I guess that we should not be shocked when a bit of sadness or depression results from the realization that there are very few independent black writers addressing pertinent issues affecting Black America. If one is not careful about their thought processes, they will find themselves believing that the Black Community is a place that is hostile to intellectualism. Instead of substance, it appears that our people are desirous of superficial black romance novels set in urban settings or pimp chronicles that do little to illuminate the mind and everything to reinforce deplorable stereotypes and caricatures of a black populace that is already woefully maligned in public spaces.
I am absolutely certain that my concern with this issue flows from my disappointment with African-American collegians whose exposure to and willingness to engage great black texts is often non-existent. As an African-American studies professor, my initial interaction with my students occurs with me asking them to introduce themselves, to aid this often painful process I ask them a simple ice-breaker question of “What is your favorite book or who is your favorite author.” The answers that I receive regarding this simple query are in a word frightening.
By the time that the last answer is given, my feelings are vacillating between anger, disappointment, and frustration that the tradition of great black writers and books could very well reach an inglorious end with this most recent generation. This moment always causes my mind to retrieve what I now consider to be the sage advice of former student Nicholas Malone of The Academic Grind Center who poignantly asserted, “But Jones, you have to remember that no one is reading anymore. They are watching Youtube Videos to get their knowledge.” Although I hate to admit it, I now realize that Malone’s observation is correct.
Therein lays the answers to one of my most common questions of “what are they reading?” The sad answer is that they are not reading anything, particularly anything that will illuminate their mind in regards to what it means to be the descendant of stolen and enslaved Africans in a land that abhors their continued presence.
Let’s be honest about this matter, at this present moment black writers, regardless of the quality of their scholarship or creativity, are largely irrelevant to the masses of African-Americans. Although many may consider this assertion to be biased as I am a writer, however, the blame for the marginalization of serious black writers at this present moment must be placed on the intellectually narrow shoulders of African-Americans who have found satisfactory titillation living shallow lives filled with gossip, foolishness, drinking/drugs, and entertainment outlets that guarantee the extension of black misery and suffering for them and their offspring.
When it comes to intellectual endeavors, the only thing worse than being lost is not realizing that you are lost, and have no desire to alter this depraved state. It is in this netherworld that I find the vast majority of young Black America.
Make no mistake about it, any marginalized population whose only means of educating themselves flow from their oppressors fountain of knowledge will never realize their subordinate status, but also will eventually begin to exhibit signs that remind one of Stockholm syndrome; meaning, that blacks will seek to not only assimilate with their oppressor but also work to further substantiate and strengthen the very system that has historically oppressed them. It is this situation that has led the masses of black folk to tune-out poignant African-American writers of today and yesterday.
What is quite possibly the most frustrating aspect of this sordid situation is that within these same hollow vessels of intellectual nothingness that my students arrive as I recognize raw intelligence and mental acumen. The realization that they have the ability to engage great black writers leads me to the conclusion that their minds, the most precious resource Black America has, have not been directed in such a direction. Although I am far from a conspiracy theorist, the truth of the matter is that there has to be something afoot when school boards and the administrators who execute their directives decide that The Diary of Anne Frank is mandatory while works such as Native Son, Assata, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, Some Soul to Keep, The Invisible Man, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X are unworthy of being taught in American classrooms. An educational process that mutes the voices of Alice Walker, Alex Haley, Octavia Butler, Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, and James Baldwin will ultimately mute the genius of succeeding generations as it will starve from intellectual freedom and stimulation. Make no mistake about it, an irrelevant school curriculum has led to many African-American students non-desire to engage black literature and intellectual ideas in a significant manner.
Ironically, if Manhood, Race, and Culture were not an independent space where I am beholden to no one, I would be unable to address this matter with the truthfulness that I have. I prefer my independence, regardless of the financial costs; and rest assured, there is a steep economic cost associated with that decision.
I understood long ago that white media outlets would never allow a voice such as mine to emerge without censoring it in some form or fashion. The fact that serious black writers have to maintain some type of relationship with white entities to ensure their material survival should be the epitome of embarrassment to Black America. However, I have found that Black America has neither shame nor embarrassment when it comes time to support black writers who have sacrificed their lives illuminating a path to liberation.
Apparently, they are not seeking to become free.
The absence of black support via the purchase of even a single book, a voluntary donation, or a quick note makes the road that independent black scholar’s traverse not only lonely but also incredibly dark and daunting. So on behalf of all independent black writers let me encourage you to offer some signal that you appreciate what we do because it is hard out here on those of us who have yet to bow our heads and go work for the man.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2018
Books published by Dr. James Thomas Jones III
Please support Independent Black Scholarship; it’s the only way that we are going to free our minds.
Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense
‘Foolish’ Floyd: The Life & Times of an African-American Contrarian
O’Bruni: An African-American Odyssey Home?
In many ways, the damage that Donald Trump and his roving band of liars have done to the office of the U.S. Presidency is not worth even a slight discussion. If Trump is nothing else, he is certainly a pillar of consistency. Without fail, Trump has proven that he
As if he needed to add to his well-stocked arsenal of intellectual feebleness, Trump has shocked the world by adding yet another polarizing, yet highly revealing, statement where he has termed Haiti and several African nations as “shit holes” that the world would be better without. Undoubtedly, Trump’s reckless commentary has achieved what most thought was impossible, that being, taking the Office of the U.S. President to a new low.
