Mental Slaves: A Social Commentary Poem

by Mr. Westbrooks

After completing quarter three of English 2, I started teaching the same course again to a different set of students. Unfortunately, three weeks of PARCC testing threw my plans off schedule, so the students weren’t able to learn as much content/skills as the previous group of students. In lieu of the social commentary research paper, I assigned the students a project in which they would create their own social commentary literature. Being intrigued by the project-based learning opportunity I created, I decided I would do the project with them, at least partly.

Our administration’s vision was to have the students craft interdisciplinary projects that would be rich in content and aesthetically appealing to the eye. I thought U.S. History would go well with my social commentary unit. During the previous quarter, the history teacher had the kids create a PowerPoint presentation detailing a historical turning point. For my project, I had the students consider their historical turning point, and write a social commentary literary text about a current event, issue, or topic that relates to the historical turning point.

Through poems, short stories, essays, and a song students drew connections and expressed their points of view between the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Islamic State’s attack on Paris, racism during the 19th century and racism now, the Boston Tea party and the Verizon strike, the Bill of Rights and the gun control debate, and a few others. Many students struggled to find present-day connections to their historical topics and how to articulate the connections, but in the end, I received some insightful and creative texts. Below is the text that I drafted in between class periods. Look out for my students’ products in the near future.

Abstract

American chattel slavery lasted between 4-5 centuries in the United States. Thousands of people were stolen and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean in what’s known as the Middle Passage, and these Africans were used to fuel the American economy by essentially building America into what it is today. During that time of forced enslavement, African/African-Americans not only endured physical suffering, but they also underwent much psychological trauma. Since 1865, physical slavery was abolished by the federal government; however, remnants of mental slavery still exist in 2016. The following poem provides social commentary on the psychological slavery that continues to plague the descendants of enslaved Africans.

Note: The poem follows no specified rhyme scheme. It rhymes, but it’s not quite free verse. It’s…I don’t know. It’s something.

 

Mental Slaves

Courtesy of YouTube: No Joke Howard

Courtesy of YouTube: No Joke Howard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s misogyny and violence, but never doubt what rap do

That’s what I learned from Killa Cam on verse two

On the second installment of “The Professional” by DJ Clue

This is what Cam said on Fantastic Four Part two:

 

Back in the day, we was slaves

Whips and chains

It’s tradition

All I got…whips and chains

All I did…flip some caine

Now [Cam]* is sick of the range

Only a new six could fix the pain

 

Now, does his pain stem from his boredom with the range?

Or is he suffering from PTSD, no longer sane?

From a time of living righteous from which he could’ve been estranged

Yet strangely, he still saw himself as a new slave 13 years before Ye (Kanye)

 

What’s more, on the album SDE he made it plain

To paraphrase Biggie, you play ball, sell drugs, or entertain

 

Entertainer and athlete – Yeah, sure he’s gettin’ paid,

But William Rhoden showed and proved there’s a limit to his wage

Platitudes emanate from the so-called awake,

The type that convey clichés about ancestors rollin’ over in graves

 

But allow me to get to the theme of the prose,

About how our people think they’ve elevated, but haven’t yet arose

 

We’re mistaken if we believe bondage is only physical

That’s ended, but in 2016 we see the chains can be invisible

 

We’ve been fooled by the 13th amendment of 1865.

Mass incarceration and psychological chains prove slavery’s still alive

 

You got mis-education and religion mis-overstood,

Trap houses, liquor stores juxtaposed with churches in the hood

 

Across social classes, media conditions our minds.

Destructive music and reality shows keep the 3rd eyes blind

 

And when you’re blind you can’t see

Too much time in front of screens,

Which means you devote less time to read

Vocabulary devolved, less knowledge is gleaned

M.K. titled a chapter “The Most Beautiful Country”

He said with a limited word choice, you can’t be free

See, the peculiar institution was so mean,

That in 2016 they claim slave trauma is encoded in our genes

 

Solutions from the Oppressor, on which many of us are banking

Do we need psychological help to get our heads shrinking?

Our captive minds are ships with holes that keep sinking

Word to Carter G [Woodson], there’s no concern for your actions when they control your thinking

 

And to the choir members, this preaching isn’t new

You’ve got Kwabena Ashanti, Tom Burrell, Na’im Akbar, Alvin Morrow, Joy Degruy

But this verse isn’t for The Academy or debates on YouTube

I do it for the metaphorical unsaved; I do it for the youth

In particular, this was written by Mr. Westbrooks for his students in English 2

But even with knowledge and info, we become mental slaves to the truth

When we discourse about the source of the problem all day, we still lose

Because the time for us to MOVE is long overdue

Yet, we’re stuck in limbo about what we need to DO

So are the conscious folk any better than Killa Cam on verse 2?

 

~ Mental Slaves ~

 

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Nick Westbrooks: Why Black Athletes Should be Educated

By Nick Westbrooks

Detroit Lions linebacker Justin Durant

In the midst of the controversy over Chick-Fil-A’s opposition to gay marriage, Detroit Lions linebacker Justin Durant decided to chime in on the debate. On Twitter he first talked about the company’s position on gay marriage and asked how “people not gon get the best chicken sammich and lemonade on the planet because of a personal belief…” Durant was then asked if he would continue to buy Chick-Fil-A if the company supported slavery. He said he would because the “chicken too tasty.”

Whether Durant was joking or not, it’s needless to say that his comment was ignorant and only reinforces the stereotype that Black athletes and entertainers are unenlightened. There is truth to the claim that historically slaves were trained to be physically strong and mentally weak. I won’t debate on whether the Willie Lynch letter is real or fake, but it’s undeniable that Blacks were bred and trained to be strong workers in the field, and the present-day manifestation is the superb athletic ability of slave descendants as Michael Johnson said.

We inherited the physical strength gene, but unfortunately, many of us inherited the mental weakness gene as well. Slaves were bred to be mentally weak as a method to dissuade them from resisting the oppressive force of the slaveholders. In 2012, White supremacists want Black athletes as well as the entire Black race to remain in a state of psychological slavery, and this is a reminder that our athletes should be educated even if they earn millions of dollars yearly to play sports.

We often make the mistake of stressing the importance of education to our elementary, middle and high school student-athletes merely for the purposes of meeting the minimal GPA and standardized test score requirements for the NCAA Clearinghouse, and we stress education as a “back-up plan” just in case they don’t make it to the NFL or NBA. Sadly, too many parents and coaches don’t even consider these reasons.

It’s true that student-athletes have to perform academically to play sports in college, and it’s true that the odds of going pro after college are slim. According to Beyond Sports U, 1.7% of college players go to the NFL and 1.2% of college players get drafted to the NBA.

But for those aspiring professional athletes and those who’ve already made it and are multi-millionaires now, they should realize that being educated is much more than earning a living. Education is a key that opens doors of opportunities and options, but it’s much deeper than employment and dollars and cents. It’s important that our Black athletes, both aspiring and professional, be educated in order to change their consciousness and not to make themselves and the rest of the race look like buffoons.

Furthermore, Black athletes should be financially literate. They hire agents and lawyers to ensure they receive the correct amount of millions, but with so many sports stars going broke, one has to wonder who’s managing the Black athletes’ finances and if they’re operating in the best interests of their clients. I also wonder about the conspicuous consumption and materialism that’s all too common with our Black professional competitors.

If Black athletes aren’t educated for themselves, they should at least be educated for the young Black boys that look up to them and aspire to the dream of becoming professional sports stars.

I’m not suggesting that every athlete needs to enroll in a university and get a degree. There are many professional athletes, who finished college or spent some time in college (Durant attended Hampton University), but a degree doesn’t make one educated, and a person can become educated without attending college. Additionally, we all know people — either personally or in the public scene — that graduated from Ivy League schools but make some mainstream rap artists look like scholars.

Black athletes should be able to read and think at a college level and most importantly, have adequate knowledge of themselves and their history, so they won’t make comments similar to Durant’s. With this, we can take steps to combat racism and stereotypes by proving to the world that we can be both athletic on the field and court and mentally competent as well.

Watch the Throne: Closing the Black Male Generational Gaps

At a time when Black boys suffer from the conspiracy of their destruction, the guidance from the older generations of strong Black men is much needed. The disconnect between our young brothers (myself included) and the older brothers is most prevalent among African American males.

The generational disunion between Blacks was engrained in our psyches about 300 years ago by an ingenious slave trainer named Willie Lynch. Na’im Akbar writes about the systematical strategy to divide the slave community as a form of control in his highly important book Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery, and he mentions age as a primary detachment.

This isn’t the time to go in detail about our mental enslavement, but I do urge you to read Dr. Akbar’s book. Instead, this is a space to remind my brothers that we must challenge the “divide–and-conquer” strategy by closing the generational gaps. Accordingly, I commend the Rev. Tyrone P. Jones, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Guilford in Columbia, MD.

He attempted to bring this goal into fruition by organizing and uniting the male members and visitors of the church. The “100 Men in Black” Sunday brought Black men together in solidarity, and it was a call for the older brothers to close the generational gaps by teaching the younger brothers and preparing them for the future.

In his sermon Jones said, “Every man has the responsibility to pass on something worthwhile to that of a younger generation.” As men, we should heed this message to prepare the throne for our counterparts coming after us and to fulfill our purpose.

Every man has the responsibility to pass on something worthwhile to that of a younger generation.

No matter how effectively a man leads or performs his duties, he can’t and shouldn’t hold on to power forever. Eventually, he will have to give up the crown and the throne to someone else. In order for the next “king” to lead effectively, the incumbent man in power must prepare him effectively.

Additionally, knowledge and wisdom should be passed on to younger generations, because God commands it. As Jones proclaimed, “God is looking for your willingness to give to others.”

God is looking for your willingness to give to others.

With negative images in entertainment and news, Black boys need positive Black men doing positive things to be their role models and to be the images to emulate.  Although the younger generations should be watching the throne, these exemplar men have to reach out to boys and young men and show their genuine compassion and care. All young Black males, whether privileged or underserved, need positive, strong Black men to express their love and concern for their futures and wellbeing.

Just as men should reach out to the younger generations, boys should “watch the throne” by being willing to learn and to grow from the older men’s lessons. One day, they will be the men in charge. Without Black men at the heads of their communities with strong Black women beside them, (I didn’t forget about the sisters) we can’t advance, break the chains of psychological slavery deeply imbedded in our minds and fulfill the Creator’s will.

We have our age differences, but we can’t forget about the divisions among our peers. We must put aside our differences in how much money we make, where we live and what organizations we are members of. United, we make each other better men. I think of that classic collaboration of Ginuwine, R.L., Tyrese and Case where they sing: “What can a brother do for me? He can help me be the best man I can be.”