The Great Harlem Debate Should Inspire Philadelphia

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[The Great Debate]

Below are several of my ex-teachers as a youth growing up in Brooklyn, New York.

I can remember clearly Dr. Ben debating Dr. Clarke on the greatest dynasties of ancient Kemet--Egypt.

Dr. Ben felt that the 18th dynasty, which gave us the development of mdu ntr (writing) was the most productive. Dr Clarke, on the other hand refuted that; by saying the 25th Dynasty, which gave us the warrior leadership of Shabaka, Pianka, and Tarharka, and what he would call "our last walk in the sun" was the greatest of all the Kemetic dynasties.

Debating ideas was the way which I was trained through observing Dr. Clarke and his many students in New York. I would have paid 100 dollars or more to see a debate between Dr. Huey P. Newton and the then Ron Karenga, now Professor Mualana Karenga, or Dr. Dubois and Garvey, or Ella Baker and Martin Luther King, or James Foreman and Stokely Carmichael, or Malcolm X and Thurgood Marshall on the politics of the Black community.

Such intellectual engagements would have submerged the angry vendetta between them and their intellectual prowess would have emerged and taken the place of arguments, disputes, and fights, emotionalism, etc. Moreover, in forums like "The Great Harlem Debate, The Obama Election, Was It Good For Blacks"? our children get to see how to handle emotional fights, utilizing their African consciousness, doing their research, homework, and being well read in the subject you’re defending.

This is the yardstick in measuring if a person is tough; not a gun, stick or fist fight or character assassination and name calling. But your brains! I hear too much name calling on talk radio (WURD) and not enough critical and intellectual polemics, along with analysis on binary viewpoints.

I ask: why can't we in Philadelphia set up forums like this New York one in our community to engage each-other on the politics of the Black community? A healthy debate will only help give the people clarity, and at the end, everybody wins because we would be better informed as a people.

In the New York event this coming Sunday, Dr. Len Jeffries, Honorable Charles Barron, attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz, and Viola Plummer, all of who answer the question posed in the affirmative, debate Dr. Marimba Ani, Dr. James Turner, Donald Smith, and Glenn Ford on Obama.

Is Obama’s election good or bad for African Americans? This is the way to settle a dispute! One of the things I just admire from my late intellectual friend Jean Purnell Esq. (Beverly), was her marvelous ability to have an intellectual fair one with me, or whoever else opposed her viewpoints.

This just increased my appreciation of her before she passed. Debating ideas is definitely a virtue; hopefully, Philadelphia will learn from New York.

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