I am drafting this long overdue correspondence to address the successes and failures of our work as the committee to build the 1st Annual Black Power Awards. Overall, I think we all agree that the BPA’s were an overwhelming success and set a precedence that continues to reverberate throughout the entire Black Liberation Movement specifically and the general Black population as a whole. However, I felt it necessary to offer an honest critique of this work if it is to continue in the most honest and advantageous trajectory to actually win something tangible and substantial for our people rather than risk the fate of becoming a superficial celebratory gesture of celebrating “being black”. We have to be able to honestly uproot the cons of any piece of work if it is to truly be victorious. I have been long deliberating the approach I would take to offer this critique, especially in light of what was presented as the committee “summation” the week after the event. | I am sure you’re all aware by now of my decision to withdraw my participation in 2017 Black Power Awards. I am not sure of the reason that has been presented as to why but hopefully this correspondence will provide clarity. | I will start by offering a self-criticism. This self-criticism has a long-passed origin preceding the BPA’s but is necessary to give some frame of reference for a complete analysis of this piece of work. I am guilty and have been for quite some time of being extremely liberal as a long-time participant in the liberation struggle. My liberalism, I am convinced, has been the basis behind lots of preventable errors in my work and work that I have participated in with others. Having come into political life through a certain type of political “fire”, I am well aware of the long term effects of liberalism on the movement and subsequently our people. I am only now beginning to face this very real and destructive tendency that I possess. | The conclusion that I reached is that the origin of this tendency is my NEED to be validated as valuable and having some worth inside this movement. This tendency comes from the NEED to prove myself in this work, especially as an Afrikan woman. Having completely internalized the ever-present existence of latent misogyny within the movement, and its presence having the tendency to reduce the legitimate struggles made by women, to being divisive ramblings of man-hating feminists, I always felt a desperate NEED to affirm my value by making every effort to avoid discomfort; to not make waves; to not make my fellow comrades (especially the male ones) ‘uncomfortable’, or to “keep quiet” wrong doings against me for the sole protection of the image of the male involved. I have dressed this tendency up in a variety of ways, such as “giving comrades the benefit of the doubt” or “believing comrades will simply be inclined to do the right thing” even when history has presented evidence that would’ve had me move otherwise. This fear of my value being ‘reduced’ is what has given rise to my tendency of being timid or not being forceful when serious errors present themselves, instead of having enough confidence to state my position when my experience has given me the authority to do so. This tendency has made it easy to be taken advantage of and my silence in such matters has been relied upon. This tendency of liberalism has proven to be a major impediment and I believe it is the primary basis for many of the flaws/errors that displayed themselves throughout the work to build the BPA’s. | In February of 2016, I was approached by Brother DJ regarding what I thought was a spectacular and timely idea, and asked if I would play a leading role in organizing it. After deliberating, I agreed. I was hired (based on prior work we had done together) to be the lead organizer for the 1st Annual Black Power Awards. As happens frequently in this work, we moved with this piece of work with a very unofficial “gentlemen’s agreement”, with $2,500 being the agreed upon paymeny. There was no discussion initiated on either side regarding method or dates of payment. Because of my ‘timidity’ and non-confrontational manner on matters of money in the work, I remained silent until very late in this process when I requested an advance payment on services rendered out of urgent necessity (I did receive the requested advance). This was my first liberal error; not stating clearly what I required and when I required it. As long as I remained silent so did DJ. Despite fulfilling my obligation to carry out this piece of work, I didn not receive full payment until two weeks after the event and I had to engage in serious struggle with DJ before he agreed to pay. This was an added insult considering everyone else who participated in the event received payment in full prior to or the day of the event. Additionally, $200 of the payment I received from DJ went towards payment for Bomani Mayasa’s airline ticket and $75 to ship the step and repeat for outreach. | Very early in the process of establishing the roles within the committee; DJ being the primary funder of the piece of work, took on the roles of both Sponsorship Coordinator and Treasurer. I informed him right away that it was problematic, in my experience, for him to have sole jurisdiction of all initially received funds and concurrently function as the treasurer. I expressed on several occasions within the committee meetings the serious NEED for transparency where the question of money was concerned in this type of work as it’s always the place of contention where Black people are concerned. I struggled for detailed treasury reports at the top of every meeting to ensure sure full disclosure. And while in the beginning, the reports were relatively specific (expenditures, ticket sells, sponsorships, etc), it became more an overview from week-to-week on the number of tickets sales or sponsorships with no real relationship to my initial budget proposal of $36,000 (meaning we would need to sell only 360-$100 tickets) to make the event happen and pay DJ $5,000. | When I expressed serious concern on several occasions about the budget and needing to have a budget meeting; I was presented with an alternative ‘budget’ of $28,000. On several occasions, I felt that asking questions around money and expenses was overstepping my boundaries, particularly, when those inquiries were being met with very vague responses like, “Don’t worry, the budget is ok”. So, instead of digging deeper, I relented, fully aware of the risks associated with all expenditures and receipts having no system of checks and balances. This scenario inevitably creates the potential for unforeseen financial bleeds and losses. Even though the original budget that I proposed was lowered, the income exceeded expected gains for both budgets BEFORE WE OPENED THE DOORS ON SATURDAY! Online ticket sells alone, at 12:01am Saturday morning closed at $42,500! This did not include in-person ticket sells, day-of ticket sells, sponsorships of over $5,000, vendor fees of almost $5,000 or donations which altogether brought the net income up to closer to $55,000. Despite profiting over my budget by $19,000 and $27,000 of DJ’s revised budget, the night of the event, DJ informed me that he was $15,000 in the hole! | When we met 2 days later to “sum up” the event, the first thing comrade DJ raised was, “while the event was beautiful, it was a logistical failure”. I struggled with DJ that his statement couldn’t be the starting point for the many logistical breakdowns of the night. I stated to him that he knew for months of my plan to be in ATL a week prior to the event to deal with pre-event trouble-shooting and very necessary logistical work. I had been saying for weeks, that we needed for the whole committee to have an overall, in-person logistical meeting prior to the event, and tried hard to coordinate our arrival schedules to facilitate that. Yet when I came into town on that Sunday prior to the event, and upon multiple requests (on his terms) for a face-to-face meeting to assess where we were and what was still needed, the first time I saw DJ’s face that whole week was Friday 7pm the night of the Black Power Meet and Greet. THIS is where the logistical breakdown began to occur, not the day of the event. | These meetings I’d been fighting for (the mtg with DJ upon my arrival and the pre-event logistical mtg of the whole committee) would’ve been the place to establish a more clear, pre-event division of labor as there was a lot of running around and task-mastering that could have been assigned to other members, thus freeing up much-needed time for the leadership. When I raised this with DJ, his response was, “I was crazy busy and didn’t not feel it was necessary to meet with you face-to-face.” It was not necessary to prioritize a face-to-face meeting requested by his lead organizer the week of a major event?! This, again, was the starting point for the logistical breakdowns that occurred throughout the day on Sat. Nov. 12. | For 3 weeks we’d been stating in both the main committee meetings on Sundays and the logistical meetings on Weds the requirement for all hands on deck for the 6am set up the day of the event, yet several committee members were no-shows for the set-up time, coming hours later if at all. This time had long been established as the time when people would come together to do a quick set up of the space, receive official schedule of assignments and breaks, and we could finish early enough for everyone to leave, get dressed and return. Of the 30 people that had confirmed to be at there 6am (not only to set up but to receive a schedule for assignments committed to throughout the day), only 8 showed up on time and after calling everyone on the list (many of whom were sleep, didn’t answer or just decided at the last minute not to come), I finally had to enlist the help of guests, attendees, and even nominees to help with the set-up in the multiple absences of committee members. This “dropping of the ball” of committee members was a 2-part failure: a failure on my part to adequately win and convey to each member their roles as ‘leadership’ in this process, not just ‘task-doers’ and the failure on the part of the committee members themselves to fulfill their commitments to the time agreed upon. | There were a laundry list of logistical errors that occurred throughout the event, several of which I was not prepared to deal with because Comrade DJ failed to inform me of the peculiarities of “arrangements” he had made with the management of the building. These were the result of NUMEROUS contractual corners that were cut (and I was NOT informed of), resulting in the overflow room screen not showing (because it wasn’t in the contract), the still screen view (because live stream crew was not in the contract), the After Party ending 2 ½ hours early (because the contract was for 12a NOT 2a as we had been promoting for months) all of which were MAJOR logistical errors that were left for me to resolve on site! | We were charging $100 for overflow seating, the day of the event where guests who had waited until the last minute to purchase their tickets would be (ideally) moved to the overflow room and would be viewing the events from the main stage via Big Screen. I was not made aware, until a guest from the overflow room came up to the desk visibly upset, that the show had started yet the Big Screens were not down! Frantic, I go to find the manager to have him correct this major error. When I finally located him, he informed me that the Big Screens were “NOT IN OUR CONTRACT”!!! Not only were they not in the contract, but that to lower the screens would cost an additional $800 (this is happening at the already-started event!). Once he finally lets the screens down; THEY ARE BLACK/BLANK! This fiasco goes on for well over an hour after the awards show portion of the event has started. When something begins to finally show on the screen, the MAJORITY of what is showing are still pictures, not live footage!! When I inquired again with the Mexican manager, he stately plainly, “the screen in these rooms ONLY display what is showing on the SCREEN OVER THE STAGE; so if the screen is showing what’s happening on the stage, that’s what they’ll see, but if the screen is only showing stills, then that is what they’ll see!” He continued, “The only way to have on the Big Screen what’s happening live on the stage is to hire an outside company to live-stream your live performance to that room!” I was able to receive this information in a 5 minute conversation, yet DJ had been reporting in our meetings that he had been meeting with this guy almost weekly, for months prior to the event and never inquired nor received information about what it would take to create a live-stream to the overflow room! | Understandably, people were frustrated, even angry about paying $100 to watch a blank screen for the first hour of the awards show, so I decided to allow people to go into the main hall (yes, even though it was already sold out). Fortunately, only 4 people who came together from Texas asked for their money back. Well, another problem arose as a consequence of this judgment call: the auditorium quickly became over capacity and the management was not allowing anyone else in. He, his security and the uniformed police officers starting denying people entry at the door of the auditorium. He asked, “Why are you still selling tickets at the door? We are not letting anyone else in!” So, only for about an hour did we suspend ticket sells at the door for the awards show BUT we did continue to offer people tickets to the after party at a discounted rate! Once two sisters working for the building and the brother who was the after party DJ starting identifying vacant seats scattered throughout the crowd, we began to open back up ticket sells, but it should be noted that ticket sell had LONG since slowed by this point! | At around 9:30p, the Manager came up to me and said, “You realize your contracts ends at midnight, right?” I responded, “I’m sorry, but you need to check the details of the contract, we have the building until 2am.” He said, “I have the contract right here.” And pulled it up on his phone where it stated clearly that we had to be off the premises by midnight, yet based on DJ’s report from meetings with this institution, we had been promoting since APRIL that the event was from 2p-2a (Black Carpet Affair, Black Power Awards Show and Black Power After Party)! When I asked DJ about this ‘obvious misunderstanding’ his response was, “yeah, we’re gonna shut it down at midnight, that’ll give us 2 hours of an After Party!” I struggled with him then and there that this was hugely problematic not only for the fact that we had been promoting it, but that we were still up front convincing people to buy After Party tickets for a party that was supposed to last until 2am not 12am. I also struggled with him that this is something he should’ve informed me of from the beginning. I had more problem-solving to do that night than I should have. And had I been informed of the “corners he’d cut” before hand, it would have made problem solving much easier (or I would have struggled fiercely for him to just pay the people instead looking for hookups). | At the end of the day, the building cost almost $14,500 but had resources been allocated appropriately and accounting properly done throughout by having a SEPARATE TREASURER, we could have paid the people what they were asking and still have left with a major profit and none of the major glitches that occurred on the day of the event. | At the end of the day, Comrade DJ attempted to point at several “issues” seemingly as a way to out of paying me for services rendered. Pointing to things like “I had an arrangement with the manager, but he reneged because he said you were difficult to work with” and “DJ and Iyapo need to come together to say where we failed” to “why would suspend ticket sells at the door” as some type of justification for his stance. I told him, after we had a long conversation about the moneys made and moneys spent, that he needed to develop a spreadsheet of all his receipts and everything that came in because nothing he was telling me was adding up to a $15,000 deficit and the number sounded erroneous at best without a clear picture of where the bled occurred (if that’s actually what happened). | But I reminded him that my obligation to this process was fulfilled when l left the building 15 minutes before the management and the police removed everyone from the building at 12:30am. And actually, my obligation was fulfilled at the moment that my leadership in this piece work made him $27,000 over his proposed budget and $19,000 over mine! That is the very definition of measurable success! I was upbeat all night, even despite the MANY glitches throughout the 10 hour event, all the way up until the moment that he tells me he’s $15,000 in the hole! I knew right then, paying me was going to be an issue, and my mood quickly changed. I knew from 17 years of experience that this statement was the beginning of him attempting to pass the buck. | Subsequent to me making the struggle with him that I was due my agreed upon payment (which in hindsight was nowhere enough for almost 8 months of work), he said, “Whatever I pay you is gonna be out of my pocket.” I responded, “You do what you have to do, because I still see no legitimate explanation for a bleed of this proportion without a descriptive account of incoming and outgoing resources.” A day later, having left that discussion still open-ended, I asked if we could meet face-to-face, so we linked up at a hotel where he was at another event. The purpose of this meeting was to facilitate a summation video and further discuss my payment arrangements. We made, what I thought was, a powerful summation piece (the first only one of its kind with us together as the organizers for the BPA’s) which NEVER aired (which continued to peek my suspicions of ill intent). Before parting ways, I said, “Comrade, I need us to set a specified date of when I can expect payment in full.” His response was, “It’ll around the end of the month”, to which I replied, “I need a date.” I continued to tell him that I couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel anymore, that I was going out of town for a couple of days, but he needed to be able to tell me an exact date to expect (especially as he knew this was the money I was banking my move to ATL on). He told me in plain English, “I will text you before the end of the day, the date that I can pay you in full”. | A full 36 hours went by with no text from DJ! In the meantime, I had to make some decisions based on not having this money. I deliberately waited, to see if I was going to hear from him. I finally texted him and said, “Comrade, you were supposed to text me yesterday, what’s up?” He did not reply. Later on that same evening I received a text from Space Righteous saying that they never received agreed upon payment. I forwarded the text to DJ. He immediately responded, asked how they were owed, and begrudgingly responded, “I will pay them right away, have them call me!” He never mentioned the date of my pay! That is when I decided to find an alternative method to secure my pay and make a criticism without sabotaging him or the work I helped to build. | I confided in a brother, that up until this point, that I trusted both his judgment and character to weigh my options. I told him that I had decided to produce a position statement and wanted to send it out to elders that DJ and I both respected and could be objective. I told this brother that I had to believe that this could be solved in a manner in which the BPA’s did not suffer as, at this point, I still did not call DJ’s character into question, but in the absence of clear communication or even a ownership of responsibility on his part, I had no choice but to illicit other options to not only get paid but resolve this matter in the best possible way. I confided in this Afrikan for the sole purpose of running the idea by him in which he agreed was a great way to handle the situation quietly. He vowed to keep what I had confided in him to himself and to allow my process to work. However, before the sun set on that day, my “idea” had been revealed by him to several others in gossip-style fashion, resulting in an “ambush” call from DJ asking me about revealing something on facebook about not getting paid (or some ambiguous s**t). I told him I didn’t know anything about that. He hung up and called back, this time with a sister on the phone from ULU who said it was brought to her attention that a sister on the committee was “disgruntled” about having been treated unfairly and they wanted to make sure there was justice. I knew right then what had occurred. I told them both of my plan to reach out to neutral elders to weigh in on this matter but it never would be made a public matter on my part and that DJ should know that by now (in fact counted on it). After we got off that phone call, he calls me back belligerently calling me ‘foul’ and attempting to reduce my seeking council as some type of betrayal of him. I told him, “me confiding in someone about how to go about solving a problem I tried to work out with you is not the starting point of this conversation!” I continued by saying, “If you had paid me when we agreed, this would not even be a discussion, when in fact EVERYONE got paid EXCEPT your lead organizer, that’s where we begin this conversation!” Within the next day, I received a text with a date for payment in full which was almost 2 ½ weeks after the event itself. | The notion that he projected of “keeping our personal matters in house” was again evidence to me of some deep issues and an attempt to escape taking personal accountability. Contradictions must be ‘opened up’ and fully exposed in order to be adequately addressed and resolved. And this tendency on the parts of MANY in the movement to “keep quiet” or “let s**t slide” is the reason so many errors CONTINUE to be repeated. And at the end of the day, we are comrades in revolutionary struggle; we don’t have ‘personal issues’ we have political struggles. At the end of the day, my finally receiving payment was not a “resolution” of this matter, it was only the starting point. To this day, there has been no initiation of any conversation on Comrade DJ’s part to accept responsibility and offer a sincere criticism for the unprincipled stance he took in our agreement. In his mind, the moment he sent me money, the issue was closed and it was back to business as usual. | Now, many of you may not know that Comrade DJ and I have an organizational history together; this was not the first event that we organized together, hence the reason he sought me out to help with this piece of work. I was approached by DJ in 2015 to see if I would be willing to organize the moving of the 3 Warriors Conference from Miami to Tampa. DJ and I DID NOT know each other at this point and in fact I had called to inquire about being a vendor when the event was supposed to be in Miami. However, as the world has become very small in this work, he contacted