Friday, May 28, 2010

Learning How To Learn

A student of a Sufi* order once asked his teacher:
“Some teachings say we should be disciplined and dedicated and some say we should be critical and objective. How can these two be reconciled?"

The teacher responded:
"In exactly the same way mathematics can be reconciled if one aspect of mathematical teaching says all right angles are 90 degrees, but Einstein says there is no such thing as a straight line. All lines are curved, hence there are no right angles.

You are mixing up two aspects of the same subject, understanding depends on the context in which you are working or the advancement of the student or both. If one can't adopt both disciplined and critical postures, both linear and holistic thinking, he will not be able to understand much of which must be perceived. The seeker is always balanced between rejection and faith."

In the same sense there is the false dichotomy between knowledge and action. (Right) action is knowledge. Usually it is not a matter of “either or” it is a matter of context and the level of the student.  A master reaches a point where he doesn't rely on books, but it would be foolish for him to teach his students they don’t need books, if they have not reached his level. 

As in nature, there are different stages and cycles unfolding constantly- and simultaneously. Some organisms are growing, some are dying, some functioning systems are developing out of random elements and some systems are slowly giving way to chaos.

Yet, one can master books but still not grasp true wisdom, because books cannot tell you... when. They cannot give you the sense of timing needed to act decisively given constantly changing circumstances. This is a gift that comes from within – a spark from the divine itself.
So, there are times to be dedicated and disciplined and times to be critical and objective; and wisdom will tell you ...when.

"There is no wisdom where there is no common sense." - Idries Shah

*Sufism is considered the inner or esoteric dimension of Islam, that exists beyond its sphere.
Sufi orders have thrived throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia for the past 12 centuries.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Set Up

“Therefore, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad says that this problem can be solved and solved forever just by sending our people back to our own homeland or back to our own people, but that this government should provide the transportation plus everything else we need to get started again in our own country. This government should give us everything we need in the form of machinery, material, and finance-enough to last for twenty to twenty-five years until we can become an independent people and an independent nation in our own land. He says that if the American government is afraid to send us back to our own country and to our own people, then America should set aside some separated territory right here in the Western hemisphere where the two races can live apart from each other, since we certainly don't get along peacefully while we are together.” - Malcolm X

Was this a vain or far-fetched request? Many years ago, one of the greatest proponents for separation was actually the “Great Emancipator” Abraham Lincoln. In fact Lincoln's idea of emancipation was based on it. Unfortunately however, it seems his plan was a set-up:

"In 1861-1862, there was widespread support among conservative Republicans and Democrats for the colonization abroad of Negroes emancipated by the war," historian James M. McPherson has noted. At the same time, free blacks in parts of the North were circulating a petition asking Congress to purchase a tract of land in Central America as a site for their resettlement.1
In spite of the pressing demands imposed by the war, Lincoln soon took time to implement his long-standing plan for resettling blacks outside the United States.
Ambrose W. Thompson, a Philadelphian who had grown rich in coastal shipping, provided the new president with what seemed to be a good opportunity. Thompson had obtained control of several hundred thousand acres in the Chiriqui region of what is now Panama, and had formed the "Chiriqui Improvement Company." He proposed transporting liberated blacks from the United States to the Central American region, where they would mine the coal that was supposedly there in abundance. This coal would be sold to the US Navy, with the resulting profits used to sustain the black colony, including development of plantations of cotton, sugar, coffee, and rice. The Chiriqui project would also help to extend US commercial dominance over tropical America.2
Negotiations to realize the plan began in May 1861, and on August 8, Thompson made a formal proposal to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells to deliver coal from Chiriqui at one-half the price the government was then paying. Meanwhile, Lincoln had referred the proposal to his brother-in-law, Ninian W. Edwards, who, on August 9, 1861, enthusiastically endorsed the proposed contract.3
Appointing a commission to investigate the Thompson proposal, Lincoln referred its findings to Francis P. Blair, Sr. Endorsing a government contract with the Chiriqui Improvement Company even more strongly than Edwards had, the senior Blair believed the main purpose of such a contract should be to utilize the area controlled by Thompson to "solve" the black question.

Eager to proceed with the Chiriqui project, on August 14, 1862, Lincoln met with five free black ministers, the first time a delegation of their race was invited to the White House on a matter of public policy. The President made no effort to engage in conversation with the visitors, who were bluntly informed that they had been invited to listen. Lincoln did not mince words, but candidly told the group:4
You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffers very greatly, many of them, by living among us, while ours suffers from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated.
... Even when you cease to be slaves, you are yet far removed from being placed on an equality with the white race ... The aspiration of men is to enjoy equality with the best when free, but on this broad continent, not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours. Go where you are treated the best, and the ban is still upon you.
... We look to our condition, owing to the existence of the two races on this continent. I need not recount to you the effects upon white men growing out of the institution of slavery. I believe in its general evil effects on the white race.
See our present condition -- the country engaged in war! -- our white men cutting one another's throats, none knowing how far it will extend; and then consider what we know to be the truth. But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or the other. Nevertheless, I repeat, without the institution of slavery, and the colored race as a basis, the war would not have an existence.
It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated.
An excellent site for black resettlement, Lincoln went on, was available in Central America. It had good harbors and an abundance of coal that would permit the colony to be quickly put on a firm financial footing. The President concluded by asking the delegation to determine if a number of freedmen with their families would be willing to go as soon as arrangements could be made.
Lincoln continued to press ahead with his plan to resettle blacks in Central America, in spite of opposition from all but one member of his own Cabinet, and the conclusion of a scientific report that Chiriqui coal was "worthless."5
Mounting opposition to any resettlement plan also came from abolitionists, who insisted that blacks had a right to remain in the land of their birth. In addition, some Republican party leaders opposed resettlement because they were counting on black political support, which would be particularly important in controlling a defeated South, where most whites would be barred from voting. Others agreed with Republican Senator Charles Sumner, who argued that black laborers were an important part of the national economy, and any attempt to export them "would be fatal to the prosperity of the country."6 In the (Northern) election campaign of November 1862, emancipation figured as a major issue. Violent mobs of abolitionists opposed those who spoke out in favor of resettlement.7
What proved decisive in bringing an end to the Chiriqui project, though, were emphatic protests by the republics that would be directly effected by large-scale resettlement. In Central America, the prospect that millions of blacks would soon be arriving provoked alarm. A sense of panic prevailed in Nicaragua and Honduras, the American consul reported, because of fears of "a dreadful deluge of negro emigration ... from the United States." In August and September, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica protested officially to the American government about the resettlement venture. (Objection from Costa Rica was particularly worrisome because that country claimed part of the Chiriqui territory controlled by Thompson.) So in the end, it appears that Abraham Lincoln was more interested in ridding or "freeing" the United States of black people and slavery than he was in freeing black people for their own benefit.

1. James M. McPherson, The Struggle for Equality (1964), p. 155.; A. Nevins, The War For The Union, volume II, "War Becomes Revolution, 1862-1863" (New York: 1960), p. 8 (fn. 12).
2. 36th Congress, 1st Session, House of Representatives, Report No. 568: Report of the Hon. F.H. Morse, of Maine, from the Committee on Naval Affairs, H.R. in Relation to the Contract made by the Secretary of the Navy for Coal and Other Privileges on the Isthmus of Chiriqui.; At that time, the Chiriqui region was part of New Granada.; On the Chiriqui project, see also: Paul J. Scheips, "Lincoln and the Chiriqui Colonization Project," The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 37, No. 4, (October 1952), pp. 418-420.; Nathaniel Weyl and William Marina, American Statesmen on Slavery and the Negro (1971), pp. 215-216.; Allan Nevins, The War For The Union, volume II, "War Becomes Revolution, 1862-1863" (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1960), p. 7.; R. P. Basler, ed., et al, The Collected Works Of Abraham Lincoln (1953), Vol. V, pp. 370-371 (note).
3. "Important Considerations for Congress," enclosure with Ninian W. Edwards to Abraham Lincoln, August 9, 1861. The Robert Todd Lincoln Collection of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln (Washington: Library of Congress, 1947 [194 volumes]), vol. 52, f. 11109. (Hereafter cited as Lincoln Collection.).; Also cited in: Paul J. Scheips, "Lincoln and the Chiriqui Colonization Project," The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 37, No. 4 (October 1952), pp. 420-421.
4. R. Basler, et al, Collected Works (1953), vol. V, pp. 370-375.; A record of this meeting is also given in: Nathaniel Weyl and William Marina, American Statesmen on Slavery and the Negro (1971), pp. 217-221.; See also: Paul J. Scheips, "Lincoln ... ," The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 428-430.
5. Joseph Henry to A. Lincoln, Sept. 5, 1862. Lincoln Collection (cited above), Vol. 86, ff. 18226-18227.; Paul J. Scheips, "Lincoln ... ," The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 37, No. 4 (1952), pp. 430-431.; Nathaniel Weyl and W. Marina, American Statesmen (1971), p. 224.; Gerstle Mack, The Land Divided (New York: 1944), p. 276.
6. Perley Poore, Reminiscences of Sixty Years in the National Metropolis (Philadelphia: 1866), II, pp. 107-108.
7. James L. Sellers, "James R. Doolittle," The Wisconsin Magazine of History, XVII (March 1934), pp. 302-304.

