Archive for September, 2010

Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC

Posted in Black America, Black Interests, Book Reviews and More, Women's Interests with tags , , , , , on September 30, 2010 by Gary Johnson

Edited by Faith S. Holsaert, Martha Prescod Norman Noonan, Judy Richardson, Betty Garman Robinson, Jean Smith Young, and Dorothy M. Zellner

In Hands on the Freedom Plow, fifty-two women–northern and southern, young and old, urban and rural, black, white, and Latina–share their courageous personal stories of working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement.

The testimonies gathered here present a sweeping personal history of SNCC: early sit-ins, voter registration campaigns, and Freedom Rides; the 1963 March on Washington, the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the movements in Alabama and Maryland; and Black Power and antiwar activism. Since the women spent time in the Deep South, many also describe risking their lives through beatings and arrests and witnessing unspeakable violence. These intense stories depict women, many very young, dealing with extreme fear and finding the remarkablestrength to survive.

The women in SNCC acquired new skills, experienced personal growth, sustained one another, and even had fun in the midst of serious struggle. Readers are privy to their analyses of the Movement, its tactics, strategies, and underlying philosophies. The contributors revisit central debates of the struggle including the role of nonviolence and self-defense, the role of white people in a black-led movement, and the role of women within the Movement and the society at large.

Each story reveals how the struggle for social change was formed, supported, and maintained by the women who kept their “hands on the freedom plow.” As the editors write in the introduction, “Though the voices are different, they all tell the same story–of women bursting out of constraints, leaving school, leaving their hometowns, meeting new people, talking into the night, laughing, going to jail, being afraid, teaching in Freedom Schools, working in the field, dancing at the Elks Hall, working the WATS line to relay horror story after horror story, telling the press, telling the story, telling the word. And making a difference in this world.”

“This amazing book rethreads the needle of memory with a stronger cord woven of the testimonies of sisters who never gave up or in. Its gifts are immeasurable as a historical document and a blueprint for ongoing national and international struggles for human rights. We must take our cue from the lessons they teach and tighten our grip on freedom’s plow, pushing on, regardless.”–Darlene Clark Hine, coauthor of The African American Odyssey

“The testimonies of these remarkable women are an indispensable part of the history of the southern movement against racial segregation. They enable us to see the Movement up close through essays that are intensely personal, and at the same time they thoughtfully illuminate the larger struggle for justice.”–Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present

“Hats off to the Hands On sisters! Each story is a treasure, each woman a measure of the Civil Rights Movement’s strength. An overdue and indispensable contribution to the Movement’s historiography.”–Julian Bond, Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP Board of Directors

“This is a splendid, spectacular, stirring book. At last the long-marginalized women of SNCC tell their galvanizing, enspiriting stories in their own words. Everyone concerned about women’s rights, human rights, and the future will want to get, give, or assign this fabulous collection.”–Blanche Wiesen Cook, University Distinguished Professor, John Jay College and The Graduate Center, CUNY, and author of Eleanor Roosevelt, Volumes 1-3

“An extraordinary contribution to historical understanding of the Civil Rights Movement, this work illuminates the ground swell that was SNCC. It’s a complex story, well told by the participants, whose real voices bestow this collection with remarkable authority. These gripping narratives by tough, resilient women, these tales of courage, perseverance, hope, and dedication to a cause, portray an amazing time in America.”–Orville Vernon Burton, author of The Age of Lincoln

“This marvelously broad and deep collection of SNCC women’s voices gives the reader a rare insight into the trials and triumphs of the black freedom struggle of the 1960s. These stories related by women at the center of the struggle are simultaneously simple and complex, diverse and united. At the same time, as they relate their own personal struggles for freedom, their voices are punctuated by passion and pain, and frustration and determination.”–Cynthia Griggs Fleming, author of Yes We Did? From King’s Dream to Obama’s Promise

Hands on the Freedom Plow is, quite simply, a stunning collection. These stories of courage, hope, and, yes, conflict, will inspire all Americans who believe in the possibilities of democracy. This volume belongs on that short shelf of books on the Movement that must be read.”–John Dittmer, author of Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi

“This collection provides the texture and tone of that eclectic group of women who joined together in common cause, still debating and disagreeing along the way, but united by overlapping values, newfound courage, and the ambitious dream of changing the political face of the nation, which, in large part, they did. A treasure trove of stories and reflections by an amazing group of women activists.”–Barbara Ransby, author of Ella Baker and the Black Radical Tradition: A Radical Democratic Vision

“These women’s lives, spent in the freedom struggle, call to us. Their political insight and creativity make them American heroines; their strategic vision allows them to point a better way forward for all, worldwide, who aspire to equality and democracy.”–Wesley C. Hogan, author of Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC’s Dream for a New America

“A remarkable achievement, sweeping in scope, rich with detail, and infinitely readable. Without question, this is the new starting point for learning about the central role that SNCC, and women, played in the African American freedom struggle.”–Hasan Kwame Jeffries, author of Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt

Faith S. Holsaert, Durham, North Carolina, teacher and fiction writer, has remained active in lesbian and women’s, antiwar, and justice struggles. Martha Prescod Norman Noonan, community organizer, activist, homemaker, and teacher of history including the Civil Rights Movement, lives near Baltimore. Filmmaker and Movement lecturer Judy Richardson‘s projects include the PBS documentary series Eyes on the Prize and other historical documentaries. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Betty Garman Robinson, a community organizer, lives in Baltimore and is active in the reemerging grassroots social justice movement. Jean Smith Young is a child psychiatrist who works with community mental health programs in the Washington, D.C., area. New York City consultant Dorothy M. Zellner wrote and edited for the Center for Constitutional Rights and CUNY Law School. All of the editors worked for SNCC.

The Education Bandwagon: Are You On It?

Posted in Barack Obama, Black America, Black Interests, Gary A. Johnson with tags , , , , , on September 27, 2010 by Gary Johnson

By Gary A. Johnson

September 27, 2010

“Waiting for ‘Superman,” a new documentary about America’s education system got a huge boost from an appearance on the Oprah show last week.   Director David Guggenheim, who won an Oscar for the 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” appeared on the Oprah show with some of the featured cast including controversial DC Public School Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

“Waiting for ‘Superman’” takes a critical look at failures in the public school system and their effects on American schoolchildren and their families. The movie seems to have everybody talking.  TV and radio hosts across the country of every political persuasion are talking about this film.

Today, President Obama gave up 30-minutes of his time for an interview with the TODAY show’s Matt Lauer broadcast live from the Green Room of the White House.

President Obama said his daughters couldn’t get the same quality education at a Washington, D.C. public school that they currently get at their private school (Sidwell Friends).  The President further stated that DC public schools are “struggling,” though he said there have been some important steps made in the direction of reform.

Not everyone is singing the praises of “Waiting for ‘Superman.”  The film follows the stories of five children whose futures of getting into charter schools are set on the chances of winning a lottery.  Something is wrong with our American system of education when a child’s chances of getting a good education depends on the luck of a lottery ping-pong ball.  Why can’t we fix this as a nation?  This is beyond sad.  To tolerate this is a travesty.

“Waiting for Superman” also portrays teachers’ unions as a major blocks to the schools ability to teach our children.  This portrayal has not been received well by some teachers and educational groups.

Enter Michelle Rhee (again).  Thanks to “Waiting for Superman,” Rhee is seen by many as the face of inner-city and urban school reform.  Earlier this year, Rhee fired hundreds of teachers.  On Sunday’s, Meet The Press TV show, Rhee defended her decisions.  Rhee has consistently said that it is NOT acceptable for teachers who are ineffective to stay in the classroom.  Let me translate:  “It ain’t personal, it’s business!”

Where is our moral compass as a nation?  What’s wrong with removing ineffective teachers from the classroom?  Don’t our children deserve better?  A good education is the key that leads to a good life.  Investment in education pays every single time.  Not throwing money at the problem, but wise investment.  The United States used to be #1 in math and science around the world.  Now the U.S. ranks 21st in math and 25th in science.

Many on the side of the teachers argue that teachers are not evaluated fairly and that teachers need more time to get up to speed.  More time?  Our kids don’t have that kind of time.  I do believe that the teacher evaluation process is flawed.

I am a product of the DC Public School system.  My company has worked for DC Public School system for the past three years.  I volunteer my time working with youth in the most under-served Ward in the city.  I work with teachers.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  “If you don’t fire poor performing teachers, good ones will leave.”

Say what you want about Michelle Rhee, but the data, which in to the only measure of success, but a crucial one, reflects improvement under her watch.  According to Rhee, “The data shows if [children] have three highly effective teachers in a row versus three ineffective teachers in a row, it can literally change their life trajectory.”  That is scary.  Scary because we have too many ineffective teachers whose heart is in the right place but simply aren’t getting the job done.  The nation’s school system also has too many bad teachers—bad attitudes and bad skills.

“Waiting For Superman,” points out that union-backed teachers are tenured after just two years in the classroom and are nearly impossible to fire – even if they are proven to be horrible at their job.  Does that make sense to you?  Rhee supports a new proposal that would allow DC teachers to choose to give up their tenure in exchange for double their salary—up to $140,000.  At the time, the union refused to put it to a vote.

Does any of this make sense to you?  It’s as if the adults have forgotten about serving the best interest of the children. This is a complicated problem.  Where do we start?

How can you defend a national system of education that has a one-third drop out rate? Approximately 2000 schools in our country are “drop out” factories where over 50% of the students drop out of high school.

The teachers and administrators that I know on a personal level are extraordinary.  They give up so much of the time and resources for their children.  They have to because of the lack of parental involvement in their child’s education.

I believe that there are more good teachers than bad teachers, but the bad one’s are probably really bad.  By now you have probably concluded that I don’t have the answers to solve this crisis.  I do know that throwing money at the problem is not the answer.

The young people that I deal with need your time.  Not all of it, but just a little bit each week.  Consistency pays huge dividends with children.  We can’t make educating our children the “flavor of the month.”

Former NFL great Alan Page spent fifteen years in the NFL.  While playing football, he became a full-time law student, earning his law degree in 1978.  in 1988, Page launched the Page Education Foundation.  From its inception, the Foundation has offered money and encouragement to students of color facing incredible barriers to attaining their educational dreams.  This is just one example of how one person can make a difference.

