Altruistic Leadership, guiding others with the ulitmate goal of empowering them and improving their wellness, intellectually and emotionally is essential to my identity as a man and my purpose in life. I’ve mentioned several times before that helping others is an obligation for me as a human being, as a man, a leader, provider and academic. Giving back fulfills an expectation in each one of these roles I play. So my message for today is, “We can’t save the world, but we can all do our part.”
What if we begin seeing the true power of our own influence as individuals–as community and school leaders, mentors, church and mosque members, parent, concerned citizens as opposed to resting most, if not all, of the responsibility on entertainers like rappers and athletes? Please don’t get me wrong, though. I definitely believe celebrities have a role (there will be a post about them in the very near future) in the upliftment of our communities and serving as role models for our children, but that’s indirect influence. How many of us have actually been inspired to give back to the community by watching those ‘NBA Cares’ commercials? Definitely not me. I applaud celeb servicemen like Jim Brown, Seattle Seahawk Shaun Alexander, rappers T.I., Common and Ludacris. They’ve all done tremendous work in their communities through youth programs and financial donations. I also think that Dwayne Wade winning ‘Humanitarian of the Year’ at the BET Awards this year was epic. Wade represents what I think most of us would like to see from our professional athletes, especially African-American enterntainers who are idolized by our young brothas and sistas.
But my point here is that each one of us has a role to give back to our respective communities, but it’s even more important that we instill a giving spirit in our youth. To help a young person recognize that there is a greater purpose outside of himself is essential to his soul; and actually, it’s essential to our soul as a people. An individual grows as his community grows, a nation grows as all of its communities grow; therefore, responsibility to our communities and the people within them should be of the upmost importance. Altruistic leadership and community service can change a community one person at a time. It teaches our children humility, respect, instills a sense of work ethic, balance, and in the long run, it will make them better parents for their children. Just imagine if all of us, you, me, and our children, implemented a uniform system of caring for the downtrodden, the voiceless, the sick, feeble, and disabled?
As rewarding as it is for me in my personal journey, nothing is more fulfilling and exhiliarating than helping to instill the same feeling and committment in others, which is why I try to involve my family and my young bros in as many community involvement projects as I can.
If you are not actively engaged in efforts and progressive actions that will help us as a community, especially for our younger generation, we will continue to allow others to mistreat, degrade, and disenfranchise our people.
Start by doing the smallest you can do…
- Steer away from negative energy. Stop thinking negatively and taking negative actions that impact your well-being, your family, your cominity and our ancesters.
- Stop worrying about things that are beyond your control and concentrate on what you can do.
- Stop thinking negatively and taking negative actions that impact your well-being, your family, your community, and our ancestors.
- Have respect for your self and others; does not necessarily mean you have to be friends with everyone, but you can, at least, be cordial and courteous. Greet one another, wave, say ‘Hello’.
Steps as simple these may, to some, seem easier said than done and to others, it may seem like not enough; maybe I’m just stating the obvious. However, as a community, we don’t do enough of these. We don’t uplift our brothers and sisters, and we don’t empower one another. We degrade each other with B***, H***, N**** or the amalgamation of a number of epithets such as, “B**** Ass N***”, which, I guess, would be the lowest degradation of a N***** (which would further imply that among Blacks there’s a heirarchy of N*****s, a heirarchy within the lowliest classification on the social stratum. Sounds ludicrous, huh?).
All I’m saying is, there are so many manifestations of subconscious self-hatred that we inflict upon ourselves and to one another; so much, in fact, that we basically “welcome” others to treat us similarly. We get degraded, ridiculed, stepped on, spit on and pushed down by society because we have exhibited such malicious and self-destructive behavior amongst our own people. Maybe if we begin to treat each other with more dignity and respect; treat one another as brothers and sisters with a common struggle, a common legacy, common ancestors, and a common future, maybe we’ll finally begin to see ourselves as the kings and queens we are; and, our strong sense of pride and committment to the betterment of our community will be respected and recognized by the world at large. Dedicate each day to doing something positive, productive, and progressive that will indubitably radiate your influence.
