Tag Archives: Black Power

Malcolm X: Did His Ultimate Sacrifice Bring Any Tangible Gains to the Black Freedom Struggle?

There is quite possibly no greater frustration among those who have chosen to carry the huge banner of Black Nationalism than the witnessing of those whose cause that you continually champion making the same mistakes that guarantee a continuation of their oppression. Unfortunately, I realize that I have much company when I enter those private moments that invariably lead me to question if the arduous tasks and constant frustrations experienced while attempting to uplift a people who behave as if they do not mind the continuation of their politico-economic exploitation and social outcast status is even worth the Herculean effort? As mentioned above, I realize that I have much company when it comes to this type of thinking.

Although I realize that I have only given some of myself to the struggle, while there are others such as Brother Malcolm X who gave all, I believe that it is within reasonable bounds to wonder if the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life, such as Brother Malcolm, has made an iota difference in the historical struggle to uplift a stubborn Black America.

When reflecting upon the life, legacy, and untimely death of Malcolm X, I am reminded of his order to the black man that it is time for him to “Wake up, clean up and stand up.” Such a directive appears to be not only sensible, but also easily achievable by a people who have served as a reliable resource for other groups seeking to increase some combination of political power, economic might, and social status.

According to Malcolm X, the path out of this jungle of unconscionable exploitation for the black man and woman was a fairly rudimentary plan.

  • Starting black businesses so that the black dollar could be circulated among them.
  • Creating political solidarity sufficient to not only elect representatives to represent our interests, but also capable of “holding their feet to the fire” after they were elected.
  • Abandoning any vices retarding “the liberation and salvation of the black nation,” such as: alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, financial irresponsibility, political illiteracy, lack of an education, uncivilized behavior toward one another, and the destruction of the black family.

I am certain that you realize that none of the above ideas originated with Brother Malcolm. It is this reality that calls into question the legacy of not only Malcolm X, but also the many other leaders who have appeared in our community carrying a similar message, suspect.

So the question before us is a rather simple one. In a climate where it appears that the dial measuring the fortunes of African-Americans has remained stationary, did the contributions and sacrifices of Malcolm X matter at all?

Prior to answering this query, we should first take this opportunity to examine the present condition of Black America.

  • African-American children lag behind all others in educational achievement.
  • African-American children are being disproportionately raised in single-parent female headed households.
  • African-American communities remain a reliable path to financial improvement for any non-black group in the nation.
  • African-American wealth accumulation lags behind every other group, including newly arrived immigrant groups.
  • African-Americans, male and female, are incarcerated at a rate that far exceeds their proportion of the American populace.
  • African-American marriages are more likely than not to end in divorce.
  • African-American women far exceed their male counterparts in
    • Educational achievement
    • Income earned
    • Social Status
    • Political Activism
  • Understanding of African-American manhood constructs are nearly non-existent among black males and females.
  • There is a sizable population of African-American men who should be considered “unmarriageable.”

In light of the above list, we are once again faced with the query of did Malcolm X’s existence mean anything beyond being inspirational for a few African-Americans. If Brother Malcolm’s sacrifices meant something more, what tangible changes occurred as a result of his esteemed legacy?

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Black Power Politics: Dr. King’s Surprising Perspective of “Black Power!!!!!”

When one examines the twentieth-century, an era that W.E.B. Du Bois prophetically claimed would be haunted by an unsolvable “color line” issue, it is safe to say that there is no combination of words that frightens white America more than “Black Power!!!!!” In many ways, it is ironic that Black Power politics arrived on the heels of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., repeated calls for black activists to embrace non-violent civil disobedience as a tactic and gradualism as an appropriate pace in regards to the achievement of racial equality.

Without a doubt, angry calls for “Black Power” stoked whites’ omnipresent fears of racial revenge attacks to a disturbing level. In many ways, the alluded to mid-sixties fears of white Americans is an implicit acknowledgment of what they would do had they been exploited, denigrated, and marginalized for nearly four centuries. It is these reasons that Dr. King was so important to the psychological well-being of white America as they believed that he was the only ‘thing’ standing between them and the arrival of a horde of vengeful blood-thirsty blacks who they believed was never far from reverting to their natural state of uncivilized cannibalistic beings.

Despite their public confrontations with Dr. King, white America needed the Civil Rights patriarch to control the “irrational blacks” who could not get comfortably settled into their oppression filled second-class citizenship. This need for King to be totally wedded to integration was so significant that whites used their many media platforms to portray the Civil Rights patriarch in a light that ignored both his evolving political priorities and unusual position regarding “Black Power!”

