The Black Male Handbook is a collection of eight essays that are relatable, factual, and real. In fact, the book is one of the 21 best books for Black men that I have read so far.
When I read each chapter, I feel like I am reading intelligent advice from a big brother that I respect.
Oftentimes we come across books that push facts and figures without giving you the human side of the story, so I appreciate that each chapter starts with personal stories from the men behind the message.
I also appreciate the fact that each essay is written by men who are qualified in the field that they write about in the book, so the advice they give is rooted in experience.
Here are the 8 essays included in the book:
- Creating A Spiritual Foundation
- Developing Political Awareness
- Redefining Black Manhood
- Starting A Plan For Economic Empowerment
- Taking Care Of Your Physical Health
- Moving Towards Mental Wellness
- Ending Violence Against Women and Girls
- I Am A Man
I wont summarize every chapter here because you need to get your own copy of the Black Male Handbook.
But I will share with you some of the passages that all of us can use to become better Black men.
Advice For Black Men On Their Spiritual Journey
More Black men are leaving the church and the mosque today than ever before – especially in the West.
Part of the reason is that Black men recognize the scams that some churches run and refuse to be taken advantage of.
Other reasons may be that some dont see the point in going and dont see a positive change in their real lives. Whatever the reason, all these points are valid.
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In the Black Conscious community, we teach that the soul is at the center of the African self.
And if you define your soul based on western Christianity or Asian Islam, then you start to see yourself as these other groups see you.
That is why we embrace spirituality instead of religion.
The author Lasana Omar Hotep explains that there are three flaws that are found in most religious practices that frustrate Black men on their spiritual journey. These fatal flaws are:
- Our tendency to confine holy acts to our religious centers – This is the hypocrisy that Black men see among the ‘saints in the temple, sinners outside”.
- The politics of fear in religion – In most religions, if you dont fall in line then you will suffer in the afterlife. This is very unhelpful for Black boys and men who are already suffering in this life! If everything you do sends you to hell then the sense of hopelessness will drive you to hedonism, anarchy, or just plain old not giving a f*ck.
- White values of individualism and personal salvation – In other words, your community can go to hell, but as long as you do what you have to do then you will be fine. This creates communities that are barren of any kind of moral leadership. Nobody speaks out against robberies, vandalism, or our young girls being stalked by perverts because everyone is focused on taking care of themselves.
Dont get the impression that the Black Male Handbook is slamming all religion. Its not.
In fact, the author explains that his path through different religions made him more spiritual rather than less.
But we need to understand that religions do not make a good person. Actions and behavior do. Spirituality is based on how one behaves, not on what one professes.
I dont need to call out any examples of Black Pastors and so-called Prophets who have done nasty and hateful things to their congregation because I am sure you can think of many stories.
And that point should tell us all that something is broken in the Black Mosque and Church.
We should get rid of the fear of hell and replace it with a commitment to build heaven right here on Earth.
Whether you believe your power was given to you by a Creator or your power comes from your own strength, recognize that we have the power to make this reality what we want it to be.
The Church has told us that Christians are not of this world (Titus 3:7), so we dont treat the world around us with the same respect that we would if we took ownership and responsibility for it.
So as we become more spiritually mature, we should abandon these outdated ways of thinking. Our commitment to spiritual elevation should expand to include the condition of our collective.
And our commitment must not just be to ourselves, but also to the condition of the communities that we see outside of our windows when we wake up in the morning.
Let service to people be our way of serving God. Put aside the conveniences of the I for the well being of the we.
And if you call yourself a religious or spiritual leader, then be a servant of the people.
“To those who claim to be leaders and practitioners of spiritual systems, let your work be reflected neither in your material possessions nor by the number of individuals who follow your message. Let your success be measured by the character and humanity of your members and followers.”
Like the author, I believe that if we can address the issues above, then we can create better options for the spiritual development of our boys, men, and the entire community.
What Black Men Can Do To Avoid Poverty And Build Wealth
“The next phase of the civil rights movement will be fought on an economic front” pic.twitter.com/yhgSfJoDkj
— The Pan-African Alliance 🌍 (@PanAfricanUnity) April 14, 2021
I consider myself wealthy now, but I was always intimidated by money. I had heard stories about the tricks that white institutions play to con Black men out of our hard earned money.
So instead of dealing with that minefield, I would spend my money in the past on things that made me feel good. Not only did this set me back, it made me more ignorant since I wasn’t taking the time to understand how the game was played.
But when I read this chapter of the book by Dr. Andrae L. Brown, he explained the definition of consumption. Essentially, the word means ‘to use up something that is valuable’. He writes:
“When the Black Man participates in an act of consumption, he is not just spending money, he is using up goods that could have benefited his community, his family, and his own financial future.”
Not only does this chapter expose sneaky ways that businesses con you out of your money, but the author also gives you some basic investment strategies you can try that offer better alternatives for your money.
We all know that owning property is the best way to build wealth. What we overlook is that buying that property will take good credit and some savings.
If you are intimidated by the 20% down payment or making large future mortgage payments, here is a savings plan taken right out of the book. Before you get started, use one of the savings apps that I reviewed here, or open an account with One United Bank online (Black Owned) and set up a savings account.
Here is Ryan Mack’s strategy for saving a down payment on a home and easily making your mortgage payments:
“Purchase an imaginary house. Calculate the amount of money you think you will be able to afford and then open a savings account. Without fail, make mortgage payments into your savings account every month until you have the 20% down payment that you will need for your imaginary home. If you find that you are able to make these payments while living comfortably, then you are on your way to having that new house.”
Most importantly take action. The longer your ignore your finances, the more complicated they will get. Reading and studying investments while you ignore your finances will not cut it.
That’s why the author finishes the chapter with this call to action:
“I know many people who have read books about financial literacy but have yet to progress because they are stuck in the information-gathering stage. How many plans in the Black community are going to live and die on the drawing board because we lack the faith and fortitude to take action and implement them?”
Healing Trauma In Black Boys and Men
“Commit yourself to yourself”
Mental Health is defined in the book as the successful performance of mental functions resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships, the ability to adapt to change, and successfully coping with adversity.
So the author of this section points out that “when an individual is unable to function effectively we need a better understanding of their mental health.”
Its easy to see signs of mental illness when we look at the behaviors that our boys and men use to cover up their pain. Raw and promiscuous sex, marijuana, violence, wild behavior in the classroom, getting angry when you bring up sensitive subjects. All of these could be warning signs that a person could be suffering.
Unfortunately, when we try to solve the behavior with anger management or drug programs, we only address the fruit (behavior) and not the root (trauma).
Being a Black man can be traumatic. Every day we witness a Black man being lynched on live television, or we hear statistics about how poorly we are doing. And sometimes we are attacked by people who look just like us, exposing us to even more trauma.
In the chapter titled Moving Towards Mental Wellness, Dr. Brown teaches us that “chronic exposure to these traumatic events can change the brain’s chemistry and have an enormous impact on behavior.”
Trauma literally changes everything about us. So if we are serious about healing our community and creating stronger Black boys and men, we have got to make our collective mental health our top priority.
No amount of sex, cars, sports, gym workouts, or ganja will fill the void left in us.
Understanding Our Relationship With Black Women
This chapter is tough for most men to read, because we all have a complicated relationship with the women in our lives.
Why? Because some men simply hate or have very little regard for women and girls. Some of us are the victims of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse at the hands of our mothers.
Some of us were abandoned by our mothers or sexualized by women close to us. This doesnt condone the behavior, but that was the case with R Kelly.
And some of us have seen our big sisters, mothers, or other girls and women being brutalized by other men. In our helplessness, we accept that this behavior is normal.
And it doesnt help that Western religions reinforce the idea of women being the property of men.
So we grow up hating, raping, terrorizing, cat calling, abusing, and oppressing our women.
Our behavior towards our women and girls will hurt our movement more than white supremacy ever could. We are attacking our strongest ally, the first teacher of all of our children, and driving them into the arms of other groups.
Violence against women and girls will never end if we males continue to live according to the definitions of self that are rooted in violence domination and sexism, and the chapter titled Ending Violence Against Women and Girls gives us specific ways to put an end to this self-destructive behavior.
Decolonizing Our Definition of Black Manhood
In the final chapter of the Black Male Handbook, author Jelani Cobb does an excellent job of exposing how racism and white supremacy have created a false definition of Black manhood. In his essay he asks us all the following:
“What exactly does it mean to be a Black man? This vexing question is the natural result of living in a society where it was required that you grow older without growing up, where the ideals of manhood are to protect and provide but both law and custom prevent you from doing either, where violence and domination are the cornerstones of manhood, but you are the target of violence and under the legal control of another Man.”
It turns out that, as Jelani writes, our definition of what it means to be a Black man was actually forced on us.
White supremacy teaches us to be powerless, dependent, and juvenile even as full grown adults.
Ironically, most grown men in the rap industries have childish names. Lil Baby, Da Baby, Childish Gambino, Lil Wayne, Junior Mafia, Kid Cudi, Kid Capri, Kid Ink, Kid Sister, Young Thug, Young Boy Never Broke Again, Schoolboy Q, Hot Boys, Soulja Boy, Franchise Boys, Fat Boys, Big Boi.
You know what plantation owners called Black men? Boy.
Media companies understand the power that they have to shape the identity of a people.
And it is not far fetched to think that at least some of the people who control hip hop have a hatred for the Black people that work for them.
So as we re-define what it means to be a Black man, we cant avoid discussing how white supremacy has worked to emasculate us and turned our men into Adult children.
The appendix of the book has a wealth of resources that also include:
- Recommended readings films and documentaries
- A list of safe spaces for Black men
- Tips for Black males when stopped by the police, and
- How to take care of and present yourself as a Black male
So if you are a Black man, I cant recommend the Black Male Handbook enough. I got so much out of it that I am sending it to our incarcerated boys and men as part of our Books to Prisons program.
And if you are a Black woman and you want to understand the men in your life on a deeper level, this book is for you, too. Especially if you are a single parent and you want to give your sons some valuable life lessons.