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Wednesday, June 8, 2016


In 2014,  a coalition of 250 black men, including Kiese Laymon, Danny Glover, and Byron Hurt sent an open letter to President Obama requesting that the "My Brother's Keeper" Program also address black girls. 

I was disappointed in President Obama, but not for presenting a program just for Black Boys.  They need their own spaces. 

Black girls and black boys issues overlap in blackness but there are points where they are not the same. Black women deal with sexism and misgynoir from inside and outside the black community-- whether or not black women are aware of it, whether or not black women decide to help their daughters overcome obstacles black men don't face.

We, as black girls and women, need our own spaces because we have our own separate needs. And I know that black men have their separate issues and needs too,  not the least of which is preventing black boys from seeking false masculinity when access to the money and materialism that white boys use to prove false masculinity -- in more socially acceptable ways --is harder to access.

No, I was not upset at a separate program for Black Boys called "My Brothers Keeper." The thing that upset me with President Obama is that he did not see the need to create a "My Sister's Keeper" at the same time.

But 200 black men did see the problem and they addressed it immediately. And I am still proud of them two years later

* * * * *

As Kiese Leymon, one of the organizers noted,

 “The men who came together to lift up this issue are organizers, professors, recently incarcerated, filmmakers, taxi drivers, college students, high school teachers, ministers, former pro­athletes, fathers of sons, and fathers of daughters. These men, identifying as straight, queer and transgender, all share a commitment to the expansion of My Brothers Keeper ­­ and all other national youth interventions ­­ to include an explicit focus on the structural conditions that negatively impact all youth of color.”  All Black men who believe that it is vital for our community to hold up the reality that shared fate requires a shared focus on interventions that work are encouraged to sign the letter....
[C]oming together to disentangle ourselves from the bonds of patriarchy....a coalition of 250 Black men to the president requesting a My Brothers Keeper program to address the needs of Black girls and women....

Link to Kiese Laymon's Book: How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America

The crux of the 250's argument:

"If the denunciation of
male privilege, sexism and rape culture
is NOT
at the center of our quest for racial justice,
we have endorsed a position of benign neglect
towards the challenges that girls and women face
that undermine their well-being
and the well-being of the community as a whole.

As Black men we believe
if the nation chooses to “save” only Black males
from a house on fire,
we will have walked away from a set of problems
[to which ] we will be compelled to return...
when we finally realize the raging fire
has consumed the Black women and girls we left behind. "

Luke Harris, chief organizer of the letter and associate professor at Vassar College, wrote an op-ed in which he further explains the value of a fundamentally shift in perspective that sees the life outcomes of Black women as more than an afterthought.

"Yet this incarnation of
does more than ignore women and girls.
In a patriarchal society
in which male problems typically receive far more attention
than those of women,
the narrative actually reinforces patterns of beliefs
that endanger Black women and girls....

As a result,
we know, but do we care that Black girls are much more likely to be suspended 

than all other girls and most boys as well?

We know, but do we care, that 

Black women have lower average incomes
and possess significantly less wealth than
both Black men and White women?

We know, but do we care, that 

Black women are disproportionately burdened
with child care in situations of acute poverty?

Harris articulates a Black feminist viewpoint. Centering Black women's work and experiences enables us to imagine new liberatory discourses. Feminism should not be seen as a threat to manhood but a lifeline