I did not and do not intend for my blog to be a cold and impersonal vehicle of news or current events. My blog takes unequivocal positions on issues I believe are relevant to Black folks.
On December 31st, perhaps no idea or issue is more relevant than the “New Year.” Certainly I do not advocate that we become reflective or make plans for improvement on only one particular day of the year. Improvement – self or collective – is a gradual and ongoing process, not static but dynamic. Not rigid but fluid. Not linear but cyclical.
So what are my plans for 2016? In truth, I aim to continue, refine and improve upon the objectives I’ve held for the past 34 years. It is a three-part call articulated by brother Malcolm X in 1963. He called for Black people to “Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up.” It is a call that has defined and shaped the contours of my life.
The Wake up call is a call to action that focuses on learning. It requires us to raise consciousness among ourselves and our people. Put another way, we read and study to become more aware of our condition, while using the written and spoken word and other means to help our people understand our history and potential, identify our external enemies, understand how we are oppressed, and to identify ourselves in empowering ways.
Consciousness means we are aware of our environment, have an accurate assessment of our environment, and have the ability to respond intelligently and appropriately to our environment.
The Clean up call is a call for action in the arena of healing and self-development. It focuses on identifying, confronting and overcoming our own self-defeating thinking and behavior. This requires us to do serious self-interrogation and critique as individuals and in a collective sense. It requires us for example, to discuss/attempt to resolve rampant drug addiction and trafficking, dysfunctional families and relationships, financial mismanagement, flawed and ineffective ideas, contradictory behavior, fraudulent and compromised leadership, Black fratricide and criminality, along with twisted values and priorities which serve others while destroying us. We have therefore, an inescapable and undeniable responsibility to as Chuck D once said, “Keep ourselves in check.”
We cannot accomplish this task solely through passionate or inspiring social media posts, attending places of worship, or essays calling for us to be more loving and forgiving. We must begin the hard work of fundraising, creating mental health and other wellness programs, and building institutions that heal our minds, bodies communities and contradictory leadership.
The call for us to Stand up is, like the two others, a call for action. In this case, action takes the form of self-sufficiency and Black resistance against external or structural forms of repression.
Brother Malcolm brilliantly understood that simply increasing our knowledge and making ourselves better individuals were noble and important but ultimately insufficient objectives.
For example, we can be informed, ethical, loving, respectful, hard-working peaceful, property-owning, talented, physically fit, spiritually in touch, culturally proud, positive-thinking, election-winning, business-owning, college educated neo-slaves, still existing in and cooperating with a society that fundamentally devalues, mistreats and kills us with impunity.
“Faith without works is dead.” This includes any ideology or belief system. When we live in a world governed by people, policies and institutions that are unfair and oppressive, it is not enough to work on self-development or personal empowerment. The very real sociopolitical context we confront (poverty, ignorance, police brutality, miseducation, mass incarceration, white supremacy, patriarchy) compels us to “Lift as we climb.” Black folk must not accept the concepts of new age spirituality uncritically or on face value.
New Age Spirituality too – like other subjective concepts – can be radicalized and used to promote our individual and collective liberation. Otherwise, it’s just another tool used for escapism, apathy and self absorption under the guise of self-improvement.
Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Elijah Muhammad, Callie House, Dr. King, Dr. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Mary McCloud Bethune, Ida B. Wells, Marcus Garvey, Muhammad Ali, Charles Hamilton Houston, Noble Drew Ali, Malcolm X, Kwame Ture, Ella Baker, Rosa Parks and others based their lives on a belief system or ethos that predates New Age Spirituality.
They too believed in self-empowerment. The difference is that their beliefs compelled them to challenge injustice, expose hypocrisy and educate/empower their people as well. Somehow, we’ve forgotten this and now believe ourselves justified in adopting lifestyles that insulate us from circumstances and political realities. As if visualization, self-hypnosis, and positive thinking Black people are immune from financial struggles in a capitalist system, police brutality in a racist system or misogyny in a sexist system. Therefore the Stand up call demands that we unapologetically challenge and FIGHT our external enemies and their ideas/policies/institutions/practices on every battlefront and by any means necessary.
If we really believe that Black Lives Matter, we will refuse to stick our heads in the sands of self absorption, apathy, and the “politics of me” often reflected in prosperity gospel, non-political New Age Spirituality, the physical fitness and anti-aging obsessions, and adoration for Black capitalism rather than cooperative economics….
My plans for the next 365 days therefore, continue to focus on teaching, implementing and embodying brother Malcolm’s call for us to “Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up. ” More writing and speaking, more analysis and critique, more community organizing/institution-building and more Black resistance. Throughout this time I will also continue to sever stagnant or toxic associations, spend more time with family and friends and maintain physical, spiritual and financial health.. Wishing the best for you and yours.. Black Power, and Happy New Year!
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 lead. 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.” Currently, Agyei is a member of the Black Power Cypher, five Black Nationalist men with organizing backgrounds, who host a monthly internet show addressing issues and proposing solutions. He runs his own business publishing books, public speaking, and teaching Black people how to organize and fight for empowerment.
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.