the other day i went to a really chill pub up in Harlem. good music. good time.
on my way home....i'm at the 59th street station when this brother sitting on the bench says something about Obama to another sitting behind him. we all get on the train, and, in the beginning, it seemed like an interestingly constructive conversation. one guy says "ok. when have you actually read the constitution?" the other guy says "a number of times. are you referring to blah blah amendment? Article blah blah that refers to the right to search and seizure?" (or something along those lines...). the conversation then goes to what Obama is and isn't doing and what he should be doing. then one of the guys gets off the train about 2 stops later when the second guy is still kind of talking aloud to no one in particular, but really to me and this older man sitting across from me. the man sitting across from me then puts his few cents in. he thinks Obama is doing the best he can, and thinks people shouldn't expect the entire system to change overnight. and the other guy goes into a tangent about how we (all of us being black) aren't really Americans and that the idea of a "president" is foreign to "brown-skinned people" (his words) because we come from kings, queens, etc.
i notice at this point that he's wearing a necklace with black, red, and green beads on it with a black fist pendant at the middle, a black, red and green ring, and a pick in the back of his tiny fro that has a black fist at the end (just like ?uestlove's). if i sound like i'm making this stuff up, trust me, i'm not.
i have jumped into the conversation at this point and ask him if he thinks we (“brown-skinned people”) should live under a monarchy since we come from "kings and queens" (no mention of the regular merchants, farmers, and yes, enslaved individuals that should be spoken of as well and not disregarded as the unimportant ancestors), to which he indirectly says "no", and then goes into some things about the government, its structure, and how its designed for Europeans and not for anyone else. after he raises the fact that South Africa is doing for themselves seeing as how they've just recently taken control of their gold assets that Mandela has been trying to do since he was released from prison. i brought it to his attention that Madela's been out of prison for around 20 years, and that how can he not expect the same amount of time for the US to get our shit together. he then says "sistah, we been here for 400 years...."
He then goes into so many other things, i may not be able to recall.
Over the course of maybe 2 hours (that’s about how long it took me to get home, with about 30 minutes of him talking to me at my last stop) he revealed that he had been a member of 4 different black nationalist groups-The Nation of Islam, New Black Panther Party, UNIA, and some group under some guy named Dr.York (whom i googled. .....yeeeea. turns out to be a pedophile that had so many child molestation cases against him the prosecutors had to lessen them so the jury wouldn't think it was absurdly unrealistic) all totaling about 22 years of his life. He wanted to start his own organization with 12 disciples (6 female and 6 male). He was currently writing a 500-600 page lesson plan for blacks to home-school their children with that compiled all the knowledge he’d received from all these groups and leaders he’d followed. Towards the end he asked me if I wanted him to teach me (me being one of these 12 disciples…) but that I needed to be sure I wanted liberation for our people. The first and second steps to liberating our people, he said, was first, changing my name to something that wasn’t chosen by slave masters and second, removing any form of personal identification I had with the government, such as a driver’s license, social security number and birth certificate because the government used this to track me, not for identification.
Now, looking at what I’ve said up to this point, you might say a)he’s crazy, b)he’s trying really hard to get some ass, or c) he’s a fool. And really, I don’t think any of those were true. I think he was a genuinely concerned and believes he’s on the right path for the liberation of “brown-skinned people”.
For one, he wasn’t crazy and he was not a fool(well, what is crazy anyway….?). he had the facts to back up all of what he said. He knew what seemed like every detail of the life of Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, Marcus Garvey and almost every other black leader since Garvey. He had read the constitution and knew what articles and amendments said what, as well as the acts that preceded certain laws, such as the act that put social security in effect. Not to mention the dates of all these and the presidents they were enacted under. And aside from these facts he’s was spewing out, he also was logical. He said he’d left the Nation of Islam recently because during some huge march Louis Farrakhan arranged, he asked for a donation of $1 from some 2 million or so attendants and instead of putting that money back into the community, the money instead went to his mansions, personal planes, and expensive wardrobe. He also told me that he got into it with a brother passing out commemoration flyers are the Audobon Ballroom in Harlem to celebrate Malcolm X’s birthday because he thinks people have put too much stock in idolizing Malcolm X while not doing the same for his message and the teacher of his message (Elijah Muhammad). But that part of the conversation I was most vocal about because he basically said that Malcolm X “got himself killed” by not keeping his mouth shut when the “HONORABLE Elijah Muhammad” (the way he said his name every time) instructed him to and that Malcolm X was neither the brightest, smartest or best followers of the NOI…..and that he was brainwashed by white people when he went on his Hajj.
