Tag Archives: African-American identity

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


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


My Nigga: The Power of Words on the African-American Mind

I don’t wanna be another nigga,
Waitin’ with my hands out,
Broke in the hood, they give a damn ’bout
Braggin’ to my homie bout the hoes I fucked
Drinkin’ bottles after bottles, plus I smoke too much.
I never had a job that would pay me well,
I took what I could cause they gave me hell
Spend what I stole on some clothes and kicks,
My ex girl say I won’t amount to shit.
But she suck and fuck, when my car roll up,
Tried to fuck her sister, but she talk too much.
Her mama shake her head whenever I come ’round
Whatever high I had when I saw her might come down
I barely go to church but I say I will,
I bow my head right before I eat my meal
The world’s fucked up and they claimin’ I’m to blame
It’s a damn shame cause
I don’t wanna be another nigga,

Big K.R.I.T.

One of my core beliefs is that “the power of life and death is in the tongue.” Put simply, watch what you say as those words are living projectiles that not only impact the world around me, but also go a great measure towards determining my future path. My parents and mentors repeatedly told me to watch my word choice, particularly when it came to cursing, because, ‘a little bit of bad will tear down a whole lot of good.’

We all realize that America holds its African-American citizenry to a different standard. Most unfair is the reality that the antics, of one African-American have the ability to malign the entire race. Despite their best attempts to deny it, African-Americans are inextricably linked together. One’s public persona, from dress to speech, reflects not only that individual, rather it is extended to cover one’s family and race; especially if that image carries any negativity. When African-American elders are commenting upon the pride they exhibited during earlier moments, they are recalling their posture, walk, diction, and physical appearance. One abhorred being caught ‘showing one’s color’, meaning damaging the African-American image, regardless of the extenuating circumstances.

The aforementioned realities are one of many reasons why YG’s hit single, “My Nigga”, is so disturbing; particularly its impact upon the image and psyche of African-American males. Although I find it particularly difficult to believe that there is anyone on the planet who has not heard this recording by now, in the event that there is such an individual, here are a sampling of the chorus.

My nigga, my nigga
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My nigga, my nigga)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My nigga, my nigga)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My motherfuckin niggas!)
My nigga, my nigga (My nigga, my nigga)
My nigga, my nigga?

The word ‘nigga’ is repeated a shocking thirty-one times during one chorus. Black America’s soul should be troubled by not only the verbal flurry, but also the fact that it has entered the impressionable minds of droves of African-American youth.

As someone who has been addicted to rap music from the first time that I heard Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s ‘The Message‘, I thought that it may be time to address YG’s recording, not with a denunciation of it, that is not only easily accomplished, but also predictable, rather I have decided to offer an artistic alternative to a listening audience that desperately seeks close association with the “N-Word”. Unfortunately, many of these individuals believe that YG’s record, and similar recordings, epitomize what rap music is. So, please consider this a desperate attempt to fight the blaze of ignorance that YG, Rich Homie Quan, and Jeezy began and Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Meek Mill fanned with their remix, with an alternative vision. Please click on the following links for an alternative understanding of the N-Word, nigga, and nigger from several generations of African-Americans.

Maybe the aforementioned rappers will trip upon this posting and learn something regarding the power of language and come to understand that their financial wealth is insufficient to hide their intellectual and moral poverty. I am certain that time will impress upon them that no amount of cash is capable of masking such poverty. One of their own, Jay-Z, a self-proclaimed rap God, once issued an admonishment that is particularly applicable here when he related, “you can pay for school, but you can’t buy class.” A lesson that I hope the entire hip-hop community learns before the power of their words leads to more incarceration, death, and destruction of their own.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III