Journalist and motivational speaker Jeff Johnson says it's time for men to take radical steps in order to save our streets

by Jeff Johnson, July 23, 2012


Jeff Johnson says it's time for men to organize.

trained force of men, not to serve as a militia or vigilantes, but as defense teams. The Black community does not need angry, undisciplined men who simply act as rhetorical lightning rods or who mask egomaniacal power tripping in faux Black Nationalist garb. Nor should we put good men in harm’s way by placing them in environments they are not called or prepared to work in. But rather, we need to work strategically with men who know and love their community enough to work tirelessly to prevent harm. I am not suggesting that every man be part of these teams. There are brothers contributing brilliantly as fathers raising their children, professionals providing expertise, teachers, preachers, and students. This is a chess game and there are roles that all men can play. We just cannot afford to leave this critical piece off the board and expect to win.

At the height of their activity in the 1960's, the Nation of Islam boasted a membership of over 500,000. A legitimate force, but a fraction of the over 14 million Black men in the country at that time. It only takes a small cohort of committed men to make a difference on the local level. Men who know the communities they are working in, who can talk to the brothers (and they are our brothers and sons) who run the streets, who can negotiate and protect, and who can make life difficult for those that want to make life difficult for civilians. I am not suggesting a revival of any of the organizations that I mentioned earlier, but rather a new gathering of men—doesn't matter the name or banner under which they operate. What matters is will they be visible? Will they be engaged? Will they be trained? Will they simply stand before the bullets fly and go to the places necessary after they do?

Maybe I am living in fantasyland to think that things can change when enough of the right men stand up. But I don't believe that the men who partnered with sisters, created infrastructure, led movements, raised children, and protected wives, sacrificed all they did for us to give our communities away. I believe, like James Baldwin, that "not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” There are nuanced ways to face the violence in cities and build these "teams" in local communities.

Brothers, please work with each other; strengthen and support those doing good work. Where no one is working, create something. Identify people skilled and willing to train in conflict resolution, program development, self-defense, and organizing. George Washington Carver said it best when he stated, "When you do common things in life in an uncommon way you will command the attention of the world.” Throughout history our reality has always changed when common men stood up and demanded the attention of the world through their collected presence and service. Lets stand again.

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