Monday, September 17, 2012
Black Afrikan-Centered Consciousness: Is it still what it used to be back in the day?
I have always considered myself to be “conscious” as it relates to knowing and understanding what racism/white supremacy is, its purpose and its agenda. I have always considered myself to be pretty knowledgeable of many thing Afrikan and Afrikan centered. So, therefore nothing that occurs under this system rare ever confuses or surprises me. However, since moving away from Memphis five years ago, I had not been around the “conscious” segment of the Black community since leaving my dear ole hometown of Memphis. In my separation from the “knowledge,” and the "conscious community, I sort of found myself slipping spiritually. I stopped a lot of reading that I was doing. My motto had become “If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.” I had become so engulfed in chasing the dollar bill that when I moved to Dallas in 2008, I had made it official that I was not going to connect with the conscious community here in Dallas. This is not to say that I had totally and completely walked away from books, my learning about myself and my culture, I just wanted to concentrate more on my self-development as it relates to my chosen profession, which social work (mental health & drug addiction). I had a few goals to accomplish and I needed to remain focus. I am halfway to meeting these professional goals and I energized as ever.
However, after having been here in Dallas for three years, back in January of this year I began to become curious about the conscious community here in Dallas. A couple of years ago, I found a sista who can twist my hair into locs and who was also into African-centered consciousness. Over the past two years of her doing my hair, we discussed all types of topics from race to politics, to religion to African culture to Black folks in America, and even popular culture and how it affects or impacts the Black community. These hair appointments are always cool. I get my hair washed and twisted, plus have a healthy conversation about real life in the process. It was this connection that contributed more to my curiosity about the conscious community at large in Dallas. Well, anyway, during a most recent hair appointment, I saw this flyer in the building where the sister has her shop that read, “SOUL-utionary Weekend” DFW Sistas of the Black Woman’s Agenda Present- SIS. Letava Mabiligengo (mother ,author, lecturer, home school educator, matriarchal nation-builder, mentor, founder of the Black Woman’s agenda, sister, freedom) SEPTEMBER 7 & 8, 2012. Wow! This woman has more labels than fashion week in New York and more titles than a book store. LOL! Anyway, I am sure she paid a lot of money for those titles and labels.
Last Saturday night on the 8th, I decided at the last minute to go the Pan-African Connection Bookstore in South Dallas to hear this so-called conscious and African-centric Black woman speak on “Black Solutions for Black Problems.” The program was from 7pm to 10pm. I did not arrive until 9pm. However, it turned out to be a good time for me to arrive. When I arrived, it felt like I was returning to some old stomping grounds. For many years when I lived in Memphis, I participated in a lot of the events like poetry readings, concerts, and deep cultural discussions that were a part of the conscious community in Memphis. I wore my Afrikan Ankh and some other Afrikan jewelry as well as read my African-centered authored books. I was pretty tight with “the movement” for long while up until I moved away from Memphis in 2007. I arrived to the event just as the conversation in the sparsely attended room was turning to relationships and mental health. I love topics on relationships and mental health. I was very curious to know what this supposedly African-centric speaker thought about Black mental health and what would serve as a possible solution for aiding in black mental health. I was also curious to know how this room, which was filled with Black people sporting afros, locs, African jewelry, African names, with an African-centered book store downstairs felt about Black mental health and relationships.
Well, one woman in the audience shared her story about being sexually abused in her house hold growing up as the only female among brothers and uncles as well as shedding some light on the reality that men get molested as well as when they are children. This woman in the audience went on to say that it takes a “real man” to accept and love his woman unconditionally when she has gone through so much in her life. The woman in the audience went on to say, “I often tell young sistas this, “Treat your body like it is a million dollar home.” “Don’t let some 10 dollar ass Nigga come along tear your hear house up!” Her comment was immediately followed by sounds and claps of approval of what she said. I was like, “What!?” “Niggas?” The speaker responded, “You are right, Sista. It does take a strong man to do this” “Brothas, let’s face it. You will never know your woman fully.” “You will never know everything about your woman. There are some things that she will never tell you.” “Brothas, keep it real. You won’t be able to handle everything your woman has to tell you.” Now, as the woman and the speaker was saying all of this, I was thinking, “The only thing that a woman would not be able to tell her man is either she has cheated on him or she has been raped and/ or molested as a child or a teenager."
