don belton

Speak My Name : Black Men on Masculinity and the American Dream

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Edited by Don Belton

This diverse anthology, mainly of original essays, serves as an excellent counterpoint to media stereotypes of black men. Topics include black male images, relations with women, family life and heroism. Some favorites: soft-voiced scholar Robin D.G. Kelley recounts how his newly shaved head scared people; novelist Randall Kenan recalls a mysterious, kind and loving mentor; Quinn Eli faces the tendency of black men to accuse black women of not being supportive; filmmaker Isaac Julien and poet Essex Hemphill debate whether black unity can include gay men; novelist Walter Mosley muses about why his PI protagonist, Easy Rawlins, needs the backup of the remorseless killer Mouse to survive in an oppressive world. Belton, a former reporter for Newsweek who teaches at Macalester College, contributes his own touching effort, which treats the gap between himself and the ghetto-trapped nephew he loves. 

Don Belton's 1994 Artist Interview

So far Freedom in This Village has been informative about a group experience that is not fully acknowledged or therefore explored in mass consumed media, for that alone it is a valuable book. I will continue to encourage people of a wide ranging, diverse audience to read this book. However, especially for the people who identify with the common denominator of experience that are the focus of this book I offer a precaution: Read with a grain of salt… read objectively, after all reading is just another form of observation. Reading is an indirect form of observation. There is a subtext in this book that communicates ‘the life’ as an experience of marginalization, fear of violence, fear of the 'black male’, victimization, furtive sexuality, victimization, dependance on existing superstructures like the current mass media and health care system, to start the list. I challenge the benefit of taking the beneficial (good) with the harmful (bad). We already have enough of the harmful. “Ain’t nobody got no time for that.” We need more representations of the beneficial in the work, examples that encourage economic empowerment. Economic empowerment translates into who gets to say what does and doesn’t go… that is policy, that is Political empowerment. Political empowerment is how people who experience injustice, make change happen. Identifying too closely to the stories here may prove to be dis-empowering to the reader, impoverishing. True poverty and victimization bars the will from it’s own agency. I hope as I finish the book I see more stories that enlighten people to their own agency, and empower through examples of secular transcendence and success.