Despite the psychological disturbance that it will cause Americans of every hue, in the post-March on Washington period, Dr. King did address “Black Power” politics in an unexpected manner.

Considering the unrestricted use of the term “Black Power” by contemporary activists, I feel that it is important to define what it meant during the mid-sixties Black Power era. Below you will find one of the most accurate definitions of “Black Power” from noted scholar Charles V. Hamilton and Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee leader Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture).

Black power is concerned with organizing the rage of black people.…Black power (1) deals with the obviously growing alienation of black people and their distrust of the institutions of this society; (2) works to create new values and to build a new sense of community and of belonging; and (3) works to establish legitimate new institutions that make participants, not recipients, out of a people traditionally excluded from the fundamentally racist processes of this country.[i]

The concept of Black Power rests on a fundamental premise. Before a group can enter the open society, it must first close ranks. By this, we mean group solidarity is necessary before a group can operate effectively from a bargaining position of strength in a pluralistic society. Traditionally, each new ethnic group in this society has found the route to social and political viability through the organization of its own institutions with which to represent its needs within the larger society . . . the American melting pot has not melted. Italians vote for Rubino over O’Brien; Irish for Murphy over Goldberg, etc.[ii]

Not only does this definition remain of significant utility to this very day, but also the political realities that it depicts remain extremely relevant.

Ironically, it is the importance of Dr. King’s 1963 March on Washington speech that facilitates most Americans inability to understand that the Civil Rights leader continued his growth as a political strategist until the moment an assassin’s bullet silenced him at the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968. Most are shocked to learn that King had much to say about the rise of Black Power activists who were in possession of a political platform that appeared to be the antithesis of his non-violent civil disobedience pacifism. According to Dr. King,

[t]here is nothing essentially wrong with power. The problem is that in America power is unequally distributed. This has led Negro Americans in the past to seek their goals through love and moral suasion devoid of power and white Americans to seek their goals through power devoid of love and conscience….  [I]t is precisely this collision of immoral power with powerless morality which constitutes the major crisis of our times.[iii]

In the following quote, Dr. King extended his commentary to the issue of Black Power politics.

{Black Power activists} must use every constructive means to amass economic and political power. This is the kind of legitimated power we need. We must work to build racial pride and refute the notion black is evil and ugly. But this must come through a program, not merely through a slogan…The words ‘black’ and ‘power’ together give the impression that we are talking about black domination rather than black equality.[iv]

Black Power is a call for the pooling of black financial resources to achieve economic security.… Through the pooling of such resources and the development of habits of thrift and techniques of wise investment, the Negro will be doing his share to grapple with his problem of economic deprivation. If Black Power means the development of this kind of strength within the Negro community, then it is a quest for basic, necessary, legitimate power.[v]

Apparently, the historical record paints a Martin Luther King, Jr., that not only continued to grow in the post-March on Washington portion of his public life. An important part of that political transformation is found in his understanding of and embrace of mid-sixties “Black Power” politics. It is Dr. King’s alluded to shifting political priorities that should serve as definitive proof of the need for contemporary activists and black political leaders to study, study, and study some more. Failure to do such means that we are attempting to solve a centuries-old problem with partial information.

[i] Carmichael, Stokely (Kwame Ture), and Charles V. Hamilton. Black Power, The Politics of Liberation. pg. 44-45.

[ii] As “Black Power” became such a hot topic within the American activist community, particularly as many whites sought to gain as much information about the concept as possible for their personal safety and sanity, Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) became somewhat of the poster-child for the concept.  The shadow of Carmichael has unfortunately blocked out the presence of such lesser known SNCC activists and Black Power theoreticians such as Willie Ricks who have a greater claim to generating the slogan.  However, Carmichael’s analysis of the term “Black Power” is at times so keen that there is little doubt by believers that it is the next logical and correct step for the Black movement.  See., Stokely Carmichael, “SNCC Chairman Talks About Black Power”, New York Review of Books, September 22, 1966.  Carmichael, Stokely (Kwame Ture), and Charles V. Hamilton. Black Power, The Politics of Liberation  p. 45; Daily Californian, “What’s Black Power?”, November 1, 1966.

[iii] Martin Luther King, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? p. 37.

[iv] Martin Luther King, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? pg. 30-31; Hampton and Fayer, Voices of Freedom, an Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement, pg. 284-294.  Oft-forgotten when the issue of Black Power as a slogan is discussed is the influence of Willie Ricks on the entire process.  It was Ricks, not Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) who popularized the term “Black Power” in the modern era.  In fact, even SNCC luminaries such as James Forman give Ricks the credit for such, as does the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., See., James Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, p. 456.  Hampton and Fayer, Voices of Freedom, an Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement, p. 289-290.

[v] Martin Luther King, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? p. 38.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

Dr. James Thomas Jones III is the author of Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Narrative History of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense  (Available at Amazon and wherever great books are sold)

“What is your Problem with Umar Johnson?”

I often read a lot of commentaries criticizing Dr. Johnson because I’m trying to discern whether he is just as bad for us as black church pastors. I agree all public figures subject themselves to criticism. What I don’t get is what the criticisms and sometimes attacks are about regarding Umar. What false information is he giving out? I have not heard anyone, who is critical of Umar, deny that what he says about public schools and the misdiagnosis of black boys is true. What I do hear is people attacking him about the money he’s trying to raise to build a school; the rant he made via video and him being intimate with a stripper. Is that it? Are those all of his major flaws? People are also quick to attack him for being charismatic. When did charisma become bad? Not enough black youth aren’t being taught how to enunciate and speak properly, let alone how to be charismatic. Do we really want to tear down a conscious black man over those things? If so, why aren’t we as hard on elected officials? We easily take what they dish out and we know they hate us. Where is the kudos for Umar’s black college & consciousness tour last year? He’s doing two such tours this year. What exactly are we going to appreciate about conscious leaders? Better yet, what expectations do we have or want to see in a leader?

(Daryl B. Gray)

Let me first say thank you for this question that conveys so many of the issues and questions surrounding not only Umar Johnson but also larger matters surrounding ‘charismatic leadership.’ I am going to do my absolute best to answer a few of these issues in a precise manner. To achieve that goal, I have deconstructed your question into two smaller and therefore more manageable pieces for today’s response.

(A) What false information is Umar Johnson giving out?

(B) When did charisma become bad?

So here we go.

(A) What false information is Umar Johnson giving out?

I believe that you are on solid footing to inquire about ‘what false information’ has Umar Johnson put out. This is the thing about Umar, those who have issues with this brother are not particularly disturbed by the myriad of untruths that have emanated from his mouth such as the following:

  • His celibacy claims that were proven false by his interactions with the ‘conscious stripper.’ I think that most people could care less regarding what he does in his private life, however, what disturbed most was the presentation of a public Umar that does not match the private life. It most certainly conveys a willingness to advance a lie if it will benefit you; a dubious and dangerous character flaw for any person in a leadership position.
  • Umar’s claim to be a descendant of Frederick Douglass is yet another example of his willingness to advance a lie to promote himself and advance an agenda. This particular myth regarding Douglass is particularly offensive to me because he said it directly to me during an interview with an authority that would have made one think that he should have been named Frederick Douglass V.

Those who have significant problems with Umar trace their issues to the type of information that he does not share. At the core of the alluded to angst is the absence of transparency regarding the monies Umar has raised for his “school.” Put simply; there has been zero accountability regarding the monies raised, how these monies were used, the status of this “school” or any infrastructure that has been created surrounding the above entity.

It is this absence of ANY transparency that causes the majority of his critics to consider him worse than an exploitive preacher. In many ways, Umar is like a jackleg preacher in that he is peddling a path to end the misery and suffering of the masses. “If only you donate to this school, all of your problems will be alleviated.”

What makes these matters extremely troubling is that those who have chosen to support Umar with their hard-earned dollars materially are operating totally out of a blind-faith that is fueled by their innate desire to do something to help lift our people out of their multi-generational politicoeconomic marginality.

It is to that population of ‘believers’ that Umar owes transparency. My greatest fear is that when these ‘believers’ who have stepped out on faith realize that this has all been a charade, they will adopt a rigid position of ‘never again’ and will refuse to aid legitimate uplift efforts such as the already existing independent black school movement that desperately needs an immediate infusion of funds to continue educating African-American children.

(B) When did charisma become bad?

To address this issue, it is imperative that I separate the idea of charisma from an entirely different issue of “charismatic leadership.” Brother Gray, you wrote the following in your question. When did charisma become bad? Not enough black youth aren’t being taught how to enunciate and speak properly, let alone how to be charismatic. You are absolutely correct in your summation that charisma is not a negative quality. I have found that charisma is a pre-requisite for leadership, particularly in regards to leading an African-American populace that desperately craves a well-constructed combination of information and inspiration.

I likewise agree with your assertion that “Not enough black youth aren’t being taught how to enunciate and speak properly, let alone how to be charismatic.” One needs to look no further than the absence of enunciation found among contemporary ‘mumble’ rappers, let alone the speech patterns and vulgarity found within so many of our educational institutions to find a reason to support your assertion. However, that form of charisma is not what is being addressed when critiques of charismatic leadership are advanced.

When charismatic leaders such as Umar Johnson are being critiqued, it invariably revolves around the fact that they are “all sizzle and no steak.” Put simply, they do not use their prodigious God-given oratorical talents for the uplift of the community, they consciously plot and plan to use those gifts for personal gain.

It is their charm, their rhetorical wizardry and phrase mongering that invariably enchants their ‘followers’ to do as they say, in Umar’s case this means donating money to his yet to be realized school as well as vociferously attacking those who have the audacity to publicly critique his exploitation of the masses, a problem that you will find among all charismatic leaders.

Consider for a moment, that well-meaning, yet naïve, African-Americans have been donating monies to Umar’s yet to be realized educational venture for several years. When pressed as to why any educational institution has yet to be realized, his answer has always been the same, “The people haven’t given enough.”

One of the most obvious signs of a charismatic leader is his ability to always place the onus for the achievement of goals upon the followers, such sayings are common among leaders such as Umar Johnson or any random prosperity preacher, “if only you would pray more,” “if only you would donate more money,” “it is your lack of faith that is causing God not to bless us with what we need.”

Umar Johnson has slyly concocted a ‘us vs. them’ narrative among his followers that detracts their attention from his failure to provide a single sign of what their commitment to economic collectivism and black-on-black support has achieved.

Umar’s followers have become so emotionally invested that not even his recent tirade and denigration {which he taped and disseminated himself} against a fellow black man is sufficient to break the enchanting spell.

As with all charismatic leaders, it is their eloquence, charm, and expert ability to manipulate the emotions and perspective of people who are seeking a way out of no way that is their source of power, not the building of anything tangible such as a school. It is the bartering of hope and a dastardly lie that he is the only one diligently working to uplift Black America that is the base of Umar’s hold upon a people who have so much invested in him that they will never abandon his cause as it will serve as the supreme admission to the naysayer that they were correct in their criticisms and condemnation of associating with a critically flawed, seemingly mentally unstable, narcissistic individual such as Umar Johnson.

I realize that I did not touch upon each and every issue that you presented in your interesting query; I vow to you that I will address the other matters that you presented such as “What exactly are we going to appreciate about conscious leaders? Better yet, what expectations do we have or want to see in a leader?” in future writings. Once again, thank you for the question.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

GOING TO TALK TO THE MAN: WHY AL SHARPTON AND THE NATIONAL ACTION NETWORKS ‘MARCH ON WASHINGTON’ WILL PRODUCE LIMITED RESULTS, YET AGAIN

Life has taught me that we should all pay attention to popular sayings that have survived for decades, if not centuries. For example, the saying “Birds of a feather, flock together” is valid regardless of one’s socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, gender, or religion. A person who refuses to recognize the wisdom and truth of these popular sayings is needlessly placing themselves in peril.

The refusal to honor such sayings is one of the reasons that I shook my head upon learning that Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network were gearing up for a pre-inauguration ‘March on Washington’. Apparently, Sharpton and those preparing to descend on the nation’s Capital fail to understand another wise saying, “If you do what you always did, you gonna get what you always got.”

Were it not so sad, the fact that African-Americans are once again ‘Marching on Washington’ would be hysterical. After all, ‘Marching on Washington’ appears to be one of the most reliable means that Black leaders strategically implement in a desperate attempt to extend their relevancy. The fact that such activities have produced negligible results for African-Americans does not matter to Black leaders or those that follow their directives as if they have absolutely no independent thoughts.

When one considers the limited results such marches produce, it appears that African-American leaders aim are not tangibly impacting the poverty and dysfunctional culture that sits at the core of so much of Black suffering, rather it is performing the maintenance needed to legitimize and re-establish their position as the H.N.I.C. Put simply, ‘Marching on Washington’ is an efficient way for leaders such as Al Sharpton to display to the relatively naïve and politically illiterate black masses that they are out here working on their behalf. Amazingly, this tired activist routine works; definitively proving what a stupid people we have become regarding the actual path to African-American liberation.