As soon as I had this thought in my head, the speakers says, “Brothaz, your woman may not be able to tell you about her being raped or molested as a child.” I was like, “DUH!” I listened to the conversation that was being had in room until speaker took time to take a breath from hearing herself speak to entertain a couple of questions. I immediately raised my hand. My question had a comment attached to it. I said, “Hello, my name is Rico and I am social worker who has worked as a counselor and therapist and one who has worked with the very types of men that the woman in the audience just spoke of as it relates to them dealing with sexual abuse. My question is twofold. As it relates to a “real man” having to accept and love his woman with all of her issues, wouldn’t it be fair for a person to get himself or herself together emotionally and mentally before meeting someone or allowing an unsuspecting person to get with them? Number two, as one who understands that many in the Black community tend to view counseling as a cuss word; what is the conscious community’s attitude or perception of seeking counseling or therapy to help with emotional or mental issues?”
The speaker responded to the first part of my question by saying, “You’re right, Brotha. I agree. I think we should have our stuff together before we meet.” Here is how she answered my question about seeking therapy as a solution. She said, “Brotha, yeah many of us do tend to look at counseling as a cuss word but not because of counseling, but because of the Psychologist/counselor trying to tell us what to think.” I was like, “What!?” She went on to say, “Brotha, in order for you to be able to counsel us, you must live among us. You must come to where are in order to understand where we are coming from.” “You must be able to identify with us or to help us.” I replied. “I understand what you saying.” “This is why counselors and therapists come in all various ages, races, ethnicities and genders. It is a simple process. This is why you choose a counselor/therapist that best meets your needs.” “You can choose a therapist that you can identify with on the level that’s comfortable for you as the client.”
I went on to share with her that not all therapists and counselors try to tell their clients what to think. I know that I don’t. I shared with her the process that is mainly used by most counselors and therapist when helping clients. I told her (the speaker and the audience) that the counselor is there to merely help the client describe the pain that they have been struggling with for so long. Our job is to just listen and in our listening, we are able to ask the right questions that will help in leading the client to the resolution that they have been seeking, but unable to do so. I went on to give (what I thought was a harmless example) of what it could look like. I said, “Take for instance you are teaching a three year old how to ride a bike that has training wheels. You push him or her along until he/she masters the bike on his/her own and when he/she has built up the courage to ride the bike on his/her own, you then take off the training wheels and he is on his way.” Well, this example did not sit well with the speaker. She responded by saying, “Brotha, you just offended the room when referred to us as 3 year old.” I was like, “WTF!? Is she serious?” She went on to say, “Brotha, you just proved to us in this room that you were not listening.” The room then began to rumble and give her signs of approval of what she had just said to me. I was like, “I was listening. This is why I asked the question that I asked.” She went on to say, “You see, Brotha. This is why many in African community don’t go to counseling because the way you are being condescending and putting people down.” Again, I was like, “WTF!?”
I replied to her, “I did not offend anyone in the room.” She said, “You see. You are now trying to tell me that I am not offended. You are trying to tell me what to feel.” I responded “You said that I offended the people in the room. I need you to just speak for you.” Well, needless to say, she did like that response. So, she sarcastically took a poll of the audience and said, “Ok Brotha. So you said that I should only speak for myself. Well, anybody else in the room feel offended by what this Brotha said?” The rumbling from the audience covered the entire room. It was the perfect preacher like call and response. “Yeah, he offended me!” One Black guy even raised his hand with a might force to say, Yes, Sista. I felt offended!” I was like, “Well, damn.”
