Building a Black Nation, One Post at a Time



What to a Black Nationalist is the Fourth of July?

“Woe be unto a people, a race who seek not their own foundation; their wives shall be servants for the wives of other men, and their daughters shall be wives of poor men and vagabonds, and there shall be tears because of privation, then in the end; hell everlasting for there shall be no reward in the kingdom of heaven for [the] slothful nor the unconcerned.”

Chapter 5 of The Holy Piby (1929) by Shepherd Robert Athlyi Rogers

frederick douglass
Frederick Douglass

In his 1852 speech before a group of abolitionists, titled “What to a Slave is the 4th of July?” Frederick Douglass, a former enslaved Afrikan who dedicated his life to securing physical liberty for Black men and women, gave a stirring indictment of the United States, which by that time had exponentially grown as a sovereign nation since attaining independence, all by stealing land from Indigenous people and denying freedom to generations of enslaved Afrikans who built the U.S. economy while in shackles.

Using rhetorical jujitsu, Douglass repeatedly asked his audience how Black people, many of whom U.S. law designated as property of white men and women at the time, were to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence if their conditions hadn’t changed since 1776.

Centuries later, in the face of police brutality, non-indictments of murderous officers, contaminated water and food in majority-Black communities, lack of economic opportunity, and the reemergence of white supremacist sentiments, Black people across the United States face the same dilemma about where they fit in an America that’s vastly different, yet eerily similar to the nation Douglass worked to change.

Fortunately, Our ancestors gave Us the answer to this question many times before — via Black nationalism, Pan-Africanism, and repatriation, all of which have and still provide the means for Us to organize outside of a system that stole Our wealth and wiped out remnants of Our African identity. More importantly, these tools, should We properly use them, allow Us to unite with our sistren and brethren across the Diaspora, just as the United States government has done with the Zionists and its Western European counterparts.

There’s no better person to make this point with than Shepherd Robert Athlyi Rogers, a man driven by his divine mission to free and unite Black people. His work in the early 20th century would inspire and lay the foundation for Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and other Black leaders who have repeatedly called out America for its crimes against humanity and pleaded with Us to build our own table, instead of sitting at the U.S. government’s.

the holy piby
Shepherd Robert Athlyi Rogers published The Holy Piby in 1929. 

More than 70 years after Douglass’ famous speech, Rogers published The Holy Piby, the foundational text of the Rastafari Movement, a global effort among oppressed people of African descent to return — mentally, spiritually, and in many cases physically — to the African continent, the place Rogers often referred to as Ethiopia in his writings. Rogers’ musings in The Holy Piby contributed to a mindset among truly revolutionary Afrikans in the West that Black people would never be truly free if they adopted the values of their enslavers, including those that forbade their pursuit of self-determination.

As founder of Afro-Athlican Constructive Gaathly, a church-like gathering space that facilitated the emergence of an African identity in Newark, New Jersey and other parts of the West, Rogers documented the work of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and his Universal Negro Improvement Association in the United States, calling Garvey a prophet. Later, Leonard P. Howell and early proponents of Rastafari in Jamaica, Garvey’s birthplace, would argue that Garvey’s prediction of the coming of a Black king in the East came to fruition through the coronation of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, who many Rastas consider a reincarnation of Yeshua, or Jesus Christ.

Garvey, the man We can thank for the red, black, and green of the Garvey Flag, inspired a legion of followers called Garveyites. Malcolm X’s father, killed by Klansmen in Omaha, Nebraska in the early 20th century, counted among the members of this group. Decades later, Malcolm preached unification and channeling of votes under the banner of Black Nationalism in his 1963 address “Ballot or the Bullet.” In his speech to Black people, Malcolm, who had adopted Pan-Africanism in his travels around the world, stressed that Black people overlook economic, religious, and other differences in the interest of consolidating political, social, and economic power among themselves.

Malcolm X 

No, Malcolm didn’t tell Us to blindly join the Democratic, Republican, or even Green Party. Instead, he suggested that We as a community step outside of those entities, hold on to Our vote and cast it for the candidates who had proven themselves through policy, not speeches and cult of personality, as those who could successfully wheel and deal in the true interest of the Black Nation. Such a perspective paved the way for several Black-centered organizations of the 1970s and beyond that worked outside of the conventional American system.

These Black Nationalist organizations have proven no match for the Democratic plantation, which has taken Our vote for granted in the years since Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan rallied up disgruntled, white male Southerners around contemporary anti-Blackness. Those turn of events somehow convinced Black people that Our best bet was the Democratic Party, even as the friends, colleagues, and children of our fallen leaders were cooking up alternatives in which we had direct control of the agenda.

Some Black Democrats would argue that the lack of appeal in those alternatives lies in an inability to fulfill the needs of the Black populace. The author of this piece thinks that Our collective amnesia makes Us forget how the government orchestrated the murder of our Black leaders and practically scared Us into submission. We’ve also forgotten about the squalor, government-orchestrated violence, and corruption that Democrat-controlled governments have brought Black people.

Many of Us, particularly those who still believe we can liberate ourselves within America’s diabolical two-party political system, choose to ignore the hard truths about Our situation in the United States — even after the untold number of lynchings, literal and metaphorical, over millennia. Even with institutionalized protections, the most talented among Us still face professional and emotional hurdles when they work in these white corporate spaces. The weak minded among them choose their professional ambitions over the well-being of the collective. As Walter Rodney eloquently spelled out in Groundings with My Brothers, today’s rat race is one to immerse oneself into the fabric of this “multicultural” society at the cost of one’s dignity and identity as a son or daughter of Africa.

This ignorance has risen to egregious levels several decades after the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, both pieces of legislation that, while they opened the door to greater political participation, failed to lift Black people out of a permanent underclass status.

Our People, enamored with the legend of Our ancestors’ struggle in Selma, Montgomery and other Civil Rights landmarks, are still holding on to the Democratic Party. Keep in mind that, in the so-called Age of Trump, Our Black elected officials, all Democratic Party figureheads in their own right, have spent more time trying to punish an unimpeachable president than advocating for their Black constituents.

This is part of a long tradition of Black politics where, in competing with others’ interests in a party that We don’t even control, we can’t push for legislation that directly affects us. The tomfoolery has gotten to the point where Black people are rallying around an ousted FBI director who once led the organization responsible Dr. King’s and Malcolm X’s death and that of so many other leaders. With all of the telltale signs in front of Us, We as Black people believe that we will prosper under the murderous banner of the American empire, a capitalistic entity that continues to exploit Our people while committing atrocities against non-white people all around the world, all with whom we share a lineage directly back to the Motherland.

The time for such foolishness stops today.

Brave Afrikan men and women have told us time and time again to strip Ourselves of the American identity that’s doused in individualism, ethnocentricity, misogyny, and ignorance. It’s time that we follow that advice or perish in this contemporary fight and form our own Nation, politically, socially, and economically.

Unfortunately, there are brothers and sisters who are on the front lines of this fight who are using their platform to push the agenda of outside actors. Such actions threaten to co-opt the work being done in the grassroots, upending the progress our People have made in the modern-day liberation fight. Food for thought, Deray McKesson: When your liberation work takes you out of the street of Ferguson and into a studio where you get to interview Katy Perry about her cultural appropriation, then just know that you’re doing the work of the powers that be.

For everyone else, may We take this July 4th to fully understand that, though we’re American by name, we’re not Americans by value and heritage. It’s time we acknowledge that and use that information to build a true movement for self-determination.



Black Liberals, Their Use of “Hotep” and “Ankh-Right,” and a Denial of Nation Building’s Merits

PHOTO: A necklace of the ankh, a Kemetic hieroglyph meaning eternal life. The word ankh has recently become a new tool in insults levied against Black people seeking African consciousness./ Courtesy 

Earlier this week, the third day of Kwanzaa, named for the principle of Ujima, a Kiswahili word meaning collective work and responsibility in the African community, turned into somewhat of a nightmare – and ultimately a re-awakening for this author – when Dr. Umar Johnson, an electrifying, yet polarizing figure in the Pan-African community, released a 45-minute video diatribe aimed at his rival General Sera Suten Seti, a Detroit-based speaker with whom he has had problems for some time.

Johnson’s curse word-laden tirade, filmed in a Florida hotel room, caused quite a stir on social media throughout much of Wednesday and Thursday, especially among Black liberal academics and social commentators who spoke of a “Hotep Civil War.” While most in the “conscious community” chose not to give the squabble much credence, several self-proclaimed Pan-Africanists and leftist Blacks quickly condemned the actions of the self-proclaimed “Prince of Pan-Africanism,” saying he made a fool of himself.

For a few seconds, it appeared that the ilk of Black people in whom the good doctor had found fans and liberal Blacks, many of whom have used “Hotep” and more recently “ankh-right” in their descriptions of folks with Pan-African leanings, could agree on at least one thing — the cult of leadership that inflated Dr. Umar Johnson and General Seti’s egos – and has often led to the impotency of several local and national Black movements in recent decades – definitely impedes our fight for liberation.

Unfortunately, this is the furthest the relationship between those with Pan African leanings and liberal Blacks will ever go if the latter continues to tarnishes Hotep – the Kemetic greeting for peace – and the ankh, the Kemetic hieroglyphic that signifies eternal life, in their dismissive statements about Black people yearning to get in touch with their African roots.

Such a choice of words shows a disregard for an ancient history taken away from African people. Yes, even continental Africans lost modern-day Egypt when the U.S. Adm. Alfred Thayer Mahan and other Western leaders created the “Middle East” in the early 20th century. Thousands of years earlier, the Romans and Greeks ransacked Kemet and took many of her possessions. Today, Hollywood warps history, whitening the ancient Black people responsible for mathematics, science, and medicine.

Of course, those of us who consider ourselves somewhat conscious know that we don’t have a direct lineage to Egypt. We also know that American slavery is not the non-melanated people’s first time murdering and stealing from melanated people. Linking the institution of slavery to colonialism on the African continent and Kemet’s fall, helps us find a common oppressor while aiding in the spiritual journey that’s Knowledge of Self.

Many of us who study Egypt, even if for a second, develop an intellectual understanding of the Abrahamic religions that I would respectfully argue goes well beyond that of a good number of Afrikan pastors. Additionally, they are often more accepting of other spiritual systems, including the Yoruba, Akan, Dogon, Voudon, and others.

It’s my hope that Black liberals, and any other group of Black people that has disdain for proponents of African-centered culture, get to embrace their African heritage. Knowledge of Self is a personal process that opens the door to more spiritually fulfilling professional opportunities and connectivity to African people that every Black person should have, even if they don’t feel like attending every study circle or healing circle in the world. In many cases, it also makes one more independently minded.

To the credit of those who critique Pan-Africanism, globalization doesn’t quite afford Black people the privilege of separating from the rest of the world, especially because we don’t control any major resources. In the United States, the racial and ethnic make-up of U.S. residents, particularly those of African descent, has drastically changed since the wave of African independence in the 1950s and 60s. Today, African and Caribbean immigrants and their children count among a significant segment of the Black population in the U.S. Their ties to their home nation and its distinctive culture might not make Pan-Africanism, a call for the collective to unite under one banner, alluring.

For the so-called African American, the United States has somewhat of a misleading position as a stable and developed country. Albeit the signs that all that might be coming to an end within a generation, many descendants of the enslaved Africans who toiled this land feel like they’ve earned a place here. While somewhat noble, this mindset has in part conflicted with the gains that African-centered institutions made in the post-Civil Rights era to create an African identity in the U.S. that combats the poisonous caricature of Black man and womanhood inflicted on our children daily.

Our reverence for our ancestors’ sacrifices on American soil shouldn’t negate our need to connect and organize with our brothers and sisters across the globe. Just as young people are fighting police forces in the U.S., young men and women across the Diaspora are going toe to toe with their elected officials, some of whom have U.S. backing. I’m not afraid, nor have I ever been afraid, to admit that Dr. Umar made me privy to these connections somewhat.

However, that doesn’t mean that he, the men, and sometimes women, who Black liberals, including the authors of the widely popular Very Smart Brothas blog, call “Hoteps” aren’t without fault. Their need to boast about their “wokeness” speaks to this.

However, they don’t represent the entire African-centered community. In the interest of preventing the cult of leadership mentioned earlier, people who consider themselves conscious must hold the usual suspects – misogynists, the historically inaccurate, and the often hypocritical – responsible for their actions.

As far as African-centered organizing and nation building in the 21st century is concerned, many of us shouldn’t be close minded to some of what the present day offers. We should also understand, and embrace, nuance in our scholarship so that we don’t create a narrow-minded definition of a truly African-centered lifestyle. Many an organization have crumbled by turning off well-meaning Black people trying to find themselves in this twisted society.

No fellow Africans, I’m not asking us to hide who we are as a people. I’m not telling our people to put down to the RBG flag, to cease all mention of our ancestors or practice of African spiritual activity. I’m arguing that the dearth of intellectual gymnastics among members of the Youtube generation and a disregard for fresh discussions about various aspects of this liberation movement will hinder us.

If we’re to ever realize Nguzo Saba and become a global African nation, organization must be scientific and inclusive of all all aspects – including financial, agricultural, health, and education. It’s time to move beyond the smoke and mirror of social media conscious stardom. Doing so requires using the confidence that comes with that knowledge to launch long-term projects that move us closer to self-determination. It also requires us to be good representatives of the so-called conscious community in the way we spread our message. Not everyone will like us but they should never have to say that we’re disrespectful.

These days, the stakes are higher for African people in the United States, especially now that even some Blacks with Pan-African leanings have, jokingly, used “hotep” and “ankh right” to deride Johnson and others. This proves dangerous at a time when Pan-Africanism is under attack, not only from outside forces, but from those who consider themselves Black.

Shortly after Donald J. Trump’s ascent to the White House, a couple Black thought leaders spouted messages with xenophobic undertones like that in the president-elect’s campaign speeches. For example, Yvette Carnell of Breaking Brown remixed a conservative talking point about immigrants taking low-paying jobs, telling African Americans that to succeed as a group, they need to ignore a bloc that includes continental Africans, Carribbean people, Afro-Latinos, and other Black immigrants. In a later Facebook post, she mocked Pan-Africanism as a relic of the past that has no significance today.

But how can that be the case when Africans across the globe suffer just as badly, if not worse in some cases, as our ancestors in our interactions with the oppressor? Just like we share a common lineage, we have a common enemy in racism, capitalism, neocolonialism, war, and any other tool used to keep our people under siege globally. Kujichagulia, the Kiswahili word for self-determination and second principle of Kwanzaa, speaks to African people breaking free of those chains and controlling their own economies, governments, and schools without any exploitative influence from outside actors.

Personally, I don’t take most critiques of Pan-Africanism or Black Nationalism negatively these days. Rather, maybe because of a fervently curious mind that has taken me many places, I take those opportunities to develop my craft as a journalist and educator so that the concept of Pan-Africanism becomes clearer for my people and works even more wonders in my life and organizing work. That’s all AllEyesOnDC has been: a tour of my ever-evolving millennial mind.

In closing, I say to those brothers and sisters who continue to use “hotep” and “ankh-right” in their talks about African-centered Black people, understand that yes, we hear you, but you’re still losing out on an opportunity to deepen your community work and advocacy on behalf of Black people. Please learn to see those men you call “hotep” as just flawed people, not representatives of an entire movement. Shoot, just gain some international context for what’s going on in the U.S. and I guarantee you’ll see Knowledge of Self much differently.

At least I hope so.

How an Understanding of Race as a Social Construct Strengthens the Call for Black Liberation

A depiction of Bacon’s Rebellion, the 1676 event believed to usher the start of the racial caste system that legitimized the enslavement of African people in the United States./ 

In most of the mature conversations about race I’ve participated in, both sides have acknowledged the U.S. racial caste system to be a farce, designed to keep the multi-ethnic, disenfranchised majority from uniting against the One Percent. At that point in the discussion, the party who’s determined to organize solely with Black people, myself in many cases, must answer the question of whether this fact changes how they fight for Black liberation.

After engaging in many discussions and deliberating in my private time, I would say no and yes.

Knowing that the Elites created the concept of race in the U.S. doesn’t discourage me from solely organizing with Black people on several fronts. The global Black race’s survival depends on our ability to do for self, whether that’s in Liberia against impeding foreign investors or in D.C. amid mass gentrification. As a reporter, if I want my people to survive, I must do my part by writing about and reporting on issues concerning Black people in D.C., the U.S., and abroad. As an educator, I must teach Black, and Latino, children about our common African heritage.

This mission for Black self-determination equally applies in the home. My beau is a Black woman. I will eventually become the head of a Black family. My life is beautifully Black, more so because of my passion for combating the all-out assault on Black people in this country and abroad.

This begs the question of whether, by overtly celebrating and protecting my Blackness, I’m becoming a prisoner of the very box that I’m trying to escape. By solely organizing with Black people, am I participating in the race war that the Elites are creating from afar? By echoing my warrior ancestors’ call for a united African nation, am I just as evil as the white people who want to exterminate my race? These are real questions that often come from friends, colleagues, strangers, and whoever else asks about what some would consider my obsession with living Black.

To them, I say that by affirming my African heritage in this pseudo-racial caste system, I redefine Blackness. Coming to terms with my precarious status as a so-called first-generation Black American helped me realize this. As a teenager in what was once called Chocolate City, I often felt that I had to choose between being a Liberian and being a Black American. At the George Washington University, I saw similar schisms between continental and diasporic Africans. Such experiences further compelled me to live an honestly Black live in this country and reject any temptation to let go of Mama Africa.

While not directly affected by the U.S.’ slave-holding history, by being born and raised in the United States, I’m subject to the laws, standards, and Eurocentric thinking created to impede African American progress. In my adolescent years, I had to decide between adhering to the cultural norms that my parents taught me, or following the way of life prescribed to my peers through BET videos and misinformation from malignant media sources and traumatized people. To be totally fair, the young African-American men I grew up with, many of whom came from loving homes despite what the media tried to tell my Liberian-born parents, had to make the same decisions despite their upbringing.

