Tag Archives: Malcolm X

Do Black Preachers Play a Pivotal Role in Keeping Black Christians Clueless About Finances?

I am quite confident that the majority of African-Americans born prior to the eighties will understand my assertion that the primary socialization agent in our lives occurred within the sanctified walls of a Black Church.

Within these hallowed walls, we learned that there was an omnipotent and omnipresent God who “had the whole world in his hands.” Repeatedly hearing this message mesmerized my peers into believing that their life path was pre-determined by the guiding hand of God.

Of all the points emphasized in “praise houses” throughout Black America, one of the most common is the need for each of God’s children to live a life that would allow them to enter the kingdom of heaven. Entrance into heaven meant that we would be eternally reunited with our deceased loved ones and no longer subject to the daily hurt, pain, struggle, and strife that shadowed us in the land of the living.

The message being shared by black preachers was a simple one; that being, the struggle, pain, disappointment, and heartache experienced in “the land of the living” was more than worth it as the righteous would be rewarded with heavenly gifts and treasures that no man could conceive.

To the chagrin of many of my superiors, the omnipotent God previously mentioned gifted me with an intellectual curiosity that encouraged both an active engagement and investigation of scripture. After engaging the Holy Bible that a series of Sunday School Teachers at Mount Calvary Baptist Church had taught me was the very breath of God, I realized that black preachers were making conscious choices to accentuate certain portions of scripture while avoiding others. As a burgeoning Revolutionary Nationalist who was doing his best to balance faith and an unending urge to work toward the liberation of Black America, the reality that black preachers intentionally avoided prominent politico-economic issues and disparities that cut across racial lines troubled my soul.

My soul was definitely not comforted by routine teachings that advised Black America to be long-suffering and not conform to the ways and desires of this world. I am quite confident that I am not the only one who tired of hearing sermons built around Mark 8:36For what does it profit a man to gain the entire world and lose his soul.” Such a message always sounded like unwise advice seeking to get Black America to not only agree to be oppressed but also to participate in their downtrodden position. Even as a teenager, I wanted to rise form my seat, reprimand the preacher and tell him to turn his “good book” to James 2:17 and build a liberation sermon around the idea that “Faith without works is dead”. If I did not know any better, I would be convinced that black preachers, realizing that their people would carry the stain of blackness for eternity have colluded and decided to sell them hope, instead of life skills that hold the potential to liberate them from the terminal illness that has wiped out several generations of Black America.

Although I can only speak with authority on my personal experience, I can definitively say the Black Church led me down a path of being pious, considerate, and accommodating toward others and rationalizing my non-engagement with Capitalist America as an assured path to Heaven. With the benefit of hindsight, I clearly understand that the vast majority of African-Americans have avoided opportunities to accumulate wealth as such action would invariably curtail our chances of meeting our heavenly father. Could it be that such thinking flows from having heard far too many sermons revolving around Matthew 19:24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

At no moment during my tenure as a member of the Black Church did I ever hear a black preacher articulate a message that addressed the gap between the words he spoke from the pulpit and the luxurious lifestyle that he and his contemporaries enjoyed. Put simply, even a cursory glance at the lifestyles of a mildly successful black preacher displays the cavernous gap between their sermon and their personal decisions. Black preachers failure to use their pulpit to discuss the financial concerns impacting their congregants in any way other than tithing or the infamous “building fund” ensures the continuation of poverty and foolish spending within our community. Black preachers refusal to address the black portions of the body of Christ in regards to finances is quite simply a dereliction of duty that makes them unfit to lead any segment of the community.

Considering the present economic community of the Black Community, there is little room to refute Marcus Garvey’s assertion that regardless of where he traveled that persons of African descent have always been the poorest, owned the least amount of land, and were tenuously situated in regards to finances. Put simply, wealth has rarely visited, let alone resided in Black America. Consider the following facts.

  • The wealth held by the average white family is seven times greater than the average black family.
  • Median white wealth is twelve times that of black families.
  • Economic studies tell us that twenty-five percent of black households have zero, or negative, wealth.

