Black Community Challenged From Within

The poster is meant to shock and spark conversation, and it might be coming to a barbershop near you.

The poster features a hooded Ku Klux Klansman with the words “Die Nigger!” stamped across his forehead, white men at a lynching and the mutilated face of Emmett Till at the top. The bottom half of the poster similarly features a masked man. But this man is black.

The poster goes on to depict another black man standing with a gun pointed at the dead body of another black man, then a family crying over a dead loved one, and another black man behind bars. Emblazoned across the middle of the poster are the words “Die Nigga!”

“A different time, a different method, a different color,” the words on the poster read. “The same result.” Those last three words float over a cemetery.

Michael Jefferson, founder of the Kiyama Movement, said that the poster is designed to spark “courageous conversation” about the alarming rate at which black people kill other black people. And keep the conversation on that problem until it changes. His vision focuses on reaching the potential victims of such killings—young black men—in a place where nearly all of them go from the time they are about 1 or 2 years old, the barbershop.

The poster is part of a “Respect for Life” campaign, which is based on the first of five principles that guide Kiyama and those who participate in the soon to be 12-year-old movement that was founded on the 80th anniversary of Malcolm X’s birth.

Jefferson knows he’s going a bit against the grain. In a time when people are daily battling against the shooting and killing of unarmed black and brown men and women by police and trying to hold law enforcement accountable for their action—one such shooting recently took the life of 15-year-old Jayson Negron in Bridgeport—the narrative about black-on-black crime has fallen out of favor.

Activists often say that bringing up violence in the black community oversimplifies the complex problems that lead to that violence and muddies the water when attempting to hold police accountable. They also have argued that raising the specter of black-on-black crime perpetuates the idea that police don’t have to respect black life if black people don’t respect their own lives.

Jefferson told a room of about 50 people gathered at Gateway Community College Tuesday evening that two quests can coexist: Black folks can still fight for equal treatment under the law and hold police accountable, while simultaneously making an internal effort to establish community values and norms that address violence.

“What we want to be clear about is when we talk about us, we don’t want to sit around and have conversations that delve into what the police are doing to us,” Jefferson said. “We know what the police are doing to us. We know what white folks in the dominant culture have done to us and will continue to do to us. We need to focus on us. That’s key for us. That’s absolutely key.”

Jefferson, an active member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., said that doesn’t mean he’s not a supporter of the work of the NAACP or the Black Lives Matter movement, which are on the front lines of fighting against police brutality and protecting civil rights. He does support that work. But he also believes intra-community work needs to be done for individual and collective improvement, particularly with young people, on challenges from preventing littering to treating women with respect.

“I support and admire the Black Lives Matter movement,” he said. “I’m a staunch supporter of them. They are confronting state-sponsored violence against black people in this country. That is an important role for them to play and we have to honor that. And so many people keep saying they need to talk about the violence in the black community. Well maybe someone else should. Let them do that. The NAACP is there to protect the gains that we’ve made and prevent the rolling back of those gains. That’s what the NAACP does. So Kiyama, we’re focusing on self-improvement. And we’re certainly not the first.”

Kiyama’s aim of self-improvement, pride in self and heritage, and respect for one’s community follow in the long historical footsteps and work of black nationalists leaders like Marcus Garvey and Elijah Muhammed of the Nation of Islam. And Jefferson said such a movement is needed now more than ever given that the rate of homicide in the black community is 17 per 100,000, while the rate in the white community and nationally is 2.5 and 5 per 100,000, respectively.

“Leave Black Lives Matter alone,” he said. “Let them do what they have to do. The NAACP, let them do what they have to do. In fact, join them. Send them some money. We all have a role to play.”

He said Kiyama’s role is to drive the conversation about black-on-black crime and to do something about it. “We don’t want to talk about gunning each other down,” he said. “The minute a police officer shoots a black kid we’re marching in the street. It’s happening in Bridgeport right now. That’s fine. We should be marching. But when we kill each other the are no marches. That’s not normal behavior.”

Jefferson said he’s not looking for marches, but changed behavior. And it starts with young people. Not older people telling young people what to do, but young people leading the conversation as peer mentors and leaders on their high school and college campuses.