Some of the things he said I agreed with, some of it not, some of it I agreed with but would never ascribe to his method of doing it. Towards the end of our conversation, he asked me if I wanted liberation for our people, to which I said “of course” but asked him what his idea of “liberation” entailed. He was vehement about telling me some factors on the path of liberation and the teachers I should read and the clothing I should wear, but not once went into what exactly he meant by “liberation”.
It’s almost like talking with some liberals whose sole arguments are centered around “peace”. “WORLD PEACE!” But what does “peace” really entail? All nations being subservient to the United States? All nations that have nuclear weapons disarming them and signing some treaty (which really just end up being sheets of paper that say "look how ethical i am" and nothing more)? All nations and peoples having democratic governments? What exactly is this idea of peace and why do people act as if it is an objective concept?
What does this man actually mean by “liberation”? does this entail all black people moving back to the “motherland”? all black people ascribing to one of the four groups he was in? is it every black person dressing in dashikis with cowrie shells in our hair and black fists around our necks?Is it all blacks following one train of thought as if we aren’t individual thinkers with our own personal aspirations or thoughts on what liberation is and how to go about it? does "black liberation" mean the same thing as "white oppression" to him?
i didn't voice it directly to him, but I would never join any of these organizations, let alone his, nor would I ever be a student of any of these “teachers”. For one, I’m not religious and I think any group that promotes the liberation of a group of people while promoting their religion compromises whatever liberation might be obtained by excluding members of that group that don’t commit to their religion or their thoughts on theology. How can you be an organization for a specific group of people without being respectful of dissenting opinions and different lifestyle choices within that group? Every member of the NOI is expected to follow Islam (THEIR version of it) because Christianity and Judaism are for whites (their arguments, not mine) and Christianity was used to help brainwash African slaves. While I agree with the last part, I don’t think that being a Christian or a part of any other religion means you don’t want liberation for your people (with the exception of Mormonism. Blacks are descendants of Cain whose end in hell is inevitable? FAIL).
I’m a student to everyone, everything, and every school of thought. I don’t like the way in which they act like THEY have this information and THEY are the only ones that can teach it. I’m sure he has some knowledge on some things that others may not; that I may not have, but I go about seeking knowledge in my own way on my own time.
I would never join an organization that limited my hairstyles, clothing, name, etc. I just don’t ascribe to anything or any teacher that limits my personal expressions. Even if this group agreed with my politics and views on life 100% while dictating way in which i should dress, wear my hair, and change my name to….i would never join it. I think labeling oneself as a member of almost anything limits one’s ability to seek knowledge indiscriminately. i may vote democrat 99% of the time, but I would never identify as a democrat because I think it would cut me off (subconsciously or consciously) to dissenting opinions. conservatives and republicans have a number of issues. But they may (MAY in the far far future in one or two aspects…ha) have some things right, and if I’m always in the oppositional group (because democrats don’t really have any core values, they’re just a group in opposition to republicans), then I’m not going to be as open as I should be to knowledge from this group of people i may have subconsciously labeled the enemy. not to mention the type of dogma other member of that group expect from their members. does voting for a Libertarian make me less of a democrat? most, i think, would say yes. if i'm in one of these groups and want to date a white guy or feel like criticizing Garvey on a number of factors, then, again, does that mean i want liberation less?
it seems that control happens to be a large portion of these groups. This brother said he wanted the members of his group to wear a red fez with a black and green tassel down the side with the females wearing dresses/skirts with the men in traditional African attire. For what? will be able to attribute more knowledge and skill to this group in that outfit that I would be in a t-shirt and jeans? Does this type of control actually serve a function or is it just an infatuation with all things Africa (this is the way he talked about it, as it if were a country with one culture)? I mean, where does it get ridiculous? When I turn in my subway card/car for a camel or walking? When I turn in my iron and copper cooking pots in for clay ones and my stove for an open fire?
sometimes groups like this make me understand why there is so little solidarity within the black community, although its the opposite of what they aim to do. while i would never join any of these organizations, i do respect that they aim to liberate blacks (whatever that may result in). i really do believe that this man believes that he is going about liberation in the correct way and really just wants to see all blacks happy. even though i disagree with him (and/or them) on many aspects, he still gets my respect. and this conversation made my week, really. made me love NYC all over again.
comment. criticize. think.
also, that photo is not him.