Wednesday, November 11, 2015

1.5 Million Missing Black Men

by JUSTIN WOLFERS, DAVID LEONHARDT and KEVIN QUEALY                                          
APRIL 20, 2015

*For every 100 black women not in jail, there are only 83 black men. The remaining men 1.5 million of them are, in a sense, missing - 17 missing black men for every 100 black women.

*Among cities with sizable black populations, the largest single gap is in Ferguson, MO - 40 missing black men for every 100 black women.

*North Charleston, S.C., has a gap larger than 75 percent of cities - 25 missing black men for every 100 black women.

*This gap driven mostly by incarceration and early deaths barely exists among whites - 1 missing white man for every 100 white women.

In New York, almost 120,000 black men between the ages of 25 and 54 are missing from everyday life. In Chicago, 45,000 are, and more than 30,000 are missing in Philadelphia. Across the South from North Charleston, S.C., through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi and up into Ferguson, Mo. hundreds of thousands more are missing.

They are missing, largely because of early deaths or because they are behind bars. Remarkably, black women who are 25 to 54 and not in jail outnumber black men in that category by 1.5 million, according to an Upshot analysis. For every 100 black women in this age group living outside of jail, there are only 83 black men. Among whites, the equivalent number is 99, nearly parity.

African-American men have long been more likely to be locked up and more likely to die young, but the scale of the combined toll is nonetheless jarring. It is a measure of the deep disparities that continue to afflict black men disparities being debated after a recent spate of killings by the police and the gender gap is itself a further cause of social ills, leaving many communities without enough men to be fathers and husbands.

Perhaps the starkest description of the situation is this: More than one out of every six black men who today should be between 25 and 54 years old have disappeared from daily life.

“The numbers are staggering,” said Becky Pettit, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas. And what is the city with at least 10,000 black residents that has the single largest proportion of missing black men?

Ferguson, Mo., where a fatal police shooting last year led to nationwide protests and a Justice Department investigation that found widespread discrimination against black residents. Ferguson has 60 men for every 100 black women in the age group, Stephen Bronars, an economist, has noted.

The gap in North Charleston, site of a police shooting this month, is also considerably more severe than the nationwide average, as is the gap in neighboring Charleston.

Nationwide, the largest proportions of missing men generally can be found in the South, although there are also many similar areas across the Midwest and in many big Northeastern cities. The gaps tend to be smallest in the West. Incarceration and early deaths are the overwhelming drivers of the gap.

Of the 1.5 million missing black men from 25 to 54 which demographers call the prime-age years higher imprisonment rates account for almost 600,000. Almost 1 in 12 black men in this age group are behind bars, compared with 1 in 60 non-black men in the age group, 1 in 200 black women and 1 in 500 non-black women.

Higher mortality is the other main cause. About 900,000 fewer prime-age black men than women live in the United States, according to the census. It’s impossible to know precisely how much of the difference is the result of mortality, but it appears to account for a big part.

Homicide, the leading cause of death for young African-American men, plays a large role, and they also die from heart disease, respiratory disease and accidents more often than other demographic groups, including black women.

Several other factors including military deployment overseas and the gender breakdown of black immigrants each play only a minor role, census data indicates. The Census Bureau’s under-counting of both African-Americans and men also appears to play a role.

The gender gap does not exist in childhood: There are roughly as many African-American boys as girls. But an imbalance begins to appear among teenagers, continues to widen through the 20's and peaks in the 30's. It persists through adulthood.

The disappearance of these men has far-reaching implications. Their absence disrupts family formation, leading both to lower marriage rates and higher rates of childbirth outside marriage, as research by Kerwin Charles, an economist at the University of Chicago, with Ming-Ching Luoh, has shown.

The black women left behind find that potential partners of the same race are scarce, while men, who face an abundant supply of potential mates, don’t need to compete as hard to find one. As a result, Mr. Charles said, “men seem less likely to commit to romantic relationships, or to work hard to maintain them.”

The imbalance has also forced women to rely on themselves often alone to support a household. In those states hit hardest by the high incarceration rates, African-American women have become more likely to work and more likely to pursue their education further than they are elsewhere.

The missing-men phenomenon began growing in the middle decades of the 20th century, and each government census over the past 50 years has recorded at least 120 prime-age black women outside of jail for every 100 black men. But the nature of the gap has changed in recent years.

