Black intellectual Rev. Vizion Bryan Jones: Pastor, civil rights activist

vizion and ct vivian

Vizion Bryan Jones is a pastor at East Atlanta Church, in Atlanta and a civil rights activist. His activities have included working with Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network Atlanta Chapter, and participating and being a leader in the “From Selma to Montgomery” march in 2012. He is also a motivational speaker. Rolling out spoke with Jones recently.

How would you compare the image of black men of today with black men 40 years ago?

Four decades ago, black men were more exposed to images, which raised their dignity and self-awareness and fortunately we were  — still — riding on a wave of the legacy of the Black Renaissance which produced our Nat King Coles, our Muhammad Alis and our Adam Clayton Powells. The messages, whether Muslim, Christian, or otherwise, celebrated our greatness and the success of an Ali was a collectively celebrated event. Today’s Europeanized-Negroes, although we knew we were great, are robbed of the idea that we can be great together. Instead, the progeny of our former slave masters created one — or two — slots of success at the top and have us infighting over the crumbs — albeit a bigger crumb than most had ever seen — against each other. Consequently, the men of today — unable to compete fairly — are willing to be involved in all manner of buffoonery to bring attention to themselves, and are rewarded by their masters. But not unlike the times during slavery, we are commissioned to be the entertainment for others — even at our own demise.

If black people had an agenda what would be the five collective principles that would be on the agenda?

Imani (EE-MAH-NEE).  We must not allow our strongest asset – our Spirituality — to be labeled and maligned because it brought us through when we literally had nothing else to draw upon. Knowing ourselves and honoring the greatness within our DNA; our rich cultural traditions, will help us to draw upon, and draw out of our children, the greatness within us and them. I do believe we are the “salt,” of the Earth. We brought and still bring civilization to this world and we must not abdicate our responsibility by acting like jigaboos and buffoons, but speak truth-to-power and lead by example! Through faith, we can continually affirm the self-worth and use our God-given talents and abilities to succeed in this righteous struggle.

Secondly, Nia (NEE-YAH) which means: “Purpose.” What is our purpose? Is it only to satisfy the economical benefit of others? The Scriptures, which is our history, calls us a “peculiar people.” Each day we should remind ourselves of our purpose to our God, ourselves and ask ourselves whether or not we are having a positive impact that is beneficial to the community.

Next we need Ujima (OO-GEE-MAH), collectively working together. Africans in America came from a [culture of collectivism] but have allowed ourselves to become Europeanized and individualistic. We need, once more to take responsibility, not only for ourselves and what we want; we need to take responsibility for our community also. Our ancestors left us a legacy for the present and we must do likewise for the generations after us. Black people must recognize that we’re not only talented in playing sports; we are talented and called to play a role in society and the world in which we live.

Ujamaa (OO-JAH-MAH) or cooperative economics is crucial if we are to provide employment, independence and self-reliance in education and success. Americans of African descent, while only a small fraction of this country, manage to be quite a contending force when it comes to spending power. The issue is [that] we do not spend a lot of our dollars in our own communities and this retards our growth potential in invariable ways. If we increased even by the smallest percent over the dollar-in, dollar-out habits we have, we could significantly change our dependency on others and our unemployment — which has always been in the double-digits range — and the impact would be immediately noticeable.

Lastly, we are created on purpose and for a purpose; we must become determined to see these principles succeed and the legacy of our ancestors live on. Kujichagulia (KOO-GEE-CHA-GOO-LEE-YAH) is the final principle we need, which stands for, self-determination, and let it be based upon the common interests of our communities and our families. There is no need to keep reinventing a wheel with every new Negro leader who comes along. We must understand legacy and build on the platforms that have been set before us.

What keeps blacks from making economic progress collectively?

We have a cultural taboo of sharing our finances. My parents never spoke about money, except to declare they did not have it, taught me how to purchase a car, or a house. I find that my experience wasn’t an uncommon one. So, our children are bombarded with advertisements which entices and induces them to want to spend, but we lack the financial literacy — and the few who have it will not share it without charging the already poor an astronomical fee. We do not realize the power in the statement: “Rising tides lift all boats,” so unfortunately when any of us get a piece of the pie, we don’t return to purchase the freedom of other slaves —even family, but are pulled away to stay with, or nearby our masters. Those who would like to give back find themselves being drowned because of the need or greed, and can only do but so much.

Should black celebrities in sports and entertainment do more to help to elevate the black community? 

They could, but I don’t know that they “should.” For one, to use the word “should” there it would be necessary to first realize who (or what) you’re asking that “should” of. If I went to my dog and asked it to cook me dinner, that is a request that is not practical, no matter what I may think or believe. I first have to understand who the athlete or entertainer is that I’m asking. Massa did not pay them these sums of money to free their people, or to give back to their community. They are there to entertain and bring profit to their masters. They are to step to where their Massa sends them, and fetch a return on investment. If they do a good job at reaping from the black community, they are then handsomely rewarded. So, I don’t put much stock in a glorified slave saving the masses of my people. It will take those who are conscious to do so, through enlightenment, that can do much more than money placed in the hands of fools.

What issues that face the black community could change most drastically if we united?

There is an old saying I grew up with, which says, “In the abundance of water the fool is thirsty.” We must take back our education. There is no single area which would not benefit if we increased the education of our youth. Mass incarceration and the railroading of our youth into these private prisons come as a result of lack-of-education or miscommunication. Our declining health and increase in certain diseases we never genetically carried [like] type II diabetes on the rise, cancers, high-blood pressure, etc. This generation has been marketed to mercilessly, to the point of indoctrination that they should be involved in every detrimental and careless behavior from overeating, to unprotected sex; from glorifying violence, to speeding, and wanting to be cool by being a “thug.” The trap has been set, the cheese has been laid and we lack the self-discipline and the knowledge to leave Massa’s poisons and traps alone.