Friday, May 21, 2010

When The Waters Were Changed

When the Waters Were Changed

Al-Khidr*, the teacher of Moses, once called upon mankind with a warning. At a certain date, he said, all the water in the world which had not been specially preserved, would disappear. It would then be renewed, with different water, which would drive men mad. Only one man listened to the meaning of this advice. He collected water and went to a secure place where he stored it, and waited for the water to change its character.
On the appointed date the streams stopped running, the wells went dry, and the man who had listened, seeing this happening, went to his retreat and drank his preserved water. When he saw, from his security, the waterfalls again beginning to flow, this man descended among the other sons of men.
He found that they were thinking and talking in an entirely different way from before; yet they had no memory of what had happened, nor of having been warned. When he tried to talk to them, he realized that they thought that he was mad, and they showed hostility or compassion, not understanding.
At first, he drank none of the new water, but instead went back to his concealment, to draw on his supplies, every day.
Finally, however, he took the decision to drink the new water because he could not bear the loneliness of living, behaving and thinking in a different way from everyone else. He drank the new water, and became like the rest. Then he forgot all about his own store of special water, and his fellows began to look upon him as a normal, sane man who had miraculously been rescued from insanity.
~ Idriys Shah
* Al-Khidr, the Green One or the Green Light, also referred to as Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4), is known in tradition thoughout the East as the hidden initiator of the "Ancient Mystic Order".

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Malcolm X (Al-Hajj Malik Al Shabazz) May 19th 1925 - Feb. 22 1965

Many have tried to compare Martin Luther King to Malcom X and say King did more for black people than Malcolm did. However, Malcolm’s goal wasn’t to do for us. He wanted us to do for ourselves - and think for ourselves. So, if we still insist on making such a comparison we simply have to look in the mirror to see how successful his efforts were.

"The thing that has made the so-called Negro in America fail, more than any other thing, is your, my, lack of knowledge concerning history. We know less about history than anything else. We have black men who have mastered the field of medicine, we have black men who have mastered other fields, but very seldom do we have black men in America who have mastered the knowledge of the history of the black man himself."

"The so-called Negro are childlike people -- you're like children. No matter how old you get, or how bold you get, or how wise you get, or how rich you get, or how educated you get, the white man still calls you what? "Boy!" Why, you are a child in his eyesight! And you are a child. Anytime you have to let another man set up a factory for you and you can't set up a factory for yourself, you're a child; anytime another man has to open up businesses for you and you don't know how to open up businesses for yourself and your people, you're a child; anytime another man sets up schools and you don't know how to set up your own schools, you're a child. Because a child is someone who sits around and waits for his father to do for him what he should be doing for himself, or what he's too young to do for himself, or what he is too dumb to do for himself.

So the white man, knowing that here in America all the Negro has done -- I hate to say it, but it's the truth -- all you and I have done is build churches and let the white man build factories. You and I build churches and let the white man build schools. You and I build churches and let the white man build up everything for himself. Then after you build the church you have to go and beg the white man for a job, and beg the white man for some education. Am I right or wrong? Do you see what I mean? It's too bad but it's true."

The Black Man's History Speech, Dec., 1962.

Malcolm would have been 85 today.

