For the duration of the nation’s existence, news stories have disproportionately reinforced myths regarding the Black male.
Early African-American publications, such as “Freedom’s Journal” in 1827, to more current ones such as Essence magazine, have opted to highlight accomplishments while dispelling stereotypes that cast Black men unfavorably. Today, social advocates have taken to the podcast medium to explore societal issues impacting Black male achievements.
Jayson K. Jones, a Research Scientist at the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at NYU Silver, is host of the “Black Boys & Men: Changing the Narrative” podcast series.
The Webby-nominated program features thought leaders from the public and private sectors dissecting stereotypes concerning Black boys and men, while providing facts and best practices for those working with these often marginalized populations.
Jones, 30, explained that he helped develop the series to address the negative image of Black men portrayed by the media.
“I can’t talk about the mission without talking about where the show came from,” Jones said. “Our entire reason behind doing it really came from a place of just personal reflection, being a Black man, coming from New York City, as well as trying to be attuned to everything that’s going on within the media.”
He said that he kept seeing the same stereotypes that projected negative images.
“I came to a point where it was hard to watch the news without seeing something negative, whether it be another loss of someone’s life, another tragedy, or any kind of disparaging stereotype about Black boys and men, through the media, let alone Black women and families and what have you,” Jones said. “I started looking into folks that are doing a number of amazing things concerning Black boys and men, whether it’s research, whether it’s some type of advocacy work, and just started reaching out to them to see if we can talk about it with these with the mission of dispelling some of these myths from the stereotypes: What’s the absolute truth out there? What information can we get? And what evidence do you have?”
The series’ first season questions the issue of systemic racism and oppression and provides solid suggestions to prevent and address many of the issues that disproportionately affect Black boys and men, including health disparities, incarceration, trauma and violence.
According to Jones, many aspects of Black males’ real-life experience is absent or exaggerated in its media portrayals.
“One of the things that I wasn’t fully aware of came out of the episode talking about policies that affect Black fathers,” Jones said. “One of the things that I was really surprised about was child support. Because there’s the stereotype of the Black father out there as not involved in their family and not caring, and I definitely didn’t agree with or believe in any of those things.
“But I wanted to know, what are the facts out there and it comes out of a place of policy where many fathers are impoverished and it’s really hard for them to actually pay for child support. So, many folks are fined or jailed for those kinds of offenses, and it’s not just Black fathers, but there’s a systemic thing that’s happening, where there’s kind of this attack on folks who are in poverty-impacted situations, and really can’t afford these fines and fees, and then they are jail for it. So that’s one of the things when I started delving into the research, after having that conversation, I was really blown away by the numbers.”