The most important question that needs to be asked at this moment is the following one; “Who is to blame for this enormous disparity of wealth between black and white Americans?” Those seeking to simultaneously disrespect Black America and explain the alluded to inequities will cite matters such as:

  • Undisciplined spending habits instead of investing money.
  • Pre-occupation with clothes, cars, and other depreciating trinkets.
  • Lack of educational attainments.
  • The failure to circulate the dollar to black businesses in the Black community.
  • The desire to find a job instead of becoming entrepreneurs.

Although each of the above issues is at best a partial explanation for the cavernous wealth gap, they fail to factor in issues such as unemployment, poor paying jobs, the school-to-prison pipeline, financial institutions resistance to providing the capital necessary for African-Americans to start businesses, purchase homes, or a host of other long-term goals. if everyone is beginning from the same starting position. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as many whites have a long legacy of wealth-accumulation that extends back centuries, African-Americans have a similar legacy. Unfortunately for Black America, they have rarely been fortunate enough to begin the accumulation of wealth at the same moment as their white counterparts.

It is a sobering reality to learn that nothing African-Americans have done (educational attainments, professional occupations, entrepreneurship, investment, savings, and investments) has had a sizable impact on closing the wealth gap in regards to whites. Maybe that is why so many of us remain tied to the Black Church. Is it possible that the only balm for our seemingly endless suffering is found in sermons and preaching that revolve around hopes for a death that will allow us to enter “a land where we will study war no more.” I guess that when the black plight is viewed in that light, that it is understandable that many of our people consider death to be a more attractive location than being poor and black in a nation where “Cash Rules Everything Around Me.”

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2018

The Umar Johnson Chronicles: Why The Most Recent Battle among Black Leaders is a New Low for the Conscious Community

Could it be that it is our existence in a society where every moment can be recorded and distributed around the globe with the push of a button that explains the latest “Umar Johnson chronicle?” Consider for a moment that at the present moment, the fermentation process of a “beef” is a simple formula of harsh words + cell phone + internet access. Unfortunately for Black America, this recipe for voluminous discord among self-proclaimed “black leaders” requires minimal thinking and effort.

One needs to look no further than Umar Johnson to discover the process self-proclaimed leaders take to distract their followers from substantive issues in favor of reality television like silliness and banter.

Although it may shock many of our people, public feuds between “black leaders” neither began nor will it end with Umar Johnson. In fact, a cursory examination of the storied history of Black America reveals a series of conflicts extending well over a decade. Consider the following public feuds between notable black figures and organizations as evidence for the above assertion.

  • Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. Du Bois
  • Booker T. Washington vs. William Monroe Trotter
  • E.B. Du Bois vs. Marcus Garvey
  • Elijah Muhammad vs. Malcolm X
  • Malcolm X vs. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. vs. Stokely Carmichael
  • SCLC vs. SNCC
  • Philip Randolph vs. John Lewis
  • Huey P. Newton vs. Maulana Karenga
  • BPP vs. US
  • Fred Hampton vs. Jeff Fort

Unfortunately for Black America, the above list is far from exhaustive. However, I believe that my larger point that black leaders have always battled each other for the right to guide their people toward the ultimate goal of liberation via a host of programs and strategies has been proven.

Yesterday, Washington and Du Bois bickered over the path to black liberation, today we have what can only be termed the “Umar Johnson chronicles.” Put simply, the “Umar Johnson chronicles” are a sad saga with predictable twists-and-turns and a host of characters that Johnson calls on during moments when the glaring spotlight that has been focused on him appears to dim. In many ways, this series that follows a charismatic, yet woefully flawed anti-hero always ends with Umar surviving to cause discord another day like a modern-day Afrocentric Brer Rabbit.

As with most silly things of little worth, the “Umar Johnson chronicles” not only mesmerizes a largely uneducated segment of Black America as episodes of Love & Hip-Hop but also has led them to literally cheer and root for Umar Johnson as if he is a sports franchise. The alluded to figures mistakenly believe that every episode of the “Umar Johnson chronicles” holds the same significance as substantive disagreements between authentic black leaders such as Malcolm X and Dr. King or Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. Du Bois. The “Umar Johnson chronicles” remind one of a poorly written one-man stage play that although entertaining to adoring audience members, fails to convey a single substantive message.

