Skip to content

12 Generations a Slave: Blacks weren’t allowed to mature and it shows

January 20, 2014


by: Josiah Jenkins
The 12 Years a Slave movie is a compelling story of a free black man who found himself trapped in the grips of slavery. He was kidnapped, stolen, his life was of no value to his captors. The story is emotional but, more so, educational as it highlights very pivotal moments in the Black American history that led to us being psychologically damaged as a people. Many of those moments are substantiated by our culture today in the 21st century.

The first American slaves landed in Jamestown, Virginia in the 1500’s and slavery lasted almost 400 years following that. Some would argue that this slavery continues today. Back then there were many rules against us and few rights for us. However, were critical things that we had to abide by: We had better not learn to/reveal we could read or had any moderate level of intelligence beyond a trade. We couldn’t own anything of value. We were to entertain Master at the drop of a dime no matter how we felt or what we were doing. It became understood entertainment was an acceptable event we could participate in. It was even more welcomed than us gathering to worship. We had better come to Master when he called us or suffer painful circumstances. Lastly, we had better mind our manners in the presence of him or his race.

Do remember being encouraged to sing or dance for your parents and their friends as a child? Are there any (specifically black-owned) bookstores in the black community? You ever noticed the improved behavior from some blacks when whites come around, too afraid to be themselves?

The remnants of what has happened to our ancestors still show that we are as much compliant today to the 15, 16, 17 and 1800’s conditioning of arriving Africans. These suppressive treatments have led to the stagnation of our development. We still act them out in ways we seem to often justify. Here are the 5 top things we still perpetuate:

1. Today, the majority of our youth are in hot pursuit of being entertainers.

2. We class reading as a low priority. We are not gaining access to real power and do not handle small pockets of power maturely.

3. We seek acceptance. We try to get the respect of people through superficial activities, materialism, titles and name dropping.

4. We feel the evils of the white man but we also see him as our savior.

5. We feel secure once we are accepted into the white man’s big house and look down on the blacks who have not yet been accepted in.

The thing that cripples the black community more than anything is our dependency on direction. We all need direction at some point, but that direction should lead to empowerment, not the dependence on more direction. We’ve had self-appoint black leaders for many years but I implore to you that “Real leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.” If we are continuing to see a growth of dependency and need for those leaders, then those leaders are doing a horrible job at helping blacks develop as a whole.
We have been enslaved for generations. One man may have seen 12 years but Blacks have seen 12 generations. These movies act as stories of what has happened to some ancestors in the past and hints what continues to happen to us today. We still act like children. We still act dependent on the next marching orders from government or a black sitting in a high post. We have poor interracial relation skills; we inferiorize ourselves like children sitting in the midst of adults.
Fruitvale Station, The Butler, and The Help are all movies, and though entertaining, they attempt to bring understanding that not much has changed for us developmentally and economically and it won’t get any better until we change psychologically.


Blacks continuing to go downhill

November 19, 2013

boy with gun :by Josiah Jenkins
Here is where it all went wrong for blacks in America. Adult slaves were released into freedom with a 1st grade education and a child-like maturity level to begin the heritage and culture of the black community. Since then this heritage has yet to be objectively and rationally addressed and redefined with the knowledge we have acquired because of our emotional loyalty to our parents, grandparents and ancestors.

We continue to do business with people that don’t have our best interest. We continue to seek acceptance from people who view us as inferior. We buy into the “color doesn’t matter” mantra and co-habitat fairly with no strategy, while they continue to make color matter. We started partying over our emancipation and the party has yet to stop and the real surgical work on our mindsets and community has yet to begin.

They taught us that fun is the finish line of life and we believe it while they make money as we have fun. We have yet to collectively realize that fun is the offspring of business. No one can enjoy a drink, jewelry, clothing, a bar or night club unless some visionary brought those items to the marketplace. However, we stay comfortable with it as long as our leisure itch is scratched. We chase “a great time” like drug addicts chase their first high. It remains insatiable.

We grew up poor so when we become adults we go for the easiest way to earn money, a job; looking down on small business because we work for large ones or the government. We admire the security in these things because of our poor backgrounds and history of insecurity growing up. We refuse to take risks. We maximize our spending, chasing a materialistic high that never quenches our thirst. We can’t see the small business owner-the risk-taker, the inventor-has more real leverage than a corporate CEO; the CEO is merely renting a room while the small business owner owns a plot.

We’ve been taught to believe education is an entitlement that requires no financial investment. We revere our many non-profits not realizing that no non-profit, church or government agency can give unless it was first given to through capitalism. Yet, we prefer to wait for someone else to give first and we wait to be the receiver.

We let gangster and expletive rappers tell our negative stories to the world for their personal gain and dance to their music because they have great beats and melodies. We don’t force them to tell positive stories by buying music from positive entertainers. We’ve made self-hate acceptable every time we download their music, view their videos and purchase their concert tickets. They say 70% of rap is supported by the white community but how many of those sales come from the rappers that speak highly of the black community, or is it just the denigrating music that is welcomed by that community? Meanwhile, our young children still struggle discerning what is real and what is fake.

As a mother tries to convince her daughter who is having nightmares late at night that the horror movie she watched earlier wasn’t reality, she pops in a 2-Chainz CD to help her sleep, never explaining that that music putting her to sleep is also entertainment so it becomes entrenched in her sub conscience as she sleeps.

Blacks in America are in trouble not because of our actions, but because of our mindset and culture; a culture that we adamantly defend as “being black”. We are increasingly condemning the cure and embracing the convicts who helps all of us become convicted about an itch that never gets scratched.

Josiah Jenkins is a columnist, activist and entrepreneur who graduated from Fisk University and went on to graduate from Harvard Business school.

Babies with money: A lesson from Aunt Pauline

November 8, 2013

Do you have any idea what would happen if you gave power, freedom and resources to someone who isn’t ready for it? This reminds me of my 12th birthday. On that November 16th my aunt Pauline was visiting my family from away. She had no idea it was my birthday so when she found out she impromptu gave me cash. What was more intriguing about her not knowing it was my birthday, was her not knowing that I never in the history of my life, up until that point, was given $20 all at once. But she did! That was the moment I learned what the feeling of light-headed and faint felt like. But being the O’G I was, I kept a poker face like that money was nothing so she would have no idea I hit the jackpot and take it back. As soon as I got into my room, I shut the door and did my variation of the lotto-dance!

The thing is up until then my parents only gave me $10 allowances, spending money or gifts. So I didn’t know what it felt like to have more than $10 at any given time. Another twist to the story was my parents had no clue she gave it to me. She just did it not thinking it was a big deal. Mannn, to me, it was! It sure felt like winning the lotto. But as I reflect on that day over 2 decades ago, I have no clue, absolutely no clue, what I did with that money. My best guess is I bought candy, toys and McDonald’s; nothing that significantly contributed to my life. I spent many more years after that exhibiting the same behavior; candy, toys and McDonald’s – spending habits that only scratched an itch and only gave me instant gratification.

When I sit back and look at my fellow community, I get the same message. We continue to enjoy candy, toys and McDonald’s. I watch as small business grow out of other minority groups to become strong businesses with a national presence. Since their populations are less than ours, we can’t say it’s due to the numbers. Actually, we sit at the bottom of all economic indicators. So what really is it? It has little to do with how much we make, it has to do with where we spend it. This is the crown jewel of other groups but we have yet to comprehend this.

As long as we remain divided, we remain impoverish. As long as our best talents go to work for the “established” companies, we miss opportunities to grow our own. We are not demonstrating that we are worthy of managing money. It isn’t hard for us to elevate our situation. We can get there if we realized that the most important thing in our community is us.

My simple rule is put the same fear on yourself if you don’t live economically stable, the similar way pastors put the fear of God on you if you don’t tithe.

So, what happened to my Aunt Pauline? Well, she remains to be the greatest in my eyes and this cat’s probably now out of the bag. (I promised to take this secret to my grave.) She went on to be successful in the finance industry. I am sure she got there by understanding that smart investments are not only made in instruments, they are also made in people.

Black People Have No Game

October 13, 2013

When it comes to business, creativity is definitely necessary to edge out the competition. However, that’s not all it takes. It takes a good dose of insight and precision. I encounter many black entrepreneurs with great ideas, however they continue to financially struggle and few get to where they would like to be. Not only is entrepreneurship a tough road travel, but our culture’s design operates contrary to it.

I’ve come to learn that black people just don’t have game. Well, exactly what do I mean by that? If you take a decent looking guy and place him in a room building full of beautiful women, it doesn’t guarantee that he will be able to date or even gain the interest of any of these women. If he is handsome, he may get some attention but without game he won’t keep any of them. If he is unattractive and have no game, he will have a difficult time even being noticed.

This is synonymous with business, actually. If your business looks good it may get some takers but if it is ran poorly, you won’t have keepers. Our community is filled with great ideas but Hustlers, people who are going from one gimmick to the next, are only forced to do so because they are not converting talkers into takers and takers into keepers.

The problem usually lurks around our inability to deliver precise service, quality goods and consistent operations. Our presentation may get a “taker” but the service experience creates keepers. We simply have little game in comparison to other groups offering us services and products. We scratch our heads trying to understand why we don’t have repeat business but if we stop and get on the outside and look in, we will realize that we have placed our game on the shelf and become as content and robotic as a man who has been married for 50 years.

Where do we go from here?

July 22, 2013

I am an entrepreneur. A real one. Not a hustler, going from thing to thing. Not “side” business owner. A sustainable one. I don’t hunt, I don’t kill, then I don’t eat. I manage supply chains, production, services, royalties, you name it. I am in multiple industries. Black Infrastructure Founder - Devin RobinsonI own stuff free and clear. I also work closely with entrepreneurs. I have programs with classrooms full of them. Let me be clear, black entrepreneurs. I am being specific because it ties into what I am trying to say. I get to see where we are as business people and how far we have to go. I get to hear visions and dreams. I get to help them understand whether they are realistic or irrational. I help them structurize their ideas. I see where are futures are going. So when I saw this Zimmerman trial unfolding, I said it and posted, “This guy is going to get off.” My predication came from our social disparities and our business climate. Why? It isn’t only the issues in the judicial system. It started before that.

It started when Zimmerman saw a kid in the rain with a hood over his head living inside of black skin. He is up to no good Zimmerman insisted. Zimmerman also knew that if he made a mistake about who this kid was, the repercussions won’t be that severe. Why do I say that? Because we never make decisions on something we either, 1. Don’t think we can get away with or 2. Think the punishment will be too stiff for us to handle. That’s how we are. I snuck out my house as a teen believing in 1 or 2 of those options… and you believe them too. So what is the issue?

The issue is without the government or people of other races, the black community would instantly become destitute, and this is no secret. Try to spin it how you want but destitution would be our eminent and immediate fate.

From toilet paper, to food, to automobiles…everyday items we use, we don’t own. We can protest all day, but at night we give up our power through frivolous consumption. We have a greater spending power of some small nations, yet the net worth (per capita) of citizens of those small nations exceed that of the Black American. We have very few businesses on a national level, so our advertising dollars stay local, keeping us with small positive exposure. We rely on the moral character of, let’s say, a CNN to cover our community positively, rather than them relying on our advertising dollars.

I know how good instant gratification feels when we spend money on clothes, partying, etc. But we must get the same “feel-good” feeling when we invest, own and setup our children for generational wealth.

We are stuck shaping them to go find jobs from people that may not welcome them. We are at the mercy of others. We have to stand on our own, stand OUR ground and avoid the many young Trayvon’s in the making. Take heed black people. Take heed and read. Oh, and by the way, President Obama did a splendid job with his speech. There is no denying it and no area of criticizing it either!

Zimmerman’s verdict reminds me of Verizon wireless

July 15, 2013

Zimmerman's acquittal
Back in the year 2000 I switched my cell phone service from Sprint to Verizon. I decided to give them a try, despite them not being a leader in the industry at the time. I went with a nationwide plan even though I didn’t travel as much then as I do now. However, I ran into a repeated unfixed problem. Every time I left my hometown of Atlanta, my cell phone service wouldn’t work. My phone either had no service at all or went into roaming. I remember calling them countless times after I left town letting them know of the problem. Each time they assured me the problem was fixed but, of course, I couldn’t tell when I was at my home base. I had to travel to test it, which was sometimes over a month or so. So I continued to pay my national plan rate giving them the benefit of the doubt. But the problem continued to prevail. I left town, it didn’t work. Really think about it. You are promised something will work and it takes the test to see if it does. You have trust. Imagine your airbag not working, but you only know in the midst of an accident. Imagine a grenade not working, but that soldier only learns of this in a war. After about 6 months I decided to cancel the service because the problem continued.

The most interesting part about that experience was I didn’t know the problem wasn’t fixed each time until their word was tested when I traveled. It was proven that their word was no good.

This experience is synonymous with my feel on the American justice system and our so-called post racial era. Every time I feel we are possibly in that era it is tested and we fail. Over time, our presidents have made promise-filled speeches, Government created symbolic changes and civil rights leaders ensure results. They continue to solicit donations for their groups, campaigns and posture in media. They have closed-door meetings and exit with plans and promises. So, Black people go about life playing fair. We take our talents and work for others, rarely seeing vice versa. We invite others to participate in our associations, clubs, movements and issues, while we rarely see the reverse, and if we do, it happens with resistance. We play fair until layers are peeled away. Then, everything they’ve said gets tested and they fail like Verizon did. This was not about the case, it was about the race. It was about how our young boys are regularly presented to America, whose life was more danger during the scuffle and the value of that life. I can’t help but to reflect on how Michael Vick was demonized for killing dogs. Now I think I understand where we are on the ladder. We, especially my young sons, are beneath dogs.

Black Americans are very trusting and forgiving. After all, the Union that prevails now in government did free us from the chains, correct? But for some odd reason, it struggles freeing us from mistreatment; the very Union that cared so much for our ancestors. What happened along the line? Did we believe in something a little too much or did we not fulfill the responsibilities of building a nation within a nation as a free group in America?

From Hurricane Katrina, to Professor Gates and James Crowley, to Oscar Grant and Sean Bell, the government has had a direct hand in marginalizing the black life. So it’s not odd for George Zimmerman, Don Imus or Paula Deen to join in the party. But until we upgrade our American systems like Verizon did, we will continue to ask other races “Can you hear me now?” And the answer will continue to be a resounding “NO!”

But you know, it must soothe one’s soul to know when something promises to work, it does. In this case, for some, the system worked like a charm.

How do we protect Trayvon Martin?

July 3, 2013


Every time I see or hear people defending George Zimmerman on TV or radio I get so upset. People are caught up arguing over whether Zimmerman broke the law or if he felt his life was threatened. The facts are simple. Trayvon was unarmed and breaking no law. The police told Zimmerman to not engage Trayvon. The rest is what we are trying to decipher. Apparently they got into a scuffle. But here is what we are missing. Trayvon was in the midst of standing his ground when Zimmerman killed him. If a female is being raped, fight back but gets killed by the would-be rapist, this would be an open and shut case. The medical reports also revealed that Zimmerman was in no eminent danger, based on his injuries. This means that Zimmerman’s retort to Trayvon should’ve been to engage in a fist fight, if indeed he felt he needed to protect himself. He didn’t meet force with equal force in this case. He went above the force of fists, and resorted to force of the gun.

To me, this is an open and shut too. He had no business following Trayvon, a law abiding legal visitor of the neighborhood and he had no business using a gun to defend himself against a fist fight, in which he possibly could’ve won. He just didn’t try. I honestly believe he was losing the fight because he was too busy trying to retrieve his gun making him distracted from the battle. It’s psychologically common. When people are carrying weapons and met with a threat, their focus is to get that weapon from where it is, and oftentimes loses the upper hand to the assailant because they didn’t focus on the immediate use of hand-to-hand defense until they got an opportunity to reach the weapon. Police officers are taught this. If a threat is too abrupt and immediate, use hand-to-hand until you are able to retrieve your weapon. But hey, that’s my speculation. Only Zimmerman knows the truth on that part.

But here we are again black community. We have fallen soldiers ever so often to mishaps. Let me be clear. In this case, we are absolutely in the right! Trayvon was doing nothing wrong, but died. Excuse me, was killed. But what about many of the youngsters that look like Trayvon? It is a fact, we do find young black criminals wearing hoodies. These miscreant images are portrayed in our music videos, entertainment and fashion. We find armed robbers, shoplifters, muggers and rapists donning this attire to carry out their harm. It is a way of concealing their identities. But wait, let’s look at the other side. Hoodies are also worn by the military, joggers, construction workers, during inclement weather and more. Why not assume he was getting off work from a construction job? So the hoodie isn’t the problem. The problem is the messages sent by the criminals of the black community as to why we wear them. So what happened in this case is, even though Trayvon was innocent, he was fitting a profile; a profile that many black confirm-they are to be feared.

So do we outlaw the hoodie? Of course not, that is ridiculous. What we need to outlaw is “stop snitching”, black on black disrespect and the exaltation of dysfunction in our community. All we are doing is confirming and perpetuating the acts against us. We are partly to blame. Allow me a moment to explain thoroughly.

Understand this. There is dysfunction in every race/culture. But what we can also attest to is there is balance in the other ones too. We may see the Islamic terrorists, but we also see the peaceful ones. We may see the white “trailer trash”, as popularly labeled, but we also see the white humanitarian. We may see the pedophilic priest, but we also see the pope. We may hear the depressive country music but then we hear the encouraging jovial pop songs too. You got my point? We must fight to show the flip side of our convicts. We must show the flip side to gangster rap and sex charged R&B. Trust me, it would sell if we just give to the same amount of time we gave rap. The problem is everyone wants payday now. (That’s for another day, however.)

In today’s time, we see blacks fighting for things but it is not largely enough for the flip side of our community to be broadcasted massively. I don’t mean small snippets of good acts here, there or on the local news. I mean massive heroism without diminishment. I don’t mean Charles Ramsey’s act of saving the imprisoned young ladies in Ohio to be shortlived but then his look and language become the bigger talking point for a much longer time. Blacks did this to him too. Harmless right? No. It’s just another brick in this massive devalued house called the “Black Community”. We think humor is harmless but it is not. It helps with the projection of blacks.

So if we want to help the next Trayvon, we will keep it real with ourselves. Are we contributing to the racial profiling every time we let crime go? Are we making religiously-charged-peaceful-acting Rastafarians image become bastardized by young punks who wear dreads as a fashion statement used to intimidate others? How we protect Trayvon from ever happening again is by ensuring that our race is presented with balance. It is by fighting for that balance. It is by making sure our positives make it to the masses, not just quarantined silos. That’s how we protect Trayvon, by ensuring Barack Obama isn’t the exception while Big Meech is the rule.