Since the 1990s, death rates for young black men have dropped more than rates for other groups, notes Robert N. Anderson, the chief of mortality statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both homicides and H.I.V.-related deaths, which disproportionately afflict black men, have dropped. Yet the prison population has soared since 1980. In many communities, rising numbers of black men spared an early death have been offset by rising numbers behind bars.

It does appear as if the number of missing black men is on the cusp of declining, albeit slowly. Death rates are continuing to fall, while the number of people in prisons although still vastly higher than in other countries has also fallen slightly over the last five years.

But the missing-men phenomenon will not disappear anytime soon. There are more missing African-American men nationwide than there are African-American men residing in all of New York City or more than in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Houston, Washington and Boston, combined.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Black Men and Mental Illness Can Be a Barbershop Conversation Too

by Dr. Larry J. Walker

Historically, Black men have very few places where they feel free to discuss important issues. We face economic and social barriers including high unemployment, incarceration rates, and health disparities.

Fortunately, the barbershop gives us a place to call home; the camaraderie is a welcomed feeling in a society that views Black men as threatening, lazy, and antisocial.

In the “shop” you discuss politics, religion, sports, education among other issues. It is a fast-paced environment where Black men of different backgrounds come together for a brief period of time to listen to a barber standing center stage who serves as part therapist (they listen to all your problems), Jedi master (they can tell when something is wrong) and prophet (they always know when your team will lose).

Unfortunately, only on rare occasion do barbershops discuss mental illness, an issue that continues to quietly impact the lives of Black men from various backgrounds.

Within the Black community mental illness is like the elephant in the room. We talk around the issue but don’t take time to discuss how it impacts families and communities. For example, instead of acknowledging when a family member is struggling with a mental illness, we offer comments that they are “different” or “always behaved that way.”

Black men seldom discuss mental illness and mistrust the healthcare system. Personally, I had the opportunity to offer a friend support but failed to follow up.

A few years ago I tried to reconnect with a friend from college after a few attempts I spoke to a family friend who indicated that my classmate was struggling with a mental illness.

I finally spoke to him after several years but I didn’t feel comfortable asking him if he was seeing a therapist or taking medication. He never brought up the issue and I still feel guilty not finding out what, if anything, I could do to help. My apprehension is part of a bigger problem among Black men; far too many brothers are struggling in silence. 

According to Dr. F. Abron Franklin, Epidemiologist and Director of Treatment and Prevention Services, Volunteers of America, Oregon, “African American men are socialized by a definitional architecture of manhood that promotes the integrity of a man or manhood is premised on a man's level of resources to address his own issues and not to ask the help of others. Therefore, out a fear of appearing weak or infirm, African American men are less motivated to utilize mental health services.”

Refusing to discuss mental health or seek out treatment can cause lives to spiral out of control. However, the reasons Black men do not trust the healthcare system is influenced by historical events.

For example, from 1932 to 1972 hundreds of Black men with syphilis went untreated as part of a study known as the Tuskegee Experiment. The story is still discussed in Black barbershops and beauty salons throughout the United States. Convincing Black men to talk about mental illnesses including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is an uphill battle but barbershops provide the perfect environment.

Ensuring Black men understand there are services available is important. Unfortunately there are a variety of visible and hidden obstacles that prevent Black men from seeking support.

Dr. Franklin explains: “The barriers that impede or prevent access to mental health services among African American men are complex and, sometimes, interdependent. Systemic issues such as structural inequalities; provider availability; culturally responsive assessment and treatment modalities; and either a lack of or inadequate insurance coverage also deter access.”

Increasing self-help behaviors among Black men is important. A study from the Office of Minority Health suggests that deaths related to suicide for Black men are nearly four times higher than the rate for Black women. 

For this reason, community based organizations, schools, religious institutions, local and state entities should consider the following:

Creating Safe Spaces for Black Men to discuss Mental Health

Mental illness is a taboo subject that Black men do not discuss in classrooms, sporting events, conferences or at home. Organizing peer and mentorship groups that allow Black men to talk about topics regardless of their sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, socioeconomic background or religious affiliation is critical. 

Meetings should be moderated by professionals with similar experiences to ensure Black men feel comfortable discussing personal issues. Safe spaces allow therapists to provide educational materials, critical feedback and support services that are not available in most communities. 

Creating a support network would extend into the local community where men in crisis have someone to talk to during difficult times.

Coordinate with Local Institutions to Promote Programs

Frequently federal and state officials develop and/or fund programs without input from the local community. Teaming up with non-profit organizations, religious institutions, schools and clubs would prevent duplicate programs that fail to properly address specific issues.