"Not to know what happened before you were born is to be forever a child."
— Marcus Tullius Cicero

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Forefather

Dusé Muhammad Ali (November 21, 1866 - June 25, 1945) was most likely the source of the African conscious, independent view of the world we hold today. Were it not for him there probably would not have been a UNIA (Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association), a Nation of Islam, a Moorish Science Temple or any of the leaders and movements derived from these sources, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Gods and Earths, the Black Panthers, etc.
Disproving the general belief that no African ever took an interest in guiding and shaping the black community in America during our time of need and isolation, Ali worked extensively in our community educating and sharing his wisdom with all he could reach.

Duse Ali was born in Alexandria, Egypt, the son of a Sudanese mother and an Egyptian army officer. He was brought to London at a young age by one of his fathers" friends. Ali originally intended to take up the medical profession and had actually started on his medical studies when the news of his father's death came to him. Left to make his choice, he felt strongly the urge to write and also to go on the stage and so he left his medical studies, completing his studies at the University of London. He was known to be frequently in the company of Muhammad Pickthall, the English Muslim scholar who translated the Holy Qur’an into English.
Ali was a great authority on modern Egypt. He wrote In the Land of the Pharaohs, a history of modern Egypt, published in London and New York in 1911.

In July 1912 he founded in London the African Times and Orient Review, a political, cultural, and commercial journal that advocated Pan African-Asian nationalism and that was a forum for African intellectuals and activists from around the world. It drew the attention of a wide variety of contributors. Among the writers in the ATOR were George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Lord Lytton, Annie Besant, Sir Harry H. Johnston, and Marcus Garvey.
The journal covered issues in the United States, the Caribbean, West Africa, South Africa, and Egypt, as well as in Asia, including India, China, and Japan. Marcus Garvey, who was living in London at the time, briefly worked for Ali and contributed an article to the journal's October 1913 issue. It ceased publication in October 1918, succeeded by the African and Orient Review, which operated through most of 1920.

Besides Ali’s strong nationalist and Pan-Africanist views, he was an active proselytizer of Islam, having in 1926 established the Universal Islamic Society in Detroit, Michigan. It is said that this organization was the precursor to both Noble Drew Ali' s Moorish Sciene Temple and Wallace Fard Muhammad's Nation of Islam, and a source for their Islamic beliefs and information. This Islamic influence can be seen in Marcus Garvey's motto "One God, One Aim, One Destiny."

 ["Many pioneer Garveyites, including my grandfather, mentioned the fact that Mr. Garvey was inspired and taught by a Muslim and many said that he at times referred to Islam as the Black man's religion. Consider the Garveyite hymn and its Islamic wording in the first stanza: Father of all creation Allah Omnipotent Supreme O'er every nation God bless our President." ~Adib Rashad]

The lasting effects of Ali’s social and academic efforts are far-reaching, being seen in not only Garvey but in those whom Garvey was mentor to, such as Noble Drew Ali and Elijah Poole (who was reportedly involved with the UNIA's Detroit chapter before joining the Nation of Islam and becoming Elijah Muhammad). Both of Malcolm X’s parents were also members of UNIA. A continuum of claims and beliefs can be found among these movements and their leaders, such as black pride, the idea of a land base, and return to the original way of life.

Ali had come to the United States to promote his vision of economic Pan Africanism, seeking to set up a commercial link between West Africans and US Africans. In the 1920s he repeatedly but unsuccessfully tried to secure US African financing to enable West African produce farmers to secure markets and exports to the United States, wresting control from major British firms, such as Lever Brothers. In the 1930s he tried to gain Euro-American capital for the same purpose.

He died at the age of 78 following a protracted illness in the African Hospital, Lagos, Nigeria on June 25, 1945. His funeral was attended by a large group of sympathizers numbering well over 5,000 consisting of people from various walks of life including political, social and religious leaders. Though curiously, barely known and heralded, Duse Ali's vision and ideas remain alive and continue to inspire to this day.

For more, see Inner Civilization: Redevoloping Black Culture and Civilization in America

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Three Isolated Incidents

Isaac Woodard - Woodard, born in Fairfield County, South Carolina, grew up in Goldsboro, North Carolina. He enlisted in the United States Army on October 14, 1942 at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina and served in the Pacific Theater. He earned a battle star, for unloading ships under fire in New Guinea, and a Good Conduct Medal, in addition to the Service medal and World War II Victory Medal. He received an honorable discharge.

