Tag Archives: Black Males

Developing and Cultivating a Young ‘Criminal Class’ in Memphis

There are those who say that if the Ku Klux Klan tried to destroy an entire generation of Black boys, they could not have done a better job than Black people have apparently done to themselves.

Many of these same people actually believe that a generation or two of young Black men in Memphis (and other cities as well) have been so completely corrupted and defiled, that they have become a ‘species’ unto themselves.

Still further, that we have to ‘write-off’ this current generation of tattooed, sagging pants-wearing, shower shoe-wearing, bad-languaged young thugs, and concentrate on the next group of urban boys.

The fact is that when the current generation of urban boys looks around for answers, and perhaps a little more dignity than the urban males they see on a daily basis, most often they come up empty and get nothing tangible from parents, preachers, politicians, principals, or their peers. The threat is existential, and very real.

The ‘Black Community’ has devolved over the past two decades into an incessantly chaotic mix of great wealth for a few, utter confusion among the masses, bitter frustration inside neighborhoods, mistrust among the divergent groups, and no singular plan to dig ourselves out of this situation.

It is, therefore, no great surprise that we are witnessing the rise of a young ‘criminal class’ in Memphis and in cities across America.

Exactly what is it that we would expect from a once-proud group of African-American citizens, who would never curse in front of the elderly, or disrespect a teacher, and would frown upon being arrested for a ninth time? We can’t exclusively blame violent TV or video games, or violent lyrics in rap music, or even the violence that many young boys see inside their own homes as the ‘primary’ cause for the undeniable rise in shootings, stabbings, armed robberies, and domestic assaults.

But just like the arguments around Global Warming, these human elements must be considered as a possible (and quite plausible) contributing factor. “It’s the criminal’s own fault”, and “He should just go out and get a job”, are two of society’s main refrains, and these sentiments are both rooted in truth.

“Lock ‘em up for forty years”, and “three strikes, you’re out”, and “Let’s bring back law and order”, are also very popular things for politicians to say, and even frustrated everyday Black people agree.

But we’re still just pruning dead leaves from a tree, without getting into the roots or the lack of nourishment that caused the visible blemishes. The violence among young men in Memphis is rooted primarily in deviance, harsh economics, and limited opportunity.

Ours is a ‘cultural deficiency’ that starts in poverty-stricken, single-parent homes across Memphis, and extends to the greater community. Who would argue with such a premise?

Without early training and engagement of Middle School students, we are left with young boys who have been thrown to the wolves, the vultures and the predators of society, that lay-in-wait for them as new recruits for nefarious goals of easy money, street-respect, and ‘ghetto prestige.’

Allen Iverson can be credited as being the forerunner and icon of a belief that lots of money can mask pure thuggery, and that you can wear a basketball jersey anytime, anywhere. As long as you look tough and talk tough, you don’t have to have any legitimate knowledge about anything at all.

Violence is clearly a part of the game, and young boys better develop a strong stomach for it, or go back on the porch. The game is hard, and Hollywood hype has defined exactly how a young boy should look and act as he tries to carve out his early life and his destiny… shower shoes, neck tattoos, sagging pants, inarticulate speech, and probably, access to a gun. Meanwhile, most of them have never been to Sunday School, and never learned to pray.

Scarce summer (and year-round) employment, no family-centered recreational options, and a shortage of non-sports training has led thousands of young men to find other outlets for their ‘manhood quests,’ as they enter the larger economic mainstream.

The majority of these boys are not going to sit idly by, as their peers have girlfriends and cars, and occasionally money. They are going to engage the society based on what they know… and what they know how to do.

The names ‘Rayful Edmonds’ and ‘Brian Tribble’ may not be familiar to most Memphians, but theirs are two stories that speak volumes about the violent situations that now face Memphis and its teens. We are more familiar with the name ‘Craig Petties,’ but it’s the same game, just a different city. ‘Shop Class’ and early exposure to Vocational skills could at least give children an idea – and a hope – of what they might pursue as a legitimate career.

What do we expect the outcome to be, when 8,000 urban boys are left to their own devices in such a chaotic urban setting as Memphis has become? City and county officials only give lip service to the early development of Middle School and High School students, both boys and girls. These young people could find economic options in the un-used commercial kitchens of our 25 closed schools, and no one has ever talked to them about learning to install Fire Suppression Systems, or residential sprinkler systems, or pressure washing windows and driveways, or merchandising grocery stores as a small business… we only give them basketball. “Those who can, will… those who can’t, take.”

So you tell me, why do you think our boys are so violent? I’ll wait, as you ponder your role…

Tony Nichelson is a Memphis community activist who runs Man of the House, a youth mentoring program.

Taken from the Commerical Appeal

BUILDING A ROAD MAP FOR SUCCESS: WHY FINDING A MENTOR IS CRUCIAL TO BLACK MALE SUCCESS

I have issued the comment that “there is dignity in all work” to my male students so often that I honestly cannot tell you from whence this observation emanates or when I first uttered what I consider an ode to manhood. One thing is for certain, the dignity that flows from labor is a cornerstone of manhood.

Although it would be impossible for me to count the many black male students I have advised that “there is dignity in ALL work,” I am confident that number reaches into the thousands. Of all the lessons that I hope they retain from my courses, the concept that labor paves the way toward the securing of their goals is arguably the most important.

During the past two decades, I have engaged thousands of black males desiring directive regarding the path to manhood; a destination that is nearly inaccessible to young black males without the aid of appropriate mentorship and guidance. I have learned that the vast majority of black males have little understanding of what a man ought to be and ought to do. For far too many black males, a solo journey down the path to success is similar to a failed navigation of unfamiliar terrain without the assistance of either a roadmap or illumination; we tend to travel alone and in the dark.   What makes this inefficiency extremely unfortunate is that others have successfully navigated the alluded to terrain; however, many of those who have arrived at a destination of success have forgotten to aid subsequent generations of black males seeking success.

One of the most shocking things about the road to success is that although the road can be arduous and unpredictable, the tools needed for the journey are relatively limited, yet must be applied with an extreme discipline. The alluded to tools are,

  • Selection of a goal.

  • Development of a detailed plan to achieve the desired goal.

  • Strict adherence to that detailed plan via focus, diligence, and hard work.

  • Unrestrained courage to pursue your goals.

Without the invaluable illumination that mentorship provides, the vast majority of African-American males are oblivious to the snares, pitfalls, and cliffs littered throughout the path to success. If one considers former Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton’s advice that “people learn from observation and participation” valid, it is imperative that successful African-American men give back to their community by guiding succeeding generations of black males in the development of a plan for success.

I am confident that many African-American males are sighing, “If only it were that easy.” The have frequently been ignored by those that they seek to help for one simple reason; they are devoid of the renown or celebrity status that bequeaths its possessor with instant credibility. In many ways, this unfortunate reality is the impetus for me using the words of Tupac Amaru Shakur at this particular moment.

Tupac shared the following advice to young African-Americans regarding hard-work, the vehicle that those pursuing success must use to travel down.

“You have to work from one point to go to another. So I admire work ethic, I think it should be reinforced through out our neighborhoods, that everybody should work hard, practice makes perfect, you have to be diligent with what you want, you have to apply your self, you have to motivate yourself.”

Life has taught me that ultimately we write our own story by either using or refusing to use the tools of planning, diligence, focus, and courage; I pray that the next generation of African-Americans craft the perfect life filled with their achievement of their most unrealistic hopes and wildest dreams. Such a life is there for the taking and one that is worth living.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

The Unspoken Divide: A Crisis among African-American Men

Make no mistake about it; there is a significant issue dividing African-American men today. The alluded to divide that has for many black men gone beyond a breaking point cuts across an educational level, socioeconomic status, political leanings, and religiosity/spirituality. To be honest, it is somewhat amazing that this widening cavernous divide has not destroyed what should be natural relations between African-American men.

On second thought, maybe the fact that the few remaining connections found between African-American remain is not as surprising as one would think. Ironically, it appears that black men are tenuously bound together by the inability of whites to differentiate between them. Make no mistake about it; there is an element within white America that eagerly pursues opportunities to make the wide-ranging diversity found among African-American men moot. This part of white America, motivated by an insatiable malice that has seemingly infected every portion of their being could care less if an African-American male has a Ph.D. or no degree, they illogically hate their darker-skinned brethren for no discernible reason other than the fact that they exist.

It is predictable that within a nation where black men were enslaved, beaten, incarcerated, and hunted throughout their complete existence that they would adapt to their dire circumstances and develop unique survival mechanisms. One of the most prominent adaptations has been an agreement not to air our dirty laundry in public spaces as it provides avowed enemies with ammunition to discredit them in some form or fashion.

Unfortunately for enlightened African-American men, their silence regarding matters such as the pervasive cultural dysfunction that undergirds the activities of so many of their brethren has come at a steep price. The silence of intelligent black men who should be defining “what a black man ought to be and ought to do” has provided a cavernous opening for others less suitable for this role to enter. It is this last population that has led a public campaign full of lies and conjectures that have negatively impacted and cheapened African-American men, women, and children’s understanding of “what a black man ought to be and ought to do.”

Make no mistake about it, Black America’s contemporary cultural formulations and understanding of Manhood have been heavily influenced by those who are least qualified to address them. It is this shocking irony regarding “what a black man ought to be and ought to do” that has contributed significantly to the present state of African-American men in particular and the Black community in general. At this moment, African-American males are facing a bevy of maladies such as:

  • Escalating Incarceration Rates
  • Declining Graduation Rates
  • Unparalleled Unemployment Rates
  • Unprecedented Divorce Rates
  • An Epidemic of Black Children without Fathers
  • School-to-Prison Pipeline
  • Prison Industrial Complex
  • Black-on-Black Lethal Violence
  • And the list could continue into infinity

Despite these many pitfalls that have ensnared so many black males, there has always been a segment of African-American men who have flourished in the same environment. Successful African-American men have implemented basic strategies such as diligence and planning to lessen the impact that racism would have upon their lives.

Ironically, the success of some and the failings of others serve as one of the primary catalysts behind an ever-widening divide between black males. New York City educator Damon Thomas addresses this matter by publicly questioning the inability of so many African-American males to achieve in the face of racism. “Don’t get me wrong; I am well aware that racism still exists. However, I trace the ineptitude of Black Males to personal failings, poor decision-making, and a woeful absence of planning for their future.

Thomas is most certainly not alone in his contentions, Columbus, Ohio businessman Eric Morris cites “laziness, foolishness, and silliness” as primary factors in African-American males educational and socioeconomic failures. According to Morris, “There is no other explanation for why some of us have achieved a few things in our lives, and others seem to be stuck in the same place. I just refuse to wallow in pity and let life happen to me, I am the primary determinant in my success and also in my shortcomings and failures. I orchestrate my destiny.

Individuals such as Morris and Thomas have no problem addressing the shortcomings of African-American males for one simple reason; they believe that all African-American males are inextricably linked.

According to Thomas, “Although I hate to admit it, when these brothers go out into the world and act a fool, it affects each and every one of us. Make no mistake about it; they have severely and permanently damaged what it means to be a Black man. Instead of blackness standing for intelligence, professionalism, and responsibility, these fools have made it stand for the exact opposite.

Film-maker John Calhoun offered the following commentary regarding this matter. “I no longer view all ‘brothers’ as ‘brothers’, if you know what I mean. I can’t afford to. I don’t think that anyone who wishes to accomplish anything has that luxury. I have been burned far too many times trying to help my ‘brothers’ out. After a while, you decide that it is not worth it; I am certain that a little part of me died at that moment, however, I knew that I had to do what was best for me.

Laying at the center of this rapidly expanding divide between African-American men and black males is the realization that the former, the population that W.E.B. Du Bois termed the ‘talented-tenth,’ have tired of dragging along brethren who behave as if they are oblivious to their marginal lives and dysfunctional lifestyles. Making matters worse is the illogical manner that the most marginalized sectors of our community display copious amounts of anger at their brethren who have historically provided a helping hand. Such individuals are either unaware or do not care that their more successful brethren have tired of their dysfunctional lifestyles and their refusal to accept constructive criticism regarding what has become a life not worth living.

One of my greatest fears is that the ties that bind black men together are broken, leaving them more disconnected than they are at this present moment. It is frightening to consider the impact that an abandonment of collectivism for individualistic pursuits would have upon the entire community. Such a move would be disastrous to not only today’s African-American community, but also succeeding generations. However, there appears to be little that is going to deter it from occurring. Unfortunately for Black America, it seems that only the politically astute realize that the process of in-fighting and general disagreement that has become an increasing hallmark among African-American men threatens all of our existence as we remain inextricably linked with one another.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2016

The Man I Hope To Be

Although I am not professing to have “seen it all and done it all and done it all at” during my 23 years on this planet. I do take pride in being a candid listener and astute observer. Therefore the following is the sum of what I have learned.

