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VENTURA COUNTY STAR REVIEW

September 2, 2007

Moraga: Changing persepctives

One man seeks to reopen discussion

As a black man living in modern America, something just didn’t square with Janks Morton when he pndered the present circumstances of the nation’s black society.

The common perception was that there were more black men in jail than in college. That tidbit of information had been repeated in the nation’s media, by black leaders and others, so it must be true. Or was it?

Morton did his own research and found that while there were in indeed 802,000 blacks in federal and state prisons and jails according to U.S. Justice Department data, there were more than 864,000 black men in college according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

If you look at those age 18 to 24, the number of blacks in college jumps to a four-to-one ratio.

So what other myths, stereotypes and intentional and unintentional misrepresentations are being made about black society? And why isn’t there more widespread discussion within black society about the problems it does have?

Mindful of the controversy surrounding comedian Bill Cosby when he said in 2004 that some black parents were not doing their job, Morton took on the task of being a one-man film production company, conducting interviews nationwide with everyone from black intellectuals and black journalists to the average person on the street including a man shining his shoes.

The result of his $7,000 investment is the DVD “What Black Men Think,” which recently premiered in the nation’s capital and is now available for purchase at Amazon.com.

Morton was recently interviewed on C-SPAN and offered his perspective on his journey of discovery.

To be sure, there are some disturbing statistics about black society, which Morton doesn’t shy away from.

A year ago, he was watching Fox News and saw a statistic that 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock.

“I’m a skeptic, I didn’t believe it at first,” he said during his C-SPAN interview with Brian Lamb. “I went to the census data and saw that and what began to come out, the 70 percent was true. I knew there was some other more disturbing trends that were being exploited by this data — that we have the highest divorce rates, we have the highest single rates, the lowest marriage rates — and that kind of led me to want to try to explore what has happened to the black family over the past 40 years, because just a generation ago, we didn’t look like this.”

So Morton decided to hit the streets to complete his “docu-log,” which he calls a cross between a traditional documentary and a dialog or monologue with real people.

Throughout the DVD, Morton, a former record label owner who worked with Boyz II Men, posed the jail versus college question to blacks nationwide and inveritably got the jail answer, misinformation he said that is a result of stereotypes portrayed in gangster rap and elsewhere in the entertainment industry.

Contributing to the problem of increasing divorce rates and other negative family issues is the growing conflict between black men and women, Morton said, with many women believing the stereotype that all men are unfaithful and men thinking women are just looking for easy money.

“What I’m saying to you is that in 40 years, because one generation ago we didn’t look like this, in 40 years basically black men and black women have kind of turned their backs on each other, it’s almost to the point of like an undeclared civil war,” he said.

Morton has his critics who say most of his black experts fall into the conservative camp and that he didn’t try hard enough to seek out comment from black leaders like the NAACP’s Julian Bond or the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

But in his docu-log, and his Web site, whatblackmenthink.com, Morton said he hopes it will open up the discussion within all segments of black society about how to face up to and overcome its current challenges.

“More than 100 years ago, Harriet Tubman was quoted as saying that if I could have convinced more slaves that they truly were slaves, I could have freed thousands more,” Morton said. “As you sit there in awe and wonder questioning your ancestor’s inability to be aware of the tragedy of their own circumstance, this I tell you, and I tell you to be true, that 100 years from now your descendants will look upon you with the same disdain, questioning how could you have let this happen. How could you have bought into the false castigations that keep you from one another? You sit idly by and watch your media distort your images, you know that the government stratifies you, you know that the black leadership exploits you, and you choose to do nothing, or maybe you don’t know. After today, there shall be no more excuses, because after today, you will know.”

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