Meet Licensed Psychotherapist Ajuma K. Muhammad (Part one of two)

| May 26, 2016
Eric Hackley

Eric Hackley

Self-knowledge a key to liberation

By Eric D. Hackley

After my first conversation with Brother Sage of South Bend, Ind., he told me months ago that he had a former student whom he wanted me to meet and interview. Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Licensed Psychotherapist Ajuma K. Muhammed, and owner of Ajuma’s Counseling Services L.L.C.

HACKLEY: Brother Ajuma, what brings you here to South Bend?

BROTHER AJUMA: I was invited by the University of Notre Dame’s Black Man’s Think Tank, to talk about unlocking your potential.

HACKLEY: I understand that you’re also involved with Brother Sage. How did you and he meet?

BROTHER AJUMA: Brother Sage and I met almost 40 years ago. He was a high school counselor. He inspired me, motivated me, redirected my life and put me on a track towards attending Central State University and becoming a role model and a mentor for my community.

HACKLEY” You’re from Ferguson, Mo. What was it like years ago when you were growing up there and how has it changed to present day?

BROTHER AJUMA: Ferguson was pretty much, initially an all-white community. And over time it became very brown and very black, meaning African American. African American people moved into the community. However, the politics of the city and the police force remained predominantly all white, probably 99 percent white, maybe one Hispanic. And so when the incident with Michael Brown occurred, we saw this racial disparity and racial confrontation with Darren Wilson, where this young African American male was shot down as a result of that exchange with the officer.

HACKLEY: If the Michael Brown incident would not have occurred, were the dynamics there such that something else would have happened?

BROTHER AJUMA: Sooner or later something would have happened. I think Ferguson is indicative of most communities throughout the country, where Whites have left the community and blacks have moved in, however the power structure has remained the same. And so as we see around the country, with the case of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, most of those communities are predominantly all white, as well, where black people are underrepresented and don’t receive the proper justice that is due to them as citizens of those communities.

HACKLEY: So then, are the problems in Ferguson correctable?

Ajuma K. Muhammed

Ajuma K. Muhammed

BROTHER AJUMA: It is correctable. However, systemic change, it takes a while, and it takes time to reshuffle the deck, so to speak, and move some of those bad apples out and put the kind of people in there that are going to provide leadership regardless of race or ethnicity. And so the case of Ferguson is going to take time, and it is slowly moving in a direction where there’s a sense of balance in the community.

HACKLEY: Concerning your education, why did you choose the fields of psychology?

BROTHER AJUMA: Initially, when I attended Central State University, I majored in pre-med. And, I went to school to become an ophthalmologist. I chose ophthalmology because as a kid, I was hit in the eye with a baseball, and I became intrigued by the medical equipment after going to get my eyes checked. Consequently, as an athlete, a high jumper, running track and playing basketball, pre-med was a little difficult, so I decided to move into the area of psychology. My mentor, Brother Sage, had a background in counseling and psychology and worked with youth, and so it was a nice segue into that particular arena. I found a sense of comfort in anything that deals with the mind and challenges your mind. Understanding human behavior and social dynamics intrigues me. And so it was a natural fit.

HACKLEY: Initially, when you first started counseling or interfacing with people, especially young black people, what dynamic stood out in your mind as to make your bells go off to say that there’s a problem here?

BROTHER AJUMA: Excellent question. Probably the common thread in most situations, families and the family dynamics is the lack of knowledge of self. That’s a really profound statement, and it has deep meaning. However, when an individual or family does not know themselves or know who they are or know from whence they come, then it’s like you’re moving south when in reality you should actually be going north, or vice versa. So when we talk about knowledge of self, we talk about having that cultural framework or that personal and cultural foundation to know who you are, to know your greatness and to know what you’re capable of.

There’s an axiom that says, those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat the same mistakes time and time again. And so it’s not an accident that Black History Month is the shortest month of the year. And it’s no accident that the information that we get from Black History Month is very minimal. So when the people don’t know who they are, it’s very problematic for them.

HACKLEY: When you say we don’t know who we are, are you referring strictly to African history? Or are you talking about slavery? What exactly are you in reference to?

BROTHER AJUMA: I’m talking about the combination of everything. It’s very important to know our history and to know about those who took our history from us. That’s very, very important. So we’re not just talking about the slavery aspect of it.  We’re talking about the great empires, the great kings and queens. Again, a foundation is built upon one’s history and one’s legacy. And so the more that we know about ourselves and our people, our rich history and our rich culture, it gives you a sense of empowerment because you know what’s possible.

