Undoubtedly the greatest documentary of Brother Malcolm X.
Undoubtedly the greatest documentary of Brother Malcolm X.
I have always prided myself on being a person who intently seeks to learn about life. And I have lived long enough to understand that there are so many ways to learn about life. I actually had an unexpected discussion with a brother that began with him advising me about what I considered a major plumbing issue; turns out that a liquid clog drainer fixed the problem.
Our conversation carried forward and eventually turned to what is a typical conversation regarding the problems of the African-American community; however, this brother was particularly frustrated by our people’s conscious decision to not support their own, a decision that invariably works against our entire community. This brother, who happened to be a plumber, shared a story that I hope we all can learn a thing or two from.
I laughed as this Christian Brother after finding out that I was a History Professor related that he could never do my job because he was easily bored with reading and books. Ironically, this recognition led him to decide, unlike his older siblings, that he would not pursue a collegiate degree; he related an internal gnawing to embark upon his own path, one that fit his particular interests and talents.
He was well aware that he needed to find a way to earn a living, even if it flowed from working with his hands. So with his parent’s aid he pursued an industrial education. I listened intently as he related the various options he found after making this decision, this brother related that he hated the vast majority of the options, however, all of that changed when he took a course on plumbing. He smiled uncontrollably as he related that he innately understood plumbing; this ‘life’s calling’ allowed him to fix the plumbing in his parents home; an issue that had been in existence for as long as he could remember. The brother related that he had even started his own plumbing company; unfortunately, a lack of consistent customers forced him to close his business and secure employment with a national chain plumbing company. However, he did service the Black community when called upon; of course that work was as we term it ‘off of the books.’
It was not unusual for him to receive requests via friends, family members, and even the local church to come and investigate a plumbing problem. This brother chose to share one such request with me. He stated that his pastor called him and related that one of the older church members, one of the ‘mothers of the church’, was in need of his services. Ever the cooperative brother, he promised to drop by that very night to look into the issue. It was during this home visit that so much of what he considers wrong with African-Americans, particularly their gross lack of economic collectivism became apparent.
He related that he arrived at the potential customer’s home around 7:30 PM and began his investigation of the problem. It became immediately clear that there were major plumbing issues within this older home that the lady had lived in for the past fifty-plus years. The brother immediately realized that very little, if anything, had ever been updated in regards to the plumbing works. After diagnosing the massive amount of work that needed to be done, he realized that the materials alone would cost over $1600.00, let alone the labor costs, which are always the bulk of the bill. The plumber related that he told the church mother of the various issues that were causing the problem that she was experiencing with her plumbing and offered to fix the problem without any additional labor costs. The combination of this lady being an elder of the community and a member of his church who apparently had no other options available spurred his generosity. He related that the moment he shared the problems and the cost of materials, God’s Saint laid her religion to the side and related that she would never pay some shade-tree plumber that type of money and he ‘had best to get his stuff and get out of her home.’ Although the ‘blessing out’ that he received from this ‘church mother’ would have shocked, if not appalled, many, he had come to understand that it was within the realm of responses he could anticipate when dealing with his people regarding monetary matters. He did not respond to her rants as he gathered his tools and materials.
As was his routine, he rose early the next morning and prepared to head off to work when his morning ritual was interrupted by a call from the dispatcher at his job who related that they had a service call in his area and that it would not make much sense for him to travel the hour to his job only to turn right around. He took down the address and simply shook his head when he realized that the service call that he was attending to first came from non-other than the church mother that had thrown him out of her house the previous night.
The brother related that he arrived at the front door dressed in his uniform and rang the door bell. The “mother of the church” arrived at the front door and immediately tore into him with a litany that was certainly not edifying to the Lord and reiterated her point from the prior night, “I ain’t paying you that kind of money to fix nothing in this house.” It was then that he related to her, “You are correct. Ma’am, I work for the plumbing service that you called and I have already filled out the work order since I was here last night and already know what your plumbing issues are. To the woman’s dismay, the price had quadrupled. The plumber mused that he then explained to her that the night before he was attempting to volunteer his labor our of genuine goodwill because she was an elder, fellow Christian, and in desperate need of help, however, since she called the company he had to abide by their rules, or risk losing his job, and she would now have to pay the full price. The brother laughed hysterically as he told me that he woman just stared at him and angrily related that she was going to call the pastor and tell on him prior to slamming the door in his face.
We then discussed for awhile what all of this actually meant. Unfortunately the subsequent conversation is one that I have far too frequently with my people. There is an old saying that explains much of the ridiculousness regarding the absence of Black economic collectivism; that saying is that black folk patronize white businesses because ‘the white man’s ice is colder.’ This statement reflects the dedication and determination of many African-Americans to patronize any business other than their own. And it is for that reason that they have remained mired in economic misery and political inefficiency. Although I wished that I could have shared some encouraging words with the brother, I was relegated to a simple quip of, “well, maybe we’ll get them next time.”
