A Love Jones: How Leonard Moore’s Recent Lecture at Prairie View A&M University Reminded Me of What is Truly Important in this Life

Brotherhood is an unspoken bond forged at a non-specific point. Although it may be extremely difficult to pinpoint the moment that the alluded to brotherhood is forged, its display is an occasion that is impossible to miss.

Considering that the duties of a college professor are unknown to those outside the profession, most are shocked to learn that we work long hours at tasks that are not enjoyable. As a person whose personality type lends me toward avoiding all interaction with people, I am confident that you understand my resistance to dreaded committee work that forces one into interacting with people that you would never even speak to, let alone have any significant interactions.

Dreaded committee work is by far my least favorite aspect of my duties as an Associate Professor of African-American Studies. So, I am quite confident that you understand my resistance to joining a committee assigned the task of selecting speakers for the academic unit that I belong. This burdensome task was made more difficult due to the reality that there was no budget, hence, whoever agreed to travel to our campus (on their own dime) and speak to our collegians (without any compensation whatsoever) would not just be volunteering their time, they would be working from a financial deficit. Let me add this fact, such arrangements are largely unheard of for notable speakers who can command up to $50,000.00 for a thirty-minute speech; most national level speakers reason that institutions have the money, so why not take it.

When assigned the task of bringing in a speaker for the 2018 Black History Month program, I immediately knew that Dr. Leonard Moore was the scholar that topped my dream list of speakers. I am confident that many would wonder why I immediately targeted “Len” for this duty. Well, the answers to that query are logical and numerous.

  • We are both graduates of THE Ohio State University History Program.
  • We were both mentored by a cadre of black intellectuals, most notably Dr. William E. Nelson. It was Nelson’s guidance that taught all who sat at his foot “what a black professor ought to be and to do” at every turn.
  • Moore’s path to his current position as an Associate Vice President of Academic Diversity Initiatives and Professor of History at the University of Texas (Austin) is a veritable academic “rags to riches” story that I felt my students needed to hear.

Of all these matters, it was a brotherhood forged at THE Ohio State University that led me to issue the invitation.

So when I sent Dr. Moore an e-mail communication requesting his presence, I was unsurprised when my e-mail was returned with an immediate phone call that began with a gracious acceptance of the invitation, but also followed by a personal inquiry regarding my health; Leonard had learned via my students that I was stricken with a life-threatening illness that required emergency surgery.

It was only after convincing Leonard that I had made as much of a recovery from that episode as possible that the conversation turned with Dr. Moore making an interesting comment, “Man, your students love you. You are the first thing that they say after they hear that I went to Ohio State.” Such a statement no longer surprises me. Anyone who has witnessed my interaction with my students invariably comments that we truly have a love affair going on.

I have no reservation in stating that teaching and mentoring my students are the best part of my job. Although I rarely state this in public, my students are the only reason that I have remained in my present role; frequently they have been the only wind beneath my wings. Leonard’s words reminded me of how fortunate I am to be at a Historically Black College. Never one to miss an opportunity to teach, I was extremely pleased when Dr. Moore began his presentation by pointing in my direction and telling my students, “Do you know how lucky you are to have him? He loves y’all!!!!!” As if the moment could not be any grander, my students resoundingly communicated their understanding of Leonard’s assertion and communicated a matching affinity.

I guess that it is natural for each of us, regardless of occupation to look around and survey the landscape for other opportunities. It is during those moments of seeing if “the grass is greener on the other side” that we can lose focus on the bountiful blessings our present station is providing. In many ways, I recognize that my presence on the campus of a Historically Black College is a role that I was groomed to assume by my parents and mentors, frequently it feels as if this situation was ordained by God. After responding to a query from the aforementioned Dr. William E. Nelson that I “absolutely loved” my job, this wise man advised me with the following quip. “I have worked for over thirty-years in academia and have never used the word LOVE in response to any of those endeavors. You might want to consider staying there.” If nothing else, Leonard’s gracious visit reinforced the sage advice of Dr. William E. Nelson and reaffirmed my hopes that this love affair that I have with my students never ends.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2018.

Message in the Movie: Why All Persons of African Descent Need to Heed The Pan-Africanist Message Found in Black Panther, It Could Be Our Liberation Road

Considering my occupation as an African-American Studies professor, frequent discussions over Pan-Africanism are to be expected. However, the assertion that Pan-Africanist issues have taken a prominent place in the forefront of my mind is not rhetoric as I have just emerged from a full week of lecturing about Marcus Garvey and Pan-Africanism. Anyone with even a mere understanding of African-American History will tell you that Garvey should be considered the King of Pan-Africanism as he serves as one of the foremost advocates of the political ideology that calls all persons of African descent together.

