Why Can’t Johnny Read?
Teenagers and young boys of any race yearn for the nurture and the approbation of their biological fathers, their grandfathers, their peers, and other respected elders within their communities. Ergo, when our Village Elders passionately celebrate how well a male athlete handles a football or a basketball, at the expense of handling his brains and his books, are we not culpable for Johnny not knowing how to read or otherwise to excel in the classroom? Once upon a time, the Dark Continent’s Library at Alexandria was the world’s preeminent center for research and scholarly learning! Is it not also true that the al-Qarawiyyin Library [in Fez, Morocco] is the oldest library in the world? Antithetically, two centuries ago, it still was against the law in the United States for African slaves to learn how to read or to write. Paradoxically, many African American males today consider such quintessential erudition to be tantamount to “acting white”. Brothers, IF a mind is a terrible thing to waste, then what happened? In India, for example, their “Talented Tenth” uses Yale, Harvard, and MIT, etc., as second tier back up schools IF they fail to gain admission to IIT. I would be remiss were I not to acknowledge that the majority of black males I meet, who are in graduate school, also are from Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Haiti, Nigeria, et al. Ergo, what can African-Americans learn about the value of eloquence and education from our kin who immigrate from throughout the Diaspora? Via a spate of homicides similar to that of Ronald Johnson, the criminal justice system in Chicago [or any major city in the United States] obviates the reality of racism blocking our efforts to draw water from the well of success. Yet, why do we relentlessly respond emotionally rather than intellectually via punching holes in the bottoms of our own buckets? For example, why haven’t Village Elders already replicated Urban Prep Academy’s pedagogy throughout Chicago and the rest of our nation? How would it impact Chicago and the rest of our nation IF Village Elders created book clubs and mandated that black boys master chess, critical thinking, chemistry, computer technology, personal finance, mathematics, a foreign language and obeying the Scriptures by age twelve? Obeying the Bible, Koran, Tripitaka, or Torah must never be supplanted by Satan’s hedonistic vices, i.e., gun violence, drugs, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, and AIDS, etc., which are deleterious to any identity group’s individual and collective success. IF Jews are fastidious about the proper education for their progeny, then what can Gentiles learn from the “Chosen People” regarding what’s important during our formative years?
While driving his family to his son’s graduation from medical school, IF a motorist has a flat tire on I-95, yet, remains in his SUV while listening to his favorite music, then is he serious about continuing his journey? Assuming no AAA membership with a spare in the trunk, is it a nail’s fault or the father’s fault that his son now is livid that his family was not there to share and to celebrate his special day? In this Age of Fatherlessness, IF the African American community fails to replicate Urban Prep Academy’s quintessential pedagogy for boys, then is it the prison industrial complex’s fault or our own Village Elder’s fault that Junior can handle a ball far better than he can handle a textbook? Antithetical to the expectations of black families from Ghana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, et al., why do countless African American fathers embrace the pipe dream of NFL and NBA fortune and fame for their sons during their formative years? Moreover, why haven’t our NBA and NFL stars invested a tenth of their wealth or even a paltry $1,000,000 each to replicate Urban Prep Academy campuses from Connecticut to California? Is it possible, plausible, probable, or preposterous to think that 79% – 97% of black males in US medical schools have close ties to Africa or the Caribbean, while 79% – 97% of the men in many prisons are African American? What’s wrong with this picture of “I’m black and I’m proud,”? What will 295 organizations mentoring at risk youths on Martin Luther King Day do to improve SAT scores? In my father’s words, “Not a cotton picking thing!” Yet, IF Village Elders perpetually mandated that black boys master chess, chemistry, computer technology, a foreign language, the Scriptures, and critical thinking before age twelve, then might the privatized prison industry go out of business or be forced to find a new identity group as its “cash crop”? In the Biblical context of “my brother’s keeper”, to what extent do African American men hold one another accountable for keeping away from Lucifer’s relentless game of “Trick or Treat”, i.e., gun violence, smoking, drinking, gambling, adultery, incest, fornication, HIV, etc.? Currently, more than two million African American men in our communities read at or below tenth grade level, despite many of them being skilled craftsmen or manual laborers. Is there any correlation, brothers, between criminal activity and illiteracy? Is there any correlation between illiteracy and immorality? Explain. Ergo, it is imperative that WE atone for the desuetude of Black Intellectualism via challenging HBCU graduates and Ivy League graduates alike to form nurturing Platonic bonds with “boyz in da hood’ who never completed high school. To be a “real man”, we must seek better ways to connect and to communicate — physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually — with our kindred. WE can’t fix it IF we can’t face it, inconsequential to whatever “it” is!
Virtually everything we do has a spiritual motive, a sexual motive, or both. As spiritual beings, gentlemen, what we pontificate and practice are but reflections of the good or evil spirits dwelling within our hearts. Of course, we can’t teach our progeny to value what we don’t value. Therefore, IF millions of our Village Elders are both functionally illiterate and inept, then are we too insecure and too ineducable to return to the classroom to matriculate in our 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, etc.? Despite an academic scholarship upon graduation from high school, I dropped in and out of college several times prior to finally graduating in my fifties…capish? “So, what is we gonna do?” IF more than two million of us never completed high school, then when will HBCU and Ivy League graduates alike replicate the Each One Teach One mentoring model for uneducated black men? Does your church, lodge, temple, or mosque have a GED Program? If not, why not? Would GOD be well-pleased if every male with a college degree formed a nurturing bond with a brother who never completed high school and tutored him, mano a mano, until he earned a GED and his bachelor’s degree? Am I my brother’s keeper or am I gainfully employed and plugged into the matrix a/k/a the prison industrial complex? Of course, unlike “Finding Forrester”, a self-loathing Negro might curse you and cut you for broaching this subject of literacy! Ergo, cast not thy pearl unto swine. Nevertheless, Victory In Christ Ensemble [VICE] believes there are countless “at risk” grown men who would accept such an offer and LOVE you for the rest of their lives! How can Bible carrying bishops, apostles, preachers, lay-leaders, evangelists, elders, deacons, stewards, trustees, and national overseers, etc., love GOD IF they fail to minister unto the downtrodden? What would Jesus do….I rest my case. By joining VICE, you can learn how to implement such altruism, atonement, and sacrifice for the benefit of the Human Race. IF more than two million of us are convicted felons, then when will our Village Elders replicate Victory In Christ Ensemble’s [VICE] Not Guilty Program or a comparable business model to empower “the least of these”? When the Bible declares, “The people perish for a lack of knowledge,” might it be referring to us? Gentlemen, is it possible, plausible, probable, or preposterous to think that many successful African American women are not even interested in what we bring to the table unless we are physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually on their level? Like it or not, they have raised the bar of expectation regarding what we are packing between our ears rather than between our legs! Gentlemen, spending ten hours together each week in the library studying rather than in the living room watching sports could manumit at least two million of us from illiteracy, thus indirectly ameliorating SAT scores for our progeny. So, principals, professors, college presidents, politicians, police officers, probation officers, and PE coaches, “What is we gonna do?” My beloved brothers, IF such a comportment reminiscent of the Harlem Renaissance is tantamount to “acting white”, then should our Village Elders teach African American boys and girls how to act so white that even myriad White people may become jealous of their “whiteness”? Explain. Lastly, IF life is tantamount to a game of chess, then how can a Black man ever expect to win if he only knows how to play checkers? I rest my case. WE can’t fix it IF we can’t face it…and we are running out of time! Checkmate!