Why We Must Support Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby

marilynmosby

In case you’ve missed national news over the past two weeks, Marilyn J. Mosby is the recently elected State’s Attorney for Baltimore, Maryland. She is a shero, and a rather unlikely one. At just 35-years old, she is the youngest person in the United States to hold such a powerful position in a major city. She’s only been in the position for about 4 months.

mosby

Why is Mrs. Mosby a shero? Most times when police kill unarmed, innocent and non-threatening Black people, cops either are not criminally charged, or they are exonerated in court. Marilyn Mosby not only charged six Baltimore police officers involved in Freddy Gray’s death, she did it in public and bold fashion, reading the entire report from her office for Baltimore citizens and the press. Unprecedented.This is a much heralded but rarely displayed quality called “transparency.” Watch the entire press conference below and notice her passion and conviction.

Her speech clearly explained all the events involved in the cops’ interaction for Freddy Gray on April 12, 2015. She identified by name the officers involved and their respective criminal charges. Moreover, she took time to acknowledge national protests against police brutality, mention her intention to make sure the law applies to everyone, and empathize with youth rebels while cautioning them to protest peacefully while she guides the case going forward.

To summarize: She made a distinction between “good” cops in Baltimore and those involved in Gray’s death. She discussed how her office conducted a thorough independent investigation into the incident, in addition to how they worked with local police. She explained that Gray was illegally arrested. She detailed how police used excessive force and how they all failed to get Gray the medical attention that might have saved his life. She mentioned that the medical examiner ruled Gray’s death a homicide likely caused by injuries Gray sustained while riding in a police van without a seat-belt. She reminded the public that she appreciates cops and has no vendetta against ALL law enforcement, by mentioning that both her parents, many aunts and uncles, and her grandfather was a cop. She thanked (peaceful) protesters. She encouraged peaceful and productive rallies by Baltimore residents to “develop structural and systemic changes for years to come.” In short, she demonstrated tremendous courage, competence, transparency, clarity, and empathy for local and national victims of police misconduct.

But her exemplary, decisive, and solution-oriented leadership didn’t end with that press conference. Mosby has also dropped charges against Baltimore residents who violated the unlawful curfew imposed by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ( it turns out only the Governor had such authority). She also created the Aim to B’More Program, which provides educational and employment assistance to first-time nonviolent drug offenders, leading their criminal records to be expunged. Unlike typical heartless prosecutors “just doing their job,” Mosby seeks to transform her job, by providing social services to those needing them in an effort to prevent young people from becoming life-long criminals/inmates.

From where I sit, THIS is the type of visionary and transformative leadership needed in America’s oft-neglected urban centers. She gives hope to the hopeless, acknowledges and attempts to remedy problems, and holds racist police accountable (I wouldn’t be surprised if Mosby runs for Mayor in Baltimore one day). Just take look at the speech she delivered when she ran for State’s Attorney:

Of course, certain whites, the Baltimore police union, and others can’t stand to see a strong and intelligent Black woman take police thugs to task. In the traditional old-boy’s network, the prosecution sides with the police and helps hide and defend their misconduct. Mosby is the new sister in town, who understands and relates to the suffering of her people, and the forces-that-be can’t stand to see any departure from their unfair protocol on OUR behalf. Notice the Fox News commentary:

Predictably, forces in Baltimore are moving against to discredit, defame and generally sabotage Marilyn Mosby and all of us by extension. Both the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police and the attorneys representing the six officers are calling for Mosby to step down and or appoint an independent prosecutor. Their goal is not simply to exonerate thug police officers, but to intimidate and crush Black leadership an organized movements for Black liberation.

This leaves Black folk with an important responsibility. We must support Marilyn J. Mosby in an organized and public manner. She put her job and career on the line for us, and we stand in solidarity behind her. Please sign this petition calling on Mrs. Mosby to stay on her job and keep fighting the good fight. We can’t have it both ways. When Black people in high positions, fail or betray us, we attack them, but when someone stands up for us, and sticks their neck out, we fail to support them. Please read, sign and share this petition!

______________________________

 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.

Why We have a Black President, and Black Voter Participation, But No Political Power

malcolm blackpowerIt disturbs me that nearly two decades into the 21st century, so many of us believe that having a Black president, or thousands of Black elected officials, translates to actual Black political power. This article will briefly address that misunderstanding.

