New Journal Aims to Empower Black Males

IN September, the first scholarly research publication dedicated to black men is expected to make its debut.

Called the Journal of African American Male Studies, the publication is spearheaded in part by University of Kansas professor Jacob Gordon, who says it will serve to empower a segment of society considered to be in a state of crisis.

Articles will address such topics as the incarceration of black men, intergenerational problems between young and older black males, and Afro-centrism. The journal's writers range from university professors and politicians to community leaders and theologians. Although the bulk of the material will include essays, pages will also be devoted to commentaries, letters to the editor, and updates on the status of black males in the United States.

Its founders - Dr. Gordon, associate professor of African and African-American studies here, and Richard Majors, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire - plan to publish the journal semiannually. While universities will be the main subscribers, Gordon says he and Dr. Richards want the journal to reach beyond the audience of students and academics.

"We don't want the journal to be kept in the archives. We want to take the content and use it," says Gordon in an interview in his office on this hilly campus. "It has to be used as a text for addressing the ills of our society. So we're going to use it for public policy forums, community groups discussion to stimulate discussions on this whole field of black men.... We think that through research we'll find some solutions."

Statistics indicate that black males are one of the most troubled groups in America. According to 1990 data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, while African-Americans constitute 12 percent of the US population, they account for 45 percent of the nation's prisoners, and nearly nine of 10 black inmates are males. The National Council of African American Men, a nonprofit organization Gordon co-founded three years ago to help black men, says 64 percent of black children are born to single mothers.

Despite grim statistics, Gordon says one of his goals is that the journal will dispel some of the stereotypes that exist about black men - that they are poor fathers, school dropouts, or in prison.

HE hopes the journal will help promote black male studies in universities across the country. While the University of Kansas recently added a class on black male studies to its curriculum, Gordon says only two or three academic institutions conduct any research on black males or offer courses.

Gordon also intends for the journal to become a data base of programs around the country that are devoted to helping black men. Many programs exist, but no one has studied them, he says. "We want to study and replicate [successful models] in different communities in the country. If it works [in one instance], most likely it's going to work somewhere else."

One problem, he adds, is that no specific group oversees these organizations. Gordon hopes a conference in Atlanta this week he has helped organize will bring black groups together. Called "Coalition Building for Community Empowerment," the conference is the third annual meeting of the National Council of African American Men.

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