Rahim Islam is a National Speaker and Writer, Convener of Philadelphia Community of Leaders, and President/CEO of Universal Companies, a community development and education management company headquartered in Philadelphia, PA. Follow Rahim Islam on FaceBook(Rahim Islam) & Twitter (@RahimIslamUC)
Brother and Sisters, we have a chance to make history. We have a chance to do what none of the great Black leaders who have walked this earth could – build the infrastructure (institutions) needed to defend and protect the Black community in America that will continue for generations.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, W. E. Dubois, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Marcus Garvey, Booker T. Washington and many others warned and tried to arm the Black community to be able to defend itself against a mighty enemy that is rooted in racism and the advocacy of White supremacy and Black inferiority.
What did all of our great leaders have in common? They had courage; they had knowledge; they had People Power (a powerful mixture).
They were people who were trying to help their own. Many of them taught that the power lies in you, the people, and to look anywhere else is a critical error.
Our problem is that we have drank the fear and deception-laced Kool-Aid” and now do not believe that we, as a people, have power.
Several of America’s institutions have told their side of story as it relates to Black people and the Black struggle.
Do you really think that they would tell you the truth when they have done everything in their power to kill you?
It’s insane and juvenile to think that they would teach you about your history and your greatness.
Malcom X once said that anyone who takes their children to the enemy to be educated is a fool.
It’s foolish to expect that the education that Black people receive in America is designed to empower you.
Let me ask the so-called educated Black man, what did you learn about who you are at the public schools that you attended?
What did you learn about who you are at the colleges and universities that you attended?
What did you learn about your Black purpose for life? What are you supposed to do with your knowledge?
I once saw a study that showed that even with nearly 25 years of formal education, attainment of a Doctorate Degree, education offered about the history of Black people was less than 7% of all knowledge and information.
If this was an accurate number, my question is what was the other 93%? I believe this because, at 58 years of age, I’ve learned more about the Black struggle in the past 10 years than in all of my first 45 years.
I can’t imagine that if you are not a student of the struggle, you can acquire enough knowledge to give you the ability to challenge white supremacy and black inferiority. Your total knowledge is like a soundbite.
I call myself a student because I, too, am so far behind and there is yet so much to learn. We must redirect our academic focus.
Brothers and sisters, we can’t expect to continue the struggle of our great leaders without a commitment to some level of study about who we are.
We can’t have it both ways – we want freedom without a struggle; we want self-determination without earning it.
Black leaders, Black scholars, Black elite, and the Black educated must fundamentally come to grips with the fact that our education has been miseducation.
We have been taught to marvel, admire, and to even worship white people, tradition, history, and culture and despise Black people, tradition, history, and culture.
We have been taught to be ashamed for being the victim and we have been taught that somehow and someway the psychotic and brutal experiences forced on our Black ancestors by their white ancestors in America for nearly 500 years is our fault.
And, even more criminal and sinister, is that the current generation of white people deny the tremendous benefit, advantage, and economic privilege they now hold as a result of this crime against humanity.
We must come to terms that we cannot achieve PEOPLE POWER without knowledge.
How much do you know about where we come from – not the locations, but the economic, social, educational, political, and religious context involving our kidnapping? How did it happen (play by play)?
We’ve heard stories about the transatlantic passage, but what really happened?
Who were the international players and what did they have to gain from this pillaging?
Where was this idea first developed and who were the people involved in its delivery?
What really happened when our ancestors arrived in America and how were they treated?
What were the physiological, emotional and psychological pains inflicted and how has it been incorporated into the Black culture (what can we point to now that we carry from that period)? What were the medical atrocities, the family atrocities inflicted against our ancestors?
Who were the resisters and how did the American institutions of slavery end (what really happened)?
We hear all the time how Black people built America but how many of us know what this means.
How did this experience build America’s infrastructure, America’s economy, and America’s global superiority?
How did it actually happen? This is the education that we need.
If you don’t have these answers and the answers to many more questions like this, you have the academic brain of an orphan (you’ve been adopted and you don’t even know it). How much do you know or is your knowledge about the Black struggle just relegated to Black History Month?
Carter G. Woodson stated: “The large majority of the Negroes who have put on the finishing touches of our best colleges are all but worthless in the development of their people.”
I know it’s hard for some of our most educated to believe what I’m saying.
However, I’m only repeating what many of our former great thinkers said.
In addition, the facts support them as well. Many profess to be “doing their own thing” when nothing could be further from the truth.
They say “I have dual degrees from this college or university” not understanding what they’re even saying.
Those colleges and universities didn’t break down for you structural racism, discrimination, and bias and how to abolish it. NO!
For the most part they only taught you how to get out of the ghetto; how to run from your people; how to get ahead (of other Blacks) but never Whites.
They taught you how to uphold and emulate the systems that wreak havoc on the Black man on a daily basis.
You were taught how to exercise the “temporary” power you received to advance the goals and outcomes of the White community and it was definitely not to be used to empower Black people.
If you did that, that’s when you came to realize that your power was temporary.
In many respects, you’re doing exactly what was intended when it was decided that Black people could read and be educated.
You would become supporters of a system that oppresses your own people.
Many on this track are steeped into assimilation almost to the point that they are no longer recognizable.
Yes we have had some of the greatest human beings that have lived and provided leadership to the Black community, but there is no infrastructure that exist that keeps their message and activity alive – not in a historical context but in a “agent of change now” context.”
Why is it that we don’t have any schools, universities, organizations, foundations, etc. that continue the works of our great leaders? We don’t have them because, the Black man hasn’t developed them and unfortunately, the competition has thousands and thousands of organized infrastructure to continue the legacy of the American institution of slavery and its number one commodity – white supremacy and Black inferiority.”
Because we lack real understanding of the Black man’s plight, we minimize and underestimate what the struggle is all about.
Black people who don’t know their history will minimize the role that any one current institution can and has done to perpetuate white supremacy and black inferiority.
Marcus Garvey once said that a people who don’t know their history, is like a tree without roots.
Trees that don’t have roots don’t live long nor can they compete with the trees that have deep roots.
Trees with deep roots are able to extract the most from both the earth and the heavens (balanced) and have the best chance to experience the best life.
Trees that have no roots just die and so our community is reflective of the “walking dead”, not having the intellectual ability to fight for and sustain PEOPLE POWER.
This is why, even today, there is no definitive response about anything negative being articulated by anyone, including the American media.
The American mass media, under the guise of “free press,” has turned the worst crime in modern history that was perpetuated by white America against Black people into an insignificant event that happened 150 years ago. It is discussed as if it was a sporting event (as if the effects of these acts are no longer present).
The American mass media is the most powerful institution in the world because it can make the right wrong and wrong right it can make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent and it has and continues to make the Black out to be a savage, animal, non-human that is deserving of not only being enslaved but also deserving of its current second class citizenship.
It wasn’t enough that the American institution of slavery has been downplayed and marginalized, as part of the trick, the media has portrayed the Black man in a negative light for nearly 400 years.
This trick influences whites as well as Blacks.
Whites live under the benefits of white supremacy and white privilege while blacks suffer the highest level of inferiority and deep hopelessness.
I contend that the media sharply plays against the circumstances that were created and holds them out as proof that Blacks are inferior without any level of self-blame.
This is nothing new because the media has always been the tool to justify the oppression of Black people:
• Chattel Captivation (1500 – 1860) – Black are subhuman beasts, uncivilized and whites are superior beings and God and the Church supports this position;
• Civil War/Reconstruction (1865-1900) – Blacks are inferior to whites and they will seek revenge rape our white women and kill us and they really don’t want nothing better (lazy, illiterate);
• Jim Crow/KKK Period and Civil Rights (1900 – 1970) – Blacks are angry, dangerous, and unemployable and addicted to handouts and welfare.
Black power will result in a race war and whites owned their position through hard work, discipline, high morals, and family values; and
• Post-Civil Rights (1970 – Present) – Blacks are responsible for the current conditions, bring down property values and are prone to drugs, violence and crime, CREDIT RISK– they need to be incarcerated.
When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “We shall overcome” what was he talking about?
