Sunday, July 27, 2008

African American Males in Michigan Not Graduating

DETROIT (AP) — A national report says Michigan is the worst in the nation when it comes to graduating black male students from high school.

It also says Detroit has the second-lowest rate among big-city public school districts. The report issued by the Schott Foundation for Public Education says Michigan graduated 33% of black males in 2005-06, compared with 74% of white males.

Detroit Public Schools graduated 20 percent of black males and 17% of white males.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says the low graduation numbers are a “major concern.” He says Governor Granholm’s small high school initiative will help build greater relevance and relationships with schools and students.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Oprah Winfrey vs. Ice Cube: Dr Boyce Watkins

Is Ice Cube correct in his accusation that Oprah Winfrey discriminates by refusing to book black male rappers on her show? Fo-shizzle. When I heard Ice Cube, the gangsta of all gangstaz, go after the queen of the universe for her disposition against black men, my reaction was the same as the one I had when my cousin CC finally had the courage to fight the big female bully on the corner of my street. I admired CC’s courage, but I feared for his life, since nobody but nobody had the audacity to attack Big Becky Smith. Oprah is Big Becky all over again, and I am definitely shaking in my boots.

By the time this controversy is over, Ice Cube will be selling Ice Cream out of the back of his mama’s pick up truck. He has balls for going after Oprah, but her balls are bigger….bigger than all of ours. Besides, she can kill Ice Cube’s argument by reminding him that she has booked rapper/actor Will Smith in the past. But using Will Smith as a representative of all black male rappers is like representing The Grizzly Bear Coalition with Winnie the Pooh. Since the balls are already out on the table, why don’t we use this as an opportunity to discuss whether or not there is something to discuss? Is Ice Cube just hatin on Oprah, or is there a legitimate beef?

Let’s look at the evidence. Most of the time, when I turn on Oprah’s show and see a black man, it is usually for one of the following reasons: He has cheated on his wife, beat his girlfriend, has a boyfriend for a girlfriend, or tells jokes for a living. I often wonder if she knows that regular black men exist, ones who don’t do all the crap that she seems to think men do. We are not monsters, but in Oprah’s world, we might as well not exist.

Exhibit B: Oprah creates icons the way a sick 3-year old creates slimy bugars. She has given birth to Suzie Orman, Dr. Phil, and enough best-selling authors to fill a Chinese sweatshop. How many of these Dr. Phil types happen to be black men? Zippo. None. Or, as Ice Cube would say, “Not nare a mah-fauka.” You mean to tell me that she can’t find one black man on earth smart enough to impress the white women in her audience? Damn Oprah, I am really disappointed.

I love Oprah, really I do. She has attained more white power than the Ku Klux Klan, getting soccer moms all over the nation fiending for her like Crystal meth. Both Ice Cube and I would agree “that’s gangsta.” I don’t even care that she doesn’t have black men on her show. With so many negative media portrayals of us, I would rather the media ignore us. But when I do turn to the show on my way to ESPN, and the one representation I see of black men is some brother on the down-low, I get a little fired up.

I don’t even know this secretly gay dude I am watching, but he is already affecting my life. Next thing you know, I am having my female friends questioning why I am in my 30s and not married. A brother puts a potted plant in his living room and he’s suddenly accused of greasing up his homeboys in the middle of the night. All because Oprah has decided to make “black men on the down-low” into a national epidemic. Thanks Oprah, you have now officially informed the world that the black man is the cause of all social ills. We already have “the man” on our back. Now, “the man” is a black woman. All this “hatin” has just got to stop.

So, Ice Cube, you have my back. I have felt compelled to support you since you agreed to get rid of that greasy Jerry Curl back in 1996. But you can’t blame Oprah for being a little irritated with you. After all, you made a song 15 years ago called “A bitch is a bitch.” First, I should say that is a stupid title for a song, sort of like saying, “A monkey is a monkey”. Dawg, you are stating the obvious. Secondly, a title like that doesn’t exactly make you a champion for women’s rights. Even I got a call from Oprah’s producers before you did, and my album hasn’t even dropped yet.

My goal in all this controversy is to sit to the side and “peep game”, as Ice Cube and Oprah are definitely some of the biggest “Playa pimps” on the block. The same as I did when my cousin CC went off on Big Becky, I sincerely fear for Ice Cube’s life. But even through all the fear, you always want to stick around and watch the fight. I am not going to miss this one, because it’s going to be really good.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Your Black College: The "Miseducation" of Black Youth

Going to a prestigious university, and having come from a well recognized series of primary and secondary education is a blessing that I never take for granted. My high school’s graduating rate was about 90% my senior year, and moved up to 94% the year after. Out of about 500 seniors, less than 100 are not continuing on to higher education or vocational options.

A fifteen minute metro train ride from my high school in Maryland will take you to the D.C. public school system, where everything is the complete opposite. Washington D.C. public schools have received and/or tied for the lowest rankings in the country as far as basic learning skills, test scores, drop-out rates, poverty make-up, and safety issues are concerned. The Washington Post featured an article about whether or not the District schools are fixable. Noting that

“After decades of reforms, three out of four students fall below math standards. More money is spent running the schools than on teaching. And urgent repair jobs take more than a year…”

Washington Post article

There is a deeper issue than this. I think the most important thing that contributes to the success of students in any school system, is the attention paid to the racial make-up of these students and their needs, their economic backgrounds, the lack of motivation, and the unfortunate plight of using property taxes to pay for the upkeep of schools in cities where property tax is low or properties are not owned.

Most of the students that attended my high school come from middle-class, single family homes and townhouses, decent paying jobs, and safer-than-most neighborhoods. At a glance I would say the school is about 56% white, 26% Black, 10% Asian, 6% Hispanic, and the rest a combination of smaller populations.

In the cities where most Black and Hispanic families are, the Black population can sometimes be as high as 98% and the poverty level beyond belief. Even the city of Syracuse, where I attend the university, sees similar results to those of the D.C. public schooling systems. The problems are repetitive. More attention is given to thriving schools that have enough money coming in from their property taxes to pay for newer and better facilities and equipment. More parents in these thriving schools are actually involved with the schooling of their children. More teachers and guidance counselors are helpful to students that don’t pose as threats to their safety.

My younger sister is the president of her high school’s NAACP Youth Leadership Chapter, so when I am home, I attend some of the meetings with her. In almost every meeting, the topic has been about how to get the Black students of Maryland and D.C. public schools motivated enough to come to school, stay in school, and graduate to higher learning.

Too many of our youth are “miseducated” about their chances of success. The guidance counselors and teachers in these schools of urban areas suggest these students consider working after high school instead of going to college. The parents either did not go to college and don’t tell their children they should, or are not home enough to really be involved with their child’s education (although, I do understand that some parents have no choice but to work- sometimes multiple jobs, sometimes for single parent families).

Too many children drop out and follow lives of crime or become pregnant. Those that drop out are often times not given any reason or motivation to go back. Too many children believe that rappers and athletes are the only moneymakers, and therefore see no point in school for those talents ( what about doctors, lawyers, journalists, businessmen/ or women…?), and finally, too many children are not informed about the MANY scholarships, programs, fee waivers and resources that can help them succeed regardless of their race, gender, family, and economic standing.

The problems are repetitive. The initiative has been taken, but the results are far from where they need to be. I do not think it is Obama’s job to come to the rescue of the Black community. What he can maybe do for the school systems, is see to it that the governors of each state make sure that funding is equalized for all of their areas.

Kanye West said in his song “Champion”:

“‘Cause who the kids gonna listen to, huh?/ I guess me if it isn’t you”

I take that as a personal challenge. Whether or not you have children, it is our duty as members of the Black community to see our kids succeed. Better yet, it is our duty as members of the human race to see all kids succeed. They at least need to know that they have options, because success does not only mean going to college, it means living up to their fullest potentials- whatever that may be.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Black Female May have been Murdered in Army, but ruled a suicide

19 year old Lavena Johnson was murdered in the army and brutalized. The military has ruled her death a suicide. People don't agree.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Your Black College Students: Steppin' Out On A Relationship

There is a saying that warns us never to “lie, cheat or steal”, but there are no sayings that have stopped the middle man- cheating (in the context of relationships) from being the reason for, and looming over more than 40% of failed relationships between men and women.

Many people consider it the unforgivable act and the ultimate end to a union. Cheating is regarded as an act of selfishness, of absent-mindedness, or to some…a way to find out how strong a relationship is.

Cheating is just as prevalent in youth/college-aged relationships, as it is in marriage. The statistics for both are very close in number, and responses are quite similar. What does the abundance of cheating in youthful relationships say about the cheating patterns, and likelihood of growing up to cheat on a spouse in marriage?

I performed a simple Facebook question and answer survey, and invited my friends between the ages of 16 and 25 to respond and comment about their thoughts on cheating.

Out of all of the participating respondents:

60% of the respondents between the ages of 16 and 25 had been cheated on at least once.

20% of the respondents had been cheated on more than once.

60% of males admitted to having cheated on a partner at least once.

20% of females admitted to having cheated on a partner at least once.

70% of respondents agree with the “once a cheater, always a cheater” saying.

60% of females stayed with a partner who once cheated on them.

30% of males stayed with a partner who once cheated on them.

50% of the respondents had relationships that ended because of cheating.

70% of the respondents agreed that cheating means purposefully hurting a partner.

80% of the respondents agreed that the decision to cheat is harbored by some sort of insecurity.

100% of the respondents agreed that cheating is a selfish act.

100% of the respondents agreed that cheating is not worth it in the end.

These statistics speak volumes for the effect of cheating on trust issues for people that have been cheated on, and potentially even for the success rate of couples between the ages of 16-25. More girls are likely to forgive their cheating boyfriends, while more boys consider cheating the ultimate unforgivable act. Of course there are exceptions to all of these statistics, but from the survey and the responses that I received, I can conclude that cheating is a more serious problem than some may dismiss it as, and a huge contribution (or rather hindrance) to the success rate of future couples.

This is not to say that the act of cheating is right or wrong. These opinions vary per individual, but the general consensus is that selfishness and insecurity have a lot to do with the reasons why people cheat. Although most would rather not admit to this, it may be an important underlying cause.