Saturday, June 24, 2017

The 46th Annual Show and Prove

Photo Credit: FadPhotography [Instagram]

   Every second weekend in June we [the Five Percent Nation] hold our Annual Science and Educational Show and Prove at the Harriet Tubman School in Harlem, NY [Public School 154]. June 11th, 2017 marked our 46th Annual Event. The first Show and Prove took place on June 13th, 1971 at Harlem Prep following a December 4th, 1970 dance that was organized six months earlier in Queens, NY [AKA: The Oasis in the Desert]. I mention this dance because it was the first collective gathering of Five Percenters since the assassination of The Father [Allah] one year earlier on June 13th, 1969 and the spark to ignite the Science and Educational Show and Prove. This annual youth-centric event was established to celebrate The Father's legacy through showcasing the contributions and accomplishments of our family members who are building upon this legacy. Founded by several young Five Percenters such as Allah B, Prince Allah, God Supreme, Dumar, Gykee, Takesha, LuAsia and others, the Show and Prove highlighted a youth science and educational fair and has expanded over the years to include a marketplace, food vendors, speeches, performances, and a Meet & Greet/Cook Out the day before. The largest single gathering of Five Percenters each year, the first Show and Prove on June 13th, 1971 was said to have over 2,000 people, most of them youth, in attendance. The first Show and Prove I attended was 20 years ago in 1997. Since that time some things have changed and some things have remained the same. Some for the better, and some for the worst.

   Because I usually travel to the Show and Prove the night before I'm often the first person to arrive at the Allah School In Mecca in the morning. When an Elder God arrived to open up the school he recognized me immediately and informed me that I could sit behind the desk and answer any incoming phone calls. "I know you're more than qualified to sit there" he said, as he walked through the rest of the school to check it out. As others began to arrive I was given a tour of our current storefront renovations by Cee Aaquil Allah who is managing the project and also serves on the Show and Prove Organizing Committee as the event's lead organizer. From what I've seen thus far these modern updates are going to be an excellent addition to support our school and the surrounding community. Next I had an opportunity to build with the God Unique who coordinates the computer lab. He has a background in computer science and shared with me a program he built that instructs its user in our cultural curriculum using integrated audio, images and eventually video. For example, a child can click on our 1st degree in the Student Enrollment "Who is the Original Man?" and a pre-recorded voice will then recite the question and answer of that lesson. That pre-recorded audio file could be that child's voice or another Five Percenter's voice -such as an elder Unique had the opportunity to record who is no longer with us. I was honored to archive my voice reciting the 5th degree in the 1-14's; the lesson where I got my righteous name 'Saladin' from. I spoke extensively with the God on its current and potential applications in relationship to my work in early childhood development and pre-teen/teen programming and look forward to using it as a resource at my Atlantis School For Gifted Youngsters. After building with a few brothers/sisters who began to arrive I walked around the corner to the Harriet Tubman School to meet back up with Cee Aaquil and other volunteers to help prepare for the Show and Prove.

Photo Credit: FadPhotography [Instagram]

   When I became more publicly active as a Five Percenter I began to travel to the Show and Prove each year to volunteer. This experience has given me a unique perspective of what we can do to enhance the event. At the top of that list is VOLUNTEERS! We need more people who are willing and able to do more to add-on. A call is put out every year from the Show and Prove Organizing Committee for VOLUNTEERS and not enough people have been adding on. Willfully more people will be available to assist next year and in the future!

   Although many people come for the celebrity performances, our marketplace has become one of the focal points of the Show and Prove and a potential garden bed for our Nation's economic development. Because I'm an author, people always ask me if I brought any books to sell and encourage me to bring them next year if I didn't. Although I appreciate that support, I inform them that I just came to help out. I've just always seen the Show and Prove in its traditional sense; a youth-centered science and educational fair, not a personal money making opportunity. Now don't get me wrong, the inclusion of a marketplace is an excellent "addition" to our event yet it should not be the primary reason some of us come there. Some people use the motto, "we need to support each other" as their reasoning for selling or buying something during this event. I can understand that because as I mentioned, this is the largest single gathering of the Five Percent each year. I also understand that this opportunity to truly "support each other" requires more than a "I sell something and you buy it" business model. 7-Eleven and Walmart also sells us something and we buy it, so how are we any different? We need to ask ourselves: How do any of these financial transactions mutually empower both parties? As entrepreneurs we must consistently ask ourselves: What are we doing to show people that we're not just digging in their pockets like 7-Eleven and Walmart? Is our business consistently known for doing giveaways for our products/services? Are we known for donating money and/or our sweat equity to support programs, projects and initiatives? Are we actually employing people making a livable wage? 

   In my article Cultural Capital in a Post Obama America I explained our economy based upon Cultural Capital: "a network of relationships and resources rooted in shared customs, principles and values that mark a people's way of life. It's defined by reciprocity, trust and the cooperation of group members who systematically share and maintain the same resources and cultural interests. Thus this system of shared resources and cultural interests existed before money and is ultimately rooted in our relationships." What this economy looks like in a Jewish Community is a Jewish man being given store credit by the Jewish store owner and being told to pay for the groceries when he gets paid since he didn't have enough money right now. What this looks like in an Chinese Community is a Chinese woman receiving interest-free loans from three neighbors to help start her business instead of going to a bank. What this looks like in an Italian Community is Italian business owners consistently purchasing sports team uniforms, donating back to school supplies and giving away scholarships to youth. In all of these examples it's not about the money, it's about how people treat one another. Some may argue that they don't have enough to even do this or they're just a small business. Keep in mind that some of the examples of cooperative economics and collective work and responsibility I shared above were done during the Great Depression and other times in America when people had a fraction of what many of us have today. While many Five Percenters who operate a business are fair and understand that the highest value lies in our relationships, I've heard horror stories of some of us taking pre-order money for products/services and then giving people the runaround or a nasty attitude because they inquired why their order still hadn't arrived in over a month. To add insult to injury, these customers were not even offered anything for the poor service and inconvenience. This is completely unacceptable and this westernized mentality of capitalizing off of people, especially our people, must stop if we're ever going to build an economy that supports national consciousness, community control and peace. 

Photo Credit: FadPhotography [Instagram]

   Something I've also noticed at the Show and Prove is the growing number of street vendors setting up outside of the Harriet Tubman School to sell their products/services instead of vending inside of the event
. If we want to vend outside of the Show and Prove event then I think it's appropriate to contact a member of our Show and Prove Organizing Committee to inquire about a street vendor fee; a donation that will help support the services at the Allah School In Mecca. Whether vending inside or outside, to support true economic development we need to change a hand to mouth trajectory of trying to get individually paid. Again, some of us think that we have so little that we really can't give like that. Keep in mind that when we each give a little, we will all have a lot. This sense of collectivism, self sacrifice and protecting ones cultural interests has allowed other people to survive and thrive under similar circumstances. Next year I would love to see more youth vendors and a commitment from inside and outside adult vendors to have a youth vending with them. I'd also love to see more youth oriented products/services for sale at our marketplace. Lastly, I would like to see adults committing to a donation that goes towards an Annual Show and Prove Youth Scholarship and a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place cash prize for youth participating in the science and educational fair. I think that it's a fair investment in our future generations.

Out of all of the years I've attended the Show and Prove, this is the first year I felt an overwhelming sense of genuine support and acknowledgement for what I've been doing to publicly represent our culture. I've felt it in the past yet this year was different. It made me feel very proud that old and young alike look upon the work I do as some evidence of what we are. All of the support I received let me know that I'm appreciated and it encouraged me to do even more to make sure that our national activity, narrative and image remains right and exact. So I want to say THANK YOU to each and every one of you whom I had an opportunity to meet and reconnect with. 


