Black Social Media Commentators Should Be Competent & Qualified!

The creation of the Internet and the emergence of social media platforms is a mixed blessing. On one hand we applaud how this development broke the corporate hold on news and political expression. Indeed, the vast majority of information we receive via American media (and from which we develop opinions) comes from five corporations: Viacom, Disney, Time Warner, Bertelsmann, and News Corp.
By disrupting this old boy media monopoly, the Internet has undoubtedly helped common citizens to realize and broaden their free speech and free press rights. This development has facilitated worldwide unfiltered, on-the-ground news coverage to which we previously had no access. We now have undeniable proof of police misconduct; activists have a quick and reliable way to communicate, organize and mobilize; previously voiceless groups now have platforms for speaking their own special truths; small business owners can promote  their goods and services to target audiences without six-figure marketing budgets.
However, this blessing doubles as a curse. An Internet connection, webcam, and smartphone is all anyone needs to craft journalism and post clips providing commentary available for view throughout the world. This has encouraged millions of people in the U.S. to create radio shows, YouTube channels, blogs, and webinars. Some are impressively well done. Others are……not.
In the Black community, we see the meteoric growth of social media commentators providing streams of opinion, analysis and prescriptions for Black empowerment and liberation. Some of these social commentators are well-informed and experienced. This group provide us with a virtual classroom or newsroom without walls that we have access to at any time. In these times, a young (or old) Black person can receive tons of information on just about any topic, free or at nominal cost.
But there is another group of Black social commentators who provide/promote inaccurate information, flawed analysis,  reactionary and fundamentalist ideas, and half-baked theories. “What’s the big deal” you ask? At minimum, such people become yet another distraction for Black people seeking relevant and alternative information. At worst, such people mislead and misinform Black people which inevitably adds to our ignorance, disunity and suffering. In some cases the situation is so egregious that one wonders if some of these self-proclaimed gurus are actually agents for the FBI. In this context, I unashamedly demand that Black social media political commentators qualify themselves through knowledge and experience regarding the issues they address. In fact, I filmed a clip showing our people how to determine social commentators they should take seriously.
Some (usually incompetent and irresponsible social commentators) feel that my demand for Black social/political commentators to be “qualified” is elitist and condescending. I beg to differ. Simply put, would you trust or value the opinions of someone speaking on heart surgery who has little or no education and experience in this field? Or a person with no mastery of mathematics speaking on engineering? Or a person with no pilot experience flying you to another country? Or a person who hasn’t studied law representing you in court? Or someone with no background in finance, business or tax matters being your accountant? No you wouldn’t (if you have sense).
Why? Because we RESPECT heart surgeons, engineers, airplane pilots, lawyers, and accountants as serious and valuable professionals. Also, we understand that our dependence on people who are incompetent in these fields, would result in disastrous outcomes for us.
That we do not extend this wise and practical thinking to people speaking on our history, or providing political or economic analysis and action plans, sadly implies that we do not see Black leadership as a respected profession/vocation which impacts our lives significantly. Demanding that we properly prepare ourselves through education and experience before making public analysis of our condition is not being elitist or condescending, it’s being respectful of Black people and Black Liberation! Finally, I am not naive enough to believe we can mandate anyone to do anything. Some of these people are motivated by financial gain and status. They will not “stop their hustle.”What I’m really asking is for Black people to be discerning and demanding with the social media content they consume…
______________________

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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A Message for Black Feminists, Black Nationalists, and Black Members of the LGBT Community

The Black Liberation Movement/Struggle throughout history helped our people to wake up, clean up and stand up.” We became aware of our connection with Africa and the Diaspora; We straightened our backs as we demanded and fought for justice; We built organizations and institutions to advocate for and solve our own problems. We did all of this despite state-sanctioned deprivation, discrimination, political impotence and murder.

Our superhuman feats and faith informed and inspired other disempowered people who then launched or re-launched their own effective sociopolitical movements (women, LGBT).

To the extent that opressed and marginalized people were empowered, this was a good thing. No one should be mistreated or deprived of dignity, regardless if we understand or agree with their belefs. Ultimately, we all yearn to be free.

This of course includes Black women and members of the LGBT community. However the emergence of these two groups has not been without conflict.

