Some politically aware members of the Black community are disgruntled because they feel we’re giving the issue of police brutality way too much of our time and energy. Allow me to humbly share another perspective: We do have a multitude of serious issues to address (including but not limited to, education, gang violence, poverty, incarceration, environmental concerns, healthcare, domestic violence, war, unemployment, etc).
Fortunately, there are organizations addressing all of these issues and more. We can debate the relative importance and priority ranking of these issues. As time, money and energy are finite, we are wise to sort through these issues and determine which are more or less pivotal.
However, we should recognize when an issue deeply resonates with the masses in ways other concerns don’t. The issue of police brutality has energized and activated pastors, entertainers, students, athletes, the working and middle classes, all races, and our young and elderly. People who’ve never protested before are taking to the streets, finally proclaiming, “Enough is Enough.”
Observe the ongoing protests, rallies and “die-in” demonstrations taking place all over this country. The people have spoken. Clearly, this is an issue our people are united on, angry over and feel compelled to address.
I do not exaggerate when I write, “Police brutality is to this generation what abolition was to the19th century, desegregation was to the 50s and 60s, and apartheid was to the 80s.”
The murders of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Akai Gurley, represent the Rosa Parks incidents of this generation. In my personal opinion, Black people had every right to hit the streets in righteous indignation around any number of issues, even if NO acts of police brutality occured! Nevertheless, Police brutality is one issue that galvanizes everyone. As people overcome their fear of repressive authority and develop leadership skills/thinking, and political consciousness, they will likely turn their attention to other societal ills and become meaningfully involved in resolving them. This is typically how activism works.
For all of these reasons therefore, I for one, made the decision to give this issue my FULL energy and attention for the time being. After all, if you don’t have life, little else matters anyway. This issue reminds us and others of two basic principles that have traditionally fueled all social change movements in our history : “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” and since others oppose or compromise our right to exist as equally empowered human beings , “WE FIGHT to BREATHE.”
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-Span, NY1 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.