BLACK LEADERSHIP: DR. UMAR JOHNSON AND SARA SUTEN SETI
By Fahim A. Knight-El
One of my Student's from New Orleans came to my home in order to visited me and to inform me about a young black activist named Brother Dr. Umar Johnson out of Philadelphia in which at that time I had no idea that there were some controversy centered around a war of words between Sara Suten Seti out of Detroit and Dr. Umar Johnson, but from what he was sharing with me, he vehemently stated it was something that I needed see and hear for myself. I knew of Sara Suten Seti and Dr. Umar Johnson from the intellectual research that I do with my Keeping it Real Think Tank and black people from time-to-time have often asked me what I thought of them both as our new young premier scholars and work that they were doing to raise the level of consciousness amongst black people and it appears a sizable amount of black people and black activist that I have spoken with have found them both to be credible, but for entirely different reasons, in particular their styles of leadership in my opinion, are like day and night. For example, Sara Suten Seti comes across as street savvy, militant and radical with a ‘hood’ flavor and Umar Johnson comes across as a professional trained clinician/academic and the intellectual type—steeped in the school of thought of deductive reasoning. But I must admit, I am not an authority on either one of these brothers and their philosophies. Yet, I do know a little about leadership; leadership is an awesome responsibility, which requires one to love black people more and better than they love themselves. Leadership requires the highest levels of discipline and commitment and often it has to be rooted in self-denial. There has to be a commitment that is principle based having morality and ethics as a foundation and having a greater discipline not to compromise lines of trust with yourself and the people, that you are attempting to lead, it must also be rooted in sacrifice and service and not allow egos to consume us and always have tolerance and compassion and commitment to stand on truth and present ourselves as good examples to our family and the community.
This leads me to the purpose and intent of why I wrote this article that somewhat pertains to Dr. Umar Johnson and Sara Suten Seti, my above analysis it is meant specifically for Johnson and Seti, in particular and black leadership in general. Moreover, our conduct and behavior are very important and in every movement and organization there have always been fights, strategy and tactic arguments, which has led to splits and splinter groups and in some cases it has led to violence where people have been killed. Perhaps some of you have seen the disputes that were posted on Youtube between General Sara Suten Seti and Dr. Umar Johnson; thus, I am not going to go down the road to attempt to analyze or decipher these hate-filled and mean-spirited arguments that were made public, but I will say this, that the public implication has negatively affected both of these brother's reputations and although I still believe both of them are entitled to their opinions about each other, but we have always watched how division and attacks and counterattacks have played out in the liberation struggle of the black community (just read the dossiers compiled by Cointelpro—U.S. Government counter-intelligence plan aimed at black leadership during the 1960s and 1970s). Their demeanors and words were the poorest representation of two young and upcoming intellectuals and activist.
I must admit, I was a little more disappointed in Dr. Umar Johnson’s conduct, because he claims to be a black expert on black child's psychology in which his professional work ties him to impacting children's lives and has the responsibility of creating mental health safe heavens as a clinician. But he had a serious meltdown and his conduct did not reflect someone that I would want counseling my child or children (he even brought up the dark skinned and light skinned phenomena in which my first thought went to some of the distasteful things that the light skinned mulatto W.E.B Dubois stated about the dark skinned, kinky haired, broad nosed, and thick lips of Marcus Mosiah Garvey). This conflict that has become public and everyone one has been talking about it because it has lost all respectable boundaries. I do not know much about General Sara Suten Seti, but I heard him make claim of being a student and follower of the late Dr. Minister Khallid Abdul Muhammad (the real Black General), the former National Spokesman and Supreme Captain of the Nation of Islam under Minister Louis Farrakhan and later would become one of the premier voices of the New Black Panther Party with Malik Zulu Shabazz and Hashim Nzinga. Some members in Nation of Islam departed the NOI along with Dr. Khallid when Minister Farrakhan suspended Dr. Minister Khallid Abdul Muhammad for allegedly making anti-Semitic statements at a speech he delivered at
in in 1993. Dr. Khallid Muhammad's
departure angered many inside the Nation of Islam and outside the Nation of
Islam and Sara Suten Seti appears to be one of those brothers who loved
Dr. Muhammad and each chance he gets he reminds the public about his
personal grievances relative to Dr. Minister Khallid Abdul Muhammad and
the perceived treatment he received from the Nation of Islam and Minister Farrakhan. Union, New Jersey
Many of my Pan-Africanist and Black Nationalist comrades have tremendous respect for Dr. Johnson and I have over the years vibe off both of their energy. I had read some news about Dr. Umar Johnson over the Internet, and the work that he had been doing in the area of black child psychology, in particular around challenging white Eurocentric models and clinical approaches relative to how they have historically diagnosis mental health involving African American children and he let it be known that they had failed to properly treat the causes in which their approaches to resolving Attention Deficit Disorder, Down Syndrome, Autism, etc., are flawed and the high incidents of these diseases are not coincidental and how they disproportionally affects African American children in 2017—their explanations did not meet Dr. Umar Johnson's satisfaction. Black children in recent studies have been diagnosis of higher incidents of bipolar and Schizophrenic disorders than they had twenty years ago and if these mental health illness are allowed to go untreated, the ramifications of such neglect would eventually negatively play itself out in our families and the community. We must be willing to create talking points in the black community relative to the issues of mental health diseases, because it is hidden and covered under layers of fear and shame and this alone disallows us from having open, honest, non-egotistical, etc., conversations about devising mental health strategies and create a level of comfort that we could have these conversations in the black community.
