So many issues confront the Black community with such intensity that we often become paralyzed in our efforts to address the issues. Where do we begin?What is the most pressing issue? What issue confronts the largest numbers of our community? Who should lead? How do we inspire people? These are the questions we ask, attempting to make sense of it all. Some of us suggest that education is the key, while a chorus of others suggest economics, religion, political reform, family values, and the list goes on.
I tend to agree with brother Malcolm’s analysis. A strong proponent of nationalism and Pan Africanism until his death, he often made references to armed revolt, independent political participation, and community business ownership. But toward the end of his life, he advocated for what he called a cultural revolution. I refer to it as spiritual revolution, but the essential meaning is the same: the legacy of chattel slavery and centuries of brutality and psychological warfare waged against us has left our community with a broken spirit and a disconnection from the values, ideas, and practices that once made us whole.Consequently we must learn and unlearn much.
Our collective spirit has been systematically broken, and no amount of political representation (even a Black President), economic clout, or property ownership will suffice until we reclaim our spirit. We have more Black million and billionaires than ever before, along with more elected officials, college graduates and professionals. But we still cry out for healthy and meaningful relationships, our youth are too often confused and content with mediocrity, and many of our leaders have become content with helping massa’ maintain and regulate the plantation, rather than organizing the masses to transform, destroy or escape it. We’ve lost our spirit.
In the 60’s, youth pondered what kind of world they wanted to live in and how to go about creating it. Now they have become intoxicated with fortune, status and possessions . We used to work toward strengthening our social and political position, now we spend billions of dollars and too much time focusing on strengthening and re-configuring our bodies. We’ve lost our spirit. Religion used to mobilize us to organize for social justice and empowerment, for the least valued members of the community. Now, it emphasizes material prosperity for the flock. We’ve lost our spirit.
Police continue to gun us down and get away with it, courts continue to dish out injustice to us, our children receive educational breadcrumbs in public schools, so-called news programs spend 95% of the show addressing crime and tragedy, and racial gaps in major areas have not improved much since the 70’s, yet proportionally few of us cry out against these atrocities in sustained fashion. We’ve lost our spirit.
Dysfunctional people and behaviors in our community were once frowned upon and condemned. Now they’ve become so prevalent that we tolerate or trivialize them. Black college students – once thought to be our future leaders, – settle for jobs and self-serving careers. Hip Hop artists regularly promote gangsterism and ignorance to the point where too many bright youth “dumb themselves down” and imitate the neighborhood drug dealer or dropout. We’ve lost our spirit.
What happened to the days when parents taught, guided, protected, and disciplined their children – preparing them to be functional and character-filled adults? Gross negligence in this area manifests itself in children that closely resemble the Tin man Lion, Scarecrow and Dorothy characters in the “Wizard of Oz:” people who are or believe themselves to be lacking humanity and compassion, scared to assume leadership, unintelligent and incompetent, or generally “lost.”
We need a revolution of the spirit. This revolution is a prerequisite to any other revolution. I’m talking about a radical change in the way we see ourselves, in our attitudes toward each other, and our perception of the world and the roles we play in it. Money, politics, and all the other things we talk about are important, but without spirit these gains will only result in a nation of wealthy, physically fit, voting, self-serving fools and neo-slaves. The spiritual revolution I advocate will infuse our people with the confidence, motivation connection with our ancestors, God in ourselves, and self-empowerment that leads us to reclaim everything necessary to our liberation and fulfillment.
This revolution will radically reorient our thinking,sense of worth, and priorities, causing us to be intolerant of self sabotage, oppression, ignorance, idle time, and mediocrity. Our standards will change as well. Sisters will call a moratorium on dealing with ignorant, predatory, abusive, and toxic brothers. Brothers will change fratricidal gangs into organizations that shape and mold warriors to protect and advance our community. Churches will work to create heaven on Earth by catering to people’s spiritual and material needs. Black taxpayers will take American cities to court for taxing us without providing the services our taxes presumably pay for. Watchdog organizations will check for media bias and challenge defamation to our character. Independent Black organizations will provide high quality goods and services that the government is either unable or unwilling to provide. Celebrities will live in the hood again, and use their money and presence to transform the neighborhood and inspire the youth to greatness. Black philanthropists will financially endow worthy Black organizations and activists to do the work they must do without having to appeal to hostile outside interests. Every parent will demand that their children work, learn a trade or attend school without exception. Idle time, laziness, mediocrity, and failure to plan for the future will be viewed as sins. Racists and other hostile forces will not feel so comfortable killing us, issuing insulting comments, or attempting to curtail our freedoms, because we will hold them accountable without reservation.
This is the revolution I have enlisted in, and the cause I’ve dedicated my life to. I am one of millions. But we need millions more, and time is ticking….. Will you join the revolution?
Agyei Tyehimba is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. Agyei has appeared on C-Span, NY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, “The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.