I Dare You to Read This!

Our enslaved ancestors were ACTIVE agents of their own liberation. Some chose education, escape, revolt, suicide, breaking tools, work slowdowns and other forms of resistance.

My Grandparents’ generation boycotted, marched, made legal challenges, wrote and spoke against injustice, created organizations, etc.

My parents’ generation demonstrated, created Freedom Schools, started community patrols, educated, built independent institutions, fought to build a Black nation, etc. Some people throughout these generations were reformist, others were revolutionary, and some did nothing.

While there is always room to debate methods, let us not become part of the “do nothing” group. Even an abbreviated study of the past will demonstrate that we resisted our oppression, sought to educate/empower ourselves in every historical period, without exception. It is our right and responsibility to continue this tradition by any means necessary. Our very survival and development not to mention liberation, is at stake.

fanon quote

This nation/empire – as evidenced by its policies, practices, and founding documents -has upheld the motto that “All lives matter with the exception of Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, poor, sick, or disabled people, those with limited formal education, and so many others.” We are standing at a crossroads. The doors of liberation, human dignity and social justice are locked. Who will come to open them?

_________

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. In 2015, he wrote My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 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. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School and the YouTube channel Black Liberation University.

 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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How do we Stop Racist Police Brutality?

This post is written in blood red to represent all the African/Black people who’ve been murdered by law enforcement agents in the United States. For the love of God, Black people, and for the sake of our current and future safety, Please read and absorb the following words:

  1. Several decades of police brutality in our neighborhoods strongly suggest that police sensitivity training, candlelight vigils, marches, and “knowing our rights,” simply do not prevent police officers from murdering our people. In fact, such acts have escalated over time.
  2. The reason such tactics or strategies do not work is because they assume that the police exist to promote peace and safety in our communities. This is a false and dangerous assumption. As my previous article on this subject demonstrates, the racist and belligerent police forces that currently exist have their roots in early slave patrols in this country. The objectives of slave patrols were to prevent Black revolt and insurrection against the white privileged class, intimidate enslaved Blacks into submission, and monitor for any activity or sentiment that might lead to rebellion. The officers we see today are the ideological and political descendants of these slave patrol officers, and their objectives where poor and so-called “minority” people are concerned, remain the same. The police as an institution therefore, play a deliberate and conscious role in assaulting, intimidating, detaining, and even murdering our people to quell Black dissent or resistance in a country which by the way, STILL sees us as a cheap and docile labor force.
  3. Since all the approaches I mentioned clearly don’t work (and will NEVER work, for the reasons I just suggested),  we will continue to endure physical and psychological terror at the hands of police forces in this nation, just like our people across the Diaspora do at the hands of U.S. military forces throughout the world.
  4. Mainstream Black leadership in this county makes its living by teaching us to accommodate to our pain and suffering or use means they KNOW don’t work to give us the feeling of protesting or blowing off steam, without actually solving our problems (Brother Malcolm referred to this as learning to “suffer peacefully”). Most of these leaders are far too invested in their expense accounts, jobs, and status to commit to the organizing and sacrifice that is needed to end police brutality.
  5. As former NYC Mayor Rudolph Guiliani harshly reminded us, the persistent violence Black people perpetrate on ourselves compromises our ability to focus squarely on racist violence. While he argued that point from a racist and conservative angle, the point has validity. As we confront police brutality, we must also confront Black fratricide.
  6. No amount of education, candle-lighting, legal representation, knowing your rights, lawsuits, boycotting, marches, or scholarly debates have ended police brutality, or will end it. The only way to end police brutality….is to end police brutality! The only way you save your life when an enemy has a gun pointed at you or has you in a choke-hold, is to disarm that person and render them physically unable to hunt you down afterwards. As I’ve posted before, the Nation of Islam successfully did this, and we can also draw from Robert F. Williams’ example. No one’s life is more important than another’s nor is anyone’s family and community more important. The corrupt and malicious police forces of this country, will at some point push Black people to a position of what I call “irreconcilable discontent.” And when that happens, injuries and casualties will occur on both sides. Every creature in existence has a system for defending itself. When we begin to say “enough is enough, when we understand the nature and objectives of the police, courts, and government agencies, begin to value our lives, and cease hiding behind misinterpreted and revised scriptures, along with our fear of death and prison, I suspect the issue of police brutality will cease in frequency and importance.
  7. Learn all you can about your rights and how to protect yourself from escalating interactions with police .
  8. Read and study Robert F. Williams!