For instance, programs have to be tailored to the needs of communities struggling with high unemployment, drug abuse or homelessness. Failing to invest in established organizations is counterproductive and costly.

Developing partnerships creates synergy between local, state and national organizations that seek to address mental health. Convincing Black men to attend individual or group sessions requires a coordinated effort that utilizes social media, barbershops, academic and athletic competitions. 

Local organizations have established relationships with the community, which is essential to addressing mental illness among Black men. Mental illness is an issue that affects Americans from diverse backgrounds. 

However, Black men require support from therapists with similar backgrounds because of stress from community, family and peer relationships. 

Increasing self-help behaviors among Black men should include an understanding of how historical events affect perceptions and attitudes. Increasing funding to community-based programs that understand the barriers Black men encounter is critical to addressing this important issue. 

It is vital that fathers, sons, uncles, friends, fraternity brothers and cousins work together to support Black men in their darkest hours. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Study Finds Obesity Significantly Increases Prostate Cancer Risk in African-American Men

April 16, 2015

Obesity has a profoundly different effect on prostate cancer risk in African-American as compared to non-Hispanic white men. Obesity in black men substantially increases the risk of low- and high-grade prostate cancer, while obesity in white men moderately reduces the risk of low-grade cancer and only slightly increases the risk of high-grade cancer, according to the first large, prospective study to examine how race and obesity jointly affect prostate cancer risk.

The findings, published April 16 in JAMA Oncology, were based on a nationwide study led by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington. The research team, led by senior author Alan Kristal Dr.P.H, a member of the Fred Hutch Public Health Sciences Division, and first and corresponding author Wendy Barrington Pd.D. an affiliate public health investigator at Fred Hutch and an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Nursing, found that black men who are obese (a body-mass index of 35 or higher) had a 122 percent increased risk of low-grade and an 81 percent increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer compared to those who were of normal weight (a BMI of 25 or lower). 

In contrast, among non-Hispanic white men, those who were obese had a 20 percent reduced risk of low-grade and only a 33 percent increased risk of high-grade prostate cancer compared to those of normal weight. “For unknown reasons, African-American men have a much higher risk of prostate cancer than non-Hispanic white men. Different effects of obesity might explain at least some of the difference in risk and, more importantly, preventing obesity in African-American men could substantially lower their prostate cancer risk,” Kristal said.

According to the National Cancer Institute, black men have the highest prostate cancer rates of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S., they tend to get more aggressive forms of this cancer and are more than twice as likely to die of the disease as compared to non-Hispanic white men. These elevated risks for African-American men are due to both social disadvantage, such as access to resources, as well as biologic factors, Barrington said.

This study suggests obesity, which is influenced by both social and biologic factors, may play an important role behind what Kristal and Barrington call the “African-American race effect” on disparities in prostate cancer risk. More than a third of the U.S. population is classified as obese, and the prevalence of obesity among African-American men is slightly higher 37 percent compared to 32 percent in non-Hispanic white men, Barrington said.

“Given that obesity is more common among African-Americans, [the prostate cancer-obesity connection] is an important question to study, as it may shed light on how to reduce black/white disparities in prostate cancer incidence,” she said.

The study was based on data collected during the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, known as the SELECT Study, an international clinical trial that tested whether supplemental selenium and/or vitamin E could prevent prostate cancer. More than 35,000 men from across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico participated.

Study participants, including nearly 3,400 African-American men, were followed carefully for the development of cancer and other diseases, and a single study pathologist examined prostate tissue from the men diagnosed with prostate cancer to determine whether it was low- or high-grade disease. The trial ended early, because after an average of five years there was no evidence that either of the supplements lowered prostate cancer risk.

The study did, however, provide a treasure trove of high-quality data on risk factors such as race, height, weight and family history, as well as the use of prostate-cancer screening. The obesity finding was “serendipitous” and “potentially of enormous importance,” Kristal said. “In an unrelated analysis we wanted to statistically control for effects of obesity. We noticed that the associations of obesity with prostate cancer risk in African-American men were very different than those for non-Hispanic white men.”

What drives the disparity? “There is some evidence that the biological responses to obesity, such as inflammation and glucose tolerance, are more pronounced in African-American men; both inflammation and insulin may promote cancer development,” Kristal said. Obesity might also have an impact on genes that control prostate cancer growth, “but frankly this is just speculation,” he said. “This is the next question for researchers to ask, because the answer will likely tell something very important about prostate cancer development and prevention.”