Making that connection between me and my friends showed me that as a young African man in the Babylon system, your home life didn’t matter to an extent if it wasn’t centered in an African cultural identity or a yearning for such. If the definition of Black as given by America has no positive semblance of Africa, both continental and diasporic Africans struggling to find their way will suffer in the end by strictly adhering to those values.

By stepping outside of the ethnocentric box that America created for Black people, we can tap into our African heritage and learn about a history beyond slavery that confirms our humanity and divinity. Our ancestors who walked this land during the rise of the American empire had similar goals, despite the Babylon system’s efforts to wipe away memories of those movements.

In recent years, I’ve gained a more globalized perspective, working alongside like-minded Black youth and learning about the African heritage I share with them and other Africans around the world – particularly the Caribbean and the African continent. Upon learning about some of our ancient history and struggle against the European minority, however I found more than enough reason to organize solely with Black people, despite knowing what I’ve come to find out in discussions — that this racial caste system thrives from division of non-wealthy white and Black people.

At a time when, as an aggregate, Black people in the United States are behind in many facets of living, I, nor other Black people, don’t have much time to convince white people of our humanity or to educate them about the fallacy of the racial caste system that continues to benefit them. Additionally, the very people who benefit from white supremacy are descendants of the Europeans that have committed numerous atrocities against African people and other melanated groups long before Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, an event that marked the beginning of chattel slavery by inheritance. Though the American Elite created “white” and “black” to destroy any possibility that impoverished people would unite against them, the “white” people who enjoyed the benefits of the system were already well on their way to controlling the melanated people’s way of life.

Not too far from where Bacon’s Rebellion happened, the English unleashed physical and germ warfare against Indigenous Americans upon landing on their shores decades earlier. Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer whose legacy the Babylon system celebrates every year, and his goons dealt a similar fate to the “Indians” they encountered in the 15th century. Columbus’ contribution to the cause kicked off a long period of Western imperialism and the Transatlantic slave trade, also known as Maafa, which means the African Holocaust.

Centuries earlier, the Greeks and then the Romans took over ancient Kemet after acquiring the vast wealth of knowledge that the Egyptians had. The Portuguese and other European groups took the system of wartime indentured servitude developed by Africans (the one often mentioned by white people in discussions about race) and turned it into an inter-generational marker of poverty and economic exploitation. The Industrial Revolution, a period of great economic growth for Western nation-states, paralleled the rape and plunder of the African continent and people. All the while across the Atlantic Ocean, the U.S. government ran Indigenous Americans off their land.

Despite coming from various pre-New World nations, we melanated people share a common oppressor, but more so a common spiritual energy. Long before the European left the caves and embarked on its centuries-long campaign of destruction, people of African descent laid the foundation for many of the technological advancements we see today. The land mass that was Pangea serves as a testament to this common heritage. Over the decades, several African scholars, including Runoko Rashidi, have been able to find elements of African cultural influence in paintings, sculptures, and writings from all over the world.

Racial classifications – Black, Latino/Hispanic, Native American, etc. – do nothing to highlight the complexity of our ethnic, tribal, and cultural origins. Those markers signify economic fortune and reinforce limited, poisonous ideas about melanated people that the oppressor developed. In the spectrum of race, Black and white fall on opposite sides. As Walter Rodney eloquently explained in Groundings with My Brothers, people all around the world, based on their current economic and social situation, have some latitude in choosing where they land on that scale. In many modern societies, the melanated people who attain all an institution offers don’t challenge persistent ideas of whiteness. By design, its melanated people who uphold the racial caste system by not challenging whiteness.

The Babylon system has gone above and beyond to maintain whiteness, a concept that always faces extinction, in other forms.  Irish and Italian immigrants, Ashkenazi Jews, Catholics, and other white outcasts have been absorbed into so-called white American family as melanated groups continuously broke institutional barriers throughout the years. In exchange, those groups would hold down melanated groups.

These days, white “Hispanics” are becoming the next group to enter the white race. Many of these “Hispanics” may have enjoyed similar privileges as the lighter members of their home nations. Anywhere in the world, it doesn’t gain anyone profit to go against the oppressor. To act as though that’s the case makes the assumption that the oppressor got everything in its possession through hard work rather than theft and trickery of the truly enlightened majority.

When looking at the creation of America’s racial caste system through that lens, the original intent to continue the global oppression of melanated people has become clearer to me, even if it has kept some poor whites at the bottom. If the oppressed melanated people who bring up this racial caste system in race discussions truly understood the true nature of the Western beast, they would combat it by self-classifying as Black in a manner that reveres their connection to the Most High and respects the struggles of Africans abroad.

From what I’ve seen and heard, not many of my sisters and brothers have done that, choosing instead to not connect with Africa. Unlike other oppressed groups, we have no direct connection to Mama Africa, due mainly to enslavement, but because many of us don’t want to know about it in the Age of Information. Sadly, we’ve been conditioned to not follow our predecessors in organizing with Africans abroad; we see our issues as separate from theirs.

In closing, for us to truly break out of this pseudo-racial system that critics of Pan-African ideology bring up time and time again in arguing against race consciousness, Black America must end its love affair with the white force that has oppressed its people globally long before Bacon’s Rebellion.

Unifying with the oppressor’s henchmen (middle and lower-class whites) with the hope that they will tear down Babylon with us is not the answer. The only unity this journalist and educator will unequivocally endorse is that among melanated people – including Africans, Indigenous Americans, and all those in between. In no way does this conflict with the call for Black unity as for this plan to truly come to fruition, Black unity must be examined through a global prism, where those who fight for Black self-determination in America think of themselves as Africans.

Having that common consciousness can lead us out of ignorance and into a situation where we can respect our common heritage with other Spirit Beings, eventually letting go of the Eurocentric ideas that perpetually destroy our souls. How’s that for destroying a racial caste system?

U.S. Capitalism and the Miseducation of the African Child: An AllEyesOnDC Reflection

A montage of Young Thug and an airport employee he harassed./ Courtesy photo 

My first holiday season as a full-time high school teacher has served as a firsthand lesson about the teenage consumerist, and I’m not pleased.

On the week that quarterly progress reports went home, a few of my students, many of whom haven’t put in much work for several weeks, lobbied for some extra credit and other tricks that would boost their dismal grades. They did this not out of a commitment to academic excellence, but fear of losing them oh-so precious Christmas gifts.

Though slightly disappointed, I wasn’t surprised to hear that truth. Since I started teaching full-time, I’ve seen up close the conditions that stunt our children’s character development and spiritual growth. Doing my job has been an exercise in getting teenagers to see the Kings and Queens in themselves and value the process of learning. Teaching English and Language Arts becomes the perfect conduit to fulfill that mission and get a sense of what motivates the young people. As the days and months went by, the more I realized money was the change agent they valued.

During our studies about grammar and literary devices, we discuss local and national politics, sociology, economics and more via news articles and readings I would assign the class. My students have also reflected on their short lives during in-class writing exercises. Through reading their responses to thought-provoking prompts, I’ve come to understand their desire for wealth and comfort, particularly because they wrote, with a lot of spelling and grammar errors, about the circumstances that brought forth their unstable lives.

Though I don’t doubt that money will change their lives for the better, I in good conscious cannot let them rely on the dollar bill alone. As a college-educated professional, I have a certain amount of privilege that some would say disqualifies me from prescribing a solution to my people’s salvation that doesn’t involve money. However, my experiences around well-to-do people and my knowledge of what folks of that ilk have done from their ivory towers has radicalized me in a sense and made me more cognizant of the sickness that Carter G. Woodson vividly described in Miseducation of the Negro.

Long before formally entering the education profession, I’ve witnessed the morally corrupt nature of many “accomplished,” degree-holding people. Instead of chasing knowledge and inner understanding, those who would become members of the Black elite covet tables at clubs, the latest clothes and shoes, and the status of your favorite trap rapper. Among the Black men, no matter the income level, words like “bitch” and “hoe” always ring out. In general, Black men and Black women lashed out at one another. Yes, I grew personally and professionally in school and in the professional world, but that system didn’t allow enough, if any space for independent, African-centered thought that could cleanse my soul. That’s why at times, on-campus activism, while meant to be a chance to help others, felt more like a popularity contest and notch on the resume rather than a fight to improve life on campus for Black people.

My real education took place a couple years after completing undergrad when I built on my studies of Malcolm X’s fight for oppressed people globally. By learning about my people and their struggles, triumph, and pre-Maafan history, I grew more in love with myself and hungrier to learn more about which was hidden from me. My lessons spanned many disciplines, compelling the maturation of my musical tastes, changes in how I address women, and an evolution in political thought more in line with independent thinkers, not those caught up in the two –party system.

By now, some of the folks – white, Black, Latino, and beyond – with whom I went to school are well on their way to becoming mavens of their industries. However, if everything goes per the real ruling elites’ plan, many will perpetuate the misinformation and exploitation of oppressed people in their subservient roles. Instead of using their power to affect change, they mock those without for suffering in a system that clearly doesn’t favor them.

This sentiment strikes home, for Black people are the primary culprits in this travesty, thanks in part to our conditioning by standards imposed by white people over the centuries. That’s what people like Keith Ellison, who like President Barack Obama had to denounce a Black leader/group for political points, must think about as they compete for roles within the American oligarchy.

