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Archive for the ‘The Black Man’ Category

Very Uncomfortable, Indeed

In The Black Man on September 28, 2010 at 3:20 am

When we see people, we see them (in my point of view) from one of two perspectives: we see them as they present themselves to us or as we see through our own experiences (or we see them as we want them to be). Rarely, we see the experiences, pain, struggles, highs, joys, successes, failures that all help to make the individual unique. I believe we are a sum of our experiences, and it is up to us to decide how to allow those experiences to shape our lives.

For CNN anchor Don Lemon, being a victim of a pedophile, I would imagine, was a painful hurdle to conquer. Yet, he saw an opportunity to discuss a subject that is difficult and somewhat taboo: sexual abuse within the African American community. According to a 2004 JET article author Robin D. Stone discussed her book No Secrets, No Lies: How Black Families can Heal from Sexual Abuse. And in that article Stone revealed that “I learned from my own experience, and from interviewing more than 30 survivors, parents and partners, that we don’t talk about sexual violation when it happens in our families for a host of reasons, including wanting to keep ‘business’ to ourselves, and not wanting to get the police or social services involved.”

Lemon said that he did not admit to his mother that he was a victim until the age of 30; and he never admitted it on air prior to this weekend. Apparently, the anchor had no intentions of mentioning this on air until an interview with 3 Bishop Eddie Long supporters. Within the past week, mega preacher Eddie Long has been sued by four men “who claim in lawsuits that Long abused his clerical authority to lure and coerce them into having sex with him.”

While Bishop Long continues to fight these allegations, many questions still come to the surface: how prevalent is sexual abuse within the African American community? Moreover, what about abuse to African American boys? How does abuse impact sexual identity? Unfortunately, a scandal, four separate lawsuits are now forcing many within the African American community to discuss this very issue.

They call him Mr. Collins!

In The Black Man on August 10, 2010 at 10:16 am

I met him when he was a “shy” freshman. I use shy very loosely. He is neither arrogant nor difficult to be around. He is a pleasant gentleman–has always been since the first day we met. He is respectful, idealistic, a great dresser (I’m a sucker for bowties) but a planner. He’s a visionary and a dedicated worker. He’s a mentor, a friend, a son, a brother, and he’s not one to shy away from any sports debate. He’s what I would want my son to be.

Nigel Collins is his name. He’s entering his final year at Mississippi State University. I have always admired Nigel. It is not difficult to admire the young man; he has an infectious personality. As I did with many incoming freshmen I asked the standard questions: “Where are you from? What’s your major?” Nigel proudly said “I’m from Senatobia, MS. Do you know where that is?” I smiled and said “yes.” I grew up not far from there. Connection 1. I told him we played Senatobia in basketball when I was in high school. He said “Oh, you like sports?!?” Connection 2. “Well, what’s your major, Nigel?” I asked again. His response, “Industrial Engineering.” Connection 3. “Stay with it, Nigel.” I had met quite a few students who wanted to be engineers, but by the second semester of their freshman year, they were on to something else–like many college students (I changed my mind several times before my first day of class freshman year). Connection 3: Although I was no engineering major–I have a desire to see more minorities and women enter into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.

For Mr. Collins, he seemed prepared to accept the challenges that lay ahead, undoubtedly, his commitment to his faith and his relationship with his mentors prepared him to take these challenges in stride. According to Dr. Calvin Mackie, African American professionals face a “cultural tax…This tax may manifest itself as heavy committee work on the job, as excess work to destroy “affirmative action” stereotypes, or as substantial community service in an effort to remain attached to or give something back to the community. Regardless, there is a tax borne by Black professionals that does more harm psychologically than it does monetarily.” In his article The African-American Engineer in the 21st Century: A Burden, Challenge, and Opportunity, Mackie issues a charge to African American engineers, yet this charge is not to be taken lightly and the work needed is not simple.

Nigel has accepted this charge.

Note:Congratulations to Dr. Donna S. Reese, Mississippi State U. professor and interim department head of computer science and engineering for receiving the Tau Beta Pi 2010 McDonald Mentoring Award. Click here to read more.

Now 18 to 1

In The Black Man on July 30, 2010 at 6:20 am

On Wednesday Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act; a measure that’s intended to reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and cocaine convictions. According to the Washington Post, “the measure changes a 1986 law, enacted at a time when crack cocaine use was rampant and considered a particularly violent drug. Under the law, a person convicted of crack cocaine possession got the same mandatory prison term as someone with 100 times the same amount of powder cocaine. The new legislation reduces that ratio to about 18 to 1.” Additionally, the new law rids the five year mandatory minimum sentence for “first-time possession of crack.”

President Obama is anticipated to sign the new law, which now imposes a mandatory five-year minimum sentence on those convicted of possessing 28 grams of crack rather than five grams of crack. In a show of bipartisanship, cosponsors Democrat Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois and Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, “said nearly 1,500 people were convicted last year for possession of five to 25 grams of crack cocaine, subjecting them to mandatory minimum sentences.”

