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Black Men’s Studies

Black Manhood and Masculinities in the U.S. Context


Serie McDougal III

Black Men's Studies offers an approach to understanding the lives and the self determination of men of African descent in the U.S. context. It not only frames their experiences, it also explores the multidimensional approaches to advancing the lives of Black men. Particular attention is given to placing Black men in their own unique historical, cultural, and socio-political contexts.

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Introduction: Trying to See Black Men and Boys



Trying to See Black Men and Boys

In Malidoma Somé’s book, Of Water in the Spirit, the second chapter is titled “Trying to See.” The author details his experience being led by elder men through a Dagara initiation process for young males. The Dagara are an ethnic group found in Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Cote d’Ivoire. One part of this initiation process is dedicated to the development of sight. Without sight, Somé and the other initiates could not go through the other trials and lessons in their route to manhood. On page 203, an elder addresses the young males:

“Tomorrow we will begin working with your sight,” the coach continued. “You must learn to see. Without good sight, you can’t continue with the other sessions. When you have learned to see well, you will journey one by one to your respective places in this world and find every piece of your self. For now, I want you to sleep. Put your weary bodies to rest for the night and put your spirits in a state of awareness. There will be no further pause in this instruction until it is all over.” (Somé, 1994, p. 203)

The elders leading the initiation explained it is not possible to have knowledge without sight. For the Dagara, seeing goes beyond visual acuity, which is the narrowest level of perception (Somé, 1998). It is the development of spiritual sight that expands a person’s vision, making...

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