The Love That Determined Men
a Bill Curtis Book Review
Interestedly enough, the relationship between Black Men and their mothers speaks volumes. Fathers, abandonment, and the great saga of the woman who "had to do it on her own, because, well, you know, my father left" plays the heart strings. In this dynamic, Black Men as fathers are irrevocable bad guys; one should approach these real stories with eyes open, ears amplified, awareness on ready.
Sacred Bond, Black Men and Their Mothers, a book by Keith Michael Brown, is a collection of thirty-five (35) interviews with men who speak to their relationship with their mothers. It's a cross-collection of men in varied professions and attitudes about this thing called Life. All love their mothers or grandmothers, or aunt so and so, or the woman down the street who influenced their lives.
Sacred Bond removes the veneer from the jagged, misconstrued perception of Black Men as titanium tough guys. Those fellows, after all is said and done, really love their mommies.
Sacred Bond doesn't raise a lot of questions. It's a "Good-Stuff" book, the kind left on coffee tables to spark conversation, measure compatible values and interests, or just plain impress company. Mr. Brown teamed with Adger W. Cowans who did the photography. The photos speak that "pick-me-up-off-the-coffee-table-please-now-but casually" book language.
Imagine an extraterrestrial teleported into a living room with a coffee table graced with Sacred Bond. She would be impressed that Black Men are the most passionate men on the planet (which they are) and their mothers examples of pure love (which they are).
Rightly so, Sacred Bond pulls back the softer side of determined Black Man pride. This soft emotional underbelly begs the question as to why American Culture is so pathological in its portrayal of these men. A sure sign of emotional barbarism, the alien would conclude, and for sure a sign of fear of such potential.
Curious. If Black Men so loved their mothers, then why do so many Black Women have such sweet smelling descriptions for Black Men? Like, Black Men ain't perfume.
What happens to the emotional state of that son when interacting with women in general? Is this a Frantz Fanonian question? Perhaps this is a question "Good-Stuff" books can not answer; but Good-Stuff" books are absolutely vital in the constructionist phase (see Na'im Akbars's book, "Know Thy Self") to restore the Black Mind to mental health, and to love. Every coffee table demands a "Good-Stuff" book on post to strengthen mind to self, and to love. Sacred Bond, Black Men and Their Mothers is a Bill Curtis (MRR***) Must-Read-Reading.
Bill Curtis' commentaries and reviews have been published in the Afro-American, The Baltimore Chronicle, The Baltimore Press, The Baltimore Times, The Baltimore Sun, Financial Independence Magazine, Every Wednesday, Blind Alleys, African-American News & World Report, and at Barnes and Noble on the internet. Contact Mr. Curtis at WebReady@theglobe.com or P.O. Box 2043, Baltimore, MD 21203-2043.
Sacred Bond: Black Men and Their Mothersby Keith Michael Brown, Adger W. Cowans
"The women you are about to meet you've seen every day of your life....They are women committed to the honor of motherhood, and this book is about the dreams they made possible....The young men whom Keith Brown has carefully gathered speak about their mothers in ways that only a son can speak, with a love that only a son can feel. For that reason, the stories you are… See more details below
"The women you are about to meet you've seen every day of your life....They are women committed to the honor of motherhood, and this book is about the dreams they made possible....The young men whom Keith Brown has carefully gathered speak about their mothers in ways that only a son can speak, with a love that only a son can feel. For that reason, the stories you are about to experience will hit you square in the chest. Some will make you laugh out loud. Others will bring tears to your eyes. None will leave you unmoved."
--From the foreword by James McBride, author of The Color of Water"
The Love That Determined Men
- Little, Brown and Company
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 8.62(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.73(d)
Read an Excerpt
Most mothers instinctively protect their children from harm. Depending on the level of crime and violence in their community, how a mother protects her children and how she teaches them to protect themselves can make the difference between her children's survival and their demise. Of the men I interviewed, Chicago police officer James Love grew up in the roughest neighborhood, the Robert Taylor Homes, one of the most notorious housing projects in the country. His mother was his first line of defense against violence, gangs, and the unpredictable situations he encountered daily. Now, as an undercover narcotics officer, Love has survival skills, learned from her, that are a valuable asset in his efforts to help rid the Chicago projects of drugs. % His mother is employed as a maintenance worker at Johnson Publishing Company, publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines. With her impeccable style, she looks more like a woman who would organize garden parties than confront gangs, but her toughness has helped her son persevere both on and off the job. Their mother-son bond has provided ongoing Support and guidance to Love, who daily lives with violence and the stress associated with it. His mother's love has given him the inspiration to overcome crises in his life and to remain steadfast in his mission to clean up the streets. For his heroism in the drug war Love has received a Medal of Valor;the highest honor a policeman can receivebut to him the only hero in his life is his mother, Henrietta Love.