He and Kermit Carolina, who promotes youth development for New Haven Public Schools, have already been meeting with students to further establish Kiyama circles, cabinets, and student councils that engage in self-improvement activities and projects that improve their community. One such project by Kiyama students at Hillhouse High School went viral after a video about the project was shared by Now This Her. it received 9.1 million views on social media like Facebook and was featured on other sites like Yahoo! and Teen Vogue.

Carolina summed up the efforts by saying that Kiyama is about promoting a particular value system among black people in general and young black people in particular that he believes could stop the violence that is perpetuated in the community.

Jefferson said he’d like to see the posters not just in barbershops but possibly schools too. School Board member Ed Joyner said he thinks it can happen if a school version is designed.

“I don’t think kids should be deluded into thinking that this never happened,” he said. “I was 7 years old when Emmett Till was killed, and I remember my parents showing me his picture in Jet magazine. I believe everything on that poster should be presented to young people.”

Joyner said that the n-word is the most horrible word in the English language, but he’d like to see a poster in schools that challenges the notion that somehow the use of the word can be made palatable by dropping the -er and adding a.

“I had a good relationship with Chuck D [of legendary rap group Public Enemy], who asked how hip-hop in a few years could erase centuries of a word used to demean an entire people,” he said.

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posted by: westville man on May 17, 2017  1:50pm

I just donated a substantial sum to this courageous and worthy program and movement.  100% goes to Kiyama.  Attorney Jefferson has put his heart, soul, energy and personal resources into this.  It is brilliant and revolutionary. I strongly encourage others to give what they can.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 17, 2017  2:37pm

Well, this is a little different than that appropriated image of Emmet Till that wound up at the Whitney Biennial this year….

posted by: Brutus2011 on May 17, 2017  6:02pm

Absent from the above article is any mention of alcoholism that afflicts many.

This scourge ravages without regard to education or neighborhood or even power in the community.

Fire water, weed. and hard drugs undermine communities and contribute to a host of other problems.

The n-word?

Please ... how many bid wist or spade games have been played where we n-this and n-that while we enjoy a social game. One of my favorite enduring memories was the bid wist games we played in the hallways of James Hall at Hampton U. Of course, white people can’t use it, but we have been using the n-word for decades. So, please ....

Tackle something real ... like identifying sell-outs who strut about in their suit and ties while claiming black and smooching DeStefano’s and the like’s behind… and don’t dare tell me I don’t understand New Haven’s politics ..

Yeah, that’s right, I said it publicly ... After Trumkkkp’s b.s., I’m ready to rock ....

posted by: Dwightstreeter on May 17, 2017  6:19pm

It was sad to hear people in Bridgeport talk about black on black crime when they should’ve been focused on the cops shooting of 2 young men and the murder of one.
People experience crime where they live mostly and if you live in a segregated neighborhood, it’s your neighbors you have to deal with.
Same thing in a white neighborhood - but of course only if it’s poor because poverty and crime go together. Nothing new here.
But to focus on this non-issue of black on black crime, a distraction to keep you from talking about the lack of good paying jobs ($3.14 for some kitchen workers at Hamden Townhouse) or segregated housing or not being able to get a mortgage or the high cost of medical care - I don’t get it.
Stop blaming each other and get mad at the system that created and maintains inequities.

posted by: westville man on May 17, 2017  7:55pm

Brutus. I’ve always respected your posts and your knowledge. But I don’t think you’ve gone to the Kiyama website and read through it. Much of what you talk about is there as well.  This is very real. More real than the trite stuff many folks talk about   If you do read through it and feel the same, then I’ll be disappointed.  Had you wrong then

posted by: Brutus2011 on May 18, 2017  5:30pm

to “westville”

I went to the website and found in the 5 Principles absolute agreement.

I commend the movement and its founder for their efforts on our community’s, and others as well, behalf.

I suppose my post can be interpreted as attacking the movement, but that was not my intent.

If you were to review the totality of my posts, not that anyone would lol, I think you would find that I have been consistent in my calling for our leaders to stop the cow-pucky, etc.

Thank you for encouraging me to read the website.

posted by: Bill Saunders on May 18, 2017  9:05pm

Westville Man,

Thank you also for pointing me to the website. 
I was seriously impressed.

I think teaching accountability, respect (especially to women), education and other values, while having a support system in place that nurtures those principles, is a strong model for change from within.  The big changes start at the bottom, not the top.