As Black people themselves, they face discrimination and restriction from whites. And then they face additional mistreatment and rejection from some elements of the larger Black community. Narrow-minded and fundamentalist elements within the Nationalist community with our sometimes chauvinist and insensitive rhetoric and behavior have not helped the situation. Such intolerant and repressive attitudes and behavior (similar to that of racist rednecks) has developed radical or “extremist” factions in the Black Feminist and LGBT communities (like similar factions in the Nationalist community) who develop unsound, inaccurate, and imbalanced perspectives as a result. Those who disagree with their perspectives are soon painted with broad (negative) strokes, ostracized, and met with indifference, distrust or flat out hostility.

Whether we acknowledge this or not, such intra-group hostility, insensitivity and inability to work together, constitute MAJOR threats to our collective and unique interests and success.  The simple truth is Black Feminists Black Nationalists and the LGBT community have existed for longer than we imagine, and most likely aren’t going away just because anyone disagrees or feels “uncomfortable” by them. We are left with two choices: Continue to attack, ignore or isolate one another, or begin discussions to heal, understand and work together. I am convinced that the first option will make all who participate in it, unwilling collaborators with white supremacy and Black subversion….in addition to making us inhumane and unprincipled.

We must seriously discuss ways to preserve/empower ourselves as a race against those who seek to eliminate us, while ensuring that we don’t maintain oppression, hostility or indifference among the various subsets of our race, all vying for recognition, respect, and power themselves (and rightfully so). Unless we give this serious energy, our alliances, priorities and hostilities will cause us to rot from within, seek each others’ decimation, and be absorbed and manipulated by outsiders and interlopers who despise and seek to dominate us all.

__________

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 theBlack 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 ofHarlem 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.

Ideology and Dogmatism Vs. Black Power

Anytime you read or hear an organizer, leader or spokesperson discuss their ideas, policies, concerns, solutions or projects, you are observing elements of his/her ideology.

When these ideas come across as contradictory, confusing, ridiculous or scattered, we are witnessing either their  inability to communicate effectively, or evidence of weak ideology.

Ideology is no light or trivial matter.  We can define it as an ethos or set of principles that guide and direct a person or organization’s worldview, policies and practices. All institutions and organizations operate from an ideology, including the military, schools, places of worship, fraternal organizations, community organizations, police, the medical establishment, etc. One’s ethos or ideology shapes how they think, their values/priorities, what they do, and how they do it. You can clearly see how important ideology is to say, a community organization.

Sound ideology develops in response to real circumstances (i.e. concerns for safety, law and order, miseducation or political empowerment) sound analysis of these circumstances and their causes, and a good understanding of community culture, history and sensibilities.

Ideology should respond accurately and effectively to a group’s actual circumstances/reality. When our ideology conflicts with or proves ineffective to address the realities we confront, we are compelled to seriously reconsider, adjust or dismiss our ideology altogether. If we continue believing, promoting or operating on inaccurate or irrelevant ideas, we compromise our organizing and put ourselves in danger of becoming reactionary (pro status quo, politically backwards or ultra conservative).

Instead, we must be disciplined and mature enough to acknowledge when our conceptual frameworks are inadequate/inaccurate and do what is necessary to rectify our thinking. To do otherwise is simply irresponsible…

Signs that our ideology needs reshaping

  1. It leads to policies/practices that encourage innocent segments of our community to be discriminated against, bullied, isolated or dismissed.
  2. It paints large segments of our community with a broad brush without allowing for difference and nuance (i.e “Black Christians are sell-outs,” Black single-parent mothers are the primary cause of delinquent Black children,” “Black gays and feminists are the reason we are no longer unified or strong as a people”).
  3. It suggests policies or practices based on assumptions that are false or contain logical fallacies leading to weak arguments.
  4. It suggests policies that divide our community, generate unnecessary resentment, and make us more vulnerable to the system of white supremacy.
  5. It is driven by fear, hatred and insecurity rather than an accurate analysis of historical, economic or political conditions, and love.
  6. It articulates policies, sentiments and practices identical to those endorsed by the maintainers and beneficiaries of white supremacy.
  7. It leads to policies that create an oppressive and oppressed class of people in our own community.
  8. It is too rigid and dogmatic, leading to a feeling among some that their perspective is the ONLY valid one, or that those who disagree with it are government agents worthy of persecution and attack.

 

dogmatism

Let us underscore that last point. When we become dogmatic, we make our opinions or ideas more important than people and the quality of their lives. The irony is obvious; Community leaders and organizers are (or at least should be) concerned with people, the quality of their lives, and their happiness.