That’s also why my students extol the wealthy athletes and entertainers more than the social justice advocates, inventors, business magnates, and the like, even as they fail to live up to the legacy of Ossie Davis, Jr., Ruby Dee, Nina Simone, and others. One of these entertainers by the name of Young Thug recently flaunted his “wealth” at an airport and disrespected two employees.

To carry our fight for liberation forward, young people must yearn to make the world a better place and combat all forms of evil. That cannot be done in environments where material wealth is the goal. I’m not saying that to criticize parents aiming to curb negative behavior by withholding gifts, but to challenge us as a People to push our youth to strive for their best so that it benefits the global ecosystem, not just their ego.

That’s hard to do when college is marketed more like a check on the Successful Adult To-Do List more than an opportunity to grow internally. This makes it more important that we encourage education beyond the confines of academia. Without a thirst for knowledge, how else will the youth be able to critically think long after their formal education ends?

They won’t. Their lives will become a cycle of work, sleep, and happy hours. Right now, that’s how many of the hamsters live on the wheel. If it’s not the degree, the money or fame, it’s holiday gifts that keep us going. You could say that the material possessions have become our carrot stick, to our detriment.

Let it be known that this generation, criticized and looked over by many elders in our community, will be the ones to take this global movement for African liberation to new heights. That’s why the powers that be, through its political, business, and media arms, keep our African and indigenous American children away from their true history. Our adherence to the codes of consumerism that make our children slaves to the corporation seals the deal.

Given the nature of the rat race that’s capitalism, one would argue that we don’t have enough time to care, but it’s imperative that we make time. Our children deserve that much. By no means does that mean keep the gifts away from your young ones this year. However, you should be having a conversation about the need to learn and improve as a human being, something my father used to call “eating book.” Let’s encourage this dialogue and push our young people to create their own happiness, not that which is manufactured by the one percent.

The world will be a much better place for it.

Looking Beyond the Election: Five Ways Black People Could Build After Nov. 8th

Courtesy photo

Regardless of who’s (s)elected to assume the American presidency on Nov. 8th, Black people in the United States are still a people without much to call their own. That’s why as a group, our status in this country will never be ours to determine, no matter the number of votes we give a particular candidate.

Throughout much of the Election season, I, along with others, have been vilified by Black liberals and conservatives alike for not falling in line with the rest of the sheepish electorate in choosing Secy. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Those who rallied behind the powerful lawmaker and veteran stateswoman in recent months say they see her as the only thing standing between world stability and the confusion of a Donald Trump presidency.

Trump, business magnate turned reality television star turned demagogue, has caused a ruckus since hijacking the Republican nomination process and rising to the top of the national ticket via his deep pockets and vitriolic hate speech that commanded the attention of the American media. So much so that much of the Democratic establishment and its wealthy compatriots want those of us to rally behind Clinton, who to this day hasn’t atoned for her part in the U.S.-inflicted humanitarian crises worldwide nor offered any concrete policy solutions to the issues affecting Black people i.e. police brutality, food inequality, lack of economic opportunity, and the like.

Even worse, the Black people who criticize our motives in looking beyond the Democratic/Republican dichotomy assume that we don’t have any long haul game; as if many of us didn’t come to this conclusion after living through a Bush 43 and Obama presidency chocked full of disappointments.

This post, while not necessarily for the naysayers, lays out a course of action that I believe must be taken at the grassroots level if Black people are to eventually build the political, economic, and social autonomy that will prevent us from getting repeatedly used by the Democratic Party like a side piece in the middle of the night.

  1. Economic Withdrawal – In the aftermath of the Alton Sterling murder this summer, legions of Black people opened accounts in Black-owned banks, sparking a movement, even if the hype didn’t last long. With the Holiday Season coming up, we as a Nation have more than enough opportunity to withdraw our dollars from the very corporations and entities that support our demise. It’s time that we carry out a long-term boycott of these businesses and give those dollars to Black-owned vendors and business owners, more than likely a group of people whose success will equally benefit us. While it’s uncertain that you’ll find Black-owned businesses that fulfill your every need, now’s the time to check your local and statewide inventory of Black-owned goods so you, if not someone else in your community, can fill in those gaps immediately.
  1. Purchase of Land & Acquisition of Resources – As many of my brothers and sisters in the D.C. metro area very well know, land is king around these parts. Gentrification has pushed many of our brothers and sisters out into the quiet suburbs of the region while the well-to-do and their partners take over what we once owned. As property values rise, those of us who still live in the city struggle to keep a roof over our heads.That’s why land ownership stands as one of the most important, if not the most important, of these tasks. There’s not much we can do in our community if we don’t even live there. A house can become a home, community center, business, and much more if the owners have an imagination and a few dollars. It’s time for us to be ingenious and adopt a mode of thinking that will allow us to produce more than we consume.

    For more than a decade, predators have encroached on our land, taking advantage of our lack of knowledge by giving us pennies for property that costs hundreds of thousands. That must stop today. As must be done with everything else, take an inventory of the property you and your family own in the District, if any. If possible, take on the communal principles that made our ancient African civilizations family friendly and shack up with relatives so you can pay off that property quicker. If you’re searching for property to purchase, don’t shy away from what many may consider some of the city’s less-than-desirable areas. Trust and believe that there are corporate, parasitic elements out here on the same hunt.

    For those thinking about purchasing a home for the first time, the D.C. Home Purchase Assistance Program is a great start, even if you don’t find all the answers there. Let’s do all that we can to keep our home.

  1. Formation of Our Own Political Party – Both political parties, especially the Democratic Party, have become beholden to corporate interests, so much so that the party leaders stomp out any inkling of radical change, all to the detriment of the oh-so-loyal Black electorate. 

    Long before the 2016 Election, Democrats haven’t done much work in our best interests. Many of the Chocolate Cities, most of which are ran by Democrats, have succumbed to gentrification. A Justice Department led by a Democratic president failed to bring killer cops to justice. We also can’t forget what happened to youngsters in Baltimore and other major cities in the aftermath of police-orchestrated killings of civilians, all under the watchful eye of Democratic politicians worried about reelection prospects. This has been the case for Democrats since the passage of Voting Rights legislation. Although our political leaders have a title, they’re still told when to sit and when to move by a power greater than themselves.

    A Black-centered political party, while not likely to bring in a presidential nominee to the White House, could be so effective locally. After all, local politics is what we should be interested in controlling, for it’s the machine that directly controls many aspects of our life. This political operation could go well beyond what the Democratic Party has tried to do by uniting Black people around issues that specifically affect us and holding politicians accountable to fixing those problems. Remember, Black people have a different experience in this country that the Democrats and Republicans, mostly because of their slaveholding history, cannot address honestly and holistically. Think about it like this: why is the bill for reparations, introduced by a Black Democrat, still in the introductory stages after more than 25 years?

    With our autonomous political power, funded largely by our voters and business magnates, we can make deals and hold our own independently as other constituencies have done in this country. While staying until the fall of Babylon may not be in the cards for some of us, it’s best that we can control much of our destiny while on this stolen land.

  1. Exploring Community Policing – By now, we know that the police will kill one of ours in front of a large crowd, with a body cam, and anything else that we’ve convinced ourselves we need to see justice in such an unjust system. At this point, all that remains for us to do is to institutionalize some community control of the police. 

    If you study the history of the police in the United States, you’ll understand that they were never here to protect and serve Black people. Indeed, this force was created to protect property. The War on Drugs, disguised as a war on Black people, renewed that call, allowing the state to further break apart our families and destabilize our communities. Many of our young people, a byproduct of these events, run out into the streets like they don’t have any sense. Many of us, scared for our lives, acquiesce our control of our young ones to the police, who in turn take them out like yesterday’s trash.

    As hard as it may be to look in the mirror, we have to admit that we as a global community dropped the ball in controlling our neighborhoods and expecting more of one another. Community policing allows us to do this. At the height of its existence, the Nation of Islam had set up some patrols in Black neighborhoods across the country. Other groups, including D.C’s own Pan-African Community Action, said community policing could help neighbors feel more at home, regardless of the conditions.

    However it looks, it’s time that all members of the community work together in making our environment safe for everyone. In no way does this excuse the actions of a few killer cops. Instead, it’s a call for us to become the change that we want to see just as the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and other Pan-Africanist leaders have called on us to do.

  1. Forging Connections across the Diaspora – As Africans in the so-called New World, we have perhaps the greatest advantages of the entire Diaspora. Many of us however fail to use the technology here to forge global relationship, mainly because we have fallen victim to American propaganda that designates us as separate from the Motherland

    As we build an infrastructure in the states, it’s equally important that we help our brethren and sistren across the world in any way possible. For Hurricane Matthew’s victims in Haiti, that means shipping supplies. For those affected by civil war in Ethiopia, that might mean giving a few dollars.

    Personally, I know of a few groups going above and beyond to create a movement that will allow African Americans and continental Africans to trade resources and learn from one another. From what I’ve seen, such relationships have worked because both sides are eager to learn from one another. Additionally, both sides understand that their enemy is the enemy of Africa and Africans abroad, regardless of skin color.

