Black Suffering and White Reassurance

bow down

As I mentioned in my previous article, Black people currently live in perilous times. Statistics detailing unemployment, education, mass imprisonment, police brutality, mental and physical health, and poverty all bear witness to this fact. As if these societal issues weren’t enough to contend with, some members of our own community take curious positions that enable our oppressors to continue their mischief in good conscience.

For example, I’ve heard the following comments from some Black folk concerning police brutality:

  • “Some Black police officers participate in police brutality and some whites are attacked by police, so police brutality is race-neutral (not based on race).”
  • “Some Black people are just as racist as some whites, so we need to stop being hypocritical.”
  • “Police are just doing their job. Most of the Black people that get harassed by police are committing crime, being rowdy, or dressing like thugs.”

I will not address these misleading claims, as I’ve already done so at length in several of the 200+ articles I’ve written on this blog. However, I am compelled to raise a few important points.

In the name of my ancestors who endured unimaginable and unjustified cruelty while laboring to build this country, I challenge white supremacy, it’s architects, promoters, beneficiaries, and those who collaborate with it. This latter group includes Black folk that are so obsessed with placating/reassuring whites, that they trivialize or dismiss white brutality and Black suffering.  It’s one thing to provide balanced and nuanced commentary. Ignoring centuries of history and contemporary occurrences is another thing altogether. Doing this to soothe and accommodate white guilt and denial is unacceptable, cowardly, and traitorous. Simply put, sparing your white spouse, co-worker, or friend’s feelings does not take precedence over the suffering of Black people for centuries. If you need to lie to keep someone’s friendship or soothe their feelings, that’s a “friendship” you don’t need! Stop buckdancing to win others’ approval. Tell the truth and shame the devil! Or as Mari Evans put it in her poem, “Speak Truth to the People,”

Speak the truth to the people
Talk sense to the people
Free them with honesty
Free the people with Love and Courage for their Being
Spare them the fantasy
Fantasy enslaves
A slave is enslaved
Can be enslaved by unwisdom….

In conclusion, we must understand that the objective of social justice demands truth and accountability. I’d like to leave you with an excerpt of James Baldwin’s penetrating essay, “White Man’s Guilt.” Perhaps it will demonstrate how no amount of defending, apologizing  or otherwise excusing white naivete or brutality will help white folk confront and resolve their fear, guilt or denial. These are things they must do for themselves:

“…I concluded long ago that they found the color of my skin inhibiting. This color seems to operate as a most disagreeable mirror, and a great deal of one’s energy is expended in reassuring white Americans that they do not see what they see.

This is utterly futile, of course, since they do see what they see. And what they see is an appallingly oppressive and bloody history known all over the world. What they see is a disastrous, continuing, present condition which menaces them, and for which they bear an inescapable responsibility. But since in the main they seem to lack the energy to change this condition they would rather not be reminded of it. Does this mean that in their conversation with one another, they merely make reassuring sounds? It scarcely seems possible, and yet, on the other hand, it seems all too likely. In any case, whatever they bring to one another, it is certainly not freedom from guilt. The guilt remains, more deeply rooted, more securely lodged, than the oldest of fears.

And to have to deal with such people can be unutterably exhausting for they, with a really dazzling ingenuity, a tireless agility, are perpetually defending themselves against charges which one, disagreeable mirror though one may be, has not really, for the moment, made. 0ne does not have to make them. The record is there for all to read. It resounds all over the world. It might as well be written in the sky. One wishes that – Americans–white Americans–would read, for their own sakes, this record and stop defending themselves against it. Only then will they be enabled to change their lives.

The fact that they have not yet been able to do this–to face their history to change their lives–hideously menaces this country. Indeed, it menaces the entire world.”

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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.

Why Political Correctness Must Die!

head up your assThe news of NBA team-owner Donald Sterling’s racist and bigoted comments concerning Black people, had citizens (especially Black citizens) of the United States in an uproar.

Liberal and progressive-minded Black folk voiced righteous indignation upon learning how the 80 year-old owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. Online petitions emerged. Facebook discussion groups debated whether Black athletes on the team should boycott, or if Black Clippers’ fans should take the lead in protest.

