Tag Archives: African-American Culture

The Ballad of Big Meech

It was a truly peculiar moment that remained in my mind for many reasons. The image was no more shocking and stupefying than the message board responses that followed it; the alluded to responses hinted at my being one of the few, if not the only, viewer who deciphered the contemptuous message that not only left me in a state of disbelief, but also caused me to search for ways to either discount or dispute my interpretation of the image; however, doing so called for me to lie to myself. I knew the message the image conveyed, even if no one else noticed. That message was that America’s gang culture had arrived, brashly and with no apologies I might add, onto center stage of this nation’s collegiate sports scene and there was not a damn thing we could do about it.

As a proud alumnus of THE Ohio State University, I make it my business to stay abreast of developments concerning the recruitment of the next generation of gridiron warriors who will don Scarlet and Grey jerseys. I am not alone in this obsession, the ‘Buckeye Nation’ includes millions of fanatics that cheer the Buckeyes onto victory every Saturday; an obsession that appears cultish to outsiders in late November when THE Ohio State University delivers an annual drubbing to the hated Wolverines from that School Up North; in honor of the beloved Woody Hayes, I refuse to even speak that state’s forbidden name.

So, it was not unusual for me to visit my favorite recruiting site in search of information regarding my alma mater’s football program. It was during one of my daily check-ins that I witnessed a photo of Demetrius Knox, a highly sought after Offensive Lineman who carried the moniker of ‘Big Meech’; a title that may very well have been a play upon this young man’s stature and name or quite possibly a means of paying homage to ‘Big Meech’ a leader of the Detroit based Black Mafia Family. A who’s who of college football programs, desperately pursued ‘Big Meech’s’ signature on a National Letter of Intent for his athletic prowess; most project that this young man would at worst be a significant contributor the moment he arrived on some major college campus in the Fall. ‘Big Meech’ is apparently any college football coaches dream; at least in regards to his athletic ability.

My heart tried to deny that the photo taken of ‘Big Meech’, and another recruit, dressed in Ohio State’s signature Scarlet and Grey uniform at the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility during a recruiting trip captured the young man brazenly displaying a gang sign denoting his affiliation/association with the violent street gang the Bloods. The average fan’s ignorance of gang culture, a subculture that many of today’s athletes were exposed to on a daily basis during their upbringing, is the primary reason that ‘Big Meech’s’ photo went unnoticed. I laughed aloud at one OSU football fans response to the photo, he responded with ‘Peek-a-boo, I see you’; as if ‘Big Meech’ were playing a childhood game of ‘Peek-a-boo’ when he transformed his hand into a “b” and placed it over his eye.

*********  It is solely out of a desire to prove my point regarding this matter that I include photos of several individuals, some of them that you may know, throwing up the same sign as ‘Big Meech’; hopefully, this drives home the point that the Black community is in crisis. **********


My mind searched for an answer to the piercing question of what does ‘Big Meech’ displaying a gang sign while being shown the bountiful cache of opportunities a major institution like THE Ohio State University has to offer, say about the values that many African-American youth harbor today. In the midst of finally “making it”, this young man took it upon himself to communicate with what should be termed the dregs of the African-American community; however, within “the hood”, such individuals are lauded for their immorality, criminality, and nihilism. Apparently in ‘Big Meech’s’ mind, not even the unprecedented opportunities that flowed from his prodigious athletic abilities would facilitate his disassociation from ‘the hood’ or its inhabitants. ‘Big Meech’ is not alone in his inability to not be governed by a flawed value system that calls for loyalty under all circumstances, ‘the hood’ is never to betrayed, regardless of individual opportunity. Inexplicably, for many contemporary African-American athletes, their million dollar contracts are merely a tool to access ‘street credibility’. For many it appears that concerns regarding “street credibility” heavily outweighs all other concerns, including remaining in good standing with the NCAA, NFL, or NBA.

Social media provides unprecedented access to the lives of today’s athletes, leading many fans to erroneously believe that they intimately know these individuals. The alluded to fan base would be shocked to learn that gang culture has always existed on the periphery of collegiate and professional athletics. This glaring blind spot in the vision of most sports fans is attributable to the fact that those who can most afford to attend games are completely unaware, except for anecdotal evidence, of the socialization and values that motivate many of today’s athletes.

The dilemma posed by Demetrius Knox, and by extension many of today’s athletes is peculiar. Despite African-Americans desperate desire to avoid the characterization of any segment of their population as thuggish, meaning immoral, illogical, and criminal-minded, the truth is that there is a significant portion of our population that has adopted anti-social behavior and flawed priorities as a lifestyle. Most troubling of all is that the opportunities afforded individuals such as Demetrius Knox, and a host of contemporary athletes/entertainers, should be a way out from impoverished communities that have historically stifled the hopes and dreams of generations of African-Americans. Mr. Knox’s decision to flash gang signs while on the cusp of unprecedented opportunities is not only revealing in regards to skewed priorities among African-American youth, but also a clear sign that they have absolutely no comprehension of whom they are or from whence they came; realities that will continue to doom this population until they are corrected through relevant education, mentoring, and a cleansing of the soul.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III


Out of the Mouth of Babes: The Identity Crisis of Young African-Americans

One of the most important things that any of us are forced to answer is the question of who am I? It is a question that reflects so much about each of us from our historical background, ancestry, heritage, upbringing, socialization, and where we project ourselves in the future. Unfortunately, there has been a recent rash of notable young African-Americans, or Blacks, who have publicly renounced their African-American status.

The alluded to individuals include a roster of notable African-Americans: Zoe Saldana, Keyshia “I’m biracial” Coles, Tiger “Cablinasian” Woods, Devyn Adbullah, and Raven Symone, to name a few.

It appears that these Negroes are obsessed with distancing themselves from the Race that they were born into at all costs, including sounding like a complete idiot before the entire world. The Face model Devyn Adbullah went on national television and related to Wendy Williams, “I don’t really consider myself as a black girl devynmodel. I know what my ethnicity is, but I’m fair-skinned and I feel like I have an international look”. A shocked Naomi Campbell, who also serves as a mentor to this young lady responded with the following litany, “What the f*ck does she mean? That’s a disgrace! She’s a Black girl.” Considering the daily attacks that African-Americans are under around the globe, Devyn should recognize that not even her so-called ‘international look’ will be sufficient in preventing unprovoked racial attacks in America, Europe, the Caribbean, or South America.

Ms. Adbullah is not alone in her pontificating about Race matters, particularly her non-desire to be included with the masses of African-Americans. Former Cosby Show star Raven-Symone has emerged as the latest to miserably fail at ingratiating hraven symoneerself to whites by distancing herself from a disbelieving African-American community. In a cutesy attempt at being profound during an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Symone relates, “I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American; I’m an American…I’m a colorless person”.

As if such statements were not daunting enough, rapper Childish Gambino took to the airwaves and related during a recent interview on the Breakfast Club that he wanted to transcend Race. childish gambinoApparently, Childish Gambino believes that his commercial success as a rapper will somehow make him, to use the concept of Raven-Symone, ‘a colorless person’ no longer hindered by the stigma of Race. Songstress Keyshia Coles also joined in on this most unfortunate discussion of Race by hesitating to accept an invitation to perform at the Black Girls Rock event because she was not certain that she was Black. Coles relates that she is bi-racial, not Black.keyshia coles

Although it would be easy to simply disagree with such statements, I actually feel that such statements are particularly revealing on several levels. The most revealing aspects are what it reveals regarding (a) the lack of historical context that these young people exist within and (b) their gross lack of understanding of the genesis of Race in America. Each of these young people appear to be screaming, hollering, begging, and pleading with the Black or African-American community to let them go, not to claim them, they are throwing a childish temper tantrum and screaming, in our face nonetheless, I am not, nor do I desire, to be one of you. Unbeknownst to them, it is not our community that either created or over-emphasized the issue of Race in America. We have had to collectively react and scramble for our own survival when faced with the social construct of Race.

Unbeknownst to these feeble-minded babies — Raven-Symone, Childish Gambino, Devyn Adbullah, Zoe Saldana, and Keyshia Coles — W.E.B. Du Bois’ construct that the problem of the twentieth-century is the color line holds weight even in the new millennium. Considering the repeated murder of African-Americans in this nation’s streets, it is darn near suicidal for someone to think that they can navigate this pesky Race issue alone. However, I am certain from your public statements that you will not take a Black man’s word for it, so please go and ask the nearest random white person what you are, and I am quite sure that they will not hesitate to point you blackwards.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III


Talkin’ Loud and Saying Nothin’: The Weirdification of Contemporary Black Activism

Like a dull knife
Just ain’t cutting
Just talking loud
Then saying nothing

James Brown

If nothing else, the study of History can be very illuminating in regards to our contemporary situation and issues. It is the gift of historical study that provides the solution to contemporary problems.

The realization of such makes the appearance of Cultural Nationalism within our midst downright puzzling; not to mention its appearance amongst an activist community that one would expect to have staved off historical and cultural illiteracy. Aside from fanciful cultural celebrations, bizarre linguistic alterations, and dress, Cultural Nationalism has proven incapable of impacting the politico economic issues chaining our people today.

Not even Ron Karenga’s US organization was able to make a dent in our people’s suffering; an organizational failure that when compared to the Revolutionary Nationalist Black Panther Party karenga ushighlights the myriad fallacies, flaws, and inadequacies found within Cultural Nationalism. Taken in its totality, it became apparent during the sixties that the pseudo-African language, dress, and piece-meal historical constructs that Cultural Nationalist groups undertook throughout the sixties amounted to little of nothing as their was neither a political institution developed to engage a hostile white establishment, nor a move toward economic collectivism to develop institutions capable of employing community members. Put simply, the donning of a dashiki is a fashion choice, not a revolutionary act.

Unfortunately, it appears as if we are now within a Cultural Nationalist renaissance that makes me call upon one of my favorite quotes of Malcolm X regarding the 1964 March on Washington, “It was a circus, with clowns and all.” The proliferation of Cultural Nationalist ideologies and belief systems has made the movement look like a three-ring circus.

Cultural Nationalists have historically been fringe groups with a miniscule following of naïve, uneducated, gullible people whose failures in life made them unbelievably receptive to charlatans presenting themselves as race leaders possessing a plan to daddy graceameliorate all that ails them. Two of the earliest manifestations of such leadership are Daddy Grace and Father Divine. A mere perusal of the activist landscape today points to innumerable individuals and groups that have assumed their position.

Contemporary Cultural Nationalists are little different from those that came before them in that they advance a significantly flawed analysis of contemporary issues affecting an economically exploited and politically disorganized community with often persuasive arguments that inform their gullible followers that if they would alter intangible aspects of their life, meaning the way that they view themselves, their value system, and beliefs, they would be able to conquer tangible issues. It is only within the sci-fi world that many Cultural Nationalists exist that changes to intangible variables will affect the tangible world. History dictates that those who engage Cultural Nationalism will divorce themselves from reality; meaning they will characterize themselves differently, attempt to adopt a value system that counteracts pre-existing values, and ridicule others for not coming into knowledge of self.

Unbeknownst to Cultural Nationalist converts the vast majority of the ideology and specialized metaphysical areas of study that they religiously spend weeks, years, and sometimes decades learning is little more than historical innuendos and half-truths not grounded in much truth. It is quite simply, busy work that ultimately leads to nothing more than ‘wasted water’.

