Lessons Blackfolk need to learn from 2022
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Just as important, if not more so, than the resolutions we make at the beginning of a new year are the lessons we learned from the year that’s coming to a close; lessons that can make our living more productive and enjoyable moving forward if we learn them, internalize them and apply them.

Listed below are some lessons Blackfolk would do well to learn from 2022. Certainly, there are more than the ones listed below. Feel free to share lessons you’ve learned that aren’t listed, so we can all benefit from what you and others have learned. Send them to aswad@defendernetwork.com with the subject line BLACK LESSONS FROM 2022. And let’s all prepare for a more powerful 2023.

#10: Things will get worse before they get better – I know it’s no fun starting with a downer of a lesson, but it’s one we need to get straight in our minds now. Things will get worse before they will get better. We saw a glimpse of this in 2022 with voter suppression efforts growing buck wild, as well as attacks on all things Black under the guise of anti “critical race theory” legislation. But after those attacks spread across the country, the “Red Wave” that was supposed to hurl us back into the 1870s didn’t materialize. Things got worse before they got better. But yo, just because we dodged a bullet during those November midterms doesn’t mean the crazy is dead and gone. It’s not. Not by a long shot. The forces who feel like Black and Brown folk are stealing “their” country will not rest. They will only redouble their efforts to steal our votes and ratchet up the intimidation tactics to assert their will. That means there are challenges that we can’t now fully imagine. But history tells us they’re coming, as sure as water is wet.

#9: No one’s coming to save us – Very much related to #10, this here lesson is one the world has been trying to teach us for a good minute. Spiritualists say, that’s how it works. The universe throws things your way to get you to learn and master that lesson. But if we don’t, the universe will keep throwing related challenges our way until we get it. In 2022, we were reminded that our own well-being as a people is in our hands, and no one else’s. When the SCOTUS gave Roe v. Wade the boot, white women who voted against all things Black in every election as far as record-keepers can remember said “Enough is enough. We will no longer vote for those anti-Black, anti-Brown, anti-earth, anti-science, anti-children, anti-education, anti-etc. elected officials anymore because they went too far taking away women’s rights to have agency over our own bodies. Blackfolk, we got’choo.” And guess what happened? Those white wome to traditionally vote against all things Black did it again in November, at the same rate they always do. Where they could separate their votes and votes specifically for women’s rights to choose, they did so. But they still voted for those same anti-er’body politicians at the same time. Prayerfully, we can scratch this one off our list of things we finally need to get through our thick skulls. We’ll be so much better off.

#8: Voting is not marriage – For all those folk who are so conscious they are anti-voting nothing I say can change their minds. But y’all already know Imma say it anyway. If voting didn’t matter, those powers and principalities who have invested generations into stealing our votes and blocking us from the ballot box would have spent the time, money and energy elsewhere. The “anti-er’body but white wealthy males” team recognizes that voting isn’t marriage or a declaration of undying love. They realize it’s a tool to be used. They don’t have to be in love with each candidate. They just need to know that their candidates are on their side on the majority of the issues. They can deal with the minutia later. We’re long past due in learning this lesson. But there is mos def signs that we are. Gen Z, the ones one generation younger than those screaming loudest about voting being a waste of time (yes, I’m talking about you, millennials), outvoted everybody this month (Nov. 2022) and were the wall that kept the Red Wave from drowning us all. And Gen Z is in no way in love with their candidates. They just realize the ones they voted for give them and all of us the best chance at getting the things we want and need in our communities.

#7: Power lies in institutions – For too long we’ve been operating under the illusion that power lies in money or titles/positions. But 2022 was a reminder to some and an eye-opener to others to the fact that power lies in institutions. The institution of government is one example. Even though America has long existed as a bastion of white nationalism, when folk felt that Blacks and Browns and immigrants and progressives and women were taking over, there was an all-out blitz on gaining control of the institution of government (local, state and national). The folk who hate Black votes and Black history bum-rushed state and county education boards so they can shape policy in the whitest way possible. They ran for election administrators and Das and county judges and governors and senators, because they knew those who control institutions are the ones who have the power. And because businesses are institutions, it’s good news that more of us are becoming entrepreneurs than ever before. But there are so many other institutions that we as individuals and business owners are dependent upon. We’ve got to build and control some of those too. And quick.