He wasn’t talking about just segregation, he was talking about overcoming the power of white supremacy and its ability to implement its will and cripple minds through black inferiority and the group paralysis that it has done to us, he was talking about securing power – enough power to control your own destiny and to win.
He was talking about positive change for the Black man through a heavy dose of self-knowledge, self-respect and a renewed love of spirit, beauty and greatness for all Black people.
There are many definitions of power but the one I prefer to use now is having the ability to cause or prevent an action, make things happen.
The power we need now is the ability to take the millions of Black families and Black children out of poverty; the ability to halt the mass incarceration of Black men; the ability to build back the bond between Black men and women; the ability to own our economic destiny and future by securing nearly $14 Trillion dollars that is owed to the children of the enslaved Blacks; the ability to halt the alarming killing of unarmed Black men by White police officers; and the ability to tell and teach our own story so that future generations of Black people can be inspired and empowered to compete and win for the one of the coveted economic seats at the table of life.
This power will not be given to us; in fact, the power is being used against us.
For everything we see taking place against the Black man in America, there is a powerful force that not only allows it but supports it and our task is to wrestle that power away from those that seek to do us harm and into our hands so that we can give our community social, physical, financial, economic, and emotional relief.
The great Fredrick Douglas said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress” and “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” This is about PEOPLE POWER.
Almost every day and sometimes all day, I hear members of the Black community saying “we should do this” or “we should do that.”
We should be addressing the issue of trust in the Black community; we should be spending our money collectively; we should be treating our women better; we should boycott this or that; we should be embracing our youth, etc.
There is never a strategy that can gain “traction” on the idea being discussed. In some strange way, we make these statements believing that someone else is going to do something for us. Is that part of our paralysis? Is this a symptom of a bigger issue? I say absolutely, yes.
This is like people walking past filth every day and all they do is complain that the filth stinks.
It’s not pretty. It’s bringing down the quality of life. It’s creating havoc for so many people and why won’t somebody pick up the filth?
Not only is the filth not being picked up, it’s growing and our response is to complain more. But, who is going to do it?
Who is actually going to pick the filth up? Now that the filth (problem) has grown, no one person or one organization has the capacity to fix the problem.
Now, because the problem has grown, any solution will require a higher level of capacity.
There is no one organization or ideology or concept that has the capacity to address the problems facing the Black man today, because all of the issues are extreme and all of the issues are interrelated. Like anything, when we ignore the problem seldom can we expect it to fix itself. In fact, what actually happens is just the opposite, the problems worsen and what we find is that the problem becomes overwhelming and further paralyzes us with hopelessness.
In the nearly 50 years since the civil rights movement, many of this generation have yet to reference any active or successful movement. Hopelessness prevails.
In many ways, this hopelessness can be understood as the “millennials” are saddled with another issue.
They fundamentally do not understand that we do not live in a post-racial society.
Given the spiraling out of control of every negative demographic facing the Black community, it is obvious that that our community seems unwilling or unable to mount a collective offense.
You have to conclude, if you are honest, that something is wrong, seriously wrong with our community. Did our ancestors bargain for this?
Our ancestors are rolling over in their graves because, not only do we have to contend with structural issues that prevent the self-determination of Black people, we must now face what we are doing to each other.
I contend it is not what they are doing to us; it’s what we’re not doing.
All too often, the answer to what must be done to correct this injustice is left in the hands of those most responsible for creating the problem.
Who created these problems of millions of Blacks living at or near poverty while millions of Whites live in absolute wealth?
It reminds me of the analogy of you sleeping and a rat starts to bite your head. You don’t say, “Mr. Rat can you stop biting my head?” If you are sane and normal, you do your damnest to kill the rat.
The Black community must take the lead in resolving the problems that it faces and can no longer ask anyone to do it for them. There is no foreign being that will come to earth to secure power for the Black man.
Neither is there another group who will do this. WE MUST DO IT FOR OURSELVES.
We must organize our collective voices to speak as one voice.
That’s power. We must restore BLACK POWER, PEOPLE POWER. In my next article, I will further elaborate how we can restore People Power.