The Western Journal of Black Studies

Volume 34, Issue 4


African American Men and the Prison Industrial Complex
Earl Smith—Wakeforest University
Angela J. Hattery—Wakeforest University

Many criminologists, journalists, and social commentators (Alexander, 2010; Lapido, 2001; Schlosser, 1998) have paid attention to this on-going problem of the mass incarceration of African American men that began in 1980 and persists to the present day. Yet, their analysis often remains at the individual level; the impact of incarceration on individual men (Davis, 1998). This paper fills an important gap by examining the linkages between the mass incarceration of African American men by the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) and the consequent bleeding of capital—specifically financial, human, social and political—from the men themselves, their families, and the African American community at large. Second, we will consider the impact of the PIC on the reentry process. Returning thousands of men annually to a community like our own to a small subset of neighborhoods and public housing developments puts severe stress and strain on the agencies already providing services to these under-resourced communities. Thus, the removal of men depletes community capital but their return does as well.
pp. 387-398


Islam, Rentier States and the Quest for Democracy in Africa
Seth Asumah—State University of New York, Cortland

Islam and rentierism in Africa present a challenge to the process of democratization. Concomitant with religion, Islamist movements, terrorism, conflicts over petrodollars, and the anthropomorphic nature of these nation states are issues and questions involving the combined effects of Islam and rentier politics on the efficacy of state-citizen interaction. Contrary to the position of some political observers that Islam and rentierism tend to distort the democratization process because they enhance hegemony maintenance of those in power, Asumah argues that Islam supported by rentierism could produce reasonable stability for political liberalization. Case studies from Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria and Libya are used to analyze the effects of Islam and rentier politics on these nation states.
pp. 399-412


Progressive Paths to Masculinity for Young Black and Latino Men
in an Urban Alternatives-to-Incarceration Program

Megha Ramaswamy—University of Kansas School of Medicine

This study examines the ways in which young Black and Latino men in an urban alternatives-to-incarceration program conceptualize masculinity. By utilizing theory on progressive Black masculinities as a framework, this paper analyzes focus group data collected from 38 men in the program. The men in this study define their own masculinity primarily by their ability to support a family, but emphasize caretaking skills they learn from women in their families, providing for children emotionally and physically, and recognizing children’s autonomy. Finally, the men in this study talk about masculinity as both love received and given in the context of family and community. The findings from this study lead to suggestions for improving outcomes for young Black and Latino men involved in the justice system.
pp. 412-424


African American Students' Experiences with
Special Education in Milwaukee Public Schools

Festus Obiakor—University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Floyd D. Beachum—University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Mateba K. Harris—University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Problems facing African American students with special needs are numerous and complex. Although processes and procedures are essentially in place to properly serve these students, far too many become ensnared in webs of bureaucracy and benign neglect. This article examines African American students’ experiences with special education in Milwaukee Public Schools. In addition, it provides recommendations for those teachers and administrators willing to deconstruct the negative impact of these stark inadequacies.
pp. 425-437


Passing On: The Old Head/Younger Dancer Mentoring Relationship
in the Cultural Sphere of Rhythm Tap

Donna-Marie Peters—Temple University

This article examines the effectiveness of the traditional “old head” /young person mentoring relationship reported to be disappearing as a cultural tradition in center-city Black communities by a number of historians and social scientists. This study, based on ethnographic field work, describes an example of highly successful mentoring in the rhythm tap community, framing it within the role traditionally played by mentoring in the African-American community generally and within the broader history of tap dance that brought the mentoring process about. It has examined the key role played by elder tap dancers in passing on the history, steps, and survival values associated with rhythm tap, the benefits of mentoring to the mentors and to the younger dancers mentored, and the ways in which the hard work ethic, cooperative, and creation-friendly values associated with tap as a performance became generalized to an artistic social community and lifestyle.

Entering the dark warm room with cool, soft lighting, my senses are greeted with the comforting sound of traditional jazz. All eyes are focused on a small stage of moving bodies and seated musicians improvising jazz standards from the 1940’s.The patrons are both seated and standing at a bar to the right. Glossy Hollywood publicity shots of stars line one side of a wall and posters of famous jazz singers and musicians line the other. A white baby grand piano lends elegance to the dark makeshift room reminiscent of the Latin Quarters of Paris in the 1950s. I look around the long, small, dark basement room at the international coterie of tap dancers from the United States, France, Austria and Japan. Drinking, chatting, eating, and eagerly awaiting the show to begin, each person pays close attention to the door hoping for a surprise visit from a tap celebrity. The performing dancers are seated in a section to the right of the stage while others join their friends at the bar or at tables close to the stage.
pp. 438-446


African American Scholarly Contributions to
Non-Black Ethnic Studies: A Bibliographic Essay
Robert Fikes, Jr.—San Diego State University

Still prevalent is the canard that African Americans, owing to their centuries-long ordeal of mistreatment by whites, have consistently and obsessively interpreted what occurs in society in a black-white dichotomy, and that the majority of what accounts for social inequities, political dominance, employment discrimination, skin color preference and a host of other issues is the result of this ongoing, unrelenting interaction of two races often in conflict with one another. The occasion to examine and explain what happens outside the realm of black-white comparisons seem rarely to present itself, thus it is easy to assume that blacks are not particularly concerned with the affairs of other nonwhites or of engaging in investigations of whiteness as an interdisciplinary field of study. As shown with published writings in this bibliographic essay, such an assumption is not supported and does not have a basis in fact.
pp. 447-456


A Gender Comparison of Resiliency Among Older
African American Katrina Survivors
Erma Lawson—University of North Texas

In the past decade, resiliency among African Americans has been a major research topic. This paper explored the resilience of older African American Katrina survivors, specifically investigating gender coping strategies. Using in-depth interviews of older African American Katrina survivors, the study findings revealed that older African American Katrina survivors relied on a Higher Power to cope with the hurricane and its aftermath. Without exception, the study participants reported that their faith was essential to their coping with the tragedy. That connection to a Higher Power, though, did not necessarily translate into church membership. In addition to the survivors’ relationship with God, the study found that gender coping strategies evolved. Though, historically, African Americans have engaged in Bible-reading over the generations, the study found that many of the males read inspirational books written by non–African-American authors. This finding suggests a convergence of traditionally African American religious materials with those of their White American counterparts. The implications of these findings to the coping literature focusing on African Americans are discussed.
pp. 457-470


Book Reviews

T. Thomas Fortune, the Afro-American Agitator:
A Collection of Writings, 1880–1928
Author: Timothy Thomas Fortune
Reviewer: Jack Carson, Jr. University of Wisconsin, Madison
pp. 471-472


The Cultural Politics of Slam Poetry: Race, Identity, and the
Performance of Popular Verse in America

Author: Susan B. A. Somers-Willett
Reviewer: Matthew Oware, DePauw University
pp. 473-474


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