The inspired dimensions of black males’ lives are largely ignored, so a corporation did this to get the world to see it.
My work with Techbook Online doesn’t follow a job description as much as it does a mantra: solve the world’s toughest problems.
Among the critical challenges that the five year-old Philadelphia-based publishing company is trying to solve, is changing the way the world views black men and boys.
According to The Opportunity Agenda’s Black Male Messaging Memo, which Techbook Online studied in order to develop its campaigns and programming, the negative stereotypes and distorted media depictions of black males contribute to unfair treatment, and unequal opportunity in areas ranging from employment to education to the criminal justice system.
It’s not breaking news that black men aren’t treated with compassion and understanding by the majority of the population. But the problem of alienating and dehumanizing black men in society is bigger than just discriminatory hiring practices and being called a ni**ger.
According to Matthew Jackson, Ph.D, who co-authored a 2014 study with Phillip Atiba Goff, Ph.D, “black men as young as 10 may not be viewed in the same light of childhood innocence as their white peers, but are instead more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime.”
The world’s perception of black men is largely based on media coverage. And since the media over-represents black males in depictions of violence, crime and poverty, society’s rule is that black men are brutes and thugs who spout slang, with the exception being the well-educated Negro who “talks white.”
With the goal to tell the truth freely about black men, Techbook Online, which everyday publishes original stories of impact, issue, inspiration and innovation, in January of 2014 launched a worldwide campaign to improve media coverage and public perception of African-American men and boys.
The first step, coinciding with National Mentoring Month, was to collect social impact stories from black male mentors and publish them on www.GoodMenProject.com, one of the world’s largest male-centric websites for men, averaging 1.5 million weekly users.
Throughout the month, the company interacted with black men in Chicago, California, Philadelphia, New York and Canada. During this time, a young black man in Philadelphia named Darrin Manning, then 16 year-olds, was allegedly stopped-and-frisked by a white female officer who caused severe damage to his testicle, to the point where he required emergency surgery the next day.
The company immediately split its time between managing the campaign and covering the viral story (which ended with Mr. Manning being cleared of the ridiculous charges against him if he stays out of trouble for several months; the officer, of course, was cleared by a grand jury and put back on the streets).
Additionally, when that story broke, Techbook Online organized a town hall meeting where Mr. Manning – who aspires to be a lawyer – and his family attended, along with more than 100 Philadelphians.
During the “open mic” portion of the program, a handful of black men stood before the audience – some talking directly to Mr. Manning – and relived their humiliating and terrifying encounters with the police.
As I listened to each brother speak his truth at the town hall meeting, I thought to myself: “a month-long campaign to improve media coverage and public perception of black men and boys won’t be enough; it has to become part of the company’s daily work.”
When February began, Techbook Online published “The Black His-Story Book: A Collection of Narratives from Black Male Mentors,” which featured not only the social impact stories we collected in January, but interviews conducted by Canada’s Dr. Vibe, host of the award-winning, globally syndicated Dr. Vibe Show, and video footage shot during an all-black male assembly at a Philadelphia high school, where several of the authors in the book spoke.
In the spring of 2014, Techbook Online published several titles on the subject of climate change and environmental advancement, which featured black youth, young black men in particular, pontificating on how to build communities and economies that are socially and ecologically sustainable.
The climate action movement is traditionally viewed as something only middle-class white people engaged in, because that’s the way media portrays it. But in reality, climate change impacts poor people and people of color in much greater ways, so that population, if for no other reason than the law of self-preservation, is greatly involved in pushing for policies that mitigate climate change, while making it easier for vulnerable communities to adapt to the warming world.
Moving into the summer months, I made the conscious editorial decision to look deeper into the lives of black men and tell their untold stories.
When presented with the opportunity to interview A-list black male celebrities like Mr. Marlon Wayans, Mr. Bernard Hopkins and Mr. Brian “Astro” Bradley, Jr., I asked questions about their families, their dreams, their work ethics, and more importantly, their perception of themselves.