While the study’s findings concerning obesity and prostate cancer risk in black men are novel and need to be replicated, they underline the ongoing public health toll of the obesity epidemic.

“Obesity prevention and treatment should be a priority for all Americans, but in particular for African-American men,” Barrington said. “Prostate cancer kills 45 out of 100,000 African-Americans and only 19 out of 100,000 white men, and obesity is contributing to this important health disparity. Health care providers need to consider obesity prevention for their African-American male patients as a targeted strategy to reduce prostate cancer disparities.”

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Racist Low-Intensity Warfare and the Massacre in South Carolina

by Kenray Sunyaru

Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan are war-torn countries immersed in civil war, sectarian violence, and massive suffering. The U.S. government plays a ‘major role’ internally and externally facilitating the violence in these countries.

Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan are examples of ‘high-intensity warfare’; High-Intensity warfare is the large military force of troops, armor, ships, jets, and missiles.

This evening I will briefly highlight racism and ‘low-intensity warfare' in America; the domestic law enforcement's daily military operations waged against Black men specifically and Black people in general.  

What is low-intensity warfare?  Simply put, low-intensity warfare is an ongoing small-scale war like the every day racist ‘war on drugs’ and ‘war on gangs’ that specifically target Black men.

Low-intensity-warfare is the massive incarceration of Black men. Low-intensity warfare is the racist police murders of Black men. Low-intensity warfare is the racist war waged by white supremacist groups and individuals against Black people. 

Indeed, racist low-intensity warfare was carried out yesterday June 17th in Charleston, South Carolina, where a 21 year-old white supremacist Dylann Storm Roof massacred 9 Black people inside their Emmanuel AME Church that was founded by the great Black slave rebel leader Denmark Vesey.

The Black murder victims included 6 females and 3 males; one of the victims was Pastor Clementa Pinckney who also served as a South Carolina State Senator.

You see white supremacists ain’t never cared about Black Churches! Black Preachers! and Black politicians! Have we forgotten they assassinated our greatest preacher Martin Luther King, Jr? Have we forgotten about the white supremacist terrorist bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1965 in Birmingham, Alabama where 4 Black girls were murdered?

As Blacks in Michigan, have we forgot about ‘up the road’ in Flint? In Flint during 2010, a racist serial murderer stabbed 13 Black men killing 5 of them. White supremacy murders of Black people from Flint in 2010 to South Carolina in 2015 are not surprising. A recent report by the FBI’s Civil Rights Division reveals that Blacks are targeted by hate crimes the most in America – 70 percent of the victims!

As Black people, when we truly realize and accept that we are the most despised, rejected, and hated racial group in America; when we come to this realization we will have the understanding to stop hating ourselves and killing ourselves; we will respect ourselves, unite with ourselves, build for ourselves, and protect ourselves!!!!!!  

Dylannn Roof Racist Mass Murderer And White Men Beyond Suspicion

by Kenray Sunyaru

This morning I went to the Credit Union where I have done my banking at for over 30 years. I went to an open window with an unfamiliar teller; I believe she was from another branch office.

I gave her my account number and my work identification; she acknowledged that my workplace had deposited a certain amount of money into my account and then asked me for my birth date. She then went over to a white male teller and asked him if I was a familiar customer, he looked at me and nodded his head yes. After being cleared as a possible Black male suspect she continued to wait on me.

Indeed, a Black man in America is constantly a suspect from one place to another, before being a suspect at the Credit Union, I had gotten on the elevator at a local hospital and there was one lone white woman already on the elevator and when I entered, this woman’s face expressed ‘fright’ encountering a Black male suspect as if I were about to rob her, attack her, or rape her. She dropped her head as though she could not stand to look at me or maybe her head was down because she was praying I wouldn't harm her.

What this white woman did not realize as racist stereotypical thoughts were running through her mind, the thoughts in my mind were here is a ‘negro-phobic’ white woman that can cause me to be arrested, jailed, or worse. 

What both of these white women in these incidents don’t understand is that, due to Blacks being 70% of the victims of hate crimes and the history of white women lying on Black men I should, and I do view them more as ‘suspects’ than they should view me as one.

Let us take a look at how criminal suspects are treated in cases involving white men and Black men. According to the Charlotte Observer and other newspaper/media sources, cited that the Shelby, North Carolina police who ‘peacefully’ arrested white supremacist Dylann Roof after he had just massacred 9 Blacks in Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, treated him to a free meal at a local Burger King.

