Category Archives: Black Boys

A MODERN DAY EMMETT LOUIS TILL?: THE LYNCHING OF KINGSTON FRAZIER

Although I doubt it, however, it is fully within the realm of possibility that my fiery reaction to the lynching of 6-year-old Kingston Frazier in Jackson, Mississippi, is due to my knowledge of Emmett Louis Till’s lynching. These horrific crimes have several obvious corollaries.

  • Both lynchings occurred in the state of Mississippi.
  • Both of the victims were African-American children.
  • A mere 200 miles separate the dastardly crime scenes.
  • Kingston and Emmett were both snatched from the bosom of protection that family provides by a sinister element.
  • The lynchers of both of these African-American males should be considered domestic terrorists as their evil deeds are focused on exterminating a particular American population.

Relatively speaking, Emmett Louis Till’s offenses of touching the hand of Carolyn Bryant and offering a simple “goodbye” as he exited a convenience store are executable offenses when compared to 6-year-old Kingston Frazier’s offense of sleeping in the backseat of his mother’s vehicle as it was stolen. Surveillance tapes indicate that in the few moments that Kingston’s mother entered a grocery store, some thief stole the car that 6-year-old Kingston Frazier, one day away from his first-grade graduation, was slumbering in.

Once these thieves realized that a child was asleep in the back of the vehicle, they hastily ditched the vehicle on a dead end road and prepared for a hasty exit. Unfortunately for all of America, these criminals made the damning decision that their best chance of making a ‘clean get away’ was to pump a bullet into the head of young Kingston Frazier who was hopefully still slumbering in the backseat.

As previously mentioned, this barbaric crime reverted my mind to the lynching of Emmett Louis Till; however, there is one significant difference between Emmett Louis Till’s lynching in Money, Mississippi, and Kingston Frazier’s lynching; those responsible for the latter’s death were not member of some white supremacist group, in fact, they were not white at all, Kingston Frazier’s executioners were young African-American males.

When I heard about this abominable crime, there was a part of me that needed to see those responsible for it. A brief search presented a short video of the three culprits: Dwan Diondro Wakefield (17), DeAllen Washington (17) and Byron McBride Jr. As I viewed the video clip, I was shocked that I did not recognize any of these men; meaning that I did not recognize their demeanor, their posture or movements as none of them reflected the dignity, class, and refinement of the generations of black men that socialized me regarding what it meant to be a black man in America.

Kingston Frazier’s lynching by three young African-American males validates W.E.B. Du Bois’ piercing insight of what those who adopt their oppressors perspective become. I am certain that many are questioning my repeated use of the word lynching regarding this crime and may feel that the characterization is unwarranted. I feel that such contestation is wrong-headed for several reasons. When one considers that the definition of lynching is the killing of a person by a group due to some alleged offense or crime, the murder of Kingston Frazier reaches that threshold as he was killed by several individuals for the most daunting and unavoidable crime of all, being young, black, and male in a land whose inhabitants, regardless of their race/ethnicity, have decided that such descriptors add up to worthlessness and irrelevancy. Put simply, a vast swath of the American citizenry, many of whom are black, have been socialized to believe that persons of African descent do not have the right to live. In his timeless classic The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois describes this infectious affliction when he observes that “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”

There is no other reasonable explanation for the actions of Dwan Diondro Wakefield (17), DeAllen Washington (17) and Byron McBride Jr. than to accept the unavoidable reality that their mindset and perspective regarding fellow African-Americans closely mirrors that of white bigots raised inside a nation where both academic lessons and social customs contribute to a denigration of African-American males. Such reasoning is a sensible explanation that explains why African-American males commonly view, treat, and consider one another as mortal enemies worthy of an excruciating death.

If African-Americans were not afflicted with a psychosis that causes them to hate one another with a vile and insanely jealous hatred, the lynching of Kingston Frazier would lead to a mobilization resembling that which occurred in the wake of J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant’s lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Louis Till. The fact that as a collective we will do nothing more than take a momentary pause and issue a cowardly non-specific prayer regarding this matter speaks volumes about how serious we are about protecting the many Kingston Frazier’s in our midst that must find someway to navigate around the myriad dangerous people and obstacles that threaten their future on a moment-by-moment basis.

We must relentlessly demand that Kingston Frazier’s lynchers face the sternest punishment possible. Failure to issue such a demand continues our worst tradition of providing a place of refugee for individuals whose destruction of both our community and black lives rivals that of white supremacist groups.