If we get on this bandwagon, we have to stay on it until the job is done.  The future of this nation depends on it.

Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In Blog. Gary is also the author of the new book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.

Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Bishop Eddie Long: Is It Time To Just Go Away?

Posted in Black America, Black Interests, Black Men, Gary A. Johnson, Politics, Women's Interests with tags , , , , on September 27, 2010 by Gary Johnson

By Gary A. Johnson

September 27, 2010

Last week’s public revelation of Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s extra-marital affair with a blond nightclub hostess which reportedly occurred a couple of years ago, has caused many columnists, talk show hosts and beauty shop and barbershop patrons to ask:  Is it time for the Jacksons (Jesse, Sr. and Jesse, Jr.) and Bishop Eddie Long to just sit their asses down somewhere out of public view?

Speaking of Bishop Eddie Long, Jesse Jr., should have sent Bishop Long a nice “thank you,” note for taking over the scandal headlines.  Whew!  Did you see the photos of Bishop Long all muscled up in his Spandex tank top and shorts with a huge soaking tub in the background?  Ouch!

The scandal associated with Bishop Long is that he appears to be a first class hypocrite.  Bishop Eddie Long has been one of the most vocal public advocates against homosexuality and gay relationships.  Disgraced Pastor Ted Haggard, who fell from grace a few years ago when a gay male prostitute exposed Haggard’s visits for both illegal drugs and sex.  Haggard was on CNN defending Bishop Long.  (Not sure if this is a helpful endorsement).

At last count, four young men have filed a lawsuit against Bishop Long claiming sexual coercion and misconduct.  I don’t care what the Bishop is being accused of; there are many others who will support him regardless of the evidence.

I don’t know what it is about preachers and politicians, but it seems they get a longer leash than others who get in trouble.  It seems as if you could have video evidence of a preacher or politician “doing wrong” and there will be a group of supporters who will attribute that video to a racist conspiracy, a government plot or some digital interference by Satan himself.

Men and women who like Jesse, Jr., and Bishop Long know that they have a core group of supporters who will not hold them accountable and blindly support them in the name of the Lord.  This is why Bishop Long can address his congregation and essentially say nothing about the allegations against him.  (I don’t want to hear this crap about his lawyer advised him not to say anything or try this case in the media).  Bullshit!  That has nothing to do with proclaiming your innocence.

I watched Bishop Long address his congregation yesterday.  From what I saw Bishop Long DID NOT deny the allegations against him!  Why didn’t Bishop Long state that he was not guilty of luring young men into sexual relationships?

Instead of proclaiming his innocence, Bishop Long said the following:

“Please hear this. Please hear this: I’ve been accused.  I’m under attack.  I want you to know, as I said earlier, I am not a perfect man.  But this thing I’m gon’ fight. There have been allegations and attacks made on me. I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am not the man that’s being portrayed on the television.  That’s not me.  That is not me.”

This partial explanation leads to more questions.

I want to make a point about POWER.  The power bestowed upon some public figures is intoxicating.  Many simply cannot manage the power that comes with their positions.

If the allegations against Bishop Long prove to be true, dude looks like a sexual predator.  Thank goodness for him he lives in America.  Bishop Long will have his day in court with the best lawyers money can buy, (unless the parties settle for an undisclosed amount of money and agree to a gag order sealing all the evidence).

Allegations that Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. offered to raise $6 million for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for an appointment to Barack Obama’s former Senate seat is potentially damaging to Jackson politically among his constituents.  However, Jackson’s admission of having an extra marital affair with Washington, DC hostess Giovana Huidobro who Jesse, Jr., described as a “social acquaintance” have hurt his wife and family.

Giovana Huidobro

Sandi Jackson, Jesse Jackson, Jr.’s wife who is a Chicago Alderman, was interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times.  In her interview, she talked about her husband’s affair and said last week’s public release of the story opened up old wounds.

Sandi Jackson said that the affair is in the past and that she and Jesse, Jr., had the opportunity to receive therapy out of the public eye.  Showing a bit of humor, Ms. Jackson referred to the blond nightclub hostess as “kryptonite in the world of the African-American woman,” a reference to the one property that can weaken the superhero Superman.

Ms. Jackson appeared to be quite candid in the interview, (a trait that her husband and Bishop Long should use) when she recalled her husband’s discloser of the affair to her.  At a public gathering celebrating her birthday, with Jesse, Jr. in attendance, Ms. Jackson said:  “’I put my foot knee-deep in his ass and he has been having a very difficult time sleeping peacefully since then.” (Spoken like a true sister).

When will the public, particularly “church folk” stop being so gullible and enabling politicians, sports figures, entertainers and others who hold responsible positions.  Stop putting a microphone in front of Kanye West, Snoop Dogg and Gilbert Arenas.  Many of these folks don’t know enough about current events outside of the isolated world that they live in.  This is not to say that all rappers, entertainers and sports figures are not socially conscious, smart and literate.  I’m not saying that—some are.  Let’s not throw the public trust to someone because they can hit a ball and talk fast.  Everyone makes mistakes.  No one is perfect.  Some public figures actually learn their lessons and return to society as better people doing great things.  Case in point—Michael Vick.  Two years ago Vick was ending a two-year absence from football after serving time in jail for spearheading a dog fighting ring.  Today, the NFL Quarterback is the “toast of the town” in the NFL and Philadelphia for his play.  Michael Vick is one of the top rated Quarterback in the league and the “must see” player on the field.

