More American black men are in prison than in college. They are
more likely than whites to die violently and young. Is the American
black man an "endangered species"? National Book Award winner
Johnson (Middle Passage, 1990) and fellow novelist McCluskey (Mr.
America's Last Season Blues, 1983) spent seven years collecting
these original writings. Unfortunately, the perspectives provided
here on this important question - with the exception of Yosef
Komunyakaa's award-winning poetry and Don Belton's affecting essay,
"Voodoo for Charles" - are mostly tired and trite. The common
thread throughout is the bleak reality of the lives of
African-American males and their negative portrayal in the media.
Often lacking identity and self-respect, many black men are said to
perceive themselves as "niggers." And those who do make it are
accused here of too often being preoccupied with pursuing material
success while ignoring social concerns. The writers ponder whether
the underlying cause of this crisis is institutional racism, the
educational system, economics, the lack of role models, or an
insidious combination of all of the above. (Ironically, with few
exceptions, African-American females don't emerge any more
positively here than their male counterparts. Black mothers are
often portrayed as abusive to their sons, dismissive of their
needs, and incapable of instilling moral standards.) Gangs became
the surrogate family to a generation of young men growing up
without fathers and with mothers who are, at most, marginal to
their lives. Their music is rap as it "reflects the realities of
the judicial system, prison, the police, and our failure as Black
men to listen and reach out to young men and validate their worth."
Despite the urgency of the subject matter, there isn't much here
that hasn't been expressed more eloquently elsewhere. (Kirkus
"The book is a gripping litany of sermon, scripture, and
spirituality. It is strident and unembarrassed by its message,
urgent in its delivery, somewhat daunting in the tenets it
proposes, and clear in its mission." Black Issues Book Review
..". an important book that offers useful insights into the
lives and times of black men everywhere..." West Africa
"Black Men Speaking... provides in its diverse range of black,
male voices an antidote for the silence that hindered them for so
long." Washington Post Book World
..". important reading for Blacks and whites, men and women,
young and old." Gazette Newspaper Group
"A must-read book for all" The Recorder, Indianapolis, IN
Editors Charles Johnson (whose Middle Passage won the National
Book Award) and John McCluskey, Jr. have gathered the voices of 11
African-American men in this volume to tell us how they see
themselves and other black males in America today. Contributors
include Don Belton, Joseph W. Scott, and Peter J. Harris."
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