Too many Black youth have no idea where Black folk have been and only dimly know what we’ve had to do to get where we are. But it isn’t primarily their fault. We have reneged on our responsibility as Black adults to keep the culture vital by making it relevant to contemporary struggles. That means translating the terms of past struggle into present action. Instead, older Blacks often nostagically rehash romantic memories of the past, failing to acknowledge just how remarkably similar our failures and prospects for triumph are to those of the hip-hop generation.” –Michael Eric Dyson, The Michael Eric Dyson Reader
Our struggle has existed for generations, centuries even. Granted, I do believe there was more of a committment to the upliftment of our community and our people, more pride in the purest essence of who we are back in, say, the 20s up to The Sixties, the entire Civil Rights Era; but, that doesn’t mean there weren’t young drunkards, dope peddlers, and everyday miscreants. The escalation of violence due to the infiltration of crack cocaine into our neighborhoods along with the lure of gangs who offered “immediate material gratification (Dyson, 141)” and the lifestyle that came with it isn’t anything new. For us, the adults, I think it’s pure fallacy to romanticize our upbringing as if the younger generation is far worse than we ever were. As Dyson notes here, generationally speaking, our failures are about the same, so are our struggles, as was the generation before, and the generation before. It’s a cycle. The underdevelopment of our youth, quite frankly, could partly be blamed on our inability to secure economic stability through gainful employment and career opportunities, an identity, eteem and self-worth. I would, however, like to emphasis the word ‘partly‘ because we have always struggled with socio-political disenfranchisement, discrimination, and racism. But my point here is to emphasize that we have reneged on our responsibility as adults, and it’s up to us, as Dyson posits, to translate “the terms of past struggle into present action.”
Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farworkers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another. –Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
You thoughts? What implications does this have for our future leaders? What can we learn from this quote?
Our progression as a people can partly be attributed to our heroic trailblazers. However, when our leaders were killed or forced into exile, we were left with a void in our soul as a people, the effect that a dying star has in a galaxy—a black hole, if you will, an intense gravitational collapse; or, in this case, an intense social and moral collapse. Spiritually, many of our souls were sucked away into the abyss only to fall into the hands of the street gangs of the 70s, the crack cocaine of the 80s, and the gangsta rap of the 90s. Willingly or maybe out of hopelessness and aimlessness, our children followed, and continue to do so.
I was perusing through Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom looking for a little inspiration to write my next blog post (which turned out to be this one) and I came across a number of powerful statements on leadership and commitment which gave me goose bumps. He wrote:
“A garden was one of the few things in prison that one could control. To plant a seed, watch it grow, to tend it and then harvest it, offered a simple but enduring satisfaction. The sense of being the custodian of this small patch of earth offered a small taste of freedom. In some ways, I saw the garden as a metaphor for certain aspects of my life. A leader must also tend his garden; he too, plants seeds, and then watches, cultivates, and harvests the result. Life the gardener, a leader must take responsibility for what he cultivates; he must mind his work, try to repel enemies, preserve what can be preserved, and eliminate what cannot succeed.”
He further writes,
“In life, every man has twin obligations—obligations to his family, to his parents, to his wife and children; and he has an obligation to his people, his community, his country. In a civil and humane society, each man is able to fulfill those obligations according to his own inclinations and abilities.”
I recall on a few occasions being asked about why I mentor, why I spend as much time with these young bros as I do, why I am constantly lending myself to volunteerism. My usual response is that this is not a choice. It’s an obligation. Before I stand corrected or criticized, I do believe all Americans should hold themselves to this principle, but as an African-American, I believe we, of all people, through our tumultuous history and our continuous struggle, have a moral, spiritual, and ancestral obligation to our people, our community, and especially our youth. James Baldwin is quoted with having said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” Whether you like it or not, they’re watching us, imitating the example set by us. So when you speak judgmentally on them, you’re speaking on your ineffectiveness as a positive change agent in our community.