Before I get off the topic of being gullible, I’ve noticed a few disgraced white pastors resurfacing on BET?  Many would argue that religion has no color, however, this writer sees almost everything through a racial prism.  Albeit, the shows featuring these disgraced pastors are broadcast late at night, I find it curious these pastors are getting their “second chance” in the black TV community.

When will we as a community come together and hold “leaders” accountable for being responsible to those that support them?  No wonder good school teachers, nurses, community organizers and volunteers are “pissed” about their salaries and the influence they have in the community.

I’m especially sick of these preachers and politicians who seem to be in the spotlight more than any other group.  I’m particularly offended by the hypocrisy of it all.  People tend to look up to preachers for spiritual guidance and advice and to politicians because they hold the key to funding sources that can affect people’s livelihood.  To abuse that power is wrong.  To abuse that power against children is immoral and criminal.

What can we do to protect our children and our senior citizens against people who have abused their power, the public trust and pretty much just lost their way?

Bishop Long is a senior pastor at church with over 25,000 members.  Jesse Jackson, Jr., is a Congressman in the United States Congress.  Inherent in their positions is the trust of others, many of whom are less fortunate.  If their supporters vote to keep these men in their positions, then I guess those supporters deserve whatever comes their way as a result of their vote.

For the record, Bishop Eddie Long and Jesse Jackson, Jr. are the latest guys making headlines.  There have been others before them.  Jesse Jackson, Sr., President Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Marion Barry, Julius Erving, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Jimmy Swaggart, O. J. Simpson, Kwame Kilpatrick have all been part of public scandal.  The sad thing is that there will be more notable people who will follow.

What do you think?  Leave a comment below.

Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In Blog. Gary is also the author of the new book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.

Raising Him Alone: An Interview with David Miller

Posted in Black America, Black Interests, Black Men, Feature Interviews with tags , , , , on September 26, 2010 by Gary Johnson

By Vanessa Werts

Across America, in the inner-city and in suburbia, single mothers struggle with raising boys alone. This issue has clearly emerged as one of the most consequential trends facing society today. And David Miller, co-author of the book, Raising Him Alone, is on a personal mission, standing watch, doing his part to support single mothers – Black single mothers in particular – and the positive development of Black males.

During my interview with Miller at the 2010 National Congressional Black Caucus Book Pavilion, his passion was contagious. Miller’s vision is for the well being of everyone involved in the struggle from the son to the mother or caregiver to the absent-father alike. Therefore, it is only natural that he would be co-founder of the Raising Him Alone Campaign, a national movement that executes the foundational principles he and co-author Matthew P. Stevens address in their book [Raising Him Alone].

Single mother parenting was long thought to be primarily an African-American problem, stemming from poverty and poor education. However over the last decade, it has become an epidemic crossing both racial and class lines. “We started the campaign to really focus on Black and Latina moms,” says Miller. “But we get a tremendous amount of calls from White mothers. The issue is beyond an epidemic.”

Miller shared with me insights about the book, the campaign, and the community activities and resources dedicated to inspire and inform the millions of single mothers who struggle daily with the challenges of raising boys.

The David Miller Interview

BMIA: What is the Raising Him Alone campaign about?

D. Miller: The campaign is a movement to provide greater access to resources for single mothers and grandmothers throughout this country.

BMIA: Where does your passion for this movement or your connection to this issue come from?

D. Miller: When I was a freshman in college, my best friend was shot and killed standing next to me and I was 19-years-old. I was at Morgan, he was at Morehouse; some guys tried to rob us…they shot my friend in the back and he died in my arms. And since then I’ve dedicated my life to really improving the lives of children and families in this country. And so, I’m real clear that we’ve got to do this work in our communities, or else we’re not going to make it.

BMIA: When does the campaign kick-off?

D. Miller: The campaign kicked-off in January 2009. We did a major launch in two cities: Baltimore and Newark, New Jersey. I invited some dynamic mothers who’ve raised sons to come and help me kick it off. Common’s [rapper, actor] mother, Dr. Mahalia Hines; Mos Def’s [rapper, actor] mother, Sheron Smith; and Talib Kweli’s [rapper, activist] mother, Dr. Brenda Greene. I brought them on-board to help me launch the two cities, and now we’ve expanded to Chicago and Philadelphia. These are our four main cities. But we’re working in communities across this country really doing some very interesting viable Web-based things like using Facebook to create discussion groups with moms. We’re creating a tremendous movement around serious parenting.

BMIA: What has been the response to campaign?

D. Miller: The response has been absolutely overwhelming. We average about forty phone calls and E-mails a week from mothers who are in some of the roughest parts of say, maybe Memphis, DC, or Newark, New Jersey, to moms that have MBA degrees, PhD degrees from excellent colleges and universities, who got divorced and for whatever reason, dad hasn’t stepped up. And so it’s been an amazing cross-section of parents from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

BMIA: Have you in any way included fathers in the campaign?