Now, lets be honest with each other, we all have members of our families that suffers from mental health disease and I do believe that I am preaching to the choir, perhaps someone in the choir are listening. I am ready and prepared to talk about this issue, how about you? Let the church say Amen. Dr. Umar Johnson appears to be very good at speaking and diagnosing all the psycho-educational theories; his university training did not lock him into assessing and evaluating black children’s minds based on the exclusive theoretical models of European social scientist in which is required as you matriculate up to obtaining the terminal degree of a Ph. D in which the curriculum is imbedded with these European educational philosophers such as: Sigmund Fraud, Abraham Maslow, Lev Vgotsky,, Johann Friedrich Herbert, Friedrich Frobel, Maria Montessori, Jean Piaget, John Jacque Jacques Rousseau, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzai, etc., but by Dr. Johnson himself being deeply rooted in knowing and understanding the African American experiences by living and existing in a white supremacy society, he has this uncanny ability as a black mental health expert to connect with black children and families unlike European social-psychologist.
I believe, he fully understands the pervasiveness of mental health and mental health disease and/or problems that are affecting the so-called African American community, thus, this has always been a difficult subject and issue to talk about for the most part in the black community, it has been taboo and has created an immeasurable amount of denial. Although, blacks suffer disproportionally from various aspects of mental health diseases/illnesses, which have contributed to high incidents of Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PSTD), suicide, domestic violence, longer untreated bouts of depression, sexual abuse, feelings of alienation, delusionary reality syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, etc., these are some of the symptoms of mental illnesses that go undiagnosed and are in many cases untreated and often go unspoken about in the black community, because of the social stigma. So we, as a community have historically neglected talking about mental health illnesses and the dilemma has only contributed towards reinforcing the stigma, which has caused us to often fail to attain a proper psychological assessment of our mental health.
Yet, as a social-psychologist Dr. Umar Johnson is standing on the previous work and historical foundation of black social scientists who have historically challenged white intellectuals such as: Dr. Alvin Poussaint, Dr. Kenneth Clark, Dr. Nathan and Dr. Julia Hare, Dr. Frantz Fanon, Dr. Bobby Wright and just in recent years Dr. Naim Akbar and Dr. Kobi Kambon, Dr. Kwebena Faheem Ashani, Dr. Tom Burrell, Dr. Kamou Kambon, etc., these African American social-psychologist have always worked towards creating relevant social and psychological theories that were applicable to African people. So Dr. Umar Johnson is deeply in debt to a prior class of black academics and intellectual activist who have always viewed the approach of black psychology and white psychology as being different in practice and theory and the relations these schools of thought have had in addressing black mental health is without a doubt very different. I have never studied Sigmund Freud, Carl Yung or B.F. Skinner’s models in relations to human behavior, but perhaps like Dr. Umar Johnson, I have studied Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, Dr. Naim Akbar, Bobby Wright, Kobi Kambon, Dr. Faheem Ashanti, Dr. Mawiyah and Dr. Kamau Kambon, Dr. Nathan and Julia Hare, Asa Hilliard, Dr. Amos Wilson, etc.
I am thoroughly convinced that throughout black America and in our personal families there have been afflictions of serious bouts of mental health illnesses/diseases problem, which is only a microcosm of a larger problem in the broader community and yet as much as I accept this dilemma that we still have some serious unfinished work to do in the areas of mental health and this why we cannot afford to have these counterproductive and senseless arguments going on between General Sara Suten Seti and Dr. Umar Johnson (to have our leaders to publically display dysfunctional behavior creates a dichotomy in the minds of the people) our people are suffering from various aspects of mental health disease/illness; I am also of the belief and opinion, that this breakdown in communication between General Sara Suten Seti and Dr. Umar Johnson were in the making for many years and it finally culminated (I have to characterize what I heard as typical black reactionary conduct) to those in our community, I am offering an apology because our people deserve much better.