9. Read Frederick Douglass’ 1857 “West Indian Emancipation speech:

Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages and make no resistance, either moral or physical. Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they must certainly pay for all they get. If we ever get free from the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and if needs be, by our lives and the lives of others.

10. Come out to Harlem Liberation School on July 11, 2016

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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. In 2015, he wrote My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 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. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School and the YouTube channel Black Liberation University.

 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.

Understanding the Dynamite Sticks and the Fuses

I have found over the years, that the people who make the greatest impact on society are those with passion and vision who are willing to take calculated risks and able to organize others to join them.
 
Movements target and seek to involve the masses, but ultimately begin with a committed and relatively small core group. This core group articulates and promotes the vision, while implementing this vision on the ground. Slowly and over time, the masses begin to join the movement, inspired by their growing consciousness, repressive actions or policies of the state, and/or other experiences that politicize and radicalize them.
 
I often hear fellow community organizers express disappointment or bitterness when their meetings are not packed with people or when community members don’t seem to become maximally involved in “the movement.” When we allow these emotions to dominate our thinking, we have committed a serious but common mistake in the arena of community organizing and movement building. As a study of any Black social movement will clearly demonstrate, we are seriously mistaken if we believe that all or even most Black people need to or will assume leadership.
This dynamic even exists within the community of Black folk who are considered “conscious.” Brother Malcolm once shared a powerful parable about “House Negroes and Field Negroes.” His point was to show how middle class or more privileged Blacks were more likely to defend and assimilate with the oppressor than less privileged Blacks who were treated more harshly and who received less benefits from the system of white supremacy. I have a different point to make regarding two different classes of Black people: Those who are truly conscious vs. those who are cosmetically so (remember that being conscious not only involves being aware of yourself and your environment, but being able to act or respond appropriately to your environment. In other words, consciousness is both cognitive and practically functional). To make my own point clear regarding the so-called “conscious community,” I share a parable called “The  dynamite sticks and the fuses.”
 
We have millions and millions of dynamite sticks in the Black community. By this I mean people who are dissatisfied with things as they are, see and understand the problems, and want things to change. As dynamite sticks, they are loaded with powerfully explosive thoughts and feelings. They have tremendous potential to think critically, and confront the circumstances that rob our people of human dignity, safety, and liberty. 
Unfortunately far too often, their beliefs and actions do not correspond. Dynamite sticks will angrily denounce racism but never join an organization or become involved in a sustained movement to alter racist policies and practices. They will clap or shout enthusiastically when listening to a dynamic speaker; They will read and quote books, digest political documentaries and articles, and post the most insightful pictures, and diatribes on social media platforms. In public spaces, they may swear up and down how  disgusted they are with white supremacy and the treatment/status of Black people.
Despite all of their political comments, quotes and studies however, dynamite sticks never start or join a community organization/program, attend regular meetings of any, or lend their considerable talent/energy/insight to the movement for Black liberation. They do not return calls or follow up on their promises and commitments. They leave a string of tasks unfinished. These dynamite sticks will identify 500 reasons why a tactic won’t work, or why they cannot become involved. they only make personal or individual statements rather than organized and institutional ones.There are several reasons for this seemingly contradictory behavior. They may be undisciplined, conflicted, fearful, or fraudulent. Nevertheless, I do not condemn or judge such folks. I’m just describing them.
 