Despite what can only be termed a natural impulse of marginally educated portions of our community and vowed opponents to grasp the most salacious events that occur in Black America and use them as an accurate barometer of who we are as a people, the truth of the matter is that few of the figures involved in the “Umar Johnson chronicles” have a legitimate claim to black leadership. Generally speaking, I have found the list of characters to be charismatic, yet poorly read, devoid of an executable plan, reactionary, totally reliant on phrase-mongering, and what Huey P. Newton would term counter-revolutionary in their understanding of the multi-faceted issues and dilemmas facing our people.

If anything, Umar Johnson’s rise and longevity, as well as the other savvy social media stars masquerading as “black leaders” proves is that a significant segment of Black America is desperate in their desires and the means that they are willing to take to alter the plight of black folk. In many ways, “it is the best of times (meaning our people are fervently desiring an opportunity to uplift the masses of our people) and the worst of times (technology has made the path to prominence for charismatic leaders with no real plan or commitment to our people far too easy)” for the movement.

As previously mentioned, public disputes among black leaders is nothing new, in many ways debate is a necessary part of political maturity and the dawning of economic savvy for any population. However, that is not what is occurring in the “Umar Johnson chronicles.”

It is hard to argue against the assertion that the repeated pissing contests between a host of tragic characters are counter-revolutionary. When considering these moments, my mind reverted to a long-ago conflict that occurred among Civil Rights luminaries. The alluded to discord occurred between the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy (Dr. King’s right-hand man) and the legendary organizer Ella Baker. After watching King and Abernathy address an audience of Civil Rights workers in a manner that clearly displayed that they were seeking to see who could work those in attendance into a more frenzied state with their copious amounts of rhetorical wizardry, an angered Ella Baker hurled the following accusations at King and Abernathy. “What is this? A sophomoric oratorical contest? We have the lives of our people on the line at this very moment and you go before the people and do this!!!!” I fear that not even Ella Baker would be heard by either Umar Johnson or his shifting cast of characters, over the raucous laughter and adulation that their cult-like followers bestow on them at every opportunity.

Once again, this most recent battle between self-proclaimed leaders is nothing new, however, it is undoubtedly the most shameful moment in the history of black leadership.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

Why a Relevant Education is the Most Critical Element Missing in the Liberation of Black America

One of my favorite Malcolm X quotes is “only a fool would let his enemy teach his children.” The power of this quote is two-fold, one the one hand it is simple, yet on the other hand, it communicates a multi-layered analysis of the very foundations of Black America’s primary problem. Anyone who has ever listened to Brother Malcolm knows very well that his oratorical style forced our people to take a serious look at themselves. Malcolm knew very well that if our people performed an honest introspection of their everyday behavior and decisions, even they would see that their foolish actions and decision-making process play a significant role in matters of nation building and racial uplift.

Considering the indispensability of education in both the analysis of our historic racial problems and the development of much-needed plans to address those issues, it has always puzzled me that education is not considered the foundational cornerstone to nation-building. Unfortunately for Black America, our people frequently ignore the supreme utility of education. Although many of my Black Nationalist peers will question the following assertion, neither political matters nor economic strategies supersede the supreme importance of education to black liberation. It is via education that we are able to illuminate all other issues such as the politico-economic misery that our people have endeared for centuries. I long ago realized that everything and I do mean everything, I do or say pivots directly off of my exposure to ideas, thoughts, and concepts learned via some educational endeavor.

There is little room for a reasonable debate against the fact that we each entered this world knowing nothing. Everything that we know, or better yet think that we know, was learned through observation or instruction. Make no mistake about it, a relevant education is the difference-maker between an individual wandering through life seeking purpose and a person who wisely decided to by-pass meaningless employment opportunities granted from a hostile white community and decided to embrace entrepreneurship with the intention of servicing and employing their own people. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s Ten Point Platform and Program beautifully articulates the utility of a relevant education for Black America.

We Want Education For Our People That Exposes The True Nature Of This Decadent American Society. We Want Education That Teaches Us Our True History And Our Role In The Present-Day Society.

We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.

A relevant education is a lynchpin between an individual who spends life aimlessly searching for where they fit in and a politicized individual who understands his indispensability to develop the politico-economic base that his people’s interests rest upon.

If we were to reverse Malcolm X’s assertion that “only a fool would allow his enemy to educate his children”, it would read, a wise man teaches his own children the past, present, and future direction of his people.

