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.

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.

Want to Help Black People? Here’s How

As we know, there are fraudulent, compromised and conflicted people in our community who deem themselves “conscious” or “progressive.”

They often demonstrate poor or inadequate analysis, pontificate about problems without offering solutions, offer solutions/theories without implementing them, develop ill-conceived or dishonest plans/projects, and fail to create viable organizations and institutions to transmit ideas and practices for present and future generations.

Fortunately, all is not lost! We also have plenty of Souljahs, sincere and competent folk who want Black people to reclaim our power, exercise control over our lives, be liberated from outside or internal oppression, and who do all they can to bring these plans into fruition.

If you desire to be in that second group, here are some basic suggestions for doing so. You sincerely want to help Black people? Here’s how:

  1. Study to understand empowering African values (Maat for example), civilizations, contributions to humanity and how Africa was attacked and weakened. Also know how our ancestors resisted outside subjugation.
  2. Study to understand key methods of oppression and the tactics they employ, in addition to their objectives. You must study white supremacy/racism, colonialism, chattel slavery, segregation/jim crow, imperialism, patriarchy, mass incarceration, and capitalism.
  3. Be familiar with important Black people, organizations and movements for social justice/liberation, in addition to the challenges they faced, their victories/contributions, and mistakes or miscalculations.
  4. Be familiar with the strategies and people used to undermine our leaders, organizations, and movements. Cointelpro is a good reference for this.
  5. Acquaint yourself with our own self-defeating behaviors and attitudes; We have internalized many negative ideas, habits and values taught to us by our oppressors. To empower our people, we must be courageous and honest enough to identify and resolve our internal demons and shortcomings.
  6. Refuse to be a one-man or woman show. Individual superstars might be entertaining and very talented, and they might even win a few games by themselves. But they will never win a championship. For this, we need teams. A strong team amplifies the skills and impact of each individual teammate exponentially. A team provides more resources and support than an individual. No one person – regardless of his/her talent – can defeat an opposing team of people. In all our efforts, we should solicit the help of other brothers sisters to form powerful and organized efforts.
  7. Based on all the above points, develop sound strategies, organizations, institutions, movements and/or programs to help our people “Wake up, Clean up and Stand up!” A relative minority of people have done points 1-6 or done so effectively enough to accurately understand the complexity of issues we face. Even fewer have taken the step of effectively addressing these problems beyond talking about them. Because this last point is sorely lacking, I must explain further. Based on your study and understanding: If the miseducation of our people is a problem you are concerned about, become a teacher, write books/blogs, create documentaries, afterschool programs, independent schools, or teacher training programs to address the problem. If you feel our people need to create wealth and develop stronger economics, create programs to teach financial literacy/economic empowerment and establish community cooperatives; If you find that our people lack the will or ability to organize, create programs to teach them such skills and information. Never forget: Our enemies don’t just hate or fear us; they don’t just talk about subjugating us; They study our culture movements and habits. They create legislation, form think tanks, lobbying groups, military units, schools/curriculums, and a variety of programs and institutions to fulfill their agenda. We must do the same. Also remember what is at stake – our lives, safety, and freedom. It is not sufficient to say “At least he/she is trying.” this is a lazy and defeatist position for supposedly enlightened and knowledgeable Black folk to adopt. If you are at a restaurant and you contract food poising, would you be satisfied that “at least the cook tried” to use proper sanitation? If you send your child to school and discover that his/her teacher is incompetent, would you take the approach that “at least they tried to teach?” If an attorney represented you in a court case and failed to include important evidence, properly cross-examine witnesses, or represent you well- and you do jail time you didn’t deserve, would you think “At least she tried to represent me?” your likely answer in each scenario, is “Hell No!” You expect quality effort and excellent service because you value yourself! The same is true for we as teachers, organizers activists and leaders. We cannot afford to hold low standards or to embrace mediocrity becaNor can we be too lazy to do the serious study, organizing and institution- building that liberation requires. Always we should work to be more informed, effective, and relevant.

In this spirit, we have created the “Harlem Liberation School.” Our objective is to provide Black community members with the consciousness, information and skills they need to become conscious, competent and committed agents for Black liberation and empowerment.

Beginning on February 8, 2016, we will hold meetings twice a month at no charge to the community for Black folk aged 14 and up. Our meetings will be fun, engaging, and informative. We plan to accomplish this by using group activities, panel discussions, debates, lectures, skits, video clips, etc. We will also implement what we learn via actual community organizing and activism.

If you are Black, live in NYC, and want to learn and do more to uplift Black people, we encourage you to come out. If you are a Black person with serious organizing experience, expertise in African and African American history, youth development, politics, education and journalism/writing, please contact me about volunteering time to lead/moderate workshops, presentations and other activities. If you are a Black vendor selling books or DVDs on Black history, politics, education or culture, contact us about selling your goods at Harlem Liberation School. You can email truself143@gmail.com or call 872-222-6764. The time for just talking and complaining is over. Its time to ACT! The following reading lists provide a wealth of information….