This group – by virtue of their mission – should be the least dogmatic, and yet when it comes to some elements of the Black “Conscious Community,” be they Socialist, Nationalist, Pan-African, Religious, Atheist, Feminist, etc., we find large pockets of highly dogmatic people.

I regularly read social media posts, watch YouTube clips, and observe community discussions that are disturbingly narrow, prejudiced and inhumane toward other brothers and sisters.

I’ve literally heard Black people angrily suggest that members of the Black Gay community should be killed, along with our petty criminal element and those with an appetite for non-white dating partners. I’ve heard/read others label all Black Christians as “ignorant tools of the white man,” or openly advocate removing Black churches in our community (One of the the institutions in our history that most advanced literacy, civil rights and community organizing). And each one of these individuals considers him or herself an activist, leader or community organizer for Black people.

Such words and ideas often get packaged as “Keeping it real,” but make no mistake – history reveals such to be the thinking of dictators and tyrants. They begin by fighting for the people and eliminating an oppressive regime.

Once in power, they claim absolute authority and power over the very people they set out to “liberate.” Next they choose what books people can read, what things people can say, and what affiliations people can have. These people become leaders for life, hold corrupt elections or ban them altogether, and live in luxury as the people starve and endure lives of squalor. Check the history of revolutionary leaders and you’ll find that more than a few commmitted horrific acts of torture and genocide against their countrymen whose only “crime” was difference of opinion.

Some embrace brother Malcolm but forget his political transformation and evolution. Take the statement he made at the March 1964 press conference announcing his departure from the Nation of Islam:

“Now that I have more independence of action, I intend to use a more flexible approach toward working with others to get a solution to this problem….

As of this minute, I’ve forgotten everything bad that the other leaders have said about me, and I pray they can also forget the many bad things I’ve said about them.”

…The problem facing our people here in America is bigger than all other personal or organizational differences. Therefore, as leaders, we must stop worrying about the threat that we seem to think we pose to each other’s personal prestige, and concentrate our united efforts toward solving the unending hurt that is being done daily to our people here in America.”

In the same year, in his presentation at the Oxford debate, he said:

I, for one, will join in with anyone—I don’t care what color you are—as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”

Malcolm clearly came to realize the need for Black solidarity. He recognized his attacks of people he disagreed with as a mistake. He acknowledged that he had to work with various segments of the Black community and even some of those outside of our community who were sincere. In other words, he developed compassion and  adjusted his beliefs and methods to address the realities he observed. If he was willing to work with serious and sincere whites, can we conclude that he might also work with Black feminists, Christians and members of the LGBT community? One’s gender, sexuality and spirituality don’t dictate their politics necessarily…

Today, we have more knowledge of ancient African societies, more understanding of economics and sociopolitical struggles, more knowledge of how to create alternative schoo than did Malcolm -and yet, we have lost compassion for members of our extended family whose spirituality, sexuality, and other beliefs/practices are different.

To be clear, I am not Christian (nor any other religion), atheist, gay, or feminist, nor does this matter. My position stems from being clear on one point: Black people – our lives, health, liberty happiness and concerns – are more important than my opinions or those of anyone else. I believe in “unity without uniformity.” I also agree with comedian Dave Chappelle: We don’t have to hate or fear those whose lifestyles we do not understand or condone. Nor do we have to agree with everything someone we love says or does. “We don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

dave  chappele compassion

Some of you reading this article will disagree. That is your right. I just hope you truly UNDERSTAND. When we lose compassion for our people, and allow our opinions to become more important than their lives and right to choose, then we become part of the problem. Where is the love, Black Conscious Community?

_________________________

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.

Who are We? A Question of Identity

I’d like to think that my essays/articles have meaning or resonate with a wide circle of reasonable people. However, my unashamed focus is always on helping Black people in particular to “Wake up, Clean up, and Stand up!” 

Throughout my life, I’ve addressed in one way or another- via activism or scholarship – the issues of economics, politics, incarceration, police brutality, fratricide, Black Nationalism, corporate exploitation, nation building and other pertinent issues to the Black community.

It is truly difficult to rank such issues in order of significance. And yet the issue of who we are as a people and how we identify ourselves, is surely one of the most important, given that it directly impacts all of the others.

On Monday April 11, 2016 Harlem Liberation School will host a panel discussion to address this issue of group identity. Our three panelists have distinguished themselves as resources on this topic, through intense study, writing, presenting and lived experience, or any combination of the above. While all three were/are “God Body,” or adherents of the Five Percent Nation of Gods and Earths, each panelist brings a slightly different perspective to the identity discussion.

