The Bridge: Keeping It Real

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

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