Two weeks ago, Dr. Umar Johnson had an event in Brooklyn, where the Prince of GhostedGoFundMe was scheduled to give a talk, sign some books, and share beard maintenance tips. (He does have a pretty impressive beard.) Three brave people volunteered as tributes, to attend and report back on their findings. Here are their stories.
VSB: Who are you, and what compelled you to attend Hotepalooza?
Christine: Hi y'all! I'm Christine Curtis from Brooklyn. I went to that "meeting" because I heard a lot about Umar Johnson and some of his beliefs and I wanted to know who are the people that support him? Does he really have this large following? What will he do and say when speaking to a receptive audience? And to be honest, he shocked and did not disappoint me. I thought it would be funny, fun, sad and a true test of my anger management classes.
Joel: I'm Joel Philip. I'd like to say I was under the influence of cotton candy & quaaludes when I attended Umar Johnson's Dashiki Dynasty Vol. 1 Mixtape Premier Party, but I totally chose this as a personal challenge to myself. I went in with an open mind that perhaps there's a method to his madness, as I am not a fan of organized religion or snake oil salesman. I lucked out with a two for one deal. My assumption was the message would have some kind of gravity to it, and if I could put my ego to the side for a moment, perhaps it would resonate. It did. The way Taco Bell & White Castle resonate at 3 AM after a night of Jager Bombs and cheap coconut vodka. Pray for that toilet.
Malaika: My name is Malaika Aaron-Bishop, and I might be a bougie black person but I'm not sure cause I really, REALLY hate room temperature water. Still, the authenticity of my blackness gets called into question more times than I wanna admit. I'm an immigrant (born in Guyana, moved to the States in my early teens) so I often find myself clueless on the subject of even the most basic American pop cultural references. Still, even now I sometimes get caught slippin'. Ready? Confession time: a white person told me about Dr. Umar. *gasp* But I'm black and living in the US so I got schooled real quick on American-grade racism, race relations, racial politics, etc. No questions over here about who I am, and where I stand in the struggle.
That said, for me, Dr. Umar's event was two parts social study and one part entertainment with a splash of masochism. I had all the questions Christine had. Is this dude for real? Does he actually believe the shit that comes out his mouth? Was that 45min YouTube stint last year a marketing scheme to generate an audience for something more substantial? And speaking of audiences, in this day and age where your cellphone can literally tell you everything you wanna know about anything, what kind of fancy, Santeria-esque shit does one have do to spin consciousness or as the doc would say "konsciousness'? But lo and behold the #MostRequestedScholar did the fucking thing. People came, paid their money, and clapped for ALL the shit. I won't lie, if I weren't so appalled I'd be impressed. I not-so-secretly, secretly like when black people do fuckshit and get their money, so I walked in, not so much with Joel's open mind but kinda sorta ready to root for the nigga if he said just a few things that made some sense. He didn't.
Christine: I was surprised at how normal everybody looked.
Malaika: Right?!? Every time Umar would say some particularly outlandish shit, I'd look around to see how folks would react! And everyone looked perfectly normal and composed. It was baffling.
Joel: I think what made it more ironic is the same kind of women he was speaking about stereotypically with hair and nails were in the audience, clapping like he was talking about everyone but them.
Like shorty….your weave was done 30 minutes ago and you spent cash money on your nails, HE IS CLEARLY TALKING ABOUT YOU WITH THE IMPOSSIBLE GHETTO BLACK NAME HE MADE UP TO TALK ABOUT BLACK WOMEN
VSB: Did he say anything that made you think "Hmm. This charlatan nigga might have a point."?
Joel: 1) He spoke on the public school to prison pipeline for young black boys. Though how he went about it is ridiculous, a main point was true: the teachers are not your friend and your children are there to learn, not to be entertained.
2) Single parents have irrational fears when they go to school about their child's conduct. Especially if they are being their child is not on par for their age appropriate grade and must go to a remedial course instead. He stated parents allow themselves to be backed into a corner and end up st the mercy of the school instead of fighting for proper proof.
3) The labeling of children as ADHD is outrageously rampant and doesn't make sense.
4) Black people question other black people who have business ventures, ideas, or crafts while supporting white establishments without posing the same questions
Malaika: I think you might be giving him too much credit with those take aways. He spoke in enough cliches and gave enough half true illustrations that you being an intelligent, well read individual could draw reasonable conclusions from. If you took him at his actual word, white folks are "engineering" black boys to be gay so that they could "ensure" they get AIDS in ORDER to "infect our sistahs."
