How do Black males break out of oppression, stereotypes and ignorance?
(FinalCall.com) – It is not difficult to find an exposÃ© on the challenges of being a Black man in America–just read any magazine, blog, or scientific study.
Whether it is dropping out of school, unemployment, mass incarceration, diseases or growing up fatherless–this population leads statistically in just about every social ill you can name.
These figures cannot be ignored but at what juncture will the Black community go beyond the rhetoric to fully embracing, highlighting and working to implement solutions displayed and offered by their own?
“Growing up in the projects I had the worst images of what I thought a man should be like. Deep down I knew this wasn’t what a man was really like but I found myself becoming the very thing I hated,” said Stephen Muhammad, who grew up in the 5th Ward area of Houston.
Before joining the Nation of Islam, Stephen Muhammad nearly lost his family and battled with an alcohol addiction. “I had given up on religion but one day I fell to my knees and asked God to show me how to be a man,” he said.
His prayer was answered when he ran into some sharply dressed men in bowties on a street corner selling The Final Call newspaper. “I had a hangover but when I read that paper it was exactly what I was looking for. Then when I heard the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan speak, that man touched my soul and showed me that a real man is a servant of God.,” said the man who now serves as the Southwest Regional Student Captain of the Fruit of Islam in the Nation of Islam. He is married with six children.
It has been 45-years since the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad first published the book “Message To The Blackman.” Within these pages are divine solutions to the spiritual, economic, educational and political barriers encountered by Black males.
On page 39, he writes “First, my people must be taught the knowledge of self. Then and only then will they be able to understand others and that which surrounds them. Anyone who does not have a knowledge of self is considered a victim of either amnesia or unconsciousness and is not very competent. The lack of knowledge of self is a prevailing condition among my people here in America.”
“That book is even more relevant today than it was in 1965 because now there are more witnesses of its power. That one book has saved lives including mine,” Student Minister Jamil Muhammad told The Final Call.
Reginald 10X of Chicago said when he first read the book he couldn’t keep the knowledge to himself. “That book rattled me so hard that I went back to the bookstore and bought five for my street friends. You can’t be the same man after reading those words by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad,” he said.
During his 40-years of work among us, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad took Black men and put them on a course of study and training to become reflections of God. He taught men to embrace reading; to love one another; to rid themselves of fear and cowardice; to build and protect their families; to do for self in businesses; and the importance of helping their fellow Black brother.
Minister Louis Farrakhan, since 1977, has continued the pattern of his teacher by crisscrossing the globe to elevate the consciousness of Black men who have been psychologically assaulted by the media, oppression, and racism. The Minister always sees the potential for a new man to be made.
“God desires to produce a new people who are living manifestations of His will, wisdom and power. He wants to make a nation of gods that have the intelligence and the skill to say ‘Be!’ Man and woman have unlimited potential and for those who are from God–since God is infinite–there is no limit to what can be accomplished,” Min. Farrakhan said during an address last August in Rosemont, Illinois.
“We just have to find a way in our own community to celebrate the positive role models and not celebrate ignorance. We spend too much time celebrating ignorance and frivolity. It’s very important for African-American men to take responsibility. I applaud the Million Man March from years ago which brought some attention to this matter and in some ways made a difference,” Earl Graves, Jr. told The Final Call.
That historic Million Man March drew nearly two million men to the nation’s capitol on Oct. 16, 1995. Leading up to that date, Minister Farrakhan hosted Men Only meetings in multiple cities to call for a day of atonement, reconciliation and responsibility and to counter the negative image of the Black man that was sent throughout the world via Hollywood movies.
“The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is the example of what a real man looks like. If you want to be a good husband look at how he treats his wife Mother Khadijah Farrakhan. They are still in love after 57 years of marriage. Look at his children and see how successful they are,” said Jamil Muhammad, who has seven children.
Successful fatherhood is possible
Mr. Graves is the CEO of Black Enterprise magazine, which was founded by his father in 1970. He knows that he is fortunate to have been raised in a two parent household that stressed education, morals and wealth building–but he encourages Black men to be responsible despite the challenges.