By highlighting their humanity, instead of their celebrity, the narratives changed the way these iconic figures were viewed by the world, enabling their fans to see themselves in their work and then push harder to become their version of successful.
The summer of 2014 is when I became my version of successful, or at least that’s when I acknowledged it. I was honored at City Hall with the Lucien E. Blackwell Guiding Light in the Community Award; I spoke at the first Microsoft YouthSpark event in the U.S and I was organizing Drum Duel, a drum competition where the winner was decided by the ballot.
It wasn’t the awards or attention that made me feel successful, it was the fact that I exceeded my own expectation through my own ideas; it was the fact that my story represented triumph, determination and would one day inspire a black male – or a generation of black men.
Acknowledging and promoting my accomplishments in the world of journalism, as a professional drummer, isn’t met to self-aggrandize, instead, I hope it will change the way the world expects black men to engage with their talents. Black men are boundless and are capable of accomplishing more than one thing at a time.
For example, in the fall of 2014, as I led Techbook Online’s expansion into Houston, Texas – by acquiring publisher’s rights on www.HoustonsVoice.com – I, in partnership with the Dr. Vibe Show, launched Black and Bold Voices, a quarterly online town hall discussion featuring black men around the world and the issues that unite them.
I’ve always wanted to do radio/podcasting, so this was the perfect project to invest in. Moreover, it provided an additional platform to highlight the important dimensions of black males’ lives, such as activism, business, non-profit leadership, politics and community service.
The first episode, appropriately titled “The Power of Perception: Black Men and the Media,” featured global thought-leader Mr. Gregory Walker and award-winning authors Mr. Richard Taylor and Mr. Joshua Rivers, who in addition to his work as a writer, has embarked upon a musical career.
The second episode, “Black Men, Police Officers and a Post Ferguson America,” featured individuals – like Mr. Kelvyn Anderson, Executive Director, Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission and Isaiah Thomas, a 2015 Philadelphia City Council at-large candidate – who are leading in the anti-police violence movement.
These productions allow for the world to view black men as thinkers and meaningful contributors to societies, not as threats or suspicious persons who deserve to be stopped-and-frisked for simply walking down the street with their hands in their pockets.
In closing, Techbook Online’s year ended the way it began: following a big Philadelphia story involving a young black man and the police.
Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown was 26 years-old when he was shot in the back of the head by a Philadelphia police officer on December 15th. As a fellow writer noted on Twitter, all the media outlets have covered the story and implied that Brandon was a criminal who had intentions of shooting the police.
When Techbook Online began covering the story, we humanized the eldest son of Ms. Tanya Goodwin (formerly Brown-Dickerson). Techbook Online highlighted what Mr. Tate-Brown was like at the holidays. I personally probed the family to tell me the good memories of the slain poet.
The reason for so many deaths of unarmed black men… the reason why black men are killed by police violence, while their white counterparts are apprehended peacefully, is because black men are still not viewed as full human beings, thus deserving of the punitive approaches by law enforcement.
Do you want to see a world where our justice system depends on equal treatment and investigations based on evidence, not stereotypes or bias? We have it within our power to topple barriers to equal opportunity for everyone, particularly black men and boys.
You don’t have to be an employee of Techbook Online to help change the way the world views black men. You can highlight exemplary coverage – like this article or anything found in TABS!™ 6 – while condemning and discrediting distorted and problematic content.
You can call for coverage of systematic causes and solutions to racial bias. You can become a content producer and be one of the bold individuals who tell the truth freely about black men.
Techbook Online spent a year changing the way the world views black men in order to prepare for a lifetime of changing the way the world views itself.
With different hues and cultures, we are one people and we share in responsibility for the common good and the desire for life, safety, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In the New Year, as a society, let’s promise that we’ll convene on the issues that unite us and view each other as humans, first.
Together we can write an end to world’s toughest problems; that’s not just the corporate mantra, that’s my heart-filled belief.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™