We also have within the Black “conscious community,” a relative minority of people who just like the dynamite sticks, are dissatisfied with oppression,. have outside responsibilities, challenges, personal concerns and flaws.The critical difference is that these people find ways to work around or through their personal obstacles and fears. These are the fuses. When they hear or read bullshit they challenge it strongly, in public and private. When these folks witness acts of police brutality, or see their people living on the sidewalk, or see our children being educated to be underachievers and modern-day slaves they make a commitment to do something about such occurrences. These fuses reorganize their lives and schedules to address these concerns, and they do so despite their own fears, health, financial situation, daily schedule, etc.
Fuses are compelled to connect with and help uplift, educate and empower their people regardless to whom or what. Rather than searching for excuses not to get involved, they sincerely find ways to get and remain involved. They are visionary, irreconcilably dissatisfied with oppression, and remember, they are the minority of people. However this small group has the power to ignite the masses of our people to take the actions needed to reclaim our humanity and power. 
For this reason, I no longer spend too much time trying to organize idle, conflicted or fraudulent dynamite sticks. I’m looking for the fuses. Everything else will take care of itself….
________________________

 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. In 2015, he wrote My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 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. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School and the YouTube channel Black Liberation University.

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.

Black Liberation University: A New YouTube Channel

Today – on what would have been the 91st birthday of Malcolm X – I am pleased to officially announce our new YouTube channel. It is called “Black Liberation University,” and I will take some time in this article to explain and describe why we created it, the needs it meets. and how you can become part of our team. Our hope is that Black people around the world will subscribe, view clips from our video library frequently, and help us spread the word. 

black liberation university

How this project was born

I’m sure you are familiar with several Black Power, Black Nationalist or Afrocentric YouTube channels. They all play important roles in terms of raising consciousness and exposing our people to Nationalist perspectives and empowering information. In speaking with brother and sister organizers and educators around the country however, many of us agreed that:

  1. Some of these channels focus almost entirely on ancient African history.
  2. Other channels often feature personalities who are argumentative and discussions that are divisive and hostile.
  3. Far too often, certain existing channels address topics that are of questionable relevance or issues that do not confront our most pressing issues.
  4. Because the internet in general provides so much information with so many advertisements, research can become confusing and distracting for those seeking specific information.

 

The Objectives of the Black Liberation University

Our YouTube Channel aims to provide one-stop shopping for Black people seeking information related to Black Liberation in several areas. Black Liberation University has the following playlists: history, political prisoners, racism/white supremacy, mental health, education, real estate, community organizing, and much more. By providing such a broad selection of topics/information, the BLU helps our people to raise consciousness, identify self-defeating behavior, and develop the capacity to solve problems in our communities utilizing the benefits of online technology. Below you will see a screenshot that shows our extensive selection of topics/playlists.

BLU playlists

The Benefits of Black Liberation University

The flexibility of using an online platform like YouTube, is that it allows us to create and receive unlimited amounts of customized information all day everyday, with no cost and with no geographic restrictions. The only people that will not have access to our channel are people living in countries with no internet access. Since so many people have a smartphone, tablet or laptop with internet access, a camera and microphone, Black people around the world can not only watch and hear our content, but create content for our channel as well! More about that later….

People will be able to use our network and plug into information in just about every major area without spending time surfing several different areas of the internet. Rather than presenting information in a competitive manner that promotes division and in-fighting, our channel recognizes the need for several perspectives, approaches and methods and allows people using it to make their own independent choices. Even differing perspectives are complimentary and useful in their own way, especially when received by reasonable Black folk with the ability to think critically and flexibly.

 

Join our Team!

We want to build a team of core Black people around the United States and globally who create original content for Black Liberation University. We need people to do recorded and Live streamed material in the various subject areas we cover (Review the playlists above). For YouTube Channels to be successful, they must be consistent, informative/relevant, and contain videos that are easy-to-follow and of high quality. For these reasons, we need for all of you to consider the following:

• To participate, you will need a laptop, desktop or smartphone with a good quality camera, microphone, and reliable internet access. Videos should be recorded in HD (High Definition) quality, easy to hear, and not “jumpy.”