    Building outside of a political infrastructure works even more to our advantage in the case, particularly because that world is corrupted on a global scale. In meeting the end goal of self-determination, we must focus on building economic power. From there everything else will come.

This list, while not exhaustive, is a start to what I believe will put us in a truly better position as a unit. As Africans, we have to understand that we won’t be individually free until we are free as a people. That kind of change starts at the bottom, at the local level. Believe it or not, the work has gone on for centuries, all at the hands of those who have since transcended to the Ancestral Realm.

However, the powers that be will try to make us believe that we need them to get to the Promised Land. Don’t believe them! Believe in your own power and in the struggle of those who endured Maafa. Until next time family.

EDITORIAL: Israel’s Newfound Love for Africa Comes at a Price

PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) in Kenya with President Uhuru Kenyetta this week. 

This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his first visit to the Motherland as part of an effort to strengthen ties with African leaders and discuss investment opportunities throughout the continent.

During his first stop in Uganda on Monday, he commemorated the 40th anniversary of a hostage rescue mission in which his brother died. Netanyahu also explored the possibility of Israel imparting its knowledge about security and technology on the African state. Other stops on what has been called an historic excursion include Kenya and Ethiopia. In Kenya, Netanyahu confidently exclaimed that “Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel,” perhaps alluding to the relationship his state had with a number of African nations in the aftermath of their liberation from colonial rule.

On the surface, such a trip could provide an opportunity for Africa to further develop and participate in the global economy, especially when the Israeli government’s $12.9 billion plan to strengthen economic ties with Africa is taken into consideration. In examining this event through a Pan-African lens however, it become apparent that Netanyahu’s outreach to African leaders is a desperate attempt to muster international support for Israel’s violent actions against Palestinians.

This move comes amid an ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians over the former’s occupation of the latter’s land and the subsequent torture of Palestinian people. In peace-keeping discussions, Netanyahu has made it clear that he doesn’t support the idea of a two-nation state, demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a state and cut down its military forces. With the United States’ financial support, Israeli military forces have trekked throughout Palestinian settlements in the West Bank. The United Nations recently condemned these actions, urging Israeli leaders to halt this assault and wait until a peace deal is in place. 

These developments show signs of growing impatience among world leaders for what amounts to war crimes on Israel’s part.

In forging ties with African nations, Israel wants to ensure that their newfound allies won’t side with Arab nations in their resolutions against the Jewish state. 

Netanyahu, a student of history, has valid reasons for those fears. In the late 1970s, the then- Organization of African Unity, facing pressure from Arab states, passed a resolution recommending that member states sever ties with Israel in the midst of the Yon Kippur War. Decades later under the leadership of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Israel lost its observer status in the African Union, completely removing it from the table. During his stop in Kenya, Netanyahu made public his wish to get Israel reinstated. These power moves allow him to build a coalition that will ease his nation’s ability to take over the entire West Bank.

As always is the case, African leaders dealing with other heads of state and power brokers must stay true to their predecessors’ commitment to remain socially and economically independent. In an increasingly globalized society, making that vision come to fruition has been very difficult, in part because many of the African countries rely on their so-called allies for aid and assistance. As seen with the Europeans during Colonization and with the Chinese today, that comes with a heavy price.

In short, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, and Ethiopia’s Mulatu Tashome, along with their other African presidential colleagues must look at Israel’s outreach soberly. In addition, they must adopt a Pan-African, anti-imperialistic mindset that will embolden them to stand up against Israel’s assault on Palestinians. In doing so, they make it known that Africa won’t be used as a pawn in Netanyahu’s games.

How Jesse Williams Praised Our Grassroots Organizers More than We Do

PHOTO: Actor and award-winning humanitarian Jesse Williams/ Courtesy 

By now, most, if not all of the African world has watched or heard about Jesse Williams’ five-minute oratorical masterpiece at the BET Awards earlier this week.

Upon accepting the 2016 BET Humanitarian Award, Williams, a Black actor who rarely minces words in his analyses of domestic racial affairs, called out the United States for the litany of crimes it commits against Black people. A multi-ethnic audience of his wealthy and famous peers, and much of Black America, listened as he eloquently condemned state-sanctioned violence, cultural appropriation, capitalistic exploitation of Black people, and white disdain for Black expressions of pain.

In one speech, Williams placed a morally bankrupt media network on a road to redemption and galvanized people who had grown tired of seeing officers escape responsibility for their deadly use of force against Black men, women, and children. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media outlets lit up with commentary and memes of Williams and his fiercest quotes in what’s sure to be an historic speech. For the first time, those who followed the “woke” movement from afar gained new interest.

While I appreciated Williams’ numerous zingers, many of which I saw plastered all over my timeline, there’s an often overlooked line that truly resonated with me: the one in which he acknowledges the grassroots organizers across the country working to dismantle white supremacy. For those confused as to what I’m talking about, he said it before getting into the real juicy stuff. Still confused? I copied it into this commentary for your reading pleasure.

“Now, this award, this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country. The activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. All right? It’s kind of basic mathematics. The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.

Every day in this naturally hypocritical country of ours, there are countless numbers of Black people in various communities who’re organizing, raising the consciousness of the masses, feeding the poor and homeless, forging coalitions, and pressuring elected officials to support their efforts – all in the name of Black Power. Many of them do this while speaking out against the white supremacist Babylon system publicly and on social media without hesitation.

Just as Williams has done repeatedly in the last few years, our outspoken grassroots warriors examine the issues of the day with a critical eye, forming a unique conclusion and demanding America atones for its centuries-long crime against Africans. However unlike Black America’s favorite woke actor and humanitarian, these brothers and sisters are often scolded for their viewpoints, with both family members and friends labeling them as “radical,” begging that they provide an analysis that’s more inclusive, softer, and endearing to the status quo, even if it doesn’t benefit Black people.

I myself have been on the receiving end of this kind of treatment.

Since coming into my African consciousness and adding an activist flair to my journalism, I’ve had college friends, cousins, aunties, uncles, and the like mockingly refer to me as Malcolm X, suggesting that I marginalize myself by candidly expressing my Black Nationalist beliefs. Some even try to convince me to “forget about the past.” In recent months, I’ve grown more confident in standing by what I say. In the process, I’ve built relationships with African organizers, young and old, and taken my message to the next level.

As often is the case, the work never stops, in part because there’s a significant segment of the diasporic African population hasn’t taken off their white mask to confront a world that hates everything about them.

Even worse, they vilify those of us who want to break out of the Matrix and take back the humanity stolen from us during Maafa, chattel slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow, all the way up to the present day via the prison industrial complex. When we question and speak out against the perpetrators of our suffering, our Black peers call us angry. When we revere our African history, our Black peers call us “Hotep” in a derogatory manner. When we demand justice without apology, we’re lampooned and labeled as militant.

In the same breath, these cocky critics praise Williams for his brave comments, even as he openly lambastes them for thinking that their money, material possessions, and social status will protect them from the wrath of institutional racism. To this day, many of them haven’t done much beyond writing “Black Lives Matter” in their status messages and fawning over the latest celebrity musing about current racial events. Whether they will step away from the sideline and tangibly contribute to the movement remains to be seen.

From what I understand, many folks in most nationalist circles write off our well-to-do, somewhat cowardly brothers and sisters, advising us to forget about them and leave them behind when Babylon falls. I tend to think differently, maintaining my faith in their eventual radicalization by remembering Harry Belafonte, Paul Robeson, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and countless others who put their reputations and revenues on the line for the greater good.

Today, Jesse Williams and his contemporaries – including Jay Z and Beyoncé, Janelle Monae, and Zendaya – carry the torch in taking the conversation about the Black struggle to the mainstream and financially assisting grassroots organizers.

It’s time that the members of the Black young urban professional class, a group often known as Buppies, take notes and follow suit. They have to connect with the grassroots actors in their community and use their expertise, brain power, and resources to make our Nation more self-determined and economically independent. Very often, many of our elites take their talents to corporations, garner huge salaries, gentrify Black neighborhoods, and act violently toward their low-income counterparts. In essence, they’re perpetuating white supremacy – the very system Jesse Williams indicted.

If we are to truly see freedom across the board, ALL hands must be on deck, and not just on the computer screen. Just as Williams and others have done, those of us in positions of power must build with grassroots organizers and help keep the fight going on various fronts. We’re connected by virtue of our African heritage and common history of oppression. There’s no reason to stop at admiring what one man did. We can be the change we want to see. It’s just a matter of thinking outside of the box that America has created for us.

If you have a genuine interest in pushing the dial forward in the fight for our liberation and don’t know where to start, join us during what’s toured as the 2016 Message to the Grassroots, a part of the A Night of News & Music series at Sankofa Video, Books & Café in Washington, D.C., on the night of Friday, July 15th.

That evening, I’ll provide a critical analysis of current events, including Brexit and the closing of the Kendrick Johnson case in Atlanta, through a Pan-African millennial lens. Later, a number of neighborhood figures, each of whom is part of a grassroots movement for African liberation, will grace the stage and talk about their latest project.

Come through and build with your African brothers and sisters who’re in the trenches daily. If you can’t make that event, visit Sankofa and check out the extensive catalog of books that’s sure to make you question your “wokeness.” In anything you do, make sure you acknowledge and celebrate the work of our grassroots organizers just as Williams did in his viral speech.