HACKLEY: So what has happened where today, when you mention history to a lot of people, their ears fold over forward and they don’t want to hear anything about it?

BROTHER AJUMA: Well, you have to understand that most people have been programmed. As a lecturer and a motivational speaker, I travel throughout the country. And one of the examples that I give whenever I’m talking to a large group of people is that if I took a picture of the entire group and I showed it to each individual in the group, the first thing that a person would do in the group would be to look for themselves. They want to know if they’re presentable. Well, it’s the same thing with history. When our young people go to school and learn about their history, or when they go to school to take a history class, if they don’t see themselves represented in history, then there’s a disconnect. So there’s no motivation to be inspired to learn about history. But, I found in my personal private practice and working with young people, the more that they know about their history and their culture that inspires them, it lets them know about the human realm of possibility, what they could become.

HACKLEY: So in terms of social engineering, is there any difference within the United States, from one region to another in the programming? Because a lot of people have said that black communities, or the mindset, is really “messed up” everywhere.

BROTHER AJUMA: I would say there are different degrees of being “messed up.” In some instances in the South, where racism is more prevalent, people tend to have a greater sense of awareness and a collective need to get together and support each other. Oftentimes in the Midwest or in the North, people tend to be a little bit more liberal, and in some instances believe that racism is a thing of the past. So they’re a little bit less aware of the global aspects of white supremacy and racism. When we talk about racism, we’re not necessarily talking about an individual. We’re talking about a system that supports racist practices and racist policies. There’s a brother by the name of Neely Fuller Jr. who said that until you understand the global aspects of racism and the various tentacles that it touches, everything else you think you understand, you’ll never understand it. So we’re talking about a system versus an individual.

HACKLEY: Many think that if you stop talking about racism, that the impact on individuals will diminish.  I found that when you try to explain the opposite of that, you’re blowing smoke in the air. How do you get that point across that regardless of what you do, you can’t outrun that impact of global or even local or regional white supremacy?

BROTHER AJUMA: That’s an excellent question. I have two words for that. Barack Obama. The reason I say Barack Obama is, you know, we’re taught in this country as people of color or African Americans to go to school, to acquire this education, to learn how to speak proper and to learn how to dress in a certain kind of way that is acceptable to mainstream America.

If you look at the First Family in the White House right now, Barack Obama and his wife, both of them are Ivy League educated, and as President of the United States, he still does not receive the respect that is due to him. And even around the country, around the world in different European countries particularly that he goes to, they will defame him and use monkey caricature or images to show their disdain for a Black man being in a position of power and leadership.

So when people say well, just stop talking about racism, it’ll go away, two more words. Serena Williams. Because she’s dominated the tennis world, they too continue to do the same kinds of things to demean the young lady as opposed to giving her the proper respect that is due to her as a world champion. And so there’s a critical need that we have to continue to talk about this.  And a few other words: Tamir Rice, Travon Martin, Michal Brown, Eric Garner.  It is because of their race and their ethnicity that they become victims of this system here.

HACKLEY: In spite of Donald Trump’s wife posing nude in magazines, many of his supporters have said she will bring class back to the White House.

BROTHER AJUMA: The interesting thing about the rise of Donald Trump is that when Barack Obama was running for president everybody wanted to know if he was qualified. They wanted to know if he had enough education, did he have enough experience? Was he articulate enough? Well, Barack Obama has demonstrated all of that and beyond. Now we see Donald Trump, who’s inarticulate, very coarse, very abusive, verbally abusive to women, minorities, has a disdain for most people that don’t support his ideology, has a psychopathic personality. And so to put his wife up as a measure of beauty or what have you, to me is not even worth giving the energy to. Michelle Obama has demonstrated nothing but class to all women, regardless of race and ethnicity. She’s been an advocate of health and wellness, and she’s been a classy first lady from the day that she’s taken office. So I don’t even see any comparison. To give this conversation would be a waste of energy. There’s no comparison.

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Category: Civil Rights, Education, Health, History, Special Reports, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Eric Hackley is a veteran independent journalist, television show host and producer focusing largely on history, particularly family history in the black community. His award-winning public access television shows have featured a host of local and national icons. Hackley can be contacted at hackonomicstv@gmail.com.

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