• Identify and provide content in one or two areas of expertise. People will only come to trust and use our channel is they believe we offer them accurate and useful information. We seek qualified and energetic team players. We demonstrate qualification by experience, study, or formal education. Ideally, we want everyone to establish themselves as a go to person in one of the specialty areas (playlists) we have. You will need to be honest with yourself to distinguish those areas in which you are strong or have expertise, from areas of personal interest.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

If you are Black, you meet these qualifications, and this sounds appealing to you, please review and follow the instructions in the graphic above. We hope to hear from you no later than June 1. 2016! In the meantime, please visit Black Liberation University, subscribe to our channel, check out our videos, and help us spread the word!

____________________________

 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. In 2015, he wrote My Two Cents: Unsolicited Writings on Race, Politics, and Culture. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 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. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School and the YouTube channel Black Liberation University.

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.

The Community Organizer’s Toolbox: “Rules for Radicals”

Contrary to the stereotypes cultivated by the corporate media and government agencies, authentic and effective community organizers are invaluable to the modern civilization (if you choose to call it that) we occupy.

Among other things, organizers develop indigenous leadership in our communities, raise collective consciousness , inspire hope, and teach people to work together to effect change individually and collectively.

This generation is fraught with contradictions and misunderstandings which often leaves even our community organizers conflicted and compromised. We can fight back and become more effective in our efforts by understanding and embodying key princples from the outset. Organizers must be clear-minded and refuse to hold any illusions or to promote them in the community.

To do this, I introduce you to an invaluable part of my organizing toolbox, Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” (this link provides you with the entire book). Take note that some community organizing entails internal work; The information below concerns challenging external sites of power:

  1. “Power is not only what you have, but what your enemy thinks you have.”
  2. Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
  3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
  4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
  6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
  7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
  8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”
  9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
  10. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”

________

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-SpanNY1 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. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School.

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.

Tips for Becoming More Effective Community Organizers

Those of us who are community organizers, share both blessings and challenges as a result of the life paths we’ve chosen (or that chose us).

In terms of blessings, we receive the respect and gratitude of our community members, who appreciate our hard work and noble efforts. In addition, we enjoy the personal satisfaction of knowing that our ideas and work educate and empower those for whom we do what we do in the first place.

Lastly, we often establish contacts with business owners, elected officials, philanthropists, and fellow organizers. This gives us access to funding, information, and opportunities which benefit ourselves and others.

Challenges often include long hours, arousing and enduring the envy/persecution of others, and enormous sacrifices in our personal lives.

Nonetheless, we community organizers must set aside time to evaluate our efforts, and constantly improve the important work we do in our communities.

In this spirit of self-improvement and excellence, I offer basic tips for community organizers who represent invaluable community treasures (whether people confess this or not).

I need to emphasize that my insights are informed through participating in successful movements/programs over the years, formal education/sustained study on the subject, and the benefit of receiving mentorship from wise, seasoned and accomplished Black professors, local and national leaders, and beloved elders in my immediate and extended family.

This background makes me neither infallable nor beyond critique. While I’ve recorded victories in the struggle, I’ve also survived my share of misjudgements and defeats.

Despite and because of this, I do bring some degree of integrity and credibility to the subject at hand. My hope is that you will receive this advice with an open mind, determine what works for you, and apply it as you see fit.

1. Focus on benefiting the community, not yourself. If your programs, organizations or events do more for you individually than they do for our people collectively, you will not be an effective community organizer nor an authentic or trusted one.

We don’t want a disconnected assortment of individual superstars; We want to develop championship teams in our community. We don’t want to “pimp,” mislead or exploit our folks for personal gain, because doing so makes us contradictory and reactionary.

2. This tip is directly related to the first. We develop “championship teams” by building leadership capacity in the community. We build this capacity by teaching the skills, information and character needed to help our people empower themselves individually and collectively.

If people are dependent on us or fail to recognize and exercise their own leadership potential, we have failed them. We need viable organizations and institutions, not cults or cliques.

3. Avoid becoming a clique, but learn to collaborate with those that exist. A clique is “a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.” Cliques are unavoidable and impossible to eliminate entirely. Because they do much to divide our community, we must find ways to utilize them without having them contaminate our community building efforts.

