Tag Archives: Racial Uplift

The Failure to Prioritize: An Essential Ingredient in the Extension of Black America’s Oppression

There is probably no more frustrating quality found among African-Americans today than their inability to evaluate current events and then prioritize. Trust me when I say that it is our failure to prioritize matters affecting our collective well-being that not only extends African-American suffering but also makes us accessories to our oppression.

The lack of a significant response from Black America regarding Trump’s decision to repeal the Affordable Care Act speaks volumes about the average African-American’s inability to monitor, prioritize, and respond accordingly to pressing political matters. Instead of addressing the looming curtailing of reasonable access to health care, Black America has preoccupied itself with relatively mundane issues such as a proposed Atlanta Orgy, the 20th Anniversary of the Notorious B.I.G.’s murder, or some other brain draining social media topic such as Remy Ma’s ‘Shether.’

Considering the disproportionate amount of time that African-Americans spend upon topics that can be efficiently termed “mental masturbation” exercises, one could be fooled into believing that their community is not lagging behind other groups in every single political, economic, and educational measurable. A critical mass of African-Americans decision to bury their head in the sand regarding our contemporary politico-economic blight that paves the way for African-Americans to behave as if they do not have a single care in the world, put simply, so many within our community behave like “good time Charlie’s.”

Although I would never deny the pernicious effects of discrimination and institutionalized racism, the failure to take life seriously also severely compromises African-American progress at every turn. Black students across a wide-swath of educational levels often behave as if they have absolutely no interest in learning anything of utility during their educational experience. Anyone who has dealt with our people will tell you that the following variables exist. There is a segment of African-American males of varying ages and socioeconomic classes proudly flaunt their immoral ability to skirt responsibility for their offspring. Many females within our midst busy themselves executing voluminous amounts of unnecessary mischief that invariably facilitates the arrival of a small mindedness that serves as the primary socializing agent in their children’s lives.

Make no mistake about it, until politicization becomes the standard mindset of Black America, these issues will not only remain but also serve as a reliable point for our individual and collective exploitation.

This issue should be considered an absolute blessing and curse. The blessing is that the development of a politicized mind and the ability to prioritize continually shifting political issues is achievable via a voracious regimen of study dedicated to Black life. The curse is that the most reliable agent in black activism is an outrageous offense from whites. Until the African-American community abandons its usual reactionary position and begins to understand that pressing political matters such as the repealing of the Affordable Care Act are markedly more important than the anniversary of the death of the Notorious B.I.G., ‘Shether’, or an event such as the “ATL Orgy” that definitively proves the comprehensive nature of the social dysfunction enveloping far too many members of our community, liberation will continue to elude Black America. The addressing of this matter requires an abandonment of reactionary politics. It can be done. However, it is solely up to Black America, and there is “the blessing and the curse” that continually haunts our collective liberation.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017.

THE MISAPPROPRIATION OF THOUGHT: WHY SECRETARY OF EDUCATION OF BETSY DEVOS STOLE LBJ’S SPEECH AND WHY IT SHOULD MATTER TO THE ENTIRE NATION

I consider it a blessing that Hip-Hop Culture significantly impacted my values and priorities. It is impossible for me to count the ways that Hip-Hop Culture, particularly the musical wing, Rap Music, has influenced my life.

Even recent converts to Hip-Hop culture recognize that one of the most important aspects of Rap Music is the art of emceeing. Trust me when I say, although the Deejay may have been the original star of Rap Music, the man or woman holding the mic would soon surpass them.

Make no mistake about it, more than a few fights occurred over a disagreement regarding which emcee had better “flow” or “lyrical content.”  For my generation, such matters were so important that they possessed the potential to pivot African-American youth culture in an instant. Although there was an unconscionable amount of diversity found within Hip-Hop Culture, there was a point of consensus that all agreed on. That being, immediate dismissal was due to any “biting” emcee. A “biting” emcee was one who was caught stealing the words, thoughts, and ideas of another emcee. If Melania Trump were an emcee, she would have been swiftly excused as a result of her theft of significant slices of Michelle Obama’s speech. Such behavior was considered a crime worthy of execution.