Brother Laheen Allah, learned much of his information while enduring more than a decade of captivity in the U.S. prison system. While others spent vasts amounts of time in other pursuits, Laheen educated himself in the library, and gained an impressive knowledge of sociology, law,  history and psychology. He is now working to finish a book on criminology in which he offers his own theories about why Black people commit crime, along with methods to rehabilitate them. 

Born M. Allah, a highly respected community organizer and educator, teaches biology from a Black consciousness perspective, owns a music entertainment group, and approaches the question of identity from a historical and  scientific perspective. 

 

sharif debateBrother Sharif Anael Bey, a member of Noble Drew Ali’s Moorish Science Temple of America, is a longtime martial arts practitioner/instructor, and founder of “Ali’s Men,” a group of lecturers, researchers and writers around the country that specialize in Moorish Science history. More recently, Sharif has distinguished himself as a much sought after debater on the topics of history and identity. One day before the panel discussion at Harlem Liberation School, Sharif will debate the popular Afrocentric street scholar Brother Reggie, at the National Black Theater in Harlem.

Clearly, we cannot underestimate the importance of group identity. For this reason, and because we want to avoid the insults and combativeness that often occur in the street debate culture, Harlem Liberation School is proud to host a conversation on April 11, 2016 focusing on identity.

We expect all panelists to present their perspectives on the subject, support their perspective with facts and reason, and do so in the spirit of respect and community learning.

I should emphasize that our objective is to challenge and broaden our community understanding about how we identify ourselves, the factors that constitute individual and group identity, and ways to identify ourselves that are empowering and self-determining. I do hope you will consider attending this free event.

My own thoughts on this subject are as follows:

1. Identity is an issue of self-determination. This means we have the power to choose how we identify ourselves. Regardless of how well we argue our point, or our own beliefs, the bottom line is that everyone has the power to choose how they define themselves.

2. Ideally, our choice concerning identity should be informed and empowering. We can certainly choose to identify ourselves as “Thots,” “Gangsters,” “Bitches,” or “Niggas.” The questions then become: Are these identities empowering? Do they liberate us or contribute to enslaving us? Do they represent the best of ourselves, or the ugliest factions of our character? Do they produce and encourage confidence and love, or humiliation and self-hate? These questions and their implications are amplified for we Black descendants of Africa who’ve been systematically taught that we are nothing, have nothing, and can do nothing. I believe that we should identify ourselves in ways that unite us, benefit us and empower us. Identify is a matter of choice, and is relative, but it is by no means neutral. When we identify ourselves, we consciously or unconsciously align ourselves with some things, and detach ourselves from others. It is in fact, a political choice.

3. Several factors impact how we identify ourselves. We can choose to identify ourselves based on geography/place of origin, language, race, gender, religion, and political ideology to name a few. The issue of identity is not simplistic, but complicated. This also implies that identity is not fixed but fluid, which goes back to the first point. This is why we are advised not to impose our views of identity, but to educate people on the issue so they can make informed and empowered choices.

4. We should be careful about adopting the identities of those who subjugate us. At the risk of insulting some brothers and sisters (which is not my intention), I don’t understand why we identify ourselves as Muslim, Christian, American, French, or any other designation of our enemies who imposed these identities upon us. These identities are not neutral; they come with values, and a imperialist history replete with colonization, forced conversion, and persecution. In the case of religion for example, we must stop erasing historical record. These major religions some of us subscribe to, in fact, stole much of their mythology and doctrine from African civilizations then distorted them. These religions also work to serve and benefit white supremacy. These religions were not indigenous to ancient Africa; They were imposed upon us, often at the penalty of death. 

5. I interchangeably identify myself as “African” and/or “Black.” “People of Color” is a vague term born from the politics of multiculturalism. It does not unite people around a common experience. “African-American” is a compromised term that attempts to fuse our African origin with an American nationality. But I do not view myself as “American.” That red, white, and blue flag and those representing it, did everything imaginable to mistreat, exploit and murder us. Africa is our motherland from which we were snatched and dispersed all over the world. It connects us to a rich land base and even richer history and culture of values and practices. “Black” refers to our phenotype, color or race. It is the essence from which all other hues come. It is genetically dominant, and an all-encompassing term we can use to unify our people around the world. However, despite what I believe, I still recognize that our people have to choose identity for themselves.

