Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Men II Boys

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Groundbreaking Documentary Features Words of Wisdom about Black Manhood

A sobering statistic quoted at the outset sets the tone for this groundbreaking documentary: “69.7% of black kids are born out of wedlock.” Since most of these children are being raised by single-moms or grandmothers, this means that most African-American boys grow up nowadays without a positive male role model around. Is it any wonder, then, that so many might mimic the materialistic, misogynistic and self-destructive behaviors they see glorified on TV in rap videos or gravitate to the dead end path where gangs serve as surrogate parents?
For this reason, director Janks Morton, Jr. ostensibly decided to make Men II Boys, a worthy sequel to his award-winning What Black Men Think. This equally thought-provoking documentary opens by posing the question “Can a woman teach a boy to become a man?” before getting some answers from African-American luminaries like Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), University of Maryland President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, BET talk show host Jeff Johnson, former NFL star Daniel Wilcox and radio personality Butch Jamieson.
Besides these well-known figures, Mr. Morton also enlists the assistance of sage elders from all walks of life in his endeavor to amass a body of practical advice which every black boy ought to internalize. His approach, essentially, was to ask his subjects what they would tell a youngster coming of age, if they only had a minute to speak. And then he preserved their concise responses on camera for posterity.
The upshot of that effort is this priceless collection of insightful pearls of wisdom touching on everything from education to dating to religion to basic hygiene. For instance, Ryan Adams, who was paralyzed at 22 in a drive-by shooting, says “Don’t surround your self with the wrong people.”
A representative sample of other ideas include: “Know how to respect our women,” “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future,” “Know that change begins with you,” and “Don’t make any babies that you’re not going to support.” President Hrabowski defines “character” as “what you will do when nobody can see you,” while Wilcox warns to “think for yourself” and “not believe everything that media tells you that you are.”
Much of what you hear in this film probably sounds obvious to anyone raised in an intact nuclear family. But it is easy to discern that common sense is lacking during a telling scene when Janks heads to a high school to find out how much time black boys get to spend with their dads.
There, one macho teen proudly proclaims that all the gangstas he hangs with were raised by single-mothers because “fathers make niggers soft and prissy.” What more proof do you need that time is of the essence, if the next generation is to be saved?
An urgent clarion call for absentee black fathers to become intimately involved in their sons’ lives.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 44 minutes
Studio: Iyago Entertainment Group

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