Next came official league sanctions when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Sterling was now banned for life from “any association with the Clippers or the NBA.” Silver explained the ban to mean that Sterling “may not attend any NBA games or practices, be present at any Clippers’ facility, may not participate in any business or player/personnel decisions regarding the team, or participate in any other league activity.” In addition, Sterling would have to pay a $2.5 million fine for his actions with the money going to civil rights organizations. Silver also said he would push for Sterling to sell the team. As writer Roger Groves noted in a Forbes article, despite all the statements of outrage by NBA owners, players, and the Commissioner Sterling still owns the Los Angeles Clippers.

I followed these events, in a serious effort to understand why this issue resonated so deeply with Black people, and to grasp what it revealed about the United States and racism. I observed the reactions of angry brothers and sisters on Facebook, Twitter, and street-corner conversations. I concluded that political correctness must die. I posted the following comments on Facebook (I edited the passage):

I believe political correctness dupes us into thinking this nation has changed its fundamental views of race. It fools us into naively thinking that racism is simply the expression of individuals rather than of institutions and systems. So we chastise Don Imus, Paula, or Donald Sterling for their beliefs, accept their bullshit apologies, slap them with a few social sanctions, and subconsciously think we’ve scored points against centuries of entrenched racism in America. Political correctness allows white radio and TV personalities, politicians, and NBA team-owners who also harbor racist assumptions and wield white privilege to get off the hook by simply declaring themselves different from their brethren who were “busted.” Lastly, political correctness and its focus on words diverts our attention and energy toward what people say, rather than public policies, law enforcement brutality, mass incarceration of Black and Brown people, corrupt and dishonest politics, poverty, and a long list of other more insidious offenses to our people. We think in effect, “We still get killed in the streets, locked up, treated like shit, miseducated, and discriminated against, but at least we came together and won THIS issue!” Sigh. As I posted on Facebook today:

When members of society have the authority to punish or ostracize people for making remarks deemed inappropriate, they can also make similar determinations for remarks that are controversial but voice truths or frustrations that need to be heard.

Allowing people the space and freedom to express themselves (even when controversial or inappropriate) might be preferable to creating a situation in which people keep their true views/thoughts hidden for fear of public reprisal, or in which things that need expression are repressed. When beliefs and values are hidden, we cannot engage them. And when we cannot engage them, we cannot resolve them.

So-called “political correctness” also creates the false belief that silencing or censoring people somehow silences or helps remove their oppressive and discriminatory views, as in the case with the Clippers owner. Lastly, as people in power typically are the ultimate definers of “truth,” political correctness can take a right-wing conservative turn in which entirely innocent and important forms of expression are labelled “wrong” “insensitive” or “inappropriate” to keep the masses ignorant of empowering information. Perhaps we should get our heads out of our &%% and really think and sort things out for ourselves…..

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Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. Agyei has appeared on C-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 truself143@gmail.com.

My Birthday Wishlist

me and parents

Today, April 25, 2014 is my 46th birthday. This article unlike all the others is about me. I am a little uncomfortable talking about myself, unless there is a lesson or some instruction involved. Nevertheless, it’s important sometimes to put our own lives in perspective and connect ourselves to humanity. 35-40 years ago my definition of “birthday” included balloons, cake, music, games, presents, and plenty of friends and family to celebrate with me.

My views about my birthday are now radically different (Rightly so, because it would be truly disturbing if my views and sensibilities hadn’t changed in 40 years, right?) Now, I use this day to reflect, give thanks for my blessings and conflicts, and think about the things I want to accomplish and how I want to improve for the next year.  

Today friends, relatives and acquaintances on Facebook will send happy birthday wishes. A small circle of close friends and family members will provide expressions of appreciation in the form of gifts or invitations to go out and celebrate at their expense.

I take none of these expressions of love lightly; Some of my beloved friends and loved ones did not live to see 46 years of life. I grew up in Harlem, New York during the 80s surrounded on all sides by street gangs, murderous police, random violence, failing schools, and a flood of illegal narcotics and guns. So in a very real sense I am grateful to be alive, especially when you consider that I had a stroke 14 months ago, and have made a full recovery.