MOTHER HENRIETTA LOVE
I was conducting search warrants in theprojects where a gang called the Gangster Disciples conducted business when they ordered a contract on my life. I continued doing searches, even when I got called into the station and was told that the contract had gone into effect. I knew this wasn't a joke, but you can't be out there trying to clean up the streets if you're going to run from people.
One night I was working with two white officers and we were going into the projects. They dropped me off at this dead end area so I could walk though a viaduct into the projects. That is how we would always do it. But this time after they pulled off to get set up, a van pulls up. The cargo doors open and I'm looking at guns. Right away I'm thinking, "Oh you dummies, trying to rob a cop." Then they called me Twentyone, which is a little tag name for undercover cops. I knew that they knew I was a cop. They told me to get in the van, and I did. They disarmed me except for a snub-nose that I keep strapped to my ankle. One of the things that you learn from the streets is to always keep talking, always have something to say to keep them off balance, to misdirect them, and that's what I did. There were three guys, two teenagers and an older guy; one of them stayed in the back of the van with me the whole time. At one point they made me lie face down in the van. I never got a chance to go for my snub.
One of the kids wanted to shoot me right there, but the adult wouldn't let him. They took me to an abandoned garage of some kind, a warehouse, and there was nowhere to run. I kept talking steady while at the same time silently asking forgiveness for everything that I ever did wrong. I kept telling myself that it was a bluff, that they were just trying to scare me. But then, I don't know why, I couldn't bet anymore and just said, "Shoot me if you're going to." And that's when the kid lit me up. I took four bullets: one above the knee, one bullet fractured my right forearm, and I took two to the sternum.
Something said fall down, play dead, and that's what I did. I had a great vest on, but it is not like television where they show someone getting shot and the guy just takes it in the vest. It hurts, and knocks the wind out of you. I never knew that I blacked out at some point until afterwards, when I got the photos of the shooting and saw that there was a pool of blood. I was like, God, I must have laid there for a while. I don't even remember that. I do remember looking around and seeing garbage everywhere and thinking, if I'm going to die, I'm going to die looking at the stars. I didn't want to die in this filth. I thought about a sergeant in the Special Forces who always used to say, "Bullets don't kill, shock kills you. No matter what, be calm." I remember sitting up in the dirt, my bright yellow shirt was red, my blue jeans were soaked with blood. I took my shoelaces out and used my mouth to tie them around my arm and leg to make tourniquets, and I got up and started walking.
This was a July night. It was hot. The windows were open in the buildings around me and nobody answered my screams. This was at one o'clock in the morning. I left a trail of blood about four blocks long. That's how the police knew every house I went to and were able to find the warehouse where I got shot.
I didn't know where I was. I remember there was a guy going to the trunk of a car with some fishing gear. I really wasn't hurting anymore, I was just tired. I wanted to go to sleep. But I kept my badge in my crotch, and I remember taking my badge out as I walked towards this guy. I told him I was a police officer. "I've been shot," I said. "I don't know where I am, call 911." The guy's eyes just got big as saucers, and he backed away from me and ran into a house. At that point I was like, forget it, I am tired. I remember trying to stand up against a fence and the next thing I know, I had slid down into a seated position. I was laying on my side and I could see a woman running from the same house towards me with a bunch of towels. That woman cradled me and it felt like my mother was there holding me. I was okay then. And she kept telling me you're going to be all rightall those things your mother said to you when you were a kid. "You're going to be okay," she said. At that moment it didn't matter whether I lived or died, because I wasn't alone.
I could hear the sirens coming, but by then I was in noogy-noogy land. I was so worried about the precinct notifying my mother that I'd been shot. I thought, "That woman's going to come in here hysterical, with rollers in her hair and house slippers. They're going to have to sedate her." They had me in intensive care, and she walked in and I looked up, and there is my mom in a two-piece pants suit, makeup, hair done, and this was about four o'clock in the morning. She was dressed to the nines. I'm hooked up to all these machines and I'm just looking at her, and I smiled at her and she smiled back.
"I knew you were going to be okay," she said, "so I figured I might as well dress up for the occasion." Grown men had been sobbing in the trauma unit because I was such a bloody mess. But my mother leaned over my hospital bed and said, "God spared you for a reason." Just hearing her words gave me a new sense of responsibility.
About four or five days later I signed myself out of the hospital, and my mother and sister picked me up. I remember when my mom put me in the car, she was talking to me about life, about God. I always concerned myself with getting from point A to point B and had already begun thinking of twenty different things I had to do; but listening to her, I could actually feel the heat of the sun on my face. I let the window down. I could feel the wind. By the time we made the turn to go down the block of the neighborhood, I could actually smell the fresh grass. I had never paid any attention to those things before, and my mother pointed them out to me.
