Tag Archives: Umar Johnson

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

What John Conyers Fall From Grace Reveals About Charismatic Centralized Leadership to Black America

When one considers the manner that U.S. Representative John Conyers Jr. (D-Detroit) political career that extends beyond fifty-years ended, feelings of sadness and disappointment naturally arise within Black America. The alluded to feelings are in many ways applause for the phenomenal work that Conyers performed during his time as a U.S. Congressman in what could be appropriately termed a lily-white Congress. If nothing else, Conyers must be applauded for his willingness to “speak truth to power” in one of the least racially representative locations known to humanity.

Despite what can only be termed a risqué cloud of sexually based accusations surrounding Conyers’ resignation, anyone familiar with his congressional work is aware that it was Representative Conyers that championed civil rights and social justice like none other. When other members of the Congressional Black Caucus displayed a lack of courage in regards to contentious racial matters, it was Conyers that Black America could count on to resist political attacks from white opponents regarding matters such as unfair mandatory sentencing guidelines that threatened to put black men, women, and children behind bars for lengthy prison sentences. For many, there was much comfort found in knowing that Representative Conyers was on the job 24/7.

There is no doubt that it is Conyers public greatness that makes his fall even more difficult to accept for politically astute African-Americans. However, this situation is yet another reminder for Black America that it is a risky prospect to put all of one’s faith in our political or religious leaders as if they are some type of deity sent to save us from an angry white horde determined to end our existence. I take no pride in saying that we have seen this theatrical tragedy before and most likely will see it again.

When one considers the list of well-known black politicians (Jesse Jackson, Ray Nagin, Jesse Jackson Jr., Kwame Kilpatrick, Marion Berry) who have suffered an all too public and disgraceful fall from grace, it reminds us of something that we already knew, the charisma that seemingly drips from these men in no way cancels the reality that they never ceased to be highly flawed mortal beings. If nothing else, each of their falls from grace should cause African-American activists to re-evaluate the charismatic centralized leadership construct that we have applied to our peculiar plight in America. History has once again proven that the idea of Black America being successfully guided around the tripwires and snares that have curtailed our freedom since the settling of the Jamestown colony is a foolhardy perspective that invariably ends in copious amounts of disappointment.

Conyers fall from grace returns Black America to an all too familiar position of Where Do We Go From Here? Even a cursory examination of African-American history proves that the charismatic centralized leadership model invariably ends in failure and disappointment for all adherents. Most disappointing of all is that not even an easily accessible historical record has caused black activists to abandon figures such as John Conyers, Umar Johnson, Kwame Kilpatrick, or Jesse Jackson.

In many ways, it appears that Civil Rights organizer Ella Baker was correct in her warnings regarding the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the centralized leadership model that plagued the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Baker not only questioned what would become of SCLC if Dr. King were killed but also offered an alternative decentralized leadership structure that would allow an organization/movement to continue in the wake of a charismatic leader being removed for whatever reason.

If it can be said that politics begin locally, it can also be said that the heaviest portions of racial uplift must occur at the most local of levels; that being, in the realm of personal responsibility. If Conyers fall from grace teaches us nothing else, I pray that it impresses on individuals within our community that it is they, not John Conyers, Umar Johnson, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Michael Eric Dyson, Louis Farrakhan, or any other national-level political spokesperson who is ultimately responsible for their plight. The time has come for African-Americans on an individual basis to seize the time and take control of their own fortunes and realize that if the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, our community needs them to dedicate themselves to not being that weakest link in regards to education, political acumen, social graces, and entrepreneurial/economic/business endeavors. We can not afford inefficiency in any shape, form, or fashion. One thing is for certain, John Conyers fall from grace definitively proves once again that even notable political figures have their hands full managing their own lives and therefore little time to help you with your unique issues; that job is yours.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

An Unwise Choice: An Open Letter to Black Men About Umar Johnson from a Sister Who Loves You

I am most certainly disturbed and bewildered by Umar Johnson’s continuing relevance in the struggle to liberate Black America. I am confident that you agree with my summation that Mr. Johnson is the most polarizing figure Black America has seen since Clarence Thomas. To some he is a breath of fresh air, to many others, he is a traveling con man selling hope for a better tomorrow to the droves of oppressed confused black people. Make no mistake about it, you either immediately embrace or exert extreme caution when it comes to this verbal wizard who possesses an uncanny ability to mesmerize black men. Johnson’s siren call comes in the form of seductive rhetoric that taps into their innate urge to assume what they consider their rightful position as “head of household” if not an exiled African “King” in the North American wilderness.

As a black woman, I would be disingenuous if I did not relate that the seemingly unending support Umar Johnson has received from my brothers is simultaneously shocking and offensive. For myself and the vast majority of black women, Mr. Johnson’s incantations for a return to the good old days when black men ruled their homes and communities with an iron-fisted authority that no one dared to challenge are eerily similar to white racists calls for a return to the good old days when a woman knew her place, children were to be seen and not heard, and homosexuality was a sexual deviance on par with child molestation.