According to the Human Rights Watch, minorities have been most affected by the minimum five-year sentence with “Blacks…constitut[ing] the preponderance of federal crack cocaine offenders since the 100-1 differential was enacted, despite the fact that more whites used crack. In Fiscal Year 2008, 79.8 percent of federal defendants sentenced for crack cocaine offenses were black. But, according to federal drug use surveys, 27 percent of crack cocaine users were black and 65 percent were white. The disproportionate number of black drug offenders sentenced for crack cocaine offenses helps explain the far longer average sentence lengths for all black federal drug offenders: 111.5 months compared to 73.5 months.”

Republican Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, believes the change in sentencing guidelines could open the door to a crack epidemic in minority communities much like that of the 1980s. “Why do we want to risk another surge of addiction and violence by reducing penalties? Why are we coddling some of the most dangerous drug traffickers in America?”

The change in the sentencing guidelines according to a Congressional Budget Office report is projected to save the federal prisons some $42 million over the course of the next five years.

Happy Father’s Day

In The Black Man on June 19, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Take time and enjoy the following from a college friend on this Father’s Day weekend.

“Whenever I’ve had something I needed to say to my brother but couldn’t verbalize, I wrote him a letter. There have been two letters, in particular, that have proven to be the most important.” Click here to continue reading Natalie Collier’s dedication to manhood.

Why HBCUs?: Part 2

In The Black Man on June 16, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Why are HBCUs important? As I referenced in the prior post, HBCUs generally serve an at-risk population; they are more willing to take a chance on the student who is on their second or third chance.

My brother Scottie (whom I took the liberty of adopting from my aunt when I was 5–drew up the papers and all with her signature, my signature, and my grandmother’s signature as the witness; so legally he is my brother even if he was not up for adoption) did just enough to get by, he always had, but he has passion for life and a dedication to helping others that is second to none. Well, one day he realized that he would be graduating high school very soon and wanted to “really get serious” about his future. With a GPA that was less than stellar and a low teen score on the ACT, he was at a loss as to what his next step would be.

He considered junior colleges, entering directly into the labor market, or enlisting in the military. Until one day an encouraging call from his Principal to the President of Lane College, an HBCU in Jackson, TN, forever changed my brother’s life and my family’s lives as well. Honestly, we saw Scottie’s potential, but were all concerned whether he would realize it or not.

In 2004 Scottie graduated high school searching for a place of belonging, but in the summer of 2009, he graduated as a Man, a Lane Man, determined to improving the lives of those around him. Unlike many his age, he is a community activist, a child’s advocate, an HIV/AIDS educator, a teacher, a coach—essentially; he is an inspiration to me. He is a man on a mission–a mission that may not have been formed if it were not for the investment that Lane College made in him.

The Wonderful Adventures of the Intern: Part 2

In The Black Man on June 4, 2010 at 7:28 am

Dexter McKinney is a man of many talents: a singer, artist, musician, budding politician, perhaps a Renaissance Man (???), but Dexter can do it all. Dexter is the Stennis Institute’s (SIG) most recent intern and we are very fortunate that he literally “fell” into a position in our organization.

See, Dexter is enrolled in the Master of Public Policy and Administration program at Mississippi State. But toward the end of his spring semester, Dexter did not have an internship lined up, as required before graduating. Like many, Dexter was being bruised in the wide world of internship seeking, which can be cutthroat in its own right. Although SIG does not have a minority (racial/ethnic minority and women) fellowship or internship program, Dante Lee acknowledges that “It is more and more common to see a company, organization or government agency that has an internship program that is specifically for women and minority students. Companies such as IBM, Nationwide Insurance, NASCAR, and even Google were amongst the first to do so. Such minority internships were created for two reasons: To help a company diversify their staff, and to offset the effects of years and years of racial and gender discrimination.”

Dexter is challenging the statistics, the status quo: unfortunately it is increasingly becoming the status quo that African American males are perhaps much more likely to have been arrested or in prison than on a college campus. In his book chapter “The Diminution of African American Males in Higher Education,” Michael Cuyjet finds that “while there is unfortunate attrition of all kinds of students–of different racial/ethnic groups and different genders–the percentages of the losses among African American males are higher than for other identifiable groups.”

The wonderful adventures for one Dexter McKinney (who is scheduled to graduate in December) involves defying the odds, but as he has often said to me, “the ultimate is to redefine, to educate, to inspire, and to reclaim many of my peers, one step at a time.”

Michael Cuyjet’s chapter appears in Diversity in Higher Education Vol. 6. “Black American Males in Higher Education: Diminishing Proportions.” Editors Henry T. Frierson et al. (2009).

Re-examining the 100-1 Ratio

In The Black Man on March 30, 2010 at 12:56 am

While the country was mired in the health care reform debate, the Senate passed a bill that could possibly narrow the disparity between cocaine and crack sentences. According to Jim Abrams of the AP, “Currently, a person convicted of crack cocaine possession gets the same mandatory jail time as someone with 100 times the same quantity of powder cocaine. That 100-1 ratio has been particularly hard on the black community, where convictions on federal crack laws are more prevalent.”