There should come a point where we love one another enough to decide that we have enough of this foolishness. It is time for black America to set standards and hold every segment of their society to those criteria. A major step in this endeavor, particularly in regards to preventing future black-on-black lynchings is to expel those who do not warrant the privilege of living in our midst from the bosom of protection that they have misused for far too long.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

INSIDE OF A BOOK: THE PERFECT PLACE TO HIDE IMPORTANT THINGS FROM AFRICAN-AMERICAN MALES

While discussing the difficulty that I was experiencing regarding my students non-desire to read anything of substance, an acquaintance shared a remarkably sad story that verified my complaints in an unusual manner. The story went as follows, “I know a brother who recently had his house broken into. And I am telling you that these thieves ransacked the place trying to find a hidden stash of money. It would be an understatement to say that they destroyed everything in the place. Unfortunately for the thieves, they never found the stash because the brother hid his money in the least likely of places, the books on his bookshelf. Incredibly, the only thing left untouched were the bookshelves and the books that they held.” At this revelation, I mused, “I guess what they say is true, ‘If you want to hide something from black folk, put it in a book.’”

Although these events led me to shake my head, however, as an educator and writer I must tell you that this event holds far more meaning and significance than one could imagine. Experience has taught me that we should not be so quick to dismiss the age-old statement of “If you want to hide something from black folk, all you need to do is put it in a book.” I have come to understand that it is increasingly rare to meet African-Americans, particularly males, who read classic black literature; black females are not above criticism in this regard as the vast majority of them have never engaged writers such as Alice Walker or J. California Cooper, however, they are extremely familiar with Zane and the filth they call “urban fiction.”

The decline in literacy within the African-American community is a crisis that has gone largely unnoticed. The decrease in literacy, particularly among African-American males, is only the calm before the storm. The alluded to “dumbing down” of African-American male students is as pernicious a danger to their existence as AIDS, police brutality or even the Trump Presidency.

Consider for a moment the following indicators that highlight the dire straits of African-American male literacy.

  • The average African-American (male and female) 12th-grader reads at the same level as white 8th-graders.
  • The 12th-grade reading scores for African-American males were significantly lower than all other racial/ethnic groups.
  • Only 14% of African-American 8th-graders are proficient in reading.

For black males, the absence of literacy promises a future devoid of any understanding of African-Americans past struggles and extreme difficulty securing employment sufficient to take care of themselves and any offspring they may produce. There is absolutely no doubt that each of the above variables is crucial to African-American males’ maturation into adulthood. Obviously, there is no other path to satisfying the demands of African-American females possessing the desire to marry a black man than to grow them within our community via proactive socialization and the development of what can be best termed a black economy that rivals those of other groups.

A crucial aspect of every uplift effort within Black America rests upon literacy, the process of engaging information, synthesizing it, and then making logical decisions regarding how it can be best used to benefit our group. Until we get this simple process down, we will continue to experience the same frustrations that have seemingly dogged us like an ominous cloud.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

HOW A GROUP OF EIGHTH-GRADERS FROM ARNOLD MIDDLE SCHOOL REMINDED ME OF WHY I DO WHAT I DO

Like everyone else, I am susceptible to growing weary while performing the mentally straining and emotionally exhausting heavy lifting required to provide the next generation of African-Americans even a remote possibility of succeeding in a society where their inferiority is an absolute given. There are periodic moments when one’s will to continue this never-ending fight is nearly extinguished; without fail, a symphony of doubt, frustration, and questions regarding the seeming futility of the struggle appear as the weary blues. The only balm to the mental and emotional exhaustion mentioned above is the occurrence of some event that reminds you that it has not all been in vain. Unfortunately, the alluded to validation cannot be ordered on command; instead it arrives via unexpected sources at opportune moments.

Recently I was approached regarding my willingness to aid The Collegiate 100 — a subsidiary of the 100 Black Men of America — an organization of extremely impressive African-American collegians that are simultaneously positioning themselves for success while lifting others as they climb the ladder of success, via addressing a group of 8th Graders from Arnold Middle School during a scheduled campus event. Mentors selected these 8th Graders for a host of reasons. During my adolescence, they would have been labeled “at-risk youth,” a term that indicated more about environs than intellectual capabilities and prowess. I knew such a group very well as years ago I carried a similar label. I accepted the assignment without hesitation.

As usual, I arrived early to the 9:30 event and busied myself researching topics for future blog postings, however, slightly before the scheduled start time, a cadre of students, the majority of them currently enrolled in one of my History courses arrived and began their preparations for the young scholars’ arrival. Within minutes our “guests of honor” arrived, took their assigned seat, and were listening to my presentation regarding issues such as self-responsibility, planning, and the development of a familial educational legacy. Put simply; my address sought to inform these young people that they are the primary determinant of their success and the future of this entire nation was resting upon their broad and sturdy shoulders.