Using Mandela’s metaphor, as gardeners it is all of our responsibility to see to it that our crops are cultivated and harvested under our watchful eyes; and, take responsibility for what we cultivate. I think we’ve lost sight of this. We blame the rappers. Rappers blame society. Society blames all of us. We blame parents. The blame game continues. Although all of these facets of our community are responsible for influence on our children’s minds, I believe that the blaming is a passive approach. We cannot continue to solely blame parents for recklessness we see in our youth, nor can we put it all on the rappers. These are not solutions. Yes, parenting is a huge problem, but what about you? How much time have you put into the community? How much time have you spent reaching out to the younger generation that is not a part of your immediate family? Or are you simply concerned with yourself and your own family? I debated a brotha once and he basically told me, “Well, I’m from a single parent household too and I made it. My grandma was there..blah blah blah. These parents nowadays suck.” I applaud you for pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, but the strength of our people rests on the shoulders of all of us, not just you. Whatever happened to “It takes a village…”? Have we gotten that afraid of our kids? Our own kids? Have we given up? We cannot continue to blame the prison industrial complex for locking up our kids if we’re not actively engaged in our communities, if we’re not taking responsibility for our crops. Our children need leadership, love, guidance, understanding, compassion, and most importantly, an entire community of gardeners present, actively participating in the watering, the nurturing, and even procreation of successful generations. A gardener is all of those, including protector. We are not protecting our youth from the vices that entrap so many by educating them on the pitfalls to come, and then reaching down to pull them up when they fall. So in the spirit of Mandela and all those who shed blood, sweat, tears and even their own lives, let’s be gardeners.
I considered our 2011-12 fraternal year my best year. The bond I created with a few of those young bros was amazing. Because some of these young men had more troubled backgrounds than guys I’ve previously brought into the bond, I opened myself up a lot more. With these guys, I found that our struggles were similar; not the same, but painfully similar. I knew that the only way I could connect Continue reading →
I became familiar with DuBois “Talented Tenth” ideaology back in college and since I was, at the time, a so-called “college-bred” Black man who could not relate to strives of making a living with my hands, DuBois’ philosophy resonated with me quite loudly. However, as I began to grow into my own thoughts on social and educational upliftment for African-Americans, I began to see this piece as exceptional in theory, but overly ambitious and short-sighted in practice. DuBois contends that the small college-educated Black men were to serve as the vanguards for the masses, to teach, mold, train and uplift the rest. Again, I agree with this philosophy in theory; my issue was that this certainly wasn’t and still isn’t the case in reality. Our college-educated are NOT giving back. We are not working tirelessly to empower the masses, to reach down and pull up another brother or sister. We obtain our big, fancy college degrees, move off to the suburbs, have a family and shake our heads in shame at those who couldn’t acquire the same for themselves. The more I grew conscious of jobless rates of Black men and waves of Hispanics and Asians who are moving to this country building stable lives for themselves by learning trades and starting businesses, I began to align myself more with the Washingtonian ideaology. Don’t get me wrong: Washington, to me, goes down in history as an advocator of silent submission to injustice; in other words, an “Uncle Tom”, but still, his advocacy for economic empowerment, self-sufficiency and autonomy is exactly what our community is lacking. More on my views of Booker T. Washington later in another post.
Anyways, I decided to re-read “The Talented Tenth” and I have a newfound understanding and appreciation for it. I totally agree DuBois on much of it, but I also believe Washington was onto something as well. After reading it, here are some of the most profound statements I came across:
[On the goal of education]
“Education is that whole system of human training within and without house walls, which molds and develops men.”
In other words, education should be holistic. It should cater to the mind, body and soul of the student, and do more than prepare our youth to be master test-takers and even more than prepare our kids for college; education, at its best, should give our students the tools and confidence to be positive, productive, and purposeful citizens who are committed to the betterment of their respective communities.
[On the demand for positive role models]
To furnish five millions and more of ignorant people with teachers of their own race and blood, in one generation, was not only a very difficult undertaking, but a very important one, in that, it placed before the eyes of almost every Negro child an attainable ideal. It brought the masses of the Blacks in contact with modern civilization, made Black men the leaders of their communities and trainers of the new generation.”
Every single one of is, college degree or not, should be obligated to serve our communities positively and responsibly, so that, in turn, we provide the younger generation with a standard of morale, responsibility, and integrity. We should train those in our communities to be leaders so that in our inevetibale demise, our “heirloom”, or legacy, if you will, will be the inheritance of those same ideals catalyzing the procreation of another generation stand-up men and women.
[On the education of the college-bred Black man]
“…He is, as he ought to be, the group leader, the man who sets the ideals of the community where he lives, directs its thoughts and heads its social movements.” A leader is a visionary is sets the example and paves the road to follow.
[on the role of manual training in the Black community]
“I believe that next to the founding of Negro colleges the most valuable addition to Nefor education since the war, has been industrial training for Black boys. Nevertheless, I insist that the object of all true education is not to make men carpenters, it is to make carpenters men.”
The last line of this quote is extremely moving. This is a direct charge at Washington’s postulation that manual labor is the best means of progression for the Black man.