So, I hope that you can understand a Color Purple inspired feeling of “maybe God is trying to tell you something” as I watched the riveting sub-discourse between T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) in the recently released Black Panther movie. If I did not know any better, I could be convinced that this was yet another sign from the ancestors that the only reasonable road for the liberation of persons of African descent is Pan-Africanism.

Although the vast majority of ‘conscious’ African-Americans trace the marginalized socioeconomic status that has dogged our community for centuries to unwise decisions to pursue integration with a hostile white populace, others such as Garvey, DuBois, Clarke, and Nkrumah would point toward an even bigger issue of the absence of a Race first mindset among persons of African descent. It is this issue of Pan-Africanism that sits prominently at the center of Marvel’s Black Panther. Questions regarding the relationship, or the lack thereof, between the citizens of Wakanda (Africans) and outsiders (diasporic blacks) are fertile ground for copious amounts of conflict between T’Challa and Erik Killmonger. The alluded to questions separating these cousins, both of whom has royal blood flowing through their veins, include the following:

  • Do continental Africans consider diasporic blacks kin?
  • Did Africa do a gross disservice to African-Americans by abandoning them in a foreign land?
  • Are African-Americans such as Erik Killmonger rational in their anger toward Africans for their blatant resistance to address the atrocities occurring in America? (One must remember that Malcolm X called for the United States of America to be brought up on Human Rights violations in the 1960s)
  • Who is responsible for healing the intra-racial divide that divides continental and diasporic persons of African descent?

Although many may assume that the blood-thirsty Erik Killmonger is the antagonist in Black Panther, I am confident that I have much company in resisting such a designation for the Oakland, California native. It could be reasonably argued that it is Erik Killmonger who is the protagonist as he possesses not only the most progressive worldview regarding the perilous plight of persons of African descent around the globe but also our only hope for ending a 500 year African Holocaust.

Unfortunately for persons of African descent, the issue of Pan-Africanism remains so highly contentious that no other issue proves our non-monolithic status in regards to political priorities or racial matters.

In many ways, it was shocking to see Pan-Africanism placed at the center of such a prominent film, yet extremely encouraging that thousands of persons of African descent were exposed to the political concept. One can only hope that continental Africans arrive at the same conclusion that T’Challa (the Black Panther) does by the film’s culmination that Africa’s abandonment of diasporic blacks is in many ways, “a crime against humanity.” The repeated failure to address this matter expeditiously is an obvious sign that the minds of Africans have not been effectively cleansed of the residue that the British, French, and other European colonizers implanted there. The shortcomings of diasporic blacks in this matter will be similarly revealing as they have repeatedly displayed a tendency to adopt the perspective their white oppressors have held regarding their kin who are the inhabitants of the “dark continent.”

It is imperative that African-Americans heed the admonishment of Dr. John Henrik Clarke who scolded our kind that “until Africa is free, you will never be free.” It is likewise important for African nations to realize that there is a sizable population of educated and financially well-off diasporic blacks eager to aid in the freeing of Africa. Until these basic realities are understood by persons of African descent around the globe, we will continue to lose in the ‘Game of Life’ where collectivism, education, planning, and the pooling of resources are the most significant difference makers one could ever imagine.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2018.

Searching for a Mute Button: The Real Reason that Laura Ingraham Attempted to Silence LeBron James

I repeatedly tell people that if you listen intently for any amount of time to what others say, they will reveal their true feelings. If Black America made a practice of doing such, they would be unsurprised by the hatred that many whites spew during diatribes that drip with an elitist haughtiness aimed at maintaining centuries-old racial inequities. The alluded to purveyors of hate-speech repeatedly display the more unfortunate qualities surrounding the First Amendment’s ‘Free Speech’ protections.

The most recent example of speech that tramples on First Amendment protections is conservative political commentator Laura Ingraham. Ingraham, a graduate of Dartmouth and the University of Virginia Law School, recently aimed her trademarked rudeness of “shut up and …” at famed NBA player LeBron James and other Americans whose “formal education” may pale in comparison to her own by telling him to “shut up and dribble.” This phraseology reminds me of an insult that sportswriter William Rhoden heard shouted at a New York Knicks game when a white fan, apparently disappointed at the effort of a player, shouted that he was nothing more than a million dollar slave. Ingraham’s entire race-tinged diatribe against James and all other black NBA players reminds me of a truism that flowed from the baritone voice of the Rev. Dr. Johnny R. Heckard when he stated that “education ain’t never done nothing for the heart.” I am quite confident that most expect a Fox News political pundit like Ingraham to have no use for a raised black political voice if it conflicts with their political viewpoints.

The alluded to conflict between Ingraham and James flows from a video featuring James and Kevin Durant, along with Cari Champion, where the NBA duo expresses what I consider standard views within the African-American community regarding Donald Trump. It is difficult for me to believe that a political pundit such as Ingraham would be shocked that any African-American feels that the present resident of the Oval Office has little concern or consideration for non-elites, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Ingraham, feigning an incredulous shock and disappointment, responded to this relatively routine perspective with the following commentary.

Must they run their mouths like that? Unfortunately, a lot of kids and some adults take these ignorant comments seriously. Look, there might be a cautionary lesson in LeBron for kids. This is what happens when you attempt to leave high school a year early to join the NBA. And it’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball. Oh and LeBron and Kevin? You’re great players but no one voted for you. Millions elected Trump to be their coach. So keep the political commentary to yourself. Or as someone once said, shut up and dribble.

Ingraham’s vitriol is nothing less than a desperate attempt to revive an antiquated centuries-old historical context when her ancestors were able to “keep the nigger” in his place via economic reprisals and physical punishments that extended into areas such as rape, lynching, and burning at the stake. Put simply, whites were the original possessors of maintaining their privileged status ‘by any means necessary.’

In the yesteryear that Ingraham desires, African-Americans are to be seen (serving white needs) and not heard (even during occasions of undeniable pain, gross unfairness, and the extension of inequality). When the entire political playing field is considered, Ingraham’s commentary is only one portion of a larger effort to extend the tyrannical rule of privileged whites. A plot whose success is greatly bolstered by a marginalized poor and white working-class populace whose racial hatred has repeatedly led them to ‘cut off their nose to spite their face.’ The only escape route for poor and working-class whites marginal socioeconomic position is a de-emphasis on racial matters and a doubling-down on unionization and class struggle.

Make no mistake about Ingraham or any other race-baiting commentary spewed into the public space for consumption by poor and working-class whites, it is designed to extend their monopolies over all spaces, even those occupied by white non-elites.

If nothing else, Ingraham’s gross public behavior reveals an understandable fear that a figure such as LeBron James holds more cultural capital and influence over an admiring American populace than she could ever hope to possess.

At the core of Ingraham’s obvious frustrations is the undeniable reality that the America her kind are seeking to “make great again” is slipping from their greedy, old, white hands and falling into progressive hands of a “rainbow” of younger Americans. While Ingraham seeks to defend the intellectual ineptitude and gross immorality emanating from current national-level politicians like a wounded wild beast crying out for aid from her kind, figures such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Gregg Popovich, and Colin Kaepernick are to be applauded for their courageous attempts to challenge frail and decaying pockets of power in this nation.

As LeBron James put it, he is “more than an athlete” and thank God for that; because we need progressive voices from every arena to expose figures such as Ingraham who have for far too long used their platforms to misdirect naïve audiences regarding the source of economic inequities and misery in this nation.

The fact that a figure such as LeBron James has a colossal platform from which he can communicate to an American populace eager to listen to his perspective is quite possibly the most frightening variable in this entire fray to Ingraham. It is this reality that leads me to advise LeBron James to “speak on my brother, speak on.”

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2018.

Fighting Against Their Own Best Interests: The Harmful Effect that Flawed Manhood Constructs are Having on the Lives of some Black Males

For some reason, I have been having conversations with a trusted friend regarding what he terms “cultural constructs”; a fancy way of saying how black men view themselves. As is so often the case with such matters, God placed the perfect example of this malady in front of me to consider.

Let me preface this posting with an admission that I have changed from the educator who made repeated overtures to black males who openly resist the educational process. On-lookers would have termed my actions a stubborn refusal to allow these young brothers to fall by the wayside. Even when faced with obvious evidence that not even the engaging materials I shared in my African-American History courses was capable of interesting these individuals, I continued to engage and encourage them toward an engagement with academic subjects.

After the alluded to discussions over “cultural constructs” I more fully understand that many black males resistance to educational endeavors flows from a flawed understanding of what a black man ought to be and to do.

Two decades of experience teaching informs my belief that far too many of the black males sitting in my classes arrived with a flawed understanding of black manhood. I believe that it is this flawed understanding that serves as the primary catalyst behind their dour expectations. This gloominess routinely prevents their travel along a path capable of illuminating their minds and significantly improving their lives. Instead of being buoyed by the limitless possibilities that education provides, I have repeatedly witnessed many black males undercut their futures in disingenuous ways.

I remember the day several years ago when it became obvious that one of my male students had no interest in securing a quality education as it coincided with a favored lecture that discussed the linkages between declining central cities and the arrival of hip-hop culture. This particular topic is one of my favorites as it allows me to discuss Parliament’s lyrics that what we are witnessing are “Chocolate cities and vanilla suburbs” as well as the classic Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five song titled “The Message.”

