Brother's Only Chat : Children of the Recession: Remembering "Manchild in the Promised Land"

Discussion in 'Black Men - Fathers - Brothers - Sons' started by oldsoul, Jul 23, 2009.

  1. OldSoul

    OldSoul Permanent Black Man PREMIUM MEMBER

    United States
    May 16, 2002
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    Staying Alive
    Bronzeville USA
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    Children of the Recession: Remembering "Manchild in the Promised Land"
    Henry A. Giroux, t r u t h o u t

    If Reno was in a bad mood - if he didn't have any money and he wasn't high - he'd say, "Man, Sonny, they ain't go no kids in Harlem. I ain't never seen any. I've seen some real small people actin' like kids, but they don't have any kids in Harlem, because nobody has time for a childhood. Man, do you ever remember bein' a kid? Not me. ****, kids are happy, kids laugh, kids are secure. They ain't scared- a nothin'. You ever been a kid, Sonny? ****, you lucky. I ain't never been a kid, man. I don't ever remember bein' happy and not scared. I don't know what happened, man, but I think I missed out on that childhood thing, because I don't ever recall bein' a kid."[1]
    - Claude Brown
    When Claude Brown published "Manchild in the Promised Land" in 1965, he wrote about the doomed lives of his friends, family and neighborhood acquaintances. The book is mostly remembered as a brilliantly devastating portrait of Harlem under siege, ravaged and broken from drugs, poverty, unemployment, crime and police brutality. But what Brown really made visible was that the raw violence and dead-end existence that plagued so many young people in Harlem, stole not only their future but their childhood as well. In the midst of the social collapse and psychological trauma wrought by the systemic fusion of racism and class exploitation, children in Harlem were held hostage to forces that not only robbed them of the innocence that comes with childhood, but also forced them to take on the risks and burdens of daily survival that older generations were unable to shield them from. At the heart of Brown's narrative, written in the midst of the civil rights struggle in the 1960s, is a "manchild," a metaphor that indicts a society that is waging war on those children who are black and poor and have been forced to grow up too quickly. The hybridized concept of "manchild" marked a space in which innocence was lost and childhood stolen. Harlem was a well contained, internal colony, and its street life provided the condition and the very necessity for insurrection. But the many forms of rebellion young people expressed - from the public and progressive to the interiorized and self-destructive - came with a price, which Brown reveals near the end of the book: "It seemed as though most of the cats that we'd come up with just hadn't made it. Almost everybody was dead or in jail."[2]
    Childhood stolen became less a plea for self-help - that short-sighted and mendacious appeal that would define the reactionary reform efforts of the 80s and 90s - than a clarion call for condemning a social order that denied children a future. While Brown approached everyday life in Harlem more as a poet than as a political revolutionary, politics was embedded in every sentence in the book. Not a politics marked by demagoguery, hatred and orthodoxy, but one that made visible the damage done by a social system characterized by massive inequalities and a rigid racial divide. Manchild created the image of a society without children in order to raise questions about the future of a country that turned its back on its most vulnerable population. Like the great critical theorist, C. Wright Mills, Claude Brown's lasting contribution was to reconfigure the boundaries between public issues and private sufferings. For Brown, racism was about power and oppression and could not be separated from broader social, economic and political considerations. Rather than denying systemic, structural conditions, as in the discourse of individual pathology or self-help, Brown insisted that social forces had to be factored into any understanding of group suffering and individual despair. Brown explored the suffering of the young in Harlem, but he did so by refusing to utterly privatize it, to dramatize and spectacularize private life over public dysfunction, or to separate individual hopes, desires and agency from the realm of politics and public life.
    Nearly 50 years later, Brown's metaphor of the "manchild" is more relevant today than when he wrote the book, and "the Promised Land" more mythic than ever as his revelation about the sorry plight of poor and minority children takes on a more expansive meaning in light of the current economic meltdown. The suffering and hardships many children face in the United States have been greatly amplified by the economic crisis, and in some cases the effects and consequences of that suffering has been captured in images, interviews and television programs that have born witness to what has become the shame of the nation.

  2. LindaChavis

    LindaChavis Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Feb 11, 2007
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    Excellent post

    So true..
  3. queentswana

    queentswana Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Jan 24, 2004
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    day care provider (own business)
    Brick City
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    Yes, true is it, but that's not all it is. Nearly 50 years ago it was "Harlem under siege" as if that wasn't bad enough, no childhood but 'manchild in it's place.
    Now, here we are, nearly 50 years later, it's now a devastating "World Siege of Manchild". We rearly get the chance to see 'babies anymore, just those ...little people, (very dangerous little people).
    Know that this foundation was build for our demise, nearly 50 years of seeing this should be evidence of that. Until we teardown and rebuild this foundation...we, nor our children, will ever see the 'kid their seeds.
    Excellent/Sad/Painful reminder