I began Black Men and Boys Week last week with the greatest expectations. I put much time and effort into writing what I thought to be genuinely honest and thought provoking posts, and I enlisted a host of other people to make submissions as well.
But as I was scheduling the posts, I began to notice a trend. The admissions I received were for the most part negative in tone. Some were almost scolding even. Even I composed all my posts from a deficit model, meaning I wrote from the stance that African American men are in deep trouble; they face issues such as an rising rate of imprisonment, failing relationships and a seeming reluctance to marry, lagging behind in education, lagging behind in job skills and marketability, an increasing rate of senseless and increasingly brutal violence, and the list goes on and on.
And this all my be true; however, I absolutely abhor arguing from a deficit model, and I have always resisted writing from such a model in the past. No one wants to be reminded of their shortcomings and to argue from such a model, especially when seeking a solution, is often counterproductive. In addition, it obfuscates and obscures the achievements and the positive steps forward by black men.
So, at the risk of leaving my page blank, I had to step back and reload. I would rather put something I thought to be worthwhile on my page or just put nothing at all. I had to [re]find and refine my voice, and in doing so, I realized that I can get across the same message by celebrating black men and boys, as I could by criticizing them.
In fact, by reversing the paradigm, by writing from a positive as opposed to negative point of view would free me to use my greatest gifts, my strengths in arguing for the need to [re]define African American manhood, the ways in which black men and boys see themselves in relation to the nation and the world.
I realized that I am who I am only because I am preceded by greater men than I, who while sometimes facing almost insurmountable obstacles, challenges that I might have possibly withered in the face of, proved themselves as giants among men.
Some of these men I knew personally. Some I share a common bloodline with. Some I have read about only in books, in biographies and autobiographies. Some of the names are famous, celebrated, while others are more obscure. Some of the names can be found in history books, while others exist only in my memory.
But nevertheless they left a legacy that I, that we, can be proud of. They left behind a blueprint for uplift and success. And it would be perhaps arrogant of me to scold other black men, to take such a pedantic tone in speaking of them, with them, to them. Because everything I am, everything I have been able to achieve has been because of other black men who preceded me who were perhaps greater than I can ever hope to be.