Category Archives: Black Girls

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

How The Process of Finding a Prom Date Reveals so much about American Racial Matters

Although we rarely think of it this way, the successful navigation of life is either bolstered or hindered by one’s understanding of history. It is the understanding of what has come before that prepares us for what is to come. Without the benefit of a reasonable understanding of history, we are doomed to not only repeat the mistakes of the past but also sure to suffer mightily from our ignorance.

There is no doubt that all hopes of navigating the present for young African-Americans hinges upon their understanding of Race. Despite whites desperate desire to avoid racial matters, the truth of the matter is that the socially constructed variable has harmed persons of African descent from the moment they arrived in the Jamestown colony. Although there are few things that I find shocking, I must admit that the revelation of there being a sizable population of young African-Americans who de-emphasize, if not totally ignore the historic roots and contemporary manifestation of the divisive ‘color line’ that DuBois lamented in his classic tome The Souls of Black Folk has thrown my mind into a chaotic phase. Put simply; many African-American youths are devoid of any understanding of American racial dynamics; in fact, they are so oblivious to racial matters that they are no longer offended by its presence.

As you well know, we are approaching the end of another school year. It is at this moment that American high school students will make what amounts to one of the most important decisions of their young lives; whom will they accompany to the prom. We should not find it surprising that the ugly specter of Race has repeatedly reared its ugly head during this annual event.

The unusual manner in which Race has impacted this rites-of-passage for American high school students is not found in the traditional segregating of black and white students, rather the degrading way that white male students are requesting the company of black female students. Consider the following overtures made by white male students to black female students. One white male made his intentions known by spelling it out with Kool-Aid packets, a drink that has historically been associated with poor blacks. Another white male made his desires for a date with an African-American female student known via the offering of Kentucky Fried Chicken and watermelon.

Now I will tell you that I am most certainly not surprised by the crass and socially inappropriate overtures made by white males toward black females, after all, such events have historically been a staple of American social relations. However, I was shocked to learn that the African-American females approached with such inappropriate overtures agreed to accompany their bigoted suitors to the prom. Such an occurrence raises a host of queries regarding these young ladies, the community that raised them, as well as the parental guidance that they received regarding both the history of American racial matters and their self-worth.

If the decision-making of the alluded to black female students is an accurate barometer of the next generation of African-Americans porous understanding of racial matters, we are most certainly in dire straits. I am literally at a loss for words regarding the pervasive illiteracy regarding racial bias that has somehow enveloped many young African-Americans.

Unfortunately, it appears that a developing narrative that calls for African-Americans to ignore prejudice, discrimination, bigotry, and racism has mesmerized many of our youth and robbed them of their innate ability to recognize and resist racial bias whenever it appears. If the alluded to young ladies decision is any indicator, many of our youth will neither understand nor resist racial bias even when it is personally delivered to them in a bucket of fried chicken and a sign that says “I prefer dark meat” with watermelon as the dessert, and Kool-Aid as the beverage to wash it all down.

We are living in a scary moment my friend, very scary.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

 

FLOYD: THE BESTOWER OF GIFTS

You know, now that I think about it, one of the more entertaining aspects of my relationship with Floyd is witnessing the lengths to which he will go to prove a point. I am telling you that when it comes to proving a point, Floyd has a serious problem.

Although he has gone through Herculean efforts to prove his point before, none of those efforts rival Floyd’s efforts to disprove my belief that the present state of Black male and female relationships is hopelessly flawed. I both wrote about this matter and explained it to Floyd.

Put simply; my observation goes as follows. Women, in general, are programmed by God to find a mate and live happily ever after. From my estimation, this wiring characterizes the makeup of the vast majority of women. My point to Floyd was that African-American men have historically taken advantage of this wiring and often treated their ‘sisters’ as if they were some prey to be stalked, hunted, subdued and then released back into the wild. My relatively sophisticated theory also posits that repeated disappointment has led to our ‘sisters’ altering the manner in which they engage their ‘brothers.’ They have quite simply tired of being used, abused, and jilted by Black males and have likewise altered their expectations of ‘Black love.’

It was the above observation that Floyd was desperately seeking to disprove via his dating life. Floyd had apparently been seeing someone. I suspected that it was the ‘river-hipped’ woman that he met during our night out at ‘Grooves,’ however, he refused to disclose the mystery lady’s identity; citing some superstitious reason about jinxing his ‘relationship’ by debuting it too soon.

I must tell you that Floyd was apparently going ‘all-in’ on this one. He even related that he purchased, out of his meager fixed income, gifts not only for the woman but also a grandchild that she was raising. I hoped that Floyd’s generosity was born of love and not a desperate attempt to disprove my theory.

Considering that we had much to discuss regarding the after-effects of Floyd’s impaling by cupid’s arrow, we agreed to meet at a local soul food jointed called Josie’s Place located at 7473 N. Shepherd Drive. I laughed inside as Floyd swiftly agreed to the meeting place as he planned to be in that area shopping for his new love. Knowing that Floyd did not have a vehicle, I knew that he must be particularly smitten with this lady as it most certainly had to be difficult to navigate Houston’s sprawling environs with such restrictions.

I must give it up to Floyd; he arrived at the venue promptly at 1:00 PM as promised. Making it even more impressive was the fact that Floyd was towing around several bags. After entering Josie’s Place, Floyd and I quickly ordered and were promptly served plates that included Turkey Wings, Fried Fish, Corn, Greens, Cabbage, and Macaroni & Cheese.

It was after settling into our seats and consuming the better portion of our ‘Soul Food’ meals that I tongue-in-cheek asked Floyd,

What’s in the bags? Is it Floyd’s love potion?”

As expected, Floyd’s response dripped with sarcasm.

“You see that right there. That’s why we as Black people can’t get ahead. Whenever we see someone doing good, we gotta try and knock them down. And if you must know, these bags right here contain gifts for my woman and her grandbaby.”

Although I knew that it was equal parts mean-spirited and spiteful, I could not resist harassing Floyd.

Oh, so now you are claiming this woman? Don’t tell me that Mr. player, player, got his nose opened wide? Never thought I would see such a thing when a player like you retired from the game. Say it ain’t so Floyd.

Floyd just stared at me while consuming another morsel of food.

So what did you get everybody?”

It was then that Floyd reached into a bag and pulled out a very nice bracelet for his newfound love.

“You know it is nothing big, just a Lil’ Sumthin, sumthin for her. So when she looks down, she’ll think about Ol’ Floyd.” 

All I could say was, “That’s nice Floyd. What did you get for the ‘grandbaby’?”

It was then that Floyd reached into the larger bag and completely blew my mind. He retrieved three Barbie dolls from the bag, each doll more whiter than the last one. I just cringed inside as I could not believe that in the 21st Century African-Americans were still purchasing white dolls for black children. Apparently, Floyd detected my soul’s consternation.

“Now what’s wrong with the gift? That little girl loves to play with dolls.”

“It’s not the gift. Well, it isn’t, and it is.”

“Now what in the hell does that even mean? It is, and it isn’t. Man, make up your mind. Just come on with it, why don’t you like my gift.”

“Floyd, do you remember my column titled, Black Doll Matters? The editorial where I commented on the desperate need for our community to take every opportunity to build our children’s self-esteem.”

The article that I am alluding to read as follows.

BLACK DOLL MATTERS

          While recently tooling around the internet, I came across an approximately forty-second video of white parents giving their two white daughters Black dolls that apparently arrived as gifts “from Uncle Seth and Aunt Cynthia.” It was clear from the moment that the two children, no older than five years old, realized the contents of the package that they entirely disapproved of them. This point was driven home by one of the two little white angels throwing her black doll on the floor prior to falling to the floor hysterically crying while her mother burst into laughter.

          Although I would love to attribute this moment as equally inconsequential and meaningless, the truth of the matter is that it reveals much about the importance of dolls in the lives of girls, regardless of their race/ethnicity.

          I am old enough to remember a time when it was so rare to find African-American dolls at local toy stores that it was considered a given that African-American girls would not have dolls that reflected their beauty. However, my sister and cousins were fortunate to have Kathryn V. Jones, my beloved mother, in their lives. My mother, a real race woman in every sense of the word, fanatically sought out Black dolls for not only my sister, but also my cousins as Christmas and Birthday gifts.

          During the 70s and a major part of the 80s, white manufacturers apparently did not think that such items were worth the trouble of making, meaning held the potential for significant profit. That decision by ‘mainstream’ toy companies facilitated what is akin to a self-imagery desert for young African-American girls in regards to dolls. Things were so bad in regards to Black girls and dolls that many within our community celebrated the issuing of a Black Barbie doll that possessed the same features as the standard white Barbie.

          Dolls are one of the gateways to the future for Black girls as it allows them to not only play out the present but also their understanding of what is possible in the immediate and distant future. Without dolls that reflect them, African-American girls predictably turned toward television to find women they wished to emulate; there is no need to even delve into the dangers of such an occurrence.

          I find it perfectly understandable that two young white girls would resist receiving African-American dolls, in their imaginary world where Black girls not only do not rock but also are not desired. That is their prerogative. My concern is the Black girls, our daughters/nieces do not have a similar reaction when it comes to there being a dearth of Black dolls for them to play with and imagine a world where they can be the leader of a nation, college, or business; identities that are far greater than being a ‘baby momma’, one of the many negative things they are currently learning from watching ‘reality television.’

          We so often talk about the idea of Manhood as African-American men. However, those discussions frequently avoid any discussion of creating a space for our young girls to pursue their full potential. I have come to learn that allowing their imaginations to fly through the bluest sky’s one could imagine is probably the manliest thing that we can do for the little angels that God gifted us.

James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2016.

“Let me get this right; you have a problem with the gift because the dolls are white? Man, that is not only stupid but also makes you a racist. You do know that you’re a racist right? I just want to hear you admit it!”

“Floyd, I am not a racist; far from it. What I am is a Black man living in America who recognizes that we need not only to recognize but also counter the thousands of images directed at Black girls and women that tell them that they are less than. That’s what I am, ‘nothing more and nothing less.’”

I knew my use of one of Floyd’s favorite phrases, ‘nothing more and nothing less’ would get under Floyd’s skin.

“Nah, Nigga, you a racist!!!!!!! It is people like you who remind our kids that they are Black from the moment that they come into the world and create all of these societal divisions.”

“Now Floyd, you know good, and well that is not true. Whether I say anything to an African-American child regarding Race, they are most certainly going to at some point realize that they are Black in a white world. It’s just one of the hazards of being Black in America, an inevitability of sorts. That is the reason it is so important that we build our children up, especially our girls, with dolls that look like them. You don’t see white folk lining up to purchase Black dolls for their children. Why don’t they? Just answer that question.”

Floyd quickly responded with the following,

“I neither care nor am I concerned by what white folk is doing with their children. It simply ain’t none of my business. But I do see your point; maybe I should have purchased her a Black doll.”

I have learned that I am no more of a gracious winner than Floyd, so I immediately chimed in with an extra insult to drive home my point.

“In the future, just make it a personal policy not to purchase any images that don’t look like somebody that you are related to.” 

Thinking that my work with Floyd was done for another day, I sat back and relaxed as the full weight of the ‘Soul Food’ I consumed during our discussion began to settle upon me. It was at that moment Floyd chimed in,

“I’ll make a deal with you; I will take these dolls back and exchange them right away, to prevent my damaging a young Black girl’s self-esteem, under one condition.”

“What’s that?”

 “I need a ride back over to the store and then one home.”

I could do nothing but stare at Floyd and that developing ‘Foolish Grin.’

“C’mon man. Being on that bus is hell. There are all kinds of fools…”

Before Floyd could get his complaints out, I rose and motioned for him to follow me. I would rather go through the inconvenience of driving him around town than hearing his moaning and complaining. It was most certainly the lesser of two evils.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017.

WHAT BLACK AMERICA SHOULD DO ABOUT THE 2 LITTLE BLACK GIRLS RECENTLY SHOT IN THE HEAD IN CHICAGO

As you well know, I have used this space to offer what I presume to be intelligent commentary regarding issues facing the African-American community. Although I would like to say that I rarely come across problems that infuriate me to the point that I have to tell many of my contemporaries to “shut the hell up!” The truth of the matter is that I frequently have such confrontations with other African-Americans who seek to offer excuses that explain away the deplorable behavior of many within our community that has consciously chosen to act uncivilized.

It saddens me to know that the plentiful reasons that seemingly sensible law-abiding African-Americans employ to excuse a lawless and immoral “ends justify the means” culture that has made many African-American communities analogous to war zones are omnipresent. Although the alluded to individuals may be well-meaning in their efforts to defend the criminal-minded in our midst, the truth of the matter is that their inability to stand on the side of righteousness reeks of cowardice.

It is the weakness mentioned above that serves as a crucial part of the wicked formula that led to the shooting of Takiya Holmes and Kanari Bowers, ages 11 and 12, in the head this past weekend in Chicago. Bowers was struck by a bullet while playing with friends at a playground, while a shot hit Holmes while riding in the backseat of a vehicle; law enforcement authorities attribute both shootings to stray bullets. Recent medical reports state that both of these children are in area hospitals in critical condition. Police report that there are no suspects in either of the shootings.

I long ago concluded that it was the time for African-Americans to realize that there are several different types of persons of African descent living in our communities. There are law-abiding, progressive African-Americans who are seeking to improve not only their lives but also those of others in their community ‘by any reasonable, honest means necessary.’ In many ways, the aspirations of this segment of Black America are indistinguishable from their counterparts of other races and ethnicities. They are in many ways pursuing the American dream via hard work and commitment to excellence within the confines of a beloved community. Unfortunately for Black America, the population mentioned above is not the only community found in our midst.

There is another sizable population within our midst that is not only hyper-aggressive but also determined to gain possession of material goods ‘by any means necessary.’ Trust me when I say that such people are devoid of a moral compass, a sense of decency, or any consideration for their fellow man, even if they share the same racial classification. It is a person from this segment of Black America that is responsible for not only the shootings of the two children in Chicago this weekend but also the vast majority of the carnage and criminality that occurs within our so-called community on a minute-by-minute basis.

As I have repeatedly stated in this space, it is the time for this cancerous element that no one on the face of the planet Earth desires to associate with is separated from our midst ‘by any means necessary.’ I pray that those within our community who exerted their energy and time protesting the latest Presidential election would turn their attention to removing what can only be termed a scourge from the black community. Trust me when I say to you that the disappearance of a population that can only be termed black barbarians would have a much more significant impact than any other occurrence.

In the words of Marcus Garvey, “Up You Mighty Race Achieve What You Will!!!!!” Even if it means cleaning up your communities “By Any Means Necessary.”

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2017.