D. Miller: Yes. Historically, my background is I’ve written two other books about responsible fatherhood. And so, year one was really to launch the campaign and raise money. Year two has really been focused on launching the largest responsible fatherhood Web site you’ll find in this country which we’re gonna try to connect it with President Obama’s Responsible Fatherhood Initiative. I was in Washington three weeks ago speaking to all of the federal grantees that received responsible fatherhood money. The Web site is going to be for any dad: married dads, divorced dads, military; dads that are incarcerated, to really talk about what does it mean to be an exceptional father. And so dads are an integral part of the campaign.

BMIA: What type of information can single mothers expect from the book, Raising Him Alone?

D. Miller: In the book, we kind of roll out a blueprint of how to raise a son, as well as things like mentoring. Susan Taylor has a national initiative; Michael Baisden has a national initiative on mentoring. The reality is in all those initiatives, we’ve not gotten enough black and brown men to sign up and honor their commitment. So one of the things we talk about is, while we’re trying to find a mentor for the boy, there’s things mom has to do in the home. For example, number one is the boy can never be the man of the house. That’s a mistake that I think mothers make, particularly as boys get to adolescence. Moms say you’re the man of the house because your father is not here.  And what happens with a lot of boys is they think because dad’s not here I need to step up and bring money in. So a lot of boys will start steeling cars, selling drugs… You start to see a lot of pathologies exist because mom has told this 13-year-old that he’s man of the house. So a lot of what we’re trying to do is really work with community-based organizations and work with schools. We’ve created an awesome learning community so mothers can go to our Web site, sign up and they can receive free text messages, free voicemail message about being a good parent…about financial literacy tips. We send out an e-mail blast that goes out to about 11,000 mothers and grandmothers across the country. We’ve created a Facebook group, Single Mothers Raising Boys, with over 1,000 mothers connected to that. The goal is also connecting mothers to resources, things like mental health; things like credit repair; a lot of stuff on co-parenting. I mean when you look at the divorce rates in our community, we’re in trouble. We’re in serious trouble.

BMIA: Have you had any testimonials on the impact of the work you’re doing?

D. Miller: We’ve had some amazing testimonials. I’ll start with Ms. Mildred, a 74-year-old great-grandmother living in the projects in the West Ward in Newark, raising five boys by herself… hypertension and diabetes. When we went to go interview Ms Mildred, we were able to stop her from getting evicted from her apartment. We were able to connect her to free mental health services for both herself and for those boys. Even though the boys are all under 12-years-old, you started to really see some behavioral challenges with those boys. We can document many of the families that we’ve reached as well as the dads that we’ve reached. And that’s one of the reasons why we decided to create the fatherhood Web site. We met a brother in Michigan whose children lived in Atlanta, Georgia and we were able to re-connect him with his children. Because he was a long distance dad, we were able to work with him and work with the mom to develop some strategies. One of the first things we did was recommend that the dad buy a cell phone and mail it to the boy so the boy could call his dad. But we had to go through the mom to help her work through her own issues because they didn’t get married to say, this is something that can happen. And so, even being able to work through something as simple as communication with the father and son is another example.

The Raising Him Alone Campaign seeks to create a larger community dialogue around the importance of supporting single mothers raising boys. Through partnerships with a host of organizations, they are mobilizing single mothers and absent-fathers to save our future, particularly our boys.

The siren is blaring. The call to engage the issues in raising healthy, positive boys demands our attention. What price will society ultimately play if this trend continues? The clock is ticking.

To learn more about Raising Him Alone, the book, and the work co-founders, David Miller and Matthew P. Stevens are doing with the Raising Him Alone Campaign, visit Reporter Vanessa Werts and David Miller

David C. Miller, M.Ed. is the co-founder and Chief Visionary Officer of the Urban Leadership Institute, LLC, ( a social enterprise that focuses on developing positive youth development strategies. ULI provides strategic planning, professional development, positive youth development concepts and crisis management services.

Thank you Lee McDonald from The Renaissance Group (TRG) for making this interview possible.

Wake Up People: Feedback From A Devoted Site Visitor

Posted in Black Interests, Black Men, Guest Columnists, Women's Interests on September 22, 2010 by Gary Johnson

Dear Black Men In

I recently read your newsletter which consists of 2 separate adverstisements of “Raising Him Alone” with Black Women on the cover.  I think this is disgraceful coming from “Black Men.”  While the world is steadily finding every excuse to degrade black woman in particular, it is equally degrading for our own men to promote this idiocracy and plain old “stupidity.”

It would be more beneficial for the black community to see books representing black men that are being good fathers and supporting their BLACK WOMEN.  There are plenty of healthy and wealthy black families in America today that can be put forth as an example.  It is appalling that black men are helping the oppressors to promote this sick bastardized lifestyle having babies out of wedlock or promoting that it is okay for black women to continue having babies by these sorry ass black men that will not stay around to take care of them.

The more books and programs that created, the more our people will continue to be deaf, blind and STUPID to this disgraceful act.  Black people are the only race that continues this practice way into adulthood without caring that a family unit does not exist.  The black race is already stuck in 3rd dimensional thinking and are still enslaved in their minds after the slavemaster has long gone.  I am an American Black Woman that was raised with common sense, morals and self respect.  I will not have a baby unless I am married to a man that is a loving friend, partner and husband that has a deep sense of self, a strong identity, loves himself, loves me and loves his family – not to mention doesn’t mind being in his BLACK skin and is a man that takes pride in his work.

