The Story: Young Black Men

I listen to National Public Radio (NPR)…a lot. They have new show called The Story that is simply amazing. The aim of the story is to put the news in the context of how it affects real people not having their story filtered by the experts.

It was my pleasure to hear them feature John Rich, a Black physician and researcher that specializes in reaching out to young Black men in the inner-city.

In 2006, Rich received a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship for his academic and clinical work. One of his clinical innovations is conducting in-depth personal interviews with young black men to understand the causes and consequences of trauma — as Rich says, “why getting shot might lead you to being shot.

Dr. Rich tells Dick Gordon about what his interviews have taught him about the culture of young black men in the U.S. — their hopes, fears, and what too often separates them from the rest of America and puts them in jeopardy.

I was simply blown away by this interview. One thing I liked John said was that “Often times when it comes to when we reach out to Black men we say things like, ‘You need to do this or that’ when what really works is starting off the conversation with, ‘I bet you had a hard time growing up.’” The clinic that he ran in Boston did not require healthcare and we all know that Black people don’t really do hospitals. So through this service, Black men receive physicals and check-ups but it is through John’s interviews that allows him to give advice that is relevant and helpful to each person’s situation.

And when John doesn’t have all the answers (psychological problems, inability to find work, access to education) he directs them to organizations in the community that can help. This is Black social capital at its finest.

I think many of us who have a heart for young Black men run the risk of not really listening. And more often than not, people want to be heard before advice is shoved down their throat.

You can listen to the show here,

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.


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2 responses to “The Story: Young Black Men”

  1. Edward says :

    I feel you on this one. I probably have a bad habit of trying to tell young black men what they need to do without really listening to them first.

    When we gaher to discuss these issues, undoubtedly one person will state with conviction “BLACK MEN NEED TO…..”. I think that is the wrong approach. Dr. Rich appears to be on the right track by conducting personal interviews and making a more intimate connection.

    I think if we stop making broad generalizations about ourselves and our problems, others will be forced to stop making the same broad generalizations about black people as well. That probably goes for the advice we tend to give to guys we see struggling on the daily. What do you think?


  2. Brandon Q. says :

    Thanks for the comment Edward. I couldn’t agree more when you said,

    “I think if we stop making broad generalizations about ourselves and our problems, others will be forced to stop making the same broad generalizations about black people as well.”

    The generalizations we make are also largely influenced by age and how much the upcoming generation is not doing what they are supposed to be doing.

    To answer your question, I think many Black people do an excellent job of using Rich’s paradigm on other races of people. However, the assumptions we make of ourselves are so off base, really cripple the work that we know to be so important.

    I feel like for those of us that do try to ask questions, we still fall into some version of “You need to.”

    The struggle sometimes is knowing that leaving a young brother without a 10-point plan is ok.

    Thanks Eddie,

    Stay up fam,

    Brandon Q.

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