4. Know the difference between event planning and building a movement. Events exist in an isolated space and time and do not connect to a larger vision or outcomes involving collective empowerment and challenging internal and societal oppression.

Movements on the other hand, involve collborations among various individuals and organizations around shared interests. They do include specific events, but much more.

Movements include sharing resources, including different segments of the community,  and working to transform values, priorities and practices. Movements are guided by a larger objectives of solidarity, self determination, and conquering oppression. Movements are strategic, long-term and democratic, meaning that no one person decides goals, methods or policies.

Unlike events, movements are developmental and strategic, moving constantly toward a specific outcome that benefits the community.

5. Avoid tribalism and becoming territorial. Our communities and people leading them existed prior to our birth. The people and communities we serve are  not our personal possessions.

Given all the problems that exist, we should encourage new leaders and organizations, not isolate or feel threatened by them. Usually the problem is not the existence of several organizations or programs, but our unwillingness or inability to coordinate and collaborate with them.

6. Share responsibility and the spotlight. One-person operations will never be powerful enough to do all the work neccesary in our neighborhoods. Organizers must know when to get off stage and allow others to shine. They must allow room to nurture and teach others to lead.

8. Remember that “A jack-of-all-trades is a master of none.” Really effective leaders and organizers specialize or focus on one or a few things. This focus allows them to develop true expertise and skill in a given area, making them competent and more useful to those they serve. Trying to do everything oneself usually results in reduced effectiveness and mediocre effort. Rather than using this approach, establish experience and credibility in one or a few issues, and collaborate with others to mutually benefit from your shared skill sets, knowledge and resources.

8. Develop a way to evaluate your effectiveness or success. We must be able to determine if the campaigns, projects or policies we create are actually working. We must develop measureable criteria to determine this. Otherwise, we might mistake being busy for being effective or think we’re succeeding when we’re failing.

8. Don’t waste time and energy trying to convert people or force them to accept your strategy. People have the right to disagree or believe what they choose. Fighting with them drains time and energy you can invest in more productive things. Also, be practical. You don’t need to recruit everyone into your organization or program. Working with a few people who are sincere and committed is more productive than working with a large group that is argumentative or non productive.

______

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-SpanNY1 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. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School.

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.

The Ethos of Harlem Liberation School

On February 8, 2016 Harlem Liberation School held its first meeting. Our topic was “The Power and Importance of Black History.”

I’ve previously written an article that called for Black people to create Liberation Schools and one that detailed the preparation that went into creating HLS, and I’m happy to announce that we will soon begin traveling and creating such programs around the country.

This article highlights the character of Harlem Liberation School. This includes group1our guiding philosophy, spirit, objectives, how we engage with our community, and how we set out to reach our objectives. This is important, because all community programs and organizations proclaiming themselves “servants of Black people” in this country are not the same. Some operate on the premise of arrogant and ruthless capitalism, individual over community gain, or getting something accomplished no matter how many people are hurt, deceived, or misled in the process. At HLS, we work to create a culture  of Black love and Black community. To make sure we are clear, and those who participate in HLS are clear about who we are, who we serve, and how we do that, I have written the following statement:

“We are not here for vindication or validation. Our egos need no stroking or self-congratulation. We do not proclaim to be the sole authority on ANYTHING nor to have all the answers. No individual, regardless of his/her talent or intelligence, is more important than our COMMUNITY.

We strive to understand our condition as it is, meet people where they are, and use our resources and experiences to create the world we wish our children to inhabit.

We don’t seek to promote ourselves nor demote anyone else. We understand liberation is a marathon, not a sprint and a relay race that requires the involvement of various segments within our community.

We start with a spirit of LOVE.
We demonstrate that love through respecting our people, listening to our people, and working with our people to help us all do better and be better. We recognize ourselves as beautiful yet flawed works in progress.

We identify and challenge our enemies – internally and externally.
We study. We analyze. We value our elders and mentors. We build leadership and organizing capacity in our community.
We have FAITH in our people.
We are about the transformative WORK needed to rescue, renew and reclaim our values, priorities and practices.

