They say love can heal all wounds. So on this Valentine's Day I'm sending a love letter to black men with a prayer that in the coming years the black community will do everything it can to promote healing and respect.
My Valentine message is simple: I love you. And, I ask that we stand strong with our fellow Americans to confront inequality and injustice in all its forms. It will be necessary to look into our own hearts. We have to believe in our own self-worth. Yes, we all have much work to do. But we've come so far -- often only by faith -- and we won many battles. We are up to the task.
The all too familiar statistics on black men are beyond distressing. Those numbers don't bear repeating here. But listen to the stats long enough, over generations even, and they can become a self-fulfilling prophecy: Black men are dangerous; they are to be feared, not valued.
Well, I refuse to be afraid, of my son, my neighbor, or every brown-skinned stranger. Because while it may be true that numbers don't lie, surely statistics can be skewed depending on whether your goal is to reach a positive or negative picture.
Jack McGoldrick, who is white, is not afraid either. He is challenging the statistics. Using 2011-2013 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, McGoldrick decided to tell a different story -- a positive story about black men in America.
The former Madison Avenue advertising executive and current head of his own marketing firm told me he has studied the African-American demographics for more than 20 years and always questioned why the positive statistics about young black men always got lost in the conversation. According to his data on black men 15 years and older:
- One out of three goes to college.
- Eleven out of 12 finishes high school.
- Five out of nine have jobs
- Three out of four are drug free.
- Seven out of eight are not teenage fathers.
McGoldrick wants to share these facts. So he recently teamed up with the local NAACP in Medford, Massachusetts, to produce a captivating YouTube video that features 20 black teenagers
mostly from Medford High School. The video opens with three boys. One begins: "I am a statistic, the one out of three that goes to college." Eventually more boys join in and recite all the positive statistics. The video, titled "Statistic," has also popped up on twitter under the hashtag: #IAMASTATISTIC.
"Young black men are doing positive things in the world and we just don't talk about these stories," said McCormick, who produced the video project pro bono for the NAACP. "Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, Staten Island [Eric Garner], you hear so many horrible stories, we have little reason to think positive. But I want tell black men the truth. My hope for the future is that they can be proud and feel free to be themselves, not have to worry about color all the time."
Keith Taylor, a freshman engineering student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, told me he is not surprised by the positive stats for the most part, but a few did shock him into silence on the phone. He wondered why he'd never heard this information.
"You hear so much on the news about black men and drugs or crime. I've never heard that three out of four young black men are drug free. And, I'm surprised to hear that most of us are not teenage fathers. The media pushes that images of us ... and I bought into it."
Taylor grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and says he has seen his share of friends take the wrong path. But inspired by his parents -- a mother who holds a master's degree and a father who was in the Air Force -- Taylor is setting his sights high. He's doing his part to give back to his community and spends much of his spare time mentoring boys and girls, introducing them to engineering careers.
His hope for young black men is simple and wise, "I wish that we would all come together and support one another. We can do a lot of great things and we just don't know it. You have to lift your head up and see beyond what you see on TV."
Whether it is the NAACP Statistics video, twitter tags that have gone viral in support of equality, or Beyoncé's beautiful tribute to what she called the "strength and vulnerability of black men" at the 2015 Grammy's when she sang "Precious Lord, Take My Hand
," it seems fitting this Black History Month to show some love for black men: Happy Valentine's Day, my brothers.