OK, I have a few minutes of "down time" to get back to giving my thoughts on the Being A Black Man series by the Washington Post.
This article was about 2 young men making a pact to attend Ballou and to shine at the public school. The article started with this:
Jachin and Wayne: They love Ballou.
Four years before, at the end of middle school, both had scholarship offers to an elite private high school in the Maryland suburbs. It was an offer that few from Southeast Washington, where Ballou is located, would refuse.
But both ended up at Ballou because their fathers decided that an all-black inner-city school, rather than a mostly white suburban school, was what they wanted for their sons. They also figured their high-achieving sons were precisely the kind of examples Ballou needed.
It was a decision that both boys agreed with, making a private pact with each other that by the time they graduated from high school, they would have made Ballou a better place to be young, black and male.
To me, the article was a testament to the fathers of both young men and what can happen with positive peer pressure.
Some number of years ago, The Washington Post had an article about a school in the D.C. suburbs of Maryland where Black children pushed each other to take AP courses and do well. This was after a teacher took the time to badger the school to provide ONE AP class. The students, Black students, responded so favorably, that more AP classes were added.
The article about these young men was outstanding.
This article discussed a Black man who was wrongfully arrested and what he has gone through as a result.
A Maryland state trooper pulled up and took Fishburne's license and registration back to his patrol car. Fishburne called a friend who lived nearby to come pick him up. He'd have to get the car towed, file an insurance claim, and what about all the errands he needed to run before flying off to Puerto Rico for the weekend?
The trooper returned. The mood suddenly tightened.
Sir, you need to put your hands up on the car.
For what? I'm on my way to the gym.
Because you're under arrest.
He felt the metal cuffs clench his wrists. Heard the officer asking if he had been drinking or using any drugs. Felt the Breathalyzer between his lips. The trooper began searching the BMW. Fishburne's friend showed up, shocked to find Elias in the back of the police car, and asked the officer what was going on. Fishburne heard, but could not comprehend, the reply:
He's a fugitive from Atlanta, Georgia.
You have the wrong man, Fishburne remembers saying, in the patrol car, then again at the police substation where he was booked May 5, 2005. They kept calling him by a name he'd never heard before: Jarvis Tucker. On the warrant from Georgia, Elias Fishburne was listed as one of several known aliases used by a career criminal named Jarvis Tucker. Fishburne's vehement protests that there had been a mix-up were met with blank indifference. "Someone else will deal with that," he remembers someone in uniform telling him.
Honestly, while I shudder at the story, it wasn't as moving to me as the Ballou story. And given the current blow up concerning Nifong, I wonder how Elias Fishburne feels about that story and the outrage at "the system" that is now resulting.
This article struck me the hardest because men on my mother's side of the family don't have a history of long living, especially compared to the women. And as I note the changes going on with me as I am now solidly in my middle years, this article was a slap to my face.
Damu Smith looked handsome in his coffin.
His face, with its high cheekbones and sharp jaw, seemed full again. His hair had a soft sheen, having been freshly oiled and woven into small, braidlike twists by his beautician at the funeral home the night before. His unblemished skin was the brown of a honey graham cracker.
The women who loved him most sat on the wood pews at the front of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, a few steps from where he lay. His sweetheart, Adeleke Foster, lovingly touched his face one last time. His sister, Sylnice Williams, dabbed at tears until her tissue was soaked. His 13-year-old daughter, Asha, stared blankly ahead with sad, dry eyes.
In his final days, as he underwent grueling chemotherapy, Smith said he was fighting for Asha -- "I've got to see the man she marries," he cried. But in the end, he was no match for colorectal cancer -- or his own failure to seek medical treatment.
Smith, 54, like many other black men, died before his time. Black men have a life expectancy of 69 years, six years less than white men and far shorter than men of other ethnic group. They are more than twice as likely to die from cancer as white men, according to the National Cancer Institute, and nine times as likely as white men to die of AIDS. They suffer from lung disease, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes and other chronic illnesses in disproportionate numbers that alarm health-care professionals.
But Harden left an important anecdote out of her eulogy. One day in 2001, as she and Smith drove along Cancer Alley, he told her about stabbing pains in his stomach. Harden practically begged him to see a doctor. Smith politely brushed her off. "He told me I was right, said that he should do it, the way a person says 'Yeah, right, I should quit smoking,' " Harden recalled days after the funeral.
By the time Smith was tested -- four years after Harden's plea -- it was far too late. Colorectal cancer had developed to its most advanced and lethal stage. Doctors told him there was nothing they could do. They gave him three months to live.
Two older male relatives died of colon cancer in their 50s. They died within one year of each other, and for each, they didn't know they had it until it was too late.
I remember that as I note the foods that I used to eat that now give me serious bouts of gas, the growing lactose intolerance, the need to watch what I eat so I don't have to take medicine to lower my cholesterol level, and watching the relatives who I seem to be following in health matters. The last one, for me, isn't surprising given our strong family traits in other areas. And if I go by that, it's not a matter of if I will need to take cholesterol reducing medicine, it is a matter of WHEN I will start. So, the article hit me very hard.
I was torn with this article.
This is what she had come for: the chance to meet a man, a black man, a potential husband. The moment was full of possibility and light, much like the romantic Nigerian films Robyn has come to adore -- where lovers' eyes meet in passionate glances, and romance rules over reason.
But it was also a moment that masks a maddening numbers game. She is a 31-year-old black woman seeking to marry a black man, which lands her in the heart of the most uncoupled demographic in the United States. For every 100 single black women, there are 70 single black men, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau figures, a number that does not take into account the prison population or men living in group homes. In the Washington area, there are 83 single black men for every 100 single black women.
For eligible black men, that equation can look like a dating smorgasbord, with seemingly limitless choices, and not just among black women. According to the 2000 census, black men enter interracial marriages at a higher rate -- 9.7 percent -- than any other racial or gender group except Asian women. That's twice the rate of black women.
For Robyn and black women like her -- who see their fates intimately bound to black men -- life means strategizing and dreaming beyond the numbers in a world where it seems the ground has shifted under their feet.
Her experiences in that world are far more than some "Waiting to Exhale" story line. They are a window on black men, a foray into the never-ending dialogue about the delicate balance -- or imbalance -- between black men and women. It is one of the most volatile and enduring conversations. Just what does it mean, for example, when a half-million more black women than men are college graduates? For some black men, it can be a chance to redefine traditional roles; for others, it opens a widening intraracial battleground over class and gender.
Robyn hasn't joined the ranks of black women who are beginning to talk about exploring their options elsewhere.
You see, I was single and living in the D.C. area at one time. I enjoyed the numbers in my favor, and I won't lie about it. But having lived though it, a large part of me states that Black women in the D.C. area, are unrealistic in their expectations. The truth is, the D.C. area his highest in educational and income levels when compared to other regions in the U.S. This is true for Blacks as well. And given the highly educated Black men and women in the area, I think many Black women developed the "I HAVE to have the WHOLE package" syndrome: a man with a high paying job, a Acura/Benz/BMW/Lexus/Infiniti, 6 feet to 6 feet 5 inches tall, good this, great that, yada yada yada.
I don't meet all of those requirements but I was still in the game and I had choices.
On the other hand, why should people "settle"?
More later... Real Dot Life calls again.