The national furor surrounding Trump’s deplorable commentary has shielded the African-American community from a much-needed discussion regarding African-Americans and their view of Africa; a location that many blacks inexplicably continue to deny is their ancestral homeland. Although it may be politically incorrect to assert the following, I have always been determined to speak the truth at every turn. Prior discussions with blacks have left me with no doubt that the spirit of Trump’s biting comments aimed at both continental Africans and others strewn throughout the diaspora is unfortunately supported by a wide-swath of Black America.
Although many feign ignorance at the assertion that a sizable portion of our community do their absolute best to distance themselves from any connection to Africa, the truth of the matter is that such a position is far from a well-kept secret among black folk. In fact, it is relatively easy to find African-Americans who loathe their ancestral homeland. One only needs to bring up the topic at any place where African-Americans congregate and within moments a relatively harsh denunciation of Africa appears from the descendants of Africa. I have personally heard black folk state the following regarding Africa.
Such commentary from a segment of Black America betrays the public outcry regarding Trump’s maligning of Africa and her descendants. It appears that many of those who have somehow managed to psychologically position themselves in an awkward posture that allows them to simultaneously oppose Trump while also retaining their negative and wholly uninformed view of Africa fail to see the obvious contradictions associated with their position.
I am absolutely certain that noted historian and scholar John Henrik Clarke is rolling over in his grave at the hypocrisy of those who have no desire to learn anything about their ancestral homeland and their uproarious denunciation of Trump for articulating their private thoughts and feelings regarding Africa. There is no possible way that Clarke’s spirit can be at rest as his people have yet to accept his most important teaching of “Until Africa is free, you will never be free.” Sadly, if the liberation of Africa from worldwide domination and exploitation is a pre-requisite to African-American freedom, we are going to be in this position indefinitely; because as you well know, most black folk “don’t want nothing to do with Africa.”
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2018
Although it may sound strange, I was saddened by the prospect of a biopic titled All Eyez on Me based on the life of Hip-Hop icon Tupac Amaru Shakur. Ironically, it is Tupac Amaru Shakur’s complexity and multi-dimensionality that birthed my reservations regarding this project. At the center of my concerns was a fear that a mere biopic from some random Hollywood studio would fall far short of capitalizing on this gripping story by failing to tell this story in a courageous manner that exposed the most recent generation of youth around the globe to the genius that I knew as Tupac Amaru Shakur.
Unfortunately for Tupac’s legacy, my fears and consternations regarding this project have come to fruition. Put simply; the makers of this biopic have dropped the ball at a crucial moment and thereby wasted a never to be retrieved opportunity to raise the consciousness of a nation regarding contestable issues such as Manhood, Race, and Culture.
After viewing All Eyez on Me it is clear that the filmmakers were doomed from the beginning as the traditional two-hour time constraints placed on a big screen biopic is too brief a period to convey the life of a figure whose life mirrors sixties radicalism and the ends-justify-the-means materialism that had come to represent Black America at this present moment.
If Bigger Thomas was Black America’s Depression Era Native Son, Tupac Amaru Shakur holds the same position for his generation. The life of Tupac Amaru Shakur reflects the hopes of Black Powerites, the failings of black love, the pain of being entrapped in a disassembled urban community, and the joy of occasional, fleeting triumphs.
It is the multi-dimensionality stated above that eludes so many writers and filmmakers who attempt to capture both the essence of Black America and the life of Tupac Amaru Shakur. Make no mistake about it, Tupac was an elusive character who at opportune moments willingly adorned himself with every caricature that supporters and opponents place on African-American males: revolutionary, thug, intellectual, hoodlum, genius, emcee, Panther, prophet, prognosticator. Tupac wore all of these hats for a gawking audience that somehow managed to not see the purity of Tupac’s soul despite his eagerness to reveal its contents to anyone willing to listen intently.
There is little doubt that Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X serves as the defining moment in the politicization of legions of African-Americans across several decades, All Eyez on Me held the same potential. Unfortunately, this biopic is a convoluted mess of missed opportunities. Instead of digging their heels in and sacrificing elements of entertainments by accentuating significant political issues and matters that Tupac faced throughout his entire life, filmmakers too frequently abandoned this noble path in favor of stereotypical clichés of “ghetto” behavior that ultimately degraded both black men and women.
When considered in its entirety, All Eyez on Me is at best a superficial portrait of Black America’s most prominent post-Black Power Era figure; yes, I do believe that Tupac’s influence extends well beyond that of former President Barack Hussein Obama. What is most disturbing about this biopic’s failings is that Tupac Amaru Shakur’s story holds so much potential to explain the rocky road that Black America has traveled during the past four decades. In every way, the glaring failings and missed moments that mar this biopic are inexcusable. Such issues are made more significant when we realize that this grand opportunity to offer a new generation the biting social and political commentary that undergirded Tupac Amaru Shakur’s entire existence is a missed opportunity that will never be reclaimed as we will never see another Tupac as long as we live.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017.