'Beyond the Bricks' (Trailer)


Beyond the Bricks follows African-American students Shaquiel Ingram and Erick Graham as they struggle to stay on track in the Newark, NJ public school system. Weaved into the boys stories is commentary from some of the countries foremost scholars and experts focused on African-American boys and their education including Newark Mayor Cory Booker, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and Schott Foundation President Dr. John Jackson, among others. Through these two students personal stories, the film looks critically at the circumstances that are plaguing African-American communities overall, and offers up examples of people who are successfully combating these challenges.

America's "News" Media War, and how to not be a casualty…

Our country is facing some serious problems. From high unemployment and Wall Street thievery, to divisive squabbles over social issues like gay rights, immigration reform and abortion, it’s easy to see ourselves as a country at war with itself.

But if you ask me, the biggest problem we face as a nation is our downright pitiful dialogue about these very issues, largely a result of the terrible state of news media in this country.

We are not at war; but the media really wants us to be.

16 Bars for Power

Just because you are young and Black it doesn’t mean that the world cannot respect you.  Back in the day Fred Hampton, a black 19 year old at the time, started a Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers; they influenced the nationwide lunch programs in American schools. As youth we are too legit to have the world handed to us only to obey it. “Politics” speaks our language; today it can spit 16 bars on the illest beat and make you dougie if you allow it. Imagine what legal documents we could write to protect ourselves from racial profiling if Lil Wayne rapped about constitutional amendments or what bills lay on the docket.

I Still Don't Know…

I will admit, before the 2008 election, I was intrigued by the idea of having a Black President. There was an electric feeling in the air…that something was going to magically change, like Barack Obama, human that he is, was going to wave his hand and change everything. In the days preceding the election, Duke’s campus was rife with excitement. There were town hall meetings, class discussions, espresso induced discussions and friendly debates over dinner about the implications, political, social and cultural. I could sense it but I felt outside of it. Despite all of my attempts to involve myself, something about it didn’t feel…monumental to me.

Monsters, Black Youth, and the Politics of Disinterest/Misunderstanding

A fellow facebooker wrote,

“How are Youth lacking role models? Our fucking President is black – what youth are lacking is an asswooping. In this country anyone can go to college simply by raising their hands. There is no excuse to be in America and not have a Bachelor…s IF someone wants it. No one gives a fuck if you think your high school sucks ass when you have a D. It’s always the absent minded parents, and kids flunking who complain, never the straight A kid. Urban/black/hispanic youth need to wake their ass up and start blaming themselves for not having a diploma/bachelors. Shit even my dad has a Phd and he grew up poor in mississippi a long fucking time ago…just my opinions”  

When I was younger, I was one of the many children who were afraid of the imaginary “monster” hiding under my bed. Fortunately these monsters always proved to be absent, especially as I got older. The only problem is, the longer I live the more these imaginary monsters are replaced with real ones. The real monsters that unfortunately continue to perpetuate the negativity in the lives of black youth who live on the margins all across the country. These are the monsters who would rather stereotype and judge before they take the time to understand and be interested. This is the same species that would rather tirelessly preach at personal agency of a whole population while simultaneously ignoring or just blatantly not understanding any type of systemic barrier that continues to plague the lives of these black youth and the communities that they live in.

To Represent the Unrepresented, To Account for the Unaccounted For.

Just the other night, my mother and I were walking to our car in a parking lot.  A young, twenty-something, homeless (however, reasonably put together) black man, approached us. He explained to us that he had spent the evening sitting in the police station (why, I don’t know) and was then planning on walking quite a ways to a shelter. The next thing he said really stuck with me. He told us that as he was leaving the station, he asked if someone could get him a sandwich or help him get something to eat. Obviously since we came across him later on in a parking lot asking strangers for food or change, no one had helped him out.

I can’t say I’m surprised at all by any part of this interaction really, but it’s pretty unsettling to me that the Suburban cops where I live (who have very little serious crime to deal with) wouldn’t help someone whose going hungry. This got me thinking. Who is looking out for a guy like him? Definitely not the cops.  But then what about the politicians?  Well probably not them either.  Someone looking for food from strangers is not likely to make it to the polls on election day.  And homeless people have a really hard time even getting registered to vote since they do not have permanent addresses.  Like prisoners and many ex-felons, they are basically left out of the election process.

Bootstraps and Black Youth

Recently when doing some shameless promotion for Dr. Cathy Cohen’s new book Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and American Politics which comes out on September 16th and is a fantastic look into the eyes of Black youth and the way we see politics (shameless promotion), I sparked a war. No, not the illegitimate one based on triumphalism in an unnamed Middle Eastern locale. This was verbal tit for tat that all started when I posted a link to a synopsis and a few reviews of Dr. Cohen’s book on my Facebook page. I was expecting a few likes, maybe even a few questions about the authors intent, what I did not expect was the responses that I received.

September 6, 2010 – September 12, 2010

Greater respect toward others
The Tribune-Democrat, September 12, 2010

New ATF boss feels kinship with troubled youth
O’Ryan Johnson, Boston Herald, September 12, 2010

Student Org. Aids African Orphanage
Cindy Huynh, Cornell Daily Sun, September 12, 2010

With grant, gym turns to full-time youth mentoring
Sean Golden, The Eagle-Gazette, September 12, 2010

Teens work to improve dunes parks’ attractions
Janna Odenthal, Post- Tribune, September 11, 2010

Make deal to boost minority schools
Orlando Sentinel, September 10, 2010

Get serious about ending youth violence
Ed Wells, Rockford Star, September 10, 2010

Rising Violence Puts Oakland Youth In Crosshairs
KTVU News, September 9, 2010

Website ruining lives of youths
Sowetan Live, Corrinne Louw, September 9, 2010

Youth-vote exodus?
Simeon Talley, The Daily Iowan, September 9, 2010

Black Student Orientation helps kick start semester
Caitlin Ryan, Indiana Daily Student, September 9, 2010

When college and culture collide
Gabrielle Royal, The Battalion, September 9, 2010

Manchester student named Britain’s top black graduate
BBC Manchester, Staff Writer, September 8, 2010

Question Time on Charters
Jim Stergios, Boston Globe, September 8, 2010

Teen bullying: What parents need to know
Mayo Clinic, September 8, 2010

Lack of black teachers called challenge for students
Chris Ramirez, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 8, 2010

We must keep the services that girls desperately need
Carlene Firmin, The Guardian, September 7, 2010

Council talks youth violence
Tracy Agnew, Sufflok News- Herald, September 7, 2010

Summit urges youths to head to polls
Zachary K. Johnson, Record Net, September 5, 2010