I am behind in timeliness, but not in terms of relevance when I ask the question who is Umar Johnson? Many folk saw his appearance on the Roland Martin show earlier this year where he was ambushed by Martin and his guests. Martin’s stance was questionable given that Umar Johnson was on his show previously and there was critical dialogue about a range of topics mostly on educating boys of color and the issues of misdiagnosis and over-identification of Black and Latino boys in Special Education. That being said, he is a polarizing and hot button topic. Others loathe him and feel he is a phony and a fraud. He has been on a few shows in which people question is level of education and the authenticity of his kinsmenship to Fredrick Douglass. Others want to know what he does with the monies for the school he is to start.
The kinsmenship explanation given on the Roland Martin show works for me. It made sense. I actually never knew it was an issue. He said and clarified that he never claimed to be a direct descendant of Fredrick Douglass. I am not a researcher, I do not have that kind of time, so I take him at his word on that.
In regards to his level of education, many people believe him to be a lier. I think in listening to this brother talk and some of his formal lectures that he is brilliant. He is obviously well-versed, thought-provoking, and has a level of expertise that many Black intellectuals and scholars simply cannot match. I am not surprised that many question his level of education. He does not sound like Michael Eric Dyson. He does not sound like Henry Louis Gates, or Cornell West, so he cannot be educated in “our schools.”
I do think he sounds like Amos Wilson, Na’im Akbar, and Dr. Francis Cress Welsing, Neely Fuller, although they have never been accepted by the “mainstream.” The “concern” was did you lie to us Umar? While in fact the question should have been, why do Blacks think you are lying about your credentials? So a high school diploma suffices. His doctorate degree only continues to validate. Much of his rhetoric around educating Black males and addressing problems in our community are spot on. He extortions around Black economics are of great value. Michael Harriot of The Root stops short of saying that Umar Johnson did not have a doctorate. A week later he clarified and verified that Johnson did in fact have a Doctorate degree.
On the Roland Martin Show, Johnson claims to have raised $700,000 for a school. My initial reaction to that was oh, joy!! But I started to take off my blinders when Martin asked Johnson when his school, FDMG Academy, was opening. Johnson said, “August of 2018 or 2019 at the latest, on the anniversary of the Nat Turner war.” This was disturbing. I know plenty who have started schools and they will tell you that finding a building is the hardest part of the work. It is usually the last thing to be done because it takes the longest. Many schools in DC and other parts of the country have had to postpone opening for a year, because they did not procure a building/space. This was the first time I did not believe Dr. Johnson. After St. Paul’s college went off the market, Umar was left scrambling to find sufficient space? But my question is what are the back up plans? Who is helping him look? 2019 seems much more viable than 2018. St. Paul’s is in Virginia. There was talk of another space in Mississippi. But that deeply impacts recruitment, and so many other things because Mississippi and Virginia are different jurisdictions. What has been his recruitment efforts? Maybe you can start this year, if you have these questions figured out, maybe. A
The questions I have are:
Where is the curriculum, pacing guides, core values?
Who is on your board Dr. Johnson?
Who is the principal, or better yet, what staff have you hired?
Any building he procures will need some amount of renovation, correct?
Is there a website, if not, how come?
Maybe because answers to these questions have not been answered.
What is the scope of the school?
How many students will enroll the first year?
When you frequent his website, there is not link to the site of the school. There is a icon/logo, but the logo will not take you anywhere…
To my knowledge none of these questions have been addressed by Johnson. My sincere hope is that he has thought through these time-consuming items with qualified individuals who have done this work. But I do not know. What I do know is I have difficulty believing that someone with such acumen as it relates to educating our children and Pan-Africanism could be so void in basic business communication. Which ultimately forces me to question his sincerity.
Here is why this is so troubling. His book, is truth. I believe Pyscho-educational Holocaust, is a book that every teacher of color should read. Every teacher that works with black and brown boys should read it, and I believe that every parent of a Black and Latino child should read it. His insight and information are critical. You can tell by his words, insights, and storytelling that he has put in #thework. It does not matter if that book were written by a person of BA, MA, or Ph.D. status. The info is informative and of substance. So I hope you are not lying, pimping, swindling people when it comes to a school. If it is found that you were lying, it hurts all of us as a people. As a monolith, African Americans are looking for leaders. Any lies or deceit by Black leaders only sets us back.
So to be clear, this is not another article dismantling Dr. Johnson’s credibility. I revisited Pyscho-Academic Holocaust recently, and was reminded of his insight and the necessity of his voice. The Black Intellectual space is crowded with people who do not address the education of Black children, and white supremacy. I hope at some point, he will answer the questions regarding his school and website, and the transparency around timing and necessary communication with his donor base. This is essential because I think it is tremendously helpful to have more single gender schools for Black boys.
As always thank you for Reading