When the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Ella Baker, Malcolm X and Kwame Ture (a.k.a. Stokely Carmichael) and others raised consciousness and Black Power capacity in the Black community, they built upon the examples and ideas of Black people before them.
Some of us in recent generations are heeding our ancestors’ call for justice and Black Power. We are attempting to implement their theories, emulate their practices, and do so in ways that resonate with our people in 2016.
Yesterday in Brooklyn, I sat on a panel discussing Black Consciousness and ways to build our community, hosted by brother Que Butter and the XyayX Movement. It was refreshing to discuss important issues in our community with a panel of fellow educators and organizers.
Even more encouraging was the manner in which panelists candidly addressed some areas we in the “conscious community” need to improve. There was much I wanted to say, but simply not enough time. I want to share some thoughts on this matter in this essay.
If you enjoy the “Star Wars” franchise, you appreciate the character of Anakin Skywalker. He is the most talented and promising of all Jedi Knights (who exist to protect several galaxies from evil). Prophesies indicate that he will bring justice/righteousness to known galaxies.
But Anikin becomes arrogant and fearful, seeking glory, attention and power for himself. Eventually, he transforms from a great Jedi Knight to a cold-hearted and ruthless DEMON that seeks to destroy the very galaxy he was sworn and trained to protect. Using this as a framework, there are a few observations for us to consider:
- Greater, more talented, more accomplished and more intelligent people than ourselves were destroyed by arrogance and self-absorption. NEVER forget that. Stay humble, seek and heed the counsel of wise elders, and see yourself as one of many souljahs in the Black Liberation Movement.
- Strive to be part of the solution, not the problem.
- Don’t view other organizers as threats or rivals to your throne. See them as resources and allies.
- Resist the temptation to be territorial. There are 35 million Black people in the United States. A few programs are organizations in this or that city, town or state cannot possibly address our people’s needs. Another Black Power group or program started close to your base of operations? Great! This means more Black people will receive the life-changing information and skills they desperately need. This means you will not burn yourself out trying to do everything for everyone. We should not fool ourselves into thinking our programs can meet everyone’s needs. This is both impractical and arrogant. At the same time, we should attempt to coordinate activities and dates to avoid sabotaging our mutual efforts. We are in a competitive tug-of-war for sure. The question is, are we tugging against Black ignorance and white oppression, or are we jealously tugging against each other? I am not aiming to control the east or west side of a local neighborhood, but to influence and empower Black people on the east and west hemispheres of this planet. See the difference? No one group has any divine claim on a territory or section of the neighborhood or planet. But if we work together and drop our egos, we can serve and empower a greater number of our people. We must stop being so competitive and antagonistic with Black folk we claim to love and serve. Otherwise, we become enemies of the people rather than their humble servants…..
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.