me a week later and said, “I hear you’re the person I need to talk to about moving the Warriors Conference to Tampa.” I initially told him no! I told him that it was highly ambitious to attempt an event of that magnitude with only 5 weeks to build! I also told him that I usually don’t attempt to organize anything without a bare minimum of 3 months to make it happen. After making a struggle with me that event would build itself and I just needed to consolidate my base (which I told him up front was on a good day 200-250 people) and a building, I agreed to take it on! I, again being extremely liberal, didn’t ask for any money up front, assuming that since his mentioned having paid the brother in Miami for work he’d already done, that he would at least offer the same amount for the work we were about to put in! In 4 weeks (because it took almost a week to get a revised flyer), me and a committee of 5 women pulled off what I honestly thought was going to be impossible! The people came out in full force despite a weekend full of storms. | At the end of it all, I was not offered a single dime for the time I put into making that event happen; a sister on my committee paid for rental of ALL the chairs, tables and the $200 deposit on the building! None of us had even met DJ at this point! All of this was done out unity and will to make the event happen in the best possible way. Despite the head count being well over 300 all weekend; DJ then claimed this ambiguous “great loss” of money and left before day in the morning demoralized. Meanwhile, me and my committee took up the responsibility to host and entertain his guests through Sunday as MANY of them remained. We took them to Temple service, to the beach to dinner and assumed responsibility for them until the last of them left late Sunday evening. So, when he took this same approach at the BPA’s (his claiming a $15,000 loss before the event was even over, I knew right away it was an attempt to get out of paying me). | I mention this because almost the EXACT same thing happened at the BPA’s! I didn’t hear a word from DJ until late Monday evening after the BPA’s; meanwhile, I spent ALL DAY SUNDAY (until 11:30pm) AND MONDAY and half the day Tues (when the last flight out left) entertaining people (guests, nominees, performers, etc) who remained in the city after the event looking for activities to get into! This is what it means to see an event to the end. But these two similarities begin to point to a ‘tendency’ that exists in this brother, not unrelated circumstances. And taking a liberal approach to summing up is what has allowed this tendency to flourish. These tendencies manifest themselves in numerous ways to exhibit how one actually values Afrikan people and those relationships. I raised serious struggles with DJ on several occasions about needing to have in the budget “food and drinks” for the many brothers and sisters who performed for free at the event; that was important to display genuine gratitude for their voluntary role in making the event a success. These struggles fell on deaf ears as many comrades complained throughout the night about having to buy drinks or pay for food. DJ made statements like, “I’m convinced that more than 300 people took advantage of our lax security and walked in without paying!” and in my utter surprise, my rebuttal was, “I don’t accept, and that’s a serious belief in the lack of character of a large number of people who walked through those doors – I don’t accept that at all.” There is a tendency of assuming no responsibility for people (especially VIP) and their whereabouts and safety after they’ve left your event (thanks for coming now you’re on your own). I was receiving phone calls as early as 7a Sunday morning after the event from people needing to know where to go, what there is to do (I’m not even from ATL), so I had to get my Black self up and make something happen for these comrades. | Lastly, tendencies are not always evidence of “evil intent” or “character flaws”. Sometimes tendencies are simply lack of understanding, inexperience or unchecked notions that, if left unaddressed, become more serious and more difficult to address and transform. Liberalism is what causes tendencies to become worse, and I am accepting responsibility for my role in not raising the struggles that I had with Comrade DJ more sharply as they emerged. In the end, I believe the only true resolution to these matters is an honest self-criticism offered by DJ that speak to the deep implications of his lack of principle in dealing with this matter. As we all know, contradictions just don’t ‘go away’. All contradictions beg resolution and will always get deeper until it is resolved. I believe that DJ’s intentions are genuine and his love for our people is true, so I hope that this critique is received in a way that can help all of us identify and address contradictions as they emerge in a spirit of moving us forward not tearing us down; as the nature of true criticism and self-criticism is solely for the purpose of correcting errors and moving the group forward. | Everyone on this committee can attest to the fact that my mantra from day one was: The devil is truly in the details; and I set out on a mission to help make this the most memorable event in Black Power History to date. I still believe that with the many flaws and my many errors in leadership, that this dynamic committee accomplished just that. It is my struggle to make the most principled self-criticism and criticism of this work so that it can move on with principle, honor, upright character and really became an institution that moves with integrity and transparency necessary to steel our peoples’ confidence in our ability to usher in and lead the New World.
Name: Black Power Awards
Country: United States