Black Social Media Commentators Should Be Competent & Qualified!

The creation of the Internet and the emergence of social media platforms is a mixed blessing. On one hand we applaud how this development broke the corporate hold on news and political expression. Indeed, the vast majority of information we receive via American media (and from which we develop opinions) comes from five corporations: Viacom, Disney, Time Warner, Bertelsmann, and News Corp.
By disrupting this old boy media monopoly, the Internet has undoubtedly helped common citizens to realize and broaden their free speech and free press rights. This development has facilitated worldwide unfiltered, on-the-ground news coverage to which we previously had no access. We now have undeniable proof of police misconduct; activists have a quick and reliable way to communicate, organize and mobilize; previously voiceless groups now have platforms for speaking their own special truths; small business owners can promote  their goods and services to target audiences without six-figure marketing budgets.
However, this blessing doubles as a curse. An Internet connection, webcam, and smartphone is all anyone needs to craft journalism and post clips providing commentary available for view throughout the world. This has encouraged millions of people in the U.S. to create radio shows, YouTube channels, blogs, and webinars. Some are impressively well done. Others are……not.
In the Black community, we see the meteoric growth of social media commentators providing streams of opinion, analysis and prescriptions for Black empowerment and liberation. Some of these social commentators are well-informed and experienced. This group provide us with a virtual classroom or newsroom without walls that we have access to at any time. In these times, a young (or old) Black person can receive tons of information on just about any topic, free or at nominal cost.
But there is another group of Black social commentators who provide/promote inaccurate information, flawed analysis,  reactionary and fundamentalist ideas, and half-baked theories. “What’s the big deal” you ask? At minimum, such people become yet another distraction for Black people seeking relevant and alternative information. At worst, such people mislead and misinform Black people which inevitably adds to our ignorance, disunity and suffering. In some cases the situation is so egregious that one wonders if some of these self-proclaimed gurus are actually agents for the FBI. In this context, I unashamedly demand that Black social media political commentators qualify themselves through knowledge and experience regarding the issues they address. In fact, I filmed a clip showing our people how to determine social commentators they should take seriously.
Some (usually incompetent and irresponsible social commentators) feel that my demand for Black social/political commentators to be “qualified” is elitist and condescending. I beg to differ. Simply put, would you trust or value the opinions of someone speaking on heart surgery who has little or no education and experience in this field? Or a person with no mastery of mathematics speaking on engineering? Or a person with no pilot experience flying you to another country? Or a person who hasn’t studied law representing you in court? Or someone with no background in finance, business or tax matters being your accountant? No you wouldn’t (if you have sense).
Why? Because we RESPECT heart surgeons, engineers, airplane pilots, lawyers, and accountants as serious and valuable professionals. Also, we understand that our dependence on people who are incompetent in these fields, would result in disastrous outcomes for us.
That we do not extend this wise and practical thinking to people speaking on our history, or providing political or economic analysis and action plans, sadly implies that we do not see Black leadership as a respected profession/vocation which impacts our lives significantly. Demanding that we properly prepare ourselves through education and experience before making public analysis of our condition is not being elitist or condescending, it’s being respectful of Black people and Black Liberation! Finally, I am not naive enough to believe we can mandate anyone to do anything. Some of these people are motivated by financial gain and status. They will not “stop their hustle.”What I’m really asking is for Black people to be discerning and demanding with the social media content they consume…
______________________

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

Hedonism: The Kryptonite of Revolution

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It is a mistake,” he said, “to suppose that the public wants the environment protected or their lives saved and that they will be grateful to any idealist who will fight for such ends. What the public wants is their own individual comfort.”

Isaac Asimov

____

I often give serious thought to identifying factors that work to sabotage and derail the Black Liberation Movement.

Obviously we can identify external factors like the outright false imprisonment and assassination of Black leaders, the infiltration of radical Black organizations, or the deliberate flood of drugs and corporate funding (with political strings attached) into our communities.

Internal factors also contribute to decimating or at least compromising our movements. Among these is the longing for “personal comfort” science-fiction writer Issac Asimov writes of in the quote preceding this essay. In this quote, Asimov essentially describes Hedonism.

