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
Although the exact date that Pastor Johnny R. Heckard shared the message eludes my mind, that does not matter because it is much more important that the sermon’s content remains prominent in my mind.
As was his tendency, Dr. Heckard used an unconscionable, yet scripturally grounded, verbal assault to admonish the Mount Calvary Baptist Church congregation, particularly the males, that one of the most troubling aspects of Black America is the manner in which the roles of African-American men and women have reversed.
The entire church shook as Rev. Heckard’s baritone voice boomed “We now have men asking women, ‘Do you make enough to take care of a man like me?’” As one would expect, this piercing question elicited a symphony of ‘Hallelujah’s,’ ‘Preach,’ and ‘Walk with it’ from the overwhelmingly female audience. Ironically, the overwhelmingly female congregation filled with women who never realize that they are partially responsible for the production of son’s who will become worthless African-American males, as well as hurriedly “laying down their religion” to allow a financially and emotionally parasitic grown man into their lives.
For me, Pastor Heckard’s sermon was surreal as it was a powerful rebuke of a cast of characters I recently encountered in a local barbershop, a place that could also be called the black man’s country club.
Anyone who has been to a real black barber will tell you that you are destined to engage a cast of characters with incredible stories regarding life. Without fail, there is always a few ‘brothers’ present who will share stories regarding their refusal to support the women in their lives and the inventive methods they use to escape responsibility for the women in their lives.
Although hilarious at the moment, upon reflection these tales sadden me because I realized that there are a silent woman and children in the background of each story. African-American males dereliction of duty routinely compromises the present and future opportunities for the women and children that rely on them for things that extend further than financial contributions. There is no possible way that any attentive introspective person could listen to these fantastic barbershop tales and not realize that as Dr. Heckard’s sermon pointed out, the dynamics between black men and women have dramatically changed.
Unfortunately, I am uncertain if even Dr. Heckard’s criticism would have caused even a moment of self-reflection upon the most dynamic performers one finds in any local barbershop as they appeared to be devoid of either a sense of pride or an inkling of morality. If nothing else, the alluded to individuals were a public testimony that so many African-American males had voluntarily retreated from the traditional role of provider and protector that Black men have traditionally occupied. The increasing numbers of such individuals highlight the depths of trouble that our community is experiencing at this present moment.
It appears that the days of the average black man being able to simultaneously occupy many roles that vacillated between displaying the ‘cool pose’ while among their peers, being the primary breadwinner in their homes, spending precious time with offspring, and being unconscionably chivalrous toward their wife are no more.
This abandonment of our traditional position within our community begs a simple question of, ‘Why has this occurred?’
A thorough answer to the above question is multi-faceted, complex, and involves shifts in the American economy, the African-American community, and the educational system that has simply not served as much utility to African-American men in particular. I am certain that you agree that this space is much too small to address each of these areas. So I will turn my focus toward the addressing of one of the essential parts of this problem; that being, the lack of socialization regarding manhood within the African-American community.
Although many have created complex formulas and equations relating to the extension of manhood from one generation to the next, in actuality the process is incredibly simple. Boys learn the duties, role, and expectations of Manhood and therefore how to ‘be a man’ by engaging and learning from Men. There is nothing racially specific about this as it is the same socialization process that occurs generation-after-generation around the entire globe.
Unfortunately for the African-American community, there has been a disruption in this tried-and-true socialization process that taught ‘What a man is and Ought to do’ for African-American boys and girls.
Although it is often not a formal process, any examination of the transference of manhood ideology reveals some form of a ‘rites of passage’ program that teaches agreed upon understandings of what it means to be a man in a particular society. The referenced ‘rites of passage’ training not only shows the expected duties but also constructs rigid parameters regarding activities that are impermissible. Generally speaking, any actions that result in hurt, harm, or damage to others are located in the realm of the impermissible and logically lead to the shunning of those who have even flirted with such things.
