Where is Barry Gordy When We Need Him?: The Case for a Finishing School in the Black Entertainment Industry

In the biopic of Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene Jr., there is a when he has finagled his way onto the radio and offers what was then shocking, yet accurate and verifiable, commentary about Motown’s Barry Gordy. “Petey” Greene relates Gordy’s formula for success, he alleges that the record executive would go into the ghetto, get a few talented youth, teach them how to speak before the media, sing, and dance prior to sending them out into the entertainment industry to bring him back “a whole lot of money.”

The process that “Petey” Greene alludes to is Motown Records vaunted “finishing school”; it provided talented ghetto with a semblance of education and taught them “how to be” in front of the media and a adoring public. As a lover of African-American people, if provided with one wish it would be the creation of an excellent finishing school aimed at teaching this latest generation of entertainers what they ‘ought to be and ought to do’.

This post is in response to the recent comments by Young Thug, a rising rapper who has capitalized escaped all categorization; a tactic that has helped keep him in front of an adoring national Young Thug 2audience. Unfortunately for Young Thug, it is his celebrity status that revealed to all his inability to understand anything. At a recent celebrity event, this young man was asked a simple and appropriate question of “What do you think needs to be changed in the way black men are policed in America?”

Obviously this query flows from the recent string of murders of Black men in America by law enforcement officers. This hot button issue should have been discussed by now, if only in a superficial manner, by the entire African-American community of which Young Thug is a member. To the dismay of everyone who witnessed the event, Young Thug responded Leave that over with them critics, and the Laws and all that ol’ shit. We havin’ fun, we iced out, we havin’ money, that’s how we doin’ it.

I cringed at his response, not because it was unexpected, rather because of what it reveals about this latest generation of Black entertainers. Unbeknownst to most, we are currently experiencing an unprecedented moment in Black entertainment; that being, our most significant popular culture icons have no relevance beyond Belafontesinging, dancing, and acting. Such an existence runs contrary to the traditional role of our stars. One only needs to take a moment to review the storied history of activism and relevance emanating from figures such as Paul Robeson, Harry Belafonte, Richard Pryor, Sidney Poitier, Lena Horne, and even Bill Cosby, they would see who our stars are at their best.

I am certain that Paul Robeson or Lena Horne would have refused to take part in the “ice bucket” challenge if they were not allowed to Lena Hornehighlight the prevalence of Sickle Cell Anemia among their own population, a step that innumerable stars from Regina Hall to Morris Chestnut need to learn.

As much as it pains me to say it, it is time that we send all of these highly talented, yet woefully apolitical individuals to a finishing school similar to the one that Motown Records operated. If nothing else, their understanding of the principle of “to whom much is given, much is required” would be a quantum leap forward for them. I must add a special note to Young Thug, when these classes begin you make sure you are sitting front and center for each lecture, you of all people should definitely not miss a single word.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III


Mental Illness: The Greatest Malady Affecting “Educated” Blacks?

The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races. 

W.E.B. Du Bois, 1903

One of the most difficult aspects of being Black in a world dominated by oppressive and murderous whites is maintaining one’s sanity. It is this delicate balancing act of maintaining one’s “right mind” that proves elusive for the vast majority of African-Americans, regardless of their educational level and class status. An undeniable reality that leads me to state that the most significant health issue in Black America is not HIV, obesity, high-blood pressure, heart disease, sicke-cell anemia, or some other physical ailment; rather it is a rampant case of mental illness that is manifested in myriad unconscionable ways among some of the least likely populations.

Although I am aware of the blatant occurrences of ridiculous behavior that we see emanating from the economically and educationally marginalized segments of our Race, their repeated appearances on viral videos throughout the internet make me cringe, however, they are in many ways helpless victims in this larger scheme of racism, economic exploitation, and the propagation of white world supremacy. In many ways their victimization by the educational system, Capitalism, and myriad other ways flows directly from a segment of individuals that should be addressing, if not preventing, many of these matters; I speak of “educated Negroes”.

My anger, frustration, and exasperation is turned toward those who have been provided innumerable and unprecedented opportunities to stretch their minds, travel the world, and secure “educations” that our ancestors could have not fathomed; the individuals that I speak of are the twenty-first century “Talented Tenth”.