One of the promises that I made to myself as a student was that if ever provided the public speaking opportunities that I would never replicate the droning and draining lecture style of orators who operated out of an old authoritarian style of I lecture and you passively listen to my brillance. Put simply; such characters left no room for interaction with by the end of their address was an auditorium full of inattentive listeners. Hence, I always consider it essential that I interact with my audience via a “Question and Answer” segment.

As previously mentioned, the desperately needed jolt that re-energizes those who have grown weary of the Herculean task of uplifting Black America invariably comes at an opportune moment from unexpected sources. I am proud to relate that I received a much-needed jolt from this group of 8th Graders who dared to betray a steely silence that always accompanies persons of their age by peer pressure. To my delight, this group engaged me in an unusual manner that simultaneously displayed their brilliance, intellectual curiosity, and previous exposure to success formulas resting on personal accountability. Their mentors are to be applauded as these children demonstrated an unusual ability to answer an array of issues presented to them in a manner that betrayed their youth. Their superior intellect was displayed at every turn except when I queried “Where do you plan to be five years from now?”

After several questions regarding by background, my alma mater, the degrees I have earned and books that I have written, most were shocked to learn that I was a first-generation collegian. As expected, the conversation turned toward questions surrounding why they should attend a Historically Black College or University.

The question, poised by a brilliant young lady on the left side of the auditorium, was a particularly piercing one of “Since you have been to a white university and now work at a Historically Black University, why should we come to an H.B.C.U.?” Although I have much love for my alma mater, THE Ohio State University, to the best of my ability I explained to this attentive audience that at a place such as Prairie View A & M University “You will not only be invited into, but also joining and embraced by an esteemed tradition of black thinkers, educators, and professionals who are dedicated to aiding you in traveling down a road that they created for your success. You matter mightily at this place from the moment that you make the decision to enter and well-beyond your exit. You are going to find that we will nurture you, challenge you, and guide you every step of the way as you pursue your dreams, goals, and aspirations. At this place, we are serious about producing productive people.”

By the end of our interaction, the vast majority of these individuals had expressed their intention to become Prairie View Panthers and vowed to keep in touch during their high school tenure. As I gathered my belongings and prepared to exit the venue, one young man rushed up to me and related the following, “I thought about where I will be five years from now. I am going to be sitting in your History class right here at PVAMU.” I could do nothing other than smile at him and respond, “Sir, I’m looking forward to it. And I truly mean that.”

As I ended my exchange with this obviously brilliant young man, one of the chaperones for this youth group approached me and stated the following. “You probably don’t remember me, but I was one of your students.” I searched my mental Rolodex for him, yet came up empty. He continued, “I looked different back then. I had a big Afro and gold fronts (teeth). However, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for all that you did for me. I am assuming an Assistant Principal position next week.” I could do nothing but laugh at the fantastic news and responded, “From gold fronts to Assistant Principal?” We both shared a hearty laugh at the development.

One thing was sure, as I exited the building, I knew that these young people had made an indelible impact on me; an impact that re-charged my emotional state and simultaneously reminded me of why I do the work that I do.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

“Do or do not; there is no try”: ABANDONING EXCUSES AND DEMANDING EXCELLENCE FROM BLACK MALES

I long ago realized that the least likely locations provide important nuggets of wisdom. When such a moment occurs, I always gather these amazing words of wisdom and integrate them into my life. Life has also taught me that just as I did not anticipate the arrival of these illuminating thoughts; my use of them will likewise be impromptu.

I must tell you how pleased I was when my son took an interest in Star Wars, a movie series that I grew up watching. Our mutual affinity for the Star Wars series has provided many a moment of bonding and intense conversation regarding good versus evil, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and “the force.”

As any doting parent would, I have done my absolute best to help my son create a path that will lead him to be an engineer, his chosen field. I am confident that you under why I strategically aim each recreational purchase at developing his prodigious mind and keeping him in what he terms “master builder mode.” So it was only natural that this Christmas he would be gifted builder sets with moving parts, batteries, and even one that ran off of solar energy.

After a morning of spending time with family and opening gifts, my son retreated to his room and became engrossed in constructing a mechanical arm that included several different power sources and over 300 pieces that only a “master builder” could build. The ability to remain on task is most certainly one of my son’s strengths, so I was not surprised when he dedicated several hours to his new building project before emerging with it in tow. However, I was shocked when he frustratingly related, “I keep trying to get this thing to work, and there is something wrong with it. Dad, the construction plans are wrong.”

I was confident that there was nothing wrong with the building plans. And to my son’s dismay, I related that fact to him before telling him that he needed to deconstruct the entire project until he found his error. As expected, this frustrated teenager remarked, “I have tried and tried. Nothing is working.”

It was at this moment that I used one of my favorite lines in the Star Wars series that was voiced by Jedi Master Yoda. “Do or do not; there is no try.” James pivoted and headed back to his room with his failed project in tow. In less than fifteen minutes, he returned with a completed project in hand and a smile that communicated everything that I needed to know about the problem he had confronted and conquered on his own.

Were I permitted, I would point every person toward the words of Yoda, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Such a life philosophy is the lynchpin capable of transforming our hopes and dreams into achieved goals. You must never cower in the face of difficulty as it is merely an obstacle standing between you and your goals. So go forth and become one with the force as you make your hopes and dreams a living reality.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

We Need To Talk: Black Men, Depression and Hyper-masculinity

For centuries, it has been said that there are few guarantees in this world. Famed soul singer Marvin Gaye chimed in on this subject when he quipped “Three things are certain in this world: death, taxes, and trouble”.

I must append Gaye’s poignant observation by adding another guarantee. Although I already know that this addendum will rub many folks in the wrong way as it deals with one of the most divisive issues this nation has ever engaged and seemingly been incapable of extricating itself from. The guarantee that I alluded to is the reality that it is an extremely arduous task being an African-American male.

Beyond the usual trials and tribulations associated with life, myriad additional factors contribute to the black male experience being in a word, treacherous. The list of additional obstacles includes, but is in no way limited to: the prison industrial complex, housing segregation, lack of quality education, unemployment, environmental racism and police brutality. The aforementioned maladies directly contribute to the psychological issue of depression in African American men.

An American Medical Association study indicates that chronic depression was found among 56.5% of African-Americans, however, less than than 50% of African Americans sought treatment for the mental illness. A plethora of studies have shown that  millions of Americans suffer from depression, however, less than 30% of those individuals sought treatment, predictably, that number is even lower for African-American men.

Empirical research  conducted by the Center for Disease Control has revealed that suicide ranks as the third-leading cause of death for black males between the ages of 15-24 . Obviously, depression is an extremely pressing issue for Black men, unfortunately, the majority of African American men refuse to pursue help for what is often an undetectable ailment by family and friends.

There is a host of reasons that African-American men do not seek professional help such as:  mistrust of medical institutions, a lack of medical insurance, the fallacious notion that misery and suffering are natural extension of the Black male experience, and the foolhardy belief that religious fervor and prayer are sufficient to quell mental illness.

African-American males are also facing yet another mighty demon in regards to their mental state, that entity being a toxic hyper-masculine culture that has seemingly taken control of every aspect of the African-American male existence.

The socialization of African American males to separate themselves, if not totally mute, from the natural range of human emotions begins at a rather young age. During adolescence when scores of us faced physical and verbal reprimand  as a consequence for misbehavior, we heard the rhetorical cliches from a parent or guardian “stop crying ” ,” man up”, or “be a man”.

The alluded to socialization continues throughout secondary  school many of us with the age old admonishment of “men don’t cry” is hurled at young African-American males. Subsequently  many young Black men  who audibly or visibly express feelings of pain will be denigrated by not only peers, but also family members, including parents.

The alluded to images are also perpetuated  through the mass media,  namely through Rap Music.  Music from artists like Snoop Dogg, Chief Keef, Young Jeezy, and others  has  reinforced the notion that masculinity is synonymous with hyper-sexuality, anger, criminality, and violence. These images combine with highly questionable lyrics to create a poisonous socialization cocktail that inevitably leads African-American males to believe that the only emotional expression available to them is one that can only be characterized as anger and unbridled rage.

The alluded to socialization inevitably forges a Manhood construct that makes the absence of emotion as a core principle of what it means to be a man. It is not surprising that when African-American males age that the unavoidable problems of life leads to an internalization of life’s problems and around the clock emotional anguish. As previously stated, African-American males consider their private hell preferable to the ridicule and condemnation that they fear will flow from their peers if they share their issues.

One obvious result of these flawed and wildly illogical manhood constructs is that African-American men staunchly refuse to address depression and consequently neither share grief, nor pursue psychotherapy out of fear of being ostracized by their community.

The alluded to repression of emotions  has extremely negative repercussions on  those who choose to do so. When individuals suppress emotions, it is inevitable that the emotions will manifest themselves in an  extremely destructive fashion such as: domestic violence, substance abuse, alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, and suicide.

Ultimately, the toxic hyper-masculine culture that unfortunately serves as a ‘North Star’ to African American males dooms not only them, but also the entire African-American community. It is imperative that this entire process is reversed via the creation of a free, non-judgemental space where African-American men can unconditionally express their deepest fears, emotional distresses, struggles and heartbreaks. We must understand as a community that Black masculinity and emotional vulnerability  are not mutually exclusive, and never will be. If we fail to learn this basic less, issues relating to depression will not only fail to disappear, but also will become exacerbated over time and guarantee that the vicious cycle of denial of mental health maladies in our community continues unabated.

Alexander Goodwin

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016

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