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 A Review from The Mid-South Tribune Archives

Road Sign to Travelers: A book never goes out of style. Book excerpts and book reviews from our archives are still about books on the bookshelf either at the library, a retail store, your favorite nook and cranny bookstore, or on your bookshelf. Remember, reading is fundamental!

"Advance Your Swagger" Is Common Sense

 

By Arelya J. Mitchell

The Mid-South Tribune

The Mid-South Tribune ONLINE

And the Black Information Highway

There’s a new book coming out in September 2007. It’s older than Old School. Yet, many do not realize that what it is preaching and teaching was once upon a time part of what  Historical Black Colleges and Universities taught—even though no one wants to talk about it or knows enough to talk about it now. So what was it? Etiquette. You know that subject that elaborates on how to use a knife and fork, how to feel comfortable at the table in a banquet room full of people, strut your stuff because you know your stuff while being humble at the same time.

Again, let’s emphasize “Historical Black Colleges and Universities” known now as HBCU’s. Yes, my African American brothers and sisters, there was a time and a pride that when a young Black man or woman went off to the only higher institute of learning they were allowed to go to,  the curriculum included mandatory lessons in etiquette, because it was known that many of these young Black men and women who had the rare ‘privilege and opportunity’ to attend college period were coming literally out of the cotton fields or from sharecroppers’ farms or high-rise ghettos; so these BLACK professors  and staff members took it upon themselves to make sure our young people were well-rounded and grounded by passing down ‘etiquette’—manners, home training, table manners—what have you. So, when our young African American people of yesteryear went out into the world they had a swagger of confidence because they knew how to conduct themselves in public, at the table, at a cocktail party, when company came over.  Let’s face it, they felt  confident because of these etiquette classes. Back then, Black teachers didn’t play. In fact, they were going to make sure every Black derrière that picked up a degree also picked up home training whether they got it from home or not.

 All one has to do these days is look at too many multi-million dollar-salaried Black athletes who can’t talk, can’t conduct themselves at a press conference, can’t conduct themselves off the ‘field’ or off the court. But it’s not totally their fault. They’re no longer products of when strict Black teachers took it upon themselves to groom and then release. These were some of the meanest, strictest Black teachers who didn’t mind carrying forth what your mama and daddy wanted them to. The knowledge was passed down and there was a ‘value’ for education and home training that had nothing to do with a dollar bill. This is not to say that they didn’t train them to deal with the adversity of racism, because they did. There was a rule that Blacks of certain generations were taught either outright or in such a way that you just knew what you were up against: If you were Black, you had to be twice as good or three times as good as your White counterpart. This is what advanced the race. That’s what made us take to the street to demand better because we knew we had to be twice as good or three times as good as our White counterpart and were quite capable of doing the job. Whatever job. Even those Black adults who didn’t have the opportunity to finish high school – let alone college—or make huge salaries held a ‘value’ system that was worth more than all the money in the world: Education and home training.

All my preaching is to say that finally a Black male has come forth with a book that goes back to that value system. How bold of him.

Fonzworth Bentley is readying to release “Advance Your Swagger” (Random House/Villard Press) in September 2007, as mentioned early. The book subtitled: “How to Use Manners, Confidence, and Style to Get Ahead”.  Bentley was rap mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ assistant. He is such an advocate of etiquette that   GQ magazine has called him “the First Gentleman of Hip Hop”.

We highly recommend “Advance Your Swagger: How to Use Manners, Confidence, and Style to Get Ahead”. To Black parents and guardians, while you’re getting junior his two million dollar tennis shoes, please throw this book in the shopping bag with them.  We’ll go even further and say that you Black Church Folk make it a point of getting this book for your Sunday School goers who may not be getting the ‘home training’ at home. And while you’re doing beautiful Good Samaritan work in other areas of the community, get this book for Black youngsters who are not being given this knowledge because somewhere along the line they were never or seldom exposed to etiquette and home training.  To Black parents (actually to all parents), please get this book for young boys (and girls, too, but the focus in this commentary is on our young boys).It’s never too early to learn manners.

 

Also, I believe Mr. Bentley needs to have face-to-face-sit-down meetings with those mostly White owners and managers who seem to be more interested in getting young Black men on the court or field and not making sure they are ready for press conferences, banquets, business meetings, etc. They are more interested in making sure that these young men are the dollar bills without being the total package; whereas our Black Historical Colleges and Universities made it their mission that they were the total package.

 

These mostly White male owners and managers bring these young gifted Black men into their franchises and essentially abandon them in other areas they—seeing that they are the older adults and role models (regardless of their race) and  are responsible for whether they like it or not.

 

But instead what they have managed to do is act outraged and put in dress codes because ‘crap’ was getting out of hand. ‘Crap’ they created when they failed to take care of business on the front end.  NEVER in a million years would they have brought in a young highly-paid executive and NOT taken the time to make sure he/she was not the total package through training, having manners to conduct themselves at press conferences, at the table, at meetings, at high profile events—you get my drift. To reiterate, in the past our strict mean Black teachers did this with tough love at Black historical colleges and universities.

 

In my opinion, these White owners and managers were more thuggish than the young Black athletes who get into trouble, because these franchise establishment’s value system was all about the Benjamins. You don’t take these kids who are just getting into their manhood and expect them to behave with total common sense.  And frankly, if I see one more Black athlete who cannot form a simple sentence (We don’t even want to bring up a complex or compound sentence) at a press conference, I am going to become extremely unladylike myself. This is ridiculous! NEVER in a million years would they let an executive go out and break verbs on the level that even Stepin’ Fetchit wouldn’t understand in the 21st century, seeing this actor had to endure it to practice his craft!

 

I urge that every football player, basketball player, baseball player – most of whom are African American (face it!) to purchase “Advance Your Swagger”. See to yourselves if the franchise doesn’t give a hoot, except to come down from the mountain to inflict outrage and punishment when you’re in trouble, because you’re making THEM look bad because a situation has escalated. Interesting how the franchise powers-that-be can take  multi-million dollar private jets to the ‘hood’ or elsewhere to handle a ‘juvenile’ problem when the Riot Act should have been read and enforced before these mostly Black athletes stepped foot into the professional realm.