For those of us who have spent a lifetime listening to rap lyrics, it was not difficult for us to discern if words, thoughts, or ideas were stolen from another emcee as it fostered a feeling of déjà vu within our souls. It was this very feeling that I felt after reading the statement from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos after her “listening session” with the Leadership of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Although the alluded to statement is unbelievable fertile soil for criticism, I will focus solely on the passage that raised feelings of déjà vu.

A key priority for this administration is to help develop opportunities for communities that are often the most underserved. Rather than focus solely on funding, we must be willing to make the tangible, structural reforms that will allow students to reach their full potential.

There was something eerily familiar to this thought pattern that reverted my mind back to my book Creating Revolution as they Advance: A Narrative History of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Put simply; I heard this thought before. After a few short moments of pondering, it dawned upon me that Betsy DeVos or some underling working in the Department of Education had reverted 50 years and stolen the ideas and spirit of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s June 4, 1965, Howard University commencement address.

Although many lauded the initial passages of Johnson’s address to an attentive audience of graduating HBCU students and their families that

“You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘You are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.”

There is no doubt that the more important aspect of the address occurs moments after the Texan’s progressive thoughts. It is at that moment that President Johnson slyly situates responsibility for racial improvement squarely on the shoulders of American blacks. According to LBJ,

“Equal opportunity is essential, but not enough. … Ability is stretched or stunted by the family you live with, and the neighborhoods you live in, by the school you go to and the poverty or the richness of your surroundings. It is the product of a hundred unseen forces playing upon the infant, the child, and the man. . . . Overt job discrimination is only one of the important hurdles which must be overcome before color can disappear as a determining factor in the lives and fortunes of men . . . The extent to which an individual is able to develop his aptitudes will largely depend upon the circumstances present in the family within which he grows up and the opportunities which he encounters at school and in the larger community.” 

Although I am not surprised that the Trump administration has decided to mimic LBJ’s position that the problems facing the black community are due to structural problems within Black America, I am woefully disappointed in a cadre of HBCU leaders who paraded into the White House for what amounts to little more than a photo opportunity for the Trump Administration without making a demand for a larger share of Federal dollars for their financially strapped institutions. More troubling than this failure is the reality that while the cameras were flashing, Secretary DeVos was pinning a communication that if read closely and situated within its proper historical context was a slap in the face for not only Black America but also every black educator. Considering black leaders continuing pattern to refuse to “call a spade, a spade,” I will translate the communication for them. “The onus is upon Black America to solve their problems, please stop looking for any additional money from the Federal government and direct all of your attention toward correcting the foundation of your house.” A damning message no doubt, but one that actually would prove beneficial to Black America in the end as no one is coming to save us and it is time that our leadership understands that fact.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017.

Malcolm X: Did His Ultimate Sacrifice Bring Any Tangible Gains to the Black Freedom Struggle?

There is quite possibly no greater frustration among those who have chosen to carry the huge banner of Black Nationalism than the witnessing of those whose cause that you continually champion making the same mistakes that guarantee a continuation of their oppression. Unfortunately, I realize that I have much company when I enter those private moments that invariably lead me to question if the arduous tasks and constant frustrations experienced while attempting to uplift a people who behave as if they do not mind the continuation of their politico-economic exploitation and social outcast status is even worth the Herculean effort? As mentioned above, I realize that I have much company when it comes to this type of thinking.

Although I realize that I have only given some of myself to the struggle, while there are others such as Brother Malcolm X who gave all, I believe that it is within reasonable bounds to wonder if the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life, such as Brother Malcolm, has made an iota difference in the historical struggle to uplift a stubborn Black America.

When reflecting upon the life, legacy, and untimely death of Malcolm X, I am reminded of his order to the black man that it is time for him to “Wake up, clean up and stand up.” Such a directive appears to be not only sensible, but also easily achievable by a people who have served as a reliable resource for other groups seeking to increase some combination of political power, economic might, and social status.

