberal or radical candidates receive more press coverage than in national elections. I strongly encourage you to determine the rules and policies of your City Councils and consider running or supporting strong candidates that reflect their interests.
4. Educate yourself and others: In a world where ignorance abounds, informing yourself and others is a huge step in the right direction. Because of technology in the form of the Internet and social networks, you can write a blog such as this, host a free internet radio show, or start a community newsletter. Such tactics might not end racism or unemployment, but they weaken the stronghold of oppressive forces by making people aware of how such forces work to repress them and arming people to fight back effectively.
5. Follow the Social example of Jesus: I am not a Christian nor do I have any religious affiliation. However, Jesus’ reported practices provide a good basic outline for serving and improving humanity. In short, use your talents and resources to as best as you can, feed the hungry (teach healthy dietary habits, create a food pantry, volunteer to serve meals to those in need), heal the sick (organize medical clinics, fight for healthcare reform ), cure the blind (teach and inform the masses), visit and advocate for the imprisoned ( fight for prison reform, work with organizations that help former inmates get jobs and transition to society), and resurrect the dead (engage in work that inspires and motivates people, present poetry,motivational speaking, suicide and domestic abuse hotlines).
Agyei Tyehimba 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. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.