Hedonism is the relentless pursuit of pleasure and comfort. But we all desire some degree of these things, right?

Indeed while we don’t readily admit it, hedonist tendencies arguably back much of the motivation behind college enrollment, shopping, nightlife, the enormous popularity of gambling, and the enduring appeal of restaurants, narcotics, sex appeal, infidelity, etc. But how does hedonism – the sometimes obsessive quest for pleasure and comfort – qualify as the “Kryptonite” of Revolution?

To answer this we must think about the objectives and qualitities of a revolutionary. Those engaged in cultural, political and or economic revolution seek to expose, challenge and ultimately dismantle the institutions, views, values and power arrangements of the current society. The society in question naturally views these individuals as enemies of the state and seeks to imprison, sabotage or even kill them.

Assassination, (America’s anti-liberation weapon of choice throughout the 50s-70s) has serious drawbacks: 1. It exposes to the public the inhumane and unjust nature of the empire. 2. It highlights and even legitimizes the use of violence for political ends, an idea that the masses begin contemplating for themselves. 3. It turns the assassination victim into a martyr which might immortalize the person and his/her cause.

Domestic assassination has become a less desirable tactic for the U.S. due to the reasons stated above in addition to the scrutiny this country received during deliberations of the Church Committee in the mid 70s. America now seems seems to prefer character assassination, surveillance, harrassment via the IRS, charges of “Domestic Terrorism,” blocking employment opportunities, job firings and other methods of retaliation.

Revolutionaries therefore must be willing to endure any or all of these forms of punishment, at any given time for their political activities. In a word, they must have the capacity to forego certain forms of pleasure and comfort for the higher objectives of social justice and truth.

Such discipline is near impossible for a hedonist. He must acquire certain amenities and status. He or she must have a   nice car, stable form of employment with benefits, and a fine home filled with the latest gadgets. Any other scenario is simply, well….uncomfortable. They will argue that they simply want to pay biils and secure necessities, but they are beung partially truthful.

If we attach this thinking to millions of people, we understand why many Black folk are not doing more to advance our people. Taking certain positions on the job might be grounds for getting fired; Losing a 9 to 5 means the equivalent loss of vacations, gadgets, prestige and stability…not just “necessities.”

Most are unwilling to sacrifice their pleasure or comfort to benefit the community. Most will not stand up or speak out and thus lose their access to cable television, gambling, clothes’ shopping, dining out, or any number of routine pleasures.

A nation of 35 million Black people with varying degrees of ability and educational attainment are controlled by their appetites for pleasure, comfort, status and the semblance of success (the American Dream).

Hence, hedonism is the kryptonite of Black liberation.  It literally weakens our fearlessness and confuses our priorities and values. Our appetite for sensuality and comfort curbs our righteous indignation and would-be activism.

Hedonism has us biting our tounges instead of speaking truth to power; It makes us champion individual achievement and satisfaction over collective empowerment; It causes us to excuse and defend the wealthy/powerful among us whose silence and collaboration soothe and satisfy our enemies; It makes us believe there is nothing ethically wrong with minority control of the Earth’s resources; It allows us to dismiss all the brothers begging for change or sisters living on the sidewalk as drug addicts, losers who blew precious opportunities in life or bums lacking initiative.

Hedonistic tendencies do not just compromise large areas of activity like Black liberation Movements. This pursuit of pleasure and comfort leads to a materialistic mentality that threatens our family structures as well.

In a hedonistic and materialistic culture, children equate monetary wealth and the acquisition of status symbols with success. They eschew parental wisdom in areas of character development for more relevant advice from morally indecent adults who’ve managed to amass significant savings, prestigious jobs and the status symbols that presumably “prove” ones worth. A parent only loves their child and values them if they provide money and gifts.

A young  college student seeking to become a social worker, schoolteacher, chef or community leader finds him or herself subtly challenged by parents and others to pursue a more lucrative career; Adults who do advocate for and serve the community are often seduced into becoming collaborators with the enemy in exchange for higher salaries, media attention and other promises of prosperity. Even the progressive Black church in many cases,  has exchanged their ethical and social justice priorities for a crude emphasis on “prosperity preaching.”

