I just woke up from a recurring dream I’ve had every night for the past 25 years. It is a dream that brings overwhelming peace to my mind. In fact, I go to bed every night eagerly awaiting this dream. Its images inspire my waking actions and thoughts. Allow me please to share it with you.
The dream always begins the same. Black people across the country suffer from unprecedented levels of Black church burnings, company layoffs, white gentrification of formerly Black neighborhoods, killings at the hands of police, and gang violence. The president, who routinely ignored these issues, was forced to respond when his office received 20 million signatures on a petition demanding that he investigate and pour funding into America’s neglected urban areas. He neglected to contribute federal funds, noting that the bulk of discretionary federal funding was “already committed to important projects like Homeland Security and protecting American freedoms and values.” What he did do was launch a federal committee to investigate such matters and propose solutions.
Black people around the country read the handwriting on the wall. They stopped complaining about societal injustices and oppression. They realized the wisdom in the ancient Chinese proverb, “It is better to light a candle than it is to curse the darkness.” Frustrated with the corporation-controlled circus of national elections and disconnected Black leadership concerned with personal gain, Blacks become proactive. In my dream, Blacks commit to addressing and resolving the issues of police brutality, failing schools, inadequate healthcare, unemployment, public safety, self-hatred and gentrification.
After a series of community polls to identify the Black community’s opinions and concerns, Black churches and political groups convene one year of local, state and national town-hall meetings culminating in a conference to develop and formalize a 13-point “Black Agenda. Black people around the country broke up into four general groups: Nationalists, reformers, enlighteners, and defenders.
The nationalists worked on all projects concerning the development of Black identity, self-reliance, and Black autonomy. Their ultimate goal was for Blacks to have land of their own upon which they could govern themselves and all-Black institutions free from outside influence or manipulation.
The reformers worked on all projects that had to do with making American institutions more transparent, inclusive of and responsive to Black people. Their goal was to make America work for the interests of all people, particularly their own. They were charged with the responsibility to overhaul, challenge, and open up religious, political, and social institutions. If I recall correctly they were following a plan proposed by the enlighteners called “operation infiltration,” wherein Black people would literally dominate local government in the 19 American cities with a Black majority.
The enlighteners were a think tank of policy experts and intellectuals who conducted research, proposed public policy initiatives to the government, and advised both the integrationists and nationalists on strategy and tactics.
The Defenders role was to provide protection to the Black community throughout the nation, both from white racists and Black predators. Largely composed of former soldiers, military leaders, and gang members, this division policed Black communities and made societal police obsolete. The Defenders’ activities led to a dramatic reduction of violent crimes in Black neighborhoods.
The following is the 13-point agenda Blacks develop in my dream:
- In an era where everyone speaks of “humanity,” Black people still are more impoverished, incarcerated,stigmatized, and disproportionately victimized than most other people (despite actual and perceived progress). Blacks fight for “humanity,” while no one seems to fight for us. Given this reality, we need people who advocate for Black advancement without apology or explanation to anyone else. In the old days, such people were referred to as “race” men or women.
- We all have adopted various religious and political philosophies which sometimes are at odds. But regardless of this, Black Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, atheists, those who practice indigenous African religions, capitalists, Marxists, nationalists, etc. at any given moment face police brutality, failing schools, health issues, poverty and racism. We must learn to work together to resolve our problems and uplift our people.
- We have lost a great majority of our youth who have been seduced to ignorance, violence, apathy, indifference and materialism because we’ve failed to properly guide them. We cannot depend on public schools as they currently exist to properly prepare our children to become leaders and problem-solvers for our people. These schools prepare our children to be obedient low-wage workers for other people or cheap labor in American penal institutions. We must organize leadership training programs, community centers, homeschooling programs, independent schools, Saturday schools, and Rites of Passage programs to rescue and reclaim our youth.
- Traditionally-Black working class communities are under serious attack. Gentrification has diluted our political and cultural power in communities around the country with an influx of entitled whites and Bourgeois Blacks who rob such places of their cultural and political integrity. We must begin an aggressive program to purchase property, develop and maintain our cultural institutions, and create financial institutions like community credit unions. Such institutions provide the money so necessary to start community cooperatives/businesses, provide employment and redevelop our communities.
- Wealthy and socially conscious Black entertainers, athletes and professionals must be organized, politicized, and called upon to invest some of their wealth and networks to help build quality Black schools, realty companies, supermarkets, lobbying groups, hospitals and other institutions/programs so vital to true community development.