According to this society I am a middle-aged man nearing the last third of my life. This is the time when I should focus on questions of personal health, career trajectory, mortality and legacy. But although a birthday is seen as a personal matter, I believe it provides us with an opportunity to look beyond ourselves, So I posed a question to myself: Agyei, what do you want, not just for or on your birthday, but in a larger and more humanitarian sense? This question is paramount because its answer directs my life and beliefs in so many ways. And because this birthday list will not be achieved in my lifetime, it fuels me with limitless energy and motivation. This also has implications and relevance for so many other people. So with all of that said, what do I want for my birthday and beyond?

  • An oath that adults of color will agree to mentor youth in their neighborhood, place of worship, or school. And that such adults will use my new book, “Truth for our Youth,” or any number of other educational tools to help prepare and empower our young people.
  • The release of all people imprisoned for their political beliefs throughout the world
  • Black control of counties/cities with majority Black populations
  • A spirit of self-reliance among Black people and other oppressed people that leads us to create our own institutions and solve our own problems without apology
  • Black and Brown people being appreciative of our history, culture and accomplishments, and loving ourselves as we are, hair, lips, hips, complexion and all
  • A willingness to stand up for ourselves, speak for ourselves, determine our own issues, standards, goals and definitions
  • A cease to America’s involvement in ALL wars, the removal of all military bases overseas, the use of that money for education, healthcare and social services, and an understanding that nations will rules themselves without interference from larger, bully nations
  •  A cooperative spirit among people to work together in various capacities to challenge injustice and oppression regardless of artificial and man-made divisions and differences among us
  • A government and media apparatus free from corporate control, truly representative of its citizenry, and focused on protecting and advancing all people
  • A criminal justice system that is fair and that holds members of the powerful elite to the same standards as everyone else
  • The disbanding of the Federal Reserve System. It is ridiculous that the Federal government would borrow money from a collection of private financial managers and print essentially counterfeit money, thereby creating a tremendous deficit numbering in the trillions of dollars every year along with inflation
  • A class of leadership that puts common people and their needs over their own and that does not sell out or bow to personal comfort, status, corporations, popularity, bribes or threats of death or imprisonment
  • An economic Bill of Rights for all American citizens as encouraged by Franklin Delano Roosevelt that articulates, protects and facilitates the right to leisure time, adequate income, housing, medical care, recreation, and retirement care

  • And lastly, an understanding among Black people that we will support – with mind, body, and finances – institutions, individuals and projects designed to defend, educate, liberate and empower us in various ways. With all the money we throw away on frivolous items there is no reason why worthy and committed Black musicians, artists, community leaders, authors, and business people should struggle to survive or be dependent on people and organizations that mean them no good. Buy Black. Help people promote their goods or services. Hire a Black attorney, agent, or accountant. Frequent Black venues. Purchase some books from Black authors. Donate time or resources to Black non profits that work to develop our community.

Oh, and a new laptop wouldn’t hurt either (I’m just serious…LOL)

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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-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba recently wrote his third book, “Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens.” If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at truself143@gmail.com

6 Issues Worthy of Your Interest and Activism

keep-learning-and-stay-informed

As we know, media stories hurl themselves at us from all angles, and with the addition of so many internet sources, we often find ourselves up to our ears in a flood of information. Our time and energy is limited so in this situation, we often find it difficult to determine what issues to care about and address.

The following are some stories/issues that are highly important and worthy of our righteous indignation and activism (in my humble opinion, of course). Keep a close eye on these stories as they directly impact us and point to the battlegrounds of current and future human rights issues.

1. Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens: In a blatant act of shameless self-promotion, I begin the list with my new book for teens. On a serious truth for youth covernote though, the book is so important because Black youth find themselves in such a disturbing and disadvantaged situation. Tons of special reports, studies, and our own observations help us understand the problems. Now we must DO something about it. My approach involves education and self-empowerment.