At the same time I was shot, my father lost a lung to cancer. So he was in one bedroom, I was in the adjacent bedroom, and my mom ran back and forth between us. I've got all these wounds and dressings that have to be cleaned and changed, and the same thing with my dad. She took care of us both and never complained. And she still worked every day. After I recovered, my mother didn't want me to go back to the job, but she understood why I had to do it. I had to prove that the monkey wasn't on my back. So I went back to buying dope with her blessing.
The police got the two juveniles the same night I got shot. They got the adult a couple of days later, and he was later sentenced to eighty-five years in prison. The juveniles pled out: the shooter got twenty-five years and the other one eighteen years. If it wasn't for my mother, I could have been one of those kids. I grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes, and there were a lot of gang bangers and drug dealers. My mother didn't play that. On a couple of occasions these gang bangers tried to recruit my older brother. One time I got him out of being recruited and the other time my mother did. They were just about to start initiations and my mother got word that they had him down at the playground. She went down there and walked right through them, and these guys were hardcore gang bangers. She got my brother and told him first what they weren't going to do to him, then she turned around and told the gang bangers what they weren't going to do to her or her son. I was with her and said, "Are you sure you are thinking, Ma? You are going to get us all killed." But she continued to tell them what she would do if they ever put a hand on her son again. She took my brother by the hand and brought him on upstairs, and the gangs never messed with him again. Never.
My mother was hands-on. I'm telling you, my mother could beat your ass. One time when the Isley Brothers were hot, I wanted to go over to this girl's house to listen to the new album I had. So I asked my mother if I could go; I was about fifteen. "Don't you go out of this house," she told me. As soon as I heard her get into bed, I got my albums, tiptoed out the door, and went by the girl's house. I impressed her with my music and came on back home. I knew if I used the back gate the latch would make noise, so I climbed over the neighbor's fence. That's how slick I was, didn't make a sound and came in through the back door. The second I pushed the back door open, that woman beat my ass. In total darkness. I didn't know what the hell happened to me. A light never came on; all you could hear was "Ooh, ow, ooh, ow, ooh, ow." Never turned on a single light. "Now go to bed," she said. That was my last whupping, because it was the last time I tried that lady. To this day, we laugh about it. It's one of the family jokes. Mama can beat your ass in total darkness. But I can't remember a time she wasn't there for us.
My mother grew up in Mississippi working the fields. She had to quit school, because when harvesttime came all the kids had to help my grandfather on the farm; so she never made it past the eighth grade. Her way of providing for her children was also through backbreaking labor. During the times when people didn't have floor buffers, you had women on their knees buffing. My mother was one of them. And I never realized that. So here's a woman who was getting up in the projects at four-thirty in the morning, pitch black, going to work as a maid. Ten hours a day working, and the only thing she had to eat was crackers. But she never complained, not once.
Education was always the biggest thing that she pushed, schoolwork, schoolwork, schoolwork, because she knew that that was the only way we would be able to compete in the world. So that was her driving force, that her kids weren't going to go through what she did. She was never in a position where she could help us with our homework or things like that. If she received a letter or something, she'd say, "I can't find my glasses. Can you read this letter for me?" She didn't want me to know that she really couldn't read the letter.
But no matter what, my mother can find something to be positive about, even in a hurricane. That's just the way she is. Mama would give you one of her little sayings: "Your heart is just like a sprained ankle right now, but it's going to be okay." No matter what, she's always pushing. Every time you thought life was over and you couldn't go any further, she has always been there with some encouragement.
Around the time I found out that the contract was out on me, there were a lot of other things going on in my life. My wife and I were splitting up. Even though we were already separated, I asked her to hold off on the divorce because I just couldn't deal with it at the time. Also, the reality about my son set in, that I wouldn't be able to see him when I wanted, and he would not always have a father around who was hands-on. I was so despondent that I called my mother from a pay phone. I called her to say I was sorry that I had failed. I told her that I just wanted to die. My mother said to hold on, your father wants to talk to you. So I talked with my dad, and I didn't know it but my mother was already on her way. She knew I was near the expressway, on Eighty-seventh Street. She drove all around until she found me. "If you die," she said, "then I'm going to die with you."
With those words all thoughts of ever wanting to leave this earth left me. So now, regardless of how despondent I may get, I know my mother is depending on me the way I depended on her for so long. She's my hero. I can receive all the awards, all the accolades, but none of them mean anything in comparison to her. What I do, I do because she was there for me. Maybe if the kid who shot me had a mother like mine, he wouldn't be sitting where he is today.
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