We are not territorial. What we have means nothing without community. We do not demoralize the people or expect us all to agree. We believe that integrity, clarity, self-determination, cooperative economics, grassroots organizing and institution building are critical to our development. We believe in learning and building upon the legacy of our elders and ancestors before us. We work to align our values and priorities with the projects of Black education, unification and liberation.

We do not condescend our people nor act as if our ish don’t stink. We value principled disagreement over insults and attempts to demean those with whom we disagree.
We are the people. The people are us. We fight to help Black people “Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up!”

Agyei Tyehimba,
Founder/Coordinator, Harlem Liberation School

Avoid Becoming an Enemy of the People

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…..

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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-SpanNY1 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 truself143@gmail.com.

Real Talk About Harlem Liberation School

Recently, I wrote an essay calling on Black people to create Liberation Schools all over the United States. The creation of Liberation Schools I argued, was part of a multi-layered approach to resolving the problem of Black Miseducation (in addition to apathy and disunity).

Since then, I’ve had the honor of working with fellow Harlemites to launch the “Harlem Liberation School.”

The objective of this essay is to  share with you our first meeting, in addition to what we did/are doing to put this community program together.

In the spirit of humility and practicality, I must begin by reminding us that one program will not liberate Black people. Far too often, Black community activists become territorial over programs or projects they created.

This must stop! There are 35 million Black people in the United States. No one or two programs or organizations can adequately accomodate all of these Black people!

We must abandon our egos and obsessive need for recognition. This limited and competitive thinking threatens to sabotage the Black Liberation Movement. We literally need and can benefit from hundreds of empowering programs in our cities, thousands in our states, and millions throughout the country.

Competitive and self-absorbed solo-act leaders who refuse to “share the stage” are not effective. We need selfless and humble activists/organizers willing to share community space, information and other resources with fellow community workers.

Furthermore, if a program shows promise, if a blueprint or strategy proves effective in our city or section of the city, we should work to share and replicate it all over the city, state and nation, so large numbers of our people can reap the benefits regardless of their geographic location.

harlem liberation school2

This requires that we stop viewing programs as “mine” or “yours” and begin seeing them as “ours.” It also requires that we institutionalize our programs and projects so that they outlive those who created them. If a community program ends with our death, relocation or imprisonment, we have partially failed our people.

harlem liberation school

Picture taken after the first meeting of HLS ended. Legendary poet Abiodun of “The Last Poets” is pictured in the center wearing red.

Harlem Liberation School held its grand opening on February 8, 2016 (we meet on the second and last Monday of every month). Approximately 30 people attended.

The theme was “The Importance and Power of Black History.” We did an icebreaker designed to introduce everyone and help participants learn each other’s names. This activity worked well. People laughed, relaxed and got to know each other.

Next, we had legendary poet-activist Abiodun from “The Last Poets” speak to us. He had us all laughing and nodding in agreement with his perspectives on education, white supremacy, and Black culture. As an added bonus, he also sold and signed numerous books, CDs and DVDs of his original poetry and took pictures with admiring fans of his music.

After this, we began our presentation. By exploring how the “Wizard of Oz” applies to Black people, we explained the importance of our history. We discussed how we must go beyond using our history for trivia games or a roll-call of celebrities or “Black Firsts.”

Preparation

To prepare for this opening day, we had to do a number of things which I want to share with you. As I noted in a previous article, the Liberation Schools have flexible structures, don’t need tons of funding to start or maintain, and do not require people with advanced degrees to coordinate them.

