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Call to Successful Black Man – 2

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Call to Successful Black Man – 2

By: Quinton Mudd
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A continuation of our conversation about the duties of successful Black men in today’s American (global) society.

Missed part 1 – Check it out here

We express our love through our actions and each action should always be inspired by care and concern. To love is to put the well-being of those you care for on the same level as your own well-being. This society has trained us to put our individualistic desires before the needs of the common folk and that is detrimental to any society. An expression of love is an attempt towards unity. Division is crippling and nothing divided in many parts can ever become one. A divided family, community, corporation, team cannot reach its fullest potential.

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Standing vs. Sitting

Sometimes you disgust me. You’ll spend 6 hours in a club in one night but can’t spend a few hours a month helping mold your future.  This “I don’t have time to give back” excuse that many of us use is just no longer acceptable.

You’ll brag about how successful you are and how far you’ve climbed the corporate ladder, yet you won’t use any of your time to give the knowledge you’ve acquired to assist others that are in need of the guidance you can provide.

Most of you Black men are probably being underpaid because you do more work than the higher ups are willing to compensate you for. They know they can underpay you because they know that you’re dependent upon them. You’re probably one of the few if not the only Black male at the office so you feel you have to work twice as hard as your meager salary suggests because you want to show boss that you’re not like the “rest of them.”

Nevertheless, you probably trick yourself into saying that you love what you do but deep within you know that there is more to life than your profession. You look at the world and you see how it’s functioning. You see injustices and even if you don’t consciously speak on them, your soul is telling you that something is wrong. Something within you is telling you that you can and should be doing more.

You’re probably afraid of identifying with the youth (who you once were) because you don’t want to be associated with the imperfections of youthfulness and inexperience. You think you’ve made it, but in actuality, the world only sees you as a nigger with a suit on.

You see how our young Black boys are treated by others and unfortunately Black boys have been beaten to the point of devaluing themselves. It hurt you to hear about Trayvon Martin. You may have changed your facebook profile to a picture with you in a hoody to show your support but you knew deep within that there was more for you to do. It pains you to hear about the Black-on-Black killings that have been happening in cities all across the Western-hemisphere.

Every time you feel pain within, your soul is speaking to you and telling you to do more. Your soul is telling you to take your rightful position in your community and in this world. You are supposed to be doing more and you know it. Let’s start with mentoring. We will build off of that.

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A Knock at Midnight

Your words may not completely change the minds of those that you mentor but that doesn’t mean that your words won’t influence them. It doesn’t mean that your words won’t challenge his traditional way of thinking. Your presence will positively affect them if you approach them with humility and a willingness to show them that you care.

Many of you say that you haven’t reached the point in life where you feel comfortable with mentoring a child. I respect that concern because that was me. I was a broken male and strongly in need of mentorship myself. Nevertheless, I realized that although I had not reached the level of success I initially deemed necessary for a mentor to have, I did have some knowledge and experience that could be beneficial to someone.

People of other races step up quicker than us to mentor our children. Some of them have been monumental in helping get children to college and I commend them for that. Unfortunately, many of them do it as a means to puff their resume.

No man of another race can ever show a Black boy how to deal within this society as a Black man. You know the very makeup of this society. Its economic, educational, and political systems are adverse to the rise of these Black boys. That in itself should light a spark within you to do more because you know what it feels like to grow up in this world.

I know most of you are hurting internally. You may not want to admit it and you may be afraid to be vulnerable. You’re in pain because many of you never had the opportunity to address some of the issues that have been eating at you for years.

Many of you have never talked about the issues you grew up with as a Black male in this society. You never had a chance to be open and talk about some of the issues that have bothered you for so long. You’re expected to walk around like Supermen on the outside but you are weak and beaten down within. Many of these kids out here today are going through the same issues you were going through 10, 20, or even 30 years ago. Unfortunately, many of our youth don’t have the luxury of support that some of you had when you were growing up.

It is time for you to step up and provide the needed light to a generation that is surrounded by darkness. You are like a candle. The combination of your wisdom, knowledge, and experience is similar to the flame that burns when a candle is lit. The flame can work towards eliminating darkness and it can also light other candles all while remaining lit itself. Your mind, like a burning candle, is light.  Use it to enlighten and illuminate the minds of the youth and just watch how your own light will brighten.

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Call to action, and mentoring resources:

Imentor – is a school-based mentoring program matching public high school students in New York City in one-to-one relationships with college-educated mentors. iMentor partners with public schools to ensure every student at these schools receives a mentor and to augment existing guidance and college counseling programs. Mentor-mentee pairs are matched for three to four years and exchange weekly emails and meet monthly in person.

Big Brothers Big Sisters – What is every child fulfilled his or her potential? Think how amazing that would be. Now, you can start more LIttles on the path to big things.

100 Ideas to Use when Mentoring Youth (1) – Courtesy of the CCC/THE MENTORING GROUP

25 ways you can give back to your community – If mentoring with an actual individual isn’t your thing you can still give back to your community by trying some of these techniques out.

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Quinton M Is a graduate of Purdue University currently working for Lukoil Pan Americas. He has served on the Board of Brooklyn CARES Mentoring Movement, and also contributes to the Mentor Advisory Council for iMentor and on the Junior Board of Directors for Urban Pathways.

Capstone: Knowledge and the Opportunity Paradox

Knowledge and the Opportunity Paradox

I’ve been an observer since before I could remember. Academically, this skill has helped me take quality notes that pushed me through many a test. Being observant has helped me shield my way through life to get to where I am today. Now, and embattled with my former self, I am far more assured in my knowledge. To be particular, I have better control over my ability to use my knowledge to lean in most instances toward the side of action.

Many times I find myself having to be the first to make the movement amongst my peers. I prefer to think of this movement through a leadership tinted frame. I haven’t had to kick any doors in just yet. But, I am normally the first to grease myself up to meet a problem head on, and have found a cosily anxious place for myself in doing so. Earlier this year, I watched a panel discussion hosted by the New School titled “Are You Still a Slave?” featuring activists and authors Janet Mock and bell hooks. In it Ms. Mock powerfully states, “this little space that I have in this world, is mine.” (Mock, “Are You Still A Slave @ 27:00 mins”, 2014). Janet lets us know that she has control of the space she inhabits, and whether or not we accept it is an issue she’s not concerned with.

Feeling empowered, and in control of my own space and trajectory in life is an extremely fortifying feeling. Janet shows us that it’s ok to take ownership of the space we individually control in this world. As a minority, taking ownership of that space professionally and academically constantly puts me in situations where I’m left feeling exposed and erosive. The unwanted texture is also apparent in many of my long running personal relationships as well. Its something I’ve battled with as I’ve come to understand and play with knowledge, thankfully at this more receptive stage in my life. I’ve tried to make it clear to everyone that my aim is to engage in this fellowship and get every last drop of worth out of this personal investment that I’m embarking through.

What else but a controlling emotional “devil” so blinded American white intelligence that it couldn’t foresee that millions of black slaves, “freed,” then permitted even limited education, would one day rise up as a terrifying monster within white America’s midst? The white man’s brains that today explore space should have told the slavemaster that any slave, if he is educated, will no longer fear his master. History shows that an educated slave always begins to ask, and next demand, equality with his master. (X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, 1992)

The battle between dynamic confidence and neutral observance is perhaps the current zone of proximal development for me. This space is ideal for my role as an educator, academic, and burgeoning activist. What space does one who appreciates education occupy, when they have tried so earnestly to use the tool of education to enlighten and empower himself? The pull, for now, has eroded my surface, exposing pores filled to the bristle with newly molten passion seeping out and messing everywhere I move. I’m at a state where I feel I’m constantly exposing my knowledge and leaving its unwanted residue behind in my daily interactions. Nonetheless, these interactions serve as evidence of my growth as a man over these past few years.  Even now, my observing eye, casts a frictious gaze upon my words – calling me back to the rubric tasked to assess the credentialed value of my scholarship. Yet with every word typed I feel lured further away, allowing for a freedom of space to let my piecemeal stories tell their tale as personally and satisfactorily as possible.

At this point in my life, passion is the pheromone that greets my peers before I even step around the door’s edge. I feel, on right now. My navigation and GPS are perfectly targeted at the moment. I don’t exactly know what that means, but I have progressed, I can feel it, and that’s a powerful bath that I want to bask in for the moment. It’s difficult to craft words clear enough to explain my concepts of teaching and learning. For me, it’s far easier to find words for these situations once I’ve removed myself from the context for a while. Only then, am I fully able to benefit from the experiences, activities, cognition, metacognition, emotions, interactions, etc… that contributed to my growth in that moment.

Knowledge, as a concept, is boundless. It’s almost crippling to be tasked to boil down what I’ve learned into words for this analysis. To be concise, knowledge can be represented through infinite numbers of schema that we lay on top of each day, like maps. These schemata allow us citizens to interact with, and maneuver through, the institutional landscapes of our societies to meet our daily needs and wants as we please. There are probably more schema than there are grains of sand on the globe, but some examples may include: privilege, high fashion, urban education, gender, gender-bias, poverty, opportunity, etc…

I wouldn’t define knowledge via claims, see common core standards, explainable through definition, always accessible through current assessment, or self-stimulating. The closest I will come to defining knowledge is the process in which an individual lives an experience where skills are gained, understanding of something is accomplished, and/or curiosity for more interaction with said experience is demonstrated in any combination of social phenomena. I also want to make the declaration that knowledge is contextual in that societies deem certain knowledge as meaningful and others as less so.

Asking one’s student to frame his own knowledge while still inside of that context is a bit oxymoronic to me. To contextualize in Big Bang fashion – I will provide a starting point to frame my knowledge development:

In February 2012, approximately 2.5 years ago, I officially received word that I had been accepted into the New York City Teaching Fellows program. I used the remaining four months to pack up my Boston life. It wasn’t long before I was stuffing my two large suitcases underneath the Bolt Bus and heading full steam ahead to New York City for the beginning of the Cohort 23 Fellows orientation. It was at that point that I decided that this would be my very own modern day hero’s journey. I’ve never made a clear version of this lens, and to do so now seems inauthentic. How would I handle this situation if I were an ancient African Prince charged with empowering and protecting my citizens? Through this lens, I’ve worked to soak up everything from my surroundings. Using words to describe the knowledge I’ve gained feels limiting and abrasive compared to how I’ve worked to view this process. However, in service to the program, I would say that the LIU coursework has taught me to consciously engage with my environment in the following ways:

Cultural/New York City – being purposeful and optimally navigating transactions with systems and institutions, proactively aligning energy to support my workloads, exposing myself to globally and geographically diverse cultures, flowing with the developmental power of competition.

Academic/Professional – Theory: African American education theory, Popular/Mainstream American education theory, academic-social-emotional disabilities, prejudice, privilege, various cultural institution(s) of American society. Skills: thinking of and creating thoughtful/scaffolded lessons, units, and individual education plans. Defining a research focus, scavenging for and analyzing resources, implementing changes to my practice through these resources, and analyzing the effectiveness of these changes through my target’s measured performance. Differentiation of materials, Professional and Academic self-reflection, productivity and time management.

Personal – Resilience, Confidence, Empathy, Love, Passion, Strength, Self-value, Self and Cultural Exploration, Personhood, Belonging, Leadership. Networking, Mentoring, and various other social and emotional development skills.

Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot during my two years of treacherous teaching, gregarious graduate school, and nouveau New York City. It’s scary to admit, but I’m not the same Paladin I was two years ago. I mean… I loved who I was, a beaming 26 year-old coming into the fellowship, freshly clipped wings flapping freely and growing strong in my protected Boston shell. Finding comfort in being a different version of myself is probably the force that has been making my personal relationships so texturally different as of late.

I’m a confident person now, and I say this from a humble place, but also having recognized the need to congratulate myself for the growth I have lived through and witnessed. Let me say now, my mission in life is to always be true to that humble, grateful, altruistic boy nurtured in the Chicago suburbs. But, I am not him anymore, and that’s ok. Not long ago my friend from undergrad received her Master’s in School Counseling. One of the first things she said when I called to congratulate her was, “Homie you can’t tell me nothin, cuz Bitch I got a Master’s!” I died laughing… and hopefully you will too.

However, it wasn’t until recently that I’ve realized I can laugh with the phrase as opposed to at it. To be clear, it’s not that having a graduate degree is a status symbol proving to the world that I’m good enough, though for many it can be, as it’s definitely already on my resume. It’s that through this rigorous process I’ve experienced and learned more than I could imagine about this world, this country, its people, their customs, and the ways I can measurably think and produce around through and to these entities. This schema, fortunately brings immeasurable value to the ways in which I can continue to add on to the positive and productive canon that supports our development here on on Earth.

I’ve learned so much through this program. With LIU’s support I’ve gained an understanding of, and first hand practice with, structure, bureaucracy, education, work ethic, creativity, historical pedagogy, Paladin, and of course my own teaching practice. One of the crucial pieces of knowledge I’ve gained, and have tried to infuse into all of my interactions since, has been that opportunity is ever present! I don’t know how I came to this revelation, as we’re not taught not to see opportunity. We’re taught to go against opportunity. We’re taught to be afraid of it and to wait for someone else to give it to us. Those that take opportunities are seen as maniacal and cunning individuals. This understanding of the Opportunity Paradox has helped me push myself to accept all incarnations of opportunity into my life, and to create it where at first there is none. To me, that is the truest realization of knowledge that I’ve come to hold in respects to this graduate program.

Recently one largest insurance companies selected for special training in this line fifteen college graduates of our accredited institutions and financed their special training in insurance. Only one of the number, however, rendered efficient service in this field. They all abandoned the effort after a few days’ trial and accepted work in hotels and with the Pullman Company, or they went into teaching or something else with a fixed stipend until they could enter upon the practice of professions. They thought of the immediate reward, shortsightedness, and the lack of vision and courage to struggle and win the fight made them failures to begin with. They are unwilling to throw aside their coats and collars and do the groundwork of Negro business and thus make opportunities for themselves instead of begging others for a chance. The educated Negro from the point of view of commerce and industry, then, shows no mental power to understand the situation which he finds. He has apparently read his race out of that sphere, and with the exception of what the illiterate Negroes can do blindly the field is left wide open for foreign exhibition. (Woodson, 2012, pp. 47 – 48)

I appreciate that I’ve gotten to a place where I can freely posture, virility exposed and all, thanks to my ability to view all situations through this opportunity context. Being able to create this confident and asset-based frame at-will feels almost dangerous to yield. I wish we all could imagine what this world would be like if more of us were able to view the world from this constructive frame. The more tactile strands of my knowledge have shown me that I can maneuver myself in and out of situations, and when we show up… it pays to be engaged. With this powerful weapon at my side, I am confident in my ability to use my values, skills, and gifts to make something happen for me in this field, and to bear the positive change I so desperately sought during my ignorant beginnings of this journey as an urban educator.

Sources – 

bell hooks – Are You Still a Slave? – http://youtu.be/rJk0hNROvzs

Autobiography of Malcolm X 

MisEducation of the Negro – Carter G Woodson

Call to Successful Black Man – 1

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Call to Successful Black Man – 1

By: Quinton Mudd

What if someone told you to build a house in which you would live for the rest of your life? You have no experience in home building and you have absolutely no clue where to begin. However, you are given two options. The first option is to essentially build the house from scratch with little to no help. The only examples you have to use as a guide to building your house are the other surrounding houses that are in whatever particular environment you are in.  You are not provided with the tools needed to build the house nor are you provided with the directions needed to construct such a large structure.

The second option is to build the house with as much help as you can possibly have. You’ll have help from people who will bring a vast amount of knowledge of house building to the table. Not one of these experienced builders have houses that are identical to another because each construction project experience was a unique experience.

I assume most sane people would select the 2nd option. I assume most people would want as much help as they can get as they undertake such a challenging task.

Let’s look at it in a different light. Let’s replace the house you’re supposed to build with manhood. As a boy, would one prefer to develop his manhood with help from successful men or would he prefer to do it on his own? Personally, I would prefer assistance.

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The Dilemma and the Challenge

As I examine our society (United States of America), I see too many boys having this “every boy for himself” option thrust upon them. Manhood is not given to us by age and seniority but rather it is gained by us with knowledge and work.  This concept is evidenced by the plethora of adult males walking around this society with absolutely no idea of how to be a man. Either these men have no knowledge of what manhood truly is or they lack the determination and will to put in the work needed to build their manhood.

These males look great on the outside. They wear the costume of a man flawlessly. A house built by a novice whose only guidance were the surrounding houses in the neighborhood may look great on the exterior; however, the interior and foundation may be weak due to being built incorrectly.

A person may look, dress, and speak like one would assume most men look, dress, and speak. However, you’ll notice that these males are weak internally and that weakness is manifested in their childish and amateur behavior.

Nevertheless, too many boys, especially Black boys, are not being equipped with the proper tools and knowledge needed as they embark on their personal journeys toward becoming the greatest men they can become. This is where I become a huge advocate of mentoring and its power to change the world. Many men want to help and many boys want help. Mentoring allows for a structured environment that lessens the cultural barriers to entry that may exist in the streets and communities.

Susan Taylor, founder of the National CARES Mentoring Movement, said that the most revolutionary thing we can do is love one another. We express our love through our actions and each action should always be inspired by care and concern. To love is to put the well-being of those you care for on the same level as your own well-being. This society has trained us to put our individualistic desires before the needs of the common folk and that is detrimental to any society. An expression of love is an attempt towards unity. Division is crippling and nothing divided in many parts can ever become one. A divided family, community, corporation, team cannot reach its fullest potential.

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House vs. Field

Much of society vehemently critiques our boys for not behaving in a manner that they believe men are supposed to behave in. Some of the most burning critiques come from Black men that are deemed successful by society’s standards of success. The doctors, lawyers, business owners, executives, consultants, teachers, or any other persons that believes they’ve “made it” are filled with condemnations against our youth. I understand their recognition of and frustration with the many problems that exist but I also suggest they look in the mirror if they’re truly interested in solving the problems.

I must say that I do not think that a man with copious professional credentials and achievements is more qualified than his less educated peers to work towards uplifting our youth. Some of those men are so psychologically damaged that I’d prefer that they stay as far away from our children as possible. However, I do believe the professional Black man has the power within him to change the minds of those young Black boys he encounters.

His profession isn’t as important as is the opportunity to offer a presence that may be foreign to the mind, eyes, and ears of the young Black youth. This new presence is sure to challenge many of the homogeneous thoughts, norms, and axioms that have been beaten into our kids’ minds.

Professional Black man, you provide the opportunity for many of our underserved youth to be exposed to ways of living that they may not otherwise have access to. Don’t act as if you don’t know how Black men have always been portrayed in ‘Murica’s media.

You know that society is either covertly or overtly telling our youth that their place in society is either on the mic, field, in the bed, or in jail. Many of you Black men were told and sold the same garbage that these kids are exposed to today. Think about the light that was illuminated within when you discovered that there was more out in this world to capture.

Whenever you start a new job, you expect to be trained on the responsibilities of your position and you also expect to be assimilated into the culture of the organization. Well, who is training these Black boys on the many responsibilities of manhood? Who is assimilating them into America’s culture? If there aren’t many real men to guide them then they have no choice but to learn on the job. Yet you blame them for the mistakes they make.

Quinton M – Is a graduate of Purdue University currently working for Lukoil Pan Americas. He currently serves on the Board of Brooklyn CARES Mentoring Movement. He also serves on the Mentor Advisory Council for iMentor and on the Junior Board of Directors for Urban Pathways.

Part 2 coming soon…