Roof told these police officers that being on the run all he had eaten was a bag of chips. Yes, empathetic white police felt Roof, who had ‘put in all that work’ slaughtering 9 Black people had ‘worked up an appetite’ and needed a couple of whoppers, fries, and a coke.

In contrast these same white police officers would have never taken a Black man they had arrested for massacring 9 white people in a church to a Soul-Food joint because he was hungry. Take the Black man to buy him some barbeque ribs, some greens, some yams, some macaroni and cheese, some potato salad, and some cornbread?  No, the Black man probably would have been beaten or killed on the spot of arrest.

With white men committing so much violence against Black people historically; with white men being the overwhelming majority of mass murderers and serial killers in this country how did Dylann Roof escape our suspicion? Why, because white male supremacy in American has been so successful in distorting the minds of most Black folks that white men are supreme and can’t be perceived as suspicious! The Black AME church members viewed Roof as a white male religious brethren instead of suspicious; he was not the Christian they assumed, he was really the 'angel of death'!

Not only was Roof not perceived as a suspect, Black families of his murder victims forgave him. Wow, with this distorted Christian forgiveness attitude they should just drop his murder charges and these Black families can invite Roof over for a Sunday fried chicken dinner with sweet potato pie as dessert and pray with him like their murdered love ones did at church before they eat!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Straight From The Heart

by Kenray Sunyaru

As a Black man I’ve learned that the ‘Heart’ is critically important to life, unfortunately due to the stress of racism – white supremacy too many Black men die prematurely of heart disease and strokes.

Heart disease is the number one killer of Black men in America and we lead this nation in heart related deaths. Black men are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than white men; Black men account for over 100,000 more heart disease deaths than white men. 
According to 2013 data from the American Heart Association 44% of Black males age 20 and older have heart disease. 

A 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that one in 100 Black men and women between 18 and 30 develops heart failure before age 50, a rate that is 20 times higher than whites in the same age group. The American Journal of Human Biology contains details of two studies that contend that poor nutrition and stress stemming back to the days of slavery could help explain Black-white differences in cardiovascular health in the United States.

In one study, researchers from Northwestern University explain how nutrients and hormones present in the womb can profoundly shape a fetus's development, in part by silencing certain genes. These influences, say the research team, can persist into later life to impact adult health, a process known as 'fetal programming'. The researchers argue that such inter-generational impacts of environmental factors could help explain racial health differences.

Christopher Kuzawa and Elizabeth Sweet who co-authored the research article says a pregnant African American mother's experience of well documented stressors including social forces such as discrimination and racism could have lingering effects on diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and heart attacks in her children.

By synthesizing this new evidence, they argue that social forces, rather than genes, may underlie the problem of racial inequity in heart attacks and strokes. Indeed the social force strain of racist socioeconomic deprivation and stress wreaks havoc on the minds and bodies of Black men that causes greater emotional distress, heart disease, and negatively impacts diabetes. Tupac Shakur once rapped that every day too many Black men “got to try to make a dollar out of 15 cents.”

A research team led by Carnegie Mellon University's Sheldon Cohen has found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research shows for the first time that the effects of psychological stress on the body's ability to regulate inflammation can promote the development and progression of disease.

Cohen argued that prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate the inflammatory response because it decreases tissue sensitivity to the hormone. Specifically, immune cells become insensitive to cortisol's regulatory effect. In turn, runaway inflammation is thought to promote the development and progression of many diseases.

Another study provides a better understanding of why chronic stress leads to high levels of inflammation in the body. Researchers found that chronic stress changes gene activity of immune cells before they enter the bloodstream so that they're ready to fight infection or trauma even when there is no infection or trauma to fight. This then leads to increased inflammation.

The University of California, Los Angeles researchers looked at blood samples from both the stressed mice, as well as humans who came from differing socioeconomic statuses. Just like in the mouse part of the experiment, 387 genes were identified that had differences in activity between the people who came from low socioeconomic backgrounds and those who came from high socioeconomic backgrounds.

And just like in the mice, the up-regulated genes in those who came from low socioeconomic backgrounds were pro-inflammatory.

Stress and Diabetes

Stress has a negative impact on the disproportionate number of Black men who have diabetes. Black men with type 2 diabetes who experience high levels of stress have a spike in blood sugar levels; stress increases the body’s demand for energy. To get that energy their bodies releases hormones that raise their blood sugar; having type 2 diabetes their insulin can't keep up with the high blood sugar levels.

Effects of Negative Emotions on the Heart

As Black men we’ve been under the emotional distress of racial oppression in America since 1619 – almost 400 years. The emotional distress of 'Post-Traumatic Slavery Disorder' whether in the form of stress, worry, depression, or anger increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, a growing body of research studies have found.