Today, that is a rarity because brothers the majority of brothers are very lost and confused – successful or not.  Sadly speaking, they will continue to stay lost if the black women does not begin to love and respect herself more and demand more of tthe black man. Action speaks louder than words and the more I continue to see black people voluntarily destroy our dignity by promoting destruction, the more I will know our people are sleep and are the walking dead. White people are even aware that their forefathers have created a “Frankenstein” generation that has lost all sense of self respect, dignity and pride.  Our ancestors would be disgraced if they knew what some of us are allowing black people to become.

Back to my main point, I did not appreciate seeing this type of information coming from Black Men in  Raise up your vibrations and promote material that will bring out the best in our people.  Try promoting the values of our First Family in the White House or the last Oprah Episode on your website representing Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith whom “O” referred to as the First Family of Hollywood – A mother a father and children.  Include information that will send a definitive message to black men and women that it is NOT okay to continue this ignorant barbaric act and begin to take responsibility.  The more books and programs that are advertised to promote “bastards”, the more the ignorant fools will keep doing it.  I understand that circumstances do occur where this happens beyond our control, however it is also subliminal programming that is being promoted by Hollywood as we speak – the baby mama syndrome.  Even the sitcoms play this out by having black men refer to attractive black women as – “she would be a good baby mama”  instead of looking at her as a future wife.  The future wife has been replaced by Kim Kardashian and party.   This is not a stab against interracial couples, but an eye-opener to black people that this is not a game.  This is war.

One last point, there is a a high school in Jamaica Queens (Springfield Gardens) that has a day care center inside for young mothers. This is a DISGRACE and a sign of POOR parenting in black neighborhoods.  You will never see this ignorance in a white neighborhood.  White parents would not allow such ignorant peasantry to exist in their neighborhoods. White parents do not and will not promote this low class way of living, while blacks find it be be alright.  Why is it okay for black parents to neglect raising their kids and allow a school system to promote young girls having sex and babies when they should be focused on school.  Back in my day, most young black girls were still virgins while in high school!  If networks like yourself that can reach the masses and carry influence do not get involved to stop this type of “created genocide” of black people then our race is doomed.

Yes, this is genocide because this high school is a dump, filled with idiots and metal detectors.  Think about it – why would you have babies in a school that has metal detectors in the first place.  These young girls are getting pregnant by low life young men that have nothing to offer them. They are not even in school. Then they bring bastards into the world and will live off of government programs and our tax dollars to raise more kids that will not get a job or be productive in society. Then they can go to your site and find books on how to raise them alone and think it is alright.  The government is already two steps ahead building more and more prisons to put these unborn children in – particularly the black boys.  Why not be a part of the “change” and stop promoting these types of books that will encourage grown ass black women to continue making these embarrassing mistakes just because there are programs or creative ways to “Raise Him Alone.”

Black men would never promote this type of sickness when it comes to white women.  Black men have a tendacy to play the happy father role when they are with white women and walk proudly with their mixed up families – promoting more confusion.  Black people need to wake up and become more conscious and see the big picture.  There is a war against our people going on in the big scheme of things and this type of low vibrational thinking is only helping your oppressors to KILL YOU.  Having money or fame does not make you exempt.  It takes responsibility from a generation of people to make change within a race or ethnic group.  All other nationalities take care of each other except blacks.  We are the only race that will voluntarily make asses of ourselves and let ourselves and others tear us down.

Wake Up!


L. T.

Share your thoughts.  Tell us what you think.


Posted in Black America, Black Interests with tags , , on September 9, 2010 by Gary Johnson

By Raynard Jackson

Am I the only one in the U.S. who is amazed by the media coverage of the person in Florida who wants to have a Koran burning party on Saturday, September 11th?  Unlike the media, I refuse to name him because I will not contribute to his getting 15 more minutes of fame!

Even conservative media and talk show entertainers like Laura Ingraham have contributed to this circus.  They have been very critical of the media coverage.  So, what do they do?  They have guests on their shows talking about the media coverage, thereby giving this person more exposure to the public.  Can you say duh?

But, the most interesting part of this story is the rationale of the opponents of the Koran burning.  According to their thinking, if an American(s) burns the Koran, it will lead to violence against our citizens around the world.

Am I the only one that feels a strange eeriness over this issue?  There are over 1 billion Muslims worldwide.  So, a few of the more radical elements have the world held captive to the point of paranoia.

If you burn a Koran (which is considered a Holy book in Islam), it’s going to lead to the death of Americans is the rationale of the opponents.  So, one can then reasonably extrapolate that if you don’t burn the Koran, these same radical Muslims will not kill Americans.

We all know that this corollary is not true.  I am at a loss for the lack of logic to this argument.  Radical elements of Islam are going to murder Americans regardless of what we do.  So, for a whole religion to cater to such a fringe element is nothing short of mind-blowing.

I am having great difficulty reconciling Islam (religion of peace), with the constant waging of war against the fringe elements of its own religion.

It’s very reminiscent of how Republicans went apoplectic over someone burning the U.S. flag.  The Republicans in Congress tried to make burning the U.S. flag a felony offense.  Like with the U.S. flag, burning the Koran is not a slight to Islam.  The Koran is but a mere physical symbol of Islam.

Islam is about how you live your life, not about the physical book that provides the instructions.  If a thief forces you to remove your wedding ring and begins to desecrates the ring, that has absolutely no bearing on the state of your marriage.  The ring is simply a manifestation to the world that you are married.  The state of your marriage is in the way you treat and relate to your spouse.

The ring is not your marriage nor is the Koran Islam.

The Koran is your personal roadmap to your religion—it is not your religion.  Your religion is about the manifestation of the principles of your faith in your everyday life.  Nowhere in the Koran does it say to kill a person who burns the Koran or someone who speaks ill of Muhummad.  People burn Christian Bibles and no one pays any attention to it.  But, let one person threaten to burn a single Koran, and it’s a global news event.

Remember, meanings are in people, not in words.  Holy is anything you ascribe to be holy.  In India, cows are considered holy.  That is strange to Americans, but who are we to judge?

All the controversy about the Koran,  Muhummand, and mosques are distractions.  Equating violence against Americans because of these controversies is to empower the extremists and give them perceived influence that they should not have.

Those Muslims who are predisposed to violence will not change their views because we don’t burn Korans.  The only way to defeat them is for true Muslims to be just as radical in their portrayal of real Islam.

Humans have polluted true Islam.  True Islam is wholly Holy!

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine ( & U.S. Africa Magazine (

NFL Great Jim Brown and the Cleveland Browns At Odds

Posted in Black Interests, Black Men, Gary A. Johnson, Sports News with tags , , , , on September 3, 2010 by Gary Johnson

By Gary Johnson

In 1989, I was on a business trip in Biloxi, Mississippi.  I remember walking into a book store and seeing a hardback book on the shelf with NFL great Jim Brown on the cover.  The name of the book was “Out of Bounds,” written by Jim Brown with Steve Delsohn (Zebra Books/Kensington Publishing).  Good luck finding a copy of the book now.  I searched for the book on and discovered that the book was a collector’s item.  I paid $15.00 for the book.  The book is selling on for between $37.00 and $235.00.  Glad I still have my copy.  You may want to check the value of your books before you toss them in the trash or donate them.

I bought the book and read it during my trip.  Before I read the book, I believed that Jim Brown was one of the greatest running backs who ever played the game.  After reading the book, I was moved to believe that Jim Brown was THE greatest football player to have ever played the game.  Jim Brown quit at the top of his game.  Legend has it that Brown was also the greatest LaCrosse player who ever lived.  (Don’t take my word for it, check with people who know the sport).

If you look up “proud man in the dictionary,” you will likely see a picture of Jim Brown.  Which brings me to the reported rift this week between Brown and Cleveland Brown’s new President, Mike Holmgren.  Jayson Whitlock of FOX wrote a great article about the rift supplying what I believe is the proper cultural and historical context for the reader who may not be familiar with Jim Brown and his body of work.

In January of this year, shortly after taking control of the Cleveland Browns, NFL long timer Mike Holmgren stripped Brown of his “Executive Advisor” title and $500,000 salary and offered him a $100,000 salary and ceremonial role with the club.  (This reminds me of the job former heavyweight champion Joe Louis held as a casino greeter in Las Vegas).  Brown declined the “job” and left the organization quietly.  Here it is, seven months later.  The team has decided to add Brown to the club’s “Ring of Honor” and Brown has released a letter he wrote to Holmgren that revealed his thoughts about the move complete with some racially charged and incendiary comments.

A portion of the letter to Holmgren reads as follows:

“After that 10-minute meeting, I went to my office with a feeling that I was just fired by the Cleveland Browns, because in my mind, there would be no way on this earth that you would expect me to go against everything that I’ve ever stood for in my whole life.”

Brown ended the letter writing:

“Mike, there’s only one thing that I control in life, and that’s being a man. So let me end with a little humor, because as you say, one monkey don’t stop the show, and as I say ‘Willie Lynch missed a few of us,’ and there will be no Buck Dancing.”

For the record, Mike Holmgren did not infer or insinuate that Jim Brown was a monkey.  For whatever reason, Brown decided to let that firecracker and throw it in the mix.

Let me tell you what I’ve learned about Jim Brown over the last 4 decades of following his life off the football field.  Jim Brown is a very proud and often stubborn man.  He and Muhammad Ali are probably two of the most principled athletes of my lifetime.  (Jim Brown chose jail time rather than pick up litter along the highway). His run-ins with the law, particularly as it pertains to domestic violence are well documented.  At 74 years of age, Jim Brown’s life’s work is not about money.  His work with gang members through his AMER-I-CAN organization is legendary.

Mike Holmgren is President of the Cleveland Brown football team.  Like any top executive he has every right to make personnel changes.  He knows about Jim Brown the NFL Hall of Famer, but apparently is not as familiar with Jim Brown the MAN!

