The Spirit of a Man: A Vision of Transformation for Black Men and the Women Who Love Them


Dynamic and truthful, inspirational and wise; Iyanla Vanzant, author, orator and authority on spirituality from an African perspective, delivers a soaring message of faith and empowerment to Black men and to their mothers, daughters, and wives.

Long known as the country's leading authority on spirituality and empowerment of Black women, Iyanla Vanzant now offers a message of faith, self-knowledge, and courage for Black men in struggles, crises, and victories we face in today's ...

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Dynamic and truthful, inspirational and wise; Iyanla Vanzant, author, orator and authority on spirituality from an African perspective, delivers a soaring message of faith and empowerment to Black men and to their mothers, daughters, and wives.

Long known as the country's leading authority on spirituality and empowerment of Black women, Iyanla Vanzant now offers a message of faith, self-knowledge, and courage for Black men in struggles, crises, and victories we face in today's society. Teaching Black men to recognize and tap the energy of our own spirits, Vanzant uses a brilliant and transforming blend of ancient African spirituality, practical self-help advice, and contemporary faith to help Black men—and the women who love them—nurture the strength and power that are our birthright.

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Editorial Reviews

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Focusing her energies on the contemporary realities of black men (and the women who love them), Vanzant diagnoses their challenges and finds honest, practical answers to thorny, troubling issues. Blending African spirituality, self-help advice, and time-tested faith, Vanzant crafts a sermon from the heart, celebrating the men whose spirit remains strong in the face of adversity, yet open in the face of love.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062512390
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/1997
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 174,202
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Iyanla Vanzant is the bestselling author of In the Meantime, One Day My Soul Just Opened Up, and The Spirit of a Man. She is the founder and executive director of Inner Visions Spiritual Life Maintenance Network and the Inner Visions Institute of Spiritual Development.

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Read an Excerpt

My Brother's Keeper
The Beginning

I was telling a sister-friend something a male friend of mine had recently experienced. Driving home at 1:00 a.m., after a few hours with the boys and a few beers at a local bar, he pulled behind a jeep in which three young "brothers" were riding. He started daydreaming while waiting for the light to change, and his car rolled into the back of the jeep. Thinking he had only tapped the jeep, causing no damage, my friend waved apologetically to the men in the jeep. The "brothers" in the jeep jumped out, ran to peer at the rear bumper, and began hysterically cursing because my friend had hit their brand-new jeep with his mg midget.

My friend got out of his car. Seeing there was no damage, he sincerely, meekly, apologized. The "brothers" in the jeep would not hear of it. My friend became a stupid so-and-so, a crazy mf, on and on. "You hit my jeep, man!" My friend explained it was an accident. "No, it wasn't!" My friend hadn't caused any damage. "Yes, you did!" Eventually there was a screaming match. The three young brothers circled around my friend making threatening gestures. Three against one, on a hot summer night, in an urban ghetto, when a status symbol has been encroached, can be a very dangerous situation. My friend, who had been really cool up to that point, now had to prove he wasn't a so-and-so, a punk, or an mf.

As the three stood threateningly around him, he reached into his pocket and produced an ancient phallic symbol, a rusty switchblade knife. He flicked the blade, challenging his opponents, asking, "What you gonna do, punks?" It was just about that time the police arrived. They found myforty-eight-year-old friend standing there with a knife in his hands, confronting three young men who now kept their most deadly weapon, their tongues, absolutely still. Needless to say, my very professional, very well educated friend got arrested. As my sister-friend and I reviewed the incident, we agreed it made absolutely no sense. How could a potty-trained, formally educated, housebroken adult do something so absolutely ridiculous? As I ended the story, I remember saying to my friend, "Men are so stupid!"

As it rolled off my tongue, something in me quickly and forcefully reminded me again, Your father is a man. Your brother is a man. My inner dialogue continued, Well, they are stupid too! They too believe they have to prove how baaad they are! The spirit within me was poised for the showdown: Your grandsons are men. Your son is a man. So is your godfather! That hit home. My father and my brother were one thing. My son, grandsons, and godfather were completely different stories. Yes, they are all males, but there is a difference--or at least I thought there was a difference. Older men should know better, I thought to myself. Then I realized, they do know better. In the hearts and minds of all Black men, you know you can do better and be better; perhaps you just haven't figured out how to get it done. Intuitively, you know you are not what you were divinely created to be.