On February 13, 1946 he was on a Greyhound Lines bus traveling from camp to his family in North Carolina. Woodard asked the bus driver if there was time for him to use a restroom. The driver grudgingly acceded to the request after an argument with Woodard. Once the stop was completed, Woodard returned to his seat without incident, and the bus departed. The bus then stopped, the driver contacted the local police (including Chief of Police Linwood Shull), who forcibly removed Woodard from the bus. After demanding to see his discharge papers, a group of police officers, including Shull, took him to a nearby alleyway, where they proceeded to beat him repeatedly with nightsticks. Woodard was then taken to the town jail and arrested for disorderly conduct.
During the course of the night in jail, Shull blinded Woodard. In Woodard's own court testimony, he indicated that he was punched in the eyes several times on the way to the jail, and later repeatedly jabbed in his eyes with a Billy club. Despite newspaper accounts indicating that Woodard's eyes had been "gouged out", historical documents indicate that each bulb was ruptured irreparably in the socket.
A short investigation ensued, and on October 2, Shull and several of his officers were indicted in U.S. District Court in Columbia, South Carolina. By all accounts, the trial was a travesty. The local U.S. Attorney charged with handling the case failed to interview anyone except the bus driver. On November 5, after thirty minutes of deliberation, Shull was found innocent on all charges despite his admission that he had blinded Woodard. The courtroom broke into applause upon hearing the verdict. Shull died in Batesburg, South Carolina on December 27, 1997 at the age of 95.
Isaac Woodard moved North after the incident and lived in the greater New York City metropolitan area for the rest of his life. He died in the Veterans Administration Hospital in the Bronx on September 23, 1992 at the age of 73.

Jimmy Lee Jackson - Jimmie Lee Jackson was a deacon of the St. James Baptist Church in Marion, Alabama, ordained in the summer of 1964. On the night of February 18, 1965, around 500 people left Zion United Methodist Church in Marion and attempted a peaceful walk to the Perry County Jail about a half a block away where young Civil Rights worker James Orange was being held. The marchers planned to sing hymns and return to the church. Police later stated they believed the crowd was planning a jailbreak.
They were met by a line of Marion City police officers and Alabama State Troopers. In the standoff, streetlights were abruptly turned off (some sources say they were shot out by the police), and the police began to beat the protestors. Among those beaten were two United Press International photographers, whose cameras were smashed, and NBC News correspondent Richard Valeriani, who was beaten so badly that he was hospitalized. The marchers turned and scattered back towards the church.
Twenty-six-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson, his mother Viola Jackson, and his 82-year-old grandfather, Cager Lee, ran into Mack's Café behind the church, pursued by Alabama State Troopers. Police clubbed Cager Lee to the floor in the kitchen. The police continued to beat the cowering octogenarian Lee, and when his daughter Viola attempted to pull the police off, she was also beaten. When Jimmie Lee attempted to protect his mother, one trooper threw him against a cigarette machine. A second trooper shot Jimmie Lee twice in the abdomen. James B. Fowler later admitted to being that trooper. Although shot twice, Jimmie Lee fled the café amid additional blows from police clubs and collapsed in front of a bus station. After his death, an administrator at Good Samaritan Hospital, said there were powder burns on Mr. Jackson's abdomen, indicating that he was shot at very close range.

A grand jury declined to indict Fowler in September 1965, identifying him only by his surname: Fowler.
On 10 May 2007, 42 years after the crime, Fowler was charged with first degree and second degree murder for the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson and surrendered to authorities.

Bobby Hutton, or "Lil' Bobby," - was the first to join the newly formed Black Panther Party for Self Defense. He was only 16 years old when he joined but already believed in the ideals that Seale and Newton had outlined in the Ten-Point Program; he was dedicated to serving his community.
On April 6, 1968, Oakland police ambushed a carload of BPP members on a side street. After running from police and hiding in a basement a shootout ensued between the Police and Eldridge Cleaver and Hutton. After tear gas was released in the basement, Cleaver and Hutton surrendered. Cleaver was shot in the leg during the shoot out. After their surrender, they were told to run to a nearby police car. Cleaver said he couldn’t run because of his leg. Little Bobby ran five steps until the police shot him more than a dozen times in the back (after he had surrendered and had stripped down to his underwear to prove that he was unarmed.)