- Black people continue to face unbridled brutality at the hands of racist/fascist police, white citizens, and predatory Black people. Like Robert F. Williams and Malcolm X, I support the right of our people to protect ourselves and our families from such victimization. Every time a cop for example, kills one of us, is exonerated, and keeps his/her job, it sends a message that we are not valuable and that we are “easy and unprotected prey.” Prayer, candlelight vigils, tearful funeral testimonials and marches have not made a dent in this issue. Therefore, we must create the capacity to defend and protect our communities from those who prey on them. It is shameful that we neglect to do this out of fear or cowardly interpretations of scripture. If gang members can intimidate and terrorize Black communities, if Black military officers can fight and kill for American interests all over the world, perhaps someone should organize and politicize them to use that same energy to protect our own men, women, children and elders. Contrary to popular opinion, our lives are just as valuable as anyone else’s.
- Our identity and citizenship extends beyond local, state and national boundaries created by men. We are an African people (although largely disconnected) whether we admit it or not. In the Pan-African tradition of Garvey and Malcolm, we must establish business and political relationships with black and brown people in Africa and throughout the world. We should also take an active interest in anti-imperialist causes, starting with those in our motherland. An international presence and network will prove mutually beneficial in several ways. We certainly cannot afford to adopt America’s definitions of “enemy” or “ally” as our own. This is a sure way to alienate people and nations who truly support our initiatives and tie us to those who aid in our continued oppression. The time has come for us to accurate understand who the true “terrorists” and champions of freedom truly are.
- We must understand how politics really works, and understand how we’ve historically made progress in America. Politics has nothing to do with morality or ethics, but with power. National elections are a complete sham, and don’t seem to produce benefits for us commensurate with the time, money and energy we invest in them. We should definitely control local politics in territories with a Black majority. In places where we are not in the majority, we must amass and use wealth and power to make the elite do our bidding. How? By posing a threat to or supporting their image, comfort, safety, plans, or finances and by disrupting their ability to operate normally. Check history and see if I’m misleading you.
- Notwithstanding religious doctrine, comic books, sci-fi thrillers, or cults, no one man or woman is coming to save Black people or has the power to do so. What is required here is a collective effort.
- Related to the previous point is the realization that no one regardless of how long they’ve served us, how well they’ve served us, their wealth, amount of wisdom, speaking ability, past achievements, number of followers, political title, etc. is beyond constructive and valid criticism. We are human after all, and therefore prone to dishonesty, opportunism, ego and misjudgment,
- The American incarceration rate grew an incredible 700% between 1970-2005, largely because of the nefarious “War on drugs.” 60% of America’s prison population are people of color. 1 in 3 Black men will be in prison in their lifetime. Then there’s the issue of Black political prisoners, many of whom languish in American dungeons due to their political beliefs, not criminal activity. Once imprisoned, inmates are forced to work for as little as 25 cents to $1 an hour. And they don’t just make license plates or repair furniture. Today’s inmates make just about every product you can think of including: headphones, home appliances, office furniture, airplane parts, military supplies and medical supplies and food products. Many prisons are now privatized. Shareholders earn enormous profits from prison labor without the hassle of strikes, paying unemployment benefits or providing vacation time. The prison industry is indeed a new form of enslavement, and therefore we are compelled to address this major civil, human rights, and labor issue not just by prison reform, but perhaps the elimination of prisons altogether. In the meantime, we must spend significant resources and energy to liberate our inmates, protect their rights, and provide rehabilitation when necessary. When one of us is chained, none of us are free.
- All corporations believe in a god and it’s name is profit. Their tenacious drive for expansion and profit has led to genetically engineered food products, electoral corruption, war mongering, environmental pollution, mass unemployment, and the repression of dissent among other things. The people must wage a movement to dismantle or at minimum severely regulate these bloodsuckers. In very real ways, they are possibly the greatest threat to global peace,harmony and health
- The fight for freedom, justice and equality must be total. No man, woman or child should be victimized by discrimination, brutality or deprivation. In the truly liberated society, racism, imperialism, class exploitation, patriarchy, or homophobia will not exist.
My dream always ends with Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X standing on a Harlem stage saying, “There is room for several approaches. We must work together….The doors of Black liberation are open, who will come?”
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 email@example.com.