Christine: No he didn't and fuck that guy!!
He is a dumpster fire of nonsense and misogynoir.
He doesn't have any developed ideas. He is like the ADHD kids he claims to believe don't exist. He is the black Donald Trump when it comes to rambling and contradictory statements in the same speech.
He said that the schools try to intimidate parents by having a bunch of white people in the room to speak with the mother. Then he gave examples of people in the room like the school nurse and the counselor and the child's teacher. Like they have no business being in a meeting about a child. Now Umar has a solution for you! Get a recently paroled nigga to sit in on the meeting. He said find a guy with visible jailhouse tats that looks like he will go off if the people say the wrong thing and take him to the meeting. Because you need a man in the room with you when you have to take care of things with you child.
He said that he is a psychotherapist and he has testified in court for plenty of cases. But in hour two and a half he said he doesn't have a license or a degree from any college because he didn't want to work for white people!!
I was so fucking DONE!!!
This no class thin polyester dashiki wearing piece of used toilet paper had the nerve to say that black women are bald headed because of relaxer burns and then shit talked Madame C J Walker!!!
This nigga said he was a direct descendant of Frederick Douglass. If Frederick Douglass was resurrected he would slap this hotep piece of shit.
He talks in circles to further confuse those lost souls. He is the worst kind of black man because he has billed himself as someone who wants to help people but is only trying to help himself by robbing the most vulnerable. He wanna act like he hates hoteps but then describes bougie black people and calls it hotep.
And he can't count!!! He started out saying that he had a six point plan on how to help your kid and yourself through…some shit (shrug) but this spinning ass nigga never made it past the second point!!
Everything is because black woman are bad people spending all our time trying to be European and turning against black men because of our brainwashing. We are addicted to weave and burning our scalp with relaxer.
I wanted to just punch him in his Rick Ross light bearded ass face.
And he saddest part was that that auditorium full of sensible looking lost negroes clapping like that bitch was spitting knowledge.
This fuckshit ass nigga bitch had the nerve to open his mouth and say (I'm paraphrasing) that women let their children be affected by systemic racism in our public schools because when the time comes to see Little Ray Ray and Tay Tay's teacher we double booked the meeting and our weave appointment so we trying to get in and out. (He really did say Ray Ray and Tay Tay.) And THE WOMEN!!! Them clueless women clapped!!!! They nodded their head and LAUGHED!! They stood from their seats!
Oh and don't get me started on the Tupac Movie!
Malaika: There was one moment, for me, where he started with what had the promise of being a good point. It was when he talked about the link between educational institutions and gentrification. Actually, it didn't start off making that much sense. He started off by saying that if he was a white man wanting to infiltrate a mostly black neighborhood he would open a charter school. And employ white teachers (Mrs. Lebronowski) who would then need to live the neighborhood, driving up property taxes and then take black homes using eminent domain. This point somehow got fused with another point about University-fueled gentrification which was when I found myself really tuning in. I think this thought resonated with me because it made me think of South Side Chicago and what happened when the University of Chicago started buying up properties. Over the course of just a few years, the neighborhood around U of C changed dramatically and there was some not so subtle animosity between the University and the few folk who managed to stay in the neighborhood after it changed. Needless to say, this was the one instance where even though Umar used a lot of overly-simplified logic, I had to grudgingly admit he had a point. But then immediately after he said all that, he launched into a tirade about black women and c sections and placenta and Shea butter and my "this nigga here" face came back swiftly and with a vengeance.
Christine: The placenta!!!!!!
I forgot about the placenta!!! He said the hospitals are stealing black women's placenta because of Henrietta Lacks.
That was almost as bad as the whole Tupac movie part!
Malaika: Oh and then do you remember his thing about the Mormons in Utah stealing black peoples DNA because they own Ancestry.com? Actual. Tears. From. My. Actual. Eyes.
Christine: Yes I remember. He wanted to let you know that if you pay him $50 he will call you and give you advice. But if you talk too much he'll take you money and hang up.
Sweet baby Jesus. He said that it's a sham and Black people only do the test to prove they are 7.5% Native American.
Oh but remember the property he put a down payment on in North Carolina where he's building his school? Where all the black boys will have all black male teachers and women can't get a job if they have a weave or a perm? SMH!
VSB: What was the crowd like?
Christine: This is the shocker. They were normal black people! If you walked passed you would think it was a community outreach meeting or town hall. Most of them looked like they could be the neighbor you ask if it’s okay to accept your UPS package while you are work-type. Most people were well dressed. No “Ashy is the new woke” t-shirts.
