Black Social Media Commentators Should Be Competent & Qualified!

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

Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. In 2015, he wrote My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School and the YouTube channel Black Liberation University.

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

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

I Dare You to Read This!

Our enslaved ancestors were ACTIVE agents of their own liberation. Some chose education, escape, revolt, suicide, breaking tools, work slowdowns and other forms of resistance.

My Grandparents’ generation boycotted, marched, made legal challenges, wrote and spoke against injustice, created organizations, etc.

My parents’ generation demonstrated, created Freedom Schools, started community patrols, educated, built independent institutions, fought to build a Black nation, etc. Some people throughout these generations were reformist, others were revolutionary, and some did nothing.

While there is always room to debate methods, let us not become part of the “do nothing” group. Even an abbreviated study of the past will demonstrate that we resisted our oppression, sought to educate/empower ourselves in every historical period, without exception. It is our right and responsibility to continue this tradition by any means necessary. Our very survival and development not to mention liberation, is at stake.

fanon quote

This nation/empire – as evidenced by its policies, practices, and founding documents -has upheld the motto that “All lives matter with the exception of Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, poor, sick, or disabled people, those with limited formal education, and so many others.” We are standing at a crossroads. The doors of liberation, human dignity and social justice are locked. Who will come to open them?

_________

Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. In 2015, he wrote My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School and the YouTube channel Black Liberation University.

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

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

Understanding the Dynamite Sticks and the Fuses

I have found over the years, that the people who make the greatest impact on society are those with passion and vision who are willing to take calculated risks and able to organize others to join them.
 
Movements target and seek to involve the masses, but ultimately begin with a committed and relatively small core group. This core group articulates and promotes the vision, while implementing this vision on the ground. Slowly and over time, the masses begin to join the movement, inspired by their growing consciousness, repressive actions or policies of the state, and/or other experiences that politicize and radicalize them.
 
I often hear fellow community organizers express disappointment or bitterness when their meetings are not packed with people or when community members don’t seem to become maximally involved in “the movement.” When we allow these emotions to dominate our thinking, we have committed a serious but common mistake in the arena of community organizing and movement building. As a study of any Black social movement will clearly demonstrate, we are seriously mistaken if we believe that all or even most Black people need to or will assume leadership.
This dynamic even exists within the community of Black folk who are considered “conscious.” Brother Malcolm once shared a powerful parable about “House Negroes and Field Negroes.” His point was to show how middle class or more privileged Blacks were more likely to defend and assimilate with the oppressor than less privileged Blacks who were treated more harshly and who received less benefits from the system of white supremacy. I have a different point to make regarding two different classes of Black people: Those who are truly conscious vs. those who are cosmetically so (remember that being conscious not only involves being aware of yourself and your environment, but being able to act or respond appropriately to your environment. In other words, consciousness is both cognitive and practically functional). To make my own point clear regarding the so-called “conscious community,” I share a parable called “The  dynamite sticks and the fuses.”
 
We have millions and millions of dynamite sticks in the Black community. By this I mean people who are dissatisfied with things as they are, see and understand the problems, and want things to change. As dynamite sticks, they are loaded with powerfully explosive thoughts and feelings. They have tremendous potential to think critically, and confront the circumstances that rob our people of human dignity, safety, and liberty. 
Unfortunately far too often, their beliefs and actions do not correspond. Dynamite sticks will angrily denounce racism but never join an organization or become involved in a sustained movement to alter racist policies and practices. They will clap or shout enthusiastically when listening to a dynamic speaker; They will read and quote books, digest political documentaries and articles, and post the most insightful pictures, and diatribes on social media platforms. In public spaces, they may swear up and down how  disgusted they are with white supremacy and the treatment/status of Black people.
Despite all of their political comments, quotes and studies however, dynamite sticks never start or join a community organization/program, attend regular meetings of any, or lend their considerable talent/energy/insight to the movement for Black liberation. They do not return calls or follow up on their promises and commitments. They leave a string of tasks unfinished. These dynamite sticks will identify 500 reasons why a tactic won’t work, or why they cannot become involved. they only make personal or individual statements rather than organized and institutional ones.There are several reasons for this seemingly contradictory behavior. They may be undisciplined, conflicted, fearful, or fraudulent. Nevertheless, I do not condemn or judge such folks. I’m just describing them.
 
We also have within the Black “conscious community,” a relative minority of people who just like the dynamite sticks, are dissatisfied with oppression,. have outside responsibilities, challenges, personal concerns and flaws.The critical difference is that these people find ways to work around or through their personal obstacles and fears. These are the fuses. When they hear or read bullshit they challenge it strongly, in public and private. When these folks witness acts of police brutality, or see their people living on the sidewalk, or see our children being educated to be underachievers and modern-day slaves they make a commitment to do something about such occurrences. These fuses reorganize their lives and schedules to address these concerns, and they do so despite their own fears, health, financial situation, daily schedule, etc.
Fuses are compelled to connect with and help uplift, educate and empower their people regardless to whom or what. Rather than searching for excuses not to get involved, they sincerely find ways to get and remain involved. They are visionary, irreconcilably dissatisfied with oppression, and remember, they are the minority of people. However this small group has the power to ignite the masses of our people to take the actions needed to reclaim our humanity and power. 
For this reason, I no longer spend too much time trying to organize idle, conflicted or fraudulent dynamite sticks. I’m looking for the fuses. Everything else will take care of itself….
________________________

 Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. In 2015, he wrote My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School and the YouTube channel Black Liberation University.

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

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

Black Liberation University: A New YouTube Channel

Today – on what would have been the 91st birthday of Malcolm X – I am pleased to officially announce our new YouTube channel. It is called “Black Liberation University,” and I will take some time in this article to explain and describe why we created it, the needs it meets. and how you can become part of our team. Our hope is that Black people around the world will subscribe, view clips from our video library frequently, and help us spread the word. 

black liberation university

How this project was born

I’m sure you are familiar with several Black Power, Black Nationalist or Afrocentric YouTube channels. They all play important roles in terms of raising consciousness and exposing our people to Nationalist perspectives and empowering information. In speaking with brother and sister organizers and educators around the country however, many of us agreed that:

  1. Some of these channels focus almost entirely on ancient African history.
  2. Other channels often feature personalities who are argumentative and discussions that are divisive and hostile.
  3. Far too often, certain existing channels address topics that are of questionable relevance or issues that do not confront our most pressing issues.
  4. Because the internet in general provides so much information with so many advertisements, research can become confusing and distracting for those seeking specific information.

 

The Objectives of the Black Liberation University

Our YouTube Channel aims to provide one-stop shopping for Black people seeking information related to Black Liberation in several areas. Black Liberation University has the following playlists: history, political prisoners, racism/white supremacy, mental health, education, real estate, community organizing, and much more. By providing such a broad selection of topics/information, the BLU helps our people to raise consciousness, identify self-defeating behavior, and develop the capacity to solve problems in our communities utilizing the benefits of online technology. Below you will see a screenshot that shows our extensive selection of topics/playlists.

BLU playlists

The Benefits of Black Liberation University

The flexibility of using an online platform like YouTube, is that it allows us to create and receive unlimited amounts of customized information all day everyday, with no cost and with no geographic restrictions. The only people that will not have access to our channel are people living in countries with no internet access. Since so many people have a smartphone, tablet or laptop with internet access, a camera and microphone, Black people around the world can not only watch and hear our content, but create content for our channel as well! More about that later….

People will be able to use our network and plug into information in just about every major area without spending time surfing several different areas of the internet. Rather than presenting information in a competitive manner that promotes division and in-fighting, our channel recognizes the need for several perspectives, approaches and methods and allows people using it to make their own independent choices. Even differing perspectives are complimentary and useful in their own way, especially when received by reasonable Black folk with the ability to think critically and flexibly.

 

Join our Team!

We want to build a team of core Black people around the United States and globally who create original content for Black Liberation University. We need people to do recorded and Live streamed material in the various subject areas we cover (Review the playlists above). For YouTube Channels to be successful, they must be consistent, informative/relevant, and contain videos that are easy-to-follow and of high quality. For these reasons, we need for all of you to consider the following:

• To participate, you will need a laptop, desktop or smartphone with a good quality camera, microphone, and reliable internet access. Videos should be recorded in HD (High Definition) quality, easy to hear, and not “jumpy.”

• Identify and provide content in one or two areas of expertise. People will only come to trust and use our channel is they believe we offer them accurate and useful information. We seek qualified and energetic team players. We demonstrate qualification by experience, study, or formal education. Ideally, we want everyone to establish themselves as a go to person in one of the specialty areas (playlists) we have. You will need to be honest with yourself to distinguish those areas in which you are strong or have expertise, from areas of personal interest.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

If you are Black, you meet these qualifications, and this sounds appealing to you, please review and follow the instructions in the graphic above. We hope to hear from you no later than June 1. 2016! In the meantime, please visit Black Liberation University, subscribe to our channel, check out our videos, and help us spread the word!

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 Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. In 2015, he wrote My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School and the YouTube channel Black Liberation University.

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

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

Black Educators Must Take our Rightful Place in the Movement to Educate our Youth!

Black people’s concern with the U.S. public education system – it’s intent, policies, curriculum and practices – is longstanding. Our forced entry into the colonial system later the United States was anything but fair and democratic. Whites brought us here to exploit our labor, amass their industrial and agricultural wealth at our expense, and then devised various laws and practices to maintain our servile and powerless position in the social hierarchy. Education therefore was an important weapon in their attempt to maintain and expand white supremacy. In other words, education as it related to Black people was hegemonic, not empowering or even neutral.

Nonetheless, even a cursory glance backwards demonstrates that our people, in every historical period, valued education. Long before we endured the horrors of European imperialism, we not only developed educational philosophy but also family and societal institutions designed to transmit intergenerational knowledge.

egyptian books of instruction

Coming as this did before the development of capitalism (or modern considerations of”industrial development”) our educational philosophy was holistic and not focused solely on material gain, career advancement or status. Unlike many people today, we viewed education both as a means of character/ethical development, and vocational preparation. Without going into voluminous detail, proof of these facts are found in the Egyptian Books of Instruction, and the University of Sankore (containing over 700,000 manuscripts) for starters.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

University of Sankore

Even after the Transatlantic Slave trade where we were viewed and treated as scorned objects and where learning was officially prohibited, our people used the Bible as a primary tool for literacy and our educated brethren as teachers. Scholar James Anderson notes that by the mid-19th century our enslaved ancestors created approximately 500 schools to educate themselves in this country.

This coalition of slaves that wanted to learn and those that knew how to read and write is instructive for those of us today who want rescue our children from miseducation and social conditioning today.

Allow me to digress. As I explained in a previous essay, the “emancipation” of 4 million Black people during the 19th century concerned whites gravely – so much so, that they held three education conferences (Capon Springs Conferences For Christian Education) to determine:

  • If Blacks should be educated
  • What the content/nature of that education should be

These conferences gave rise to the creation of education boards across the country, and models of education designed to keep Black people disenfranchised, servile, non-resistant, protective of U.S. interests, and languishing in the lowest economic strata of this country for generations to come. We see the results of this educational agenda: Confused, culturally disconnected youth with inadequate social, emotional, leadership, financial, and academic skills who become easy prey for gangs, privatized prisons, broken families and unfulfilled lives.

Those of us who are serious about reclaiming the minds and hearts of our children realize that education is the primary tool in this regard.The problem is that noble intentions in this area and political ideology are simply not enough to accomplish this task.

First, we must be clear about what proper education is and does from our perspective. An adequate education empowers people to understand, participate in or transform the world they inherit. It prepares a person to sustain themselves, solve problems, make decisions and embrace/manifest values that are beneficial, and that exert power in their lives. From the perspective of an oppressive society however, education as noted by Paolo Friere, is a project in social control and hegemony.

pedagogy of the oppressed

The educational systems we develop accordingly, include but involve far more than teaching African history, Black pride and Black solidarity. Our alternative and reformative educational theories and systems cannot be guided by political ideology alone We must be thoroughly and accurately familiar with our children’s holistic educational needs (i.e. academic, psychological/emotional, cultural, sociopolitical, ethical, vocational , and economic). In confronting the problem of Black miseducation, we must be careful not to oversimplify the problem and instead develop solutions that are practical and take into consideration the realities we face, rather than imposing our political ideology alone.