I think the leaders of this movement are intelligent men who have a vision with potentially great direct impact.

I wish them Great Success!!!!

posted by: Realmom21 on May 19, 2017  8:31am

I support and agree with Mike and Kermit but here is a question that NEEDs an HONEST answer .When do the parents of these young males that are out here fight,robbing ,shooting one another start taking ownership of not having raised their children to respect and value their own lives and those of others? Its always someone elses fault, its the system , the cops, its the teachers, its its its..NO its you MOM , DAD, GRANDPARENTS ,aunts ,uncles cousins.We were raised to act right when we walked out of the house. You knew better than to go out with intentions of doing wrong .out of fear of your parents,out of fear of your village. The neighbor, aunties,the friends parent, librarian, the ice cream truck driver every one of them was a support system to parents. Instead everyone that gets shot and or killed has a OH he was changin his life around,he was a good friend, father to all four of his babies mothers and children. Lets be real NO he wasnt good because if he was good he would have been being productive , he would not have been running with who he was running with, he would have been w his children putting them to bed better yet not having ones he couldnt support, doing homework, playing hoops not out in the street .Now parents go to school and curse out teachers for telling them what their child has done wrong.Until the structure of the home is fixed, until babies stop making babies.. until parents spend more time at home than in the bar… these wanna be adults are going to keep doing what they are doing and that is following what entertainment supports as a way of life.
Riding in stolen cars is NOT OK !NEVER HAS BEEN NEVER WILL BE..when your children disrespect you,your house , your rules what makes you think they are going out into the world and respecting any authority. Police go to homes regularly because Jonnie stole this or he was fighting his mom brother cousin babies mother but you honestly believe that when he encounters an officer that he is going respect

posted by: westville man on May 19, 2017  10:35am

Realmom21-  you will be happy to know that the movement and website deals directly with that issue substantially.  I urge you to read through the website- it is very detailed.

posted by: Seth Poole on May 19, 2017  10:38am

Props to the Kiyama Movement!  Please share events so that we can properly get the word to the streets.

Realmom21, I agree with you wholeheartedly.  It will take the community to call out these families to check their children, or allow the community to check them.  There is way too much system involvement in the lives of Black and Brown folks.  We let it happen to ourselves in favor of fast money and good times that are a flash in the pan.

We need courage.  The courage to take it to the porch of these families to check these behaviors without the involvement of “the authorities.”  If we want our village back, we must be neighbors again.  Otherwise, all we have is the “Hood” and the authorities to govern it.

Mike and Kerm, lets get the word out.  I’m down!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 19, 2017  4:22pm

posted by: Realmom21 on May 19, 2017 8:31am

I support and agree with Mike and Kermit but here is a question that NEEDs an HONEST answer .When do the parents of these young males that are out here fight,robbing ,shooting one another start taking ownership of not having raised their children to respect and value their own lives and those of others?

First to answer your question. In the Words of H.Rap Brown.Violence is as American as cherry pie.Understand. Blacks kill Blacks the same reasons why Italians kill Italians, Polish kill Polish, Irish kill Irish, Latino kill Latino and ect… (money, gang activity, jealousy, crime, extortion, and many other worthless/foolish reasons.People kill each other period. It’s been the case for thousands and thousands of years.In fact Black on Black crime is a label placed on for menticidal purposes.The majority of crimes committed, and this includes white folk, are committed against those that look like themselves.Please don’t allow the media to trick you into thinking white folk don’t kill other white folk, Asian folk don’t kill other Asians, etc.Let a mob boss get sick of his uncle runnin shxxt. Some disgruntled young white boy will go into a school in his own neighborhood and wipe out half the population,The Russian Mafia referred to as Bratva (brothers and/or brotherhood), In Brooklyn New York do each other in Brighton Beach. It ain’t just us Black folks.We’re the only ones the media focuses on.As far as dealing with this problem.We are not going to save everyone.As MARCUS GARVEY said.We do not want to take all Negros back to Africa . Some are no good here, and naturally will be no good there. The no good Negro will die off, and yield his place to the progressive Negro who wants a society and country of his own.As Elijah Muhammad said start with the believers and the rest will follow.Kudos to Kiyama.