4 Ideas I Reject (and maybe you should too)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______

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

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

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

Tips for Becoming More Effective Community Organizers

Those of us who are community organizers, share both blessings and challenges as a result of the life paths we’ve chosen (or that chose us).

In terms of blessings, we receive the respect and gratitude of our community members, who appreciate our hard work and noble efforts. In addition, we enjoy the personal satisfaction of knowing that our ideas and work educate and empower those for whom we do what we do in the first place.

Lastly, we often establish contacts with business owners, elected officials, philanthropists, and fellow organizers. This gives us access to funding, information, and opportunities which benefit ourselves and others.

Challenges often include long hours, arousing and enduring the envy/persecution of others, and enormous sacrifices in our personal lives.

Nonetheless, we community organizers must set aside time to evaluate our efforts, and constantly improve the important work we do in our communities.

In this spirit of self-improvement and excellence, I offer basic tips for community organizers who represent invaluable community treasures (whether people confess this or not).

I need to emphasize that my insights are informed through participating in successful movements/programs over the years, formal education/sustained study on the subject, and the benefit of receiving mentorship from wise, seasoned and accomplished Black professors, local and national leaders, and beloved elders in my immediate and extended family.

This background makes me neither infallable nor beyond critique. While I’ve recorded victories in the struggle, I’ve also survived my share of misjudgements and defeats.

Despite and because of this, I do bring some degree of integrity and credibility to the subject at hand. My hope is that you will receive this advice with an open mind, determine what works for you, and apply it as you see fit.

1. Focus on benefiting the community, not yourself. If your programs, organizations or events do more for you individually than they do for our people collectively, you will not be an effective community organizer nor an authentic or trusted one.

We don’t want a disconnected assortment of individual superstars; We want to develop championship teams in our community. We don’t want to “pimp,” mislead or exploit our folks for personal gain, because doing so makes us contradictory and reactionary.

2. This tip is directly related to the first. We develop “championship teams” by building leadership capacity in the community. We build this capacity by teaching the skills, information and character needed to help our people empower themselves individually and collectively.

If people are dependent on us or fail to recognize and exercise their own leadership potential, we have failed them. We need viable organizations and institutions, not cults or cliques.

3. Avoid becoming a clique, but learn to collaborate with those that exist. A clique is “a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.” Cliques are unavoidable and impossible to eliminate entirely. Because they do much to divide our community, we must find ways to utilize them without having them contaminate our community building efforts.

4. Know the difference between event planning and building a movement. Events exist in an isolated space and time and do not connect to a larger vision or outcomes involving collective empowerment and challenging internal and societal oppression.

Movements on the other hand, involve collborations among various individuals and organizations around shared interests. They do include specific events, but much more.

Movements include sharing resources, including different segments of the community,  and working to transform values, priorities and practices. Movements are guided by a larger objectives of solidarity, self determination, and conquering oppression. Movements are strategic, long-term and democratic, meaning that no one person decides goals, methods or policies.

Unlike events, movements are developmental and strategic, moving constantly toward a specific outcome that benefits the community.

5. Avoid tribalism and becoming territorial. Our communities and people leading them existed prior to our birth. The people and communities we serve are  not our personal possessions.

Given all the problems that exist, we should encourage new leaders and organizations, not isolate or feel threatened by them. Usually the problem is not the existence of several organizations or programs, but our unwillingness or inability to coordinate and collaborate with them.

6. Share responsibility and the spotlight. One-person operations will never be powerful enough to do all the work neccesary in our neighborhoods. Organizers must know when to get off stage and allow others to shine. They must allow room to nurture and teach others to lead.

8. Remember that “A jack-of-all-trades is a master of none.” Really effective leaders and organizers specialize or focus on one or a few things. This focus allows them to develop true expertise and skill in a given area, making them competent and more useful to those they serve. Trying to do everything oneself usually results in reduced effectiveness and mediocre effort. Rather than using this approach, establish experience and credibility in one or a few issues, and collaborate with others to mutually benefit from your shared skill sets, knowledge and resources.

8. Develop a way to evaluate your effectiveness or success. We must be able to determine if the campaigns, projects or policies we create are actually working. We must develop measureable criteria to determine this. Otherwise, we might mistake being busy for being effective or think we’re succeeding when we’re failing.

8. Don’t waste time and energy trying to convert people or force them to accept your strategy. People have the right to disagree or believe what they choose. Fighting with them drains time and energy you can invest in more productive things. Also, be practical. You don’t need to recruit everyone into your organization or program. Working with a few people who are sincere and committed is more productive than working with a large group that is argumentative or non productive.

