Leaders vs Commentators: What Do We Need Most?

 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:1-6

“Self proclamation of authoritative titles is a common phenomenon among religious and/or occult sect leaders. A cursory survey of this primarily 20th century phenomenon will instantly reveal a multitude of self-declared Masters, High Priests, gurus, Ipsissimi, Bhaghwani, etc.. I am pleased that I cannot count myself among such types. Legitimate religious teachers and scholars know that a genuine spiritual leader is one whose calling to lead is first noticed by those outside of him or herself based on certain qualities, abilities, and actions and then must subsequently be accepted by the individual in question as his or her destiny. This contrasts with those whose will to lead is born simply out of the mundane wish to be a leader. In such cases the goal being to reap the rewards a title brings without the hard work and the innate, manifest qualities which validate the position; in short what might be considered a ‘false prophet’.”
-Zeena Schreck

“In these perilous times, we have more preachers of the Word than doers of the Word. In other words, Not all preachers are doers. May God make you and I doers of the Word”
― Abegunde Sunday O.

“Leadership is action, not position.”
Donald H. McGannon


Whether we’re talking about community leaders, religious leaders, or political leaders, weleaders and commentators (1) can agree that not all are genuine or competent. More specifically, some are not leaders at all, but rather commentators.

Why is it important to distinguish between the two? How do we distinguish between the two?

To answer the first question, we must know the difference between leaders and commentators because both serve different functions. The emergence of the internet, YouTube, Google, and other social media, provide all of us with free platforms to create blogs, video blogs, and internet radio shows. This free access to state one’s opinions predictably created a literal sea of overnight gurus, experts and spokespeople, all vying for attention in an already saturated market. Given such a flood of information and perspectives from so many people, it is increasingly difficult for the general public to distinguish between those who are authentic and competent and their counterparts.

Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than with respect to Black sociopolitical content on the internet. Black people have arguably endured the longest and most sustained system of deception, brutality and discrimination of any group on this planet. Politically speaking then, when other groups have a common cold, we have pneumonia. And while we have resisted our oppression in every historical period, resulting in some forms of minimal progress, the fact remains that we still lag behind other groups in almost every measurable area of progressive human activity. This being the case, Black people have no room for self-serving, meglomaniac  people presenting themselves as competent and authentic leaders or theorists.

Ironically, the most vulnerable people often are the easiest to con, swindle, and deceive, because they are so desperate for answers, solutions and ultimately liberation. This leaves considerable room for attention-seekers and sensationalist types to emerge. The public must have the capacity to make informed decisions, and they must have the information to do so.

One way to tackle this problem in the cyber-universe is by making a clear distinction between leaders and commentators.

In brief, a leader (particularly an effective one):

  • Researches and analyzes situations
  • Teaches and provides people with tools and information to empower themselves and solve problems
  • Creates plans, programs, institutions, organizations and accurate theories that are solution-driven
  • Provides relevant critique of existing or proposed plans, systems or institutions

A commentator:

  • Reports and/or describes events and situations

Think of what we most need in this society. Think of which type of person will help advance us My decision is already made. Commentators are helpful to a degree, in alerting us to issues. But we need plans, solutions, and organizations. Only leaders provide that. As I’ve said many times before, when you hear people pontificating, ask yourself, what have they done? What are they doing? What are they planning to do? Do they simply give proclamations and report evens, or do they expose our enemies, explain how we are subjugated, and pose solutions backed by activism and institution-building? How does their information equip us to understand and solve our problems? Take a good look at the graphic in the post….then make sure you get the picture….As I wrote in a previous article:

Anyone who collaborates with, defends, promotes, or knowingly benefits from a form of human subjugation is in effect, part of that oppression and should be viewed as such.

This is why it’s so important to raise consciousness and teach our people about what forces oppress them in addition to HOW they do so. How else can we defeat them and stop their objectives from being met?

Teaching knowledge of self and self-reliance are necessary but NOT sufficient. We must also know who our enemies are, how they operate, what their resources and weaknesses are, and what their general game plan is. We must study and know the enemy well (if we hope to defeat them and their objectives).
But we can’t stop there! We must teach our people the skills and habits needed for individual and collective empowerment, then create independent institutions that continue to transmit this information and develop empowered people long after we die.Credible activists and liberation theorists refer to this holistic endeavor as “Winning the hearts and minds of the people,” and “raising capacity.”

We’ve been playing amateur checkers for too long. It’s time to play GRANDMASTER CHESS (like the opponents of Black life, liberty and happiness do ALL the time).

But don’t believe me, closely read or ‘re- read Garvey, Elijah, Malcolm, Nkrumah, Huey, Dr. Ben, Amos Wilson, Assata, John Clarke, Frantz Fanon, Walter Rodney, Chancellor Williams, Kwame Ture, George Jackson…All hands on deck! No shortcuts, no excuses!


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.

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