  • We secured a venue. The founders of Imagenation graciously agreed to give us use of their art gallery called “Raw Space,” free of cost. All they ask is that we make a love offering of any amount.
  • To avoid asking people for money, we allow 8 Black vendors to sell their wares at Harlem Liberation School. We charge them a modest $10 vending fee which we give to the art gallery as a love offering.
  • Once we secured a venue, we created an online flier using Smore.com. The flier contains our purpose, location, days/hours of operation, contact information, upcoming topic and a downloadable flier. Fliers created by smore.com are excellent because they are interactive, multimedia friendly and easy to edit and revise. You can also easily share fliers on various social media sites, follow the number of views your flier generates, see what links your visitors click and see where your visitors are located around the country and world. Once the flier was completed, we shared the link on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google Plus. At last count, our flier was shared over 700 times and viewed by people all over the country and also in the U.K. and New Zealand!
  • After creating this online flier, we designed a paper flier for Harlem Liberation School. We posted and passed out about 500 fliers.
  • At the same time we met with various local activists, educators and Community residents to both inform them and enlist their support. Don’t skip this step if you want community support for your liberation school.
  • On the day of meetings, we post an agenda, and provide participants with a pen to complete information sheets. We use these sheets to communicate with people that attend, and to determine what skills, knowledge, and other resources they can contribute to Harlem Liberation School.
  • We provide an online exit ticket (review sheet/survey) after every meeting (though we forgot to do this at our grand opening). We use this to evaluate how well people understand and remember the information or skills we discussed, to reinforce the information and skills and to receive group feedback and suggestions.
  • We’ve begun calling people that attended to get their feedback and to solicit their assistance with planning and publicity.
  • Using Mailchimp, we distribute a digital newsletter to our email list of attendees and others to provide a record of our activities and help people you missed the meeting review what we did.
  • We constantly promote a warm and inviting spirit. We focus on being inclusive, creative and collaborative. We involve various elements of our community and constantly seek input from participants. We work to avoid senseless rivalry and competition and to focus instead on information, analysis and community action.

As time goes on, I will give updates about Harlem Liberation School. I will also begin posting YouTube clips that detail this particular model and important tips for creating your own. I sincerely hope that Black community activists  and organizers around the country look at this model, tweak it to their needs, and begin educating and empowering our people. You can view our Grand Opening here.

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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-SpanNY1 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 is the National Director of Education for Souljahs of the People. 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 truself143@gmail.com.

 

We Revolutionaries Must Get out of Revolution’s Way

I humbly apologize if the title of this essay seems arrogant. By no means do I believe myself to be all-knowing on any topic. I admittedly don’t have all the answers nor all the questions.

My background as an educator, activist and community organizer however, does provide me with an informed perspective regarding social change. Over the course of this essay I hope to share some information on this topic from the vantage point of a community organizer.

To begin, we identify three types of people and assume each is sincere and authentic:

  1. Those who recognize the ruling empire as fundamentally sound, though unjust in certain respects. They observe flaws in the oppressive empire and seek to repair and reform it. They may confront the empire’s unfair practices through civil disobedience,  economic boycotts, petitions for legal relief, moral appeals to the empire’s sense of “fair play,” or other forms of organized resistance. Such people ultimately wish the empire was more fair, inclusive and beneficial for themselves and others. We will call this group the “Reformers.”
  2. Those who see the ruling empire as fundamentally unjust and oppressive at it roots. They do not make morality-based appeals to the empire because they believe that the empire has no morality or ethics. In their opinion, the empire only values power and domination. Such people believe the empire cannot truly be reformed or improved; No rehabilitation or reform is sufficient. Therefore they seek to disrupt, and dismantle the empire, its laws, values, practices, and institutions, and to replace it with a more humane and effective system of government. As such, they use education, refusal to validate  or cooperate with the empire, denunciation of empire values, practices and domination, and violence to eventually overthrow the empire altogether. They want land, wealth and power to create a free and non-oppressive society. We will call them the “Revolutionaries.”
  3. Those who believe the society has done and can do no wrong. These folk therefore have no critique of the empire and can’t understand what all the fuss is about. Members of this group are content with the empire, usually because they benefit from it or believe they will, if they simply “Work hard enough.” As such, members this group often apologize for and defend the empire, even though the empire often exploits and oppresses them like nearly everyone else. We will call them “Clueless Sheep.”

At this stage of my life, I invest limited energy in the “Clueless Sheep” group. My interest primarily lies with the reformists and the group I most identify with, the revolutionaries.

