Black Boys

Dispel the False Allure of the “Facebook Fire Challenge”

Facebook Fire Challenge

(Photo Credit: Forward Times Online)

Recently, there has been a burgeoning interest in the “Facebook Fire Challenge,” where mostly young guys, are sharing via Facebook their acts of self-immolation. This phenomenon is one of the strongest examples of how destructive this willingness to do almost anything to gain fame has become.  As someone who has devoted his academic and social justice work to ameliorating the lives of Black boys and men, it’s disheartening to witness a disproportionate number of these self-immolations being committed by young Black males.  This is why we have to continue to promote strengthening the Black male educational pipeline. Ensuring that Black males are receiving a high quality education, regardless of their backgrounds, is the key to combating a nihilistic spirit that’s running rampant throughout America, including in many impoverished Black communities.  Authentic, selfless and quality mentoring of young Black males is one of the most powerful tools of resistance we have at our disposal against this growing nihilistic spirit in America, especially in many Black communities.

Our young Black males need people around them who will tell and show them they love them and that they matter.  Nihilism is imbuing the psyches of too many young Black males.  We have to stay actively involved in their lives to help them avoid doing damaging and unproductive things.  While many may assert that one of the central reasons why many Black males are involving themselves in the “Facebook Fire Challenge” is the absence of numerous Black fathers in the home, we can no longer allow this to be the oversimplified conclusion of the narrative.  We have to identify homes where there are young Black males with absent fathers, and when we locate these homes, we need community leaders to partner those young guys with quality mentors.  How can we practically accomplish this?

Well, we’re always taking about starting a movement and/or being part of a movement.  Why don’t we start a national movement to take back our Black boys from the manacles of despondency and nihilism?  One of the best ways to prevent our Black boys from being destroyed by despondency and nihilism is to create mentoring programs in every community where Black boys are present.  We need to partner every Black boy with a mentor, especially those boys with absent fathers.  These programs don’t have to cost any money to form.  It does not cost any money to be willing to accept the role of a true mentor.  If community leaders would like to develop mentoring programs that are highly sophisticated and well-financed, this, of course, is absolutely fine.  Regardless of the approach taken in each community, what’s most important is for the community to act.  Young Black boys need to see more examples of success in their communities.  Successful individuals within their communities can aid in modeling success for them.

Have you endorsed the “Facebook Fire Challenge”?  You have if you’ve shared one video of these acts of self-immolation.  Stop sharing these videos.  When these young people begin to see that they don’t have a large audience for their foolish acts, they will realize self-immolation is an act that will not gain them the attention they desire.  Instead of sharing videos of acts of self-immolation, let’s use various social media platforms to oppose participation in the “Facebook Fire Challenge,” and let’s provide substantive education about the dangers of involving one’s self in such risky behavior.  Too many young people believe they will earn respect from millions of people across the country and world by posting videos of themselves participating in the “Facebook Fire Challenge,” but when more young folks hear and read a significant number of fervid protests against involvement in this phenomenon, we will have made a noble effort to encourage them to come off of a metaphorical bridge to disaster.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Black Boys and Men: A Review

The Black Man Can Journal

Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Black Boys and Men (2012), penned by Brandon Frame of The Black Man Can, is a powerful journal specifically designed for Black boys and men to engage in critical thought and reflection.  In the 284 pages of the journal, Black boys and men have an opportunity to create a vision and plan for ameliorating their own lives in their own language.  Never has there been a personal journal produced solely for Black boys and men.  Through this journal, they are provided with space to express their thoughts on a range of issues and respond to essential questions.  Powerful quotations from accomplished Black men have been carefully selected and masterfully deployed by Brandon Frame to inspire critical thought.

An extensive body of empirical research has evinced that Black male students throughout the educational pipeline academically underperform all students.  In the face of this reality, tools must be available to militate against the factors that contribute to Black male academic underachievement.  Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Black Boys and Men is one of those innovative and valuable resources we need to help Black boys and men to progress academically, professionally, socially and personally.  The issues and questions they will confront in the journal offer them opportunities to face what they must do to make a significant change in their lives.

Too many Black boys and men are allowed to read and internalize negative narratives about themselves—primarily verbal and written narratives from Whites who do not wish them well.  Harper (2009) contends that Black males must have the opportunity to tell their own narratives in their own voices to offer meaningful and necessary counternarratives to the dominant extant narratives about them—the dominant narratives about them are mostly untrue, demeaning, and racist.  Through this journal, Frame empowers Black males with opportunities to write their counternarratives.

