Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Political and Psychological Empowerment of the African--An Essay by Solomon Comissiong

The Political and Psychological Empowerment of the African

By Solomon Comissiong

I have always professed to people who I encounter throughout the country that Hip Hop has been a way of life to me dating back to my inception in this land called America. Yes, it was Hip Hop that filled in the extremely large crevices of information that I should have gotten within the conventional classrooms of every American school I attended.

Yes, Hip Hop helped develop a stronger sense of Black Pride within me and the rest of the “Golden Era” generation of hip hoppers. Yes, Hip Hop taught me what it truly means to be a community advocate and activist. Truth be told, Hip Hop Culture was all those things to me growing up…and still is. However, the more I am exposed to various pockets of people, the more I appreciate one of the most underrated things that Hip Hop cultivated inside of me, and that is Critical Thought.

The ability to critically think is a skill that many people do not have or, at the very least, fail to use on a regular basis. I seem to not be able to escape individuals who are devoid of any concrete critical thinking skills which, often times, seriously concerns me.

A populous that has mediocre (at best) critical thinking skills is one that is easily controlled. Perhaps that is why our school systems do not emphasize curricula that are predicated around critical thought.

US based students, at a very early age, are fed large doses of pre-packaged information which is stacked to one side as if it was prepared by a lawyer who was trying to make his/her case to a judge. That “judge” often appears to be in the form of many of those who run governments which are based on the lack of participation by the general public.

Of course “they” want you to vote but do “they” really want you to critically examine all of the key issues? Probably not, and if their actions are any indicator the answer is a resounding, “no they do not”! If people really examine the issues and “major candidates”, in this country, before they vote, there would be (in my humble opinion) a much stronger push for nationally recognized 3rd, 4th and even 5th parties that would have to be incorporated into the national debates and local elections.

However, since many, in this country, lack solid critical thinking skills they continue to vote for the most popular candidates or the ones who the corporate driven “media” tells them they should vote for, or even the ones who the “polls” say are going to win. This is a serious issue for those who seek true representational government.

Representational government, in my modest estimation, consists of elected officials and a political system which addresses the needs of the vast array of their populous. This is virtually non-existent in American mainstream politics (consisting largely of Democrats and Republicans).

The vast majority of members, within these parties, consistently fail to address the needs of a great number of American citizens. Instead, they consistently pander to their corporate bases and lobbyists. This is why in a country who last year had a discretionary defense expenditure of close to 500 billion dollars we see a deplorable education system receiving a comparatively paltry 51 billon dollars.

Within that same deplorable educational system we see some of the more unbalanced and blatantly egregious disparities. For anyone to say that, within America, there is equal access to all; they clearly live in an America that I have yet to visit.

I consistently see a segregated school system which rewards children for being white and punishes those who are of color and/or coming from socially and governmentally neglected communities. I have visited a vast array of schools during my relatively short life as an activist, engaged community member, and public speaker.

However, I do not have to travel far to see how unfair life is to those who are the most impressionable in our society…kids. In my backyard (otherwise known as Washington DC) I see how vastly different the public schools are within that city as compared to many which exist outside of DC in counties like Montgomery, Ann Arundel, and Howard.

Oh yes, there is a county which is also outside of DC that I failed to mention, and that county was Prince Georges. I failed to mention that county because within that county one will find many of the same education inequities that you can see in Washington DC. By the way, that county, (Prince Georges) is predominately Black. That fact is no coincidence.

These children who come from socially and governmentally neglected communities (I refuse to call them ghettos any longer) are consistently robbed. Failing to refer to these neighborhoods as governmentally neglected communities takes the pressure off the system which had/has some much to do with their creation and status.

These neighborhoods are robbed of one of the most precious commodities known to man…education. These children are robbed of a legitimate and balanced education and, therefore many are robbed of hope. Many are robbed of the hope that they can exceed their limitless potential. American born Africans (otherwise known as Blacks), for instance, come from a great history replete with ancestors who formed the earliest foundations of mathematics, science, astronomy, philosophy, and civilization…to name a few of their superlatives.

However, categorically, they are force fed a steady diet of Eurocentric values and incomplete history which methodically and subconsciously robs them of the same inspiration their white counter parts receive when they get that same diet. This diet of incomplete history is full of empty “calories” for the American born African child. By placing the American born African child in school systems which are devoid of the tangible resources any prosperous school needs to reach all of its children, “they” are setting many up for almost certain underachievement.

This systematic failure works in different stages and levels, mainly psychological. Black and brown skinned children, across America, are systematically being programmed to buy in to a system that consistently marginalizes them. After a lifetime of this programming you can often see the effective results in the form of an individual who supports the system and political parties which have historically robbed his/her people of the same resources that are doled out to their white counterparts.

Those of us who are not intellectually dishonest with ourselves know that these same resources, which are freely given to well to do white/European children, are the residual effects of stolen land and stolen labor from stolen people. And to all those contrarians out there please do not give me that crap about “Black People should pull themselves up by the boot-straps”. European America has seldom had to pull itself up by the metaphorical “boot-straps”.

Does stealing land, then stealing people, and then stealing labor mean pulling oneself up by the “boot-straps”? I don’t think so. When one looks at it that way, only an intellectually dishonest person would argue against community wide reparations for Black communities in this country.

At this time, I can almost hear the synchronized voices of elite white liberals and conservatives whining, “But we should not have to pay for the mistakes of our ancestors”. If that is their argument I simply say that, “We, as American born Africans, should not have to socially and governmentally suffer as a result of what was done to our ancestors by yours”. Many of us know that American born Africans are continuing to suffer as a result of what was done to their (our) ancestors.

