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empty The Black Corner Article    empty[Posted 11-04]

Rev. John E. Jackson, Sr. Rev. John E. Jackson, Sr.
Black Men: Praying,
Pushing and Proceeding!-- Part 2

Rev. John E. Jackson, Sr.
Associate Pastor for Men's Ministries, Trinity United Church of Christ

Chicago, Illinois
some text

That African American sage Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) wrote, “We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes- This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile…”

When he wrote it almost a hundred years ago he was reflecting on Africans living in America and how we were forced to hide what we were really feeling about our condition as an oppressed people. However I have discovered just how much black men “wear the mask.” Black men are dealing with the effects of being “Invisible Men” as Ralph Ellison’s novel demonstrated. They are grappling with the unreal expectations of a Euro centric dominated culture that has black men covering up their diversity, and hiding their true feelings and their pains.

We just completed our 4th Men’s Conference at Trinity United Church of Christ and it was a watershed event in our lives as black men. The first thing that was painfully clear was that whether it is young black men or seasoned black men we don’t have enough avenues or opportunities to share our experiences and feelings. We also have inherited some unhealthy definitions of what it means to be a black man, be it “Big Boys don’t cry” or that men are primarily the disciplinarians in the home and community. We also had to come to grips with the fact that far too many of us have never had a meaningful relationship with another black man. Therefore we don’t know what a healthy nurturing relationship with another brother who can encourage and hold us accountable looks like. We then out of fear and a sense of survival wear the mask that keeps others at a distance. When you look at the news concerning this countries direction into war our voices are conspicuously absent. It was a great sense of relief that Gwen Eiffel moderated the Vice Presidential debate, but in all the chatter where are the strong black male voices?

We came out of the Conference seeking to build our relationships as men in Prayer/Cell groups where men not only pray together but they meet at least once a month just to support each other as black men. Nobody knows what the struggle is like for a black man in this oppressive culture but another black man. We also came away with a determination to begin to construct new models and definitions of what real masculinity means. We seek a masculinity that is self-disclosive and allows for vulnerability with each other. We also recognize that we are building for our children’s future and therefore many of us will not live to see the day when our sons will not feel they need to “wear a mask” but we have committed to working anyhow because this quest is bigger than any individual. We will Pray diligently because God hears our prayers and we Push against any force that would negate us because God is our strength and we will Proceed to the mark of the high calling in Jesus Christ!

© 2004, Used by permission.

Rev. John E. Jackson, Sr., is Associate Pastor of Men's Ministries and Pre-Marital Counseling at Trinity United Church of Christ. Rev. Jackson is a graduate of Loyola University and holds a Master of Divinity degree from McCormick Theological Seminary.

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