Growing up as the only child of a single mother, I always expected women to be the rulers of society. All my teachers were women. My doctors were women. My aunties and granny were where the strongest people I knew.
So it never crossed my mind until I became 8 or 9 years old that I didn’t notice too many Black men in leadership positions. Eighteen years later, I’m starting to realize that it has been designed to be this way.
Fifty years ago, Malcolm X proclaimed that the most disrespected, neglected and unprotected person on the planet is the Black woman. However, in today’s landscape and climate, it’s fair to say the Black man has unfortunately crept into that position.
Fifty-eight Black men have been killed by police officers this year alone, and over 14,000 have been convicted for nonviolent offenses. We need our uncles, dads, and big brothers now more than ever. We need Black men as leaders – no excuses allowed.
From mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, bizarre media agendas, the war on drugs and the lack of quality education and employment opportunities being provided, our sons are being targeted. Our boys are not expected to pursue their education further – unless it’s for a sports scholarship. We’ve lost the narrative on the way to raise strong kings and it’s time we take back control.
Employers discriminate due to our hairstyles. We have to change our voices and demeanor on the phone to be taken seriously. Our men are shot down every day, accused of being thugs and thrown into cells for decades at a time.
Uplift our own
The justice system has failed them already. The least we can do as a community is uplift and praise our men. When we educate and empower our own, there is nothing that anyone can say to tear down the pride of a strong Black man!
Growing up in Caroline Village, there were maybe five fathers or stepfathers who lived with their kids out of 200 housing units. We were forced to raise ourselves as young men – the protectors, the muscle, even the breadwinner – which led a lot of us to making decisions that end up with horrible results.
Though mothers are the heart and soul of the family, there’s a certain level of understanding a mother will never have with their son. Not just superficial issues like learning how to shave or how to throw a football, but lessons such as humility, self-esteem, confidence and learning how to respectfully approach and treat a woman. A connection a father has with his son or step-son is incomparable.
I was included
Last week, I was celebrated as one of Volusia County’s most influential Black leaders. The Emerald Ball hosted by the multitalented Brittany Presley was an evening of elegance, excellence and pure appreciation. To be included with 43 other honorees is a memory I’ll cherish forever.
As a Black male in a leadership position, it’s my job and birthright to be a positive influence and to let the younger generation know you can accomplish anything you set your mind and intentions to.
Being a voice for my community is a blessing and my true calling. As the central theme of the evening was proclaimed by Mayor Derrick Henry’s 7-yearold son, “we need leaders and Black men now more than ever.”
Through generations, we have lost the “father figure” from our lives. Whether it be the government’s welfare program that removed fathers from the household, or the media circus surrounding Bill Cosby’s legendary fall from grace, we are constantly hit with images of Black men being taken down.
We applaud the incredible Black men who sacrifice time from their own families and jobs to give back and nourish the next generation. Now is the time for us to reclaim our brilliance, our strength and our seat on the throne.
The culture is shifting and our children are suffering. Please get involved with your children’s lives, as well as the lives of the surrounding neighborhood children, and help guide them into the next stage of manhood.
“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.” Muhammad Ali
Rell Black is an award-winning activist, blogger and the founder of Community Healing Project Inc.