2. The fate of Affirmative Action in America: The universe works in harmony. When that equilibrium is disturbed, chaos, war and strife appears. Injustices must be rectified, and until they are, we will experience pain and suffering. There is no way around this. Unfortunately, some people believe Black people can undergo 100 years of Jim Crow segregation and discrimination in jobs and education, and that the universities and the Federal government should play no part in providing restitution or corrective measures. The Supreme Court recently upheld Michigan’s prohibition of Affirmative Action in public programs. Keep a close eye on this issue, and let your voice be heard via petitions, protests, articles, etc.

http://www.c-span.org/video/?65990-1/future-affirmative-action

3. Independent and Progressive Black electoral politics: The progressive Black World mourned the recent death of newly elected Jackson, Mississippi Mayor and longtime political activist, Chokwe Lumumba. His untimely death was a setback for grassroots politics, but the plan he operated from is still alive and well! Salute to the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (which Lumumba helped create) for developing this plan! A conscious and committed warrior has fallen and become an ancestor but the revolution continues until we are liberated! Lumumba’s son is now running for the Mayoral position vacated by his dad. Harambe to this young brother for stepping up to the plate. We too, should become familiar with the Jackson plan, engage Black folk in our communities, and implement this plan to the best of our ability in local political endeavors.

4. The Mass Incarceration of Black and Latino people: The prison industrial complex and the disproportionate number of Blacks and Latinos oppressed by it,  is not some hidden or clandestine issue. It is quite conspicuous in fact, and thenewjimcrow statistics are both mind-blowing and indisputable. The increasing privatization of prisons only adds to this deplorable phenomenon. Record numbers of our people find themselves unfairly placed in captivity and we must become more informed and do something to address this tragedy. One thing you can do immediately is read law professor Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

5. Immigration and the Mistreatment of Foreign-born people: The African Diaspora (African-descended peoples relocated by force or migration throughout the world) includes over 200,000,000 people throughout the world. In many cases, they face great mistreatment and disadvantage due to their foreign-born and non-white status. Latinos for example, are the largest ethnic group in the United States but they face great odds  attaining adequate education, gainful employment at fair wages, and they suffer from unfair profiling and incarceration. Despite differences in language, music and other customs, they are family and need our support.

6. American Public Education and the Hidden Agenda for Youth of Color: Every citizen of the United States is entitled to a free and adequate education, yet for Black and Latino youth, this promise remains unfulfilled. For the most part, American public schools are overcrowded and under-resourced,  and the vast majority of our youth are being set up to be a permanent and politically powerless underclass. But then again, this was the plan from the beginning of the 20th Century.

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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-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba wrote “The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook,” and most recently, “Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens.” If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak to your organization, contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

The Exploitation of Black College Athletes

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

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To be Black in America means (among other things) to exist in a constant state of detachment and illusion. For no one wants to repeatedly be reminded of their “otherness,” oppression, or exclusion. Rather than acknowledge such disturbing realities, we’d rather pretend all is well or at least not as disturbing as it actually is. Experts refer to this as “Cognitive dissonance.” We common folk simply refer to this as “living in denial.”

Seeking to remain numb and to minimize or escape the intense and dehumanizing pain of white supremacy and our failure to DO something to challenge it – out of feelings of fear or hopelessness – we insulate ourselves in the bubbles of work, recreation, drugs, simplistic optimism (“At least we have a Black president”), or the reliable tactic of willful ignorance (“I don’t know, and don’t want to know” or “Don’t blow my high”).

But bubbles are fragile and they only create very thin barriers between ourselves and the painful existence of injustice, exploitation and broken promises an arm’s length away. Inevitably,  a speech, report, or set of statistics emerges to “bust our bubble” of complacency and denial.

Such is the case with HBO’s episode of Real Sports entitled “Gaming the System, a look at NCAA student-athlete academic reform,” which aired on April 6, 2014. The segment exposed how major American universities exploit the talent and labor of student-athletes to enrich themselves, while short-changing athletes of their college education. View this episode for yourself, below:

The revelations concerning how Black athletes  deprived of their rightful education are shocking:

  • Star athletes at major colleges are often put into fake classes they never had to actually attend and for which they never personally registered.
  • At the University of Georgia, 7-15% of athletes in this  can’t read on a college level.
  • In one example, an athlete graduated from college despite failing 13 classes and 7 grades of “D.” HBO had that college graduate take a test. He scored 67% in reading, 26% in writing, and 20% in mathematics. His academic aptitude was that of a middle school student.
  • Many Black star athlete
  • HBO highlighted another Black athlete that kept a box of Dr. Seuss books hidden under his bed; he used them to teach himself to read.