______

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

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

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

The Ethos of Harlem Liberation School

On February 8, 2016 Harlem Liberation School held its first meeting. Our topic was “The Power and Importance of Black History.”

I’ve previously written an article that called for Black people to create Liberation Schools and one that detailed the preparation that went into creating HLS, and I’m happy to announce that we will soon begin traveling and creating such programs around the country.

This article highlights the character of Harlem Liberation School. This includes group1our guiding philosophy, spirit, objectives, how we engage with our community, and how we set out to reach our objectives. This is important, because all community programs and organizations proclaiming themselves “servants of Black people” in this country are not the same. Some operate on the premise of arrogant and ruthless capitalism, individual over community gain, or getting something accomplished no matter how many people are hurt, deceived, or misled in the process. At HLS, we work to create a culture  of Black love and Black community. To make sure we are clear, and those who participate in HLS are clear about who we are, who we serve, and how we do that, I have written the following statement:

“We are not here for vindication or validation. Our egos need no stroking or self-congratulation. We do not proclaim to be the sole authority on ANYTHING nor to have all the answers. No individual, regardless of his/her talent or intelligence, is more important than our COMMUNITY.

We strive to understand our condition as it is, meet people where they are, and use our resources and experiences to create the world we wish our children to inhabit.

We don’t seek to promote ourselves nor demote anyone else. We understand liberation is a marathon, not a sprint and a relay race that requires the involvement of various segments within our community.

We start with a spirit of LOVE.
We demonstrate that love through respecting our people, listening to our people, and working with our people to help us all do better and be better. We recognize ourselves as beautiful yet flawed works in progress.

We identify and challenge our enemies – internally and externally.
We study. We analyze. We value our elders and mentors. We build leadership and organizing capacity in our community.
We have FAITH in our people.
We are about the transformative WORK needed to rescue, renew and reclaim our values, priorities and practices.

We are not territorial. What we have means nothing without community. We do not demoralize the people or expect us all to agree. We believe that integrity, clarity, self-determination, cooperative economics, grassroots organizing and institution building are critical to our development. We believe in learning and building upon the legacy of our elders and ancestors before us. We work to align our values and priorities with the projects of Black education, unification and liberation.

We do not condescend our people nor act as if our ish don’t stink. We value principled disagreement over insults and attempts to demean those with whom we disagree.
We are the people. The people are us. We fight to help Black people “Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up!”

Agyei Tyehimba,
Founder/Coordinator, Harlem Liberation School

Avoid Becoming an Enemy of the People

When the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Ella Baker, Malcolm X and Kwame Ture (a.k.a. Stokely Carmichael) and others raised consciousness and Black Power capacity in the Black community, they built upon the examples and ideas of Black people before them.

Some of us in recent generations are heeding our ancestors’ call for justice and Black Power. We are attempting to implement their theories, emulate their practices, and do so in ways that resonate with our people in 2016.

Yesterday in Brooklyn, I sat on a panel discussing Black Consciousness and ways to build our community, hosted by brother Que Butter and the XyayX Movement. It was refreshing to discuss important issues in our community with a panel of fellow educators and organizers.

Even more encouraging was the manner in which panelists candidly addressed some areas we in the “conscious community” need to improve. There was much I wanted to say, but simply not enough time. I want to share some thoughts on this matter in this essay.

If you enjoy the “Star Wars” franchise, you appreciate the character of Anakin Skywalker. He is the most talented and promising of all Jedi Knights (who exist to protect several galaxies from evil). Prophesies indicate that he will bring justice/righteousness to known galaxies.

But Anikin becomes arrogant and fearful, seeking glory, attention and power for himself. Eventually, he transforms from a great Jedi Knight to a cold-hearted and ruthless DEMON that seeks to destroy the very galaxy he was sworn and trained to protect. Using this as a framework, there are a few observations for us to consider:

  • Greater, more talented, more accomplished and more intelligent people than ourselves were destroyed by arrogance and self-absorption. NEVER forget that. Stay humble, seek and heed the counsel of wise elders, and see yourself as one of many souljahs in the Black Liberation Movement.
  • Strive to be part of the solution, not the problem.
  • Don’t view other organizers as threats or rivals to your throne. See them as resources and allies.
  • Resist the temptation to be territorial. There are 35 million Black people in the United States. A few programs are organizations in this or that city, town or state cannot possibly address our people’s needs. Another Black Power group or program started close to your base of operations? Great! This means more Black people will receive the life-changing information and skills they desperately need. This means you will not burn yourself out trying to do everything for everyone. We should not fool ourselves into thinking our programs can meet everyone’s needs. This is both impractical and arrogant. At the same time, we should attempt to coordinate activities and dates to avoid sabotaging our mutual efforts. We are in a competitive tug-of-war for sure. The question is, are we tugging against Black ignorance and white oppression, or are we jealously tugging against each other? I am not aiming to control the east or west side of  a local neighborhood, but to influence and empower Black people on the east and west hemispheres of this planet. See the difference? No one group has any divine claim on a territory or section of the neighborhood or planet. But if we work together and drop our egos, we can serve and empower a greater number of our people. We must stop being so competitive and antagonistic with Black folk we claim to love and serve. Otherwise, we become enemies of the people rather than their humble servants…..

______

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

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

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

Real Talk About Harlem Liberation School

Recently, I wrote an essay calling on Black people to create Liberation Schools all over the United States. The creation of Liberation Schools I argued, was part of a multi-layered approach to resolving the problem of Black Miseducation (in addition to apathy and disunity).

Since then, I’ve had the honor of working with fellow Harlemites to launch the “Harlem Liberation School.”

The objective of this essay is to  share with you our first meeting, in addition to what we did/are doing to put this community program together.

In the spirit of humility and practicality, I must begin by reminding us that one program will not liberate Black people. Far too often, Black community activists become territorial over programs or projects they created.

This must stop! There are 35 million Black people in the United States. No one or two programs or organizations can adequately accomodate all of these Black people!

We must abandon our egos and obsessive need for recognition. This limited and competitive thinking threatens to sabotage the Black Liberation Movement. We literally need and can benefit from hundreds of empowering programs in our cities, thousands in our states, and millions throughout the country.

Competitive and self-absorbed solo-act leaders who refuse to “share the stage” are not effective. We need selfless and humble activists/organizers willing to share community space, information and other resources with fellow community workers.

Furthermore, if a program shows promise, if a blueprint or strategy proves effective in our city or section of the city, we should work to share and replicate it all over the city, state and nation, so large numbers of our people can reap the benefits regardless of their geographic location.

harlem liberation school2

This requires that we stop viewing programs as “mine” or “yours” and begin seeing them as “ours.” It also requires that we institutionalize our programs and projects so that they outlive those who created them. If a community program ends with our death, relocation or imprisonment, we have partially failed our people.

harlem liberation school

Picture taken after the first meeting of HLS ended. Legendary poet Abiodun of “The Last Poets” is pictured in the center wearing red.

Harlem Liberation School held its grand opening on February 8, 2016 (we meet on the second and last Monday of every month). Approximately 30 people attended.

The theme was “The Importance and Power of Black History.” We did an icebreaker designed to introduce everyone and help participants learn each other’s names. This activity worked well. People laughed, relaxed and got to know each other.

Next, we had legendary poet-activist Abiodun from “The Last Poets” speak to us. He had us all laughing and nodding in agreement with his perspectives on education, white supremacy, and Black culture. As an added bonus, he also sold and signed numerous books, CDs and DVDs of his original poetry and took pictures with admiring fans of his music.

After this, we began our presentation. By exploring how the “Wizard of Oz” applies to Black people, we explained the importance of our history. We discussed how we must go beyond using our history for trivia games or a roll-call of celebrities or “Black Firsts.”

Preparation

To prepare for this opening day, we had to do a number of things which I want to share with you. As I noted in a previous article, the Liberation Schools have flexible structures, don’t need tons of funding to start or maintain, and do not require people with advanced degrees to coordinate them.