Monday, June 05, 2017

13 Ways To Survive Living In Chicago

   In my STYA After School Program recently some of my students were putting me on to some of their favorite Rappers, most who came from Chicago. I began to recognize a pattern beyond the Drill style rap music and gritty lyrics; many of these young rappers were no longer here. Song after song my students would share with me the gruesome tale behind these young men getting murdered. Since 2014 there's been dozens of young Chicago rappers, many of them teenagers, whose blood was spilled in the streets. 

   In 2016 there were 762 murders in the city of Chicago; the total leading number of murders in the United States with the majority being black men under forty years of age. According to the number of murders reported to the FBI based upon cities with a population of 25,000 residents and above, Chicago Heights, IL was ranked #30 on the list of murder capitals of the world in 2016. Places like Birmingham Alabama, Myrtle Beach South Carolina, Riviera Beach Florida and twenty-five other cities outranked Chicago Heights as murder capitals. For the second year in a row East St. Louis was ranked #1 with a crime index of 3%, meaning it's only safer than 3% of the cities in the United States. Chicago Heights was safer than 15% of the cities in the United States. 

   Whenever we're looking at statistics like this, coupled with sensationalized news stories, some of us could easily get the impression that Chicago is 1980's Beirut or the present day West Bank. While there is definitely a disproportionate amount of violence going on in some Chicago communities in comparison to other communities that are the same size, it's also important to keep in mind that a white person is about six times more likely to be killed by another white person than somebody black. The media's lack of coverage on this white on white violence is virtually nonexistent in comparison to its obsessive compulsion of black on black violence. Considering that propaganda we still cannot dismiss the narrative of those who live and have grown up in Chicago who see this carnage. I've lived there myself for a few months on the South Side, South Lowe to be exact, back in the early 2000's. Since that time, and with it's growing poverty and community deterioration, it's gotten much worst. Depending upon Politicians to fix it is equivalent to expecting Physicians to help regulate Big Pharma. There's no silver bullet and it requires a concerted effort of grassroots initiatives of dedicated community members to change the culture of violence in Chicago and transform its socioeconomic landscape. In the meantime, these Changemakers must survive in order to have an opportunity to strive. Here is something one of my sister's named Tanya shared that highlights some basic rules for how to survive in Chicago. Tanya is a professional hairstylist that was born, raised and currently resides in Chicago:

1. Don't sit in cars kicking it.
2. Get EVERYTHING you need and get to your destination.
3. Keep your eyes and ears open! Watch your surrounding instead of running your mouth.
4. Know who you're hanging with and what they're up to.

5. Google numbers, order your food ahead of time don't sit in local spots.
6. Track the bus if you have to ride it. That bus stop stuff is dead. Also if it does not look safe always walk a block up.
7. Don't be listening to your headphones, you gotta hear stuff.
8. Don't sit and watch when people getting rowdy KEEP IT MOVING!!
9. If you get into a confrontation assess your situation first before you snap. You never know what a person got on them. Forget being tough. Make it back home.
10. If something don't look right trust your instinct. If you hear gun shots get down quickly until it stops.
11. Don't loiter in front of the house like an easy target!! Don't run unless someone is shooting at you.
12. When in public, keep your face out of your phone, and your phone out of your face. Keep that $500 object hidden. Period.
13. Don't mix BEING CAUTIOUS with BEING SCARY. Forget what somebody thinks, make it back home to your FAMILY!!!!

   Although these survival tips relate to communities in Chicago, they are also applicable to other communities around the country and internationally. I've been to hoods in Canada these tips apply to as well. It's also worth mentioning that from 1980 to 2008, 53.3% of gang-homicides were committed by white offenders and 56.3% of gang-homicide victims were white according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. This means that there are communities that are predominately white and poor where these survival tips also apply. In fact, black people, especially males, need to follow these survival tips in any predominately white communities that are poor and especially when they're affluent. Historically there's been countless examples of blacks being racially profiled, harassed, criminalized, incarcerated, assaulted and murdered simply because they were in a white person's neighborhood.