Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Discourse on Black Power

The other day I had a conversation with a friend of mine from high school (who happens to be Hispanic). I had told him about the blog and we had a discussion about the purpose and content. He wished me luck, but was concerned about the blog being specifically made for Black people, saying that it seemed exclusionary or separatist.  I compiled my responses to his questions and comments into one post.

Being Black, and seeing the condition we're in, I feel an obligation to work on improving our condition. I was nurtured into thinking this way, and naturally drawn into it. My mother taught me about the danger I was in as a Black man in this country, as well as how to read and learn about my history. I took that and ran with it (since the age of 7). I study and appreciate all cultures worldwide, but I make it a point to study my own. No one says anything when Asians release a video game or movie strictly about Asian history and culture, or when whites release a TV show with only white actors, or if they release a video game with all white characters. They are dealing with subjects related to their culture.

BMD is the same thing.

Although the bigger issue is class, each minority group has its own problems that are unique to that group with respect to its history in this country, or wherever they may be. No one is more qualified to talk about your problems and how they affect you than you are. Stokely Charmichael speaks on this in his book Black Power : The Politics of Liberation. You can't have a partnership with anyone else until you are secure and independent yourself. On an individual level, a person who can't help themselves can't help anyone else either. They have to have some level of independence. Otherwise, that partnership would become either parasitic on the individual's part, or predatory on their partner's part. If both parties are independent, prey/predator and parasitic relationships are less likely. And the same applies to any type of relationship. It is the same on a group level. Black people can't work with other races until they are able to function on their own. So yes, working with other races is, or will become, necessary because the real problems are social and economic class conflict (which goes above race and gender). But we can't have successful partnerships or ally relations until we get own out sh*t together.

Another example (in wake of the immigration issue): I work with Asian and Hispanic immigrants. Many of them speak their own language when talking to each other. The Hispanic guys also play the Latin station on the radio from time to time. They are doing what they're supposed to do, holding on to their original culture. Would it be right for me to tell them (when it is not work related) "Hey, you guys need to speak in English because I can't understand what you're saying" or "You guys need to change the station because I can't understand what the people on the radio are saying." Or "I just don't like Latin music." I can either A) Be parasitic and constantly ask them what is being said, B) Listen to the station without knowing what's being said, and appreciate the music for how I am able to see it. C) Listen to the music, not understanding it, and wishing someone would change the station, D) Be predatory and force them to change the station, or E) Learn Spanish so that I could understand what's being said both in their conversation, and on the radio.

Black Power, in it's original sense, doesn't mean having power OVER anyone else. It's about being in control of yourself and your environment. If you look at the content of the blogs, the things that I'm talking about are something everybody should know; the stuff that isn't culture specific. I'm discussing different avenues that we can us to get economic, political, and social power. Even then the content that is culture specific isn't or shouldn't be offensive.  If it is, you can't please everybody. You can either learn about it so you can understand in the future, or leave it alone.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Avoiding the Cult of Personality

Many have done it with MLK, Malcolm X, Tupac, Biggie, Jesus/Yeshua, and many others. They have fallen for a cult of personality, the overzealous praise, even to the point of worship in some cases, of an individual. This can give an individual an alarming amount of power over a large group of people, and if used the wrong way can cause a world of trouble. We did it, to a degree, during the Civil Rights/Black Power movements, and still do it today.

Tupac for example. Tupac was a conscious rapper (before going to prison or getting shot, and to a degree afterwards), but conscious or not he is seen as the "Greatest Rapper" in the history of rap (as far back as people of my generation, and a couple before that know or are concerned with when it comes to the history of rap). But for the most part his music was about addressing problems within the Black community and exposing the corruption of the government. Also, if you look for his work outside of what the mainstream media hows you he had many other books about/by him that have many of his poems and other things. 

