LOVE R(e)Visited: Re-Imagine Our PRESENT for OUR Future


Today our guest blogger is Ife. This is the perfect name to represent our anonymous guest blogger for this week.  Ife means love in the Yoruba language of Nigeria.  This post is a work of LOVE from Ife to the Black men in our community.  ENJOY!!!!

 

ENUF to go AROUND

 

Reflecting on a recent trip to California (where I stayed with one of the Travelling Womanists, ReFlectionary, and her family) and spent considerable time chatting with her father, I’ve been reevaluating my long-held beliefs about Black men in America. Bill, much like my father, is middle-aged, an educator, social worker, an avid reader, and researcher of black studies. His knowledge of environmental, health, economic and other social disparities facing Blacks and various events throughout American history is quite impressive.

I tagged along with the family to a Kwanzaa celebration at the East Oakland Youth Development Center.   In the back drop of a tween rendition of a Sonny Rollins song (which presently escapes me), I observed Bill interact with his own adult son which reminding me of my dad and brother.   The exchange that I witnessed consisted of small exchanges.  Barely making eye contact, barely revealing in any outward signals emotion – a series of small gestures said a great deal about their significance to each other and conveyed the hopes and dreams of a father for his son.

The youth center was teaming with kids from toddlers to teens. For Bill, I imagine it evoked memories of his children in their earlier years. A Black man in deep thought about his son, his history, his future.  I’ve witnessed these exchanges throughout my life, between my father, brother, and dozens of other Black families including my own.  Yet when it comes to the topic of Black men, whether engaged in day-to-day conversations, in my interaction with media, or in deep reflection I was rarely left in high spirits, quite the opposite, in fact. But I’ll come back to this point later on…

After returning to Brooklyn from my 10 day stay in the Bay Area, I felt a bit of longing for Black culture “California style” and was quite overjoyed to learn of a talk by Dr. Maulana Karenga, the Founder of Kwanza and Cali native would be speaking in Brooklyn. Held at the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza’s Skylight Gallery, much of Karenga’s talk centered on the plight of the Black family with an emphasis on Black males in particular.

Towards the end of the talk, fed up with proclamations of disappointment and despair from his audience, Karenga urged us to share instances of success and signs of hope for Black men and their communities.  He encouraged the audience to not focus on reports of the pathologies that dominate Black studies. Instead Karenga asked “who has something good to say about a black man?” or “Habari Gani (which means ‘What is the good news‘ in Swahili)” urging us to build on what is working and focus on multiplying these efforts.

In fact, this social change strategy, where communities in crisis are trained to focus on their achievements rather than their failures has actually seen successful in small villages in developing countries during times of famine, unrest, and economic instability. This method is discussed at length in the popular book on behavior change entitled Switch by the Heath Brothers. (Ironically I left this book on the airplane on the way to Cali, perhaps guided by the universe, and further compelled later on by Dr. Karenga to search beyond the text, which admittedly, I rarely do).  So here’s good news from my end: Black and Latino male leadership including Deputy Chancellor Taveras at the NYC Department of Education is spearheading the Empowering Boys initiative. I’ve been to a couple of presentations on some of the programs successes and have heard some inspiring stories.

They say that traveling broadens your perspective and gives you a new appreciation for your life at home. So how, have my recent experiences in California (and Bed Stuy) altered my perception of the Black men in my life?

  1. Every Black man in my life including my father, brother, uncles, friends, and even a lingering ex or two have made significant contributions to my success.
  2. Every Black man in my life is striving (in varying degrees) towards economic freedom (legally!).
  3. Every Black man in my life has mentored or cared for other Black boys in their community.

From California, to Queens, NY (from where my family hails) to classrooms, and basketball courts, football and baseball fields worldwide I salute Black men.  On each of the seven days of Kwanzaa we CALL “Habari Gani?” to which one RESPONDS by naming the principle celebrated that day.

CALL: Habari Gani?

RESPONSE: Umoja (Unity)!

My CALL and RESPONSE for this post is a salute to Black men.

CALL: Habari Gani?

RESPONSE: There are Black men all over this planet worth celebrating!

Peace,

Ife

 

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~ by travelling womanists on February 2, 2011.

One Response to “LOVE R(e)Visited: Re-Imagine Our PRESENT for OUR Future”

  1. WoW Ife, your writing touched my heart. Just last week I was reminded about the men from my past (not all) and my current man-friend who have helped guide me to be the woman I am today. In terms of the careers I’ve had/have and the sexual goddess I have become. (Yeah, I know your post had nothing to do with sex. But me being the Travelling Womanist that I am, I had to throw that in there.) I have also been thinking about what black Americans can do to help mold young black boys and girls to be positive contributors to America’s future. Especially building positive self-esteem in black boys.
    Thanks again for this beautiful post. LuvBeingLuvD

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