Indicative of the African-American community’s failure to instruct succeeding generations of black boys on what they should and should not do has been them making the realm of the impermissible and inappropriate their official residence. Making their dastardly lifestyle more damaging is the black community failing to banish those who have compromised it from its midst. Far too frequently, it appears as if their negative behavior earns them kudos from females who are also devoid of an understanding of what either a man or woman ‘ought to be and ought to do.’ Make no mistake about it, the selfish life that far too many African-American males have adopted damages the entire community.
Considering the blockage that has led to a significant segment of African-American males not receiving appropriate Manhood training, it is not surprising that we have devolved to an unprecedented moment in our history that sees immoral and misguided Black men viewing Black women, in the words of Dr. Heckard as a survival mechanism. And trust me when I say that such maneuvers are certainly not a positive manhood quality.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2016
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.
©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.
I must relate that I absolutely love my cousin Kareem for the man that he has evolved into, however, it is most definitely not accidental that he has evolved in such an impressive manner; his parents, my aunt Jackie and uncle Clarence, were extremely unique individual people who tailored a path for each of their children to succeed. Put
simply, save for some type of mental inadequacy or streak of immorality — things that he most certainly does not suffer from — he, and his beautiful, intelligent, and courageous sisters had no other choice but to turn out the way that they did; the person he is today is not happenstance, it was in many ways his destiny.
So I was not shocked today to see a post that he placed in OUR Facebook group — Manhood, Race & Culture — that explained so much about the role that a Black woman plays in the construction of a man.
His post today was one answer from an interview that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan had given that does much to illuminate how a woman can play a significant role in supporting the development of ‘Manhood’.
Responding to a question regarding his wife and her role in his development, Minister Farrakhan responded in the following way.
When you have a woman by your side who does everything she can to support you in your work, and as a wife, to speak to you when you need correcting or to make it clear to you where she is dissatisfied, but always in a loving and respectful way, that is what helps a man to be a man.
As always, Minister Farrakhan’s words are efficient and packed with tons of insight and wisdom. Far too often we hear a familiar lament from many African-American women that goes as follows: “Where are the men?”
Now there is most certainly a tendency for discussions regarding the role of women in the development of manhood to devolve into a debate that closely resembles the classic quandary of ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg’, however, I am most definitely seeking to avoid such foolishness.
Far too often there is a misunderstanding regarding the ‘development’ of manhood, most are totally unaware that the process is on-going throughout a man’s entire life. Now there is absolutely no
doubt that there is a sizable portion of males who have neither desired nor embarked upon the journey to embrace manhood and I must relate that this post has absolutely nothing to do with them, for all intents and purposes, they are lost causes in regards to becoming men and therefore should be considered traitors to the cause of racial uplift.
I am referring to those who possess both the potential and desire to put on the weighty cloak of manhood. It is this population that our women should be receptive to if for no other reason that they provide a path for her to display one of her innumerable superpowers; on this occasion it is propelling her man to unconscionable heights that he could have never achieved on his own.
I only wish that more sisters found quality male’s with the desire to be strong Black men so that they could implement Minister Farrakhan’s advice and ‘do everything she can to support him in his work’, ‘address him, in a respectful and loving way, regarding matters he is incorrect upon and could improve upon’. According to Minister Farrakhan, that is how ‘sisters’ could help the Black man be a man.
I can personally attest to the damage that a non-cooperative partner can have upon one’s life, it is stifling and suffocating. Instead of cooperation, they intentionally create moments of discord, rather than speaking in a respectful and loving manner, they say things that are intentionally designed to incite an uncontrollable rage. Put simply, many ‘relationships’ within our community are combative and therefore far from loving and supportive. Amazingly we are then surprised when our home’s, the building bloc of any nation, lay in ruin.
I am quite certain that there are many brothers who are currently imbued with a sense of pride and righteousness as they perceive this to be a backhanded slight at the ‘sisters’, they are in as much error as the ‘sisters’ who have allowed their expectations that this is a ‘typical’ posting aimed at disrespecting them to override their engagement in it. If you have read this piece and have come to that conclusion, either you need to increase your reading comprehension or I have failed at my task.
I was simply sharing some advice from a wise man regarding a path that he has already traveled with his beloved partner. I only wish that more of us, men and women, could be so lucky.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.