According to Malcolm X, the path out of this jungle of unconscionable exploitation for the black man and woman was a fairly rudimentary plan.

  • Starting black businesses so that the black dollar could be circulated among them.
  • Creating political solidarity sufficient to not only elect representatives to represent our interests, but also capable of “holding their feet to the fire” after they were elected.
  • Abandoning any vices retarding “the liberation and salvation of the black nation,” such as: alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, financial irresponsibility, political illiteracy, lack of an education, uncivilized behavior toward one another, and the destruction of the black family.

I am certain that you realize that none of the above ideas originated with Brother Malcolm. It is this reality that calls into question the legacy of not only Malcolm X, but also the many other leaders who have appeared in our community carrying a similar message, suspect.

So the question before us is a rather simple one. In a climate where it appears that the dial measuring the fortunes of African-Americans has remained stationary, did the contributions and sacrifices of Malcolm X matter at all?

Prior to answering this query, we should first take this opportunity to examine the present condition of Black America.

  • African-American children lag behind all others in educational achievement.
  • African-American children are being disproportionately raised in single-parent female headed households.
  • African-American communities remain a reliable path to financial improvement for any non-black group in the nation.
  • African-American wealth accumulation lags behind every other group, including newly arrived immigrant groups.
  • African-Americans, male and female, are incarcerated at a rate that far exceeds their proportion of the American populace.
  • African-American marriages are more likely than not to end in divorce.
  • African-American women far exceed their male counterparts in
    • Educational achievement
    • Income earned
    • Social Status
    • Political Activism
  • Understanding of African-American manhood constructs are nearly non-existent among black males and females.
  • There is a sizable population of African-American men who should be considered “unmarriageable.”

In light of the above list, we are once again faced with the query of did Malcolm X’s existence mean anything beyond being inspirational for a few African-Americans. If Brother Malcolm’s sacrifices meant something more, what tangible changes occurred as a result of his esteemed legacy?

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

How Black Leaders Failure to Learn from the Past Simultaneously Dishonors Dr. King and Dooms Black America

When I heard that Rev. Al Sharpton and the usual gang of misguided black leaders were assembling for yet another March in the nation’s Capital, I could do little more than chuckle. I simply cannot understand how veteran Civil Rights activists fail to realize that although marches are a reliable means of drawing attention to the pervasive problems facing Black America, they are an ineffective strategy when it comes to ameliorating these centuries-old issues.

The irony that contemporary Civil Rights leaders are still relying upon old protest tactics on the eve of the National Holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is shocking. It appears that today’s black leaders such as the NAACP’s Cornell William Brooks who has vowed to “march until hell freezes over, and when it does, we will march on the ice,” have failed to learn much from either our struggle for racial equality or the legacy of Dr. King.

For example, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated that the Civil Rights Movement has two increasingly difficult stages. The initial stage was the securing of equality on American law books, a task that most historians and political scientist agree occurred when President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Right Act. Dr. King warned the entire nation that although whites would be overly emotional in their resistance to the theoretical equality that Johnson’s legislative addendums secured, they must remain vigilant in regards to the struggle for racial equality because the job was not even half-way done after either the 1965 or 1968 Voting Rights Acts. According to King, the most challenging aspect of the struggle for racial equality would be the moment that African-Americans attempted to exercise the above theoretical equality. According to Dr. King, Negroes must enter white educational institutions (as students, teachers, and administrators), jobs (as laborers and bosses), neighborhoods, and political offices as equals before we can begin to celebrate any triumph over racism. Dr. King went to his grave knowing that America had never attempted to accomplish this crucial second stage.

The most bewildering thing about Civil Rights leaders such as Al Sharpton is that they have learned nothing about how groups address their political and socioeconomic grievances in America. Now please do not think that I am insinuating that public protests have no role in the expressing of grievances because they certainly do. However, this antiquated protest activity is only a half-step toward ameliorating the many issues facing Black America. The failure to recognize the limited impact of public protests is a gross dereliction of leadership duties for national level Civil Rights leaders.