Pac mentioned himself how he saw how much influence he had over a lot of people, and sadly he wasnt ready to take on that big of a responsibility. And it still holds true today, but not necessarily in a positive way. Instead of dissecting his songs and poems to get a better understanding of his message and what he was trying to say, people would rather dissect his songs to prove or disprove whether he is dead or alive. His being dead or alive doesn't change his message, so why bother trying to prove somethign that has no affect on what he said while he was here? Tupac served his purpose, which is why he is no longer with us. Neither Tupac or any other revolutionary could free us. We have to free ourselves. The purpose of the revolutionary or leader is to teach the people that we can free ourselves. Which is why they end up dying; so we can DO what they said we should do and could do, OURSELVES. The revolutionary is something like a mentor. He shows the people by example how to get the resources they need and the knowledge they need to have to take control of their lives. Likewise, a mentor is someone who shows a person how to identify their talents and capitalize on them, as well as the knowledge they need to do it. Without a mentor, people have to learn how to produce results the hard way. They may make costly mistakes, or pick up habits, methods, and ideas that are counter productive or destructive.

We all to often get caught up in the PERSON rather than the MESSAGE that the person was trying to spread. It's ok to love a person and remember people who have passed on, but don't forget what their purpose/message was while they were here. The memory of our mentors in the struggle live on through the actions that we take according to what they said, more so than any memorial, posthumous birthday celebration, or holiday can express.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Watching the Watchmen: Your Rights and the Police (Part 2)

The link above is to an article describing an altercation in which a Black teenage girl recorded a police encounter while riding the bus (public transit). The officers took her phone, deleted the video, and detained her (kept her in the squad car, cuffed) for a while, then let her go.

I was in a similar situation this article a couple years ago ('09). My roommates had called me outside because one of our housemates (Jay) was being arrested suspected of drunk driving and evading the police. The police had said that they followed him from campus all the way back to our house. At the time he was going through some things, and was in a rut of depression and suffering from all the things that depression can bring.

I came outside with a pencil and paper, asking the officers for their information. The lady cop was cool, she just asked me to step back until they were done. I stepped from the edge of the carport, back to the front door (to give them distance). One of the other officers kept asking Jay direct questions like had he been drinking and why didn't he stop, etc. I kept yelling out to him that all he had to give them was his name and address, and to remain silent after that. Jay was wasted so he kept talking, but I kept yelling out the same thing. 

The officer that was asking the questions got mad and approached me telling me to go back in the house. He said I was interfering with his investigation. I told him that I was standing a safe distance away, that I had a right to be where I was, and a right to observe and record what they were doing. He said if I didn't go back in the house I'd be getting in the back of the squad car with my homeboy. I wouldn't move so he started counting, and one of my other housemates finally told me to just go inside. 

We all went back in the house(and locked the door). I opened the window to the front room, and kept writing everything down and saying the same stuff I had been yelling outside, LOL. Finally the officer told Jay that he "should listen to your homeboy because he's probably a criminal justice major", and then he looked at me and said "but we're trained professionals so we know more about what we're doing than you". I just said "OK" and wrote all that down. They arrested him, and I recorded everything that the housemates had taken out of his car before the officers had the car towed away. Afterwards, I went back outside to meet with the lady cop who came back and gave me the names and badge numbers of the other officers who were present. The one that had told me to go back in the house was quick to get back in his car.
First thing in the morning I called one of my mentors who is a law professor and asked him the procedure for filing a formal police complaint. I explained the situation to him, and he told me to type everything up and that he would make a few calls (he is well known around the school and town). "Jay" got out of jail the same day, didn't have to pay bail, got his car back, and all charges against him had been dropped. That part had more to do with the pull that the mentor had with officials around town, but if I hadn't reacted the way I did my homeboy would most likely be rotting in TDC (Texas Department of "Corrections") right now.

