Today in America the plight of the black male has been at the forefront of national media attention. Whether it be the choking death by police of Eric Garner or the murder of unarmed teen Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri, black men are in a crisis. BET has launched a new initiative with Dr. Marc Lamont Hill called “H. I. S., Promoting Health, Image and Service. Reclaim: Changing the Narrative of the Black Man in Media.”
The events focused on finding meaningful solutions to the challenges of black male imagery young black men today. Hill is an esteemed journalist, author, activist and television host whose intellectual prowess and unique voice is respected. Rolling Out talked to Dr. Hill regarding the significance of the town hall meeting.
Dr. Hill, please tell our readers why this town hall meeting is significant.
Because right now we are in a state of crisis. The nation is also in a state of crisis and black men are in the center of it. So many issues that we’re wrestling with. so many struggles that we are dealing with as a nation such as poverty, healthcare and homelessness are intensified when it comes to the black male in America. So BET started this initiative to confront these issues head-on. Not just run commercials or put up speakers, but to come up with real ideas and real solutions to the problems that confront the black male in this nation. We are actually beginning programming which starts here In places like Morehouse College to develop an action plan for the betterment of the black man.
One of the main issues one of the issues that black America will be dealing with in the next year, will be the return of drug offenders back to the “Hood”. This return will be due to the reform of drug laws and convictions that sentenced a disproportionate number of black men to prison. How are we going to deal with these returning black men?
One of the things you have to talk about when you are speaking of brothers returning to the hood is health. Often times prisons neglect black male health. Whether is it menatal health that is often correlated to mass incarceration. So your dealing with post trauma for many of these men. Also issues that are centered around diet and proper health community, but if you are not helathy, if you’re not whole eithier mentally or physically, then you are coming back just as before. So part of what this initiative will do is offer those types of strategies to deal with these issues. We are talking about building patheways to information, pathways to education and pathways to service, you don’t have to be perfectr to be useful. You can have a prison record and still serve as an example or mentor to these young black males to motivate them not to go down the same path that lead to prison. We ar trying to mofel those type of approaches as a part of ths initiative.
Traditionally, blacks are reluctant to go to a mental health care professional. Now with more black men coming out of incarceration, mental health care is going to be more important than ever. Why do you think this apprehension surrounding mental health care is still an issue, especially with an increase in the young black male suicide rate?
I think America in general has a culture against mental healthcare, particulary working class and poor folk this is irrespective of race. However , particulary with black people we have a very unsteady relationship with the medicaql community. Thye called us crazy for running off the plantation as slaves him and, it was the medical establishemnt that claimed blacks had inferior brains and it was the medical establishment that performed the Tuskegee experiments. There have been all these different ways that we have been neglected and hurt by the meidcal establishment. Then there are our religious traditions that tell us that instead of taking it to a therapist ,we should take it to Jesus, But Jesus is the one telling us to go the therapist, so to that extent we have to think about the medical establishment working in tandem with the church as opposed to the church.Now , today we are seeing a rise in the number of black suicide victims, think about it, In the worst days of slavery we did not see this event, We must ask ourselves, “What is it about black male life that seems worth erasing”? We have to eleimnate this issue by pourselves. Sdome of it comes from us being more normalized in the American culture which does have a suicide problem. Some of it may haver to do with people who are dealing with gay and lesbian issues as well as the depressing conditions.