We’re all at least somewhat aware of the stigma of being a Black man in America. The suspicion and sometimes fear many people have for the Black man. The belief that Black men don’t stay around to help the family. The notion that successful Black men prefer white women. Then there’s the deadbeat dad, the thug, the addict, the convict, and the dead-by-25 Black man that the media and entertainment industry love to project.
Because such stereotypes receive so much attention, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that there may be another type of Black man, harder to imagine that such a black man is dynamic enough to make a good story, and still harder to believe that such a man isn’t a rare freak of nature.
In 2008 when the country experienced its first Black president, we as a nation began to acutely sense the possibility in the Black man. But, what’s great about Men We Cherish, edited by Brooke Stephens, is that it was written over a decade before Barack Obama became president. These women were praising black men when the thought of a Black president was only a dream. The men they were praising where Black men who weren’t the “first black” anything, Black men who we could pass in the street at any time, the Black men of everyday life.
Men We Cherish is a dynamic anthology presenting a myriad of black men, told from the African-American women who knew them best. What’s so great about this book is that all of the women telling the stories aren’t famous writers. A few you may recognize: Bebe Moore Campbell, the Delany sisters, Marita Golden…. But the majority of the women are simply the wives, daughters, aunts, and nieces who wanted to share their experiences.
These women do not create uber-positive vignettes of their fathers, brothers, uncles, and sons. Instead, they are honest, choosing to tackle the abundance of misconceptions impressed in our minds by replacing them with personal stories filled with gripping frankness.
There are wise grandfathers, alcoholic uncles, flirtatious family friends, revolutionary sons, and more within the pages. Some of the men never went to college. Some of the men once annoyed or disappointed the women who now cherished them. Some stories will make you laugh, others will make you cry, and still others will have you on the phone dialing the men in your own lives that you would dear.
All of the stories reaffirm that there is humanity behind the stereotypes and statistics many of us have become comfortable in seeing in the people around us. These stories, though written by African-American women, are actually stories that could have been told by anyone. The men cherished could have been of any race.
No matter your race, Men We Cherish will leave you contemplating not just your notions of what it means to be an African-American man in America but also your relationships with the men in your own life. After reading this book, you may never look at another Black man – or any man, for that matter – the same.