  • We secured a venue. The founders of Imagenation graciously agreed to give us use of their art gallery called “Raw Space,” free of cost. All they ask is that we make a love offering of any amount.
  • To avoid asking people for money, we allow 8 Black vendors to sell their wares at Harlem Liberation School. We charge them a modest $10 vending fee which we give to the art gallery as a love offering.
  • Once we secured a venue, we created an online flier using Smore.com. The flier contains our purpose, location, days/hours of operation, contact information, upcoming topic and a downloadable flier. Fliers created by smore.com are excellent because they are interactive, multimedia friendly and easy to edit and revise. You can also easily share fliers on various social media sites, follow the number of views your flier generates, see what links your visitors click and see where your visitors are located around the country and world. Once the flier was completed, we shared the link on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google Plus. At last count, our flier was shared over 700 times and viewed by people all over the country and also in the U.K. and New Zealand!
  • After creating this online flier, we designed a paper flier for Harlem Liberation School. We posted and passed out about 500 fliers.
  • At the same time we met with various local activists, educators and Community residents to both inform them and enlist their support. Don’t skip this step if you want community support for your liberation school.
  • On the day of meetings, we post an agenda, and provide participants with a pen to complete information sheets. We use these sheets to communicate with people that attend, and to determine what skills, knowledge, and other resources they can contribute to Harlem Liberation School.
  • We provide an online exit ticket (review sheet/survey) after every meeting (though we forgot to do this at our grand opening). We use this to evaluate how well people understand and remember the information or skills we discussed, to reinforce the information and skills and to receive group feedback and suggestions.
  • We’ve begun calling people that attended to get their feedback and to solicit their assistance with planning and publicity.
  • Using Mailchimp, we distribute a digital newsletter to our email list of attendees and others to provide a record of our activities and help people you missed the meeting review what we did.
  • We constantly promote a warm and inviting spirit. We focus on being inclusive, creative and collaborative. We involve various elements of our community and constantly seek input from participants. We work to avoid senseless rivalry and competition and to focus instead on information, analysis and community action.

As time goes on, I will give updates about Harlem Liberation School. I will also begin posting YouTube clips that detail this particular model and important tips for creating your own. I sincerely hope that Black community activists  and organizers around the country look at this model, tweak it to their needs, and begin educating and empowering our people. You can view our Grand Opening here.

_______

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

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

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

 

Black History isn’t our Corpse, it’s our Resurrection!

Each February, we Black folks take four weeks to celebrate and delve into our rich history. This takes many forms including fancy dinners, fashion shows, special exhibits in libraries/museums, wearing t-shirts bearing the likeness of famous Black leaders and thinkers, lectures and much more.

An entire online industry has emerged via YouTube featuring debates, interviews and presentations from college trained and self taught scholars regarding African history.

Thanks to groups like the Amen Ra Squad and the House of Consciousness, more Black youth are exposed to the work of John Henrik Clark, George G.M. James, Ben Yosef-Jochanon, Ivan Van Sertima, Chancellor Williams, Cheik Ante Diop, and other pioneering historians of ancient African history.

This thirst for history is a welcome development with much needed benefits, especially for our teens and 20 somethings who represent the future of our people.

All over the country, Black youth are beginning to slowly wake up. The stigma of being African or Black is slowly dissipating. The myth of white superiority and its twin imposter, Black inferiority, is fading as well. But danger lurks behind this growing appreciation for our history.

Our youth, who gravitate to the “Knowledge of self” Movement (rightly so) do so because it provides them a sense of pride, belonging and status. As their more experienced and wiser elders, we must guide them to avoid the pitfalls that await them in the arena of research.

One danger is our youth getting the message that studying our history is solely for the purpose of developing racial or cultural pride.

They also face the risk of confusing historical knowledge  with the regurgitation of names, dates, and other “facts.”

A third danger we must address is that our youth will mistakenly reduce our vast historical experiences to the narrow confines of Nile Valley civilizations or debates over the legitimacy of Hebrew Israelite, Moorish, and Islamic history/contributions to world civilizations.

The last and final danger is that young neophytes to Black historical inquiry will have their heads buried so deeply in books of the past, that they rarely look up to recognize and engage the present circumstances swirling around them.

In response to these dangers, I offer our youth the following observations:

  • We study our history or that of others to have an accurate understanding of the world and our role in it. We seek meaning, clarity and truth in our studies. As mistreated and subjugated people, we do not have the luxury of acquiring “knowledge for knowledge sake,” using it to be or feel important, humiliating and “defeating” other brothers and sisters, flaunting our knowledge or to fraudulently separate members of our community from their hard-earned money. Some in our community have reduced history to a street hustle, bully pulput, or intellectual gladiator sport. This is shameful, and it must stop!
  • History is not a trivia game. Simply spewing tons of terms, dates and events does not constitute solid historical research. That is an oversimplified and elementary view of history. The more relevant and useful historical approach develops accurate analysis, evaluates and creates theories/blueprints, and poses solutions.
  • While Africa is the undisputed birthplace of humanity and cradle of civilization, our experiences do not end in Africa or simply with history.  If everyone focuses on Kemet, religion, astronomy or mythology, who will conduct equally important studies in sociology, psychology, education, physics, biology, agriculture, medicine, military science, etc.? Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, brother Malcolm and others told us that we are a sleeping nation. Therefore we must study and master everything that a nation needs.
  • We cannot view History as a corpse or body of dead information when in fact, it is the source of our RESURRECTION! This implies that we must begin to conduct research with the intention of solving our problems today.

