What Will It Take, Black People?


Everyday on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, blogs, and news programs we see them: blatant atrocities perpetrated against Black people. Whether we’re talking murder or assault of our people at the hands of white “vigilantes,” or police officers, drugs, diseases, unfair criminal justice proceedings, rampant poverty, etc., we have no scarcity of oppressive acts committed against us at the hands of the U.S. government, its agencies, or its “patriots.”

Earnest activists and social commentators (including myself) repeatedly expose and discuss such atrocities using every means possible. We do this to raise consciousness and spark righteous indignation among our people in hopes that we will organize and challenge our oppression strategically, consistently, collectively, and effectively.

Our betrayal, death, poverty, dysfunction and political impotence brings wicked smiles of satisfaction to the thin lips of white supremacists, helps to keep white people in power, increases media consumption and keeps the corporate checks coming. These things we (should) know by now. But what impact do such attacks on our minds, bodies and souls have on Black people in this country?

And why are we so shocked when we hear of such acts? Why do we act as if bloodied Black corpses, biological warfare, racist legislation, and corporate plunder/exploitation are somehow new or novel occurrences?

Has anyone reviewed the last 200 years of United States history as it relates to Black people? When will we recognize that “Life ain’t been no crystal stair” for our people? Or more pointedly, what will it take Black people, for us to in the words of brother Malcolm X, “Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up?” We don’t need another article, book, documentary or news program to convince us of the adversarial relationship we have with the United States government. Police brutality, which is simply the modern-day form of lynching is not new, nor are any of the contemporary tragedies we encounter. The only thing new is perhaps, the manner in which we relay the news or our seeming inability to confront such issues!

The great Frederick Douglass reminded us that “the limits of tyrants are prescribed by those whom they oppress.” In other words, “The more torture and brutality you accept, the more you’ll receive.” And make no mistake, we’ve been on the receiving end for centuries. News flash people: Chattel slavery, the assassination of our leaders, the Tuskegee Experiment, chain gangs, sharecropping, erasure of Black history and ingenuity, mass incarceration, gentrification, job discrimination, character smearing, surveillance and destruction of our organizations, police brutality, genocide, anti-African imperialism, gender and capitalist exploitation, propaganda…targeted to Black people…all of these things are OLD NEWS!!

We cannot depend on compromised establishment “negro leaders” or media puppets to do the work we so desperately need. That is work for the conscious, committed, and competent among us. Stop getting (temporarily) upset and disturbed by news of Ebola, police brutality, discrimination, gentrification or any other setbacks. Be PERMANENTLY UPSET AND RIGHTEOUSLY INDIGNANT! See such things not as occasional incidents, but as parts of an ongoing pattern of brutality and inhumanity as old as the United States itself! Organize, agitate, resist, unify, and fight for your right to exist peacefully and powerfully. Do this using whatever skill-set or talent you have (scholarship, music, acting, poetry, leadership, institution-building, organizing, writing, etc.). But do SOMETHING.

As Frederick Douglass noted in 1857, we will continue to receive all the punishment, torture, deprivation and misery we are willing to accommodate. Let’s do less reporting of news and more making of news, by becoming active agents of our liberation and empowerment. Here’s my manifesto for starters. Use mine, someone else’s or develop your own and IMPLEMENT IT! If you pray, let it be a revolutionary prayer. If you invoke your ancestors’ spirits, ask them to guide you in fighting back and organizing. If you don’t know, learn. If you do know, teach and implement. And if we insist on posting every atrocity under the sun, do it with commentary that puts such incidents into a sociopolitical perspective that calls for action! And let me not forget, woe to those of you who defend our torture and agony for personal recognition or blood money.



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 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.

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