On Gabby, Serena, Crip Walks and Flying Squirrels

by William P. Muhammad

The Olympics, an international celebration of national pride and athleticism, has long been a platform upon which various competitors make both themselves and their countries known through sportsmanship, perseverance and the spirit of competition.

With the recent gold medal performances of two Black American athletes, Gabby Douglas, for women’s gymnastics, and Serena Williams, for women’s tennis, two fields traditionally considered the domain of whites, the doubt over Douglas’ ability prior to her win and the anger over Williams’ celebratory victory dance, after defeating Russian superstar Maria Sharapova, anti-Black racism has once again colored “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” in international sports.

Comments and criticisms over Ms. Douglas’ hair and Ms. Williams’ so-called post-victory “Crip Walk,” not only have taken away from their stunning displays of athletic discipline and mental preparation, but these have also raised questions on race not seen since Mexico City’s 1968 Olympics where Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised gloved fists in non-violent defiance of white supremacy.

While it is doubtful the female athletes sought to provoke controversies, with either a hair style or a victory dance, white commentators, sporting officials and some white and European audiences have nevertheless revealed a beneath the surface disappointment, if not contempt, over two Black women mastering two sports traditionally dominated by the white elite. Proving their abilities before the world, these women have not only shown they are the best at their games, but they have also proven to others that Black people are capable of rising from the low expectations placed upon us by self and others.

Where Smith’s and Carlos’ gold and bronze medal victories required the same wherewithal regarding competition and tenacity, the controversy over confronting white supremacy, with the raised fist in 1968, has now been replaced by defeating the white elite at their own games in 2012. As Black excellence overturns perceptions of Black inferiority, regardless of the barbs and insults, by creating their own reality, Williams and Douglas leveled the playing field without begging others to do for them what they were capable of doing for themselves.

Applying this dynamic universally, leaders, teachers and preachers in our communities can empower our youth to embrace that which will make them successful not only in sports, but also in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. To eventually place ourselves at the top of civilization, as our Black athletes have done, we must also become proactive rather than reactive and decide to rise to the challenges of our time.

Qualifying ourselves for positions awaiting us, in a global market oriented world, where technology and innovation will determine our collective success or failure, knowing self, respecting self and advancing the interests of self, regardless of whom or what, will require self-examination, self-analysis and self-correction among those wishing to rise. In much the same way our athletes prepare themselves for international competition, we too must take the responsibility to start training our people at an early age.

After identifying our children’s gifts, cultivating their abilities and expecting nothing less than excellence from them, not only will we produce gymnasts, tennis players and track and field stars, but also we will produce the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians who will take society to the next level of progress and advancement. No longer bound by the mental chains of white supremacy and Black inferiority, low expectations will be banished, insults will be dismissed and our idiosyncrasies, whether a hair style or a dance, will be chalked up as nothing more than a unique and individual expression of contentment.

Serena Williams and Gabby Douglas should not have to apologize for anything. They have proven on the field of equal and fair competition that they are respectively among the world’s best tennis players and gymnasts. Breaking the illusion of white supremacy in their individual sport, like others before them, they have shown to the world that Black people will continue to rise when afforded the opportunity. By hard work, continuous training and self-confidence developed through dedication, beyond the symbol of defiance, they have actually defied those who believed not in their success, but in their failure.

As the Olympics gives each nation the opportunity to rise and shine, these games revealed that members of the Black family can and will continue to rise to the top when given the chance to try. Whether dismissed in advance or criticized after the fact, Black excellence has indeed proven that the fallacy of Black inferiority is as false today as it was centuries ago. The only question is when will the rest of us step up to the plate regardless of the naysayers and the envier when he envies?

A Message to the Black Pastors in America – Part 2

by William P. Muhammad

From the last days of the Civil Rights movement through the waning days of various Black Nationalist and cultural movements, the decline of awareness, intellectual wherewithal and consciousness, among the masses, has proven that the image and meaning of Blackness remains under consistent attack.

Like fighting a delaying action in a battle between corporate propagandists, that distorts the images of young Black men and women, and those who would define themselves through a comprehensive understanding of “the knowledge of self,” politically, economically and socially, Black America’s relevance as an equal player is manifesting itself as an ever diminishing fantasy.

What is at stake in this battle, over who will control the image and destiny of Black people, appears to be more in line with a policy strategy than by accident or coincidence. In fact, if one listens to the rhetoric among both liberals and conservatives, assimilation into the so-called “mainstream” appears to be more about adopting a Eurocentric world view than it does with the “self-evident” truths, among Black people, associated with self-actualization and the pursuit of happiness.

Promoted across America, in both the public schools and in private Christian schools, white superiority is both subtly and routinely taught through a mythology that celebrates white accomplishments, at the expense of the non-White and non-Christian worlds. Denying and minimizing the significance and impact of historical wrongs, the deifying of historical figures and the evangelizing of an “exceptionalism” to which others should bow, creates in its wake a corrupting arrogance of power.

While none can honestly deny the contributions white Christians have made over the centuries, equally, none should deny the contributions of others, particularly when non-white and non-Christian students are taught of the Earth’s various peoples and their histories. However, with the desire to privatize the American educational system and the co-opting of Black leaders through philanthropic and corporate contributions, it is unlikely the current paradigm will change without a critical mass of people dedicated to creating their own institutions and systems.

Without this paradigm shift, as represented by very few Black leaders in the United States, change will be slow to come, if at all, and Black communities across America will continue to be marginalized politically, economically and socially. Regardless of deals cut and promises made, coming austerity measures, budget cuts, and other threats to the social safety net all but guarantee priorities will be focused upon containing future unrest than with giving benefits to a people who will not unite for their own sake.

