Taking care of the boys to yield healthy men

Publisher Sherri L. Jackson

The news of the recent homicide on Levin Street in Alexandria, La.,  has generated a lot of talk about what needs to be done to prevent such happenings in communities that seem to be plagued with everything from low employment to a lack of education to drugs.

As I’ve listened to the powers that be, many thoughts have crossed my mind about what could and should be done. Try as I might to prevent me from generating an egotistical stance, I could not.

Here’s why it’s personal.

After reading a recent Essence magazine article regarding whether or not black women have a pool of black men from which to date, mate and marry, I began to take offense.

In the article, “Where is the love?,” Essence interviewed author Hill Harper about his book “The Conversation.” Harper said he wrote the book because “black women and black men have spent the last 40 years just surviving. If we want to thrive, we have to build healthy relationships.”

Harper’s statistics indicate that 64 percent of African-American women have never been married, while 57 percent of white women have wed at least once in their lifetime.”

What in the world does this have to do with Levin Street in Alexandria’s District 1? It has everything to do with Levin Street and all of the other streets in neighborhoods where blacks live.

Harper suggests that black women should take a page from Michelle Obama’s book and consider a man’s potential rather than their current status. Harper said, “(Michelle) dated potential. Most women are unwilling to do that.”

Here’s what I think of Harper Hill’s assessment: It’s a lie. Black women have always dated “potential.” If we’re going to use Michelle Obama as the standard then we must say that Barrack Obama gave her something for which she could work.

Whether we want to believe it or not, black women have always been the driving force in their relationships whether the man had potential or not.
We can talk about the problems in our neighborhoods until kingdom come, but until we get back to the basics of families taking care of each other and the neighborhood being one big family looking after every member, our boys will not grow to be men who have enough potential for women to nurture.

Yes, it’s true that Barrack Obama’s father, like many of our black fathers, did not contribute to his son’s life in any meaningful way. But, it’s also true that Barrack Obama had a mother and extended family to fill in the gaps. He didn’t meet his future wife with nothing to contribute. He had an education. He had a job. He had no baby-mama drama. He had no police record. He had no drug problem. Of course, this is as we know it.

Black women, I believe, understand that no man is perfect. However, I also believe that until we deal with the systemic problems in our communities, we will have no boys to grow up to be men filled with potential, promise and possibilities.