The moment that I stepped into the class, it was obvious that one male student’s unpreparedness was not only deliberate, but also a ploy designed to communicate his lack of interest in any facet of learning. There is no greater sign of a young person’s declaration of war against education than the unmistakable aroma of marijuana wafting around him as if it were an aura. As if that were not bad enough, this particular student rolled a chair into the classroom in an obvious attempt to be disruptive and avoid sitting at a desk; I guess he reasoned that there was no need for a desk as he had neither a pen, pencil, or piece of paper to take notes. This young black male’s hostility to the educational process was not tempered by the reality that a robust discussion of hip-hop culture and African-Americans sat at the center of my lecture.

It was obvious to me that somewhere along his path in life, this young man developed a belief that it was him, not myself or his peers who were representing what a black man should be and ought to do. This individual’s decision to enter and exit the lecture hall at least five times prior to falling asleep in his seat were additional overwhelming evidence offering deafening commentary regarding his resistance to the educational process, regardless of subject matter. Decades of teaching have convinced me that such individuals are beyond my reach.

Let me be absolutely clear, I am not an apologist who denies the impact that discrimination and institutional racism have on African-American males, however, I also am a proponent for personal responsibility and the seizing of opportunities as they present themselves. Although the antics of many of my black male students are befuddling as they appear to be conscious attempts to work against their best interests. My reflection on this issue has led me to the understanding that they are nothing other than prisoners held within self-imposed walls that hold their innate genius and vast potential hostage. Were I provided the opportunity, I would implore such individuals to re-examine everything that they think that they know about black manhood and re-consider their illogical understanding of what a black man ought to be and ought to do. It is in that space that they will find the initial steps toward liberation as a black man in this nation.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2018

Full of Promise: Why Black Panther Threatens to be a Transformational Movie in African-American Lives

One of the most influential pieces of advice I ever received was to build traditions. In time, I have learned that this advice has been an integral part of not only who I am, but also my relationship with my sons. In fact, one of my favorite traditions is arriving early to the movies with my sons so that they have ample time to secure their popcorn and drinks and then view the previews of upcoming movies.

It is during the moments after the alluded to movie trailer ends that the routine of me looking in my youngest son’s direction to gather his impression of the movie; basically, it is my means of comprehending if he thinks the film is worthy of viewing or not. Although I can only make out my son’s silhouette in the darkened movie theater, this slight sketch is sufficient for me to gauge his reaction to the movie preview. He communicates his desires in a few ways. A thumbs down (meaning, we aren’t going to see that one) a single thumbs-up (meaning, yeah, that looks interesting and I would like to go see it) or a double-thumbs up with a smile (meaning, man, I have GOT TO SEE THAT MOVIE).

As a comic book fan who has viewed every Marvel superhero movie, I am confident that you can imagine the trailer for Black Panther received not only a double-thumbs up with a smile, but also led to a new perspective of James standing up and pointing at the screen. Translation: We are DEFINITELY going to see this film several times. I could do nothing other than nod my head in agreement.

When one considers that without the supplement of familial contributions, it is nearly impossible for African-American children to develop a healthy sense of black pride and self-esteem. It is difficult to effectively argue against the contention that one of this nation’s foremost traditions has been the denigration of African-Americans via the media. Considering the invariable disrespect and negative images presented by white media outlets, Black America was in a more advantaged position to be ignored and omitted from mainstream programming. Put simply, the cultural and intellectual diet that blacks have received from an often hostile and blatantly disrespectful white majority population has left the minds and self-esteem of Black America in what can be best termed a woefully malnourished state. It is the need to counter the historical negativity associated with the black presence that Black Panther should be attended by all persons of African descent.

This matter reminds me of the very question of “Don’t blacks have their own great stories?” that figures such as W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus

Garvey, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, and Lanston Hughes were asking a century ago as this nation emerged from World War I and places such as Harlem were darkened by droves of black southerners pursuing a significant improvement in their economic misfortunes. Most black writers realize that there is a psychological liberation that justifies our humanity to be found in positive stories centered on black men, women, and children. Most reasonable people understand that positive stories that feature their kind as heroes and heroines are akin to soul food as it provides an intangible nourishment to those that consume it. Black Panther offers a promise to inject a sense of self-worth to a people who far too frequently are devoid of it; it is for this reason that I will be in attendance at Black Panther and hope that you make the same decision. I am confident that my son would give that decision two thumbs up and a smile.

See you at the movie.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2018.

Committed to investigating, examining, and representing the African-American male, men, and manhood by offering commentary regarding the status of Black Men and Black Manhood as it relates to African-American Manhood, Race, Class, Politics, and Culture from an educated and authentic African-American perspective aimed at improving the plight of African-American men and African-American Manhood in regards to Politics, Culture, Education, and Social Matters.

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