In 2007, Jesse Stewart, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, led a three-year research study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry that has linked negative emotions - depression, anxiety, hostility, anger - with atherosclerosis, or thickening of the inside walls of the coronary arteries. Thickening of these walls can slow or block the flow of blood to the heart and brain, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

"The current evidence suggests that there is a link between negative emotions and risk for heart disease" - the leading cause of death in the United States, says Dr. Stewart. "In these observational studies, the strength of the connection is comparable to other well-known cardiovascular risk factors. It's not a weak correlation."

"Depression can be considered an emerging risk factor for heart disease," Dr. Stewart adds. "It can be thought of as much the same way as cholesterol or high blood pressure or smoking, although the evidence base is not the highest available."

Negative Emotions and the Heart

There are two primary reasons why negative emotions can have such an impact on the heart, says clinical psychologist Barry J. Jacobs, Psy.D., a spokesman for the American Heart Association (AHA).

First, emotions such as stress and depression can have a behavioral effect, that lead individuals to do a terrible job taking care of themselves, and participate in unhealthy activities.

According to Dr. Jacobs, there is growing evidence regarding the biological effects of psychological stress. "For example, there's mounting research that when people get stressed out, their hormonal system produces more cortisol," a hormone released by the adrenal gland, says Dr. Jacobs. "This has been associated with heart disease and diabetes," he says. Continuous stress also affects the circulatory system. "The arteries tend to narrow when people are in situations of very high stress," Dr. Jacobs says. "That causes increased blood pressure."

Second, depression can also have a negative effect on the heart. "Depression has been linked with increased inflammation, as measured by markers in the blood," Dr. Stewart says. "These markers have been shown to predict future heart attacks. Depression also has an effect on the immune system, which then affects cardiopulmonary health."

Heart of the Matter 

In ancient African Egyptian spirituality the heart was the seat of emotion, thought, will, and intention; it was equivalent with the mind. In ancient Egypt when death occurred it was the deceased heart that was morally weighed for judgment. The heart was mummified with the body and the brain was siphoned out of the body and thrown away; it was no longer needed to catalog and choreograph the movements of the body that had passed into the realm of death.

The purely intellectual construction exemplified by the brain was a detriment in the realm of souls since the mind misconstrues information, twists, and distorts facts. The heart was kept in the body because true feelings and emotions are maintained in the heart.

Sufism, a spirituality derived from ancient African Egyptian spirituality continued on with the understanding that the human heart was more than just a critical physical pump; that the heart was the seat of spiritual intellect. In Sufism the ‘Heart’ signifies the biological heart’s spiritual aspect as being the center of all emotions and (intellectual and spiritual) faculties, such as perception, consciousness, sensation, reasoning, and willpower.

Research in the past few decades substantiates ancient African Egyptian spirituality and Sufism’s insights that the heart was far more than just a 'blood-pump'. The Institute of HeartMath in Boulder Creek, California studies the heart and has gained insight into the various brain-like attributes that it has been found to possess. These attributes form the 'little brain' in the heart, and this theory opens the door to the new and exciting topic of heart intelligence.

In the past, researchers have primarily focused on how the heart responds to brain commands. However, research now reveals that the heart has very significant effects on the brain that have been overlooked previously. This is the field of 'neurocardiology', which studies how the heart and the brain collaborate.

John and Beatrice Lacey pioneered this field of research in the 1970s; they discovered that, in contrast to preexisting theories, there is two-way communication between the heart and the brain.

Much of this research reveals new information about the heart, proving that even scientifically, the heart is a special and unique organ rather than merely a pump following the commands of the brain. The little brain in the heart is the heart’s own intrinsic nervous system - a network of neurons, neurotransmitters, proteins, and support cells that are very similar to those that exist in the brain, but act independently of the brain.

This information processing system can control the brain, the hormonal system, and other pathways. By using this system, the heart seems to have its own logic that functions separately from the autonomic nervous system. In fact, at times, brain “rhythms” neural oscillations or repetitive neural activity naturally synchronize to heart electromagnetic rhythms and heartbeat. These findings have shed light on scientific explanations to feelings such as intuition, coherence, and harmony.

The following recent scientific findings have shed light on the attributes of the heart:

*The human heart has approximately 40,000 neural cells. This means the heart has its own nervous system, which actually sends more information to the brain, than the brain sends to the heart! 