Chapter One

If you want to know the end, look at the beginning

"The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men.
--W. E. B. Du Bois

Let me tell you what I know about Black men. In the beginning, Black men were created spiritually good. This goodness was buried in the core of their being. It was a divine right, not a social title bestowed by human judgments and perceptions. The goodness of Black men is an inborn, natural station, a gift from the Creator. Black men were so very good, all that they did was good. You built civilizations and institutions, and you made remarkable discoveries that continue to influence the world as we know it today. This goodness was passed on from father to son, from generation to generation. As a result, Black men are still good. Anyone who takes the time to make a close examination will discover that Black men are hardworking, family-conscious, loving individuals striving to reach a goal and realize a dream. Black men are well educated, socially and politically astute, good to their wives and mates, dedicated to their children and their communities.

These are average Black men. They are the ones seen daily and known intimately. Unfortunately, as a result of racially charged media stereotyping and social disenfranchisement, society forgets about the average Black man: the police officer, fireman, postal clerk, telephone installer, plumber, mail carrier, service station owner, sales clerk, accountant. In my experience, the average, often-forgotten Black man is not in jail, does not drink wine on the street corner, does not steal, rape old ladies, sire and then abandon his children. You are not dangerous, violent, lost, or in need of a social program to fulfill your basic human needs. You are a child of God, born to fulfill a divine mission. That mission is buried in your soul, the one you lost.

Black men who are good inside and out are concerned about the state of world affairs, the future of your communities, and your own physical and emotional well-being in a hostile society that stigmatizes you because your beginnings, in this part of the hemisphere, stem from an ancestral condition of servitude. The average Black man is not heard. Sometimes you are not heard because you choose not to speak. More often than not, you are not heard because, when you speak, no one takes the time to listen. When a person is not heard above the roar of others, he is not acknowledged. When a person is not acknowledged, he loses his spirit. Spirit in all of its definitions. Spirit meaning God, the all-powerful presence, the omnipotent being. Spirit meaning the sense of Self with a capital S, the "I Am" of who you are. And spirit defined as enthusiasm, excitement, zeal, fight, ingenuity, and all-encompassing love.

In the case of the average Black man, even when you are heard, people often walk away choosing to believe they heard something other than what you actually said. Then they say something is wrong with you. The impact of always being told something is wrong with you, of not being acknowledged and losing your spirit, has been the depletion of your will, desire, and ability to live fully and consciously according to the true nature of your soul, which is good. In the more severe cases, lack of acknowledgment and lack of spirit will manifest in Black men as confusion, hopelessness, and a disrespect for life and other living things.

On the day I was talking to my friend and heard myself say, "Black men are so stupid!" I was shocked. I have watched Black men all my life. I watched my father and his friends, my brother and his friends, my son and his friends. As a Black woman who has watched so many Black men, I thought I had the right to make that statement. Within moments, a deeper truth hit me. Black men have been at the center of my life. While I have watched them, I have also wanted them, waited for them, waited on them, because I have loved them. So why would I want and wait for someone I think is stupid? Most of the women I know who come together and sit around talking, talk about Black men. Whether we are talking about loving them or complaining about them, Black men always show up in our conversations. My father was a Black man. My husband was a Black man. My son, grandsons, and godsons are Black men. Was I raised by somebody stupid? Did I raise somebody stupid? Did I think my daughters would find good husbands in a pool of stupid people? Where did I get the notion that Black men are stupid?

Most of the women I know get dressed in the morning considering what "their man" or some man will say about their outfit. We cut our hair, buy our shoes, paint our faces as ways to attract the attention of Black men. So I asked myself, Why do women spend so much time focusing on people we believe are stupid? I am well aware that Black men are not stupid. But where did I get this notion? I did not dare open the matter up for debate among my friends. Instead, I took the matter within, into contemplation, meditation, if you will. What I realized was that Black men have lost their souls. In this instance, soul means the true essence of who you are. You have lost your soul to fear, anger, pain, and suffering. For many, you have lost it to the fear, anger, and pain of Black women. I also realized that the search for the soul lost by Black men is the responsibility of both Black men and Black women.

Every Shut Eye Ain't Sleep
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