by Thomas E. Mitchell, Jr.
Since slavery, the Black image has been savaged by racism, oppression, and the lies of White supremacy and Black inferiority.
Buoying those lies of supremacy and inferiority was–and are–negative imagery that has run the gamut, from “less than human African savages, heathens,” and “N’s” to violent, thugged and drugged out, rap influenced “gangstas,” “hoochies,” “golddiggers” and “welfare queens.”
Such negative images have been perpetuated through the centuries via, “so-called” science, art, literature, music, movies, information media (TV news programs), and “reality” television shows.
Not only do many in mainstream (white) society believe the lies they see, read and hear (in some cases coming directly from us through the behavior of a few), unfortunately there are those within our own community who have been seduced by the myths and stereotypes foisted upon us.
Poet and community activist Muhibb Dwyer has been fighting against the lies and myths, using pen, paper and the artistry of words conjured from his own life experiences to convey messages of warning, hope, and positiveness to the community.
For 11 years Dwyer and fellow poet Kwabena Antoine Nixon have collaborated on a series of calendars (designed by Dwyer’s sister, Deadra Richelle-Purifoy) containing their poetry, which is paired with photo images (by Peter Hernandez) that helps give visual weight to the urgency of their words, which also offer solutions to the negativity.
The calendars have focused on a variety of subjects from children, to gun violence, to the importance and impact of the 2009 presidential elections.
In the 2013 calendar titled, “The Children are Crying: ‘Saving our Sons,’” Dwyer, Nixon and new contributor Anthony Ross have aimed their pens at Black boys, the pitfalls that ensnare them and how positive mentorship and guidance by strong Black men can steer them clear of the “traps” and lead our Black boys to a better future.
Dwyer is striving to have the 2013 calendars in the hands of as many Black males in MPS as possible in order to motivate them throughout the year. The reason for that is simple.
“When I go to a school to do a presentation, I ask the males in the class how many have their dads in their lives. Eighty percent say they don’t,” Dwyer said during an interview.
“We’re products of our environment. If all boys see is men doing negative things, they’ll repeat those negatives in their own lives,” Dwyer continued. “They don’t see positive images. They will only believe what they see.”
The calendar itself is full of positive images of Black men interacting with boys. “You change them (Black boys) by changing the images they see.”
Dwyer is taking his effort to change the mindsets of Black boys further than handing out calendars. On Friday, January 11, Dwyer and Nixon–through their organization, Flood the Hood with Dreams, Inc.–will announce a partnership with MPS to initiate a mentoring program called, “Saving our Sons–I Will not Die Young” (see above story).
Asked for his views on the state of Black America, Dwyer paraphrased the opening sentence of a literary classic: “It is the best of times and the worst of times.”
The best, Dwyer said, is we have a Black president. The worst is the alarming number of Black males “lying in state” in churches and funeral homes in urban community’s across the country due to the number of murders of Black boys (7,000 yearly according to national figures).
“The death of Black males is the most critical issue we must solve to make things better. The community as a whole is still in dire straits,” Dwyer said. “One individual ‘making it’ doesn’t mean all of us are making it. All of us must serve in our community in our own way.”
Dwyer stressed Black women are in dire straits as well and are impacted by the behavior of Black men.
“When you look at the suffering of Black women, it’s at the hands of Black males via abuse, sexual abuse and absentee fathers.
“We’ve got to figure out a way young Black males can become men of destiny instead of self-destruction.”