Clearly this country has hedonist and capitalist tendencies which along with other factors, is turning us into selfish, opportunistic, pleasure-seeking, status-driven, comfort-addicted, slaves to our appetites rather than advocates for our people. Once dedicated community organizers turned nonprofit professionals now put the community last as they jump through hoops to secure and maintain corporate funding which compromises and revonfigures their original community empowerment agendas. Teenagers view little value in truth, justice and love. Cynicism, indifference to others and political apathy pay more. Education itself is no longer valued for shaping ethics, competence, and leadership but for insuring job security, career advancement and “something to fall back on.”

We can do better, and we must. Our survival and liberation, along with our collective souls and the future of our children depend on this. Pleasure and comfort within reason are fine. But I am convinced that the relentless drive for such things weakens and even eliminates our revolutionary resolve and dooms us to become slaves to such desires. If we want to reach our potential as super men and women, we must recognize and remove the kryptonite (in all its forms) that stands in our way.

_______

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.

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 Empowerment Series: How to Critically Read a Nonfiction Book

critical reading

During my childhood there was a popular saying: “Reading is fundamental.” I completely agree since reading opens your mind to new ideas, experiences and therefore possibilities. Reading allows you to benefit from the life experiences of other people and therefore spare yourself wasted time. Reading also increases your understanding of the world, your vocabulary and your knowledge and intelligence. It is not an overstatement to note that reading therefore, is a cornerstone of personal growth. This article will explore a method of critically reading nonfiction books. This method works mainly for history, education and the humanities. Biographies and autobiographies require a slightly different approach because they are subjective (more opinion-based and reflective).

When critically reading nonfiction books, you have 4 main objectives (whether you’re reading for personal growth or in an academic environment):

  • Understanding the author’s objective in writing the book (The author’s premise).
  • Identifying the structure/format of the book.
  • Identifying and understanding major arguments the author raises.
  • Understanding how the author supports his/her arguments
  • Developing your own critique of the book (Did the author accomplish what he/she set out to do? Did the author present clear and well-supported arguments? Was the information in the book accurate and well-interpreted? How did this material compare with that by other authors on the same topic?)

To accomplish these 4 tasks, you must read with a purpose and with a structure. Simply reading a book word-for-word, cover-to-cover does not mean you actually comprehend the material or that you are reading critically. In addition to the four tasks mentioned, you should also make sure you understand the terms and references the author uses. You also should read the footnotes or references to gain more clarity about the writing, and supporting information. Critical reading is engaged and active reading. This type of reading requires you to act like a detective or investigator. Confronted with tons of information, you must skillfully sort, filter and determine which information is most important to understanding the book. You can do this in four major steps that will both save you great amounts of time while helping you grasp the most important information provided.

Step One

Closely read the introduction. A good author uses an introduction to explain the objective of the book, the time period discussed, the topic covered in each chapter, the structure and materials used to write the book, and its main premise. You can use the book itself, your computer, or paper to take notes about these issues. Once you understand the introduction, you will have a wide-frame view of the entire book. It is also helpful to read the conclusion as well.

what is your premise_parchment

Step Two

Now that you know the topic or information covered in each chapter, you can begin developing a bird’s-eye view or specific understanding  of the book. Most people do this by literally reading each chapter word-by-word. This might work for a small book, but what if you’re a graduate student who must read a 750-page book. another 500-page book, and write a paper all within the same week? The read every single word approach won’t work in this scenario. And as I mentioned earlier, that approach also won’t ensure that you comprehend what you’ve read.  So how can we read and understand a large book without reading every single word?

The introductory and concluding (first and last) paragraphs of every chapter summarizes the entire chapter. Reading and understanding these two paragraphs of each chapter will provide you with the author’s most important arguments. Therefore, you should do this for every chapter, making sure that you underline important information in the first and last paragraph, and take notes that identify and summarize the author’s main arguments.

At this point, you should understand the general objective of the book, along with the main points of each chapter. You are almost done! But there are two more things you must do.

evidence

Step 3

In order to determine if the author’s arguments or claims are valid, you must investigate to see how he/she supports their arguments. Credible and reliable ways of supporting an argument include: perspectives from experts or people (sometimes other authors) considered knowledgeable on the subject, statistics/facts from a credible agency/organization (surveys, census data, special reports, etc.).