Although Mr. Johnson’s supporters will deny it, their manhood constructs are merely a dastardly inheritance of tyrannical patriarchal that they were bequeathed by their white male fathers. In every way, Umar Johnson’s expression of masculinity is nothing more than a minstrel show of white patriarchal constructs.

It is time that the black community divests from the draconian position that one’s gender is sufficient for the leadership of anything. My brothers fail to realize that they have picked up their oppressors tools and dedicated their lives to replicating his immoral pattern of oppression within their community. The irony that Umar Johnson’s male supporters fail to realize that their movements to ‘uplift’ the black community are a haphazardly constructed garment that is held together by the anger of black males that is demanding not only silence from dissenters but also an intrusion into the personal lives of those under their reign. It appears that when black males’ steep emotional investment in Umar Johnson combines with natural impulses to take their rightful place as “the head” of everything they encounter, reason and logic are suspended.

The fact that thousands of black men would champion the flawed, antiquated perspectives of Umar Johnson is frightening as it reveals their failure to understand the inherent dangers associated with patriarchy and toxic manhood constructs. I pray that those I honestly consider my brethren can divorce themselves from the seductive emotionalism of this charismatic charlatan known as Umar Johnson, return to their senses and understand what Audre Lorde meant when she admonished oppressed people seeking liberation that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” What Umar Johnson is doing is not dismantling white supremacy, he is attempting to build a black version of it that will oppress all of those within our midst who disagree with his irrationality and inconsistencies.

K.V.J.

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

 

“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

The Gospel According to Huey P. Newton: Why it is so Easy for Black America to Follow Umar Johnson

There is no doubt that one of the most peculiar developments within the so-called ‘conscious community’ has been the ascension of a host of leaders whose very embodiment betrays the leadership post that they have fought others to claim. Over the past forty years, we’ve witnessed the appearance of a series of charismatic leaders that would have in previous periods of our struggle been summarily dismissed before they ever mounted a stage and pretended to direct the fight for racial uplift.

Beyond using their charisma to captivate an audience via copious amounts of style without any substance, organizing skills, or vision regarding the complex issues hampering Black America, figures such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and most recently Umar Johnson have proven to be “all sizzle, no steak.”

Considering the voluminous vitriolic hatred that I experience each time that I address black leadership, it is evident that there is a large segment of Negroes who have yet to raise their understanding of racial matters to even a pre-school level.

I long ago realized that when addressing the Black community it is not always what or how you say things, rather, our people for some wrong reason are greatly influenced by who is uttering the political analysis and social commentary that they would otherwise ignore. It is for that reason that I reached into my book, Creating Revolution as they Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and grasped the following quote from Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P. Newton. Maybe those who have issued emotionally-charged criticism of my position on Umar Johnson will listen if the same analysis emanates from the Panther leader.

From my perspective, the only reason that Black America continues to entertain charlatans such as Umar Johnson is that they consider the African-American Freedom Struggle to be little more than a vehicle that should entertain them. Absent sensational language, unrealistic assertions, and slick phraseology, the ‘conscious community’ is not particularly interested in anything being offered; even if the offering is a reasonable blueprint that holds the potential to solve many of the politico-economic issues facing the community today.

After his release from prison, a disappointed Huey P. Newton realized several things about the ‘conscious community’ that are still relevant today. During a speech, the Panther co-founder realized the following about the audience he was addressing.

As I talked, it seemed to me that the people were not really listening or even interested in what I had to say. Almost every sentence was greeted with loud applause, but the audience was more concerned with phrase-mongering than with ideological development…the people were not responding to my ideas, only to an image, and although I was very excited by all the energy and enthusiasm I saw there, I was also disturbed by the lack of serious analytical thought.

Anyone who has spent years studying and seeking to execute the plans that have been laid out by African-American intellectual giants will tell you that during the past forty years the ‘conscious community’ has devolved into a population “more concerned with phrase-mongering than with ideological development.”

Although many will dispute this fact, the core of the ‘conscious community’s current problems emanate from its hostility to intelligence and refusal to engage classic texts whose workable liberation plans lay dormant inside the cover of a book; watching Youtube videos are not a substitute for reading. It is the alluded to pervasive ignorance and conscious decisions to ‘not know,’ let alone formulate and execute a politico-economic plan that explains the rise of figures such as Umar Johnson.

The gaping holes in the logic and understanding of the current ‘conscious community’ that are attributable to their refusal to study classic texts are the pathway to the rise of an “all sizzle, no steak” charismatic leader such as Umar Johnson. Were the ‘conscious community’ less concerned with phraseology and more concerned with developing a real path to liberation, figures such as Umar Johnson would be irrelevant! However, as long as the ‘conscious community’ remains committed to being entertained by slick-talking leaders whose lack of character, self-control, and modesty guarantees boatloads of drama fit for a reality television show, Black America’s problems will worsen by the day.

I wonder how long the ‘conscious community’ will remain unconscious. Quite possibly the greatest barometer of the ‘conscious community’s’ decision to remain subordinate will be the popularity of Umar Johnson.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017