Archive for June, 2012

She Was A Superhero

Posted in African Americans, Black Interests, Black Men, Women's Interests with tags , , on June 28, 2012 by Gary Johnson

By Nicholas Maurice Young, Ph. D.

Harriet Tubman is considered one of the greatest liberators to ever walk the planet.  As many of us have been told, she rescued hundreds of slaves from Southern plantations, and delivered them to freedom in Northern States and Canada.  At least, this is the story that I was told.

As a child, I remember learning about Ms. Tubman, and her amazing accomplishment.  I, and my fellow elementary school classmates were told that Ms. Tubman traveled with her Underground Railroad (UGRR) passengers through the South, and into the North during the night.  To be sure, while our teacher was right to tell us about Ms. Tubman’s amazing story, she was incorrect to make us think that Ms, Tubman rescued at least 300 slaves, and achieved her tremendous feats without help from others, or the benefits of a managed social structure.  To be sure, the fuller story about this amazing woman is more complex than this elementary school interpretation of her story.

However, to gain a better understanding of Tubman, and the ways in which she accomplished her legendary feats, it is important to know a little about her background before she migrated to upstate New York, the eventual place of her burial.  As Historian Kate Clifford Larson states (Larson 2004: xvii) Tubman, who was enslaved on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, spent much of her adult life suffering from epileptic seizures that came as a result of a blow to the head by an angry overseer.  She appeared to recognize at an early age that establishing the “right” relationships could serve useful to her later in life.  With the assistance of an organized group of contacts she made during her childhood and early adult years, and the help of the North Star in the sky, she escaped from bondage when she was 27.  According to Larson (2004: xvii), Tubman “relied upon a long-established, intricate, and secretive web of communication and support among African Americans to effect her rescues.”   Over the next ten years, she developed a web of interracial associations across at least 5 states that would help assist her in helping at least 70 or more enslaved actors find their way to freedom.

Tubman built her network through two primary experiences. First, like many of her enslaved comrades, she became accustomed to being “hired out” by her owner to work at another plantation.  This practice often led to many enslaved actors traveling back and forth between plantations.  It was during one of these visits that she received her near fatal blow.  The accident also had another consequence.  As Historian Kate Clifford Larson states, “The head injury also coincided with an explosion of religious enthusiasm and vivid imagery” that was rooted in Methodist teachings.   Tubman believed that these episodes allowed her to predict the future. This behavior created in the minds of some that she had spiritual powers, and often brought her closer to those whom she encountered during her “hired out days” that shared similar religious beliefs.  Eventually, she gained the trust of the plantation owner, as he allowed her to hire out her skills after paying the owner a set wage for the year.  This process may have led to her discovering the importance of assembling a network to escape her situation.

The second, and perhaps most important experience that allowed her to see how building a network of trusted relationships could aid her efforts to free herself and others, came from her work on a timber gang.  It was this experience that exposed her to the secret communication networks that were the province of black watermen and other free and enslaved blacks.  While she interacted in this exclusively male world, she learned what they learned—the safe places, the routes that each took to travel to and from each community, the sympathetic whites that these men knew, and the dangers that these men learned about from their travels.  Taken together, these experiences helped Tubman build her network of trusted individuals and information that helped her along her path of freeing others.  To better understand this, please consider the following.

The night that Tubman escaped to freedom she was helped by an unnamed white woman, whom she had met during her previous travels.  Later in her journey, she was aided by another white woman who some believe was a Quaker, because “it was Quakers who gave escaping slaves the most aid”  (Larson 2004: 84). Although not every Quaker was as sympathetic to fugitives, many were critical in providing social and financial resources to those in need and in “providing a groundswell of activism to end slavery throughout the young nation, in addition to establishing a loose network of like-minded individuals who could be tapped to help freedom seekers find their way north and provide support and shelter once they arrived” (Larson 2004:84).   Thus, Tubman became exposed to an “existing local network of abolitionists and others, including free blacks and other slaves, who were willing to help slaves make their way to freedom” which was “functioning well on the Eastern Shore by the time Tubman took her liberty.” (2004: 84).

Tubman eventually made her way to Philadelphia, where she connected with William Still, Conductor of the Philadelphia UGRR station.   She and Still eventually traveled to Albany, New York, where they met up with Stephen Myers, who then directed her to Frederick Douglass in Rochester.  It was because of Douglass, and his association with the Women’s Rights Movement, that she eventually met several others who served as agents and friends of the UGRR in New York City: J. Miller McKim, Robert Purvis, Edward M. Davis, Lucretia and James Mott; the Mott sisters, and Myers, John H. Hooper, and others in Albany; and Samuel J. May and J.W. Loguen of Syracuse (Larson 2004: 94).  Ultimately, the communication network that functioned between Baltimore and the Eastern Shore, and between Talbot, Dorchester, and Caroline Counties, was dependent upon people Douglass and Tubman both knew.  Through her association with Still and Lucretia Mott—a Quaker and abolitionist, whom often “provided for Tubman’s financial and physical needs,” (Larson 2004:94) Tubman gained access to Isaac and Dinah Mendenhall, Allen and Maria Agnew, John and Hannah Cox, Martha Coffin Wright (Lucretia’s sister from Auburn, New York), and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Taken together, these actors helped organize the first women’s rights convention (Larson 2004: 107).