After completing the first two steps, you now go back to each chapter searching for the proof the author provides to support his/her arguments. I suggest that you identify at least three forms of support provided by the author to support his/her main points for each chapter. Authors often use footnotes (references within the chapter) or reference notes (at the end of the chapter) to provide their evidence. Identifying these type of notes is one reliable and quick way to find the author’s proof. Underline, circle and/or take notes to identify this information in each chapter.

evaluate

Step Four

If you follow the preceding three steps you should thoroughly understand the most important information in the book (its objective, main arguments, and how the author supports these arguments. Some people (including advanced graduate students) read line-for-line and word-for-word in a book and still don’t understand what they’ve read, or they’ve taken so many notes and underlined so many words that it’s difficult for them to decipher and interpret the information they read.  To make matters worse, such people spend so much time with this method that they are fatigued, discouraged and anxious. You now have a method to save precious time, get proper rest, and still thoroughly understand a nonfiction book. Congratulations!

But if you anticipate debating the book, providing a review for it, or preparing for discussion in graduate school class, your job is not yet done. To critically read a book, you must not only understand it, but be prepared to offer a sound critique of what you read.  If any of these situations apply to you, now is the time to really distinguish yourself from being a casual or passive reader. If you’ve followed the previous three steps, you have much of the information you need (though you might need to do additional research). To critique a book you must address the following questions:

  • Did the author accomplish what they claimed they would accomplish?
  • Were his/her arguments sound (did the author use credible references/information to support the arguments? Did he/she support their arguments at all? Were the references or information they provided outdated or disproved by experts and new information?)
  • Did the book provide any new information or a new perspective than those offered by other important books on the subject? Or does it simply duplicate old or already existing information?
  • Did the author reach a conclusion or make an argument that is faulty or flawed?
  • Are there any important implications of the book? If so, what are they?
  • Does the author use a variety of sources/references, or do they rely too heavily on one or a few resources?
  • How does this book compare with others like it?

Important Note: Reading involves comprehension. You cannot effectively read if youDICTIONARY-THESAURUS don’t understand certain words. Don’t be intellectually lazy and skip over words you don’t understand. Use a dictionary or thesaurus to understand words you’re unfamiliar with. Not only will you better understand what you read, your vocabulary (and thus ability to decipher what you read) will grow exponentially!

Reading is indeed fundamental…to learning, personal growth, and developing wisdom and skill. I’ve provided you with a more effective way to read nonfiction books. Try it, and tell me if this method was useful….

___________________

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

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

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

A Black Power Outline…(My Manifesto) Revised

black fist

You will notice this article is entitled “A” not “THE” Black Power Outline. This is to connote that it is not the definitive, exclusive, or “divine” plan – just my own thoughts on how to transform our collective condition in the United States.

The reference to an outline, suggests that this is not an exhaustive plan. Everything is not spelled out or filled in here, nor should it be. Use your imagination and intelligence and modify, apply or reject as you see fit.

Finally, this plan is not novel, new, or any indication of some “genius” on my part, but simply an attempt to apply some common sense and draw from great minds of the past. You will also notice that the following remarks draw from a number of my previous articles which generally address the questions of how we are oppressed, why we are oppressed, and what we must do to liberate and empower ourselves.

Conclusions:

I conclude that our people (though imperfect like others) are beautiful and valuable. We have the human rights to “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, with or without man or a document’s validation or recognition of such rights. This oft-quoted phrase impacts and implies a number of issues (healthcare, incarceration, employment, etc.)

We have an obligation to do everything in our power to continue the fight of our ancestors and ensure these liberties/rights for ourselves and our children.

I conclude that we cannot allow any religion, philosophy or idea to blind us to fundamental truths or realities we know and observe.

I conclude that any faith or philosophy we subscribe to should either advance us in the previously mentioned ways, we should modify them to do so, or abandon them altogether and embrace those that do.

I conclude that it is our primary responsibility to solve our problems, and that we must observe the principle of self determination. We have the right to select the methods, people or resources to acquire power and liberation without regard for what other people think.

I conclude that Black people have a very real enemy – the American empire – who deliberately works to sabotage our safety, advancement, health and liberty. This enemy includes white supremacy, corporate avarice  and malfeasance, and government repression as manifested through imperialism, forced poverty, war, hunger, mass incarceration, urban decline, socially engineered fear/confusion, etc. I further conclude that though the architects of this oppression were privileged whites, their modern-day advocates and collaborators are comprised of various social classes, ethnicities/races (including our own) and other designations. So in a larger sense, our “enemies” are those individuals and systems that support, promote or defend injustice, avarice, and oppression regardless of race, gender, or other designations, directed toward Black people.

To be more specific, I conclude that many Black people due to ignorance, fear, greed and compromised values and priorities, collaborate with the policies and practices of the American empire. Also, some whites – though in conspicuous minority – have demonstrated political clarity, integrity, and sustained struggle to expose/challenge the empire supremacy and to refuse its benefits. Therefore I conclude that while it is wise to maintain a healthy distrust of white people in general, it is equally unwise to make concrete assumptions about a person’s political consciousness or character based solely on his/her perceived phenotype or so-called racial classification. History should never be ignored, and history demonstrates that small elements of whites committed to social justice were active in the Abolitionist Movement, Reconstruction, Populist and Progressive Movements, Communist Movement, Civil Rights and even Black Power Movements. History also demonstrates that many of these more radical white elements still harbored feelings of paternalism, opportunism and a stubborn reluctance to respect Black authority and leadership (which explains why we must maintain a healthy distrust until they gives us reason not to).

Given the urgency of our condition and the uphill battles we face, I conclude that we have no time to engage in frivolous, divisive or irrelevant discussions and activities or diversions. We must both stay focused on the urgent goals of Black liberation and dismantling or restructuring the oppressive institutions, policies, practices and values/priorities of this empire. We must in other words transform this empire into a civilization or if necessary, create an entirely new civilization of our own.

I conclude that this American empire is highly organized,  well-resourced, intelligent, highly effective and able to transorm itself as needed. No one tactic, philosophy, charismatic leader or organization is powerful enough to restructure or defeat this empire. We will need to collaborate and strategize with various ellements of our own community and others to accomplish this monumental task. This includes Black people and others of different faiths, political ideologies, social classes, etc. We must draw on our various resources (information, finances, leadership, skill sets) and learn the arts of prioritizing issues, grassroots organizing and coalition-building.

Finally, I conclude that even if we don’t read another book, view another documentary, listen to another speech, take another class or attend another conference, we have enough accumulated knowledge, experience and skills to do something right now to empower and liberate ourselves.

revolution

If you find all of this to be irrelevant nonsense, you can of course choose to disregard it. If however, you find the following ideas helpful or even partially valid, then teach and apply them. The true credit in my opinion, goes our brave and committed ancestors who fought for Black liberation despite the personal challenges and restriction they endured. Some were thoughtful enough to create and leave ideas and examples for us to utilize build upon.

Now that my disclaimers and introductions are done, let’s journey together in thought to explore the thinking and actions I conclude are required for our freedom and empowerment.

In a society that uses enormous resources to keep Black people confused, bitter, disorganized and powerless, any discussion of how to reverse or eliminate such conditions is extremely important and radical. So I hope you will continue reading and apply what you find useful.

douglassOn August 3, 1857, Frederick Douglass delivered his “West Indian Emancipation” speech. Most people only quote two paragraphs of his speech, because they speak so well to the nature of resistance.The truth of Frederick Douglass’ famous words concerning power and resistance continue to resonate with truth and relevance, and we should keep these words ever present in our minds:

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 this spirit, allow me to suggest that:

1. While many human beings speak of “humanity,” Black people still are more impoverished, incarcerated, stigmatized, and disproportionately victimized than all other people in the United States (despite actual and perceived progress). Blacks fight for “humanity,” while few seem to fight for or even acknowledge ours. Given this reality, we need people who advocate for Black advancement and liberation without apology or explanation to anyone else. In the old days, such people were referred to as “race” men or women.