James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2015
As a person who continually studies and writes about racial matters, I must attest that it is very easy for one to focus so intently upon those issues that they lose sight of the larger issues that have very little to do with the social construct that Du Bois’ termed the problem of the twentieth-century. However, I was reminded of the universality of manhood by the demise of the unparalleled ESPN Sports Center anchor Stuart Scott. Although I already recognized this about the brother, today’s voluminous coverage of his transition drove home the point that Stuart Scott should be considered Black America’s knight in shining armor; a distinction that should be embraced by all African-American males.
One of the few benefits of being over the age of forty is having the privilege to witness an explosion in telecommunications. I was here before Black Entertainment Television, when we all watched VH1, one of the reasons that so many African-American forty-something’s know white popular culture artists from Duran Duran and Cyndi Lauper. I am certain that the majority of my peers remember the excitement with which we ran to the television when Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean or Thriller was being played; we simply loved seeing ourselves on T.V. and it was truly a rare privilege.
I likewise remember the debut of SportsCenter, a channel that most did not expect to make it long term, boy were we wrong. Although those of us who were sports fanatics appreciated 24/7 sports coverage, there was still something amiss, there really was not a representation of us; meaning someone that was simultaneously articulate, quick-witted, smooth, knowledgeable, and possessing more swag than Superfly or Shaft. The man that presented that to an adoring Black audience was none other than Stuart Scott. Although there were sportswriters before him, none successfully made the transition onto television with their unique style of Blackness intact.
Although it is impossible to ignore Stuart Scott’s on-camera persona, it was not until his medical difficulties that we were provided much more than a slight glimpse into whom he was as a man and more importantly a father, friend, and mentor to those who walked down what was a relatively smooth path to broadcast fame. Rest assured that no other Black television sports personality, not even Bryant Gumbel or Stephen A. Smith, would have been able to pave the still jagged path that Stuart Scott paved through his talent, commitment to excellence, strength, determination, and courage.
One of the most notable things about Stuart Scott was that he appeared above reproach in how he handled his on-air duties. There was never a show where the brother appeared unprepared, never a show when he did not in some way acknowledge an observing Black male audience with a verbal head nod that I am sure white’s were initially not even aware of. Ironically, this brother won over his non-Black audience with the same swag that endeared him to us. His influence was so pervasive that we no longer bat an eye at the appearance of Black linguistic traditions on national sports broadcasts. Chris Rock once remarked that “if you haven’t stolen from Richard Pryor, you’re probably not that funny.” The same can be said for Stuart Scott’s enormous influence on the way that sports are reported, “if you haven’t stolen a catch-phrase from the brother, you probably are not that interesting to listeners.”
I pray that African-American males will eventually come to revere Stuart Scott, particularly in relation to his doting over and dedication to his daughters, for the man that he was, more so than the things that he accomplished. It is in the example of individuals such as Arthur Ashe and Stuart Scott that we are able to witness the greatness of African-American manhood away from all of the stereotypical glitches that seem to closely follow renowned Black males. There were no drug scandals, inappropriate language, even an appearance of wrong doing to be found. He was simply Stuart Scott; and it is for this reason that I tip my hat to this brother as he makes his transition to his Heaven.
However, I would be remiss if I did not punctuate this post with one last thing, one final reminder of who this brilliant man was, one thing that will hopefully ease the different levels of pain that all of us who ever crossed his path. And that one thing is, BOOYAH!
Rest in Heaven brother, you are still loved.
James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2015
“They killing ni**as for J’s that’s death over designer”
J.Cole – Nobody’s Perfect
Last week the popular Air Jordan Retro 11’s more commonly known as the “Legend Blue’s” were released to widespread anticipation. There were innumerable people throughout the nation who took off of work in order to camp outside of their local mall a week in advance to increase their chances of purchasing the sought-after sneakers. When the sneakers were released to the public on December 20th, widespread anarchy ensued. Since their debut, there have been reports of thefts, assaults, and deaths in connection to these popular sneakers.
I must ask the black community, when will this reckless behavior cease? The first pair of Air Jordan Sneakers were released some three decades ago. Since the debut of the Jordan Brand, senseless violence over the sneakers and other Jordan Brand apparel have contributed to the deaths over 10 thousand people. Sadly, the vast majority of those who have met their demise in such a senseless way are persons of African American descent. There are many things a person should be willing to die or kill over: the welfare of one’s parents, grandparents, children, siblings, or spouse. No one should be willing to murder others and either the death penalty or a life sentence to secure a pair of Jordan sneakers.
With all of the current protests taking place throughout the country regarding police brutality that has displayed their opposition to the thought that “black lives matter”, the idiocy of a few individuals compromises those movements. How can we as a people simultaneously assert that black lives matter to the world and tolerate our own killing and maiming one another over trivial and inconsequential objects such as a 200 dollar pair of sneakers? How can we demand that outsiders value black lives while our own repeatedly display that they have absolutely no concern regarding the same. Quite frankly, if we do not value one another, we look like fools to outsiders when we demand that they respect black lives, while many of our own do not.
It is past time that the African American community does a better job of controlling their own. It is time we stop senselessly murdering one another over relative minutiae. It is time we learn to show more respect and love for our brothers and sisters. It is time we build up the Black collective instead of tearing it down with senseless black on black crime.
Each semester, I pose the following question to my students. “What is the longest running war in America?” My students respond with innumerable conflicts and combatants. I am never surprised that they fail to correctly answer this query. After listening to a plethora of incorrect guesses, I invariably step in and relate, “the longest running war in America is a war between workers and owners, the haves and the have-nots.” For many of my students this is the initial foray into Labor matters. I relate to them a mantra that under girded the American labor movement during its more rambunctious era, “owners have no rights that workers are bound to respect.”
Considering this storied history of conflict between workers and owners, I am never surprised when the issue of worker rights emerges and even less amused when the issue of race is interjected into the fold. I have seen this scenario so frequently that I take it for granted that the workers, regardless of their race/ethnicity, will not only lose this battle, but also witness their fellow workers idly watching, if not celebrating, their demise.
As a native of the great state of Ohio, this past summer was simultaneously exhilarating and vindicating for many sports fans for one simple reason; the possibility that ‘King James’, the moniker bestowed upon NBA superstar LeBron James, may return to his home state. Ohioans celebrated James’ decision for one reason, it appeared to make them instant contenders for the coveted NBA championship that has eluded their grasp since their creation in 1970. During his first stint in Cleveland, ‘King James’ led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals before succumbing to the San Antonio Spurs in 2007. Of course, all of this occurred prior to ‘King James’ jilting the franchise in favor of South Beach and the opportunity to play alongside Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
As with most NBA matters from the right to issue a political statement such as calling for Donald Sterling’s ouster as the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers to wearing ‘I Can’t Breathe Shirts’ or making a career decision regarding where he will ply his trade, LeBron James consistently finds himself at the center of league matters. The most recent LeBron incident revolves around which NBA franchise would be fortunate enough to have ‘King James’ join their roster.
Free Agency allows for NBA players who have fulfilled their contractual obligation to decide their next destination. Although the process appears relatively straightforward and mundane, nothing could be further from the truth as the selection of an NBA franchise invariably leaves fans unsettled when a player leaves for another team. Emotionalism emanating from NBA fans seems to trump a player’s rights in this matter, at least in the court of public opinion. The hatred spewed at NBA players is rarely, if ever, directed toward league owners.
NBA owners, like the leaders of any industry, have the luxury of making financially driven ‘business decisions’ to maximize their profit margins without any consideration of their employees. Hence, James is on solid footing when he articulates the following, “The question I have…is when a player decides to decide his own fate, there is always questions about it?…And, ‘Why did this guy do that, do that and do this?’ When an organization decides to go elsewhere for a player, it’s that they did what’s best for the team. Let’s figure that out some time.” James is absolutely correct in his summation that historically loyalty between worker and employee has been a one-way street.
Former Miami Heat teammate Dwayne Wade chimed in on this matter to support James by remarking “When a player makes a decision, and however you make it, there is always backlash. But when an organization makes it, it’s the right thing for an organization to do. And it’s fine. Josh Smith just got cut. It was the right thing for the Pistons to do…It’s fine. LeBron James or players make decisions in free agency, then it becomes a different situation.”
LeBron James’ former Miami Heat and now Cleveland Cavalier teammate relates that the hypocrisy surrounding player movement is simply an aspect of being an NBA player. Jones states that there is always a portion of any fanbase “that will say that’s disloyal for you to leave a place where you were embraced to go back somewhere else. And so the place you’re coming to is excited and the place you’re leaving thinks you’re being disloyal…they view it as the player leaving the fans…But when the organization shutters a player, it’s seen as a business move.”
If the history of the American Labor Movement is any indicator, James, and by extension any employee, regardless of race, gender, occupation, or skill-level, must realize that the dynamics between workers and owners will remain hypocritical and inconsistent. Workers have never been considered as anything more than means of production to be exploited for their labor by owners, it is quite simply an exploitive relationship that has existed for so long that most Americans can not conceptualize labor relations existing in any other shape, form, or fashion.
And it is for this reason that owners, regardless of their industry, will continue to have the audacity to run their businesses with no regard for how their bottom line decisions affect their employees yet scream and holler when any employee, including million dollar NBA players such as LeBron James makes a similar decision to do what is best for him; the only problem that I puzzles me is the failure of poor, working-class, and middle-class Americans inability to support their fellow worker in his decision.
James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2014