I am neither ignorant of nor denying the utility of protest marches in African-Americans historic struggle against oppression. However, one has to wonder when will this old protest dinosaur be coupled with or even replaced by non-reactionary activities such as education, life skills training, vocational training, business (entrepreneurial) classes, etc.

It is time that so-called Black leaders understood that endeavors such as “Marching on Washington” are doing little more than redundantly pointing out the continuing socioeconomic problems facing Black America, an activity that will never positively impact the harsh realities of being Black and poor in America. Until Black leaders abandon nonsense such as “Marching on Washington” and focus on building independent Black institutions, they are doing little more than “talking loud and saying nothing.”

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2016

America Through the Eyes of an Black Millennial

Since its birth, America, the single-greatest experience in civilization has repeatedly proven to be false to its cry of “A government for the people and by the people.

To say that I, an African-American millennial, can relate to the challenges that my ancestors faced would be a gross overstatement. However, as I consider the America that I live in, I can say that there are still mountains to climb if we are to reach the ‘promise land’.

Many will argue that this nation, built upon African-American oppression, will never achieve racial equality. I cling to optimism regarding America’s racial future.

For Black Millennia, contemporary America is stocked with both familiar enemies and unforeseen challenges. However, I have faith that the development of a blueprint will greatly bolster us in our pursuit for racial equality.

I never thought that I would articulate the following to my children, however this fact is true nonetheless, on November 8, 2016, I witnessed Donald J. Trump become the President of the United States of America.

Make no mistake about it, a Trump Presidency presents innumerable challenges for racial progressives. It is my desire to extend this analysis beyond the blatantly racist and vulgar statements the President Elect has made to an attentive world by first analyzing his slogan of “Make America Great Again.”

One must look into Trump’s past to understand what this slogan implies. Trump, born in 1946, one year after the conclusion of World War II, is apparently desiring a return to the “good old days” that were most certainly not good for non-whites. The America of Trump’s youth was stocked full of segregation and public discrimination. If one pays close attention to Donald Trump they will hear him reference the return of the “silent majority”, a term frequently used by former President Ronald Reagan. There is little room to debate the fact that the Reagan-Era was unconscionably damaging to our kind.

One does not need either an extended or insightful analysis to realize that Trump’s rhetoric conveys an unfavorable view of the Black community and its inhabitants. The most powerful weapon against figures like Trump has been Love and Unity among African-Americans. The onus is upon us to prepare for this dogged battle by uniting with one another in an unprecedented manner. There is no doubt that unity is the greatest weapon against the tyrannical threat that Trump poses.

Once we have achieved a united front, it is imperative that we pursue financial stability. Despite what polls, studies, and news media would have one believe a great amount of wealth flows into and quickly exits the African-American community. It is imperative that we keep our finances resources within our community. Put simply, it is crucial that we begin investing in ourselves and our people. Across America we see Jewish areas having Jewish restaurants, Jewish banks, and much more. We must begin to spend our money in our communities instead of taking our profits elsewhere.

To add to this unifying plea, I would add that our vision as a unit must be shifted to less tangible desires. That is to say, I believe that we as people should have more ambition than being either a sports star or rap star. I am not implying that all Africa-Americans have this ambition, however I have seen it enough to where it has become alarming.  Even myself once dreamed of a pro football career and even once recorded a song under the moniker “Phenom”. However, we must invest our ambitions back into education and diversify our interest in black arts. Once our mindset shifts back to the days of old, we will again make great leaps and bounds. Taxes and cutting of the proverbial safety net are at our door step, we must be prepared.

Finally, I believe that once we began the process of uplifting ourselves we can then begin to work with other minorities groups and began a true “rainbow coalition” against the challenges we face. In every advancement our people has made in the past we had assistance. While not trying to come off as disrespectful, I must allude to the fact that African Americans have done most of the heaving lifting in terms of Civil Rights issues in this nation. With a growing Latino population and the finical stability of other minority groups it is time that will all come together and fight for the America we were promised. Together we can form a large enough faction to fight against the economic and social woes that mass incarceration, discrimination, and neglect has caused. We as minority groups must take action for first our own cultures and then find ways to work together against the “great” America Trump, and clearly a large sum of Americans, feel is necessary. Only together will we make our most desired American dream come true.

Patron Payton

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016