What are black people missing by not studying their past?

When I watch National Geographic because I am interested in the cheetah, it’s not because I would like to see how it eats a carrot. If a cheetah was to ever forget what it is, would it be able to take care of itself properly? If it began eating carrots would it still be a cheetah? At which point would it ponder, “Why do I have this tail?” “What is the reason for my canine teeth?” “Why do I need to run this fast just to pick carrots?” The African in America has been taught to hate everything about them that made them the offspring of the greatest civilization to have lived. There is nothing more piteous than seeing a man grovel and beg for his sustenance; hating to read when we created the symbols and letters to allow for it; hating Math when in our DNA is the formula for the greatest mathematical theories that Amos revealed and Pythagoras stole. Europeans have every right to fear the black man because they saw us in our glory; they saw what we could do. If I keep a pit bull from the knowledge of its power, I will always be able to have it under my dominance, not only so … but I can have it (at my bidding) attack another just like it to defend me.

Why are corporate blacks and black in general not supportive of black history month?  

Can the slave disobey its master? When Massa has given you one of his finest chariots, several acres to share-crop and left you in peace – providing you show up and do his work and go back to where he can keep an eye on you — how does a captive mind understand that collectively we could own the continent when they’ve been conditioned from birth to not know the continent is theirs, but to ask permission for what was inalienably theirs?

Where are the leaders who will take the place of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton?

Why would we want to do that? The last thing we need are more show-casing, hot-air leaders who ALL rode on the back of Dr. King Jr. We need more Fredrick Douglass’, Harriet Tubman’s and W.E. B. Dubois’; we need leaders who come from out of the community, who still livein the community and who, cares about the community. Dogs derived genetically from wolves, but there are certain dogs that have become so domesticated that they could do nothing for themselves, or any other. There are black leaders who are as out of touch with their people as Mitt Romney is with America. The leaders that whites allow to stay in the public eye are of no threat — if they were, they’d be dead by now.

Has President Obama been a benefit to the black race or an excuse to point to say he made it?

The beauty of being the first in certain areas as a person of color is, is that history will label you “The first black…” regardless of whether, or not, you have any black consciousness. Obama had to denounce his “blackness” — much like Peter had to denounce Christ — when he separated from his spiritual leader, Rev. Wright, who helped shaped him, in order to be accepted and win the election. He has to continue to do so to stay in. Before the President is Black, he is first and foremost a politician –it’s nice to have the label and be in the history books though, even if the state of his people: stop-and-frisk, mass incarcerations, raping and covering up of black women, etc., has not improved on his watch. We have become so desperate we’ll give a pass and a title to anyone regardless of the evidence or lack thereof.

Barack Obama is not an anomaly; he is the norm –by the standards from which we came. As God asked Moses, “What’s in your hand?” Well, instead of a ball in the hands of our progeny we need to put a book –and it’s first done when they see us — leaders in the community being visible in the streets and in the schools, doing it.

What role models and skill set what skill set should our community be focused and why do we still celebrate entertainers more than businessmen and women?

Perhaps black people need to find some way to medicate themselves, having to live under immense stress and uncertainty from day to day. Looking to entertainers, watching how the wealthy live and tantalizing their flesh is an escape from the depressing and harsh world many live in. They daydream, wish and play the lottery in hopes of reaching that fairy-tale world, which once reached becomes as stressful as the world they once inhabited. Stop looking outward to what is given to you! If someone is always controlling what you think, telling you what you should have, what you should eat, how you should look; when do you find the time to figure out what it is that you really need? We came from Africa and the Caribbean filled with fruits and foods which we did not bring with us. We’ve allowed ourselves to be grafted into the destructive mindset of the Europeans who captured us. Hadn’t we noticed that they destroyed where they came from, which is why they set out to conquer elsewhere? No skill set will do us any good until we come into the knowledge of self.

How do media play in to miseducation of the Negro today. What is modern miseducation?

There are no such things as modern education, in my estimation we are only being taught skills needed to keep their “economic engine” going. Where is the justice or equality? How can one be educated without it having some applicability to their community and well-being of their family? Private-prisons built based on the estimations of failing grades of our third-grade children. Single-parent households increasing significantly in our communities; Black women now become the fastest segment of the population to contract HIV/AIDS. What is the use of an education if it cannot teach us to be successful in navigating our lives and prosperous to the point where we can leave a legacy for those coming behind us?  As advanced as KMT, so-called “Egypt,” was the most profound and prolific of all discoveries was engraved high above in its great edifice of learning: know thyself! If we don’t, nothing else matters, we are merely taking up space and creating but to squander. Blacks have managed to invent, manufacture, and create wealth for all the world’s peoples, yet somehow we are still bringing up the rear after fighting for, sacrificing, picking, pleading and dying, when it comes to having our own independence, dignity and respect. We still seek his permission; still have our mouths in his kitchen and still have our thoughts given to us by those who mean us no good.

What should we do collectively as a race? What books are a must to gain a modern political perspective?

 Collectively we must look at the areas which are being used to exploit and bring about our genocide. We must know the law and what is being done to our children covertly; so books like Michelle Alexander’s, The New Jim Crow is essential. Just about anything written by W.E. B Du Bois in addition to Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey, as well as Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous, by Hakki Madhubuti should provide a platform for any new-comer, and there are a plethora of others I could suggest, but one can start there.

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