10 New Year’s Resolutions for Blackfolk to move on collectively
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And just like that, 2023 is knocking on our door. And as usual, folk are starting to make their New Year’s resolutions. To that end, I want to suggest something different; some collective resolutions we could do together. Now, I’m not saying we all have to do all these suggested 2023 “Things To Do.” But I am offering them up as a starting point for us to collectively think about; and to think about our New Year’s goals in a way that takes into account “I am because we are; and because we are, therefore I am.” The 10 ideas listed below are numbered, but they are in no certain order. They’re ideas… suggestions for actions we can take to make our individual and corporate lives a little better. Let me know what you think… and what you think we should add to the list.

Join a Service Organization/Movement – Though many have made “praise” the highest form of religious life, I beg to differ. I contend that service is the highest praise. Hell, anybody can praise. Praise doesn’t take much. But not everyone is willing to serve; to do for others, to preach good news to the poor, offer recovery of sight to the blind and work towards liberation for those in chains. Incredibly, that’s exactly what Jesus was all about. Service. And his brother James emphasized that, saying “Faith (he could have very easily said Praise) without works (service) is not only dead, it’s quite dead.” What skills, passions, drives do you have? Those things can lead you to ways you can serve others and work towards the greater human good.

Connect with Our Ancestors – For some odd reason, we’ve allowed the same people who told us we had no history; who told us our foremothers and forefathers were ignorant savages; who told us the people of ancient Africa were just sitting around like empty vessels oblivious of all knowledge, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for Europeans to come civilize them… that it was unholy and heathen of us to celebrate and venerate our ancestors, AND WE BELIEVED THEM! Lord, have mercy. Manhattan University scholar Dr. Jawanza Eric Clark’s book Indigenous Black Theology deals with the way Black Christian formation (the way we were mistaught Christianity by those who enslaved us) has convinced us to accept Eurocentric Christian doctrines that justify and even encourage anti-African sentiment, including turning our backs on our ancestors. However, noted griot Malidoma Some and others argue the opposite point, saying we as Blackfolk will never be fully whole until we reconnect with the ancient practice of recognizing our ancestors (those loved ones who have passed away) as part of our ongoing reality, our ongoing community. It’s time we resolve to get back to that.

Relearn civics – We’ve seen the dangers of masses of people who know little or nothing about civics—education about government and the responsibilities of “We the people.” Without an understanding of civics, masses of people can be told any insane garbage and led to overthrow a U.S. election based on racist fear-mongering. Such a tyrannical move depended on its people being dumb as bricks, or at least pretty much oblivious to basic civics. Back in the day, civics was a required class that helped pass down this idea of a collective good to which we all had to contribute. We contributed by paying our fair share of taxes, recognizing that they were used for things we as a society depend on—roads, libraries, etc. We contributed by voting for folk to represent our interests. We contributed by then holding those elected officials accountable, recognizing that our job wasn’t done simply by casting a ballot. There was a time when the wealthiest in this country paid the highest percentage of income in taxes, and they did it with no complaint, because they knew their wealth was dependent on the work and services and roads etc. that were collectively invested in by “We the people.” When civics education went by the wayside, so much of our role in keeping this thing going (or changing it the way it needs to be changed) got lost. Learning and teaching basic civics can go a long way in helping us to regain self-determining control of our neighborhoods, our politics, our economic, our education, etc.

Make Teaching Our Story a priority – Like voting, if information about our history wasn’t important to our well-being, folk who don’t like us wouldn’t invest all the time, energy and resources into blocking us from accessing it. But it shouldn’t take the efforts of why-people on a mission to destroy “critical race theory” (the term they’re using to basically mean all Black history, Black thought and Black opinions of current realities) to recognize the importance of learning and teaching “Our Story.” One of the most fundamental spiritual teachings ever were the words found inscribed above the entrance to the African Mystery Systems in ancient Kemet (Egypt); words that found their way into the texts of all the world’s major religions. Those words: “Man/Woman, know thyself.” If you don’t know who you are, know your history, your story, and the story of your people… if you don’t feel good about who you are in your own skin, the skin God placed you in, then you’ve lost the game before it even starts. Not knowing your history, your culture, your heroes and sheroes, your people’s great accomplishments and worst mistakes, is, according to countless scriptures, almost the worst move any person can make. Studies have shown that Black and Brown K-thru-college students improve on everything (grades, attendance, attitude, etc.) when they are exposed to their history. Psychologists and counselors have witnessed patient after patient experience mental and emotional healing by getting in tune with their story. Representation matters. Refusing to see the vital nature of this commitment right here is just downright negligence in terms of our own personal care and the well-being of those in our charge (children, students, congregants, etc.).

Invest in Black businesses, Black communities, Black people – No one is coming to save us but us. So, let’s act like it and invest our dollars into Black businesses that are the main economic engines for our communities.

Stop saying “By Any Means Necessary” if you don’t mean it – We are a people who love to quote those folk we hold in high regard. We’ve quoted and tweeted “I have a dream” to death. Never mind that most of us can’t name Dr. King’s plan for creating economic equity, his position on gun ownership or his assessment of the Black Power Movement. Similarly, we repeat one of Brother Malcolm’s most known statements, “By any means necessary,” on darn near any and every occasion. We wear it on t-shirts and post on social media 24/7. But do we believe it? So often, those same folk who quote Malcolm will then turn their noses up on Blackfolk who are doing something a different way, taking a different path. We’ll even call others out of their names if they are working strategies we might disagree with. Some Blackfolk assume any sister or brother dressed “professionally” or rocking straight hair is less progressive, less down for the cause, and thus needing to be dismissed or ignored. If that’s how we’re rolling, we really don’t believe “By any means necessary,” we believe “By my means only.” And we’ve got too much work to do in too many areas to think that any one of us has the insights and wherewithal to bring solutions to all the problems that are blocking true Black freedom, empowerment and self-determination. So, let’s resolve to either stop quoting Malcolm’s words or move to have more respect for each other’s ways and strategies for moving our people forward. Because folk who are violently anti-Black not only believe in “By any means necessary,” they live it, and are willing to do anything, including 1) throw out “their” US Constitution, 2) dismiss “their” idolized democracy, 3) suppress for millions “their” precious democratic right to vote and 4) sanction political violence while still professing to be the party of law and order to get their way.

Hold ourselves to a higher standard – As we move into the new year, let’s all resolve to hold ourselves as individuals and hold each other collectively to a higher standard. Just about every Black sister and brother know the name Nelson Mandela. However, only a handful have heard the name Steve Biko. Both gave their lives to topple the racist apartheid regime in South Africa that relegated Black South Africans to third-class citizenship status, with the white Africaaners on “top” and the Coloured (the South African term for mixed-race folk) as the buffer group. Mandela’s strategy was to shine the spotlight of how whites were mistreating Blacks, and calling for whites to change their ways. Biko took a different route. Biko believed that if South Africa’s Blacks could grow in consciousness and love themselves and treat themselves right, no weapon formed against them could continue to prosper. White supremacy, white nationalism and all the violence and abuse of Blackfolk that comes our way is very real. But even if all that madness disappeared tomorrow, we still have to learn how to live with and love and forgive and support and elevate each other. As we move into 2023, let’s hold ourselves to a higher standard in terms of supporting Black businesses; investing time and resources into groups and institutions working in our best interest; using our words to lift each other up rather than put each other down. And let’s stop accepting mediocrity from those elected officials, those institutions, etc. who claim to have our best interests at heart. We can all do better. And we can all help each other to do better.