When these students sign letters of intent to play at universities across this nation, they do so with the understanding that they will provide their athletic talent in exchange for a tuition-free college education. All signs show that they’ve been  cheated. Their athletic talent helps universities earn billions in lucrative media deals, ticket sales, and sports merchandise revenue, but many of these athletes graduate with degrees they can’t use to find gainful employment, start a business or much of anything else.

This is not to imply that all student-athletes are academically inadequate. Nor am I suggesting that exploited athletes and their families take no personal responsibility for bring academically proficient. But many of these universities – like most corporations – place profit margin over people and those disproportionately affected are Black student-athletes.

I recently wrote a new book entitled “Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens.” I’ve also written an article discussing the tragic status of Black youth in America. Stories like the one HBO reported bust our bubbles of denial and force us to recognize that our children, teens, and young adults are systematically steered away from self and community empowerment and steered towards inadequacy and incompetence. This situation is deplorable. After enslavement and Jim Crow, after the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, Black people are still denied a fair and adequate education!There is still an agenda to keep us impoverished and politically impotent! I am outraged. And you should be also.

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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-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba wrote “The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook,” and most recently, “Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens.” If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak to your organization, contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

3 Victories For Humanity at the 2014 Oscar Awards

Amry Oscar

The magnanimous fashion show and gossip mill doubling as an award show honoring thespians has come and gone once again. Indeed, the Academy Awards or “Oscars,” is no ordinary Awards show.

It is in fact, THE largest and most expensive promotional event for the Hollywood movie and fashion industry. It compels everyday citizens of America and the world to purchase and watch films they didn’t previously see (kind of like one long infomercial). This or that designer achieves, maintains, or loses prestige. We see the latest and most hip hairstyles.

We cannot forget that Hollywood is a huge propaganda machine. Much of the award show’s promotional and propagandist agenda is of course, lost on a worldwide audience seduced by its powerful pomp and pageantry.  Dazed by this “Wow” factor we seldom contemplate the role Hollywood plays in serving us underdogs, superficial sentimentality, and contrived consciousness to help us forget or excuse the many transgressions of “our” government.  

2014 oscars

And yet, even in this annual media and propaganda circus, there are occasional victories (even if largely symbolic) scored for humanity and things that matter. With all the obsession over clothing designers, celebrity anecdotes, red carpets, “selfies,” and the irrepressible antics of Ellen Degeneres, one could easily have missed the following victories for humanity at The 2014 Academy Awards. 

1. It exposed the world to the dehumanizing and exploitative enslavement of African people. The film “12 Years a Slave” – which won for Best Picture – was based on the book of the same name written by Solomon Northup. Northup’s autobiography chronicled the horrific experiences he endured as a free Black man tricked into traveling to Washington, D.C. for an employment opportunity, where he was sold into slavery.

With riveting performances by Chiwetel Ejiofor (who played Northup) and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o, along with excellent directing by brother Steve McQueen, this film reminds the entire world of America’s cruel bondage and mistreatment of our ancestors. With all the foolish and insulting talk by white conservatives and their Black lap dogs about America being “Post-racial,” and evolved on questions of race, the timing of this film was simply impeccable. “12 Years a Slave” holds a mirror of conscience and chastisement to a country that still attempts to trivialize the brutality of our enslavement along with its unthinkable degradation and lasting impact upon Black people today (despite the “apologies” of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress).

2. It Highlighted the Black woman’s immense beauty and talent. We are at least vaguely familiar with the historical propaganda which suggested that dark skin was a badge of inferiority, ugliness, and shame. In the case of Black women, the insults went on to include: licentious, crass, incompetent and many more. Sadly, we Black folk have sometimes internalized our rich hue as stigmatizing. And try as we might to disguise or dismiss this self-hatred, all we need do is examine the cosmetic choices some of us continue to make.