Our young Intellectuals – formally trained or self-taught – must see themselves as connected to the Black Liberation Movement. Their scholarly talents and discipline must include serious efforts to rescue, defend and empower our people. When you view presentations/debates on YouTube, pore through thick books, and take methodical notes, do so with every intention of ending the suffering and mistreatment of your people and helping them protect and advance themselves.

I can think of one way to start becoming more action-oriented. Expand your reading to include writers of the 20th century who explain how we are oppressed and how to get free! Add the works of DuBois, Cyril Briggs, Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, brother Malcolm, James Baldwin, Frantz Fanon, Paolo Friere, Kwame Nkrumah, Kwame Ture, George Jackson, bell hooks, Ella Baker, Dr. King, Amos Wilson, and other brilliant Black intelectuals-activists to your personal library.

Don’t focus so much on debating and chllenging others, but on teaching  important lessons from the past that inform us today; Help us identify and eliminate our self-defeating behavior; Study, modify and create blueprints, theories and institutions for our unification and liberation. Find ways to be useful and relevant; Create institutions that outlive you; In short, get your heads out of the African sands and help to organize and rebuild the cities we occupy today!

______

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

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

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

We Revolutionaries Must Get out of Revolution’s Way

I humbly apologize if the title of this essay seems arrogant. By no means do I believe myself to be all-knowing on any topic. I admittedly don’t have all the answers nor all the questions.

My background as an educator, activist and community organizer however, does provide me with an informed perspective regarding social change. Over the course of this essay I hope to share some information on this topic from the vantage point of a community organizer.

To begin, we identify three types of people and assume each is sincere and authentic:

  1. Those who recognize the ruling empire as fundamentally sound, though unjust in certain respects. They observe flaws in the oppressive empire and seek to repair and reform it. They may confront the empire’s unfair practices through civil disobedience,  economic boycotts, petitions for legal relief, moral appeals to the empire’s sense of “fair play,” or other forms of organized resistance. Such people ultimately wish the empire was more fair, inclusive and beneficial for themselves and others. We will call this group the “Reformers.”
  2. Those who see the ruling empire as fundamentally unjust and oppressive at it roots. They do not make morality-based appeals to the empire because they believe that the empire has no morality or ethics. In their opinion, the empire only values power and domination. Such people believe the empire cannot truly be reformed or improved; No rehabilitation or reform is sufficient. Therefore they seek to disrupt, and dismantle the empire, its laws, values, practices, and institutions, and to replace it with a more humane and effective system of government. As such, they use education, refusal to validate  or cooperate with the empire, denunciation of empire values, practices and domination, and violence to eventually overthrow the empire altogether. They want land, wealth and power to create a free and non-oppressive society. We will call them the “Revolutionaries.”
  3. Those who believe the society has done and can do no wrong. These folk therefore have no critique of the empire and can’t understand what all the fuss is about. Members of this group are content with the empire, usually because they benefit from it or believe they will, if they simply “Work hard enough.” As such, members this group often apologize for and defend the empire, even though the empire often exploits and oppresses them like nearly everyone else. We will call them “Clueless Sheep.”

At this stage of my life, I invest limited energy in the “Clueless Sheep” group. My interest primarily lies with the reformists and the group I most identify with, the revolutionaries.

I think that people who actually are or consider themselves revolutionaries sometimes fail to appreciate the reformists. To a revolutionary, such folk mean well, but are politically naive. Revolutionaries will note that reformers’ activities fail to identify and address fundamental societal issues and instead create surface programs that win limited concessions from the empire.

Revolutionaries reject what they refer to as simplistic and ineffective “band-aid approaches” to social change. They also decry reformist solutions that involve appeals to or collaboration with agencies or institutions of the empire. They ask questions like:

  • Why are you addressing societal symptoms rather than the underlying causes of those symptoms?
  • Why do you participate or cooperate with the empire’s corrupt elections and corporate-contolled political parties?
  • Generating economic power through acquiring property, building Black businesses,  establishing Black investment clubs or doing business with commercial banks legitimizes Wall Street and capitalism. How can you justify collaborating with the very bourgeois system/institutions responsible for our poverty and financial exploitation?

I confess that in the not-so-distant past I too, raised questions like these. I too saw Black reformists as being politically naive (and to some degree still do).

Yet “revolutionaries” often forget some important points: The vast majority of Black folk are reformist. Due to the legacy of cointelpro, most view Black revolutionary politics as “crazy,” impractical,  “extremist” and overly dogmatic. Many reformist Black folk view equate Black revolutionary thought and practice with getting imprisoned, being a hunted fugitive of the law, and ultimately assassination (and those thoughts aren’t all invalid).