Expanding on the ideas covered in Part 1, these are examples of what can happen when you assert your rights, and how the police may react due to the fact that most of them don't really know how to react. Most of them are not used to their activities being observed or dealing with a citizen that knows his/her rights and asserts them properly. Whether your situation ends up like the sister's in the article, or like the one I just described, if we don't actively observe the police and assert our rights, we will continue to be victimized. Learn your rights, study the law, and prepare for whatever the response will be whenever you are tested.

Watching the Watchmen: Your Rights and the Police (Part 1)

This is a letter that I wrote to the editor of my school newspaper last month. I don't know if the editor just didn't get it or if I should have sent it to the newspaper repeatedly until the letter was published in the paper, but it was never published regardless. SO... here it is.

Keeping us informed of our rights as citizens in general and during police encounters was one of the primary goals behind the formation of many groups during the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, case in point: The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The BPP aimed to educate members of the Black community their legal rights as citizens and human beings, as well as how to assert and defend those rights. Although the BPP no longer exists, there are still groups and individuals who do wish to inform the Black community of their rights, and this work should continue.

On April 1st, SGA (Student Government Association) hosted an event titled "Your Rights and the Police" featuring members of the Prairie View police department, and various District Attorneys from Dallas County, many of which were PV alumni. The reason I attended is because the flier advertising the event stated that the panel would discuss our rights during police encounters in public, in our cars, and at home. I was disappointed to see that that did not happen.

The underlying message that I got from some of the panelists who spoke was that the police are being victimized by the media, we should not assert our rights and let the police do what they want during encounters. Others did speak to the fact that crooked officers exist, and gave advice on filing formal complaints and stressed the importance of keeping written or audio/video records of police encounters. Still, the problem that I have with a majority the information given during the event is that given the panel member's professions I believe they fully understand our rights and the benefits of asserting them, and chose not to fully inform us about them. As police officers and District Attorneys, their success is primarily driven by the public's ignorance of their rights and the law in general, especially in the Black community. This ignorance can be seen as a factor contributing to the high incarceration rate of Blacks in America.

"The [Miranda] warning, which is intended to inform you of your rights regarding police questioning, does not have to be read to you if you are not placed under arrest. The reason for this is that if you are not arrested for committing a crime, you are not going to trial, so you don’t need to be warned that what you say can be used against you during trial." (

Although it is true that being responsible and not breaking the law is the best way to protect oneself during police encounters, the fact still remains that criminals and law abiding citizens alike are protected by the Constitution. We are protected from self-incrimination by the 5th Amendment, and protected from unwarranted searches and seizures by the 4th Amendment. During a police stop, it is my right to decide whether or not I will answer the officer's questions, or to say "I am going to remain silent" or "I do not consent to searches, or dog sniffs" whether I am breaking the law or not. It is also my right and responsibility to thoroughly READ the warrant, if presented, before allowing the police to conduct a search or arrest. If I am not breaking the law, I am simply asserting my rights as a citizen. If it should happen that I am found to be breaking the law, the fact that I asserted my rights may grant me some protection in court.

The message that the panel had regarding those statements is that if you had nothing to hide you wouldn't need to use those statements, which makes someone who does use the statements appear suspicious. The fact behind that assumption is that many people do not know that they have the right to make those statements during police encounters. For those who do know they may not feel comfortable doing so, or may be intimidated by the police and fearful of the consequences if they do use them. I believe if more people learned their rights and asserted them that it would make the people who currently assert their rights appear less suspicious.

The Texas Penal Code even goes as far as to give citizens the right to defend themselves in the event that an officer uses excessive force while conducting a search or arrest (Texas Penal Code - Chapter 9 - Subchapter C, Subsection C) Given the amount of police abuse and misconduct that occurs throughout the US involving Black people, it would be beneficial for citizens to know these rights and provisions given by law to citizens and officers alike. But, knowing the most probable consequences, that course of action is not advised unless a life-or-death situation immediately calls for such actions. Instead, one should record the altercation if possible (with a voice recorder, video camera, or even having someone on the phone to listen during the encounter). Always make sure that you get the name (with correct spelling) and badge number of every officer present at the altercation. Put it in writing as soon as possible, contact witnesses, and file a formal complaint against the officers with the police department and the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU). You won't win anything arguing or fighting the police in the street, so record and document everything you can and use it against them in court.

Despite the methods of asserting and protecting one's rights, how would one know that they even had the right to defend themselves or someone else in that situation, alone not knowing that the concept of illegal searches, illegal arrests, and inadmissible evidence even exist without studying the law themselves or being informed by someone who has? I personally think every citizen, namely Black men and women, should own or find access to a copy of Black's Law Dictionary, know how to gain access to legal resources including the state and federal Constitution, and keep a copy of legal advice for handling police encounters with them in the car, at home, or somewhere close by.

The police and DA's have their responsibilities but we as citizens and members of the Black community also have the responsibility of protecting ourselves by learning, asserting, and defending our rights. We owe it to ourselves, the coming generations, and the members of the generations before us who fought for us to have those rights in the first place by learning what our rights are, how to exercise them properly, and using them to the best of our ability should our time come.

Prentice Sams

Resources For More Information

Texas State Constitution and Statutes

Texas Penal Code - Chapter 9 - Subchapter C, Subsection C

Exclusion from Criminal Liability - Personal Defense

(c)  The use of force to resist an arrest or search is justified:
    (1)  if, before the actor offers any resistance, the peace officer (or person acting at his direction) uses or attempts to use greater force than necessary to make the arrest or search; and
           (2)  when and to the degree the actor reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the peace officer's (or other person's) use or attempted use of greater force than necessary.
 (d)  The use of deadly force is not justified under this subchapter except as provided in Sections 9.32, 9.33, and 9.34.
*This site also includes links to free legal advice
Focuses on resources for fighting police misconduct. Plus- strategies and techniques to combat police abuse, brutality, harassment, and corruption.

Flex Your Rights
* This site includes explanations of your rights and examples of how to exercise them.

WARNING: Although I deal with legal terms and ideas, I am not a lawyer, I've never been to law school, and none of the ideas expressed in the letter should be taken as professional legal advice.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Reflections on the "Conscious" Community

After spending years reading, watching videos, dictating quotes, journal entries, and anything else you can think of to learn about our past and present struggles as Black people, our freedom fighters, historical figures, etc. I really thought I knew something. Knowing that I educated myself about people important to the black community, I developed somewhat of a superiority complex. 

Developing a superiority complex is the first step (or symptom maybe?) to becoming out of touch with your people and community. Despite all of this knowledge I had and my pipe dreams of starting a Spook Who Sat By the Door -like revolution in Yourtown, USA, none of that was my reality. There were no mass protests, press conferences, riots, no (productive) debates with other "intellectuals" on the Black struggle, no turning your average street thugs/gangs into revolutionary freedom fighters or organizations. It was just me going to school and working, searching books and the internet for answers to questions, finding other pieces to the puzzle and putting them together. Looking back now I see that my pipe dreams were reflections of the times and lives of the men and women I had studied and looked up to: Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton, Fred Hampton, Mumia abu-Jamal, the Black Panther Party(as a whole), Frederick Douglass, Tupac Shakur, and countless others. This is how my worldview was shaped.

Over the next couple of years I would learn a lot of lessons. (Since I'm still in college, and I'm still learning, I'll just put a couple of them up). When I finished my freshman year in college, I was still an intellectual, but at the same time a loner, broke, and dependent on family. Now remember, I had a superiority complex because I knew XYZ black revolutionary figure, or concept, or had XYZ revolutionary pipe dream. There would be times when I would stop and think about how different family members or other people in general didn't know what I knew, but still had cars, their own homes, etc. When I eventually came to the point  that I had spend enough time under a rock learning and studying the struggle, it was time to come out of my shell and socialize, reach out and teach the other students and members of the community, family, etc. everything I had learned. (As one of my professors put it "Man, the path you're taking is a tough road to hoe. Black folks are going to break your heart.") I socialized more and built up my network of associates (online and locally), most of us only having a love of weed in common (that's a whole different blog). Eventually I developed the motivation to seek out ways of becoming active in the Prairie View (I'm a student at Prairie View A & M University) community. 