“I think one of the greatest social tragedies for the African-American community has been the destabilization of the family. There are statistics and proof that those young people–forget about Black or White–but those young people who come from a more stabilized background with both parents in their lives do dramatically better going forward,” said Mr. Graves.
“Now when I say have both parents in their life, I’m not going to sit here and preach to say that the two parents must be married in order for kids to have a chance. But they have to have both parents in their life,” said Mr. Graves.
Kevin Green of Midland, Texas has been raising his 17-year-old daughter, Aquincia, as a single father since divorcing her mother.
“I tip my hat to single mothers because it’s not easy. In court my daughter chose to stay with me in the joint custody hearing and her mother was ordered by the judge to pay child support. But she hasn’t paid one dime nor has she even sent her one birthday card. Last year my daughter told her mother that she never wanted to speak to her again but recently I’ve been trying to rebuild communication between them. It’s a challenge,” Mr. Green, 37, told The Final Call.
Mr. Green has been working two jobs to take care of his daughter and to stay current on child support payments for two children he has from a previous relationship. He recently remarried in April. “I didn’t bring a bunch of women in and out of my house because I wanted my daughter to have the right image of how a man should treat her. My friends would talk about me for being celibate for a few years,” said Mr. Green.
Deric Muhammad, of Houston, is also newly remarried and has two daughters from previous relationships–including one living five hours away in another city.
“We have to put our differences and egos to the side for what is in the best interest of the child. Just because the relationships fail that doesn’t mean our children have to. Despite the circumstances, Allah is blessing my daughters to become little stars. I’m thankful for the working relationship I have with their mothers and my wife, whom both of my daughters love,” said Deric Muhammad.
Detroit resident Chris Thomas, 20, says he is embarrassed that he abandoned his three-year-old son. “I was young, running the streets and honestly scared about being a dad. I didn’t mean to get her pregnant and I left her alone once she told me she was,” he told The Final Call.
Mr. Thomas, who is now a cashier at a department store, is trying to atone with the mother of his child. “What inspired me honestly was seeing Obama and his family plus getting some mentoring. I was like dang, “I want that feeling.” I started back trying to call my baby mama and at first she would just hang up on me. She let me see my son on Mother’s Day and it brought a tear to my eyes that I have a new chance,” he said.
Each One, Reach One, Teach One
Brandon Frame, a middle school teacher in Boston, founded the organization Black Man Can to highlight successful Black males and provide mentoring.
“A lot of our boys want to be doctors, lawyers, engineers or even sportscasters but they don’t see those examples in their neighborhoods. We have to show them success because what they see is what they will be,” said Mr. Frame, 22, a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta.
“Mentoring is the most immediate and practical tool to increase Black male achievement. We can’t depend on others to teach and mentor our young males,” said Mr. Frame.
To help young men express their gifts, Reginald 10X launched Chicago Hip-Hop Intellectual, Inc., a media and entertainment company. “The mainstream won’t give the brothers from the street a chance and so with our company and magazine we’re helping young people independently spread their God-given talents. With the training I receive in the Fruit of Islam class, I have been blessed to be received in some of the most gang infested areas in Chicago. Minister Farrakhan’s guidance opens doors,” he said.
Washington, D.C. filmmaker Janks Morton tours the country speaking to young boys about manhood. He has also produced several short films and books that address Black single motherhood, the maternal anger of Black males, and why children need fathers in their lives.
“Fatherlessness affects girls just as much as it does boys. As men we have to be an example and teach our young boys about what manhood is. This work is all about the restoration of the family,” Mr. Morton, a husband and father, told The Final Call.
“It’s a blessing to have my sons proud of me. I don’t necessarily have all of the material things yet, but I’m showing them that I’m striving to be a better man. Because of Minister Farrakhan I still have my family,” said Stephen Muhammad.
“It’s a lie that there are no good Black fathers or mentors around. But the only thing the media wants to highlight is the bad and unfortunately we do the same,” said Mr. Thomas.