Get involved in community – We are literally created to be social beings. We need social interaction. Certainly, this whole COVID-19 pandemic, with the social distancing and isolation and end of in-person everything showed us just how much we miss and need and crave real human contact. Emotionally, socially and spiritually we can’t fully develop as human beings without other people. Countless studies speak to the benefits and necessity of connection and relationships. With such connections, people live longer and heal from sickness faster. With children, connection, especially human touch, facilitates full brain development. Babies who are denied human touch early on experience stunted mental and emotional growth. Hospital patients who receive regular visitors also receive quantifiably better care and attention from healthcare staff. And there are hundreds of other scientifically proven benefits to community and connection. Yet, the western world has convinced us that being a “rugged individualist” is the way to go. We’re (mis)taught to live by the mantra “Me, myself and I. The hell with y’all.” However, there’s an African saying that teaches a different truth. It says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.” If you want to go further in life, have higher chances at better health outcomes, a more positive daily outlook, etc., find yourself a community to be part of. Find a church/temple/mosque that uplifts your spirit. Join a service organization that speaks to your heart. Check out your area civic club or neighborhood association. And introverts, this includes you too (myself included). You can still have your alone time, but get out there as much as possible and connect, form bonds, fellowship. We are biologically wired for it. Honestly, we can’t live without it. And FYI… a large portion of being in community means treating each other with love and respect; treating others the way we want to be treated. That Mos Def means stopping the violence, and living in a way that shows that Black Lives Matter!

Support positive movements – We know that there are things and policies and systems in this world that negatively impact the Blacks. Some people have the wherewithal and ability to dedicate their lives, or large portions of it, to confronting those issues. Others of us aren’t as intellectually or politically situated to speaking truth to power or other such works. If that’s you, one thing you CAN do is support those folk (activists, change agents, etc.) who are by supporting positive movements in some way. Volunteer once a week or a day or two during the month to Habitat for Humanity. Make a monetary or resource donation towards SHAPE Community Center, SEHAH, St. John’s Downtown ministries, Depelchin, etc. Get your business or your J-O-B to donate and/or bring their events to the Shrine of the Black Madonna’s Cultural & Event Center, the Houston Museum of African American Culture or the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum. Get your children involved in the National Black United Front’s Saturday school. Or find some other group doing good work for our people… The Black Gold Movement, Creative Group Economics, All Real Radio, Project Row Houses, etc. Even just telling those in your circles about these groups and movements is a step in the right direction.

Get off the Devil’s Treadmill – Life is meant to be about so much more than just 1) waking up to go to work, 2) enduring the morning commute, 3) working your 9-5, 4) heading home, and then 5) eating and sleeping so you can get up the next day and do it all over again… until you die. All that activity, which tends to produce little (beyond the paycheck) for one’s personal well-being, passion and life purpose, leaves us so drained, we often have little energy to do all those things we feel called to do. One of my mentors calls that lifestyle and time ritual “getting caught up on the devil’s treadmill”—putting in all that effort, yet going nowhere. In 2023, save some of that effort, some of that time and energy, for your own calling, your own passions, your own life’s purpose. Because if you give total commitment to your J-O-B, when you keel over and die, they’ll replace you the next day and keep it moving. But the work, time and energy you invest in your calling, your passion, your purpose has the ability to live on for generations. How did the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey put it? Oh yeah, “The ends you serve that are selfish will take you no further than yourself; but the ends you serve that are for all, in common, will take you even into eternity.”

BONUS RESOLUTION: Embrace our global citizenship – Killmonger was right when he said Africa is the mother of all people. And if African people were the first people, which we were, then God’s call in the Book of Genesis for God’s firstborn to “have dominion over all creation” (i.e. take responsibility for) falls on us. But before doing that heavy lifting, let’s first start celebrating the fact that our people are everywhere on the planet. And then let’s go pay our “cousins” a visit. Let’s get those passports and see the world—our world. There’s more to life than Sunnyside (Houston), Oak Cliff (Dallas) and Black Bottom (Detroit). Who knows? You might find yourself, like so many other sisters and brothers, choosing to make some place outside these US borders your new home.

Aswad Walker

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...