Had he done his homework on Jim Brown the MAN, Holmgren would have learned that Jim Brown is Outspoken, Direct and Unafraid! Jim Brown is not into ceremony and pageantry.  Jim Brown is into changing and molding for the better young men’s lives, the same generation of men who play for the Cleveland Browns.  Jim Brown has his hand on the pulse of these young men and therefore ads value to the team.  Brown played for Cleveland and gave that city some of the best football in the history of the franchise.

This is Jim Brown.  Mike Holmgren and the Cleveland Browns organization have to find a way to resolve this matter.  I can see both sides of this situation.  You don’t want to start the 2010-2011 football season in Cleveland with this controversy.  Get this shit fixed.

We have a guy in this town (Washington, DC) who tells the truth and stands up for what he believes.  His name is Harold Bell.  Harold has spent over 40 years working with youth in under-served communities.  He’s used his radio and television shows to expose listeners and viewers to a world outside of the negative things going on in their neighborhood.  In the process, Harold, his wife Hattie and their organization Kids In Trouble, Inc., have change the lives of thousands of young men and women.  (Harold and Hattie will be celebrated on September 5, 2010, in District Heights, MD).  In fact, Harold and Jim Brown go way back, but I digress.

Jim Brown and Harold Bell at Hogates Restaurant in Washington, DC

Regarding the Mike Holmgreen-Jim Brown rift, mistakes were made on both sides.  The two men should acknowledge this, apologize and find a solution that is in the best interest of the team, the fans and the city.  Work it out guys.  Get in a room and work it out.

Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In Blog. Gary is also the author of the new book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.

Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor

Posted in Black America, Black Interests, Politics with tags , on September 2, 2010 by Gary Johnson

Rev. Bernice King and Raynard

By Raynard Jackson

Originally, I wasn’t going to write about radio talk show entertainer Glenn Beck’s supposed “March on Washington;” but, because you, my readers, asked me to comment, I will.

The event was called, “Restoring Honor.”  Its stated purpose was to be a “celebration of America’s heroes and heritage.  So, I have a few questions that I wish Beck would have addressed.  You can only restore that which was lost.  So, what in Beck’s mind was lost and how is he going to restore it?  If it was a “celebration of America’s heroes and heritage,” then why was there no soldier of color participating in any of the activities?  All the soldiers were white men.  It reminded me of watching the Flintstones and the Jetsons cartoons as a kid—not one Black was ever seen in either.  The Flintstones were about the past and the Jetsons were about the future.  So, according to Hollywood, Blacks had no past and we don’t have a future.  Is that what Beck was trying to restore?

Beck claims he had no idea that August 28th was the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream Speech.”  He claimed on his TV show that “conservatives needed to reclaim” the civil rights movement.

So, let me make sure I understand Beck.  He claims that God told him to pick this date.  So, this same God couldn’t have told him the significance of this date to the civil rights community?  Beck was asked by many in the Black community to move the date of his event in deference to our feelings about this date.  He refused.  But, he wants the Muslims in New York to move the location of their future mosque in deference to him and others who think the location is too close to ground zero.  Hmmm, how do you spell hypocrisy?  I looked it up in the dictionary and found a picture of Glenn Beck!

He wants conservatives to reclaim the civil rights movement.  Well, I can’t find any history of Beck being involved in civil rights—either historically, or recently.  This is the same person that called a sitting president “a racist…with a deep seated hatred of white people.”  The day after his event, he gave a semi-apology for making that statement.  But one would have thought if he really was regretful of what he said, he would have used the national stage he had during his event to make the apology.  But maybe he didn’t want his white friends in attendance to see him apologize in front of a national audience.  After all, we wouldn’t want people to call him an “apologist” for America like they say about President Obama.

Remember, you can’t have unity without “u & i.”  But everything about Beck does just the opposite.  Am I the only Black who felt somewhat uncomfortable during the “Black” portion of the program?  This was near the end of the event; before Beck’s self indulgent, meandering, narcissistic, rambling, tortuous speech.

Beck trotted out about 12 Blacks to come on stage for window dressing.  But, my good friend, Alveda King (M.L. King’s niece), gave the best speech of the day.  I strongly encourage everyone to pull up her speech from the event.  In about five minutes, she gave a great recitation of the civil rights movement.  After she left the stage, I sent her a text message telling her how proud I was of her for not allowing herself to be used and pimped like a lot of the typical Black Republicans/conservatives!

During this “Black” portion of the program, there were two female gospel singers who were awesome!  In watching this portion of the show, I couldn’t help but think about how Blacks seem to always be there to entertain white folks.  Of the three awardees, one was Black.  But, there were no Blacks from the military, no Black speakers during the white part of the program, nor many Blacks in the audience.

If this was about “reclaiming civil rights,” then why did Beck not say anything about civil rights nor have more meaningful participation from Blacks?  I wonder does Beck even have any Black employees on his staff or in his production company?  People like him and other conservatives talk a good game about equality, but their actions normally contradict their words.

Be very weary of people like Beck.  They have become like the sounding brass or the tinkling cymbal, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine (

Don’t forget to register to listen to my radio show every Saturday evening from 7-9:00 p.m.  Go to to register and then click on host, and then click on my photo to join my group.

Raynard Jackson has been named to Talkers Magazine’s “Frontier Fifty.” The “Frontier Fifty” is a selection of Outstanding Talk Media Webcasters.

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