For example, in the early 1990s, when the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan re-established the Three Year Economic Program, the idea of Black people going into agribusiness, through monthly $10 contributions, was initially met with enthusiasm, but as interest waned, the Nation of Islam continued the work alone resulting in a 1,500 acre farm in Georgia.

What would happen if only 5 percent of Black America’s 40 million people contributed only $1.00 per week to this cause? Aside from being a contributor and supporter of a significant Black enterprise, this endeavor would yield $8 million per month, $96 million per year and after three years, more than a quarter billion dollars plus interest.

If part of the Lord’s Prayer states: “Give us this day our daily bread,” then the question we must ask ourselves is: From where does our bread come? If we know that God’s earth produces the wheat and we know that human hands must harvest, process and sift the wheat into the flour, then bread will only come from our labor. Feeding our people only one slice of bread per day for one week would require 280 million slices, and since it is unlikely bread will fall from the sky, the Black man and woman must work with God’s help to supply our own needs in the time of want.

As Black people, we must take another look at the meaning of freedom, which means more than just having the right to vote under a so-called democratic system of government. If freedom is having the opportunity to grow into our full potential, then are we as a people truly free? Black people have the talent, Black people have the knowledge and Black people have the wealth to accomplish what we will. If as consumers spend around one trillion dollars annually, then there is no excuse to not harness some of those dollars to advance a cause that will benefit us all.

“When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.” – Genesis 41: 56-57 New International Version

A Message to the Black Pastors in America - Part 1

by William P. Muhammad

“…know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God." James 4:4 - Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition

Famed author and writer Alex Haley, who wrote the landmark novel, “Roots,” said it was the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, through his interviews with Nation of Islam spokesman Malcolm X, which led him to pursue the historical research that made his book and the subsequent television mini-series into a world-wide success. Challenging generations of distortion and misinformation, the “Roots” phenomenon, albeit short-lived, uncovered and articulated, through mass media, Black America’s Muslim past, the methods by which White America sought to erase it from our collective memory and why.

The European’s aversion toward the non-Christian, particularly the Muslim, who, through his civilizations in Africa and Asia, controlled the trade routes to the East, perhaps in the beginning was a conflict more about European competition for scarce resources than a conflict over religion. Nevertheless, from the Vatican inspired Crusades of the Middle Ages, through the religious tyranny of the Inquisitions and the 1492 “Reconquista” of the Iberian Peninsula, the expulsion of African Muslims and Jews from Spain and Portugal, and the simultaneous “discovery” of the Western Hemisphere, culminated in the founding of a New World that, in the name of Christianity, destroyed indigenous civilizations, enslaved Africans and, by order of the Catholic monarchs of Spain, forbade the practice of Islam.

With the advent of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the centuries long chattel enslavement of Black people, the forced transfer of Africans from their homelands to North America, South America and the Caribbean Islands, is without a doubt one of the greatest crimes humanity has ever inflicted upon itself. Particularly as it relates to the United States, the prolonged trauma of race based enslavement, persecution and discrimination became so acute, that as a survival mechanism, through limited internal choices and unconscionable external pressures, nearly every vestige of the Black man’s original culture, language and religion had been repressed, redefined or eliminated.

Constituting a theft of our birthright, centuries later, pragmatism, or in some cases ignorance of history, now leads many Blacks in leadership to embrace or reject that which the former slave master and his children embrace or reject, particularly as it relates to religion. As regards to reclaiming that which was lost, like Daniel during the Babylonian captivity or like Moses during the Egyptian captivity, how many Black religious leaders have the courage to tell Nebuchadnezzar or Pharaoh: “Thus saith the Lord,” and how many are willing to pay the price to do so?

Although most Black Americans, who may profess Christianity, are unaware the Holy Qur’an recognizes Jesus in the 19th chapter titled Mary, they may also be unaware that the Muslim book of scripture refers to him as Messiah, albeit it according to the Hebrew definition. As this world is built upon and maintained by the domination and subjugation of the weak and the poor through the political, economic, and philosophical views of white supremacy, those knowledgeable of scripture, and the time, should expect the coming of One to overturn such rule and to set justice on the earth.

According to the New Testament, part of the Lord’s Prayer states: “…Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” If the prayer states that God’s Will is to be done on earth as it is in heaven, then this implies that there is work to do here and now while we are still living and breathing. Furthermore, if Jesus spoke of a kingdom coming, and it will be the same “on earth as it is in heaven,” then this implies actual land which requires ownership, cultivation and development and a people who require food, clothing and shelter for starters.

With this said, building a church, singing and praising the name of Jesus is good, but it will not be enough to survive the fall of this world and to qualify for an exalted place in that kingdom. Does not the scripture say that faith without works is dead? If we are destined see the kingdom, and our children to inherit it, we must prepare ourselves for positions that are awaiting us. A kingdom needs governors to administrate it, a kingdom needs farmers to feed it, a kingdom needs architects and engineers to shelter and build it, a kingdom needs scientists to advance it and doctors to heal it, a kingdom needs all of this and more through a people who submit their will to do the Will of God, which is the literal definition of the Arabic word, Muslim.

Pastors, preachers and ministers who know of the coming of the kingdom, also know there is a price to pay for announcing its coming. Who among us is denounced, vilified, scorned and ridiculed for doing so? Who is plotted against, evil spoken of and hated without cause? Who among us is hated by this world, its leaders and its apologists for the sake of the kingdom? Who among us is willing to lay down his life for the sake of that truth?

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Revelation 2:10 - King James Version