6. We may never be able to determine a historical identity with precision. Are we Moors, Kemites, Hebrews, Asiatics, Muslims? The answer is not definitive. Because of lost or destroyed historical records, and contemporary limitations of archaeology, it may be impossible to say with precision who we are historically. We can say with authority that we are the original people of the Earth that created civilizations which have benefitted all of humanity. We can say that our people have been among the world’s most creative, influential and underappreciated. We can say that we are some of the world’s most resilient people, having survived and overcome the most horrific and enduring forms of oppression. Perhaps those realizations might suffice for now. Whatever identity we claim should make us loving toward each other, unified, productive and confident, and help us to be purposeful, forward-thinking and powerful. 

________________

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.

What’s the Big Deal about “Knowledge of Self?”

It is a phrase many Black activists and Hip Hop artists use with almost obsessive regularity. Indeed, the phrase “Knowledge of Self,” joins other terms in the pantheon of Black expressions that have become cliche.

But exactly what is knowledge of self, what does it refer to, and why is it so important that we Black folk acquire it?

We should begin by noting that the knowledge of self idea is not new. In ancient Kemet (Egypt), initiates in the “mystery schools” learned the phrase “Man know thyself and you will know the universe.” Early Black Nationalist pioneers like Noble Drew Ali and Marcus Garvey urged Black folk to know our history as early as 1913. Groups like the Nation of Islam (via Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, and Khalid Muhammad) and its offshoot, the Five Percent Nation of Gods and Earths (via Clarence 13x), popularized this idea in the mid-20th century.

The $1 million questions at this point are: “What exactly is knowledge of self,” and “What do we gain by having it?”

“Knowledge of self” refers primarily to empowering information about our past. This includes: our geographic origins, our ancient values and culture, our accomplishments, and even our defeats and miscalculations.

More specifically, a Black person demonstrates knowledge of self when he/she:

  • Acknowledges Africa as the cradle of world civilization.
  • Acknowledges the pivotal role Africa played in the development of spirituality, law, music, astronomy, mathematics, education, technology, architecture, agriculture, etc. Furthermore, people with knowledge of self understand that European development in all its forms, was facilitated, borrowed or stolen from African ingenuity, knowledge or labor.
  • Realizes that African civilization/contibutions to humanity, were deliberately attacked, omitted and trivialized by Euopeans.
  • Understands how and why  Black ancestors were enslaved, assaulted and discriminated against by whites all over the world.
  • Develops pride and meaning from the past accomplishments, struggles and treatment of their ancestors.
  • Is familiar with, references and respects Black leaders and organizations of the past who fought to advance and protect Black people and interests.

It is important to note that one’s “knowledge of self” is relative to each individual. Some know more than others, can articulate this knowledge better than others, or embrace and manifest this knowledge more than others. Thus we must realize that this term means and manifests itself in different ways to different people.

Now we must grapple with the question of “Why is it so important that Black people have knowledge of self?” Those familiar with my “Wizard of Oz” framework, understand that the characters (Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Tin Man), represent archetypes of people who are lost, believe themselves unintelligent, fearful, and ruthless/inhumane). Don’t you know brothers and sisters who seem lost and disconnected, feel themselves incompetent and “dumb,” act like cold-hearted thugs, or who refuse to exert leadership and authority? Of course you do!

Knowledge of one’s Black self has the potential to heal those in our community who have been taught (and who believe) they are nothing, have nothing, and can do nothing. Having a strong grasp of our history is both a shield against such propaganda, and a weapon we can use to challenge and dismantle it.

Lastly, knowing one’s history is not just a matter of developing pride or of healing damaged psyches; It also equips us to accurately understand our problems, identify their causes, and develop blueprints and remedies to liberate ourselves. For this reason, knowledge actually is NOT power; It is POTENTIAL POWER. Knowledge of self is only relevant if it empowers an individual and leads that individual to empower and liberate others.

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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. He is the founder and coordinator of Harlem Liberation School and National Director of Education for Souljahs of the People.

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.

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…..

______

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.

 

What Makes a (“Real”) Man or Woman?

Being a “Grown man or woman” is a badge of honor that does not come automatically with age. We all know people who are mature (or not) for their age, based on their experiences and personal qualities.