I guarantee we’ll go further as a people for it.

No Matter Who Wins the Primary, I’m Not Voting for a Democrat. Here’s Why.

Three years ago I left the Democratic Party during a visit to the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, located on Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast. While filling out the application to renew my identification, I came across the question of my party affiliation. In a matter of seconds, I filled in the bubble for “independent,” as it was an action the ancestors mandated at that very moment.

At the time of my decision, my post-collegiate journalism career had gone into full swing and I wanted to prove to myself, and my readers, that I could accurately document and contextualize the experiences of the American underclass without directly peddling the ideology of one party. As months and years went on however, I realized that this change in party affiliation jumpstarted a political and intellectual transformation, fueled by disappointing experiences in the Beltway political space, a growing solidarity with people of African descent globally, and hard lessons about the forces truly at play in the national political system.

Such experiences hardened me, making me increasingly skeptical of politicians who didn’t directly indict white supremacy in their analysis of African-American economic and social hardship. Then-presidential candidate Barack H. Obama followed what I consider a calculated, cowardly path in his historic 2008 campaign, publicly cutting ties with his mentor and African liberation theologian Jeremiah Wright and constantly speaking of an America that transcended its shameful racist past. In the nearly eight years since his election, Obama’s presidency has been peppered with half-baked overtures to black people and repeated instances of acquiescence to the demands of the radical right.

In what I now see as my naivety, I voted for Obama twice, his blackness and manner in which he calmly handled Republican opposition counting among the main reasons. While I haven’t regretted my decision and consider myself a “moderate liberal”, I’ve come to abhor the political system that gives us so few choices in national leadership. I’ve also grown defiant of the celebrity of the American politician in the age of social media. Even as Guantanamo Bay remained opened, U.S. government officials raided medical marijuana dispensaries on the West Coast, and white supremacists burned churches across the South with impunity, black people of various ages gawked over Obama’s latest quip against GOP lawmakers, his jumper, or the way he parlayed with black celebrities.

By the 2012 election, my skepticism reached new heights during my stint as White House press pool intern for the American Urban Radio Networks (AURN). One humid summer afternoon during daily press briefings, I asked then-Press Secretary Jay Carney about Obama’s black voter outreach strategy in light of his opponent Mitt Romney visiting majority-black Philadelphia school just days prior. For the next two minutes, Carney stuttered and put together a cornucopia of big words before wrapping up his sorry response to my timely question.

Needless to say, that episode knocked me into a distrustful mindset of anything that’s a part of the mainstream political establishment. Subsequent experiences and an exposure to Democratic, and Republican, political actors who can’t quite grasp what’s happening on Main Street forced a radicalized change in political ideology.

A New Kind of Political Consciousness

After working at the White House, I continued working in Beltway liberal circles and writing for left-leaning media outlets, including ThinkProgress, a progressive news organization funded by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. In those spaces, I saw how a need to prove the other side wrong often overshadowed the true mission at hand: informing the people.

This especially proved to be the case in the wake of police-involved shootings of black men and women across the country. While the mainstream media has somewhat of a pulse on the events of the day, it’s still a race for “like,” retweets, and web traffic devoid of any genuine regard for the black lives lost. I feel the same way about the presidential candidates presented to the electorate. Even the Democrats who many say sound “radical” in their assault of militarized police forces, Wall Street, and the military industrial complex don’t impress me.

To the unpleasant surprise of many of my friends and colleagues, I recently denounced the efforts of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a self-proclaimed Socialist Democrat, to win the 2016 presidential race, writing on Facebook that I can’t “feel the Bern,” a clever mockery of those infatuated with Sanders take on economic inequality and police brutality. Of course, supporting the xenophobic tone of the Republican presidential campaigns was out of the question. Voting for Hillary Clinton didn’t make much sense either once I took into consideration that she endorsed laws that spurred the mass incarceration of brothers and sisters who look just like me. Additionally, her eerily racist assault of then Sen. Obama in the 2008 Democratic primaries discouraged me from even considering her as a viable choice.

To any seemingly well-versed and civically engaged voter, standing behind Sanders seems like the most commonsensical route to take. While that would be the case, few have yet to understand that in my transformation during the age of Obama, I’ve taken on a Black Nationalist political consciousness out of an understanding the commander-in-chief, even if he has melanin, won’t acquiesce to black outcries of injustice without the presence of an African-centered force that utilizes political, economic, and social tools to realize change that truly benefits grassroots actors.

Seeing how Sanders operated on the campaign trail in recent months verified, more than ever perhaps, the need for people of African descent to take an unapologetic stance of this kind.

Since members of the Black Lives Matter movement interrupted his campaign event at in Oregon and session at the Netroots Conference last year, Sanders has worked vehemently to show black voters that he has their best interests in mind. After those incidents, he unveiled a strategy to combat racialized police violence, hired Symone Sanders, a black millennial woman from Omaha Nebraska, as his press secretary, and toured the neighborhood of slain Baltimore man Freddie Gray with local black clergymen, including Pastor Jamal Bryant of Empowerment Temple AME. While stumping on the campaign trail, he rails against corporate greed and espouses ideas that resonate with working class Americans, particularly an increase of the minimum wage that would ensure a better quality of life.

However, just as socialists did to the chagrin of W.E.B. DuBois and other black leaders, Sanders didn’t openly endorse hardcore solutions that address the issue of race, debatably the single most important factor in socioeconomic inequality. As the reel of his now infamous comments about reparations play over and over again in my mind, I was partly disappointed that he would be so dismissive in what I consider to be the first step in true redistributive justice for the Europeans’ centuries-long exploitation of African people in the United States.

At the same time, I’m relieved that I didn’t put my trust in Sanders, for he proved to be just like other politicians of any race who don’t want to challenge the status quo. At this point, it looks as though I won’t fill in the bubble for any candidate on the ballot. I’m totally fine with that.

People who often question my decision to not vote for either Sanders or Democratic powerhouse Clinton speak about the possibility of reality star and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump being president. In the past year, Trump has risen in stardom by speaking to the fears and gripes of white people watching their way of life change in an increasingly multicultural America. To them, I say that instilling fear about another candidate in me doesn’t make for an ideal campaign strategy. If Sanders doesn’t capture my imagination or earn my trust, that’s on him, not me.

More importantly, black people’s fate, as I learned during Obama’s tenure in office, doesn’t rest solely on the person who occupies the White House. Reversing the losses of the 2008 Recession and advancing our interests in the 21st century requires a revolution that goes far beyond politics. Only once Black America has truly built formidable, resourceful, and influential nationalist foundation can we truly gain leverage and advance our interests at all levels of government.

Where Obama-Era Black Millennials Went Wrong

Even with the political and economic gains in the decades after the Civil Rights Era, remnants of the United States’ racist past existed in all facets of society via the prison industrial complex, spatial mismatching in urban cities, food deserts, inequities in the healthcare and other hurdles black people face. Until the murder of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer, many people of African descent refused to acknowledge that hard reality.

Instead, many black people, especially those of us in the educated class who felt compelled to follow the Barack Obama playbook in navigating mainstream professional circles, chose to believe that attainment of political power and clout in a “post-racial” Babylon system could get us the seat at the table which our ancestors valiantly fought and shed blood.

All the while, the nation’s first black president faced heavily conspicuous racial opposition from Tea Party Republicans and other majority-white factions, even as he took on moderate positions that had a negative impact on middle and low-income people of African descent. As years went on, the hope that Obama sold us vanished. We saw him ignore black people while openly addressing issues of importance to the LGBTQ, Hispanic, and Muslim communities poignantly and with confidence. When it came to addressing the state-sanctioned assault on black bodies however, he couldn’t even bring himself to say “Black Lives Matter” during his last State of the Union address.

After cutting Pell Grant funds often used for matriculation to historically black colleges and universities, he chastised school administrators for mismanagement of funds and low graduation rates. Even “My Brother’s Keeper,” Obama’s hallmark program designed to uplift young black men faced criticism for not allocating funds to grassroots organizations and ignoring pressing indicators of delinquency and a life in and out of prison. In recent years, Obama has increased focus on incarcerated people, announcing the release of thousands of prisoners serving long sentences for low-level drug offences. Such overtures, however, do little to reverse the effects of draconian drug laws and overzealous policing in majority-black inner city communities.

If you ask people of African descent their thoughts about Obama, their responses often vary along class lines, perhaps a sign of high reverence that members of the black bourgeoisie have for the nation’s first black president juxtaposed with the dire economic situation in poor, black neighborhood enclaves throughout the United States.

For elite blacks, Obama’s struggle to stand black and tall in majority-white settings mirrors their experiences in the corporate world. Even with his faults, they respect his fight against the racist old guard. Since 2008, the D.C. millennial population has exploded, due mainly to Obama’s historic election. In recent years, young, educated black millennials have formed coalitions with other like-minded political players, often crossing racial and ethnic lines in the common pursuit of policy centered on inclusion and equality. Such has been the case in the D.C. metropolitan area chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In a perfect world, such alliances would make sense. For an ethnic group that one could argue lacks a common consciousness and absolute self-determination however, such course of action always invites the possibility of political, social, and cultural assimilation. Instead of gaining real power, young, black progressives have to play by the rules of their “allies” and navigate spaces in a manner that maintains their standing in seemingly elite positions.