I think that people who actually are or consider themselves revolutionaries sometimes fail to appreciate the reformists. To a revolutionary, such folk mean well, but are politically naive. Revolutionaries will note that reformers’ activities fail to identify and address fundamental societal issues and instead create surface programs that win limited concessions from the empire.

Revolutionaries reject what they refer to as simplistic and ineffective “band-aid approaches” to social change. They also decry reformist solutions that involve appeals to or collaboration with agencies or institutions of the empire. They ask questions like:

  • Why are you addressing societal symptoms rather than the underlying causes of those symptoms?
  • Why do you participate or cooperate with the empire’s corrupt elections and corporate-contolled political parties?
  • Generating economic power through acquiring property, building Black businesses,  establishing Black investment clubs or doing business with commercial banks legitimizes Wall Street and capitalism. How can you justify collaborating with the very bourgeois system/institutions responsible for our poverty and financial exploitation?

I confess that in the not-so-distant past I too, raised questions like these. I too saw Black reformists as being politically naive (and to some degree still do).

Yet “revolutionaries” often forget some important points: The vast majority of Black folk are reformist. Due to the legacy of cointelpro, most view Black revolutionary politics as “crazy,” impractical,  “extremist” and overly dogmatic. Many reformist Black folk view equate Black revolutionary thought and practice with getting imprisoned, being a hunted fugitive of the law, and ultimately assassination (and those thoughts aren’t all invalid).

These perceptions -accurate or not- mean that the Black revolutionary community already comprises a tiny minority of the community. Furthermore, the tendency toward referencing complex socialist philosophy/terminology, belittling reformists and their politics, and failing to engage and work with them, doesn’t improve relations or perceptions between the two.

If revolutionary Black folk truly want to significantly influence and radicalize the thinking/politics of the Black community, we must do a few things differently. We can start a revolution by:

  • Interacting and working with our less radical brothers and sisters (not just fellow revolutionaries) around common areas of interest. Most people begin to trust you more after working with you and observing your personality in real time. Working on the same issues gives you time to have important discussions with members of our community with whom we don’t see eye-to-eye.
  • Removing the political jargon and advanced revolutionary theory when we speak with our people.”Make it plain.” We are not teaching a graduate course or presenting at a scholarly university conference. We are holding court with our brothers and sisters on our jobs, at rallies or meetings, and in the neighborhood. We must find ways to engage our people, not piss them off, portray ourselves as arrogant assholes, or cause them to tune out. A basic way to do this is to use anecdotes, analogies and references our people can relate to. Brother Malcolm (whose persuasive power was legendary) masterfully used analagies and anecdotes in his conversations/speeches which is one reason he impacted and transformed so many people. Remember how all adult characters in the “Peanuts” cartoon sound muffled and impossible to understand? This is how we sound to people when we over-intellectualize.
  • Remembering to have conversations rather than monologues. No one likes to be lectured to. No one appreciates when one person dominates a discussion. Revolutionaries should do more active listening and less pontificating, uh lecturing… I mean… speaking. When we hear someone’s experiences, dreams and perspectives, we better understand them and also people are more receptive to our ideas.
  • Training ourselves not just to be critical, but to show appreciation and respect for the work, accomplishments and sacrifice of our reformist brothers and sisters. We can have differences of opinion regarding ideology/methods, but still give reformist Blacks’ the credit and respect they deserve…
  • Refusing to diminish the importance of reformist tactics, movements or people. Through their experiences in trying to”fix” or improve the empire, Black reformists often endure police brutality, unfair arrest and imprisonment, and other forms of mistreatment that radicalizes them! Stokely Carmichael began as a reformist college student leader and evolved into the Pan African revolutionary Kwame Ture.
  • Remembering to meet people where they are in the liberation struggle. Be patient and empathetic with people and don’t expect them  to think or organize the way you do. Political growth is a process that takes time. Also don’t forget the time when you didn’t know all you do now.
  • Acknowledging that our liberation will not come from one approach, but several. This type of flexible thinking allows us to join coalitions, appreciate the work of others, and have greater opportunity to influence people beyond our own political circles.

_______

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-SpanNY1 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 truself143@gmail.com.