There were a few outliers that had me wondering if they were in the right place. Like the presence of LGBTQ supporters especially since he says things like (once again paraphrasing) that the Black Male Genocide is being perpetrated through a sophisticated plan that involves Black boys being raised without their fathers who then turn into secret homosexuals and move to Atlanta where they are exposed to AIDS through the high population of gay people with AIDS in the city who will then pass it to Black women.
Other than that the crowd was pretty cool. If I walked into iHop and saw this exact same crowd eating pancakes I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.
Malaika: I second! If normal had a look, this crowd would be it. Black folks of various, shapes, sizes and complexions. Walking in I could hear a few folks speaking Spanish, others speaking Creole. There were some with accents I readily identified as Caribbean by way of Jamaica and Trinidad, but there were also others that I couldn't place. There were maybe one or two people who could pass for white folks up in the second row. He noticed them too, because at a point while launching into one of his crazy anecdotes he said something about having some white people in the audience and not meaning to offend. This I thought was funny considering how many times he referenced some unspecified brotha with his proverbial "white wife." Or better yet his constant reference to "Mrs. Lebronowski" the white teacher whose sole purpose in life is to make sure your black sons end up in jail by his 21st birthday so that her husband the white police officer could keep his job through retirement.
Oh and Christine there was one flag bearer, although I suspect she might have been in league with "the good doctor" because halfway through the night he made a pitch for people to go and visit the flag vendor outside. Included in said pitch? "If you got a white wife, go on get you a flag my brotha." SMH.
But yeah, the audience seemed perfectly ordinary. I remember wondering to myself more than once if the folks in attendance were mostly members of Brown Memorial Baptist. I also remember thinking to myself that the folks who clapped most fervently for the bullshit seemed to be older.
Joel: To be honest, it was the same crowd you'd find at a Jay-Z concert. Same crowd you'd find at a Dave Chappelle show. Same crowd you'd see at the bbq on Saturday when your aunt with arthritis shit on the whole fam with her awesome potato salad (don't asked who cut the potatoes, it's rude).
No daishikis, black power fists, afro pics, etc in sight. Now I remember why. He does not consider himself a hotep, just like most hoteps do not consider themselves as such. We are talking men and women ranging from 25 to 70. An eclectic crowd to say the least. It was Christine who pointed out every time he talked shit about hoteps, he was referring to his critics. Meaning Black folks who don't agree with him. US. WE ARE THE HOTEPS.
So if that's true in the eyes of those who follow him, we are too bougie to be worth the time. And if you think about any marginalized group, that is generally the belief they have of folks who don't sympathize with their plight.
Christine: He told the crowd that he hates hoteps more than once.
Malaika: There was definitely something hilariously/sadly circular about his logic. And I won't lie, more than once I had to ask myself where I would fall on the scale of one to Hotep.
Joel: If anything, the odd thing about Umar and his base is I don't believe for a second either side is stupid. He is intelligent. He's full of shit, but he is intelligent. Cunning and slick even. We've all seen someone like him. We have someone like that in our families: a know it all dude who decided he will never be wrong so he'll do anything you say he can't do, and even if he can't do it, he'll go full Republican on you and ignore all your points until you are exhausted. And his base are people who are sick of being ignored so they go with the direction of hearing what they want to hear, and will probably defend these points tooth and nail, despite them going against their best interest.
Actually that's it. Umar is Trump and his base is radical White America.
Christine: Joel I said that when we were eating Mexican. I said that he is very Trump-esque because he uses a small vein of truth to start an idea but goes on wild tangents that ends up making his whole statement false.
Plus he is taking advantage of the marginalized and disenfranchised. So yeah he is Trump with a Boondocks make over.
Joel: You're right, you did mention that.
Only reason someone's like him is worse than Trump is that he has no true success except what he's getting other people to believe. And he knows that's all he needs right now.
Malaika: Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii am not so convinced that either one of those two niggas deserve the credit of intelligence. A certain level of ruthlessness? Yes. A disturbing talent for manipulation? Definitely. A large dose of "Imma get mine by any means necessary"? Absolutely. But intelligence? I don't think so. I think Umar and his Yin-Yang twin da Trumpinator fall short of real intelligence because they both have this puzzling mix of pridefulness AND shamelessness. When this mix kicks in all the smarts go out the window. Fuck logic, fuck proof, fuck evidence, fuck a point, fuck the shit you mighta caught me saying on video five minutes ago that completely contradicts what I'm saying right now.