Most times, that means ignoring racism itself and shifting attention to its outcomes – poverty, gaps in life expectancy, uneven distribution of resources, and other atrocities facing people of African descent domestically. It even requires supporting policies that don’t take into account the intersectionality of the black human experience. For many black people who walk in those exclusive circles, it also means never taking on the trials and tribulations of their impoverished counterparts.

I’ve seen this scenario play out in the nation’s capital as a student and professional journalist. Even as they suffer macroaggressions in their majority-white spaces, black college students and transients stick their noses up at black “locals,” natives of the D.C. metropolitan area not quite plugged into national political and social scene. Along with their white counterparts, they increase the schism between those who relish the D.C. of yesteryear and those who benefit from its facelift. The division often happens in spurts, including when they advise their friends against talking to strangers or visiting areas east of the Anacostia River.

In taking on this divisive ideology, black elites have shown city leaders and developers that they value their education and comfort more than the state of their fellow man. Even worse, members of this group, in D.C. and nationally, will deride black activists and journalists who take up the cause of the black underclass and eviscerate black leaders who they feel don’t pay sufficient attention to issues concerning that group.

For instance, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West faced immense criticism for their Poverty Tour in 2011 during which they criticized Obama for what they described as his lack of action in addressing poverty in Black America. Obama supporters railed against the duo, chalking their critique up to West’s bitterness about not being invited to inauguration festivities two years earlier. The assault of West as a credible voice of opposition continued last year with the release of an essay by fellow scholar and former friend Michael Eric Dyson titled “Cornel West’s Rise and Fall.” That piece of work read less like an assessment in how West fell in stature and more like an intellectual’s personal gripe with an old colleague.

Regardless of his intent, Dyson and a contingent of the Left succeeded in shutting down a sober critic of the first black president of the United States.

To our detriment, we can’t even hold our brother accountable without pushback from within our tribe, even as he turns his back on us. Believe it or not, this type of infighting stems from chattel slavery and colonization, so much so that we jump at any change for symbolic change, rather than transformations of substance. It was no different in 2012. Unlike other constituencies, we gave our vote and support to Obama without any demands for reform and justice.

When we do come together, it’s well after he needs us. I remember having that thought in the back of my mind standing in the lobby of a hotel located blocks away from the White House as a group of black leaders penned a list of demands for Obama just days after his second inauguration. That’s not the ideal political strategizing that will ensure our liberation.

Where to Go from Here?

Before going on, I’ll admit that critiques of “Obama haters” are based in some truth.

Indeed, if black people, especially those in the lower levels of society, had a more holistic political education, they would understand that the actions of the president have little, if any, direct impact on aspects of their lives. The officials who have more authority in those affairs work on the congressional and local level.

In focusing all of our attention on President Obama, we’ve forgotten about the Democrats and Republicans in city and state government who have turned their backs on black people in their pursuit of power. It’s time learn to take neighborhood civic engagement more seriously and involve those who feel they have no voice in this kind of activism.

That’s the mindset I’ve carried with me in recent years and during this election. As a voter living in the District, my non-vote for a Democrat will more than likely have no bearing on the outcome of the election. Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will get those three votes from the Electoral College on Nov. 8th. To those who still question my decision, I invite you to think about civic engagement beyond the action of voting and that of someone involving themselves in the affairs of their community.

In the aggregate, we as black people haven’t been able to do that, thanks in part to gentrification and gerrymandering. Beyond that, the weight of the oppressive forces and lack of knowledge about community leaders precludes us from going to the polls when the opportunity arises.

Indeed, voter turnout in citywide and state-level elections among black people hasn’t been too high. While they waited on the sidelines, GOP supporters acted quickly, making sure that their candidates took over the two congressional chambers during the 2010 midterm elections. While some of the blame lies with grassroots actors in not voting, President Obama and his public relations representatives have to be held accountable in selling an historically disenfranchised group a dream and making them think that he could secure their economic salvation.

The prospect of such a phenomenon happening for black people politically isn’t farfetched. There’s no denying the presence of a black consciousness as the world’s attention turns to our state of affairs. Even with that small victory, it’s a fear of mine that we’ll accept piecemeal change and not truly grasp the opportunity to unite and create sustainable institutions that work primarily in the interest of black people. Right now, there’s too much of a focus on making a symbolic statement. That’s why the capitalistic Babylon system has many of my contemporaries raving about “Formation,” what I’ve come to believe is a pseudo-revolutionary song by internationally renowned superstar Beyoncé.

Meanwhile, the powers that be continue to dominate every aspect of our lives in the manner that the late, great Dr. Frances Cress Welsing outlined in The Isis Papers. It’s my belief that regardless of who wins the presidency this year, the aggregate state of Black America won’t improve immensely. With that being the case, how are we to combat institutional racism and ensure our place at the table in the 21st Century?

Frankly, we just have to create our own table, “centralizing, organizing, and coming as one” as His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I recommended to his fellow African leaders decades ago. Just as other marginalized groups have done, we should circulate our dollars among ourselves, build grassroots business organizations that can spur job creation and fund the political efforts of people who will unabashedly advance the black agenda. This should happen locally and statewide with the mindset that we have to absolve ourselves of any institutional “support” that impedes efforts to rebuild our cities, feed and clothe our people, and change the tide in this country.

Numerous groups have done this work before us before the explosion of economic opportunity and co-optation of conscious hip-hop that placated us in the 1980s and 1990s. As controversial as they have come to be, the Nation of Islam stands as one of the last bastions of Black Nationalism, due in part to their clear-cut mission of black liberation and the financial infrastructure they’ve built to sustain their political, and social activities.

In order for something similar to materialize in this era, black people have to want to be black again. No, that doesn’t just mean posting stories and memes to social media. That requires actually putting religion, political ideology, socioeconomic status, and other divisive designations to the side and using our talents and resources in the interest of black liberation, not just an existence in a system dominated by white allies and antagonists.

For black people in elite circles, that means understanding that as long as your brethren aren’t free, you’re not free. For people of African descent not doing so well, that means realizing how you are still a part of the movement, even if you’re not credentialed. From there, we can make the hard decisions in creating our own institutions, breaking down barriers within our community and uniting as a constituency.

It’s hard work but that’s what will truly bring about real revolution, not a vote for a Democrat who knows only how to use revolutionary lingo.

It’s Not Over!: Practicing Kwanzaa in the New Year

For nearly a week at the end of the last calendar year, Pan Africanists started their day by saying “Habari Gani?,” the Swahili phrase for “What news?” as part of the worldwide Kwanzaa celebration that takes place between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Since Kwanzaa’s inception under the auspices of Dr. Maulana Karenga and the US Organization in the mid-1960s, people of African descent have revamped what has become an overly commercialized holiday season by reflecting on the Nguzo Saba, or “the seven principles.” During community gatherings, observers take part in African first fruit traditions and pay homage to familial and communal ancestors. The typical Kwanzaa alter includes a kinara (candle holder) with seven candles, each of which represents a daily principle, the Garvey flag, the banner of African people scattered worldwide, a cup for the pouring of libations, and an assortment of fruits.

Such customs allow millions of African families the opportunity to connect with their roots and affirm the values that guaranteed our survival through Maafa – the Swahili term for the Middle Passage, also known as the Black Holocaust – and subsequent atrocities. In an era where white supremacy has an inconspicuous grip on all aspects of our lives, the seven principles of Kwanzaa serve as the perfect prescription for the African race’s uprising against systemic racism.

I’ve applied these ideas in my personal and professional life since celebrating Kwanzaa for the first time in 2014, mostly through my work with the African-centered grassroots news brand that many have come to know as AllEyesOnDC.

This project, which started as a blog in 2012, reflects my yearning to raise the African consciousness among black Washingtonians and gain editorial independence in a news industry that shuns the comprehensive coverage of African-centered news. Since revamping AllEyesOnDC last April, offerings have expanded to include in-depth news pieces, editorials, film, radio, and community news events. In my journey as a grassroots journalist, I’ve provided a platform to expose the work of the best and brightest in our community while connecting singular news events to larger, multifaceted issues that affect Africans across the Diaspora.

Followers of the AllEyesOnDC movement have seen the personal side to my journalism, learning that, just like them, I don’t have all of the answers to the problems we face as a worldwide African community. However, I hope to spark further discussion and action.

It’s no different in this timely post.

The following is an outline of each Kwanzaa principle and how I’ve used that in furthering my craft as a journalist. I’m a work in progress so it’s imperative that I apply these principles every day of the year, and not just during Kwanzaa.

umojaUmoja (unity) – AllEyesOnDC functions with the understanding that regardless of socioeconomic status, religious affiliation, political ideology, or any other polarizing classification, people of African descent combat white supremacy in some form or fashion.

As the late-great warrior-scholar Dr. Frances Cress Welsing wrote in The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors, white supremacy dictates many aspects of our existence – including economics, education, labor, law, and sex. In contextualizing the news events of the day, AllEyesOnDC helps viewers look beyond singular occurrences and understand the forces collectively working against our interests. In pulling the wool over the sheep’s eye, I’m showing similarities between our struggles in America to that of Africans around the world.

