On January 29, 2015, Oakland’s McClymonds High School hosted the launching of the first “Year of the African American Male.” Throughout 2015, organizers plan to bring together individuals, organizations and events in order to improve the lives of African American males. The standing-room-only auditorium proved there is a demand for such a movement.

The first speaker, an African American psychologist, reminded us that the first step would be “identifying the stereotypes that bind us.” In the making of America, African Americans were stereotyped as primitive, savage, lazy, etc.

Today, white America no longer has to directly stereotype African Americans; too many African Americans have learned to stereotype themselves and other African Americans. Self-hatred leads to many African American men to kill and abuse other African American men like themselves and terrorize their own communities. As many Black gay men have written about, some Black gay men openly reject and ignore other Black gay men because of their internalized racism and homophobia. It is popular for many African American men to defer to white men as “The Man,” thus, emasculating and dehumanizing themselves.

Protesting police brutality or chanting “Black lives matter” will not correct those stereotypes. All the stereotypes will not be unlearned or corrected. We need a revolution in African American culture. As the psychologist said, African Americans have to “change the narrative; change the story; change the game.” This would not be hard. Learning about the African Diaspora — especially its history — corrects white supremacist embarrassing lies. Self-discipline would be required to avoid any distractions from creating a positive life. Constructive criticism does not tear down people; it stimulates, provides direction and opportunity. Then by trusting oneself, one can be trustworthy and work together to build home and community.

Even a movement needs home and community. I’m glad “Year of the African American Male” was launched in Oakland. Too often, the success of Oakland’s gentrification was not measured by the revolution in the lives of African American men. In fact, the success seems to be measured by the erasure or repression of African American men altogether — sugar-coated with phrases like “changing demographics” and “new diversity.” Even the former mayor found herself in a controversy when she told a national newspaper that her biggest challenge was to let people know that the “New Oakland” was not African American. From the perspective of an African American, such negation meant that Oakland’s gentrification failed us. By launching “Year of the African American Male” in Oakland, hopefully, we will redefine the “New Oakland” as a place of improved African American lives.

“Year of the African American Male” seemed to be making such changes already. Intellectually brilliant City of Oakland African American civil engineers from Ethiopia, Nigeria and Berkeley/Oakland attended the launch. Afterwards, they networked and left discussing concrete plans to contribute their talents to the community. It would be done on their own time. They knew that young males needed mentoring. The civil engineers later connected with two youth groups: 100% College Prep Club and the newly-founded Brothers Making Change.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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2 Responses

  1. Cedric Brown

    Thanks, Kheven. Good to know about the Sup. Carson’s initiative so that we can figure out how to participate. Oakland is the epicenter of terrific community work on advancing opportunities for black men and boys; there were at least two national convenings hosted here last year on the topic.

    On another note, where did the Mayor say that the “New Oakland” wasn’t African American? I certainly hope that’s your interpretation and not a direct quote. Please share the article to which you’re referring.

    • Kheven

      She did an interview for National Journal. The controversy started when they edited her statement. Then they published her actual statement. Following is the actual quote:

      “And so, you asked me what my challenge is. Well, my challenge is to let people know what the new Oakland looks like. Somebody just sent me an email saying, ‘Oh, you should have more black police since more than 50 percent of your residents are black.’ And I’m like, ‘Actually, no, 28 percent of my residents are black, but we’re pretty evenly divided between blacks, whites, Latinos, and Asians these days.’ But that’s their image of Oakland–and this is somebody who lives in the Bay Area.”


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