The first Day of Unity in The Community sponsored through a collaborative effort by the Seshemet Community Council and the Sankofa United was, judging by attendance, an unqualified success.
Jeanine Ferguson, co-founder of Seshemet with her husband, Gerald, thanked all those who supported the June 14 event.
“We had at least 600 people there through the course of the day and packed the house for Dr. Umar (Johnson), who delivered a powerful message,” she said. “We really appreciate the help of Sista Nazura from Sankofa Village for collaborating with us on this powerful and necessary event, and the many behind the scene warriors who added to the success of this event.”
Though the day-long event started with food and performances by several spoken word and hip-hop artists, the highlight was Johnson, a PhD and child psychologist who worked in the Philadelphia School District for five years before going into private practice.
Johnson is a prolific author and public speaker, and a Pan-Africanist, whose most recent work centers on the mis-education of Black Boys and can be found in his book “Psycho-Academic Holocaust: the Special Education and ADHD War Against Black Boys.” His presentation to the Day of Unity event at the Homewood Coliseum was his first visit to Pittsburgh.
His thesis is broad and touches on the drive to feminize Black boys’ behavior as part of a larger initiative to keep African-Americans segregated and subservient to Whites. He said the main avenue for “controlling” Black youth is through mis-education, teaching them they are less capable and in need of special help, and also by categorizing them with psychological issues as a further means of separating them.
He noted that Special Education became law after school integration had become national law. Special education, Johnson said, is segregation.
“Ritalin and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is the 21st century version COINTELPRO (the FBI campaign against the Black Panthers). There was an outcry in the 1980s where some researchers said Blacks were genetically predisposed to violence. That went underground and came back as ADHD, as Conduct Disorder as Operational Defiant Disorder,” he said.
“These behavior ‘disorders’ that are pushed by feds, the American Psychological Association and the drug companies are all social creations, there’s nothing scientific about them. If I can’t sit still while I hear negative info about my ancestors—Ritalin.” Drug companies make $40 billion a year off of doping Black boys.”
Johnson recommends psychological therapy, not medication, for these young men, carried out by Black male psychologists. The mis-education, he continued, is also furthered by a largely White, mostly female teachers teaching Black boys. There is a large disconnect between their experiences, and it’s another reasons why Black boys are failing in public schools.
“Black boys need to be taught by Black men,” he said.
Gerald Ferguson said what made the Day of Unity presentation different is that rather than people just getting angry, initiatives to address the issues Johnson raised were immediately put in place.
“We had Hand to Hand Counseling Services, a Black-owned therapy firm, on hand to address the psychological issues. But we also had Tyra Good, PhD, take the lead in establishing a Black Educations Network of Pittsburgh,” he said. “Another outcome of the Day of Unity in The Community is the establishment of a Black independent parents network. Both will look at addressing the lack of Black teachers, disparate resources, differences in testing language and special education policy. Seshemet is going to develop, manage and facilitate that network. We’ll have a follow-up meeting in July.”
Ferguson said educators wanting to participate should contact Good at email@example.com. Those interested in joining the parents network should contact Jeanine Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 412-370-4693.
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