In this space, I have repeatedly echoed two points that our beloved brother Malcolm X stated regarding the path that our people must travel if they are serious about their liberation. Ironically, neither way is contingent upon the cooperation of rival groups. The alluded to statements that our dear brother Malcolm X stated are as follows:

  • The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
  • We must “wake up, clean up, and stand up!

It is intra-racially that our most significant progress against political marginality and economic tenuousness will be made. Instead of adopting such a reasonable path, black leaders such as Sharpton and Brooks are guiding the membership base of their national level organizations to spend inordinate amounts of time and precious resources, not to mention the wearing out of tons of shoe leather, shouting at white political elites slogans that amount to little more than “don’t you have a conscious? Look at how you are doing us. We only want you to like us and do right by us.” Such pleadings are not only embarrassing to self-respecting African-Americans but also fall short of being a significant political statement.

So as figures such as Cornell William Brooks execute bird-brained plans to “march until hell freezes over, and when it does, we will march on the ice,” the world will continue to look on with amused contempt and pity at a black leadership cadre whose failure to learn anything from its past struggles has doomed it to be woefully inept at developing and executing a plan to address any of the politico-economic issues facing Black America in the twenty-first century.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017.

“What is your Problem with Umar Johnson?”

I often read a lot of commentaries criticizing Dr. Johnson because I’m trying to discern whether he is just as bad for us as black church pastors. I agree all public figures subject themselves to criticism. What I don’t get is what the criticisms and sometimes attacks are about regarding Umar. What false information is he giving out? I have not heard anyone, who is critical of Umar, deny that what he says about public schools and the misdiagnosis of black boys is true. What I do hear is people attacking him about the money he’s trying to raise to build a school; the rant he made via video and him being intimate with a stripper. Is that it? Are those all of his major flaws? People are also quick to attack him for being charismatic. When did charisma become bad? Not enough black youth aren’t being taught how to enunciate and speak properly, let alone how to be charismatic. Do we really want to tear down a conscious black man over those things? If so, why aren’t we as hard on elected officials? We easily take what they dish out and we know they hate us. Where is the kudos for Umar’s black college & consciousness tour last year? He’s doing two such tours this year. What exactly are we going to appreciate about conscious leaders? Better yet, what expectations do we have or want to see in a leader?

(Daryl B. Gray)

Let me first say thank you for this question that conveys so many of the issues and questions surrounding not only Umar Johnson but also larger matters surrounding ‘charismatic leadership.’ I am going to do my absolute best to answer a few of these issues in a precise manner. To achieve that goal, I have deconstructed your question into two smaller and therefore more manageable pieces for today’s response.

(A) What false information is Umar Johnson giving out?

(B) When did charisma become bad?

So here we go.

(A) What false information is Umar Johnson giving out?

I believe that you are on solid footing to inquire about ‘what false information’ has Umar Johnson put out. This is the thing about Umar, those who have issues with this brother are not particularly disturbed by the myriad of untruths that have emanated from his mouth such as the following:

  • His celibacy claims that were proven false by his interactions with the ‘conscious stripper.’ I think that most people could care less regarding what he does in his private life, however, what disturbed most was the presentation of a public Umar that does not match the private life. It most certainly conveys a willingness to advance a lie if it will benefit you; a dubious and dangerous character flaw for any person in a leadership position.
  • Umar’s claim to be a descendant of Frederick Douglass is yet another example of his willingness to advance a lie to promote himself and advance an agenda. This particular myth regarding Douglass is particularly offensive to me because he said it directly to me during an interview with an authority that would have made one think that he should have been named Frederick Douglass V.

Those who have significant problems with Umar trace their issues to the type of information that he does not share. At the core of the alluded to angst is the absence of transparency regarding the monies Umar has raised for his “school.” Put simply; there has been zero accountability regarding the monies raised, how these monies were used, the status of this “school” or any infrastructure that has been created surrounding the above entity.