2. We all have adopted various religious and political philosophies which sometimes are at odds. But regardless of this, Black Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, atheists, those who practice indigenous African religions, capitalists, Marxists, nationalists, etc. at any given moment face police brutality, failing schools, health issues, poverty and racism. It is easy to say the oft-repeated slogan, “We must learn to work together to resolve our problems and uplift our people.” However this implies that we understand and implement a strategy brother Malcolm suggested and what Dr. Maulana Karenga terms “Operational Unity.” This means that we organize around ideals/issues that a majority of us value and agree upon, then create institutions, movements, and projects where we actually work together despite our differences to create change and empower ourselves. Chancellor Williams in his classic book, “The Destruction of Black Civilization,” warned us about the dangers of continued disunity: “Just as it is in the case of Africa and Black people everywhere, the central problem of over 30 million Blacks in America is unity…The picture of several thousand Black organizations, each independent and vying for leadership, is substantially the same picture of fragmentation and disunity in Africa that led to the downfall of the entire race. We have often seen that even in earlier times very often all that was involved was that somebody wanted to be the “head,” was not getting there fast enough, and therefore, organized his own little state. Most of them perished, picked off one by one. The same thing will happen to any Black organizations, standing alone, that disturb the white mind.”

3. We have lost many of our youth who have been seduced to ignorance, violence, apathy, indifference and materialism because we’ve failed to properly guide them. and create support systems to help them succeed. We cannot depend on public schools as they do not exist to properly prepare our children to become leaders and problem-solvers for our people. These schools prepare our children to be obedient low-wage workers for other people or cheap labor in American penal institutions. We must organize leadership training programs, community centers, homeschooling programs, independent schools, Saturday schools, and Rites of Passage programs and parenting classes to rescue and reclaim our youth.

4. Traditionally Black working class communities are under serious attack. Gentrification has diluted our political and cultural power in communities around the country with an influx of entitled whites and Bourgeois Blacks who rob such places of their cultural and political integrity. We must begin an aggressive program to purchase property, develop and maintain our cultural institutions, and create financial institutions like community credit unions and foundations. Such institutions provide the money so necessary to start community cooperatives/businesses, provide employment and redevelop our communities.

5. Wealthy and socially conscious Black entertainers, athletes and professionals must be organized, politicized, and called upon to invest some of their wealth and networks to help build quality Black schools, realty companies, supermarkets, lobbying groups, hospitals and other institutions/programs so vital to true community development.

6. Black people continue to face unbridled brutality at the hands of racist/fascist police, white vigilantes, and predatory Black people. Like Robert F. Williams and Malcolm X, I support the right of our people to protect ourselves and our families from such victimization. Every time a cop for example, kills one of us, is exonerated, and keeps his/her job, it sends a message that we are not valuable and that we are “easy and unprotected prey.” Prayer circles, candlelight vigils, tearful funeral testimonials and marches have not made a dent in this issue. Therefore, we must develop the capacity to defend and protect our communities from those who prey on them, regardless of their race or job title. It is shameful that we neglect to do this out of fear or cowardly interpretations of scripture. If gang members can intimidate and terrorize Black communities, if Black military officers can fight and kill for American interests all over the world, perhaps someone should organize and politicize them to use that same energy to protect our own men, women, children and elders. Contrary to popular opinion, our lives are just as valuable as anyone else’s. Perhaps we should patrol and protect our own communities.

7. Our identity and citizenship extends beyond local, state and national boundaries created by men. We are African-descended people (although largely disconnected from African values and practices) whether we admit it or not. In the Pan African tradition of Garvey, Nkrumah, Sekou Ture Malcolm, and Kwame Toure, we must establish business and political relationships with black and brown people in Africa and throughout the world. We should also take an active interest and actively participate in anti-imperialist causes, starting with those in our motherland. An international presence and network will prove mutually beneficial in several ways. We certainly cannot afford to adopt America’s definitions of “enemy” or “ally” as our own. This is a sure way to alienate people and nations who truly support our initiatives, and tie us to those who aid in our continued oppression. The time has come for us to accurately understand who the true “terrorists” and champions of freedom are.