Tubman used these contacts, the communications network that she developed from her experience with the African American lumbermen, and the knowledge that she received from her experience traveling through the swamps of Maryland to make at least 13 successful trips back to Maryland to free family members and friends (Larson 2004; Bordewich 2005).

A few years ago, I published an article about Ms. Tubman titled, Even Superheroes Need a Network: Harriet Tubman and the Rise of Insurgency in the New York State Underground Railroad that provided a social-capital interpretation into how Ms. Tubman managed her network contacts to rescue her family and friends from bondage on a Maryland plantation.  In the article, my co-authors and I did something that was never done: We put together the network that Ms. Tubman used to rescue her family and friends.  We also developed a way to quantify her impact in her network.  We attempted to tell a more complete story about the greatness of that incredible woman.  She was a Superhero because she did something that most of us cannot do.  I call her a Superhero mainly because she is one of the baddest muthafuckas that I know about that recognized that she was the baddest muthafucka that she knew about.


Posted in Black Interests, Black Men, Black Men In America, Music and Video Releases with tags , , , , , , on June 26, 2012 by Gary Johnson


Sweepstakes Winners Will Receive A JAMBOX By Jawbone Wireless Speaker And Whalum’s New CD Romance Language

(Los Angeles – June 26, 2012) –  Grammy-winning saxophonist Kirk Whalum along with and Real Men Cook have joined forces to encourage men to bring romance to the table with their “Set The Mood Sweepstakes.”, the fastest growing social food site and Real Men Cook, a non-profit dedicated to serving families in need have teamed up with Whalum launching a sweepstakes and the chance to submit photos of romantic meals to the Man Tested Recipes Facebook page (

Four weekly winners will be picked at random and will receive a JAMBOX by Jawbone wireless SmartSpeaker – the smallest, best-sounding wireless speaker on

the planet.  Winners will also receive Grammy-winning saxman Kirk Whalum’s new album, Romance Language, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard contemporary Jazz Chart.

The critically acclaimed Romance Language is a re-working of the classic 1963 album by the legendary John Coltrane and song stylist Johnny Hartman. Whalum assumes the role of Coltrane while his younger brother Kevin fills the large footprints of Hartman.

In addition to the six original songs from Coltrane/Hartman, Whalum meticulously

rounds out the set with four contemporary renderings, Heather Headley’s “I Wish I Wasn’t,” Joe’s “I Wanna Know,” Eric Benet and Tamia’s “Spend My Life With You” and the standout “Almost Doesn’t Count,” originally recorded by (then teen) Brandy and performed by Whalum’s 83 year old uncle Hugh “Peanut Whalum.”

Anyone who wants to see how America’s men set the mood can visit and browse the sweepstakes photo album.  The deadline for entry to the sweepstakes is July 14, 2012.

Media Relations Contact

Karen E. Lee /

Juanita Stephens /

Pepper Russell /

Social Media

The Bridge: Keeping It Real

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Interests, Black Men, Black Men In America, The Bridge - Darryl James with tags on June 26, 2012 by Gary Johnson

By Darryl James

It is popular to comment on someone’s statements that we agree with by saying that person is “keeping it real.”

But really, many of us talk a good game of keeping it real, but we are keeping it real fake.

Yes, much of what we embrace today is fake, because it makes us feel good to say certain things, but we do not want to act on those things.

For example, we love to talk abut supporting Black businesses and some of us even bemoan the lack of Black owners in certain arenas. But, too many of us break our necks running to a non-Black business and feel proud to do so.

I remember when I purchased the second largest rap music publication and mad it the only Black-owned national rap magazine. Knee-grows were always calling and writing to tell me how they had spent their money on the largest magazine (white owned), and how proud they were to have done so. That magazine wouldn’t support them with editorial, so they came to me to get “love,” since I was a Black man.

Essentially, they were saying that the white man needed the money, but I needed to provide them with “the hook up.”

Is that keeping it real?


If we really wanted to keep it real, we would completely overhaul our thoughts and align our speech with our actions.

The first step would be to reverse integration, so that we can get real with each other again.

It would be keeping it real to return to our communities with renewed and focused political power resulting in more police protection (from a police force which reflects the community);  more services (schools, after-school programs, parks, street re-paving, etc.); and more self-sustaining commerce (Black-owned businesses supported by the community, while supporting the community).