Growing up in Dallas, Texas I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by what could comfortably be called “men’s men”; a population that continuously strove to accomplish one primary feat; that being, providing for their families. I often found myself contemplating if that were the only measure of a man. Was simply “putting food on the table” the only path to manhood?

Not living with my father as I came of age, I found myself constantly wrestling with this matter. I began asking questions of every man, I felt had successfully entered manhood regarding this matter; obviously I was seeking a better understanding of this matter.

Many wise words later, I feel that I have not yet come to a definite conclusion, however, I have a much greater understanding regarding what it means to be a great man. At this moment, I fervently believe that a man must uphold high standards for not only himself, but also those linked to him in some form or fashion. What follows is my understanding of this matter that I wish to share with those of my generation who have no one to share such matters with them.

Self-esteem, the belief that you can achieve your goals through extreme dedication, is paramount to anyone who wishes to advance in life. It is essential for a man to know who he is and exactly what he stands for as he is the backbone that carries his family through every circumstance and obstacle. However, this cannot be achieved until he knows who he is and what he truly hopes to accomplish in life. A man must use his God given talents to better his circumstances.

Discipline is key is to the aforementioned matters. Where there is no discipline there will eventually be some form of advancement. Holding oneself accountable for your own actions is the greatest measure of a man. A man must not let anything or anyone cause him to venture from the goals he has set. Once this self-discipline and self-accountability, not before, is obtained a man can then look forward to creating and providing for a family.

Scripture tells us that once a man finds a good woman he finds himself a good thing. As alluded too, once a man has the ability to care and hold himself accountable he is now prepared to fully embrace and appreciate this good woman. A Christian man is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. A good woman will let you know when you have drifted off course, it is then the man’s duty to listen to these cries and adjust accordingly.

When blessed with this priceless treasure of a good woman, a man can then begin thinking about rearing children into the world. It is a man’s duty to not only provide for his children, but also to teach them all the lessons he has learned to help them build upon the foundation you have constructed. A man should teach his son the responsibilities of being a man. Teach him that he must love and respect himself and do what is necessary to build a  great and better world. The man must then show his daughter what love from a man feels like, while making her feel beautiful giving her bountiful amounts of self-esteem that will most certainly be necessary as she seeks to navigate a turbulent and often hostile world.  Giving his children a platform and understanding he did not have must be accomplished prior to his seeking to aid the world that his family mst live within.

It is crucial that men prepare to live within the general society. it is imperative that Black Men balance fighting the virulent racism that is endemic to America, while also holding on to tenuous hopes of uplifting this nation. The Black man must fight against the injustices seen in his community.  I believe a man’s duty to his culture and people are essential because it creates a legacy of self-worth and self-empowerment.

When you add it all up, the Black Man is much more than a provider and protector. He is often a lover, a teacher, and a friend for those he adores. A good man is patient and focused when things go astray.

The family can be used to not only bridge the community, but also positively impact our culture in innumerable ways. As previously stated I do not profess to have all the answers; however, I am certain that once a man strives to better himself on a daily basis, all around him will be positively affected.

Patron Payton

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.

Not So Fast Ray: Why Ray Lewis’ Criticism of ‘Black Lives Matter’ is Seriously Flawed

In what can only be termed a good intention-ed attempt to address the escalation of Black-on-Black lethal violence in urban centers such as Chicago, Illinois, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis took to Facebook and posted an impassioned plea that called for Black males to cease the killing of their ‘brothers’.

According to an impassioned Lewis, “Why do we always find ourselvesRay Lewis 2 the victims, and now we have the separation once again that we’re being victimized because of one bad white cop, two bad white cops, three bad white cops, killing a young black brother. But every day we have black-on-black crime, killing each other?

As if that were not enough, Mr. Lewis took a significant jab at ‘Black Lives Matter’ by echoing an all too familiar criticism; that being, why has ‘Black Lives Matter’ not commented upon the repeated occurrences of Black-on-Black lethal violence. The insinuation is obvious, ‘Do Black lives only matter when they are extinguished at the hands of whites?’