These perceptions -accurate or not- mean that the Black revolutionary community already comprises a tiny minority of the community. Furthermore, the tendency toward referencing complex socialist philosophy/terminology, belittling reformists and their politics, and failing to engage and work with them, doesn’t improve relations or perceptions between the two.

If revolutionary Black folk truly want to significantly influence and radicalize the thinking/politics of the Black community, we must do a few things differently. We can start a revolution by:

  • Interacting and working with our less radical brothers and sisters (not just fellow revolutionaries) around common areas of interest. Most people begin to trust you more after working with you and observing your personality in real time. Working on the same issues gives you time to have important discussions with members of our community with whom we don’t see eye-to-eye.
  • Removing the political jargon and advanced revolutionary theory when we speak with our people.”Make it plain.” We are not teaching a graduate course or presenting at a scholarly university conference. We are holding court with our brothers and sisters on our jobs, at rallies or meetings, and in the neighborhood. We must find ways to engage our people, not piss them off, portray ourselves as arrogant assholes, or cause them to tune out. A basic way to do this is to use anecdotes, analogies and references our people can relate to. Brother Malcolm (whose persuasive power was legendary) masterfully used analagies and anecdotes in his conversations/speeches which is one reason he impacted and transformed so many people. Remember how all adult characters in the “Peanuts” cartoon sound muffled and impossible to understand? This is how we sound to people when we over-intellectualize.
  • Remembering to have conversations rather than monologues. No one likes to be lectured to. No one appreciates when one person dominates a discussion. Revolutionaries should do more active listening and less pontificating, uh lecturing… I mean… speaking. When we hear someone’s experiences, dreams and perspectives, we better understand them and also people are more receptive to our ideas.
  • Training ourselves not just to be critical, but to show appreciation and respect for the work, accomplishments and sacrifice of our reformist brothers and sisters. We can have differences of opinion regarding ideology/methods, but still give reformist Blacks’ the credit and respect they deserve…
  • Refusing to diminish the importance of reformist tactics, movements or people. Through their experiences in trying to”fix” or improve the empire, Black reformists often endure police brutality, unfair arrest and imprisonment, and other forms of mistreatment that radicalizes them! Stokely Carmichael began as a reformist college student leader and evolved into the Pan African revolutionary Kwame Ture.
  • Remembering to meet people where they are in the liberation struggle. Be patient and empathetic with people and don’t expect them  to think or organize the way you do. Political growth is a process that takes time. Also don’t forget the time when you didn’t know all you do now.
  • Acknowledging that our liberation will not come from one approach, but several. This type of flexible thinking allows us to join coalitions, appreciate the work of others, and have greater opportunity to influence people beyond our own political circles.

_______

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

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

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

The Political Dangers and Impact of Gentrification

“Gentrification” is one of those provocative terms that receives ample attention in the Black community. The mere mention of the word incites animated discussion and resentment among Black folk. And well it should, given the disruptive cultural impact it has on traditionally Black communities.

Typically however, we give far less attention to the damaging political and economic consequences that gentrification has upon Black communities throughout the United States. I argue that it is precisely these political and economic consequences – over and above the cultural concerns – that are far more damaging to Black people and they compel us to mount a collect strategy in response!

Wickipedia defines gentrification as:

A trend in urban neighborhoods, which results in increased property values and the displacing of lower-income families and small businesses. This is a common and controversial topic in urban planning. It refers to shifts in an urban community lifestyle and an increasing share of wealthier residentss and/or businesses and increasing property values. Gentrification may be viewed as “correction” of blockbusting and urban flight, as many gentrified neighborhoods of the present were once affluent neighborhoods of the past.

Let’s examine the case of Harlem. Though not representative of all urban areas nationally, it is nonetheless instructive for our purposes. A 2010 New York Times article noted that by 2008, Blacks represented only 40% of the Harlem population, down from 98% just fifty years prior.

The increased white presence in Harlem is becoming more conspicuous  (the white population in Central Harlem alone, increased five-fold between 2000 and 201o). Latinos however – in terms of population – represent the most significant demographic. They are both the fastest growing population, and they are currently the majority population in Central, East and West Harlem (the entire neigborhood).

This increased diversity (particularly that created by new white and middle class residents) arguably brings certain advantages. Some Harlem natives and long-time residents appreciate the chic bar lounges, national retail establishments and more desireable supermarkets now available. Some note that gentrification introduced safer and more aesthetically pleasing neighborhoods and entertainment options.

These “gains” however, come with conficts in the forms of cultural displacement, white entitlement and Black disempowerment.

In 2008 for example, we learned of a growing feud between Black and recently relocated white residents in the neighborhood surrounding Marcus Garvey Park (formerly known as Mount Morris). For more than 30 years, brothers gathered at the park to play African drums every Saturday evening in the summer. Other musicians would join in followed by dancers.

This longtime tradition lent cultural “flavor” to the neighborhood and attracted appreciative residents from the surrounding area. By 2008 however, a wave of affluent white professionals bought newly erected condominium apartments at price tags of $500,000 to $1,000,000. Many of them began to make formal complaints to the police. Long tradition aside, the drumming disturbed their sleep, television viewing, and phone conversations, they argued. Ugly verbal exchanges sometimes ensued, and a racist email emerged from one resident of the residential building which read in part:

Why don’t we just get nooses for everyone of those lowlifes and hang them from a tree? They’re used to that kind of treatment anyway!”

There are also stories of new white residents treating longtime Black Harlem residents like outsiders: “Looking for someone?” Can I help you?” “Do you live here?”

These are important considerations. However the conflicts stemming from gentrification go far beyond the transformation of Harlem’s cultural landscape or annoying feelings of white arrogance. When a traditionally Black working class neighborhood loses 30%-50% of it”s Black population and simultaneously experiences a significant increase of Latino and white residents:

  • The business infrastructure changes to meet new cultural demands and sensibilities.
  • Traditional Black “Mom and Pop” stores gradually disappear due to changung consumer tastes/preferences and increasingly unaffordable leases due to increased property value.
  • Larger corporate retail chains emerge, often with little empathy or incentive to hire longtime Black residents who ironically comprise their largest and most loyal consumer base.
  • Corporate interests begin building upscale commercial properties (condominiums, retail business spaces) to attract and satisfy middle class and affluent white residents and consumers. Black people who have been residents for multiple generations are forced to relocate due to escalating housing costs and scarce affordable housing.
  • Whites and corporate interests hostile or indifferent to the Black poor and working class, begin to dominate seats on trustee boards, community boards, parent associations and school boards, which redirects community conversations, priorities and resources in ways that hurt Black residents.
  • As whites and (in this case) Latinos grow in number and influence while Blacks decrease, Black residents find themselves excluded from pivotal conversations, and with reduced access to property and power and decision-making in their neighborhoods.
  • Shifting demographics change traditional public school populations as well, which results in altered  educational and hiring priorities. In this process, Black students and families become increasingly “invisible” and our unique needs and issues are neglected.
  • Gentrification directly affects Black political power. Formerly all-Black or predominately Black areas allowed Congressmen like Adam Clayton Powell to take strong political stands and write empowering legislation. Blacks formed powerful voting blocks in days past. A committed Black community board member, councilmember or representative derrived great power from representing majority Black districts or councils. This is near impossible when neighborhoods become significantly “multicultural,” because hundreds of various and often competing economic, educational and cultural interests compete for scarce resources and attention.

“Gentrification” therefore is more than a trendy word. It is more than just a Harlem occurrence. It represents more than population shifts and cultural conflicts or changes. It involves issues of property ownership, housing, political voice/representation and municipal priorities.

In summary, the gentrification of Black communities (as it currently manifests) represents the political, economic and cultural fragmentation of Black people, Black culture and Black power. No more, no less.

This being the case, how do we as Black people collectively respond to this challenge?

We must reject the multicultural trap entirely. Respect and appreciation for other peoole/cultures is fine. But always we must think of ourselves as a Black collective or dormant nation and operate in that manner with respect to economics, politics and education. We must teach and embody the principles of Black solidarity, self-determination, and Black power.

Failure to do this will leave us vulnerable and deprived compared to other “people of color” and white folk who advocate, advance and defend their unique interests without apology.

This implies that we form associations to buy property and create our own community cooperatives, and distribution networks. We can’t stop there. It is in our interest to identify businesses that overcharge, disrespect and mistreat us and boycott and picket them to draw attention to the issue and win some basic concessions. In addition, we should conduct a survey to determine how many Black folk have bank accounts and the amount of money we have in tied up in banks.

We should then launch a campaign to withdraw our money unless these banks begin lending business loans to Black people. Naturally, these efforts must be combined with campaigns to build our own credit unions and banks. We must take our communities back culturally, economically and politically and we need large infusions of capital to create the institutions needed to do so.

Politically, we must create community organizations, coalitions and initiatives that identify, advocate for and create the outcomes we desire.