Democratic Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, who was in favor of the 100-1 ratio bill in 1986, stated that “Crack cocaine had just appeared on the scene, and it scared us because it was cheap, addictive. We thought it was more dangerous than many narcotics.” But now, as Durbin points out, “Law enforcement experts say that the crack-powder disparity undermines trust in the criminal justice system, especially in the African-American community. According to Senator Durbin, African Americans, who roughly comprise 30 percent of crack users, are much more likely to be convicted of federal offenses.

Currently, the House has a similar measure as the Senate (H.R. 3245), the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act awaiting vote. Click here to read the ACLU press release on eliminating the crack-cocaine sentencing disparity.

Defying the Odds

In The Black Man on March 17, 2010 at 9:35 am

Tim King, founder and CEO of Urban Prep in Chicago, has reason to be proud: his vision of reclaiming young African American boys from the streets, drugs, and gangs and putting them on a path of manhood and productive citizenship is underway. “A role model doesn’t have to be a parent, but if you don’t have someone who looks like you, who has a similar background, about whom you can say, ‘He did it and I can do it,’ then you never will believe it. That’s why all these kids want to be basketball players or rap stars –those are the people they see who look like them.”

So, King decided to become more visible, become a star in his own right, he founded Urban Prep Charter Academy, the nation’s first all-male, all-African American charter school in the Southside of Chicago. 107 seniors are graduating, and out of that 107, all have been accepted to four year colleges or universities. According to abcnews.com, when the school opened four years ago, only 4 percent reading at grade level. Duaa Eldeib of the Chicago Tribune quotes King as saying that “There were those who told me that you can’t defy the data. Black boys are killed. Black boys drop out of high school. Black boys go to jail. Black boys don’t go to college. Black boys don’t graduate from college. They were wrong.” But the job is not done. King sees this as just another accomplishment in the journey of life. Now the focus shifts to seeing that these young men attend college: King said that “If we fulfill our mission, that means they not only are accepted to college, but graduate from it.”

And for graduating senior Bryant Alexander, “we’re breaking barriers and that feels great.”

What do Renaissance Men Wear???

In The Black Man on October 20, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Morehouse College. History. Tradition. Martin Luther King, Jr., Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Maynard Jackson, and countless others have roamed the halls and grounds of this private, all-male, historically black institution. Recently, Morehouse has instituted a dress code policy in efforts to “get back to the legacy,” according to Dr. William Bynum the school’s Vice President of the Office of Student Services. He continued, “We expect our young men to be Renaissance men.” This policy was not only driven by the powers-that-be at Morehouse, but also by student leaders. Cameron Thomas-Shah, student government’s co-chief of staff, believes “the image of a strong black man needs to be upheld. And if anyone sees this policy as something that is restrictive then maybe Morehouse is not the place for you.”

Morehouse is not the only historically black college or university (HBCU) to institute a dress code. Hampton University has instituted one, which also encourages its graduate business students with locs or braids to cut their hair. Bennett College in North Carolina has adopted a comparable policy as Morehouse’s.

Included in the new dress code policy:

–no caps, do-rags and/or hoods in classrooms, the cafeteria, or other indoor venues

–no sun glasses worn in class or at formal programs

–no jeans at major programs, as well as no sagging pants on campus

–no clothing with derogatory or lewd messages either in words or pictures

–no wearing of clothing usually worn by women (dresses, tops, tunics, purses, pumps, etc.) on the Morehouse campus or at college-sponsored events.

Those found in violation will not be allowed to attend class until they abide by the new policy. However, repeat offenders could be subject to suspension.

The one restriction that has many students upset is the no wearing of women clothing. Co-president of Safe Space, a gay-straight student alliance, Daniel Edwards believes the policy unfairly targets gays. “Some believe that this restriction is what the entire policy is correlated around. It is all an issue of perception and what manner of image you want to prescribe to.”
Click here to read a CNN article regarding this restriction of the policy.

Dr. Bynum believes this policy “is necessary, this is needed according to the students. We know the challenges that young African-American men face. We know that how a student dresses has nothing to do with what is in their head, but first impressions mean everything.”

(Interviews courtesy of Mashaun D. Simon of the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Rising Enrollment, still missing Faces

In The Black Man on September 21, 2009 at 8:44 am

Enrollment is up at Mississippi’s community and junior colleges by roughly 14,500 students. According to Kristin Mamrack, “attendance has increased across Mississippi’s university system, with Mississippi State University reporting record fall enrollment and Mississippi University for Women boasting one of the largest percentage increases.” Though the release was the list of combined figures, it will be interesting to see the breakdown of those figures–what is male-to-female ratio and what is the racial/ethnic ratio of those enrolled?

While enrollment increases, African American males continue to lag behind in enrollment and attainment of baccalaureate degrees. Marianne Hill of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) noted that “nationally, there is a 2 to 1 of African American females to males enrolled in higher education.” According to the 2009 African American Males in College Report, there were 8,452 African American males to 17,597 African American females enrolled in colleges and universities in Mississippi. To address this disparity, IHL formed a task force to study and provide recommendations to “increase African American male enrollment, retention, and graduation rates at Mississippi’s eight public universities.”