I have recently come across Cultural Nationalists of various groups who have harped upon issues such as space aliens, a vibrating universe, sharia law, nuclear reactors being housed in pyramids, the fact that the Euro-Arab Slave Trade never occurred, gamma rays being shot into the minds of citizens, and even one person who slave ship 3admonished that we should not hold those who have murdered African-American males down in American streets as they were under mind control by the Rothschild’s and therefore not responsible for their small role in the larger plot to kill us. However, reasonableness is lost on Cultural Nationalists as they have become as steeped in the teachings of whatever group they have joined as the Christians they criticize on a daily basis. They are little more than sheep being led around. Put simply, these people are hooked upon Cultural Nationalist ideas and arguments that continually busy their minds and distract them from the tangible suffering that their people experience.

In light of the obvious suffering that persons of African descent on the North American continent continually experience, the time for what could be best termed “mental masturbation” sessions has expired. Although I obviously have strong feelings regarding the proliferation of Cultural Nationalism within our community, and consider Revolutionary Nationalism as the only path to liberation, I think that we may need to put our distinctive cultural beliefs in the same closet that Malcolm X advised us to put our religious beliefs. Malcolm advised such because if we don’t, we will simply come malcolm-x-23together an argue about inconsequential minutiae the entire time we are together; precious time that could be used to strategically plan improving the tangible existence of our people. The failure to lay down the innumerable rivalries and petty beefs that occur between Cultural Nationalist groups guarantees an extension of the tangible misery that our people are experiencing and a continuation of our status as a people who the world looks upon as those who are continually “Talkin Loud and Saying Nothin”.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III


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


Can It Be That It Was All That Simple?: Bill O’Reilly Misses the Mark Yet Again

During a recent discussion with the Black Conservative, noted Surgeon Mr. Benjamin Carson, Bill O’Reilly took it upon himself to once again not only address, but also solve the myriad problems Bill OReillyaffecting African-Americans; impressively, he did such in nine short sentences. Mr. O’Reilly addressed the highly esteemed Carson with the following litany. “You remember Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays. Weren’t they fabulous athletes — I idolized Willie Mays…And what do we have now? What do we have now? Gangster rappers, you know, Beyoncé. The most famous, you know, doing these videos that show these kinds of things to young, 9, 10, 11-year-old girls? I mean — and it’s celebrated. It’s celebrated. You know, that’s the big change.”

Carson meekly cowered away from the issue and responded “The bottom line is, we as a society must come to understand that this is a problem that affects all of us. And we don’t have to wait for Jesse Ben CarsonJackson or Al Sharpton or anybody to be the leader on this issue. And it doesn’t even have to be a Black person. I appreciate the fact that you’re willing to step out and talk about this because it is politically incorrect to do so now.”

I beg to differ with Mr. Carson in that it is politically incorrect to address the social ills facing African-Americans, particularly in the superficial manner that he and his compatriot Bill O’Reilly are attempting to do, yet again. In fact, there is nothing more American than the tendency of the white community and naïve negroes to blame the social ills occurring amongst Black America on its largest victims, African-Americans themselves.

Oh, if it were truly that simple for us to bring back that sober minded negro Jackie Robinson that so ingratiated himself to the white community. Apparently Mr. O’Reilly has forgotten that Mr. Robinson himself was not accepted by the white community, at least not until he publicly denounced the African-American community’s desire for freedom and liberation; we must never forget that Robinson also denounced Malcolm X before white audiences.

Following the logic of Mr. O’Reilly and Carson, if Beyonce put on some clothes, little Black elementary school girls would know how to behave in their classrooms, receive straight A’s, and be well on Beyoncetheir way to avoiding welfare rolls and that dastardly desire to embrace any semblance of racial pride. In the aforementioned individuals’ minds, such a simplified formula would finally usher Black American males into mainstream society. If only they would disengage from Black Popular Culture, particularly Hip-Hop culture, would we see unemployment decline, the murder of Black folk in the streets of America by white police officers cease, Black wealth created, the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of African-American men and women cease, and assimilation with an obviously morally correct white community finally occur.

So if you for a second believe the spiel given by Mr. O’Reilly and Carson, that Black folk are the lone catalyst behind their own misery, suffering, and degradation, go ahead and turn off the radio. But please let me know how that sophomoric decision works for the Race in either the immediate or the long-term.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III