History indicates that the primary utility of a relevant education for Black America is found in its ability to generate solidarity and like-mindedness. One must remember that such matters are supremely important to African-Americans as many of us do not even agree on the ultimate goal of black liberation, let alone an appropriate path to reach that destination.

The historical record of any people that have successfully escaped the shackle of tyranny displays that group uplift follows solidarity of thought. Despite what many may wish for, the alluded to solidarity of thought does not miraculously appear, it is manufactured via educational institutions and social, economic, political, and cultural mandates. Consider for a moment that it is not accidental that the vast majority of students who emerge from the University of Notre Dame are pro-life as the school’s curriculum shapes their thinking in that regard. Nor is it accidental that the foremost issue on the agenda of Jews is the protection and sovereignty of Israel; every portion of that community’s socialization process is aimed at impressing upon succeeding generations that until Israel is free, they will never be free.

A similar teaching was advanced by the great historian John Henrik Clarke who admonished persons of African descent strewn throughout the West that “until Africa is free, you will never be free.” Unfortunately for persons of African descent, such teachings have failed to take hold as we have yet to develop an educational mechanism that convinces our people that such a worldview is the only reasonable one.

Any “leader” interested in the liberation of his/her people realize that their ability to manufacture consent is crucial to all of their endeavors. Although many may disagree with “the manufacturing of consent” via educational institutions, the truth is that there are no more efficient means of generating collectivism than controlling what is taught in school houses. If the above statement is valid, the opposite must also be considered valid as well; meaning that there is no more efficient means of guaranteeing that a socially fractured, politically disorganized, and non-collectivist economic people such as African-Americans continue along that path of inefficiency than by indoctrinating them with an irrelevant curriculum that busies their mental processes with items that have nothing to do with the development of an escape plan from their exploited status.

The painful truth is that the aforementioned process of “dumbing down” African-Americans via an irrelevant educational curriculum has been both the favored and most reliable tactic of white power brokers. As an educator, I will not be unduly harsh on teachers as they are little more than frontline soldiers who take their orders from higher-ups. My criticism is aimed at a non-responsive educational system that has succeeded at its real task of continuing the marginalization of generations of Black America. Put simply, white school curriculums do not now, nor have they ever, intended to aid Black America in mobilizing politico-economic resources in preparation for a surge to secure what Khalid Abdul Muhammad routinely termed “the liberation and salvation of the black nation.”

This is a critical moment for Black America as it is imperative that our educators turn inward and continue creating independent “freedom schools” that provide a relevant curriculum for African-American children. Black America must become extremely serious about taking ownership of its present plight, a crucial aspect of that process is finally accepting that no one is coming to help you in this endeavor, let alone to save you from an all too familiar misery. We must busy ourselves developing independent educational institutions that not only inform our people of their last place status in every social, health, economic, and political indicator but also work to scientifically address these issues.

The great Panther Party leader Fred Hampton once remarked that “War is nothing but politics with bloodshed and politics is nothing but war without bloodshed.” It is time that African-Americans realized that they are actually at war for both their continued existence on the planet Earth and the future place of our children in that world. I hope that we embrace this call to educate our own and stop being the fools that Malcolm told us we would be if we continued to allow our enemy to infiltrate our children’s minds. There is no doubt whatsoever that our children are our most valued and precious resource; a resource that must be protected ‘by any means necessary.’

James Thomas Jones III, Ph.D., M.A., M.A., M.A.

#ManhoodRaceCulture

Books published by Dr. James Thomas Jones III

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Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

‘Foolish’ Floyd: The Life & Times of an African-American Contrarian

Too Respectable to Fight?: Why I Am Not Surprised that Derrick Johnson, Chokwe Lumumba, Myrlie Evers Did Not Take The Fight to Donald Trump at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

There is no other way for me to say this; I have tired of dignified black leaders. To be honest with you my list of dignified leaders that I have tired of reads like a who’s who of the modern Civil Rights Movement. This list of far too dignified black leaders includes the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, Barack Obama, and after allowing Donald Trump to bring his vaudeville show to their environs with minimal interference, I must include every purported black leader within the state of Mississippi.