Famous figures like Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Ho Chi Minh, Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X theorized on about political power. Their thoughts are all a matter of public record via speeches, books and websites, which I encourage everyone to explore. I define as “The ability to meet objectives, secure goods, services, and support for one’s group/constituents, and to protect and advance group interests regardless of opposition.”

This power I write of is not innate; The group must develop, organize, and express it effectively. In one sense, it derives from effectively organizing group economic strength, and developing a group consciousness of pride, assertiveness, solidarity and shared interests/agendas (racial, ethnic, religious, ideological, geographic, gender, etc).

This self-empowerment component however, will not by itself create genuine or lasting political power. Building strong, independent bases of power is essential, but not sufficient. The question becomes, “How does this empowered group stop competing or opposing groups from sabotaging its agenda, harming its citizens, destroying its thriving business districts, and institutions or passing legislation to limit its freedom?”

This brings us to the more defensive component of political power… a component I might add, that Black people generally do not exercise. In addition to developing the ability to independently sustain, express, and effectively organize itself, the group must have the capacity to help or threaten the finances, influence, image, property, safety, and self-interests of the ruling elite or other groups. This has obvious implications concerning propaganda/media, armed defense, lobbying, and other things that don’t need further elaboration (watch “The Godfather” part I and II for a better understanding).

When we examine the question of power within these parameters, we quickly realize that the presence of Black elected officials doesn’t measure up. At last count, there are approximately 10,500 such people. This number includes The President, United States Senator and Representatives, mayors, governors, state senators, city council members, district attorneys, and countless other positions. We should also note that Black voter participation in the United States has increased since years past. In 2012 for example Blacks voted at a higher rate than whites in national elections. That year, 1.7 million new Black voters emerged to lift Barack Obama to a second presidential term.

When we consider this fact along with an estimated Black purchasing power of $1.1 trillion, and the highest number of Black college graduates in our history, we should see a set of positive outcomes with respect to the protection of our civil liberties, at minimum. Instead, we find ourselves still championing traditional routes to empowerment that rarely pay dividends for Black people collectively.

If our politicians are in the pocket of corporations, are bought off by lobbying groups representing another group’s agenda, or don’t see themselves as beholden to and advocates for Black people, they are not truly OUR politicians.If we have no agreed upon agenda, no lobbying groups to persuade politicians to support it, and no organized power behind it, we have no political power, just the semblance of such.

If we had actual rather than symbolic political power, we wouldn’t need to assert that our lives matter, or remain victims of unbridled police violence….Unfortunately, the (very bad) joke is still on us….

_____________________

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.

Making Black History Month Relevant Part II

black history matters

As Black History Month approaches,we face the typical avalanche of Black firsts, Black trivia facts, and a roll-call of all-too-familiar heroes and sheroes. Based on where you are in knowledge of self, these things have their place. I already wrote one article on the topic of using Black History Month (and all other months) much more fully than we currently do. This article constitutes the second part to that article.

As suggested in my first article,  I hope BHM becomes a time when we do more analysis of our condition and focus on learning and applying those lessons on the ground rather than in strictly theoretical ways. Imagine with me how beneficial it would be if BHM involved:

1. re-examining our understanding of key people like Malcolm X, Dr. King and others whose work and significance are routinely oversimplified and misinterpreted.

2. Discussing the concept of self-determination for Black people and how to implement this concept responsibly. Far too many people (including those of color) STILL insist on telling us what  issues to address, how to address them, and how to be more inclusive, without doing that same work in their own communities.

3. Exploring historical attempts to protect Black life (beyond proclamations that our lives matter)  from state-sponsored AND self-inflicted brutality.

4. Developing our people’s capacity to identify and prioritize issues, articulate them effectively, and engage in effective activism, organizing and INSTITUTION–BUILDING (the work of SNCC and Ella Baker are good models). This would include offering valid critiques of traditional organization and activism models and possibly creating alternatives or modifications to already existing models.

5. Studying government efforts to disrupt, spy on and destroy our organizations/movements and developing ways to neutralize these efforts

6. Finding ways to involve class and gender along with racial analysis in ways that make our political ideology/organizing more accurate, effective, and inclusive.

7. Determining how, when, and with whom to form alliances and to do so in ways that don’t compromise or dismiss our own needs/interests as we strive to accommodate others.

