Musings from an Island Nation: On Brothers and Health in Our Nation

Musings from an Island Nation: On Brothers and Health in Our Nation
December 16, 2014 webadmin

One of the best ways to refuel and replenish is to change vantage points and engage the world from a different perspective. And so I write this from Jamaica; the home of my maternal ancestors. This is the refuel I needed to welcome in December, the last month of the year, before returning to short days of light and temperatures that can frost, even in the Bay Area.

Jamaica is known, among many things, for its pristine beaches, good food, and reggae music. For me Jamaica is my home away from home, for when I’m here, I’m blessed to be in the company of loved ones.

Replenishment happens in stages – one moment at a time of soaking up the sites, smells & sounds of this beautiful island nation. My focus sharpens slowly and then I’m totally ensconced and in rhythm with Jamaica’s deep African roots and traditions.

As romantic as the island really is, I don’t negate its many challenges. In fact, I bemoan them; but there is much good to focus on and for this post, I will.

In Jamaica, I see men standing tall. No matter their station in life, men here seem to claim a space where they matter. It’s lovely to see because they smile easily, step confidently, and make eye contact as a matter of course. Here they are the racial majority, and while class differences do exist, there is obvious value in the collective “we”. It’s simple as the notion that you’re not automatically a suspect by virtue of your gender and race. You’re not required to cast your eyes downward to deflate attention and signal that you’re not a threat. You aren’t assigned the blame for every misdeed or criminal act perpetrated by another black man, just because you’re black and male, too. Black men have the luxury “to be” and “to breathe” in Jamaica, an essential quality for holistic health, but a concept that has always been foreign for black men in America.

Having left Oakland on the heels of the decision not to indict the police officer who killed Mike Brown, I wonder can “#health really be the new black” in the face of so much death, unease and “dis-ease”?

I’ve reacted to three separate incidents that underscore this wonderment in another social media platform, my rhetorical questions left unanswered.

When George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin, I wrote:

Here we go again…will African American boys/young men/men ever be seen as the multidimensional human beings they are? As long as they continue to be objectified as one dimensional characters who are always and only predators, history will repeat itself…shot in the back, shot in the heart…on and on and on…My heart aches for my son and all the young men like him who are feeling especially vulnerable tonight. Theirs is the grief, anger and devastation that I fear will turn into hypertension, depression and a host of other ills and maladies. This is the frustration that makes one defiant in the face of authority figures, especially the ones that carry guns. These are the conditions that make one hopeless. RIP – Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, etc. etc. etc. etc….

I reacted to Mike Brown’s murder with this plea:

So sick of this narrative…another black youth down…another mother without her son…the shooter gets cover. Why is it so hard to see black men as human beings? They’re not deer; they’re not turkeys; they’re not dinner; they’re not your shooting practice!!!

And, last week, when the policeman who killed him was determined to have no fault in the matter, I made this cautionary suggestion:

Maybe when black and brown baby boys are born they should come with a warning label: CAUTION: May expire before manhood. Love him up as much as you can NOW!

“#Health will be the new black” when black men in America are are able “to be” and “to breathe” in an environment that supports and values them. Anything less is unacceptable and contributes to the toxicity of violence, profiling, fear, etc.

Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, Don’t give up the fight.- Bob Marley