Our hue is still problematic for some of us and for some of the world, though others continue to covet and attempt to emulate our hue-manity. And even in, these times when dark skin is more trendy, we still find dark-complected women scarce in movies and on magazine covers. Ironic isn’t it, how the world’s first lupitablog(African) beauty aesthetic, is now devalued? Enter the gorgeous and talented new actress Lupita Nyong’o who won for best supporting actress.  Her debut performance in 12 Years a Slave was every bit as breathtaking as her flawless Hershey complexion, pronounced cheekbones and expressive eyes.  Equally impressive are her carriage, warmth, and easy grace. Her posture in the role, her anguished eyes and defiant spirit conveyed the pain of human bondage, the brutality of white male sexual domination, and the despair caused by the family-robbing nature of enslavement. If Lupita were a student in a typical American elementary school, she would likely have faced ridicule for her African origin and physical features as so many little girls do today. Her performance and her stunning beauty and humility to match, provide yet another model of African, dark Black skin and character for the world and for little Black girls living in a world that devalues them. To them, Lupita’s examples boldly proclaims: “Be proud of and comfortable with the skin you’re in, and bring honor to your ancestors while doing so.”

3. It exposed the ruthlessness and greed of the American Pharmaceutical industry/medical establishment, and the shameful mistreatment of people suffering with AIDS. The film “Dallas Buyer’s Club” is true story centered on  homophobe and womanizer Ron Woodroof, a Houston-based rodeo cowboy and electrician who suddenly learns he has a month to live due to his contraction of HIV. Desperate to prolong his life, he begins doing his own research on HIV and learns to his dismay that the prescribed medication (AZT) endorsed by the FDA does more harm than good to its users. He then learns of more effective alternative medications, but has no access to them because the FDA hasn’t approved them.

Defying the FDA and the American Pharmaceutical industry, Woodroof soon illegally travels to Mexico and other countries and begins to smuggle more effective medications into the United States from places like Japan, and creates a buyer’s club. Basically, for a $400 per month membership fee, club members have access to an unlimited supply of drugs to treat their HIV. While he encountered problems with law enforcement for his activities, Woodroof eventually lived for 7 years after his original diagnosis rather than the 30 days lifespan suggested by doctors. Matthew McConaughey won Best Actor for playing the role of Ron Woodroof in this movie and did an amazingly convincing job in his portrayal (he lost almost 50 pounds for the role).

This movie and McConaughey’s brilliant performance, highlights the greed and indifference of a medical/healthcare system that sometimes privileges profit over citizens’ health and the American government’s complicity through the Food and Drug Administration. It is indeed a shame that Woodroof’s greatest obstacle to receive effective HIV treatment was physicians, hospitals and the government itself. Equally shameful is the fact that U.S. citizens suffering with HIV and AIDS, especially those who are members of the LGBT community are treated in such insulting and degrading manners. Why should anyone have to create underground organizations, or participate in international drug trafficking just to receive medication for their illness? This is a damning critique of American medical and pharmaceutical industries supposedly responsible for ensuring our health.

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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-SpanNY1 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 to your organization, contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

25 Ways to Change the World

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1. Don’t take things personally
2. Don’t take or consume more than you really need
3. Express yourself clearly, fully and sincerely
4. Only disseminate accurate information
5. Expect the best for yourself and others
6. Organize your time and money
7. Treat others as you want to be treated
8. Use every chance you get to display gratitude for your blessings
9. Laugh, listen to good music, and enjoy the company of good people
9. Be balanced when criticizing others
10. Appreciate and implement the awe-inspiring power of silence and reflection
11. Know when to take a stand and when to sit down
12. Control your negative emotions
13. Think affirming and empowering thoughts
14. Forgive those who’ve offended you
15. Apologize to those you’ve offended
16. Look for and build on the best in other people
17. Define yourself
18. Develop and use your talents
19. Don’t whine or complain
20. Hold unjust people/institutions accountable
21. Raise children more spiritually empowered, intelligent, and talented than yourself
22. Be accountable for your own happiness
23. Be generous with your resources
24. Believe in and utilize “THE FORCE”
25. Do, say, write, build, organize, challenge, SOMETHING to make the world better

New Year’s Resolutions For Progressive People

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The new year of 2014 is drawing near everyone! Traditionally, we take this time to catch up with dear friends, and to reflect on the year that comes to a close. In my hometown of New York City, we gather downtown at Times Square braving the brisk temperatures with our party hats. whistles, and other New Year’s accessories – tilting our heads skywards to watch the famous ball descend while we countdown to the new year.

