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

The Use of the N-words in the Black Community

I was recently inspired by a discourse that transpired between a small group of almost all African-Americans about the use of the N-words within the Black community and by Whites. Any discussion about the use of these words is certain to cause great controversy, but this does not mean we need to avoid serious conversations about the use of these words. By “N-words,” I mean “nigger” and “nigga.” While there are some deep misunderstandings about the word “nigger,” what there is not any misunderstandings about is the racist use and damage this word has inflicted on Black people. “Nigga,” however, is a word of endearment and communicates kinship, commonality, and amity. When Black people are employing the N-word, they are most often referring to “nigga” and not “nigger”—this is tremendously important to highlight.

Many racist White people continue to use nigger and expect for us (Black people) to stop using nigger or nigga. Are you crazy? We have made tremendously strides to diminish the power the word nigger has on us. One of the ways in which Black people have reduced the power white supremacists have in their use of the word nigger is to begin to take that power away from the word by reconceptualizing it to have a more positive and unifying meaning. The more Black people use the word nigga, the more we will strike mighty blows at the impact of the use of nigger by Whites.

We have made significant racial progress in America. During slavery and official Jim Crow, White people could call Black people niggers and this word would place great limits on what we could be, do, and say. Today, we can take legal action against a White person who elects to employ the word nigger at us. In a sense, we are taking ownership of this word that was once used to demean, limit, and subjugate us and making new meaning for this word with such a vile legacy in America.

Numerous White and Black people have called for an end to the use of the word nigger. I have a problem with calling for a termination of the use of this word because it would retire the use of nigga. Now, White people want us to stop saying this word when they have been calling us this word for years. No! The continued use of this word by African-Americans offers us self-healing. Many “sophisticated” Blacks are now calling for an end to the use of this word because they have become so “educated” about the word and its harmful history. By making an attempt to disallow the use of this word, one will only elevate the power of the word. Unfortunately, it will be the power of the racist meaning of the word that will gain more prominence, considering people will always be reminded of the meaning of the word that caused it to be disallowed.

So you can protest, have marches, and conferences on why this word should no longer be allowed to be used, but you will never be able to stop any word from being used. You only empower the racist meaning of the word in America when you attempt to end the use of it.

Before you get all mad with me and tell me about I don’t understand the history of the word and proceed to give me an “education” about the etymology and history of the word, I have taught a seminar on the word, so please don’t get it twisted! I hope that this article will spark a wider discourse about these words (nigga and nigger).

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison