Educate to Liberate

A Salute To Black Men – Because R. Kelly Is An Exception, Not The Rule

R. Kelly is NOT representative of Black men. He is an anomaly, a sick deviant and criminally negligent, serial rapist-but he is not reflective of the vast majority of our husbands,sons, brothers, uncles, cousins and fathers. I have long ago abandoned Kelly’s music (20+ years) and didn’t need a documentary (though it was a masterful expose from Detroit’s own Dream Hampton), to enthusiastically join my sisters in a collective attempt to #MuteRKelly and raise our voices against the disproportionate impact of sexual violence against Black women.

At the same time I LOVE and will always unapologetically salute the Black men who: raised me, protected me, educated me, corrected me, lived for and loved me throughout my lifetime. Contrary to the dominant messaging, mainstream media manipulated and dangerously powerful imagery Black men are not synonymous w/ pathology. Black men are stellar, melanin rich, living, breathing, walking and talking reflections of God. Royalty and loyalty is inscribed in their very DNA. I could go on, but I also have a personal testimony of salute to drive my point home…

In my family, we NEVER needed to call the police. My uncles delivered a level of street justice (in every nook, cranny and crevice of the Dexter and Linwood neighborhood where we grew up in Detroit) and were/are renowned for their ability to make sure that situations were handled. Once, when my purse was stolen, they got a quick description, found the criminals and beat the brakes off their asses in record time. Not only was the item returned and apologies issued but from that point forward I was never fearful of growing up in the hood. In the 80’s, Black men had other options but fought with their hands, negotiated with their hearts and wrought change with the power of their morality and words. As another case in point, although he probably won’t remember this (because he was only a teenager himself), after a particularly traumatic day growing up, my uncle James noticed my distress and pulled me aside to read Bible scriptures and sang a hymn to me until I could hold my head up high once again.

My elder brother Damon is and was my BFF, confidante and proud protector growing up. He was the brother for whom girls make friends with you, just to get close to him and though he would rarely fight, he literally charmed his way out of nearly all of the tight situations caused by my big mouth. Later on, during 2 of my 4 years of college, my brother (who I followed to school), was an ever-popular presence on our HBCU campus. Needless to say I was always on my best behavior 👀. A few years ago, to my horror and at a moment’s notice my brother intervened and saved my life from a violent madman who was my neighbor in Harlem (over a parking space no less) and I am eternally grateful for his wisdom and spiritual strength!

My brother Stephen is the silent (but deadly) type of younger brother who tormented me @ home but brought the pain on my behalf in public. After moving to NJ midway through high school, I had to quickly shed my Cass Tech preppy persona and learn to remove my earrings, stash razors and Vaseline my face if necessary and in record time, just to walk home from school. In another memorable incident Stephen saved my life (I guess I have used up all 9 lives) one spring afternoon, while defending my younger sister against her childhood bullies. The bullying kids went home to get their mama’s (because the rule is that the WHOLE family fights you – and usually wins – on the East Coast)- as a result, fearless and naive 17-year old me willingly faced off w/ a mob of 12-15 grown women on the block. To my credit, several of my 5 beloved uncles: Jeff, Britt, Tony, Nolan and Nate had taught all the girls in the family how to fight with our fists and never to scratch our way through fights. As a result, when I was jumped, thanks to their instruction, I was holding my own and knocked a couple ppl out (until they fought dirty and pulled out their stash of knives and pipes). Thankfully, 15 minutes into the brawl out of the corner of my eye, I spied Steve’s long legs racing towards the mob and as he weaved through the crowd of wild women, he started throwing armed chicken heads east and west until they all ran off injured and scared, never to return. Also, within minutes, another fearless Black man, my cousin Amos (Darren), the most popular student scholar/athlete and football scholarship decorated phenom in our whole high school drove up (with more than his fists; “Bring em out, bring em out…it’s hard to yell when the barrel’s in ya mouth”), to protect me.

So, long (extremely long), story short… my own colorful life is proof positive that EVERY time the Black woman has been down and out, in distress or in need of loving comfort and/or protection our tormentor was rarely if ever, our own men. And we never need to look any further than our own Black men to have our backs. There was once a time that with our men around, any man dare not: speak out of pocket, put his hands on us or even claim temporary insanity with their behavior lest they incur the wrath of our beloved and powerful Black men! Are there a few slouches/clowns amongst the plenty? No doubt, but we must NEVER paint negative outliers, with a broad brush. Instead, we must always give credit when/where it’s due: Salute to our God-given gifts of Black men. Asé ✊🏿❤️💯

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