The foremost question that we must broach in regards to our modern-day “Talented Tenth” is of what utility are any of their educational accomplishments or financial gains to the masses of Black folk? Put simply, are they even aware of the significant role WEBthat they are supposed to play in the “liberation and salvation of the Black nation?” This population displays every sign of what I previously termed the most significant health crisis in our midst, mental illness. This population of educated Negroes have decided to distance themselves from the Blackness that incubated their birth, existence, and growth into adulthood in favor of the worldview, priorities, and materialistic goals of a nation that loathes their existence.

The primary role of “the Talented Tenth” is to both engage a tyrannically hostile white society and secure the tools needed to pave a path for their people’s liberation. Put simply, they are to lay the ‘blueprint’ for racial uplift. Herein lies the genesis of the powerlessness of educated Negroes today; meaning, that they have no real understanding of the utility of knowledge. They are engaging educational institutions for individualistic goals of financial and material gain. Obviously, such priorities promise little if any benefit to African-Americans collectively.

Absent an understanding of the utility of education prior to one’s engagement, individuals from oppressed populations will invariably be indoctrinated with the ideology of their oppressor. Put simply, there is often an inverse relationship between educated African-Americans exposure to white universities and our utility to Black people.

One of the most glaring examples of the damage hewn from a naïve engagement with white educational institutions is found in the refusal of the vast majority of Historically Black Colleges and Universities to deal with African-American issues. Save for a few exceptions such as Tennessee State University and Howard University, one is hard pressed to find a significant presence of Black Studies on HBCU campuses; ironically, they are prevalent on bp1predominantly white campuses. Hilariously, those who lead Black college campuses have done their feeble-minded best to replicate the curriculum offerings of white campuses and shunned any significant association with Black Studies in favor of supporting, via significant monetary resources I must add, Hispanic Studies, Chinese Studies and institutes, etc. Clearly, these Negroes are out of their minds.

Despite my strongest hesitations, it is obvious that once naive Negroes “without a knowledge of self”, engage white institutions, they emerge displaying every indicator of mental illness, if not outright insanity.

Hence, it is obvious that the group W.E.B. Du Bois projected would lead us out of our enslavement to white America has in effect endorsed and encouraged our subservience. I close with a quote from the great Marcus Mosiah Garvey who warned us of the so-called “talented tenth” when he stated to the masses of Black folk that “ANY LEADERSHIP that teaches you to DEPEND on another Garveyrace is a leadership that will ENSLAVE YOU!” Let me say that again. “ANY LEADERSHIP that teaches you to DEPEND on another race is a leadership that will ENSLAVE YOU!” And for my money, the typical “educated” Black is not only helping with our collective enslavement, but also crazy enough to believe that it is his job and duty to do such.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III


What’s Going On?: Domestic Violence and the Black Athlete

The African-American community has historically had to protect its young men from false accusations emanating from a hostile white community; particularly when charges of inappropriate behavior guaranteed that whites intended to serve as accuser, trial, jury, and executioner. Historically, there has been little disagreement that we, meaning Black men and Black women, supported one another regardless of the enemy or the odds of our survival.

Such a collective history makes these repeated incidents of domestic violence within the National Football League all the more disturbing. One is left to ponder; at what point did African-American men begin to look at the women who have served as their sisters, mother, aunts, cousins, daughters, lovers, and confidants as worthless a worthless enemy.

Make no mistake about it; the recent rash of domestic violence involving African-American athletes is certainly nothing new; rather it is being highlighted as never before. Put simply, it is the flavor of the day; a flavor that most likely will not subside as Commissioner Roger Goodell fights to maintain his position. Quite possibly the greatest evidence that the NFL has not taken the issue of Domestic Violence with the seriousness that it deserves is the presence of twelve players on rosters with previous Domestic Violence incidents.

  • Ray McDonald, San Francisco 49ers
  • Chris Cook, San Francisco 49ers
  • Tony McDaniel, Seattle Seahawks
  • Kevin Williams, Seattle Seahawks
  • Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
  • Santonio Holmes, Chicago Bears
  • Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers
  • Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
  • Erik Walden, Indianapolis Colts
  • Donte Whitner, Cleveland Browns
  • Randy Starks, Miami Dolphins,
  • Frostee Rucker, Arizona Cardinals

Unfortunately, this list will most likely continue to grow in the weeks to come.

The presence of such incidents should spark an internal discussion amongst African-Americans regarding what is the definition of Manhood undergirding our existence. The belief that the primary role of a man is that of a provider is one of the primary reasons that we find ourselves in this present situation; each of the individuals on this list is most likely a multi-millionaire; that is if they have not squandered their fortune as athletes commonly do.

Quite possibly, it is time for us to construct a different definition of Manhood before we socialize the next generation of Black boys and girls to allow money to represent the personification of Manhood.  How different would the dynamics between African-American men and women be if we instructed our youth that a man possesses the following qualities: Protector, Caring, Considerate, Attentive, Educated, Rational, Dedicated, Loyal, and one who is committed to a vision that represents both partners’ goals and aspirations.

I dare each African-American to try it; if only for a generation.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III


The Only Way Out: Black Economic Collectivism in the Twenty-First Century

The Honorable Louis Farrakhan has notable company such as Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, Claude Anderson, and Malcolm X in repeatedly pointing our people toward entrepreneurship as the primary path to liberation. During a long forgotten moment of oratorical wizardry, Minister Farrakhan advanced the following analogy.

The Black Community is like a big nutritious breast that every immigrant group that has come to this nation has been able to suckle upon until they were big and strong, strong enough to leave it for the next immigrantFarrakhan group that comes to this nation. The entire time that these various groups have come into the Black community and gathered their strength from this Black breast, there stood the Black businessman trying to latch onto this same breast; however, the Black community does everything in its power to move the breast from the parched mouth of the struggling independent Black businessman.

One would be hard-pressed to find an African-American entrepreneur who would dispute Farrakhan’s analogy regarding either the absence of collectivist economics or the difficulty Black businessmen have in getting close to that nutritious breast that immigrants find so available to them. African-Americans have BTW2remained unanchored economically for far too long, a situation that has grown progressively worse since Booker T. Washington issued his calls for economic collectivism in Black business dealings during the late 19th Century.

The unraveling of the African-American community began with the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. Most fail to realize that the Brown decision paved the way for multiple points of integration — schools, public accommodations, educational institutions, and business entities — none of them have proven beneficial to African-Americans in the long run.

Undeniably, the exposure of our best and brightest students to white institutions during the highly volatile 1960s not only shaped their worldviews upon matriculation from these institutions of higher education, but also drastically altered their individual goal structures and priorities. The Black community was for many of them a place that they had outgrown socially, politically, and economically.

For the first time in its history, Black America’s educated class did not emerge from institutions of higher learning seeking to fortify the community and move it forward via political solidarity and economic collectivism, rather they emerged with desires of integrating white neighborhoods and reaching the pinnacle of their professions, meaning securing a job with a previously all white company/corporation and earning more money than anyone in their family had ever earned. Put simply, many of these individuals treated the African-American community as a place to escape from. Most either failed to understand or did not care about the disastrous effect that their embrace of suburban lifestyles and revulsion to economic opportunities within the Black community would have upon their indigenous community.

By the mid-seventies the African-American community had not only experienced a brain drain, but also a significant bloodletting, as the very blood, meaning its economics, was allowed to hemorrhage. As American segregation receded, Blacks commonly mistook the ability to patronize white businesses with the need to do so; relegating the Black community and its business class to an acutely dire economic position.

What has been our response to this consistently worsening economic plight? We have seen calls to boycott white businesses, a posture that does absolutely nothing to aid Black businesses, and repeated protests aimed at forcing recalcitrant whites to release a few jobs to Negroes. Neither plan will serve as the proverbial “balm in Gilead” for the masses of African-Americans. Historically gm2speaking, African-Americans were prepared to March on Washington in 1941 to request jobs in the wartime industries and actually executed a March on Washington in 1963 for jobs. This desperate pursuit of jobs at every turn has made the Black community appear parasitic.

So what should our response be to the present economic desperation that we are witnessing amongst our people? One does not need to look far or wide to find the solution to the African-American community’s economic suffering. The solution to the alluded to misery is not only found within every ethnic/racial enclave found in our major cities, but also the writings of Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Booker T. Washington, and garvey1Claude Anderson. That solution is simply economic collectivism. Malcolm X’s admonishment that African-Americans run their own community down when they spend their dollar with outsiders holds much validity. African-American business people need to develop a reliable database that informs Black consumers of local Black businesses as well as those who offer goods throughout the nation. Blacks must embrace the concept of entrepreneurship with the same vigor that they embrace their religious/spiritual leanings. Meaning one of their primary foci must be creating and supporting independent Black businesses.

Leaders such as Booker T. Washington, Louis Farrakhan, Malcolm X, and a host of others have advised our people to take the business of economics with the utmost seriousness. Every entrepreneurial malcolm 1opportunity must be pursued by Blacks as history dictates that it is the only means of lifting a people out of a marginalized politico economic position. Failure to do so will guarantee that we remain in this marginalized state. Put simply, “if we do what we’ve always done, we will get what we always got.” If we continue down this path, there is no one to blame but ourselves.

A Low Down Dirty Shame: Domestic Violence within the Black Community

When incidents occur involving African-American males, two things are certain, (1) the matter will be manipulated until the African-American male, regardless of his role in the event, is the one shouldering the majority of the blame and (2) the image of all African-American males, regardless of their individual accomplishments, divergent political beliefs, various educational attainments, and levels of morality, will be maligned by the incident.

The consistent depiction of African-American males as thugs, criminals, hoodlums, and hopelessly immoral dysfunctional beings are to be expected by mainstream media outlets. Such maligning RayRice 3often creates a siege mentality within the community, leading many in our midst to make a conscious decision to defend and protect our own regardless of their guilt or culpability in the matter. However, there are moments when one of our own behaves in such an egregious manner that even the most ardent supporter of African-American males, such as myself, finds it difficult to support them. Ray Rice places me in such a position.

For those who are unaware, Ray Rice, a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, and his soon to be wife Janay Palmer was filmed having an argument in a hallway leading to an elevator at the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City on February 15th. Although a domestic spat between two individuals is nothing new, they occur everyday, it was the horrific attack that Mr. Rice executed against his soon to be bride within the confines of the elevator that have led to his recent release from the Baltimore Ravens and suspension from the National Football League. Interestingly, his recent punishment from his employer and the NFL far exceed any criminal punishment he has received to this date.

Although many have attempted to isolate Mr. Rice as an anomaly, those willing to speak the truth on matters of domestic violence will tell you that such behavior occurs far too frequently within our community. I have personally had many conversations with Black men, and a few women, who endorse the use of physical violence upon women within our community if they “get out of their place.”

Although a fictional story, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple momentarily addressed this issue when Miss Celie, the character played by Whoopi Goldberg, advised Harpo to beat Miss Sophia, the character played by Oprah Winfrey, if she would not behave the way he desired. Matters of human interaction are a pesky pernicious issue that often does not have a correct way of occurring; however, there is certainly a blatantly wrong way to interaction as exhibited by Mr. Rice’s beating of Janay Palmer.

However, the question remains why did this occur? I pose such a question not specifically to this single incident involving Ray Rice, Ricerather in a general manner. Although I would prefer to feign ignorance regarding what leads to occurrences of domestic violence, however, my moral compass will not allow me to cower away from the issue in such a way. In my humble opinion, I believe that this issue of domestic violence is merely an extension of the typical socialization that males receive within this nation.

The notion of “might equals right” holds influence among Americans from our foreign policies all the way through the bedrooms that we share with our loved one’s. Such matters are made exponentially worse by African-American males’ attempted assimilation into a European inspired patriarchal societal structure that contradicts the cooperative relationship that our people have embraced from the moment humanity existed on this planet. Those who abuse Black women know very well that the chances of their being arrested, tried, convicted, and sent to jail are minuscule; so there is in many ways no deterrent to their behavior coming from the criminal justice system.

It is this faith in white societal structures that have never and will never work within our community that not only marginalizes our interactions with each other, but also guarantees that we as a community will continue to experience domestic violence. Unfortunately, the next time it may not be captured by a video camera; regardless of if it is caught on camera or not, the abuser has little to worry about from our criminal justice system, ask Mr. Ray Rice.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III


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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