Through socializing, and (attempts at) organizing I learned that 1) Having a revoluionary mindset won't automatically make other black people like you, 2) Even the people who cheer you on when discussing revolutionary ideas won't always help you when you are ready to act, 3) Not all black people are trying to hear "that black power stuff", and 4) Not everybody doing good in school and working (whether working hard or smart) is selling out. So what did I learn and where does that leave us?

People in the "conscious" community really lose touch with the people they're supposed to be "saving, educating, liberating, etc." when they get superiority complexes. Nobody can help anyone that they see as "below" them, or don't understand (which comes from being out of touch). The thing that people in the "conscious" community need to realize is that nobody is going to ask for help from someone who A) isn't going to (or can't) put money in their pockets, and/or B) Talks down on them. Especially not from someone who fits category A and B at the same time. Really, these are lessons that I had to learn myself. For those just becoming "conscious" and learning about the people, places, and ideas, if you want to actually make progress, you will need to learn these lessons, too.

Even the Black liberation movement involves economics, and if they (xyz revolutionary black organization) aren't talking about getting money (in whatever form of currency they want) in people's pockets or resources (so that we can survive without having to live on the streets waiting for xyz government/society to say "o we give up, black people are free") in some shape or form, then they might as well be compared to a church, selling hope. How revolutionary can someone be if they can yell "black power, fuck white people" all day long at the rallies and protests, but have to ask for gas money to get home?(speaking from experience) Or (even worse) the people/organizations who go to white people, or the police, to support those same organizations that are saying "fuck white people, black power"?

The "average" black population is living in a way that we understand and perceive individual phenomenon more than group phenomenon (going back to what Stokely Carmichael was talking about in BlackPower). It's not that the "average" black people "love" white people that much. They don't love white people any more than they "hate" their own. They're just going where the money is - legally or illegally, inside or outside their own communities - because in order to survive (which is the purpose of any revolutionary struggle, according to Che) until you are able to put yourself in a position to thrive (independently), you have to be able to realistically function in the current society. If not, you will get locked up or killed (by "them" or your own), because if you can't function properly, then you have to live off the people who can. Stopping that pattern is what the revolution is supposed to be about.

 And "conscious" people can say "getting money" is a part of that "imperialist pie" all you want, but even after the revolution there's going to have to be some type of currency, with some type of practical economic structure, with some type of system to govern/maintain it, outside of what someone dreamed up in a utopian dream world after the revolution. And that economic structure has to be set up to where everybody has a part of it's fruits, or has the potential to have a part of it, and the necessary tools to put themselves in the position to get a part of it. If not, that "dream world after the revolution" won't last long. Period.


This marks the official launch of Black Minds Devleopment. Come back to stay updated on current events in the Black community, politics affecting us and other minorities, local and national Black owned and operated businesses, and events.
The focus is on expanding ideas relating to 7 basic principles:

1) Education: Gaining information needed to make money and decisions.
2) Economics: Managing and developing money.
3) Empowerment: Having resources and power to determine your future.
4) Environment: Know your phisical and natural envirionment.
5) Equality: Continuing the fight for equality and freedom.
6) Ethics: Morals that guide decisions and actions.
7) Excellence: Mastery of the skills needed to ensure survival in one's environment.

I am currently working on getting an independent site together, with more blogs and features. In the mean time, I'm going to do what I can with what I have.

Disclaimer: While BMD supports the ideals of Black Nationalism, it does not support bigotry, racism, or any forms of oppression on behalf of any group. Don't like it? Find another blog.