We must understand our children’s preferred learning styles, effective and humane methods of discipline, effective and alternative diagnostic methods, and how to create structures that can combine all the above effectively and affordably so that the majority (if not all) of our children can benefit, not just those of privileged classes.

carter g woodson

 Just about every Afrocentric or Black Power speaker, author or activist has said (or will say) “We can’t send our children to their oppressor to be educated!” The logic behind this is simple. Oppressors will never educate their subjects to become free and empowered. But simply acknowledging this fact is not enough. Several compelling questions remain: How do we create engaging, relevant and empowering curriculum, practices and environments that maximize our children’s ability to lead, solve community problems, love/value themselves and their people, and develop the creativity to sustain themselves and create much-needed community institutions/movements? How will independent Black schools be funded to make sure our poorest students can attend? How can we support via information and funding, the Black homeschooling movement? In summary, how do we properly educate almost 8 million Black children (most of whom are poor) in a country actively working to keep them ignorant, poor, and powerless?

To adequately address and resolve these questions, WE MUST INCLUDE PROGRESSIVE AND BLACK POWER EDUCATORS IN THE DISCUSSION!  Education, contrary to popular belief, is a serious vocation like any other. Fiery rhetoric and political pontification without strategic thinking and educational expertise will not rescue our children and might even compound their problems! To make the point clearer, if you wanted to build a bridge you consult engineers and construction workers; To defend yourself in court you hire an attorney or someone well versed in the law; You expect a trained surgeon to perform your operation; You include an architect in a discussion of erecting a building. Education too, is a serious field requiring trained, experienced and knowledgeable theorists, teachers and administrators. That we don’t readily understand this, only demonstrates the low regard we hold for education and teachers, even as we shout “Knowledge is power and Save our babies!”What all of this means is: the movement to properly educate our people absolutely must involve Black folk with classroom teaching and school administration experience, background in Afrocentric educational theory, and successful school creation.

By writing this, I do not come from an elitist perspective suggesting that non-educators cannot contribute meaningfully to the Black Education Movement. To the contrary, I am arguing that we cannot leave trained, experienced and informed educators out of this discussion. Only a determined coalition of sincere, committed and informed organizers, parents, students, Black educators/scholars and Black philanthropists will accomplish the task of reforming the existing educational system and creating viable alternatives. Black educators, and school administrators MUST take their rightful place in this movement by dispelling myths, identifying/modeling best practices in education, and lending our expertise and experience to this important discussion. This might bruise the egos of some in our community. Others might become defensive, but it must be done. Our children’s very lives and the future of our people depend on it…..

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 Agyei Tyehimba is an educator, activist and author from Harlem, N.Y. Agyei is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. In 2013, he wrote The Blueprint: A BSU Handbook, teaching Black student activists how to organize and lead. In April of 2014, he released Truth for our Youth: A Self-Empowerment Book for Teens. In 2015, he wrote My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School.

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 Community Organizer’s Toolbox: “Rules for Radicals”

Contrary to the stereotypes cultivated by the corporate media and government agencies, authentic and effective community organizers are invaluable to the modern civilization (if you choose to call it that) we occupy.

Among other things, organizers develop indigenous leadership in our communities, raise collective consciousness , inspire hope, and teach people to work together to effect change individually and collectively.

This generation is fraught with contradictions and misunderstandings which often leaves even our community organizers conflicted and compromised. We can fight back and become more effective in our efforts by understanding and embodying key princples from the outset. Organizers must be clear-minded and refuse to hold any illusions or to promote them in the community.

To do this, I introduce you to an invaluable part of my organizing toolbox, Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” (this link provides you with the entire book). Take note that some community organizing entails internal work; The information below concerns challenging external sites of power:

  1. “Power is not only what you have, but what your enemy thinks you have.”
  2. Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
  3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
  8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
  10. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”

________

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.

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