Black America would be keeping it real with a focus on forward movement for all of us—not just the rich, not just the males or just the females and not just the famous, but all of us.

If we really want to keep it real, we would get down like the Jews and make a commitment to our preservation as a group, and not promote individuals who we never hold to any obligation to give back to the community.

If one of us becomes successful, many of us will excuse them for doing nothing for the community because “it’s their money.”

But, to keep it real, it’s not their money, because they (whoever “they” are) have typically made their money by being Black and by taking advantage of the support of Black people.

If we were keeping it real, we would no longer be satisfied with a Black face in middle management, or even the sole dark face in the CEO’s office. One of us can show up and attempt to assimilate, but to be real, having one dark face in the company has failed to open the door for others.

And , keeping it real, we should follow the Jews in being a community, but not in spending in their community.  Too many of us are all about building the commerce of others who sell us shiny things.  Yes, shiny things.  Blacks get five dollars and spend four on a truck, some cheap jewelry and some “nice clothes” all made by “others.”

The late Black publisher, John H. Sengstacke said “If we take care of our community first, the community will take care of us.”

That would be keeping it real.

And speaking of taking care of us, if we were keeping it real, we would seek to return all of our necessary services to our community. Our doctors understand our particular health issues and our lawyers understand our particular legal issues.  Dentists, contractors, car dealers and hardware stores are vital parts of our commerce and they need to be in our communities, serving us and being supported by us intentionally, not because we happen to walk in the office and see a Black face.

We can truly keep it real with Black businesses and services when we return to living next door to each other and loving it, living it responsibly.

It’s real to socialize with each other and talk to each other about the issues we face in common, so that we can work together toward resolution.

We can keep it real by becoming what we used to be–a people who survived the horrors of the years and still knew how to party, look good and work hard.  We must party, look good and work together for our coming generations.

That’s keeping it real!

Next Week: Loving The Real Us

Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.”  James’ stage play, “Love In A Day,” opened in Los Angeles in 2011 and will become a feature film in 2012. View previous installments of this column at Reach James at

Watch TV One’s Award Winning Series “Unsung”

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Links, Black Men, Music, Music and Video Releases with tags , , , , , , , on June 26, 2012 by Gary Johnson

Kool Moe Dee

By Black Men In

One of our favorite shows on television is TV One’s award winning series Unsung.”  This show gets better and better with every season.  If you are unfamiliar with “Unsung,” this series sheds light on some of the most influential, yet, somehow forgotten music artists of our generation.

“Unsungis TV One’s acclaimed series of one-hour biographies celebrating the lives and careers of successful artists or groups who, despite great talent, have not received the level of recognition they deserve or whose stories have never been told.  Many of the featured singers have compelling life stories the details of which have largely remained untold.  Ten of black music’s most talented artists and groups are featured every season.

The lineup for this season looks to be great.  If you can’t be there to watch live, set your DVR‘s.  Do not miss this series.

Sly & the Family Stone (Click here to watch the “Unsung” episode featuring Sly & The Family Stone)
Angela Bofill (Click here to watch the “Unsung” episode featuring Angela Bofill)
Con Funk Shun (Click here to watch the “Unsung” episode featuring Con-Funk-Shun)
Kool Moe Dee
The Marvelettes
Gerald Levert
Arrested Development
Lou Rawls

Click here to visit the TV One “Unsung” official web page.

Unsung Launches New Season featuring Sly & The Family Stone

Posted in Black Interests, Black Men, Black Men In America, Music and Video Releases with tags , , , , on June 24, 2012 by Gary Johnson

By Black Men In

One of our favorite shows on television is TV One’s award winning series “Unsung.”  This show gets better and better with every season.  If you are unfamiliar with “Unsung,” this series sheds light on some of the most influential, yet, somehow forgotten music artists of our generation.

The lineup for this season looks to be great.  If you can’t be there to watch live, set your DVR’s.  Do not miss this series.

Sly & the Family Stone (Click here to watch the Unsung episode featuring Sly & The Family Stone)
Angela Bofill (July 2)
Con Funk Shun (July 9)
Kool Moe Dee (July 16)
The Marvelettes (July 23)
Gerald Levert (July 30)
Arrested Development (Aug. 13)
Lou Rawls (Aug. 20)

Click here to visit the TV One “Unsung” official web page.

Family Values

Posted in Black America, Black Men In America with tags , , on June 22, 2012 by Gary Johnson

Raynard Jackson 

As, I reflected on the celebration of Father’s Day last Sunday, I thought about what that day should really mean.  But, before I could do that, I had to find out where that day came from.

Father’s Day was a direct derivative of Mother’s Day; but the reason for their creation was polar opposite of each other.  Mother’s Day was created with the expressed mandate of not being turned into a “commercial” day while Father’s Day was created with the expressed purpose of being a “commercial” day. 