*From a biophysical perspective, every heart contraction creates a wave that pushes blood through the veins and arteries providing the energetic signal that helps synchronize all the cells of the body, including the brain.

*From a hormonal perspective, the heart is a hormone-producing endocrine gland, producing ANF to control blood- pressure, adrenaline, dopamine, and oxytocin (the love hormone). Oxytocin reduces fear, increases eye-contact, and increases trust and generosity.

*From an electromagnetic perspective, the heart’s electromagnetic field is 5,000 times more powerful than the brain’s! Our heart’s electromagnetic field expands and touches those within 8 – 25 feet of where we are positioned!


As Black men we got to get to the ‘heart of the matter’, the core, the main reasoning for our main health problem. It's just like our heart is the main essence of what keeps us living; the heart of our matter is racist-stress, emotional-distress, and heart-disease.

Thus we have to become 'heart centered' – heart focused; being 'heartful' means to become 'heart-intelligent' and engaged in self-love 'taking care of ourselves holisitically'; listening to our heart’s mind which means moving beyond a sole reliance on reason and embracing the subtle, generally unused and underdeveloped heart faculties of intuition; attending to our moods, stressors, and 'heart-felt' wounds; eating a 'heart-smart' diet and practicing daily stress management.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Black Male Sports Addiction and Its Negative Health Impact

by Kenny Anderson

I remember being an entering high-school Black basketball player in the early 1970’s when a popular song came out in 1973 titled ‘Basketball Jones’ by Cheech & Chong. This song got my attention because the title had ‘Jones’ in it, an Ebonic term for a fiend craving drugs particularly heroin; it was a popular word used by Black heroin addicts. The following is a verse from the song:

“Yes, I am the victim of a Basketball Jones
Ever since I was a little baby, I always be dribbling'
In fact, I was the baddest dribbler in the whole neighborhood
Then one day, my mama bought me a basketball
And I loved that basketball
I took that basketball with me everywhere I went
That basketball was like a basketball to me
I even put that basketball underneath my pillow
Maybe that's why I can't sleep at night
I need help, ladies and gentlemens.”

When I first heard the catchy song ‘Basketball Jones’ I did not understand how someone could be addicted to basketball like heroin, however when I went on to play college basketball I realized that too many Black males were addicted to basketball. After graduating from high-school in Detroit I went to a college in Kansas to play basketball, while there I met a Black male who played at the college who had just graduated. The brother had talent, I played with him over the summer, he was preparing himself for a walk-on NBA opportunity; he was invited by the San Antonio Spurs to tryout.

After not seeing this Brother for several months, I ran into him over a friend’s house where some guys were just hanging, talking, playing Chess, and listening to music, when this Brother all of sudden jumped up ran outside and started running down the street hollering someone was after him. This Brother’s bizarre behavior got my attention, I never saw this Brother again but later learned that he was admitted to the Kansas State Mental Hospital; he suffered from a mental breakdown after being cut by the Spurs.   

This Brother’s mental breakdown made it clear to me that basketball could have a tremendous negative impact on Black males health. I no longer looked at basketball as a game I loved playing with professional ambition, I began to look at the pathological side.

After playing college basketball for 2 years I left college to come home to work. Being back home I witnessed so many Black males I played basketball with and against who either never went on to college to play, played in college and left early like I did, or played all 4 years, still preoccupied with basketball; constantly playing basketball, watching it and talking about it; they could not transition from it; they were like the heroin addict who could not leave heroin alone.

Like recovering drug addicts who try to live on without drugs, Black males hooked on hoops had to make a living not playing basketball. Black ex-college basketball players had to make the transition, in most cases from pre­dominately white colleges and universities where they were privileged and had notoriety, to going back to their generally poor Black communities where they are just another struggling Black man. 

From ESPN highlights to invisibility, the basketball highs and NBA hopes are over. When college careers are over, Black basketball addicts suffer from mal­adjustment withdrawal symptoms; psycho-social malady issues. Dr. Harry Edwards has studied the impact of failure in sports and how it has affected the mental health in Black communities. Edwards stated there are a number of syndromes he’s iden­tified:

“Our prisons, for example are loaded with Black males with tremendous athletic potential. When they found out they could not make it, their ener­gies were directed toward anti-social behaviors – crime and drugs. We have all kinds of cases of depression and nervous breakdowns. We also believe there is some relationship between failure in sports and the increasing suicide rate among Black men. Many Black males whose college basketball eligibility is over, still live in a basketball fantasy world spending all of their time playing in gyms and on playgrounds; some of these men become ‘basketball bums’.”