Feeling validated and empowered by her subjects, the speaker went on to say, ‘Brotha, you paid a lot for those degrees and those labels, but you are pushing the oppressor’s psychology.” This is the moment when I just stopped and waited for the end of program. Besides, who in the entire room had more labels and titles than her on the flyer that advertised her program. So stupid. I knew then that I had made a grave mistake by introducing myself as a man with a college degree to this particular audience. So, I just waved the white flag of surrender and just listened to the rest of this poor woman’s rhetoric. She went on to assume that I was offended by the way she had just manipulated the entire room into hating me for something so simple and trivial. I quickly let her that I was not offended at all by her. Then, I stopped talking and just listened. She went on to say stupid shit like, “It’s not the African community does not like to seek counsel. We just don’t care for counseling.” She went on to give this ridiculous scenario that went like this, “Sistaz, have you ever called up your girls in the middle of the night after you have had issues with your man and you all talk about it?” I was like, “How ignorant was that example?” Of course, the audience ate it up with cheers of approval. I was just waiting for Jim Jones to arise from the dead to start handing out cups of red kool-aid. Trust me. She would have convinced this room to drink the poison because it would have been the African thing to do.
I think what I was most disappointed about this experience was when a young lady raised her hand to ask a question, but changed her mind after hearing how I was raked over the coals for being in the field of counseling and it being associated with psychology, which was officially made the common evil of that night. The young lady instead made a statement. “She said, I am in college and I am studying psychology, but I think that I am going to change my major.” My heart dropped, but cheers from the audience flowed in the room. I was officially done. However, there were a couple of women trying to convince not to change her major, but make her major concentrated on helping Black people. Damn. I thought I had done just that with my degree from my historically Black university. I guess since the speaker accused me of spreading the oppressor’s psychology, I was not Black anymore.
After the speech was over, I went up to the speaker to say hello and exchange business cards. We were both cordial. I also made a bee-line to the young lady to give her my card with hopes of getting the opportunity to let her know that she is doing great and not let anybody take her off her course. As I mingled around the room filled with the so-called pro-Black, African conscious Black folks wearing, locs, fros, twists, African jewelry, I felt like I had yelled the name of Adolf Hitler in a Jewish Synagogue. I was literally shunned in the room. These Black people walked right past me in that small room as if I were the plague. I even brought money to the event to spend. Well, one thing about me is that I don’t ever beg anybody to take my money. The brotha that raised his hand to say that I offended him was selling tee-shirts, I wanted one of them. He looked me in face with a smirk on his face as if to say, “Yeah, she told you.” He did not acknowledge me and walked away from his childish, ignorant ass.
However, my stylist was there and she introduced me to a few friends of hers, in particularly a couple who sold Shea Butter soap. They were really nice. I bought a jar of it from them. It smells really good too. She also introduced me to a two more friends of hers who were there for the speech. They were nice as well. However, that was it. Wait. The older lady who owns the Pan African Connection Bookstore was also really nice. The experience taught me that I have really outgrown many of the philosophies of the so-called conscious community. The speaker’s ideology about Blackness, African-centered consciousness, and seeking counseling was outdated and antiquated. Still, I am not holding it against the entire Dallas African-centered conscious community for the ignorance of the invited guest speaker and those who acted stupid because they believed her to be so knowledgeable. Trust me. If your knowledge can not build the wealth that is needed to fund whatever movement you want to get started, you ain’t talking about shit! We live under capitalism. If you don’t have capital, it ain’t gonna happen.
I do have plans to continue to attend other programs sponsored by the conscious community in Dallas in the future. However, I will be sure to steer clear of the angry black feminists programs because that ain’t African. I will return to the bookstore in the future to make some purchases. I will continue to get to know the conscious community in Dallas, but with the understanding that some people are still caught up in certain philosophies that sound good, which unfortunately allows them to be preyed upon by these conscious pimps such as what happened on last Saturday night. I am so glad that I have always had my own mind to decipher what the truth is and what I lie looks like when I see him or her.