Lewis queried the following, “I’m trying to figure out if black lives really matter. In Chicago alone the murder rate has soared 72 percent in 2016 — 88 percent in the first three months of 2016 compared to the last year…I know black lives matter because I’m a black man, but stop killing each other. Man, we have to put these guns down in Chicago. Baltimore, Miami, man it ain’t that hard. You have to be okay with earning a living. It ain’t supposed to be easy…If we don’t change what we’re doing not only will our kids not have a future, but we might find ourselves extinct.”

I applaud Ray Lewis for diving head first into this matter, however, his perspective, and that of others who routinely attack ‘Black Lives Matter’, although backed by bountiful loads of passion and good will is at best seriously flawed.

From the perspective of ‘Black Lives Matter’ critics, the organization should turn its focus away from the few cases of lethal violence by officers and focus upon an even bigger problem of Black males killing other Black males. Although I most certainly agree that the problem of Black-on-Black lethal violence is a much larger issue, the truth of the matter is that it is not a problem that can be solved by Black self-restraint and copious amounts of conflict resolution classes.

Black-on-Black violence is a convoluted issue that should never be solely placed at the feet of African-Americans. It is most certainly a problem that requires the full attention of the U.S. Government if it is to be ever solved.

The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement is actually addressing an issue, officer violence against citizens that can be solved through better Black 3police training and the prosecution of rogue officers who needlessly shoot down African-American males in American streets.

The issue of Black-on-Black lethal violence is an entirely different beast with historical precedence.

Although unfashionable to state, the truth is that Black-on-Black crime and lethal violence does not have its genesis within the Black community. Hence, it is disingenuous to demand that African-Americans independently solve this pernicious evil on its own.

Despite seemingly unceasing news coverage that depicts African-American males as a peculiar criminal-minded population that this nation has never encountered before, an actual reading and comprehension of this nation’s historical record not only offers significant understanding to Black-on-Black crime and lethal violence in America’s urban centers, but also points toward a solution.

African-Americans are not the first American population to be placed in situations where there are marginal educational resources, a Black 4dearth of employment opportunities, social ostracism, and an absence of city services. The American historical record highlights several groups that lived under such a yoke (Germans, Italians, Irish, Russian, etc.) and each of these groups had their moment(s) of poverty, crime, and intra-racial lethal violence. For the vast majority of such populations, assimilation with the dominant group was their escape mechanism; such a path has historically been blocked for Blacks.

There is little doubt that poverty, lack of education, absence of employment opportunities, and nihilism invariably results in oppressed populations attacking their own during individualized pursuits of extremely limited resources.

What many are afraid to discuss is the reality that there is no gene that makes African-American males criminal-minded. Most hesitate to publicly acknowledge this fact as it would force the nation to consider a different catalyst to the rampant crime occurring in America’s central city areas, such as: the economy, a broken educational system, a political arena controlled by big money donors, and a draconian criminal justice system that routinely differentiates sentencing according to the racial background of the convicted.

Hence, the question facing the nation is a simple one. What are Americans willing to do to correct the maladies such as Black-on-Black lethal violence occurring in central city areas?

Predictably, African-Americans, like the European immigrants who found themselves ostracized prior to the culmination of World War I, the Jews during the Nazi Holocaust, and Chinese-Americans during World War II, have been attacked for their impoverished status with arguments that implicitly state that if only they tried harder, made better choices, or lived better, they would quickly be extricated from a multi-generational economic poverty that now appears to be a Biblical curse upon Black folk.

The central problem with such arguments is that individual effort has little to do with any of the catalyst behind contemporary Black politico economic poverty.

Despite this nation’s collective resistance to admit it, the issue of Black-on-Black violence is a national issue that needs to be Ray Lewis 4addressed by the U.S. Government with a modern-day Marshall Plan. Instead of dumping millions of dollars in foreign economies, such dollars should be infused into urban enclaves to address areas such as: education, job training, and business loans. There is little doubt that racial self-help programs will never be able to address the myriad interlocking problems affecting so many African-American neighborhoods.

There is no doubt that the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement could very well address the issue of Black-on-Black violence, however, their attention to this problem would in no way impact the fundamental problems affecting this nation’s urban centers. This is an issue that can only be solved with the full focus and brunt of the U.S. Government, not a citizen group struggling to be heard.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016

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