So many of these Black males could not or did not make the transition away from basketball; they continued to play too much basketball over the years where they could have used that time going back to college to finish their degrees, enrolling into skilled trades job-training programs, or learning how to be entrepreneurs. Before these Black males realized it a lot of time had passed them by and they were well into their 30’s. Once they started coming out of the ‘basketball daze’ they found themselves with just a high school diploma, little or no job-skills, and living in Black communities that suffered from very high unemployment and poverty, offering them very few job opportunities. 

With all the problems Black males face on a day-to-day basis playing basketball or football wherever they can in the hood is a moment of freedom, expression, and recognition. Like the Black male heroin addict who feels free in his ‘nod’, Black male sports addict feels free while he’s playing in the ‘game’. Indeed, many of these maladjusted basketball junkies turned to crime, drugs, alcohol, many ended up in prison, became bums, and many of them have become television sports watching addicts. 

From ‘Active’ Sports Addicts to ‘Passive’ TV Sports Addicts

From my perspective Black male sports addiction is psycho-socially engineered where sports is highlighted as one the few means to success for Black boys in a racist society that restricts opportunities for them. Outside basketball courts, a few gyms, and vacant lots is the sole recreation available in most Black communities and a basketball or football is affordable.

Being ‘hooked on sports’ at an early age, by the time Black males finish their high-school or college sports careers too many of them become fully addicted television sports junkies. They have withdrawal symptoms no different than drug addicts. Compulsive passive sports television watching is similar to drug addiction except that the individual is not addicted to a substance. Black males compulsive television sports watching meets several addiction features:

*Television sports watching dominates Black men’s time

*Television sports watching results in Black males neglecting necessary physical activity; it impairs them from improving their health and contributes to chronic diseases.

*Television sports watching provides a satisfaction high

*Television sports watching cause withdrawal symptoms of unpleasant emotions if Black men attempt to stop watching TV so much.

What I have noticed is once Black males hit the Midlife Period (40–65)  beginning at 40 Black men increasingly become less active, inactivity increases and a sedentary ‘couch potato’ lifestyle begins to set in by sitting and watching sports on television. Being over 50 years-old myself, I personally know many Black men who watch sports on television 8-12 hours a day over the weekend. During the week days they watch sports 4-6 hours a day or more; they can watch sports on ESPN and the Big Ten Network 24-7. 

It is my belief that many Black men especially ex-athletes in an unknowing mid-life crisis excessively watch sports on television viewing younger Black male college and professional athletes because it reminds them of 'being back in the day' when they had athletic prowess; it offers them vicarious gratification often stifling them in a state of 'boy-psychology', stuck in a mind state of games instead of dealing with critical age related issues and the challenge of recreating themselves. 

Most of the time when Black men are watching all this sports on television they are eating unhealthy junk-food and fast-food; many smoke cigarettes and drink liquor too. Sitting for long periods of time lacking physical activity, along with poor diets results in many Black men becoming ‘obese’ physically sick with hypertension, heart disease, strokes, and diabetes. Sitting down for long periods stops the body from using its muscles and adequately processing sugars and fats. According to a recent Australian study people who spend more than four hours in front of the television each day have a far higher risk of dying early than those who limit their viewing. 

Watching sports on television for prolonged periods is definitely bad for Black men’s hearts according to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. People who watch more than four hours per day have a 46 percent higher risk of death from all causes. They also have an 80 percent increased risk from cardiovascular disease. Moreover many Black men sit and watch television to distract themselves to avoid dealing with psychological male midlife crisis issues; many Black men watch sports on television to escape being depressed. 

Black males compulsive television sports watching is not surprising when you look at Blacks excessive television viewing as a people. According to a Nielsen’s study on ‘The State of the Media: U.S. Television Trends by Ethnicity, documents that the amount of television viewing in the U.S. remains high, suggesting that the average person watched more than 143 hours of television per month. African Americans indicated the highest rate of total TV usage, African Americans watched their TVs an average of 7 hours, 12 minutes each day above the U.S. average of 5 hours, 11 minutes.

Just as the Black community must continue to address the devastating effects of Black males alcohol and drug addiction, we must also begin to address Black males television sports watching addiction. We must create self-help and counseling programs to address Black males television sports addiction so they can become more aware, active, healthy, and functional. Without intervention, too many Black males will remain addictively imbalanced and physically inactive by sports watching addiction, facing a likely future of suffering and death from chronic diseases.