We are suffering from mental health diseases at epidemic proportions in which we are in dire need of unity and it is incumbent upon all us to find ways to devise solutions to resolving our pressing social, political, and economic problems—name calling, insults and ego tripping will only continue to set us back, but this type poor examples of leadership only denotes immaturity, it alerts the world that we are not ready to be a nation of people, that are prepared for collective sovereignty and self rulership. I am quite sure that as the black scholars that I have cited above Dr. Umar Johnson knows their work and understands that many white social scientist such as Arthur Jensen and William Shockley determined that blacks relative to intellect (or I.Q.) which according to them could be influenced and determined by race and ethnicity and these racist pseudo scientist had been working historically and presesntly to determine that blacks in mental capacity were inferior to whites and this is why it is so important to have Africancentered social scientist such as Dr. Umar Johnson.
I am not a mental health expert, I possess no formal training in identifying, treating, counseling and/or recognizing the appropriate steps and treatment plans when it comes to solving mental health issues in the black community. I am writing this article merely as a keen observant and layperson of having relations with my personal family and the African American community those are my credentials and this alone qualifies me as a mental health expert equal to some of those who have written empirical dissertations and who have gone to medical schools and become a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. Dr. Johnson’s approach attempts to correlate mental health and educational achievements and academic gaps confronting black children as being rooted in the systemic practices of white supremacy. I think as a black mental health professional, he has garnished a lot of respectability and credibility amongst African centered activist and proponents. This credibility seems to evolve around his past organizational ties to the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A), affectionately known as the Marcus Garvey Movement in which appears to be the basis of his theoretical and philosophical views. So as a former Garveyite, I have respect for Dr. Umar Johnson because Garvey is one of my heroes, he attempted to create a worldview that was rooted in African values, African symbolism, and Garvey pointed us to Africa in which the back to Africa Movement was implemented to redefine the historical disconnect that Chattel Slavery had created for people of African descent.
Dr. Umar Johnson being a student of Garvey that alone has a huge measure of credibility that lie in his corner, if with nobody else it resonates with me and at the same time, I am not condoning nor signing off on his recent conduct. But some in our African centered community have mistakenly elevated Dr. Johnson to the heir apparent status of the African centered thought and the Pan Africanism movement leader in the last five years (and I think may be in his own mind he somewhat believe that he is; ego can lead us to start drinking our own cool aid) because of what appears to be a nationalistic leadership void in the cultural community due to many of the revolutionary Elders scholars having transitioned and have become ancestors such as Dr. Yosef A.,A. Jochanan, Dr. Henrik Clarke, Asa Hilliard, Del Jones, Steve Cokley, Amos Wilson, Cheikh Anta Diop, Ivan VanSertima Khallid Abdul Muhammad, Frances Cress Welsing, Tony Martin, Kwame Ture etc., both Sara Suten Seti and Dr. Umar Johnson hails the above said leaders and view them as their master teachers and find their philosophical tenets as being credible and good for black people and I am quite sure our intellectual warriors are rolling over in their graves at such display of madness in their names and legacies; what they both have done is inexcusable and does not reflect good quality leadership.
Yes, there should be a Tribunal called consisting of an assembled of elders who should be allowed to intervene in this dispute between Dr. Umar Johnson and Sara Suten Seti before the real enemy sneaks in and exacerbate the situation and causes more problems. The above intellectual warriors were for the most part from the movements of the 1960s and 1970s in which many of these activist transitioned into academia as professors, lectures and researchers and their legacies have become a body of intellectual works as it pertained to writing and publishing intellectual and scholarly treatises that have rescued African history from the realm of white supremacy who saw it as being obscured by presenting Africa as a subject rather than an object. They all have done yeoman's work to redefine African history and civilization by rescuing it from the myth of
Africa being the 'dark continent' and so-called made no
contributions to human civilization.
This African renaissance movement had it official inception in the late 1980s and 1990s and built academic credibility by infusing past African history and lost African traditional culture into a synthesis of ideals, which formulated into a philosophical and ideological school of thought that became known as Afrocentricity. Africancentered theories that presented itself as the intellectual antitheses to Eurocentrism and academic white supremacy, which was part of pedagogy of western world's concepts of dominating the arena of ideals. Dr. Leonard Jefferies and Dr. Molefi Kete Asante,
professor and later Dr. Tony Martin would take the brunt of the scholarly
criticism for daring to redefine how African history should be taught in
primary, secondary and on the college level. Temple University theories were well put
together in his book titled, Afrocentricty. This created a level of excitement
amongst African American and simultaneously sparked controversy amongst some white
academic scholars such as Dr. Mary Lefkowitz who authored the book titled, Not
out of Africa Afrocentrism" Became An Excuse To Teach Myth As History. Asante
Fahim A. Knight-El Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in
; our mission is to inform
African Americans and all people of goodwill, of the pending dangers that lie
ahead; as well as decode the symbolism and reinterpreted the hidden meanings
behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We
are of the belief that an enlightened world will be better prepared to throw
off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the
slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight-El can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Durham,