As I place my thoughts in to verbal format I grow more and more angered because of the fact that so many of us continue to support political parties, as well as a system, which has never served the vast majority of us holistically. And please don’t give me a few actors or athletes names and expect me to except that crap.

Until the majority of my people are not living in poverty and in governmentally neglected communities, I will not be satisfied. As long as close to a million of my people are incarcerated in a prison system that is nothing short of modern day slavery, I will not be satisfied.

If I am not satisfied, I can never truly rest peacefully at night. This uneasy sleep I get should be something that is shared by us all. Anyone who truly considers himself/herself a Pan-African should also be suffering from frequent bouts of insomnia.

We need to, collectively, stop! supporting political systems and values that do not represent our (collective) best interests. These flawed systems are continuing to systematically “destroy” us in a number of ways (mentally, physically, socially, etc). We need to stop eating the garbage that these parties (democrat, republican) are feeding us. It is the equivalent of low grade junk food.

Should I eat a beautifully dressed up fried burger, with all the high calorie fixings, just because it is advertised on television over and over again? Should I eat that same fried burger with over 2,000 calories if it in the long run could negatively impact my health? Hell no, I should not.

Using that same logic, why would anyone vote for someone whose policies could and do negatively impact their life? It makes no sense does it? However, this is exactly what happens with millions of people each and every 2, 4, and 6 years when they come out to vote for the “media’s” favorite candidates. They vote for who they are told they should vote for without truly ever vetting those same candidates and the issues and policies they espouse.

This lack of critical thought in the voting process is exactly what keeps this country’s power structure in the form of a plutocracy and not in the form of a true democracy. We all know it is usually he/she with the most money that has the best chance of winning any given presidential election in America.

One major reason is that that same individual is the one who can best spread his or her messages all over corporate dominated newspapers, radio stations and TV stations. White corporate America has even co-opted my beloved Hip Hop Culture and resold it to the masses in the form of imbalanced images of black men and women as thugs, pimps, whores, and anti-intellectuals.

These images contribute to shaping the way America views Blacks. However, much of European/white America has harbored these ill-conceived views of blacks dating back to when Africans were kidnapped and stolen from the land where civilization first began (Africa).

White Corporate America feeds mass audiences the form of Hip Hop Culture that they want to serve because it makes them comfortable, and reinforces psychological destruction, all the while making them billions of dollars. The pre-packaging of the musical selections corporate America wants us to have occurs politically, as well. We are consistently fed the issues and the candidates they want us to chose from, never the ones who best represent our communities and issues. This is all and out psychological warfare.

We need to seriously take a long look at candidates like Cynthia McKinney ( of the Green Party who created a truly progressive platform. Please take the time to view her website and what her platform stands for. It makes too much sense to be denied by any sensible critical thinker.

We need to reclaim our minds and our ability to think for ourselves in a critical and honest manner. If we do this, collectively, I am very certain that many of us will begin to shift how we vote and how we approach politics. After all, politics control everything you can or cannot do in this world; therefore we need to begin to take them much more seriously.

We need to approach the studying of critical issues in a very serious manner. If we do a serious examination of the critical issues that afflict our communities most of us will recognize that there is a significant deficiency of attention that has been given to us by many of our so-called elected officials.

Absence of universal healthcare, the absence affordable and livable housing, police terrorism, militarism of our schools, dilapidated schools, wealth disparities, and fallacious media representations are a few of the things that routinely affect our communities. We need to galvanize our communities. We need to mobilize our communities. We need to unify our communities. We need to begin to, once again, embrace what it truly means to be a Pan-African.

We need to reclaim and embrace our effulgent history. By doing this we will be able to learn from the lessons our ancestors taught through their struggle and prosperity. Those lessons can be applicable today. Those lessons can, and will, give us the inspiration, and strategy we can use to endure and truly overcome, via unification and collective political action. Those lessons are what we need to be teaching one another and to our children.

We need to unify, start, and/or support truly progressive political parties. And once we unify ourselves then we can begin to unify with other progressive people from a myriad of backgrounds and races. In my estimation, the unification of any group of historically oppressed people needs to come from within, and on the grassroots level.

The unification of people of color needs to be paramount. This idea is not unprecedented. The great Malcolm X spoke of this Black Unity. His words and life continue to inspire me and so many others.

We have so much to learn from the lessons of Steve Biko in valuing our Blackness. It was Biko’s South African Black Conscious Movement from which the saying, “Black is Beautiful” came from. There is so much power in that saying.

We should embrace the lessons bestowed upon us by the great Pan-Africans of Henry Sylvester Williams, W. E.B Dubois, Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Ida B. Wells, Angela Davis, Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral, Robert Sobukwe, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X, just to name a few. Their vision and revolutionary spirit still lives on within so many of us today (including me).

There are hundreds more of our revolutionary ancestors that I could have mentioned including: George Jackson, Assata Shakur, Ella Baker, Huey Newton, Fannie Lou Hamer, and the great Fred Hampton. The commitment of these African brothers and sisters should never be in vain. They laid down multiple “tracks” for us to continue to build upon so that we may all ride the freedom train to equality and justice.

There is much work to be done. We need to not only be dedicated to our common causes, we must be consistent. Dedication without consistency will regularly equate to unfilled potential. It is now upon us where we need to be a part of the mass change we want to see in order for our communities to be elevated. We cannot rest easy until this change occurs.

However, this change cannot occur efficiently if we do not all play a role in the movement. We must not only be unified, we must fully and truly understand the importance of being unified. There is value in our Black and Brown skin and there is significant value in our unity and historical kinship. If it takes a village, we must be that village that not only raises our children but raises ourselves…in total unity!

By Solomon Comissiong

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