Along with these traditions, we typically attend midnight church service or enjoy extravagant parties. Perhaps the most important New Year’s tradition involves making resolutions, or vows to begin, end, or modify our personal habits for the purpose of self inprovement. The idea of planning to change or adopt new attitudes or habits in the New Year has its origins in ancient and more recent religious traditions when people made promises to deities. Changing one’s lifestyle to include healthier and more empowering choices is always a good idea. This article will list 10 empowering resolutions that progressive-minded people can make to both empower themseles and to help create a more humane and just society going forward into 2014:

1. This is a good time to seriously commit to stop unhealthy practices including smoking cigarettes, or using dangerous narcotics. These habits not only compromise our finances, but they also contribute to factors that lead to cancer, other diseases, and death! Much success , If you choose to quit smoking, or to stop consuming alcohol

2. Stop patronizing companies withracist hiring polcies or that harass women or people of color.

3. Save at least 10% of our income so that we are financially more secure at this time next year.

4. Start or join an organization comiitted to social justice or economic/political empowerment.

5. Make the commitment to mentor one one or a few young people in your community or family.

6. Identify one area of knowledge in which you are deficient and invest the next year to read books and do research to increase your mastery of this area.

7. Identify toxic people in your life (chronically negative, malicious, dishonest, counterproductive argumentative, and/or draining to your spirit). and distance yourself from them starting on New Year’s Day. This includes lovers, friends and relatives.

8. Pursue a new hobby or dream in the new year.
9. Identify a nonprofit organization whose work you respect and donate money to them or volunteer your time.

10. Get and keep your mind right! Study “The Law of Attraction, read the book “As a Man Thinketh,” and take charge of your thoughts!

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A Word About Mandela’s True Politics

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Greetings all! In light of the Nelson Mandela’s recent death, and the typical revisionist media surrounding revolutionary leaders upon their demise, I wanted to write an article reminding us of Mandela’s true politics. I noticed that nearly all media personalities and outlets highlight Mandela’s “willingness and ability to overcome bitterness and reconcile with his former oppressors.”

While this is true, the overwhelming focus on this one aspect of his leadership serves to obscure his revolutionary politics of resistance to the former rulers of South Africa and his longstanding relationship with nations/leaders deemed enemies of the state by the American government. International figures (Gaddafi, Arafat, and Fidel Castro among others) that assisted the anti-apartheid struggle, and whom Mandela deemed friends and comrades-at-arms, were bitterly denounced by America . We must look with suspicion upon those who claim to love and support Mandela and refer to him as a global icon, but demonize those Mandela himself respected and formed allegiances with. Additionally, as I noted on Facebook:

There is a need to put the importance of Nelson Mandela and his legacy in perspective. I am personally offended when politicians/leaders claim to support his activities in South Africa, but did/do not support such leaders, organizations and activities in America. Its time to expose the hypocrisy!

I came across an article addressing Mandela’s politics that I hope you’ll all read, because we must not revise and reconfigure a person’s legacy to our own liking, but truly understand a person according to their actual views, values and motivations.

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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-SpanNY1 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 to your organization, contact him at truself143@gmail.com.

Boardwalk Empire and it’s Portrayal of Black Leadership

Garvey Wisdom

 

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Jeffrey Wright as “Dr. Narcisse.”

The HBO series “Boardwalk Empire” (a show I watch faithfully) has taken a weird turn in storyline. This season they introduced a new character named Dr. Narcisse (played by Jeffrey Wright). Narcisse is a well-educated and articulate Black man who represents the Universal Negro Improvement Association. In the series, Dr. Narcisse is a smooth-talking proponent of Black solidarity on one hand and a notorious gangster and Heroin dealer on the other.

I take issue with this depiction of the UNIA. While Dr. Narcisse is a fictional character, the UNIA he supports was a real organization headed by Marcus Garvey. Depicting the UNIA as being associated with narcotics trafficking and gangsterism in Harlem is problematic and historically inaccurate.