Anna Jarvis was credited with being the founder of Mother’s Day.  Her mother, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis, had founded Mother’s Day Work Clubs in 1868 to improve sanitary and health conditions at both Union and Confederate camps, treat the wounded, and to feed and clothe both Union and Confederate soldiers.

On May 12, 1907, two years after her mother’s death, Anna held a memorial service in honor of her mother, thus began her crusade to officially recognize Mother’s Day.  On May 8, 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. 

Father’s Day was created by Sonora Smart Dodd.  When she was 16, her mother died in childbirth.  Being the only daughter, she was given the responsibility of raising her 5 brothers.

One day, Sonora was in church and the sermon was about Mother’s Day.  She thought that fathers should also be recognized.  The first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington. The day became so popular that in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson was the featured speaker at the Father’s Day celebration in Spokane that year.  In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. In 1972, President Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father’s Day to be held on the 3rd Sunday of June each year. 

Shortly after its celebration had started, Mother’s Day had become so commercial that Jarvis said she, “…wished she would have never started the day because it became so out of control… A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”  

She was arrested in 1948 for disturbing the peace while protesting against the commercialization of Mother’s Day.  She died in poverty, spending all of her inheritance fighting against the very day she had created.

According to industry reports, Mother’s Day is now one of the most commercially successful American occasions, having become the most popular day of the year to dine out at a restaurant in the United States and generating a significant portion of the U.S. jewelry industry’s annual revenue, from custom gifts like mother’s rings. Americans spend approximately $2.6 billion on flowers, $1.53 billion on pampering gifts—like spa treatments—and another $68 million on greeting cards. 

Father’s Day, however was opposed by the general public as an imitation of Mother’s Day (which it was) and viewed strictly as a commercial celebration.  It took fierce lobbying by the Father’s Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to change public opinion.  In the mid-80s, the Council stated, “Father’s Day has become a Second Christmas for all the men’s gift-oriented industries.” 

With this as a backdrop, the best gift you can give a mother or a father is the gift of time.  Mother and Father’s Day have become so commercial that it has lost its true meaning. 

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with former ambassador, Gregory W. Slayton to discuss his new book titled, “Be A Better Dad Today (” 

According to Slayton, “he is an author, businessman, diplomat, philanthropist, professor, but more importantly, a father of four great kids.”  His book is an easy read from the prospective of a regular father who is sharing practical lessons learned from his own personal journey.  His personal wealth has no bearing on his parenting.  Financially, he had the wherewithal to shower his kids with every material thing imaginable, but he decided that spending time with them was the best gift he could give.

 So, to those who want a fresh take on fatherhood, “Be A Better Dad Today” is a great read!

 Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. His website is:

The Adidas Shoe Controversy: Shackles On Your Feet?

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Interests, Black Links, Black Men, Black Men In America, Money/Economics, Racism with tags , , , , , on June 18, 2012 by Gary Johnson

By Black Men In Staff

One has to wonder about the sensitivity to the black consumer associated with the Adidas marketing team as they developed the JS Roundhouse Mids, scheduled for an August release.   The company has sparked outrage and been accused of ‘promoting slavery’ by creating a new pair of athletic shoes which have bright orange ‘shackles’ that fit around the ankles.

The promo for the new shoe reportedly says:  “Got a sneaker game so hot you lock your kicks to your ankles?”

Syracuse University professor Dr. Boyce Watkins, writing for Your Black World, said: ‘Shackles. The stuff that our ancestors wore for 400 years while experiencing the most horrific atrocities imaginable.” He also said he accepted some people would accuse him of overreacting but added: ‘There is always a group of negroes who are more than happy to resubmit themselves to slavery.

We bet there will be a line of black people pulling their kids out of summer school and standing in line overnight to spend well over a hundred dollars for these shoes.  These same jack ass parents will find every reason why they can’t take that same amount of money and open a bank account for little Malik and Raheem.  What are we going to do with our people? 
You don’t have to be black to see that this advertising campaign is insensitive.  One has to wonder how this campaign managed to get this far. 
What do you think?
Update:  June 19, 2012

Adidas announced yesterday that it’s cancelling plans to market the shoe design that critics say evokes slavery.  Early Monday, Adidas defended the shoes as the handiwork of a whimsical designer.  The shoe was designed by Beverly Hills designer Jeremy Scott.  Thanks to social media, Adidas found itself in a public relations nightmare and scrapped plans for marketing the shoe.

The Adidas statement reads, in part:  The design of the JS Roundhouse Mid is nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott’s outrageous and unique take on fashion and has nothing to do with slavery. Since the shoe debuted on our Facebook page ahead of its market release in August, Adidas has received both favorable and critical feedback. We apologize if people are offended by the design and we are withdrawing our plans to make them available in the marketplace.”

%d bloggers like this: