Speech: April 17, 2011
To: New Jerusalem Baptist Church
- Thank you for the kinds words about my past and present achievements. Giving honor to God because somewhere some place a 41 year old African-American male just took his last breath. Therefore, I don’t take my presence here in this place and space for granted.
- Secondly I would like to thank the Pastor and my cousin in law Bo for thinking enough of the work I do to extend an invitation to me to come and share some words of encouragement with you. You just never know how people feel about the work you are doing because you are so busy doing the work until they extend invitations like this so I want to say thank you.
- Lastly I would like to thank each of you for being here. It’s Sunday and I can think of many places you could be and things that you could be doing, but you are here so as a token of my appreciation I want to thank you as well.
- As it has been stated I am Irvin PeDro Cohen a product of the North side of Jacksonville that grew up between Moncrief Road and East 21st Street and a proud graduate of William M. Raines High School and I say all of that because it lets what we in this room know and what others sometimes forget is that good things come from our community. Not that I am something special or some anomaly, but in our community fathers are raising and taking care of their kids and sometimes other folks kids and what you see before you is a prime example of what happens when men raise their boys, which leads me to my message today.
My message tonight:
There is a fundamental difference between malehood, boyhood and manhood. In his book Visions for Black Men Na’im Akbar described it as this.
Males see their biological and physical differences as the separating difference between them and their female counterparts. If I had to give you a visual of what that looks like think about the image of Adam and Eve. In the minds and opinions of some it was Adams discovery of Eve’s physiological difference that set the whole world back. Not only is malehood identifiable by ones physical state it often plays out in the mental arena when we simply allow males to exist because they were born and they reside on earth breathing in all the air they can and not having any expectations beyond the requirements for living and that being sleeping and eating.
This mentality plays out in our young men lives when men don’t teach them beyond their physical constraints and what you see is males eventually being taken care of by females either who are they momma’s or baby momma’s. I would venture to even say males who find themselves at this stage get to a point when it does not matter who takes care of them therefore anyone will do therefore, jail becomes an option. I recently wrote that if you are a female and your over 40 and you are looking for a thug then you are probably looking for this type of dude and if you are a grown man and you are not responsible for your kids and their development beyond just being a seed donor then you are probably just a male. But, this is what we get when we simply allow males to raise other males.
The next stage of this developmental process is boyhood. Boyhood is identifiable within our community because it is defined by stuff. When I think about the idea of boyhood it brings me to the story of Jacob and Esau. As the story goes as most of you may be familiar with Jacob and Esau were brothers and subsequently Jacob killed Esau for his stuff/ or his inheritance. Now what you may be wondering is how this relates to what I am talking about and here is how. Just as Jacob killed Esau behind what can be said to be worldly goods, such is the fate of many of the boys in communities like ours all around the country. No matter if you go to Sherwood here in Jacksonville or the SWATS in Atlanta or Compton in CA, boys are dying everyday behind meaningless stuff.
See the thing about being a boy is it ain’t about anything but you and your stuff. Ever been to a boy’s house and he got flat screen TV’s in every room from the bedroom to the bathroom. Ever rode in a boys car and you can’t eat, drink much less touch anything in his car or better yet ever seen the rims on a boys car. In some cases they cost more than the car. Ever been in a boys closet and he has more clothes than a woman. Ever talk to a boy about his lady and he will tell you playas don’t have just one lady. Every talk to a boy who has money and that is the only thing he can talk about is how much of he has. If you are in the club and I know none of you know about this or may have forgot since it’s been so long since you been to a club, but you can always tell the boys because they have lots of stuff around them in the VIP (women, other boys, bottles etc.) You get the picture boys are about their stuff.
Now allow me to pause here and be truthful with you about stuff. It really ain’t your stuff. It’s those people called banks and finance companies stuff and believe you me if you don’t pay them they will have no problem reminding you who’s stuff it is and if you get really silly with it they have no problem coming back and getting their stuff.
But that being said that leads me to my final category and that is manhood. Real men understand that stuff gets old, it becomes too small think about that t-shirt or outfit you had when you were 21, now try and get into it at 31. Real men understand that stuff becomes outdated and sometimes it just breaks down and that’s why they make a life of serving their families and their communities.
Now real men and I mean real men because if you talk to both males and boys some of them will tell you they are men, but real men see themselves in light of their service to others. And when it boils down to service I think about Jesus and his life. If anyone every had the right to a bunch of stuff it was Jesus because his father was God and we all know God is omnipotent meaning has all power, is omnipresence meaning all places at the same time therefore, there is not a place God is not and omniscience meaning God is all knowing so if there was ever a need God already knew it. Therefore it would stand to reason if anybody could have anything they wanted in terms of stuff it would be him, but Jesus made a life of serving so much so that he died so that you and I may have eternal life. Talk about service. Real men understanding that when you are dead and gone or locked up your stuff becomes other people stuff and no one is going to bury you with it nor are they going to worry much about who or how it gets used. See real men understanding that there is nothing more fulfilling that having been the change agent for their families and their communities. Now don’t get me wrong you don’t have to be poor or struggling in the process but if you look at the lives of some of the greatest servants to ever live Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X, Gandhi etc. no one ever talks about their stuff. Matter of fact Jesus came to town riding a donkey and for those who need a modern day equivalent think of yourself doing some empowerment stuff with folks and you show up in a hoopie. Again let me say for some of us that would immediately put the messenger in the “What Can He Tell Me Category? But when you think or talk about the legacy of theses brothers lives and the service these brothers had to humanity that’s the stuff you remember, not how much bread Malcolm X had, or how many chicks Martin Luther King had or what kind of watch Gandhi wore. None of that matters when you are a real man.
See real men stand up while males simply shake in their boots. Real men speak truth to power while boys’ integrity can be compromised by a little bit of cash. Often times in many of our communities’ boys are often the loudest, but when the rubber meets the road their integrity has been compromised for a fish sandwich and a bottle of Hennessey.
The beauty of being a real man is that real men realize that there are no safe positions in life no one gets out of here alive and the same fate awaits us all no matter if you were born to a President or a pauper, a pimp or a preacher, a teacher or a vagrant, if their names were Barack or Crip we all become the nocturnal delight of a parasitic animal. Therefore as I prepare to take my seat I ask.
I Ask Are you…
Or A Real Man
And if you are a real man stand up and give yourself an applause.
Nomascar and thank you for having me…