8. Identifying and studying unsung and obscured Black people, plans, experiences and organizations that might offer direction and remedies to problems we face today

9. Exploring ways to develop non-exploiting financial literacy and wealth-generating institutions to empower our communities to be more self-sufficient

10. Creating curricula in conjunction with a network of schools and extracurricular programs that make our children culturally, academically, financially, politically and spiritually literate and competent

11. Deconstructing and expanding our view of “activism” in addition to our understanding of who our “enemies” are. While others dominate and exploit us in every way imaginable, some of us hold on to outdated and rigid ideas of what “real activism” is. Technology and emerging issues and new forms of domination require expanded and more diverse views of organizing and activism. We also cannot afford to see our enemies as simply “the white man,” as corporate power and repressive policies/actions transcend simplified notions of racial affiliation. Nor can we fool ourselves into thinking that activism only consists of the “boots-on-the-ground” variety.

In addition, our concept of booking speakers must radically change. Churches, community centers and colleges have meager funds in these days of austerity. In light of this, speakers must make their fees more reasonable. Groups should not exhaust all or the majority of their budget to hire one speaker.

Not just the fee, but the content of speeches must change as well. Students, activists and members of the larger community need specific information and skills more than ever. The old Black History Month speech template included references to our ancient greatness, calls for Black unity and activism, bold statements against the U.S. government, references to great ( and often male) Black leaders, and a focus on attacking white society while inspiring Black folks.

This template and formula are not sufficient today. Today’s speakers must help audiences understand how oppression works, provide specific tools/information in a relevant area of expertise, and provide materials we can reference once they depart for their next speech. Speakers should consult with the group hiring them to determine their specific needs, so they can provide relevant and useful information rather than generic, one-size-fits-all presentations. We must move forward, refine, and progress as a people, constantly working on improving and becoming more effective.

___________________________

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

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

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

Tribute to Chokwe Lumumba: The Brother You Never Heard Of

chokwe 1

When word came that Chokwe Lumumba -the recently elected Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi – died of heart failure on February 25, 2014, most Black people hadn’t even heard of him.

Those who were familiar with Lumumba, knew him as a proud Black man (“New Afrikan”), revolutionary, attorney for Black political prisoners (including Assata Shakur and Geronimo Pratt), founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and former Vice President of the Republic of New Afrika. Given his tremendous

Lumumba's book providing legal arguments for reparations.

Lumumba’s book providing legal arguments for reparations.

contributions to Black people, this article will highlight Lumumba as the activist and revolutionary he was. Given the widespread media blackout of Lumumba, his Mayoral win, and his general significance,  this is most important. There are at least 4 things we should all know about brother Chokwe Lumumba in order to understand his monumental significance:

1. He was a revolutionary and important figure of the Black Power Movement. Chokwe served in official capacity as a member of the Republic of New Afrika, which was a Black Nationalist organization that among other things, A.) called for America to pay Black people reparations for
repnewafrikacenturies of Black unpaid labor and suffering and  B.) wanted an independent Black nation to be created from the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Lumumba served as Minister of Justice and Vice President of the organization.  The clip below shows RNA founder Milton Henry (later Gaidi Abiodun Obadale) speaking about the organization.

Also, check out the New Afrikan Creed.

2. He was a humanitarian and activist attorney. In 1975, Lumumba graduated Cum Laude from Wayne State University Law School. Three years later he began his own law firm. For the next few decades, he would go on to represent Assata Shakur, Geronimo Pratt, Fulani Sunni Ali, and several other wrongly accused Black activists.

3. He was an institution-builder. As an undergraduate at Kalamazoo College, he formed the Black United Front to push for the formation of Black Studies Departments in the late 60s. In 1987 he co-founded N’COBRA (National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America). He also went on to co-found the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.

4. He was a public servant. From 2009-2013, Lumumba served on the Jackson, Mississippi City Council and on June 4, 2013 was elected Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi which had a former reputation for virulent racism. Below is a clip from Democracy Now announcing Lumumba’s Mayoral win.

With all of this activist history and public service background, why was Chokwe Lumumba so anonymous to Black people in America? How come so few Black folk I spoke to even recognized his name? Precisely because of his activist history! To give Lumumba media coverage would be to raise awareness of an educated and conscious revolutionary who boldly advocated  for Black people, never sold out, compromised his politics, or abandoned his mission over several decades.

These are qualities sorely lacking in leadership today, particularly in Black elected officials. I suspect the corporate media was none-to-eager to reinvigorate a national discussion on reparations, Black Nationalism, and independent Black politics. So they simply didn’t cover it. Strangely enough, they were much more vigilant about reporting his sudden and unexpected death…..

Brother Lumumba’s election excited many of us who saw his victory as an important historical precedent: An uncompromised Black Nationalist and humanitarian with a proven level of community commitment and loyalty, elected as Mayor! We anxiously followed him, looking forward to both his policies and their reception. People like myself who see some potential in local politics, believe Lumumba’s win signaled a tactic we should explore in other municipalities with majority Black populations. I saw in him a tangible expression and manifestation of the independent political spirit, protest, and institution-building brother Malcolm spoke about. Sadly, brother Lumumba’s mission was prematurely aborted….

Yet the struggle continues.Salute to this great man, whose life ended before his mission! May the Creator be pleased with him and bless his family, and may we learn from and continue his legacy…..

___________________

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.

Black Empowerment Series: How To Evaluate a Presidential Candidate in 5 Steps

Print

My distaste for national party politics and its relevance for Blacks in the United States is well-documented.  I am skeptical of whether our votes in national elections translate to real advantages/gains for our community.

Everything I learned about political power I learned by watching “The Godfather” I and II and studying Black  grassroots activism throughout the last 5 decades.

If I support any politics at all, it is the grassroots version (organizing our community, building independent institutions, radical journalism, protest movements) and local politics like those of the late, great Chokwe Lumumba in Jackson, Mississippi.

For the most part, I believe national elections are a sham – a ritual completely dominated by corporate campaign contributions, military and finance lobbies, and all the senseless patriotism and propaganda one can hope for.

Despite  my personal apprehensions however, millions in our community do believe and participate wholeheartedly in Presidential elections. For those of you who do, I simply say, “If you’re going to support someone’s campaign and vote for a candidate, you should be armed with the correct information to help you make informed choices. This article will help you do that.

For too long we’ve given precedence to peripheral candidate criteria like physical attractiveness, humor, speaking ability, party affiliation and even the likability of a candidate’s family!

Party politcs in America is a complex game, for even worthy candidates may have ulterior motives while those of good character may be compromised by corporate coercion or influence. With that in mind, here’s my suggestions:

1. There is no fool-proof method of predicting a candidate’s future behavior,  but the best predictor of future performance is one’s past performance. Therefore we must research a candidate’s past policies, legislation, voting record, and speeches. There are websites which record every city, state, and Federal politician’s information in this regard. Check your City Council, State or Congressional website. Votesmart.org is one of the most comprehensive sites in this regard. It provides a detailed biography, legislative record, candidates’ positions on issues, speeches, funding, and ratings. You can enter your zip code and identify your representative.

The Skeleton Closet exposes scandals or questionable activities of U.S. Presidential candidates, though it has yet to include candidates for the 2016 election.

The ACLU posts good content on a variety of civil/human rights issues and usually has a candidate’s guide.

You also have the option of visiting ISidewith. Com. You can take a quiz and on your political beliefs and the site will determine which of the candidates most side with your views.

2. In addition to the first point, you want to know how a candidate stands on specific issues you care about like healthcare, police brutality, employment, education, etc. While listening to speeches is useful, the more accurate indicator of one’s position on issues is reflected in how they’ve voted on the issues, or what legislation they’ve supported or opposed regarding these issues.

3. Politicians generally work hardest for the people/organizations that most support them financially. You must determine the major sources of a candidate’s campaign contributions. People usually contribute to candidates that are relevant to their political agendas. Is the person supported by unions, teachers, pharmaceuticals, or Wall Street? Each of these backers reveals the politics of a candidate and who he or she is most likely to support if elected to office. The website Open Secrets provides a general and financial profile for each  Democratic, Republican, and Independent Presidential candidate.

4. Identify a candidate’s past and present political mentors and associates. Birds of a feather flock together, right? Knowing who taught or influenced a candidate provides you with important information from an interpersonal angle.

5. Read what the candidate’s opposition says about he or she. Be familiar with common criticisms of a candidate. Political opposition almost always has negative views about a candidate. But where else are you going to learn about his/her shortcomings, failures and conflicts? There are often kernels of truth hidden in the piles of propaganda spewed by political opposition. Take advantage of this when doing your research.

You will also want to know if what a candidate says is true. This vs be difficult given that every candidate has experts and statisticians on his/her payroll. the Internet makes this task easier. You can research this by visiting FactCheck.org.

If you choose to exercise your right to vote in America, you should do so responsibly. This means you should have the inclination and tools to adequately research candidates’ ideas, history and interests. I’ve provided a very basic framework outlining steps to take toward understanding politicians and making responsible voting choices.

_________________________

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 Word About Mandela’s True Politics

mandela

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.

______________________

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.

I Ask Black People: What is the Prize?

question-mark

Peace and blessings, dear readers. I come to you today with a very serious question for you to ponder. Our understanding of this question and our collective answer to it, will have major ramifications for our liberation/civil rights/Black Power agenda going forward. Our answer to this question and our implementation of those answers, will partly determine the future of our people. Quite simply, the question is, “What is the prize?”

To provide some historical context and perspective, our enslaved ancestors might have seen the prize as the ending of enslavement in America. But they inevitably saw the limitations of this answer after the 13th Amendment was passed, and their exploitation transformed from being chattel slaves to being sharecroppers without land or property and victims of convict leasing.

Those who were disenfranchised and could not vote might have viewed the prize as the right to vote. They too, likely saw the limitations of their vision once grandfather clauses, gerrymandering, and literacy tests were implemented to rescind this right.

Those Blacks who languished under a century of Jim Crow laws – Apartheid American style – saw the prize as being the elimination of segregation in public facilities and schools. They likely applauded the Brown vs. Board Supreme Court decision and the victories of the Civil Rights Movement’s attack on segregation. But their applause was premature, as they discovered schools were just as segregated 30 years later, their children performed dismally in public schools, and all the Affirmative Action policies designed to aid them were now used by whites to marginalize them once again.

Participants of the Black Power movement, specifically radical college students, intellectuals and activists partly saw the prize as the development of Black Studies Departments and Black Student Unions on college campuses, along with the establishment of independent Black political/educational/artistic institutions and the development of conscious Black elected officials, intellectuals, and professionals. They too surely cringe in disappointment as they see Black Student Unions largely become social clubs or true Black Studies fighting for its very existence while the others operate more like traditional academic departments and centers for vulgar careerists rather than the center of radical Black theory and community think tanks they were envisioned to be. The leaders of Black radical political thought that were not killed, imprisoned or co-opted,  are now old and desperately calling out for younger conscious leadership that doesn’t seem to hear their call.

In 2008, millions of Black people saw the prize as the election of Barack Obama, a Black man to the presidency. Over 95% voted for him as his politics of hope and change, only to see him become the charismatic face of American imperialism.

Perhaps the genre with the most potential for revolutionary energy – Hip Hop – has largely become mute on questions of social justice and liberation, clearly steered toward the yellow-brick road of materialism, misogyny, hypersexuality, fratricide and obsessive self-love.

As professor Michelle Alexander suggests in her book the New Jim Crow, we’ve abolished slavery only to see millions of our brothers and sisters criminalized and locked away where they work almost for free in America’s ever-growing prison population.

Even the school reform movement is dominated by corporate charter schools by with condescending views of our children, ulterior motives and draconian disciplinary procedures.

So what, Black people is the prize for us today?The accumulation of assets and capital? Independent institutions? More “Black” elected officials? Jesus’ return? More college graduates? A large Black middle class? Better schools?

Whatever our collective response to this question is, I pray that we will consider the question itself very seriously against the backdrop of all our hopes and dreams in the past. I hope we will consider all the legislation, political movements, elected officials and ministries before answering. Because in my humble opinion, we’ve been duped at every historical moment when it relates to “the prize.” Our future in this country and that of our progeny, calls upon us to answer this question comprehensively and wisely….

____________________

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, please contact him at 872-222-6764 or truself143@gmail.com

Why the President Changed His Tune

Obama

So I heard the President’s press conference remarks regarding Trayvon Martin’s murder and the Zimmerman verdict. I’ve also reviewed various people’s remarks to Obama’s latest statement on the incident.

 Some are relieved to hear the President speak more deeply to the issues of race, racial injustice, the unfair treatment Black men receive in this society and how the legacy of anti-black violence and oppression have colored the way Black people view the criminal justice system.

 Others were impressed with the President’s sober and personal statements including his recognition of how Blacks continue to be mistreated and mischaracterized. Finally, there was his discussion of ways to prevent such tragedies in the future (work with state and local police departments to revise their training procedures, encourage states to reconsider the validity of  “Stand your ground” laws, and discuss ways to empower and support Black boys).

 I too felt this statement was far more fitting of a national leader than his initial statement following the Zimmerman verdict. It was more sensitive, more reflective, did more to help people understand Black people’s perspective on the issue, and it posed some  actions and resolution.

 Yet we should not be naïve enough to believe that the president came to express this radically different tone and content on his own. As he himself suggested (“watching the debate over the course of the last week I thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit”) his more reflective and corrective remarks come on the heels of mass protests, rallies, and strong national criticism of how he handled the incident.

 Let this be an important lesson for those who fail to be critical of elected officials or who fail to take a stand against injustice. Take notice that grassroots activism, and informed political critique account for Obama’s new and enhanced perspective! Our collective outcry is responsible for pushing the president off of the fence on this issue. Let those who suggested we “not bring this issue to the president,” or who asked, “What do you want the president to do?” observe that the president himself (when pushed to) now says “are there some concrete things that we might be able to do,” and “I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case,” and that we should “ figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they’re a full part of this society and that — and that they’ve got pathways and avenues to succeed.”

 Respect and love then, to those who protested, rallied, signed petitions, and criticized the president despite those who opposed our efforts. Our activities pushed the president to take his new position and we should recognize that. On another note, I should remind those who question the president’s ability to intervene, to study the Civil Rights Movement. Didn’t our continued activism and critique of presidential administrations lead President Lyndon Johnson to push for and sign both the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act? Have we forgotten the demands raised by Civil Rights activists during the March on Washington were targeted to President Kennedy? Have we forgotten that these demands included:

  • the passage of meaningful civil rights legislation
  • the elimination of racial segregation in public schools
  • protection for demonstrators against police brutality
  • a major public-works program to provide jobs
  • the passage of a law prohibiting racial discrimination in public and private hiring
  • a $2 an hour minimum wage
  • self-government for the District of Columbia

Yet today we insist that we don’t bring any demands to the president? This is why we must seriously study and embrace our history. Doing so empowers us to take accurate and empowering rather than apolitical and self-defeating positions in the first place. And so, the struggle continues….

_________________

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, please visit his page at the Great Black Speaker’s Bureau.

What The President Can Do….

checklist

Earlier today I posted the following quote on my Facebook page, which was generally well-received:

The construct of “race” was specifically created by the minority white elite for the purposes of justifying their false notions of having superior intellect, ethics, and abilities. It was also used to keep poor Blacks and whites fighting among each other and allowing the elite whites to maintain their power and wealth, unscathed. That this strategy has been overwhelmingly effective is perhaps best illustrated by the alarmingly uncritical support AND rejection the American public shows for president Obama despite his actual record. Therefore, many whites reject him simply because he’s Black, and many Blacks support him because he’s Black, and BOTH are wrong to do so. Our sincere support or rejection of ANY elected official should stem from an accurate analysis of his/her policies and practices and the manner in which they affect us. Being duped by a Black man vs. being duped by a white man is in the end, the same thing: You’ve been duped….

Furthermore I noted:

For example, the brothers and sisters that attack me for criticizing the president become very upset and take great offense…..but they cannot logically disagree with or counter my position. Most of their time is spent defending why he can’t take a certain position, or how he’s trying to do his best, or why we are being disloyal. But they can provide little to no evidence to defend their position in terms of his policy and actions. I’ve even heard people say, “He’s just the president, you can’t bring your problems to him.” Well if this is true, why did so many of us vote for him in the first place? Go figure….

I have written a number of articles which are critical of Obama’s policies, actions, or statements. I have labored to show and prove that president Obama has for the most part, not delivered on the promises he made during his first run for office, and that in certain cases, has directly contradicted them. In one article, I exhaustively listed and provided links to approximately 15 such examples. Because I’ve arrived at these positions based on researching both independent and establishment sources, I stand unequivocally by my conclusions.

Yet, there are still some Black folks that not only defend Obama, but attack me and worse, do so without being able to support their positions or refute mine! As suggested in my quote above, our “support” of an elected official cannot be based on the president’s racial designation, charm, dance moves, humor or any other incidental characteristic. Blindly supporting someone despite overwhelming evidence of their misdeeds is not a sign of patriotism or loyalty, but of cowardice and ignorance. This lack of critical analysis is disturbing because it suggests that many of our people have been duped and lack the honesty and integrity to admit it and move forward.

Those people who disagree with my perspective on Obama often write in exasperation, “Well what do you want the president to do?” Others insist that we should stop taking our complaint to the president because it’s not his job to address our issues, or that he cannot do so because he would risk being perceived as partial to Black interests. Such logic begs the question, “Then why did we spend so much energy to elect a man whom we cannot address issues to, seek relief from, or help solve our problems?” Aren’t these the reasons why we elect candidates for president or any elected office? Or have my beloved Black people become so desperate and hopeless that we will blindly support those who make themselves unaccountable to us?

Well unlike my critics, I hold the president accountable for helping to lead this nation and helping to address its problems. As many like to say, “He’s the president of all American citizens.” This is true, but Black people comprise a part of American citizenry as well. As far as I can tell, Obama is not afraid to throw serious support behind Jews, the gay community, and big business. It would be nice if Black people and poor people got a little bit or presidential love as well! So in light of the question “What do you want the president to do?” I’ve come up with some specific answers addressing a range of issues:

  1. Close all military bases in foreign countries
  2. Use federal authority/pressure to end the “stand your ground” law or its equivalent in all states
  3. Remove all troops from foreign lands within 6 months and end all wars or military actions abroad
  4. Revamp federal college student loan procedures to ensure that students/families are not denied loans because of their parents’ credit history or score
  5. Stop giving billions of dollars of aid to support totalitarian regimes or any regimes for that matter.
  6. Bring an immediate end to drone strikes against foreign people and U.S. citizens
  7. Immediately destroy your “kill list” and instead support the right of people to be tried or punished in their native country
  8. Push for legal reforms that will challenge the way America disproportionately criminalizes Black and Latino men, often imprisoning them for victimless crimes.
  9. Push to end the practice of imprisoning people addicted to drugs; Instead steer them to rehabilitation
  10. Push for legislation to make it illegal for American corporations to base headquarters or operations overseas. This unethical practice leads to high American unemployment, allows corporations to work around labor laws, and contributes to sweatshop labor characterized by horrendous work conditions and low wages for foreign workers
  11. As a former constitutional law professor, you are well aware of how your attempts at surveillance of citizen’s phone calls, emails, and social media activities infringe upon their right to privacy. Bring an immediate end to these efforts and programs
  12. Given the outrageously high frequency of murder in your hometown of Chicago and other urban areas, along with vast levels of unemployment and deprivation, declare such places national disaster areas (modify the law if necessary) which will free up federal money to aid in gang prevention, teacher recruitment/school development, social services and job training/development

Now back to my beloved brothers and sisters: WAKE UP, CLEAN UP, and STAND UP!

_________________________

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, please visit his page at the Great Black Speaker’s Bureau.

Regarding Obama’s Statement on the Zimmerman Verdict

trayvon injustice As if the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was not insulting and hurtful enough, President Obama, one day after the verdict, gave the following official statement:

___________________________________________________________________

The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.

_______________________________________________________________________

I personally read this statement and thought, “The president – just like white conservatives – is more concerned with preventing Black rebellion and retributive violence, than he is with ensuring justice for Trayvon Martin.” We cannot take his statement lightly. It means that the American preoccupation with Black violence, rather than anti-Black violence, has now been reaffirmed by the presumed leader of America himself. And yet, none of these obsessions have thus far proven valid.

Even Obama’s hometown newspaper the Washington Times, noted yesterday that the majority of the protests in connection to the verdict have been peaceful. Yesterday activists and outraged citizens held protests in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, Boston, San Diego, Oakland, and of course Sanford, Florida. With the exception of some graffiti and flag burnings in Oakland, protesters maintained civility.

Nevertheless, Miami police began engaging in civil unrest training since at least a week ago, though according to one police official, they haven’t done such training in two years. Clearly these actions stemmed from worries of rioting after the verdict, even if the police won’t admit it. As I reported earlier, Sanford police were meeting with local preachers to work on preventing violence after the trial. Just four days ago 20 pastors met with the police to discuss joint plans to ensure post-trial peace.

While reasonable people can understand the universal concern for peace, it is nevertheless disconcerting that the attention of many white citizens, law enforcement agents, social commentators, and now the president, has consistently focused on potential Black violence rather than justice for the 17 year-old victim of anti-Black violence. Truth be told, the actual problem that has persistently confronted America has been the THREAT of Black violence as a RESPONSE to the EXISTENCE of actual white violence. And the greatest legal contradiction in America has been the questionable prioritization (Michael Vick sentenced to 3 years for running a dog fighting ring while Zimmerman goes free after killing an unarmed teen) and blatant hypocrisy exercised in how America interprets law where non-Black vs. Black people are involved  (the legal treatment of Zimmerman as opposed to that of Marissa Alexander).

The president’s call for peace, calm and discussions of gun control therefore fell on millions of deaf American ears. To my knowledge Black people in THIS country have exhibited almost supernatural compassion and understanding for centuries. Even during the turbulent sixties and seventies, when our people were at their most militant, how many white people did we kill? How many of their places of worship did we burn? How many Black militants led urban guerrilla warfare raids against whites? How many racists did we lynch, rape, torture or frame for murder? Indeed, Black people paid their dues in this country with blood, sweat, and tears, surviving enslavement, Jim Crow and all the brutality, denigration, and exclusion that accompanied these injustices. And when we did “revolt” in the latter half of the 20th century, most of the casualties (people and property) occurred in our own neighborhoods! Interestingly, with all this focus on (potential) Black violence, the American judicial system/law enforcement apparatus, along with hyper-paranoid white citizens, seems to excuse if not implicitly support, violence against Black people. And this is the sad reality that left an acidic taste in our collective mouths when jurors pronounced George Zimmerman not guilty.

Furthermore, as violent as president Obama and his administration are in Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan, as many drone strikes as he’s commissioned, as many individuals as he’s placed on his once secret “kill list,” he  has little moral authority to discuss “peace” or “compassion” or at least to do so with a straight face.

Perhaps I speak for others when I suggest that we don’t need the president to give us moral platitudes. We have spiritual leaders for that; We don’t need the president to suggest we create compassion and understanding in our communities. We have spiritual and community activists and educators/social workers already doing that; Nor do we need him to suggest we discuss and create a plan for gun control. THAT’S what we elected president Obama and other public officials to do. Do you see the irony here?

While Obama directed his statement to all American citizens, it’s paternalistic tone and content sounded much like that he’s typically employed when speaking to all-Black audiences (like the NAACP and Urban League for example). He’s fond of telling Black students to study hard rather than play video games, telling Black parents to guide  their children properly and restrict their TV-watching, and telling Black people to educate and empower themselves rather than idly complaining and finger-pointing.

The problem with this approach of course (besides the fact that it promotes and empowers troubling Black stereotypes), is that the president is not an ethical, educational or parental expert or leader. He is in fact, a political leader. Therefore we need far less conservative blaming-the-victim rhetoric and far more LEGISLATION, FEDERAL INVESTIGATION, and  FINANCIAL APPROPRIATION from America’s executive chief!

Of course Obama doesn’t deserve all of the blame for his lack of action concerning Black folks. His starry-eyed Black cheerleaders in this country, by failing to hold him accountable, neglecting to be critical of his policies, and by failing to develop an agenda and pressuring him to support it, allow him to sit on the presidential fence on so many issues affecting us. So at a very sensitive and divisive time in this nation when he should speak forcefully about a Federal investigation, legislation or money for programs to curb the tide of anti-Black violence, his big idea is to have Black folk become unpaid and unwilling ambassadors for peace and reconciliation in a country that has typically met our compassion with “Niggers go home,” stubborn resistance and in the worst cases, mob violence.

Once again the President that 95% of Black people voted for has disappointed his largest and most loyal support base. He initially ran for office with the inspiring rallying cry “Yes we can!” But the verdict in the Zimmerman trial and his lackluster response to it only reminds Black people in America that “Yes we can” be murdered with impunity, “Yes we can” NOT trust the system of American justice to defend us, and “Yes we can” expect the devaluation of Black life and issues to continue unless we challenge them.

___________________

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, please visit his page at the Great Black Speaker’s Bureau.