Posted on May 27, 2010

40 Black Men Take the “Kiyama” Pledge

Allan Appel, New Haven Independent, May 24, 2010

Know that the world is not run by people who wear their pants at their knees. Know when to say please and thank you. Don’t let black women raise your children alone. Refuse to be consumed by the myths of black inferiority or white superiority. Oh–and don’t litter.

Forty black men gathered Saturday to pledge to follow that creed.

The event took place at the student center auditorium of Southern Connecticut State University.

It was the the first public taking of the Kiyama Pledge, created by local activist and criminal defense attorney Michael Jefferson.

{snip} “Kiyama” means “resurrection” in Swahili.

The grassroots movement Jefferson hopes to start is non-sectarian and non-religious, although highly spiritual. “It’s set up to be universal,” Jefferson explained.

Jefferson took the pledge himself in front of his family in 2007. He said Saturday’s ceremony–which had the feel of half black history seminar, half secular revival–was not prompted by any particular event.


Kiyama is anchored in a comprehensive website created by the tech-savvy Jefferson {snip}.

The site includes a Kiyama curriculum on black history and issues, compiled solely by Jefferson from his reading, replete with links to publications and sites.

“It’s fully researched,” said Jefferson.

It has info on everything from the Dred Scott decision to the fact that Rome at the time of the movie Gladiator had a senate that was one third black. Jefferson also said there were three early African popes.


“Kiyama is simple,” he said. “It’s about being better. Look at how Richard Pryor stopped using the N word.” He suggested that if rappers would pull their pants up, so would the huge audience of boys who follow them.

By Jefferson’s design, the pledge in public is always administered by a woman. That’s because, according to Jefferson, black women have sustained the black community over the generations; black men have to pick up their game as responsible parents and leaders to complement them.


What has all this to do with littering? “We need to confront some of our own self destructive tendencies,” Jefferson said. “You can’t blame white men for littering if you litter.”