It would appear that Garvey was attacked and smeared while alive and the assault continues in his death. But why was Garvey attacked? Garvey created the largest movement in our history. His Negro World newspaper had a circulation of  200,000negro world and was avidly read by Black people in America, Central America, Europe and Africa. Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay noted that the Negro World was the best edited newspaper in New York City.”

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Noble Drew Ali (Founder of the Moorish Science Temple) and Marcus Garvey founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

In addition, Garvey called upon Black people to rely on themselves, educate themselves, work together, be proud of their race and history, and unite with Blacks all over the world to create their own nation. He and the UNIA created Black business cooperatives, owned land, promoted Black art and culture, and called for the Africa to liberate itself from European colonial powers. It is no exaggeration to say that Garvey (along with Noble Drew Ali) influenced Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, the Rastafarian movement, the Black Arts and Consciousness Movement, and the Black Power movement.

White colonial powers and American corporate powers were threatened by Garvey’s effect on Black people all over the world. Spearheaded by a young J. Edgar Hoover and some Negro collaborators, Garvey was followed by the Bureau of Investigation (later known as the FBI) who placed paid informants in the UNIA. One of these informants, named Schuyler Cargill, later gave false testimony in court that he received mail from the UNIA, selling shares of stock for a ship that the organization actually didn’t own. This  charge of mail fraud was so fraudulent that garvey arrestedthe only piece of “evidence” provided by the prosecution was an empty envelope that they claimed contained the illegal stock advertisement! On this bogus charge, Garvey received a  sentence of 5 years in prison and began serving his term in 1925. Two years later, President Coolidge commuted his sentence and had Garvey deported back to Jamaica. Of course, this was J. Edgar Hoover’s plan in the first place. He wanted to destroy the Garvey movement in America (as early as October of 1919, Hoover wrote a memo indicating his disdain for Garvey and his intention to have him deported). 

So Boardwalk Empire’s latest misrepresentation of Garvey and his movement should not be taken lightly or disregarded as simply “harmless entertainment.” Properly understood, it is one instance in a long history of mischaracterizing Marcus Garvey in particular, and radical Black thinkers and movements in general. The FBI’s Counterintelligence Program, (designed to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or OTHERWISE NEUTRALIZE the activities of black nationalist hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters, and to counter their propensity for violence and civil disorder”) states this objective clearly in one memo when it notes, “in every instance careful attention must be given to the proposal to insure the targeted group is disrupted, ridiculed, or discredited through the publicity and not merely publicized…”

Another memo states that the fourth major objective of the Counterintelligence program was to: “Prevent militant black nationalist groups and leaders from gaining RESPECTABILITY, by discrediting them…” Notice the following scene and how they depict Dr. Narcisse (and therefore Garvey’s organization) as a hypocrite:

This misrepresentation of the UNIA on television must be seen within a historical context. There is a historical precedent for smearing, dismissing and distorting Black leaders and movements that dare unify and empower Black people while challenging those who oppress us. We tend to dismiss the significance of this as being “innocent fun” or “harmless entertainment.” But we fail to realize that every major violation of Black people (i.e. Trayvon Martin) follows dozens and hundreds of smaller violations that draw little to no outcry from us. When we fail to defend ourselves, our leaders, and our historical memory, we send a message to others that we are easy and non-threatening prey.

The Black community has no shortage of intelligence or talent. God knows we are some of white America’s most effective entertainers, athletes, managers, salespeople, defenders and promoters. Our deficiencies lie in the areas of consciousness, critical analysis, solidarity, and self-reliance. Far too often, we grin when we should growl. We dismiss things we should critique or protest. We ridicule what we should revere. And we defend what we should attack. It’s one thing to laugh, and it’s another thing to laugh when you’re the butt of the joke. So at the risk of being deemed too serious, unable to have fun, or too uptight, I will defend our sincere leaders and brave movements, and I humbly invite you to do the same. Marcus Garvey was no dope dealer,nor was the UNIA. He was one of our greatest, most influential, and inspiring leaders. If Hollywood or cable had a dramatic series that depicted John F. Kennedy, Jane Adams, or Albert Einstein as gangsters or dope dealers, there would be an outcry. Only people who don’t love/value themselves mistake abuse and violation for entertainment. Let’s get it together, Black people. Let’s not suffer peacefully…

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