A loud roar of applause filled the room of Lula’s Café at every pause or opportunity during Sister Lissa Jones’s lecture. Without the slightest attempt to beat around any bushes with sugar-coated, scripted language, the Sister let loose.
“I don’t know about you, but I am tired of being powerless,” she said as hands clapped and praise was shouted in emphatic agreement. “Black people are trapped inside the prisons of self-hate and self-destruction and nobody is talking about it.”
Although reclaiming the African American Identity and Self-esteem was the underlying theme of Lissa Jones’s eloquent and stern address during a recent communiversity event on October 20, 2005, there definitely wasn’t a ceiling on the information extended regarding Black people’s plight to justice and equality.
Jones, executive director of African American Family Services, took listeners on a candid narration through the early destruction of the African American Identity and Self-esteem starting with the 18th-century Willie Lynch, who imposed treatment that blueprinted strategies of controlling a slave.
She was tenacious in her approach.
“Willie Lynch in 1712 came to America to tell plantation owners exactly how to control slaves,” said Jones. “Now in 2005, although we are no longer slaves, Willie Lynch still plagues Black America because I am too light and he’s too dark or because her lips are bigger and his nose is broader and instead of building each other up we’re busy tearing each other down against the American standards of slim lips, slim noses, slim thighs until our self-esteem is destroyed. Those are the kinds of things that breed self-hate,” Jones told the large audience congregated at Lula’s Coffee & Jazz in Minneapolis.
Aiming to reaffirm Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s keen observance of the Western world’s distortion of African history, she cited from Dr. Woodson’s 1933 Miseducation of the Negro, saying Black people will never be able to define our existence until we properly revive and reform our mind, body and soul: “Once you convince a man in his mind that he is inferior, there is nothing else to do to make him behave that way, he will do it on his own.” “So, we are talking about re-framing the hearts and minds and souls of Black people for Black people because nothing about us or for us is by us,” said Jones. “My question then for Black America is when are we gonna decide that our transformation must occur from the inside out. I don’t know about you but I am down at African American Family Services every day performing transformations from the inside out because I no longer want someone else to define what Black is, what it looks like, what’s in it and how it’s supposed to act. I want to define the Black women, I want to define Black marriage and I want to define what is the Black community,” she exclaimed, her voice embedded in emotion.
Providing a better understanding of how she became the woman she is today, Jones reminisced on how her father would constantly enforce the “Black is beautiful” concept as a child and would always remind her that she was as smart, as strong and as capable as anybody. Consequently, she was instilled with tremendous self-worth tied to a life-long love for Black people. Today, she soars with the elegant grace and acute awareness of an eagle and transforming the self-hate and battered racial identity and self-esteem of our people is her mission.
“It was not too long ago when 85% of Black families were together as father and mother. Right now, our children are trapped inside the prisons of self-hate and they are trapped inside the prisons of self-destruction and they can’t start to love their families until they begin to love themselves. We must free our children’s minds from the prison of believing that they’re not worthy of a family,” Jones summoned.
Organized under the direction of the salient scholar Mahmoud El-Kati and comprised of youth leaders and learners of the community, the communiversity seeks to provide a vehicle for sharing knowledge and information with the immediate community and making academic knowledge more accessible to “common people.”
Communiversity’s guest speaker Lissa Jones, and almost all guest speakers, evidenced in their discussions that the material and information they transmit isn’t adequately referenced, if even found, in academic institutions—thus further explaining the conception of the Communiversity.
Founded in 1975, the mission of African American Family Services is to help the African American individual, family, and community reach a greater state of well-being.
For more information on the Communiversity or for upcoming events, contact Adrian Mack at 612-483-6681 or Yeemah Brewer at 612-414-7015.
For more information on African American Family Services contact 612-871-7878 or visit www.aafs.net.