Saturday, April 01, 2006


It's the first Saturday of my spring break and I'm sitting in Starbucks grading essays. Now, don't feel bad for me, I bring it upon myself. But, for what often ends up depressing, the most recent batch of essays provided me with great satisfaction. And now, I need the help of the blogging community.
I read an essay, the likes of which I have never read in a Pre-College class. This essay has a future, should it find its way into the right hands. It is an essay that, when I finished reading, I felt like I had just finished reading an essay in a respected magazine or anthology. I once had a professor tell me a sermon I wrote for a Homiletics class could be published, but he never helped me. I want to help this kid. If you know of a way to get work published, please let me know. Here are some excerpts:

Black community--grammatical error, or bad combination of words?

Imagine taking a one thousand piece jigsaw puzzle nearing its completion, and wiping it clear off the table, sending the pieces scattering--in other words, imagine the Black community. A group of people who once shared, participated, and had fellowship, now kill the memebers of their own communit at extreme rates--the Black community is imploding. Once a group that would fight against all odds, they now will fight anyone who doesn't wear their colors. During the Slavery Era, these traits could breathe, create beautiful music, and throw a knockout punch; it acted as a true community.

The Civil Rights Era, most prominent in the 60's, sprouted the best Black leaders to ever walk this earth. THis era shot out Black talent faster than a Muhammad Ali jab. Black kids had people they could idolize, better yet, aspire to. From the darkest corners of Ralph Ellison's mind, to the untarnished prowess of Rosa' Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., this will never be an era forgotton by Blacks--or so I hoped.

What happened to this community? How could a community on the rise, suddenly be on the verge of its demise? The problem lies in the quality and number of Black leaders. Not Black leaders like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, mere ripples of the true greats. Only Black leaders such as Barack Obama, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Cornel West, and Oprah, can attempt to fill the empty shoes of lets say Stokely Carmichael, or Ralph Ellison. Mention the names [with the exception of Oprah] to any Black kid and you'll get a blank stare--are those rappers or sports stars?

He points out that the superstars of rap (50 Cent) and athletics (Shaq)get too much credit for meaningless gift giving at Christmas time and hails two athletes who help towards really building the community--Jalen Rose and Warrick Dunn. He explores W.E.B. Dubois's The Talented Tenth. He continues...

Rappers, Black athletes, and Black stars may not provide the most intelligence that the Black race has to offer. They do meet two other requirements though, don't they? They have the two most driving forces in a community--money and power. The upcoming generations of Blacks have become slaves to these forces: Get Rich or Die Tryin', right 50?

Black America faces much trouble. Fathers have disappeared, kids get neglected, and most leaders have abandoned the pack. The future of the race depends highly on education, an unknown in the Black community. No wonder the college-attendance rate of Black students stands at an abysmal 26 percent. If things couldn't get any worse, 23 percent of the students go off to college not college ready. So of the Black students that do attend college, only a small percent fair a decent chance.

Part of being in a community requires fellowship. Most people would agree that Bill Cosby has gone above and beyond in his effort to strengthen the Black community. Like Rose and Dunn, Cosby has put on his latex glove [sic] whipped out a scalpal. They have realized that no matter how a body looks on the outside, if the visceral organs do not function properly, the body as a whole will go to waste: Kids, meet your real role models.

What happens when these kids see some of the great Black leaders get shunned? Even more importantly, what happens when these kids see these great leaders get shunned by their own community? In 2004, Cosby spoke at the NAACP's Gala to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education....

Everything Cosby says holds true: I'd back that speech up with my life. The black community labeled Cosby an outcast due to his speech. Speaking the truth got him ostracized by the Black community. The NAACP, the cornerstone of the Black communities' defense, tore Cosby apart. Most communities cherish their great thinkers, not pull a Galileo. Just like Galileo, Cosby's wisdom will become a realization in the years to come: Come on Black America, Black on Black will only set us back.

He finishes with a few examples of things that bother him and more from the Cosby speech. His final line:

Wake up Black America.


At 6:33 AM , Blogger Amerloc said...


You're absolutely correct that this merits further exposure. Wish I could think of places to try other than local papers.

At 1:48 PM , Blogger Dan Edwards said...

Publish it online....far and wide. Submit it to newsmagazines that publish guest editorials/commentaries.....

And, make this student aware that there will be backlash from the "get rich or die tryin'" crowd, from the "blame everyone else for our problems" crowd and the "we's victims" crowd.

This student has the chance to become one of the leaders and role models he/she speaks of. Have you thought of offering the chance to read his (polished) essay to younger students? Or even to those at his/her own school?

Bravo to your student! I hope they have a successful and happy life ahead of them.

At 7:42 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The New York Times and other major newspapers have Op-Ed sections that are pretty open. This might be something they'd jump at. Try one of them before pub-ing online; print houses often won't look at something after it's been online, especially since they post them as well.
Weekly mags are harder due to limited space, and set topics. Newspaper have a little more leeway.

At 4:45 PM , Blogger Onyx said...

WOW! That is a superb piece of work. I agree, (how could a thinking individual not agree?). But it also transcends the black community to any sense of community, asian, hispanic, religious, which is exactly why it is so powerful. Hats off to that young man who has the courage to write as real as it gets!

At 10:18 PM , Blogger LesMO said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10:30 PM , Blogger LesMO said...

Wow... I really don't know what to say. Thanks McNamar for taking the time to do that for me. I wasn't quite sure how my essay ended up, but it's very comforting to know it had the effect that it has shown. Thanks to all who commented, it really feels great to know people take this seriously. Thanks again MC!

At 11:03 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suggest contacting a writing department at your local college. The professors there can give you some great contacts. Also consider reaching out to a writing department at an HBCU like Howard University or Tuskegee. The subject matter will be of particular relevance to these professors. The University of Maryland School of Law coordinates a group called "Community Law in Action." Terry Hickey is instrumental in running this program. It works with high school kids to give them a voice to impact the Baltimore community. Go to the law school's website to find his contact information and explain your situation to him. I'm sure he'd love to help.

At 12:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This student will go far, if he/she truly believes in what was written. Nobody I know has said this so efficiently, and I have said it myself. We need to find good heroes for these kids, heroes that actually had to struggle to get where they are, and also have to deal with being called an "oreo." People can be so cruel to their own kind! THIS is what holds the black people back, not the whitey. Their own vision of victim keeps resonating and echoing, keeping them locked in the past.

Anyway, I wish this student much luck and support.

At 2:34 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I happened upon your call for help in a rather random way (from a story in the Post mentioning your blog) and wanted to offer to try and help out. If you're still interested in trying to get the essay published as an op-ed just drop me a line (follow the link, my contact info is listed on the right). I can't make any promises, but happy to help out an aspiring writer If I can.

At 2:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Newsweek has a column (I think it's called "My Turn") that this is a natural for, plus it pays decent money. But your student will need to be carefully prepped for the fallout. That in itself will gove you some powerful teaching material for your class in months to come.

At 5:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

How very odd that your student's profile lists "2 Live Crew," one of the most destructive forces in the history of black music, as a Favorite Artist. Lesmo may want to clean up that profile before he gets famous.

At 7:44 PM , Blogger LesMO said...

Responding to anonymous, I found that to be a rather crude remark, however, you're not the first one to tell me this. I always get people asking how I stand on the side I do, but still listen to that music. The difference is, I'm not following their message. I never said do not listen to 50 cent, what good would that do? How can I attack these artists if I do not listen to them? I'm not going to attack a problem without first studying the other side: This isn't the O'reilly Factor.

Can I not explore all that my culture has to offer. Did you happen to know I also listen to Quincy Jones, B.B. King, John Coltrane, Winston Marsalis, The Temptations, Earth Wind and Fire, The Manhattans, and Barry White?

I think the members of 2 Live Crew are good rappers in the sense of their ability, not their message. Just like any great orator, one can admire ability, but disagree with the message.

At 8:21 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! What an impact that would have. I agree with Mopolia that Newsweek's My turn page would be perfect for this submission. Here is the site if you have not yet investigated it further.

As a teacher who also looks to promote successes, keep it up. This student will remember your actions on his/her behalf for the rest of their life!

At 8:29 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

LesMO, you've written an outstanding piece. I am also impressed with the way you handle your disagreement with "anonymous;" by articulating a thoughtful position focused on the issues instead of the person who commented.

I hope to see your essay published. I don't know what help I can offer other than to mirror a quote on my own blog and link back here to Mr. McNamar's blog.

I wish you every success for a very bright future. ;-)

At 9:35 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

lesmo, great response to anonymous. I agree that just because you listen to a certain artist does not mean that you condone their message. I grew up with 2 live crew and all the controversy they created. Great essay!

At 9:37 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

lesmo, I am a college English instructor, and greatly admire your essay. Keep up the good work and thoughts and become one of those to look up to.

At 9:48 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I teach university level freshman composition, and sometimes I think my students couldn't write like that if their lives depended on it. Impressive essay!

At 1:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a student who thrives on recognition and talents please let this student read the comments on this blog. If only to inspire and ignite the passion they have.

Although I'm not familiar with many publications other than the ones mentioned in other comments I must recommend that you send this article along with your blog to The Creative Loafing in Atlanta, (atlanta, tampa, and charlotte). This article has that certain CL vibe that I'm sure they would appreciate enough to maybe publish this young writers piece

At 1:08 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Newsweek Education Program and Kaplan have a scholarship My Turn contest especially for high school students. LesMO might want to look into that. He can find out details at -- one note about My Turn, whether it's in the magazine or the contest: the essays come in under 1,000 words.

At 9:13 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a high school English teacher, I am inspired by this essay. This piece is clearly infused with the writer's voice and style. Bravo to the writer for having the courage to write it, and bravo to the teacher for giving him the opportunity to do so.

At 1:37 PM , Blogger smmoulder said...

I would contact online magazines like Slate and Salon. Also look to widely read blogs like Huffington or The Moderate Voice. I wouldn't focus on print and do NOT give an exclusive - your goal is to give this essay and this student a wider audience. Online mags/blogs are the most efficient way to do this. Also, if you get folks on Facebook or Myspace to link to it or put in their pages, the viral spread will be faster than you could ever imagine.

Print pubs have space constraints that are tighter than ever. Online doesn't have this problem. The focus for online is to be sure the right editorial support is given so it shows up near the top. For social networking sites, it's just a matter of having a link or embeddable doc that folks can pass along. PDF works for that and is a format most folks can't alter, which is preferable to simple TXT or DOC files where people might make changes before passing it along.

I'd love to read the entire essay myself, so you've done a great thing.

One final thought - post a notice or send the essay to the new White House site. This administration WILL read it and you never know where it might go from there.

Good luck!

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