It is this absence of ANY transparency that causes the majority of his critics to consider him worse than an exploitive preacher. In many ways, Umar is like a jackleg preacher in that he is peddling a path to end the misery and suffering of the masses. “If only you donate to this school, all of your problems will be alleviated.”

What makes these matters extremely troubling is that those who have chosen to support Umar with their hard-earned dollars materially are operating totally out of a blind-faith that is fueled by their innate desire to do something to help lift our people out of their multi-generational politicoeconomic marginality.

It is to that population of ‘believers’ that Umar owes transparency. My greatest fear is that when these ‘believers’ who have stepped out on faith realize that this has all been a charade, they will adopt a rigid position of ‘never again’ and will refuse to aid legitimate uplift efforts such as the already existing independent black school movement that desperately needs an immediate infusion of funds to continue educating African-American children.

(B) When did charisma become bad?

To address this issue, it is imperative that I separate the idea of charisma from an entirely different issue of “charismatic leadership.” Brother Gray, you wrote the following in your question. When did charisma become bad? Not enough black youth aren’t being taught how to enunciate and speak properly, let alone how to be charismatic. You are absolutely correct in your summation that charisma is not a negative quality. I have found that charisma is a pre-requisite for leadership, particularly in regards to leading an African-American populace that desperately craves a well-constructed combination of information and inspiration.

I likewise agree with your assertion that “Not enough black youth aren’t being taught how to enunciate and speak properly, let alone how to be charismatic.” One needs to look no further than the absence of enunciation found among contemporary ‘mumble’ rappers, let alone the speech patterns and vulgarity found within so many of our educational institutions to find a reason to support your assertion. However, that form of charisma is not what is being addressed when critiques of charismatic leadership are advanced.

When charismatic leaders such as Umar Johnson are being critiqued, it invariably revolves around the fact that they are “all sizzle and no steak.” Put simply, they do not use their prodigious God-given oratorical talents for the uplift of the community, they consciously plot and plan to use those gifts for personal gain.

It is their charm, their rhetorical wizardry and phrase mongering that invariably enchants their ‘followers’ to do as they say, in Umar’s case this means donating money to his yet to be realized school as well as vociferously attacking those who have the audacity to publicly critique his exploitation of the masses, a problem that you will find among all charismatic leaders.

Consider for a moment, that well-meaning, yet naïve, African-Americans have been donating monies to Umar’s yet to be realized educational venture for several years. When pressed as to why any educational institution has yet to be realized, his answer has always been the same, “The people haven’t given enough.”

One of the most obvious signs of a charismatic leader is his ability to always place the onus for the achievement of goals upon the followers, such sayings are common among leaders such as Umar Johnson or any random prosperity preacher, “if only you would pray more,” “if only you would donate more money,” “it is your lack of faith that is causing God not to bless us with what we need.”

Umar Johnson has slyly concocted a ‘us vs. them’ narrative among his followers that detracts their attention from his failure to provide a single sign of what their commitment to economic collectivism and black-on-black support has achieved.

Umar’s followers have become so emotionally invested that not even his recent tirade and denigration {which he taped and disseminated himself} against a fellow black man is sufficient to break the enchanting spell.

As with all charismatic leaders, it is their eloquence, charm, and expert ability to manipulate the emotions and perspective of people who are seeking a way out of no way that is their source of power, not the building of anything tangible such as a school. It is the bartering of hope and a dastardly lie that he is the only one diligently working to uplift Black America that is the base of Umar’s hold upon a people who have so much invested in him that they will never abandon his cause as it will serve as the supreme admission to the naysayer that they were correct in their criticisms and condemnation of associating with a critically flawed, seemingly mentally unstable, narcissistic individual such as Umar Johnson.

I realize that I did not touch upon each and every issue that you presented in your interesting query; I vow to you that I will address the other matters that you presented such as “What exactly are we going to appreciate about conscious leaders? Better yet, what expectations do we have or want to see in a leader?” in future writings. Once again, thank you for the question.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017