A growing body of professional literature demonstrates that mentoring Black male students leads to higher academic achievement and motivation.  Frame’s journal equips those who mentor with a resource that can be used to aid them in the process of transforming the lives of Black male students.  For those who mentor Black men, it gives them a tool to facilitate proper guidance and support.

Black fathers and sons now have a serious means through which to share and learn from one another.  I envision this journal helping to form Black male virtual and non-virtual communities and spaces where important ideas, challenges, problems, and solutions are discussed, shared, envisaged and implemented.  Additionally, I can see multifarious conferences and think tanks developing from those who read and use this journal.

I highly recommend this journal.  It can be purchased here: Purchase the Journal Here.  For only $15.00, you could save your own life and/or the life of a Black boy or man by buying this journal.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Thugs

Across America, many Black boys are increasingly embracing the “thug life.” Once they reach adulthood, this embracement of the thug life persists. Although I understand that in the postmodern epoch there are various notions of what a thug is, all of these notions are ultimately harmful to Black boys. From the earliest age possible, Black boys need to have greater expectations from their parents than for them to live a thug life. It’s not enough to say that you keep your boys away from hip-hop music and violent video games and movies. Those things are not really what you should primarily concern yourself with. You should concentrate more on helping them to establish a pathway for a successful life. This could mean that even before the child enters into kindergarten, you begin to stress the importance of education to him or her and you become actively involved in his or her education. As soon as possible, begin to talk to your child about going to college or getting some post-secondary training. You can teach your child to be a hustler but being a hustler does not have to have criminality attached to it. Many of the best living Black men in America are hustlers in their own right—Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Dr. Cornel West, Jerry Rice, Bishop T.D. Jakes, President Barack Obama, John Edgar Wideman, John Legend, Richard Dean Parsons, J.C. Watts, Colin Powell, Wayne Brady, and Montel Williams. Now, I’m not saying that these men are perfect—none of us are. I’m also not saying that they did not have struggles, setbacks, and challenges because they all did.  The one thing they all had was a determination to be successful and not thugs. They all had people in their lives, including their parents, who were willing to love them enough to help them develop a mindset focused on success.

I’m not trying to tell you exactly how to rear your children—I’m not qualified to do this. What I’m doing, however, is telling you that your children deserve to have parents who are committed to their success. They need you from birth to help them to understand how to be successful and to assist them with creating a pathway to success—this I’m qualified to tell you about. Every child deserves a chance to succeed!

A number of the Black boys who I grew up with and went to school with embraced deviant behavior even in kindergarten and many of their parents would get angry with the teachers and principals for exposing their poor behavior. Instead of the parents working to improve these boys’ behavior, they simply blamed the teachers and principals for their behavior. These parents needed to face the fact that their boys were simply exhibiting poor behavior. This poor behavior persisted for many of these Black boys into their teenage years where many became involved in using and selling drugs, having babies out of wedlock, getting sent to jail or youth detention centers, dropping out of school, and etc. I have to admit that some of their parents really tried to prevent them from getting involved in these things, but the boys elected to continue on with the poor behavior that they had engaged in since they were in kindergarten. Their parents never broke the cycle of poor behavior. Their parents did not stop them then and now that they were teenagers they embraced their deviant behavior as acceptable conduct.

These same boys now venerate bling bling over education. They treasure dope over hope. Why? Because they needed parents to give them positive examples of success when they were old enough to begin to understand notions of success. They needed to benefit from parents who made a serious commitment to establish a structure in the home that was geared toward success. They needed parents who did not mind saying to them that they were not rearing thugs!

As a community, we have to take the success of all Black boys into our hands when parents are not doing even to prevent their boys from becoming thugs. We have to be willing to tell them and show them what success is. We have to be willing to model success for them. It’s not enough for you to simply walk around and criticize these Black boys. When you see a Black boy who is not demonstrating the values, principles, and actions of a burgeoning successful man, then do what you can to help the boy. This may mean that you need to go talk to his parents and express an interest in investing in his future by doing things with him that are going to facilitate a successful life for him.

It’s time for us to reclaim our Black boys from futures dominated by incarceration, disease, gang activity, dope dealing, and robbery. I have committed my life to progressing Black boys and men to be the successes they deserve to be. What are you doing, could be doing, and/or willing to do to help Black boys and men to experience more successful lives?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison