Tag Archives: race

Why are our young black men hurting?

 

I have just come from an awesome basketball camp sponsored by YOUNGLIFE. We had a great time of supporting and cheering on some terrific young men while we were there. My organization ThatSuitsYOU and Dr. Alex Ellis Tiedtogreatness were guest presenters. We donated over 150 ties and suits to these young men, which was a trememdous sight to see. We also encouraged them during thier tournament all the way to the championship. I figured this would be the highlight of the week and my job was done, boy was I wrong.

 

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Each night Young Life conducted a initimate smaller group chat with the young men. I was not ready for this. After seeing the guys eat, play basketball, try on ties, etc for most of the day I assumed they were during fairly well in everyday life. I was mistaken.  Our young men are in pain, they are hurting. Secretly hiding pain everyday that no 14-21 should have to hide. They are facing issues like

  • Living without a father in the home.

CNN recently reported that 68% of black households have 1 parent. Coming from a 2 parent household and being a parent now in a household I know how challenging it is personally to raise children with both parents. So being a sinlgle parent can be even more so. I am in no way am down playing single moms but I know the benefits that a father brings to the relationship of a young man. These young men have developed a strong resentment and hate for their absent fathers. They said they felt unloved, and abandoned.  Without their fathers being there, they are being looked at now to HANDLE the hole that their dad has left. So teenagers are asked to play the role of teenager/father in the household.

  • Lack of love/appreciate

They expressed a lack of love because they believe in alot of cases their mother treats them harsh because of the disrespect she felt from their dad. Being that he is not present they recieve the brunt of her anger. That misguided anger towards them is also displayed in front of their siblings which adds to their frustration. Also, because it is a single parent home their mother may have to work longer hours to pay all the bills for them to survive, which means less time, less communication, less interaction with the one parent that they have. Again, not to point the finger at her as she is trying to do everything that she can, but they see it as another form of neglect.

  • No one to talk to

Just the 2 issues we addressed so far can be stressful and now they feel as though they have no one to discuss these issues with. Their father is either in prison, dead or wants nothing to do with them. Their mother is working extended hours and has so many other responsibilities. They feel they can’t discuss these things with their friends because it will make them look weak, soft or vulnerble. And NO black male can have either of those characteristics because that is a definite death wish in their community. So they basically suck it up and keep everything bottled in until something triggers an explosion.

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This explains the anger we see in alot of our youth. This explain the solitude, the rebellion and misunderstandings. All children want is to be heard, to be appreciated, to be loved and supported. I believe alot of times we don’t give our young men a solid chance. They face these issues addressed here and much more. I didn’t even mention gangs, drugs, racism, unfair education, stereotypes, etc.  We mix all these things together into a young man, shake it up, let it sit, give him a diploma or GED and say go be a success in life, make me proud!!!

In conclusion there is big money in the prison system. 74 BILLION dollars worth. Any smart and savvy businessman that is in a business that deals with that much money will do whatever it takes to keep that going and to increase it consistently. That is only smart business. Knowing this, we have to be proactive in our thinking to not to expect our help for this growing issue of mass incarceration to come from outside sources. We have to be creative and tenacious to build programs, nonprofits, businesses to address and curb this problem. Their very lives are at stake. To see these young men share and cry and share and console one another was life changing. While TSY provided suits and motivational information and TTG did the same, it was the relationship building that truly made an impact.

Fathers, our young men need us bad!!!

After reading this call your sons, hug them, listen to them, they NEED US!!!

Tie training video

 

See more videos and photos from this awesome event on our social media pages

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Merry Christmas!! Are you Hiring?

Happy holidays everyone!

Doesn’t it seem like everyone is just a little bit happier and nicer. As the song goes, “This is the most wonderful time of the year”. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is such an exciting and fun time, unless of course if you are an unemployed man with a family.

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     Being unemployed during the holidays is not fun at all, add in being a husband and a father, and that can make a person very frustrated and depressed. In fact contrary to popular belief, December is the month when most people get stressed, upset and depressed.  So while some are thrilled and excited a good number of men, especially black men, are looking for something to smile about.
     Also this comes at a time when black women are soaring in the corporate world and as business owners.  I just read a report that stated, black women are becoming entrepreneurs at an alarming rate, which is a fantastic fact. So imagine a man, who cannot find work, being married to one of these smart, intelligent, and successful black women. No matter how strong he is, the fact that she is so successful is a tough task for some men. Men like to be seen as the bread winner, and the king, but when they cannot support their family that leads some men into serious depression, and some even to violence.
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     Some of these men maybe well educated, some may have just come home from prison, and some may just have been laid off by their companies. Either way, finding work is a big factor for them. God has called us men to work, because when we work we have a sense of pride and accomplishment. When we don’t it is as if something is missing. I remember when I first got married, I was unemployed for about 2 years. I used to see my wife go to work every day and I would feel sick. I wasn’t working because of lack of trying, I just had a hard time getting hired. I thank God that Keenya (my wife) didn’t make me feel worse than I already felt. She was very encouraging and supporting. Ladies, if you have a husband that has recently been laid off or fired, or is having trouble finding work, take these tips from me
1)      Be encouraging – I know it may be frustrating if you are bringing home the bacon, cooking it and cleaning it, but you will get more out of your husband by building him up than by tearing him down.
2)      Talk to him not down at him- So often I hear from men that one of the worst feelings they have is when their woman talks down to them like a child. That feeling is the worse. Men don’t want to feel like they have another mother. I can’t tell you how empowering it is for the woman you love to respect, honor and cherish you. Even though you may not be on top of your game at the moment, but to know she still has that respect for you is such an amazing feeling.
3)      Never compare -Men come in various forms and talents, each of us bring something special to the table. Another negative is for women to constantly compare other men to their mate. Again this may be a tough time as it is by not working but to hear comparisons will only make it worse. Appreciate his good qualities and talents. That will help keep his spirits up. I don’t care what those talents are, cooking, taking care of the kids, dart playing, whatever.
Now this goes without saying that he is looking for work, assisting with the home and not playing Madden all day lol.
This time of unemployment will eventually pass and your relationship will be able to grow from these tough times. But don’t let a little blip destroy something that has the ability to be great. Christmas comes once a year but the relationship is every day. Like in my situation,  I eventually found work and later on started <a href=”http://www.thatsuitsyou.org” target=”_hplink”>That Suits You</a>, (we provide suits for qualified men to go on interviews) I will always remember how I was treated during the tough times. People will never forget how you made them feel. Everyone loves sunny days but just remember rainy and snowy days are a part of life as well.

How do you see me?

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I remember this like it was yesterday. My family went on one of those shopping trips to Reading, PA to take advantage of all the discounted outlets. It was 1985, and I had to be about 14 or 15 years old. I was feeling grown, so a few of my cousins and I went off to do our own shopping. I had about $200 that I earned working during the summer. Within an hour I had a little less than $25 left—I really made the most out of the money I had and I figured I was done shopping. However as we were leaving I noticed a sign by the exit stating “All items under $20”. There were a pair of Polo sneakers that fell in this under $20 category. So I stared at the sign and the sneakers and began to calculate how much money I had left. Should I spend my last dime on these sneakers? Were they damaged? Did I really want them? All of these thoughts were going through my mind, and that’s when I sensed someone staring at me. I turned and saw it was a white woman who I figured was a supervisor or employee in the store. She then proceeded to say out loud to security positioned across the room—“Make sure all these sneakers have security alarms on them!!!”

Now, as a 14 year old boy I didn’t really pay attention to her motives until I got back on the bus and thought about it. I was in the store thinking whether or not I should make a purchase but from her perspective she saw me and assumed I was trying to figure out how to steal the sneakers. I was not dressed inappropriately, I wasn’t loud or menacing, I wasn’t posing a threat to anyone. I was just a regular teenager shopping in an outlet store. However, to her I was a black teenager in a store and that made the world of difference on her skewed perspective of the situation.

This experience has stayed with me for my whole life. My question is—what caused this biased view of me? If I were white or of a different race would she have reacted the same way. As I became an adult, I found out that the situation from years prior was not an isolated one. Time and time again I would experience similar reactions from people in various settings—the culprits were mostly white but other races as well were just as guilty (including black people). I walk down the street and people grab their bags or switch their bags from one side to the other. I walk into stores and security is alerted. Actually when I worked at a department store as a teenager they instructed us to make an announcement to security if 2 or 3 black males came in together.

I thought about it and realized that people spend a great amount of time watching television and surfing the internet. Most people get their information from either one of those sources—whether it is the news, reality TV, social media or some website. People utilize these outlets to educate themselves on many different matters. The images from most of these outlets overwhelmingly depict black people (especially males) as criminals, thieves, drug dealers, unintelligent, and unsuccessful. Thus, this is the image most people have of black men. This is the image people see when black men go into stores. This is the image people see when black men go for interviews. This is the image people see when black men walk down the street. This is the image police have of black men. This is the image the store employee had of me when I was contemplating buying those sneakers.

 

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As I think about it, mostly all of the heroes in movies or TV I watched growing up were not people of color. Blacks were actually the villains, the bad guys, the enemy. No real super heroes, no black men saving the day, no black men being celebrated and praised. They were depicted as the total opposite. Some will say, “well we have a black president now, and things have changed recently”. That is true to a degree but the last 6-8 years cannot erase the previous years so quickly in our minds and our perceptions.

It can be stated that a lot of crimes are committed by blacks so these media outlets are just displaying the reality. However if the only interaction of black people you have comes from what you see on TV or discover on the internet, then your perception of blacks in general will be off. Image plays a tremendous role in life. If a black man goes for a job interview but the person interviewing him has a distorted perception of black men then his chances of getting that job are greatly diminished. If a black man starts a business and his potential clients have a distorted image of blacks then he will suffer because people won’t trust him to run an excellent business.

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10993463_788746271181023_6895259486174446207_oThat is why I am so happy for the work we are doing at That Suits You. We first and foremost try to change the image that black men have of themselves—this is of utmost importance. Once a person has a positive image of themselves they are more prepared to handle the adversities of life. We give presentations and work to encourage men young and old to help each other to achieve greatness in life.

We work with programs all over NYC who train men to get back to work or to start their own businesses. Once they have completed their training we provide the icing on the cake by donating suits, shirts and ties to them to assist them with their outer image. The suits are only a reflection of how they feel on the inside. We know that not everyone may not see a man differently because he’s in a suit, but we know that wearing a suits greatly helps men in increasing their confidence, strengthening their inner image, and getting their lives back on track.

We may not be able to change everyone’s perception of black people but we can definitely help men have a better perception of themselves.

 

Church 2015…Do We Still Need IT?

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Growing up my parents made sure that my brother, sister and myself attended church EVERY Sunday. When I say every, I mean every Sunday. Even when my parents didn’t go my aunt Linda was sure to pick up the slack and bring us….by the way, auntie, I meant to thank you for that!! Sheeshhh. It seemed to me like that was the core belief back then. Making sure that children received that basic belief of God, church, etc. Like it or not I do believe that has helped mold me in many ways to be the person I am today. However, it really got me to thinking, Is this still being taught? Is church attendance stressed like before? Is going to church still a priority for people of all ages in 2015?

No way am I saying growing up in the church leads you to have a perfect, no problems, everything about you is on point and you never make bad decisions, kind of life. That is not it at all. However I do believe that it can have some effect and help us in our decision making.

I had a long conversation with a few people about this topic and here are some of their views. I will use fictitious names (they may sound familiar to some of you) to protect the innocent..lol

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Fitz: My view is that I definitely believe that church is crucial to society today. If we look around and see all that is going on it seems obvious to me. If you ride the subways and listen to our youth, 90 percent of what you hear is “this nigga, that nigga, that bitch, this bitch. When you go to social media, it is definitely obvious. I can look at a timeline and see updates that say “PRAISE THE LORD”, “GOD IS GOOD”, and then the very next update is a twerking video, or naked photos from the very same person. I believe 2 reasons for this is a lack of understanding of who God is and the lack of the family structure. No one to show them examples of Godly living and no to take them to church. I am not perfect at all, but I do believe church and the teaching of the Bible have helped me in my life.

Hakeem: My view is on one hand I definitely believe that church can add value to one’s life, however on the other hand I have seen too many hypocrites in the church that it makes it hard for me to go back. I believe it adds value because the principles and teachings that you learn in church are very valuable. Especially if it is a church that teaches the Word. I am not one to be yelled at and condemned for 5 hours on a Sunday, no thank you. But if it is a church that teaches and explains how to make better decisions, then yes. On the other hand time after time I see too many people proclaim one thing and then purposely live in total opposition to that. Now don’t get me wrong I am not saying people who go to church won’t miss it from time to time, but when they purposely gossip about others, have double lives for years, or other judgmental actions, it is contradictory. God will have to heal my heart to return because I know church has value but right now I just can’t get past the people issue. Now I know people say well it is hypocrites at the mall and I still go there but like I said right now I just can’t get past the people thing in the holy place.

Olivia: My view is people have it all wrong, the church is just a building. I am the church. The Bible clearly states that we are the church. The place of worship is just a building. Since I am the church, God is with me everywhere and I don’t have to go to a building to worship him. I know God loves me just the way I am. As a matter of fact I am doing better in life than most of my friends who go to church 3 times a week, which proves my point. Not that I am comparing myself to others but, it is what it is…

Andre: My view is I am God!!!

Maryjane: My view is I love God, I love the church but I really don’t have the time to attend. Although I don’t have any kids, I travel, work, and do more work. I run a few businesses so it leaves me very little time to attend a church. Like I said , I love the Lord and read the Bible every so often but I don’t have time for church.

Cookie: My view is I agree kind of with Hakeem. I keep the love of God in my heart but church just isn’t for me. I love to party, and I can’t lie, I love sex. I have to be real. I just can’t deal with the judgmental folks who would try to condemn me for what I enjoy. I mean, it may be wrong but at this point in my life this is what I enjoy. Maybe my future husband is in the church but until I find him I will continue to enjoy myself. I still pray every day and listen to Creflo Dollar from time to time, and I might occasionally attend a church but just not regularly. You are not going to include my real name right?

Ghost: My view is, I agree totally with Cookie, especially about the sex part.

Tommy: My view is a love God and I love my church. I will continue to go every week and bring my family

Do you see yourself in any of these? What is your view? We want to hear it…..

Walk A Day In A Black mans New Shoes

I wake up, say my prayers, listen to some motivational words from Pastor Mitchell, Pastor Freeman, Bill Winston, TD Jakes or some other minister. Turn on the news and hear 3 black men arrested in a shooting spree, 2 black men caught robbing a bank, black man leaves his child home alone for 3 days, cops shoot and kill unarmed black man, or armed black men kill police officers, etc. I put my boys on the school bus, kiss my wife and get to work.

Getting to work may involve carrying 4 or 5 suits to a few different job training programs throughout the city. I have founded, That Suits You, which is a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes professional attire to qualified men. The team at TSY does this to try to help change the image of today’s black male. While we have given suits to all races and will continue to do so, I do not believe any image has a worse perception than that of the black man.

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The argument can be, well they deserve it or they bring it upon themselves by their actions. There are many occasions when the negative actions of some black men are totally irresponsible and definitely add to the perception. But from what I have witnessed all races have similar isolated incidents all the time. Yeah, but with blacks it is more frequent. That may be true, but if we just go by what we see in the media it would leave individuals to believe that 80-90 percent of black men are criminals, which is not accurate. I really dislike when I hear a black man proudly say, “I am one of the good ones!”, or “We are not all bad” Like there are only a handful of good black men around. But again that goes to that perception. Since starting up That Suits You I have come across plenty of “good” black men. However, that negative perception is very hard to shake. The “general” perception of almost every other race is nowhere near as bad as that of black men.

So as I am carrying these suits to men to help change that perception, I see difference all the time. We have some very wealthy donors, so when I enter their buildings or homes I can see the looks. When I am on the train, and someone decides not to sit next to me, someone holds their bag just as I walk pass them, as I enter a designer store security just decides to walk down my aisle, when I walk into a meeting and they say, “Oh you’re the founder”, when people say “Oh, I know they taking and selling those suits”, when I am the only person of color in an important meeting, and all this happens while I am wearing a nice suit, with a lapel, pocket square, colorful socks and shoes. So I can just imagine how black men are viewed who are not dressed in suits. Now I know simply wearing a suit will not change everything, but it can help men get to a place where they can do more for their family. I always tell people, a suit is not just for work, a suit is for you. You are the CEO of YOU, so always represent yourself the best way you can.

Another big thing also is that this perception is taught to every generation. ..lighter is better, don’t support black businesses, blacks are inferior. These thoughts most times are from other blacks. Yeah black men get it from all sides. The experiences, situations and challenges that black men go through daily from all sides can quite daunting. So it is time we stand up and not wait for the change to happen, but make it happen. Let’s destroy every misperception about black men and what they can do. Lets make a stand in unity and lets do it suited as well.

So through all the misperceptions, and negative images that we see on tv, or on the front of newspapers on news stands, through all the young black men we see sagging, through all the driving while black police stops, racial profiling, through all the jealousy and envy from different races, we can still stand strong and help others to stand with us. Some people say it’s lonely at the top, and I say only because you didn’t help others get there with you.

So after a long day, I go home to my boys and feed them, shower them, pray with them, then put them to sleep and do it all over again.

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