We also must begin to join and exert influence on school boards, community boards, city councils other local political sites of power. This is no different from how whites, Arabs, certain Asians and Latinos operate in our neighborhoods. Because they take advantage of such opportunities, they have access to information and resources we do not. Because they work as a collective, they generate power and influence.

This is no time for illusions or sentimental politics. This is no time for us to fear being seen as “reverse racist.” The people currently running our communities do not have such hang ups. Simply observe who owns the grocery stores, laundries, dry cleaners, hair salons, barbershops, banks, supermarkets, eateries and other businesses in your community.

Notice the people that work in those establishments. But don’t stop there. Take note of the contractors and construction workers in our neighborhoods.

Look at the movers and shakers on your community boards, in your schools and who sit on trustee boards. Who runs the nonprofits? Who do they serve and employ? Listen closely to the issues they discuss, decisions they make and the people they impact. Observe the people that are landlords, “supers” and custodians in your apartment buildings.

Who are the principals, superintendents, guidance counselors, public librarians, etc.

Who opens and profits from the franchises popping up around you? How many Black people do these establishments employ? How many businesses are Black-owned? Who owns the homes? Who runs the realty companies? Where is the affordable housing?

Who works in the community centers, and what populations are served? What people in your neighborhood have access to resources and support, and who runs these programs?

After completing this research, let us have a conversation about who in fact controls and “owns” our neighborhoods and who works together to empower themselves and advocate for their interests! Like them, we must support those who support us and withdraw support from those who do not!

Wake up Black people! Gentrification is simply another form and name for the continuing agenda to keep us powerless, pitiful and penniless.

________

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

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

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

What Makes a (“Real”) Man or Woman?

Being a “Grown man or woman” is a badge of honor that does not come automatically with age. We all know people who are mature (or not) for their age, based on their experiences and personal qualities.

Have you given thought to the things that distinguish good or authentic men and women in your life? I have. In my humble opinion, to qualify as a “Real” man or woman, you must (at some time or another):

1. Have the experience of paying bills with your own money and/or contributing to running a household.
2. Have had your heart broken and have broken a heart at least once.
3. Know how to enjoy your own company.
4. Have someone that seeks your advice.
5. Be obligated or responsible to someone besides yourself
6. Be able to freely admit when you’ve been an A-hole
7. Be able to give and receive good advice.
8. Have the experience of sacrificing for someone else.
9. Appreciate the lessons your parents/mentors taught and find yourself implementing and sharing them with others.
10. Have forgiven someone that offended or disappointed you.
11. Be able to sincerely compliment and recognize greatness or beauty in someone without being jealous of them.
12. Apologize without attempting to justify your behavior.
13. Appreciate the beauty and importance of rest and relaxation.
14. Express gratitude more than you complain.
15. Refuse to blame others for problems you caused or enabled.
16. Be fully aware of your strong and less desireable traits.
17. Have experienced the betrayal of someone close to you.
18. Have the ability and willingness to prepare your own meals, wash your own clothes, and clean your own house.
19. Have the experience of doing what you need to do so you can do what you want to do.
20. Demonstrate the ability to solve your own problems without the help of others.
21. Humble yourself to ask someone for help when you need it.
22. Know when to be diplomatic and when to be blunt.
23. Be willing to take a stand/make a decision no one agrees with.
24. Acknowledge your imperfections and work to eliminate them.
25. Know your true worth and refuse to settle for less.
26. Doubt yourself, but move forward anyway.
27. Appreciate the importance of silence.
28. Care more about being respected than being liked.
29. Know the difference between friends and enemies or “haters.”
30. Be able to tell people “no” without feeling guilty.
31. Have defended someone vulnerable when you stood nothing to gain from it.
32. Be willing to sacrifice sleep to finish an important project.
33. Use time judiciously.
34. Know who is deserving of your love.
35. Be able to sever toxic and draining friendships and associations.
36. Be able to celebrate with absolutely no money.
37. Be willing to do what you need to do so you can do what you want to do.
38. Recognize, give and receive wisdom, truth and love.
39. Allow those you love the freedom and space to be themselves (without violating or sabotaging yourself).
40. Have the willingness to be an excellent student or teacher when necessary.

41. Appreciate the importance of balance and moderation.

42. Be able to enjoy yourself without feeling guilty.

43. Have undergone the experience of rejecting a good opportunity because it conflicted with your values.

44. Overcome fears or illusions that block your progress and empowerment.

Please note: I dont claim to have mastered all of these, but I work constantly to be better and do better. I’m curious to know what you think about this list. Also, what would you add?

_____

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

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

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