“Men of America, the problem is plain before you. Here is a race transplanted through the criminal foolishness of your fathers. Whether you like it or not the millions are here, and here they will remain. If you do not lift them up, they will pull you down. Education and work are levers to uplift a people. Work alone will not do it unless inspired by the right ideals and guided by intelligence. Education must not simply teach work–it must teach Life. The Talented Tenth of the Negro race must be made leaders of thought and missionaries of culture among their people. No others can do this work and Negro colleges must train men for it. The Negro race, like all other races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men.”
I’ll leave you with this. He Ain’t Heavy by Donny Hathaway http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HFDAp8XVrk
The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I am strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
So on we go
His welfare is my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there
For I know he will not encumber me
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Is not filled with gladness
Of love for one another
Thank you, Lord
Said it’s a long…
I said it’s a long…
Heyyy, it’s a long, hard road
From which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there
Why not share?
And the load
Doesn’t weigh, doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
We started our day early this morning at around 9:30 or so and made the 20 minute journey to our destination at Trinity United Methodist Church located in downtown Atlanta. Now I’ve worked in a soup kitchen several times before and so had one of the other young bros I brought with me, but I don’t think either of us was prepared for what our day was about to be. In my life, I’ve worked at Food Fare (local grocery store), Golden Coral, and Chik-Fil-A, and I don’t think I ever worked that hard in no one’s kitchen! Almost immediately, we were put in charge of the chilli. There were two huge, stainless steal pots (they were more than just a traditional pot around the house; I just don’t know the proper term for them) that the coordiator told us that we would use these to cook the chilli in. Well thankfully, we didn’t actually have to make it. There was a also church group there who had many of their members cook it and place into big Ziplock bags. There were about 30 bags. Seriously. So our first task was to cut open all the bags and dump the frozen chilli into the pots to melt them down, a heating process that took up the better part of an hour.
- Served 186 total
- 166 African-American (about 10 women)
- 2 Asians
- 12 Hispanics
- 6 whites
These numbers are not 100% accurate. I told you I deleted the photo of the data sheet. I do know, however, that we did in fact serve 186 people and 166 of them were African-American. The number stuck out to me like the elephant in the room. I can’t help but to ask myself what factors contribute to this dilemma; its a socio-economical enigma that I wholeheartedly believe isn’t being addressed, or pursuing as actively as it should be. Is the achievement gap and dropout rate linked to homelessness? How so? How do the rising rates of alcoholism, drug addiction, family structure and background, and mental health problems such as depression and bipolarism impact the numbers of potential homeless Black men and women. What proactive measures can be taken to ensure our youth are not sucucmbed to the same fate?
Anyway, it turned out to be a GREAT day! We worked very hard and absolutely every bit of sweat was worth it. I’ll do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, we ARE going to do it again. See you again next week!
This may surprise you quite a bit, but I’ve heard from quizzical Blacks that my efforts to transform the young Black male psyche are covertly racist. My effort to teach these young brothas how to maneuver around the potholes and roadside boulders of negative gender and racial stereotypes is discriminatory. They ask why other kids aren’t allowed to be a part of the program. They wonder why the curriculum is infused with so much Black history and culture. “Kids from other backgrounds have problems, too”, they say. From whites I receive a lot of support, surprisingly. I’m not saying I don’t get much support from Blacks, either. I’m just saying it sometimes takes be aback because I expect them (whites) to be more critical of my goals and objectives of my educational program for young Black males rather than the unexpected praise I get from them. I’m sure they’re some whites who are critical of it, too; but I’ve had random whites, and some who I work with, who’ve offered to financially donate regardless of the fact I haven’t acquired my 501(c)3 yet. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a guilty conscious lingering in there somewhere. Maybe they’re more willing to give and support because of some hidden culpability they feel. Maybe they view me as the “credit” to my race whose efforts to “save” my poor downtrodden brethren is worthy of applause, which is actually a credit to their concealed prejudices, right? Maybe they’re less openly critical about it since whites, I feel, are ultra-conscious about being perceived as racist and take amazing strides to keep us from honing in on any perceived racial prejudices that they may remotely harbor (I was hit with the “My best friend is Black…” the other day while on the second job, and all I did was tell the supervisor I thought she was cool.”) Or maybe, just maybe, they’re purely genuine supporters because they wholeheartedly care about the socio-political and educational advancement of African-Americans considering our incredible plight, especially our males. I don’t know. It’s hard to judge.
Yes, it’s hard to gauge why others choose to support me, or not to support me. In 2012, efforts solely designed for one particular group of people is regressive. It paralyzes the tremendous strides and all that we’ve overcome as a country. It condones segregation. Whatever—blah, blah blah. Most, if not all my blog posts and outreach efforts, written about on this site and the other (Southern Education Desk), are suggestions, concerns, and reflective epiphanies that are fundamentally rooted in my passion for the social and educational upliftment of the African-American community beginning with our youth. One of my primary objectives as an educator, a Black man, is to be a positive representation of pure Black manhood for the young brothas who look like me, who remind me of the brothas that I grew up with back in Aliceville, AL. That does not mean students and parents of other cultural fabrics cannot benefit from being adherents to my words, actions, or participants in my program, PYB culturally-relevant educational outreach and mentoring. So, America, this is what my program is all about. Yes, other kids from other groups can benefit, but I wholeheartedly believe that the dynamic blend between the historical, economic, cultural, and social factors have created a unique experience for the American Black man, an experience that no other human being can even come close to understanding or relating to. Yes, white boys are fatherless, too. Many don’t know how to tie ties, many don’t know how to speak well, and many come from dire economic backgrounds; but, they are not judged by the same standards as Black men are. For the most part, racial stereotypes work in their favor, not ours. They still benefit from the “white privilege”. They’re not immediately judged off of appearance, be it skin color or style of dress. They’re not judged by the way they walk or talk. We are. Our kids are. If a white kid is considered a problem kid, that’s just it—he’s a problem kid. If a Black kid is considered a problem kid, we start hearing a totally different set of pronouns: those kids are problem kids, those people, them, they. So I feel it’s going to take us to change that. Me.
As Black men, our obstacles are unique for us. Therefore, my program is culturally designed to meet the social, educational and emotional needs of the Black man. I can relate to their struggles and their concerns because I’ve been there, and actually, just may very well still be there. The other Black men that I bring in as guest speakers can too. There is invisible glue, I feel, that bonds us together. Yes, this glue is rooted in skin color, but with that brings a common heritage and culture, a way of speaking to one another that may be perceived as foreign language to some outsiders. I’m a Black man and as a Black man, I can connect to these young brothas in ways that they’re white teachers cannot. And I’m not saying white teachers are useless in making a connection with Black kids. I’m just saying there are some things that they won’t ever be able to relate to or understand because of the cultural barriers much like it’s quite difficult for me to make those connections with the Hispanic young men in my program; but, I do not discriminate who I welcome into this program or who I mentor. Whites, Hispanics, Middle Easterners can all be Positive Young B.r.o.t.h.a.s., too. I’ve had mentees of just about every cultural fabric I can think of and I believe what they took from my program is an understanding of our issues, of our culture, our strides, our obstacles. I believe they saw something different in young Black America than the misrepresentations they may have seen on BET, MTV and their local news stations. If anything, I need students of all representations because those are the students that may hold the power of influence to transform the hearts and minds of their ethnic peers. They’re part of our future, too. They’re also apart of the transformation of the public perception of the Black man. If racism, prejudice and bigotry start at home, then I believe I have the power to change that if they’re apart of this program. These kids will be employees one day, college students, maybe even employers. They’ll be the one who’ll view Black men impartially, without the racial biasness and prejudice that continues to hinder our progress.
My intention is in no way to be divisive or as some people surprisingly assess it, an exercise in reverse racism. I don’t know about you, but to me, racism is not defined as a strong and undying commitment to the preservation and restoration of one’s history, culture, and social progression. Racism exposes itself in how we treat one another—the subtle and not so subtle prejudices solely grounded in racial and ethnic variations. If I am a reverse racist, then so be it, if that’s what you want to call it. I’ll be that. I do not hide my love for Black America, Black aesthetic, Black culture, Black history. It’s who I am. It’s what I’m unwaveringly committed to. I’ve told several students that the person I am today, essentially, is the manifestation of the efforts of those that came before me, my heroes. Our heroes. I’m only doing what they bestowed upon me. I’m talking about Malcolm , Martin, Assata, Douglass, DuBois, Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Woodson, Carver. Hell, even Washington. This may not be fitting, but as finished that last sentence, I couldn’t help but to think of a quote by Snoop Dogg: “He is I and I am him”.
“If you have no critics, you’ll likely have no success…” Malcolm X