Although many consider the respectability politics that serve as a thin-veil over what any courageous people would recognize as cowardice, there is no doubt that today’s black leaders routinely seek an escape route from political fights and cultural wars. When examined in its totality, black leaders avoid direct public conflict with whites “by any means necessary.” However, even a cursory examination of recent history proves that it is only black leaders who are devoted cowards.

I am confident that you remember the blatant disrespect that President Barack Obama routinely experienced at the hand of whites behaving as if they were raised by wolves. Let us not forget that such treatment aimed at black men possessing some semblance of power as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., suffered similar treatment on a routine basis, not even MLK’s application of a forgiving and long-suffering Christian ethos protected him from white bigots.

Although I am certain that this determination to not address whites in the midst of their most inappropriate moments may have begun as an attempt for black leaders to “not show their color.” However, after watching this sordid saga occur to black leaders throughout this nation’s existence, such avoidance of conflict has transitioned from an act to remain above the public moments of disrespect into the realm of cowardice; one can rest assured that angry whites recognize this fact. One has to wonder if none of these black leaders are capable of channeling the spirit of Frederick Douglass who courageously advised our kind that “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.”

The latest moment of white folk disrespecting not only contemporary Black America but also our ancestors who miraculously were able to “make a way out of no way” is the appearance of Donald Trump in Jackson, Mississippi, to deliver a speech at the new Civil Rights Museum. Now I fully understand that it was Mississippi’s Republican Governor Phil Bryant who extended the invitation and there was little that the black community could do about Trump’s appearance. However, one has to wonder why none of the leading Civil Rights leaders in that city, let us not forget that Jackson, Mississippi, the location of the Museum, has an African-American mayor, did not use their political clout to deliver a message inside of that venue in Trump’s presence?

Make no mistake about it, moments such as this one are wasted opportunities to strike a blow for black liberation that would make both our ancestors and future generations of Black America proud. It is time that black leaders abandon their respectability politics and begin channeling the spirit of Malcolm X who admonished Black America over a half-century ago that they “make it hard on themselves when they go around that white man with those sweet words. No! Tell that man exactly how you feel.”

Instead of taking the fight to a figure like Trump who has spent his entire life opposing Civil Rights and one could argue the right for black people to exist on planet Earth with even a modicum of dignity, black leaders adorn themselves with a cloak of cowardice also known as ‘respectability politics’ and rationalize that this is not a good time to address racial matters in the presence of whites. I am here to tell you that there is no better time to address those whites who routinely execute devious plans and public statements that rally a bigoted base to double-down on their attacks on Black America than the present. It angers me that white bigots and the conservative Sambos that dance to their tune never measure if the time is right to demean, disrespect, and exterminate our kind.

It is this failure to take the fight to these avowed enemies, meaning white conservatives and their black Sambo lackeys, at every turn that causes me to express my righteous indignation at the black demonstrators who stood outside of the venue protesting, a location that guaranteed that they could be easily ignored, and Derrick Johnson, the head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Chokwe Lumumba, the Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, and Myrie Evers, the wife of Civil Rights stalwart Medgar Evers.

I have no problem with saying that each of these figures displayed copious amounts of cowardice that they couched in typical respectability politics. Johnson and Lumumba were not even on location, choosing to have a “news conference” a safe distance away from where the action was occurring. While Myrlie Evers was inside of the room listening to Trump fumble and stumble through a prepared 10-minute speech that amounted to absolutely nothing.

It appears that black folk in general, and our so-called leaders in particular, are afraid of “white folk power.” One thing is certain, if the tables were turned, there is not a single racial/ethnic group in America — white, Jewish, Japanese, Mexican, or Chinese — who would have behaved like good little children while an African-American President who demeaned their kind at every turn appeared to address them about matters that his entire being and financial resources have been used to oppose.

It is befuddling that the most significant resistance that Black Mississippi could muster was a statement from Myrlie Evers who broke an earlier promise to directly address Trump in her comments by offering the following. Regardless of race, creed or color, we are all Americans. … If Mississippi can rise to the occasion, then the rest of the country should be able to do the same thing.

Anyone interested in the liberation of black folk has to be left scratching their heads at the antics of so-called black leaders. Where is their anger? Where is the impulse to attack this enemy at every turn? Judging by the actions of our leaders we have not had our fill of white oppression yet. Now what it will take to get us to that point; only the Lord knows. At least we didn’t “show our color” on national television.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017