#6: The Group is our salvation – The African saying, “I am because we are, and because we are therefore I am,” celebrates the vital importance of connection. It’s another way of saying “Where two or more are gathered, there the power of God is also.” Which is just another way of saying, “We can do more together than we can apart.” This lesson here is one of those things that’s always lived in our DNA, but attempts were made to condition it out of us. To convince us that we didn’t need each other; we didn’t need relationships; we didn’t need to work together for a greater collective good. But 2022 showed us the power of the group in all those buy-Black collectives popping up and giving Black businesses a shot in the arm. And Gen Z who voted as a group and blew folk’s white supremacist plans out of the water (at least for a moment). And them Houston Astros who took the concept of the group to “awholenutha” level when they decided before the playoffs even began to split whatever playoff winning evenly with everybody in the organization—from players to trainers to ball boys. And guess what? They won it all. Blackfolk, we can win it all, or at least whatever part we’re trying to win, if we recognize the power of us truly working together.

#5: One God known by many names – A wise brother once said Blackfolk could practice darn near any religion under the sun and be confident that our ancestors worshipped in that same manner. Why? Because so many of the world’s major religions trace their roots back to a common African source. And a new respect for and openness to that reality seems to be blossoming as more and more of our young people (and older folk too) are embracing various faith systems with less and less pushback and condemnation from Blackfolk who are still predominantly Christian (one of those faith systems with ancient African roots). But that can be nothing but good, when we can learn to work with and respect each other across religious lines, we can do so across any lines.   

#4: We deserve radical self-care – Folk are loving everything we produce but hatin’ even more we who produce it. Attacks on our educational access, healthcare and physical well-being continue. And this is happening while we’re in the midst of rising levels of nihilism (hopelessness), depression and Black suicide, especially with the youngest among us—Black elementary-aged children, as reported by nationally-respected scholar, UH’s Dr. Rheeda Walker. If we don’t fully invest in self-care, we’re going to be so beat down that we’ll end up taking ourselves out rather than any outside forces.

#3: We are global citizens – The past few years have shown an explosion in the number of Blackfolk who are getting passports and using them to travel the globe. Not only that, more and more of us are doing like the great scholar/activist Randall Robinson and “Quitting America,” choosing rather to live and work and raise families elsewhere. And with powerfully positive results. There’s also the growing realization that global issues have local impacts. COVID, the war in the Ukraine and the US/European Union mistreatment of nations of color leading to mass immigration movements have all impacted Blackfolk in US hoods in ways we didn’t see clearly before. But we’re seeing it now. So yo, maybe that call for a Pan African movement might start ringing true with more of us. Marcus Garvey must surely be smiling, whether he’s in the whirlwind or the storm.

#2: This planet is our responsibility too – For too long we, the Blacks, have viewed the fight for a cleaner planet as a white issue… even though we need clean air to breathe, water to drink and earth from which to grow food just like everybody else. But during 2022, we were reminded that environmental issues, problems and disasters have a disproportionately high impact on our communities. Not only that, if African people really were the first people (which they/we were), they when the Great I am said “I give you dominion over all the earth (i.e. responsibility for it), She was talking to us. The sooner we accept that, the better.

#1: There is a power greater than ourselves – Some call that power Jehovah. Others call it Shango, Allah, Vishnu, Ra, Oludomare, and many other names. But if your 2022 was anything like mine, you have a laundry list of examples to attest to the fact that we didn’t make it this far on our charm, wit and good looks alone. There was a power greater than ourselves watching over us, working in and around us. That power, the Alpha and the Omega, saw fit to bring us a mighty long way’ through too many dangers, toils and snares to list. And still we get so busy, so caught up, that we often forget this power. And worse, we forget that this power lives in us. Let’s commit, individually and collectively, to give that power its due respect, and let it use us to move those mountains of fear, doubt, racism, self-hate, etc. from our path. And just think; all we need is faith the size of a mustard seed.

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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...