sankofa example

chokwe 1

Chokwe Lumumba

8. We must understand how politics really works, and understand how we’ve historically made “progress” in America. Politics has little to do with morality or ethics, but with power, money, propaganda and leverage. National elections in my opinion, are a complete sham designed to create the illusion of choice and inclusion.  The fact that party politics don’t seem to produce benefits for us commensurate with the time, money and energy we invest in them, should indicate this fact. We should definitely control local politics in territories with a Black majority, and we should seriously study the deceased Mayor Chokwe Lumumba’s plan for Jackson, Mississippi which was developed by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. In  places where we are not in the majority, we must amass and use wealth and power to make the elite do our bidding. How? By posing a threat to or supporting their image, comfort, safety, plans, or finances and by disrupting their ability to operate normally. Check history and see if I’m misleading you.

9. Notwithstanding religious doctrine, comic books, sci-fi thrillers, or cults, it is abundantly clear that no one man or woman has come to save Black people or has the power to do so. What is required here is a collective effort utilizing the various resources of different segments of Black people. As much as possible, we should teach and promote the concept of Black solidarity and demonstrate it so people can see what it looks like.

10. Related to the previous point is the realization that no one regardless of how long they’ve served us, how well they’ve served us, their wealth, amount of wisdom, speaking ability, past achievements, number of followers, political title, etc. is beyond constructive and valid criticism. We are human after all, and therefore prone to dishonesty, opportunism, ego and misjudgment. To stimulate this value we should actively create community spaces where we study, discuss and debate the ideas or practices of old and contemporary organizations and leaders. These debates should not degenerate into shouting matches or insult fests. The emhasis should be on understanding and serious evaluation.

11. Many of us know that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution created a new form of enslavement called incarceration. The American incarceration rate grew an incredible 700% between 1970-2005, largely because of the nefarious “War on drugs.” 60% of America’s prison population are people of color. 1 in 3 Black men will be in prison in their lifetime. Then there’s the issue of Black political prisoners, many of whom languish in American dungeons due to their political beliefs, not criminal activity. Once imprisoned, inmates become a very cheap labor force for the American empire. And they don’t just make license plates or repair furniture. Today’s inmates make just about every product you can think of including: headphones, home appliances, office furniture, airplane parts, military supplies, medical supplies clothing, and food products. Many prisons are now privatized. Shareholders earn enormous profits from prison labor without the hassle of strikes, paying unemployment benefits or providing vacation time. The prison industry is indeed a new form of enslavement, and therefore we are compelled to address this major civil, human rights, and labor issue not just by prison reform, but perhaps the elimination of prisons altogether. In the meantime, we must spend significant resources and energy to liberate our inmates, protect their rights, and provide rehabilitation when necessary. When one of us is chained, none of us are free. Eliminating or modifying the 13th Amendment.

12. All multi-national corporations believe in a god and it’s name is profit. Their tenacious drive for expansion and profit has led to genetically engineered food products, electoral corruption, war mongering, environmental pollution, mass unemployment, and the repression of dissent among other things. The people must wage a movement to dismantle or at minimum severely regulate these bloodsuckers. In very real ways, they are possibly the greatest threat to global peace, harmony and health in the world.

13. The fight for freedom, justice and equality must be total. No man, woman or child should be victimized by discrimination, brutality or deprivation. In the truly liberated society, racism, imperialism, class exploitation, patriarchy, or sexuality-based oppression will not exist, or at minimum, will exist with maximum accountability.

Survey Says....

14. We must teach our people to value study and research aimed to solve our problems. Knowledge is not something we acquire to win money on a television game show or to become masters of trivia. We must revitalize and/or create Black think-tanks composed of activists and intellectuals who focus on researching our and others’ past liberation movements, leaders, in addition to the blueprints and critical ideas/programs they produced. Times and the tools that accompany them, have changed in some cases, but there is no need to “reinvent the wheel.” Some of our dedicated and effective people and organizations of the past have already done important work and posed effective solutions,  that many of us today have not seriously studied, critiqued, and tried to implement! To maintain focus and integrity, these think-tanks  cannot accept even one penny from outside corporations, government agencies or universities. These think-tanks will constantly share their findings with community leaders and organizations and make themselves available for presentations/consultation to help these leaders and organizations solve the problems they face, based on strategic thinking and sound analysis.

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

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

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