Recommended Reading List for Black Revolutionaries

Introduction to Political Liberation Reading List

Recommended Reading List for Black Adults

Graduate African American Reading List, History at Rutgers University

Students for Social Justice Reading List

The Black Radical Tradition

Documentaries

Black History

African Diaspora

Atlanta BlackStar Picks

______

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

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

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

Black Empowerment Series: How to Organize in the Community

together

On August 9, 2015, The Black Power Cypher (5 Black male educators, organizers and activists from around the United States) did their monthly internet show on the topic, “The Importance of Community Organizing.” We offered some of our own organizing experiences and tips, and we explored how to organize in the Black community. I suggest you view the video below when time permits.

There is perhaps, no topic more timely and relevant in 2015 than organizing the Black community. The great Pan African Marcus Garvey told us, “Disorganization is the chief enemy of Negro people.” The great Kwame Ture – mentored by Dr. King and Ella Baker – constantly urged us to “Organize, organize, organize.”

Why Should We Organize in our Community?

Certainly many of our most effective leaders spend much of their time organizing and encouraging us to do the same. This prompts certain intelligent questions: “What is the importance of community organizing? How do we benefit from organizing our community?”

Black people find ourselves beset with a literal flood of problems: failing schools/miseducation, inadequate healthcare, mass incarceration, massive unemployment/poverty and unbridled police brutality.  If we submit to cowardice and choose to accept these circumstances, there is nothing more to discuss.  However, if we choose to resolve our collective problems and confront those responsible for them, we must advocate for ourselves.

An individual can advocate for themselves, by themselves. A tenant of a residential building for example, can call the management office and complain of receiving inadequate heat during the winter. The management office may not take this one person seriously. Or, the office might solve that one person’s heat problem.

Imagine however, if this same tenant contacts other tenants in the building, organizes a tenant association, and 500 people begin complaining to management. They sign petitions, stage protests, solicit legal advice, initiate a rent strike, and attract local media. That management office would be more likely to make sure all tenants receive proper heat.

In other words, organizing multiplies the power of one person exponentially.

We can apply this principle to our own history as Black people in the United States. Did Harriet Tubman free 3000 slaves by herself? No. If there were no underground railroad system in place, her efforts wouldn’t be as successful. Did Marcus Garvey work alone? No. He had writers, organizers, attorneys, and officers of his organization working together to achieve common goals. Did Martin Luther King singlehandedly coordinate the Civil Rights Movement? No. He worked with fellow ministers, church congregants, college activists, and community organizers all over the country.

The point by now is clear. Organizing our community allows us to effectively and efficiently solve our collective problems. We can summarize the benefits of organizing as follows:

  • We enjoy the combined talents, knowledge, resources and experiences of several people.
  • Our numbers and combined strength persuades others to take our concerns more seriously than they would if we acted alone.
  • Organizing makes our efforts more powerful and tends to have greater impact (imagine one person boycotting a national department store versus an organization of 200,000 people).
  • Organizing prevents one person from becoming isolated, fatigued, or attacked. Tasks and responsibilities are shared with several people and committees.
  • Organizing inspires and empowers entire communities of people and equips entire communities to advocate for themselves. Several people gain new skills, develop courage, and create change; Therefore a movement doesn’t necessarily conclude when one person dies or years pass.
  • Organizations provide a system of accountability for people. An individual is only accountable to him or herself. But a person working within an organization is accountable to other members of that organization and the larger community of people they claim to represent or advocate for.

How Do You Organize?

We’ve briefly addressed the importance of community organizing and the benefits gained from participating in it. But we are now left with the question, “HOW do we organize in our community?” In the course of my own teaching, consulting and writing about organizing, people asked me this question literally hundreds of times. Several qualified authors and public speakers address this question. Search the internet and you will come across hundreds or thousands of books, workshops, and speeches on this topic.

This one article cannot and will not provide you with an exhaustive or complete understanding of how to organize. We also need to remember that each issue, campaign or movement is different and may demand different approaches. Nevertheless, we can highlight some central ideas which provide a basic outline for effective community organizing. You can apply this template to your tenant association, parent association, church, nonprofit organization and much more. Additionally, you can research further information to supplement what we provide here.

Identify what it is you care about. Do you want to eliminate gun violence in your neighborhood, address unfair treatment in a local store, provide better educational opportunities for your children, have better heating in your building, rename a city street, or provide food and clothing for homeless people? This is always the first step to organizing in the community, and the basis for all of your subsequent actions, policies, tactics, and strategy.