Have you given thought to the things that distinguish good or authentic men and women in your life? I have. In my humble opinion, to qualify as a “Real” man or woman, you must (at some time or another):

1. Have the experience of paying bills with your own money and/or contributing to running a household.
2. Have had your heart broken and have broken a heart at least once.
3. Know how to enjoy your own company.
4. Have someone that seeks your advice.
5. Be obligated or responsible to someone besides yourself
6. Be able to freely admit when you’ve been an A-hole
7. Be able to give and receive good advice.
8. Have the experience of sacrificing for someone else.
9. Appreciate the lessons your parents/mentors taught and find yourself implementing and sharing them with others.
10. Have forgiven someone that offended or disappointed you.
11. Be able to sincerely compliment and recognize greatness or beauty in someone without being jealous of them.
12. Apologize without attempting to justify your behavior.
13. Appreciate the beauty and importance of rest and relaxation.
14. Express gratitude more than you complain.
15. Refuse to blame others for problems you caused or enabled.
16. Be fully aware of your strong and less desireable traits.
17. Have experienced the betrayal of someone close to you.
18. Have the ability and willingness to prepare your own meals, wash your own clothes, and clean your own house.
19. Have the experience of doing what you need to do so you can do what you want to do.
20. Demonstrate the ability to solve your own problems without the help of others.
21. Humble yourself to ask someone for help when you need it.
22. Know when to be diplomatic and when to be blunt.
23. Be willing to take a stand/make a decision no one agrees with.
24. Acknowledge your imperfections and work to eliminate them.
25. Know your true worth and refuse to settle for less.
26. Doubt yourself, but move forward anyway.
27. Appreciate the importance of silence.
28. Care more about being respected than being liked.
29. Know the difference between friends and enemies or “haters.”
30. Be able to tell people “no” without feeling guilty.
31. Have defended someone vulnerable when you stood nothing to gain from it.
32. Be willing to sacrifice sleep to finish an important project.
33. Use time judiciously.
34. Know who is deserving of your love.
35. Be able to sever toxic and draining friendships and associations.
36. Be able to celebrate with absolutely no money.
37. Be willing to do what you need to do so you can do what you want to do.
38. Recognize, give and receive wisdom, truth and love.
39. Allow those you love the freedom and space to be themselves (without violating or sabotaging yourself).
40. Have the willingness to be an excellent student or teacher when necessary.

41. Appreciate the importance of balance and moderation.

42. Be able to enjoy yourself without feeling guilty.

43. Have undergone the experience of rejecting a good opportunity because it conflicted with your values.

44. Overcome fears or illusions that block your progress and empowerment.

Please note: I dont claim to have mastered all of these, but I work constantly to be better and do better. I’m curious to know what you think about this list. Also, what would you add?

_____

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.

Hurt People Hurt… People!

You’ve either met or heard about them. Narcissistic lovers, overly belligerent law enforcement officers, ruthless business people, physically abusive mates, vindictive discussion group administrators, horrific employers and the list continues.

The iron-fisted behavior of these maladjusted types have a number of influences, including capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. These influences also include (often traumatic) childhood and other life experiences.

In the interest of providing some relief from such tyrants and in preventing new ones from developing, I offer the following for your consideration.

Parents: Hug and patiently reassure your children. Refuse to coddle them or dismiss their indiscretions and shortcomings. Discipline them without crushing their bodies or spirits. Tell and show them how valuable they are.

Teachers: Empower your students with skills and knowledge and give them a sense of infinite possibilities.

Peers: Don’t tease, bully ridicule or brutalize them. Don’t break their hearts, embarrass them or reject their romantic intentions too harshly.

Elders: Teach them humility, discipline, forgiveness and empathy. Knowledge of their history and culture wouldn’t hurt either.

Coaches: Teach them how to win and lose with dignity and give them some playing time even if they suck. Remind them that winning or conquering others is not the greatest objective, but mastering themselves.

…Or else he or she may grow up to be become a petty adults riddled with insecurity, vindictiveness, and deep feelings of inadequacy who need constant praise to fill bottomless inner voids.

They may grow up needy, weak, argumentative, violent and bitter.

They may enter professions, relationships, community groups and other spaces not to serve and empower, but to exert control and dominance over others and attempt to inflict on them the pain they’ve endured all their lives.

Such individuals exist in our communities, in high and low places, creating chaos, hostility and ugly vibrations around them because they feel weak and insignificant but overcompensate with posturing, insulting rhetoric, bravado, punitive behavior and pettiness with others.

Never forget that empowered people empower others, while hurt people, HURTPEOPLE.

——-

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.