While I try to stay away from themes, each AllEyesOnDC show and function ends with calls for true African unification – at the communal level and globally. We’re only a racial “minority” in name. When we work in our interests and that other black people primarily, anything is possible.

In 2015, AllEyesOnDC collaborated with local institutions, entrepreneurs, artists, and community activists with the understanding that had something to offer one another. I gave them a platform to expand their brand, and they provided examples of leadership from which I used as inspiration to further my goal as a grassroots journalist and entrepreneur. I’ve taken many of those relationships with me in the New Year, building a rapport that will make AllEyesOnDC a neighborhood institution, not only in name.

kujichaguliaKujichagulia (self-determination) – Since my days as a journalism student at The George Washington University, I’ve wanted nothing more than to give black people a voice. That passion led to a revamp of the then-called Black Ace newsletter to what’s now known as the ACE Magazine.

Leading that movement led to professional opportunities at NBC Universal, National Public Radio, The Washington Informer, and ThinkProgress. Though I’ve come to value each experience, I truly saw the power of black self-determination at the Informer, a black woman-owned media outlet based in Congress Heights in Southeast. There, I grew under the tutelage of the late Denise W. Barnes who allowed me to pursue my interests and show a side of D.C. rarely seen in other newspapers.

I tried employing the streetwise interviewing tactics I learned at the Informer as a health reporter at ThinkProgress, what many know as a “nontraditional” outlet. Even there, I found some difficulty pitching African-centered pieces, partly because few people on staff understood the value of black self-determination as it related to abstaining from international aid, defending one’s self from a police force bent on destroying black lives, and taking on traditional medical practices. Reading an anthology of Marcus Mosiah Garvey’s speeches on the way to work every morning didn’t help quell my passion for telling Afrocentric news.

It soon became time to leave that job and pursue AllEyesOnDC full time. A week after my resignation, I boarded a plane to Ethiopia, a beacon of self-determination that many know as the Cradle of Civilization. There, I met men and women who found their own way and maintained a sense of calm even as they lived in abject poverty.

By standing on my own two feet through AllEyesOnDC, I’m ensuring that the news content I produce best represents me and the thoughts of the people I interview. In refusing to work for major corporations, I’m asserting my independence in a country where black people are often discouraged from opening their own businesses. I’m acting in the manner that Garvey and other Pan-Africanists have touted. I believe it’s the only way that I can truly be free as a journalist. I haven’t been happier since going into my own full time and that comes from finally becoming a master of my destiny.

ujimaUjima (collective work and responsibility) – The best, and probably worst, thing about being a journalist is personally connecting with your subject matter, especially when it piques your interest. In the course of my short career, I’ve learned so much about African culture and history. At the same time, I’ve internalized some of the suffering I’ve seen firsthand or vicariously through the anecdotes my interviewees have given.

The more articles I write, the more I grow cynical about life in Babylon. In my eyes, politicians become less trustworthy. Sweeping government programs always come with a catch. In jumping between my professional and personal life, I find difficulty to expect good things to happen, or at least trust the statements of authority figures. Though it has been a struggle maintaining some childlike innocence in my awakening, my dilemma is definitely a testament to the importance of what I and other information seekers do.

In part, AllEyesOnDC owes its success to the communal manner in which we pursue our stories and address our audience. As a neighborhood institution, our viewers and listeners count as our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so forth. In true African fashion, we look after each other like family. Without grassroots news, the powers that be would maintain their hold on the masses. They would also continue their crusade against information, working their hardest to bury important news and critical voices needed to push revolution forward. As a member of the worldwide African family, I strive to work collectively with other power players and improve my corner of the earth. That has especially been the case in the months since taking on AllEyesOnDC full time. It’s no longer a job. Rather, it’s what I like to call “soul work” – working with other souls to make the world a better place.

ujamaaUjamaa (cooperative economics) – This Kwanzaa principle pretty much speaks for itself. Most, if not all, parts of the AllEyesOnDC brand come from black-owned institutions. A black man designed the logo. A black woman catered our events last spring. A black man runs the company that produces our shirts, pins, and other promotional material. We host events in venues owned by or managed by black people. The businesses and people we feature on the AllEyesOnDC program are of African descent.

This didn’t occur by happenstance. It’s all part of an effort to lead by example and show how true unity looks when economics are involved. The saga continues in the New Year with the opening of a business account in a black-owned bank. Some contend that primarily conducting business with people of African descent does nothing to bring forth social justice. I respectfully disagree, arguing that nothing else can extinguish the economic power of violent police forces and genocidal figure heads than a mass consolidation of black finances. A system like one that keeps the United States afloat doesn’t have much of a conscious. Just as it respects the dollar bill, I must respect my money and use it so it works in my favor and that of my brothers and sisters.

niaNia (purpose) – This Kwanzaa principle shares some ties with Kujichagulia in the sense that my purpose differs from that of journalists who cover Beltway politics, celebrities, and public figures. Since the expansion of social media and fall of traditional newspapers, few people respect the power of real news. In my work with traditional outlets, I’ve had to forego my serious news pitches for “fluffier” pieces. Those were the moments that chipped at my soul. I wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. I knew I had a higher calling as reporter.

That’s why I consider myself not only a reporter, but a grassroots journalist. In improving my craft at Informer and making the subject matter more African-centered, I carved out a niche as a neighborhood griot.

Believe it or not, I had visions of doing this during my days as an undergraduate. Conflicts would later surface in my journalism career when I had to decide whether or not to stay in the industry. At the time of my quandary, I was finishing up a public policy graduate program. Working in the public sector as a policy analyst seemed like a more lucrative choice. Even then, I knew I had no business in anyone’s office crunching numbers and writing reports. I found great mental stimulation in talking to people and making sense of their life so that others could understand it.

Nearly two years after reaching that crossroad, I feel more than comfortable in my current position. It’s not lucrative at all. I probably won’t be on the mainstream news networks anytime soon. However, none of that matters. In creating my own path, I finally found the job that I love more than anything. In 2016, I will use the AllEyesOnDC platform to grow in my role and pave the way for more opportunities that I couldn’t have found working among the Beltway news folk.

kuumbaKuumba (creativity) — It’s not often people encounter the concept of “grassroots news.” While that would be a problem for most, this reality allows me to present information in a totally unorthodox way. In 2015, I broke the rules and showed my friends, family, and colleagues a side that I didn’t even knew existed, meshing my intellectualism and street smarts to become a mature, confident public figure.

This magic unfolded during my “Taking the News to the Streets” and “Night of News & Music” community events. In the public eye, I expressed my creativity and showed my fellow black Washingtonians my passion for information, service, and revolution. My two-hour events at We Act Radio and Sankofa Video Books & Café attracted people of various backgrounds, all of whom enjoyed the laid back atmosphere, conversation, and my impassioned diatribes about African unification, consciousness, and self-determination. Our live news programs, which played on the air most of the time, were nothing like “Meet the Press” or “McLaughlin Group.” It had flavor, like what you would find in jollof rice at Appaio’s on 9th Street.

Indeed, guests felt the African vibrations in our material and understood the importance of the subject matter, mainly because I was no longer confined to the rules of the Eurocentric news industry. Of course, I spoke clearly and made my points articulately as many African scholars have done before me. At the same time, I spoke to my people in a language they understood. I addressed them as equals and made the news more engaging. As a matter of fact, the issues I spoke laid the foundation for future conversations with men who I call brothers to this day.

imaniImani (faith) – None of what I’ve done in my work as a journalist would be possible without the last Kwanzaa principle. I step in faith every day in my work as a grassroots journalist. In recent months, reading about the work of Ida Barnett Wells, Sam Cornish, John B. Russwurm, and countless other black journalists made my mission clearer.

Like them, I’m working against a system that uses the mainstream media to vilify and quiet people of African descent. My journalistic perspective matters at a time when black people are searching for a way out of a perpetual state of frenzy. In keeping my spirits up, I’m remaining faithful that the information I provide won’t fall on deaf ears.

Without the constant paychecks and cries of validation from editors, it’s easy to fall into a funk somedays when work moves slower than expected. In those moments, I just remember to enjoy the journey itself and believe in the beauty of my work. One day, my children will have something to call their own if they choose to take over AllEyesOnDC. More importantly, the community will have another black-owned institution to which they can look for support. For now, I await the head nods in the audience and smiles of pleasant surprise when I say a seemingly off-the-wall statement.

At the same time, I keep going even when viewers don’t show their approval. That’s all part of remaining faithful that I’m planting seeds of revolution in their mind.

Thus ends my Kwanzaa/ New Year’s post.

It’s my hope that this presentation inspires and lays to rest the violent assumption that there’s objectivity in journalism. In fact, reporters seldom separate their feelings from the stories they write. This has been the case in the white-centered media and exploitative ethnic-centered media to some degree. If anything, viewers should have some media literacy and understand how and why their news sources present certain news and viewpoints.

In the New Year, let’s explore these issues together and become more a conscious people, breaking out of our mental slavery, one chain at a time.

Uhuru sasa!

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