Determine who else cares about that issue. After identifying your key issue, you must now determine who else in your church, school, building, etc. shares your concern about that issue. If you fail to do this, you’ll be doing all the work by yourself, and we already addressed the importance of organizing with others. There are several ways you can accomplish this, depending on your energy level and mobility and resources. You can call or e-mail friends, co-workers, classmates, or neighbors. You can knock on doors in your neighborhood. You can create a brief survey and have people complete them. A traditional way to do this is to host a town hall meeting in your community at a place of worship or community center. Make fliers addressing  the issue (“Are you concerned about police brutality? Do you want to do something about it?”) and distribute those fliers or post them all over your neighborhood. The people who attend this event most likely care about the issue and are willing to address it. In the age of social media, you can post something about the issue on Facebook and see how people respond. Feel free to use whatever method or combination of methods that works best for you. Once you have a group of people who share your concern about an issue, you need to schedule a regular meeting time to discuss and plan.

Create a Mission Statement: It helps to have your group put your reason for organizing and your goal on paper. It is important to have something tangible everyone can refer to in times of disagreement or when clarity and direction are needed.

Have your group identify a goal they want to reach. Sounds easy enough, right? But proceed with caution. Your goal should have certain characteristics if you want to be successful and efficient (avoid wasting precious time and resources). A common method of doing this is to use the S.M.A.R.T. approach to goal-setting. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Specific: What do we want to accomplish? Who is responsible for resolving the issue? What are the requirements and limitations? Measurable: How much, how many, how will we know if we accomplished our goal? Attainable: How can we accomplish this goal? Is this a realistic goal based on the tools, skills, constraints and people we have? Relevant: Is this goal worthwhile and important? Will members of my community be willing to fight to achieve this goal? Time-Bound: By when do we want to accomplish this goal? What should we do immediately? What should we do long-term?

Create committees to accomplish important tasks: Your group want to accomplish its goal without wasting time, money or other resources. To do this, you must identify tasks, assign people to complete them, and establish a specific timeline for completion. For example, you may create media, research, finance, and community outreach committees. Each committee or person must have specific tasks to complete. These people or committees need to meet regularly and update your group on their progress, difficulties, and tasks that still need completion.

Identify and develop a strategy and list of tactics to achieve your goal. Your group, based on its goal, research, and resources, must now identify how you will accomplish your goal. This includes but is not limited to: protests, petition-drives, fundraisers, teach-ins, boycotts, demonstrations, press conferences, acts of civil disobedience, proposing and helping to write legislation, editorial articles in the local newspaper, etc.

As we approach the conclusion of this article, there are some important tips I’d like to share from my own organizing experience and study:

  • To be an effective organizer, you must develop authentic relationships with people. You must be concerned about people, interested in their opinions, and you must earn their trust. Otherwise, people will refuse to work with you no matter how prepared and committed you are.
  • You should be familiar with the community or people you’re trying to organize. Where do they hang out? What places of worship do they attend? What people or leaders do they respect? What issues are important to them?
  • You should not be condescending, arrogant, or the type of person who wants to do everything yourself. Effective organizers are confident yet humble; They know when to talk, and when to listen; They are also inclusive. They actively solicit the support and input of others and are willing to share responsibilities. Their goal is not to become famous, popular or wealthy, but to serve others and help them solve problems. Excellent organizers help other people to gain new skills, confidence, and develop into leaders themselves.
  • Take time to identify other groups, organizations and individuals who address your issue. If the goal is to reach your goal, it would help to form coalitions with other people as committed to doing this as you are. But be discerning. All leaders and groups are not what they seem to be. Some are conflicted, compromised and fraudulent. Choose your allies wisely.
  • Effective organizing is hard work, but you must maintain balance. Human beings are social creatures who need and want time to socialize, have fun and relax. Work hard and be serious about meeting your goals, but also make time for yourself and your group to celebrate victories and socialize.
  • Encourage critical thinking. Good organizers realize that all opinions or ideas (including their own) are not valid or constructive. Our goal in organizing is not to inflate our egos, impress people with our intelligence, or humiliate anyone; Our goal is to reach our goal. Therefore, make time to ask members of your group for respectfully-voiced suggestions and critiques. Encourage your group to debate policies and methods to determine the “best” or most effective ones available.
  • When organizing, it is always important to reach high and challenge yourself. At the same time, we want to make our goals and expectations manageable. If we spread our group too thin or take on too many responsibilities, we demoralize and disappoint our members, fail to meet our goals, and possibly turn people off to organizing in the future. Organizations feel proud when they have several programs or initiatives. However, it is better to do 2 things exceptionally well, than to do 20 things poorly.

As stated earlier in this article, the information provided here is not enough to make you an effective community organizer, but it is enough to get you started in the right direction. Much success to you in your community organizing efforts, and feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you have about your own community organizing.

Recommended Reading

The Art of Leadership Vol II by Oba T’Shaka

Ella Baker & the Black Freedom Movement by Barbara Ransby

The Making of Black Revolutionaries by James Forman

Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) by Kwame Ture

The Activist’s Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century by Randy Shaw

Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky

Organizing for Social Change Midwest Academy Manual for Activists by Kemberly Bobo and Steve Max

________________

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

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

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