An Open Letter encouraging “Very Smart Brothas” writer Panama Jackson


Dear Panama,

This may seem way left field but please read with an open mind.

A couple months ago, I had a disturbing dream.

A very young girl under the influence of a toxic substance aggressively paraded her sexuality in a way that perverted the mind of everyone around.  Stunned at first, I finally moved, wrapping her lovingly in blankets, soothing as I laid her down to rest.  She slept, calm.  She woke, and stared back at me lovingly.

That dream showed me how violent sexuality can be.  The little girl was alarming enough.  The violence was in the passively sickening responses from the men who witnessed, paralyzed.  Struggling to resist the pull of this perverse temptation… From a child.  That was what woke me in a cold sweat.

Yesterday responses in a forum you created were alarming.

I read the incendiary article posted in true VSB fashion, about your response to news about a professor who led the first day of a class about sex, gender and culture while caring for her baby.  

I couldn’t help but see how your post and the comments that followed echoed this perverse pull toward temptation.

What’s really going on when we take it in stride when folks call the act of  nursing not only sexually attractive, but inviting and even aggressive?

Here’s my encouragement:

We’re all thinking, breathing, human beings.  We live in a country where we are expected to make decisions that affect not only us, but our neighbors, children and future generations by voting.  We’re supposed to vote on everything from school policy to abortion law, election policy and criminal sentencing.

And, each of us has a purpose: Some are parents, leaders, doctors, attorneys, teachers, or dancers.  Others are writers.

You have a powerful voice and a following of (hundreds of?) thousands: You’re a self-proclaimed Very Smart Brotha.  In the very least, that means there is a responsibility to seriously consider the impact of your words on your readers.  In many ways, I can see how you do this: As you’ve gracefully acknowledged there’s a little more work ahead.

Why?

Here’s the scenario: What if your daughter grew up to be a widowed professor with a young baby?  What if your daughter found herself in the same position years from now?  What if your daughter were walking back to her car with her baby on campus one night and got harassed by drunken male students asking if they could nurse?  What if they snatched her child and she were sexually assaulted?  What if she had to move to Arizona for safety?  What if she had to birth that child?  What if the child were the spitting image of her father?  Imagine the older sister babysitting the younger.  Them playing together.  Your daughter’s pain.

Crazy right?  What a miracle it would be if those sisters grew up to form the biggest movement in the world, fighting for women’s human rights.  That sounds crazy too.  But it’s possible.

It happens when people in positions of power own the responsibility that comes with it and wield it for something that is not only about them.  All it would take is that you ask, every time you write, how does this help?

Recently I was particularly encouraged when you posted an article where you referred to losing your edge.  To me, that was the beginning of knowing your life isn’t just random, and just about you.  That’s not a step backward, but a step forward.

Clearly you’re a man with a viewpoint many others share.  My encouragement is to actually write more about women.  Think about using that power to bridge the gap from where you were, to where you are now.  Some of your readers will shift but who is really following you?

I guess what I’m really asking is, how are you leading?

You’ve got a gift.

When that’s used in a purposeful way, you can make a real difference.  Why not be intentional about finding out the angle to your writing that uplifts women… In the interest of preserving mankind and stuff?

With love and encouragement,

Tina

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7 Replies to “An Open Letter encouraging “Very Smart Brothas” writer Panama Jackson”

  1. I tend to agree with the “to whom much is given much is required” mantra. Although the dream and the scenario at the end threw me off course a bit, I get your point and I think it is a valid one.

    If Panama was to write serious pieces that preached social justice, leadership, etc.. and lost his influence because readership was down… would it be worth it?

    1. Thank you for reading, commenting, and the helpful mini-critique. I don’t think he needs to shift focus per se. I’ve just seen that when they choose to write about more serious topics things get tricky when it involves women’s issues. To answer your question, in my opinion it would be worth it. I don’t think they’re writing for readership numbers. I’m simply appreciative he even read and considered any of the letter.

  2. What’s the big deal over the professor breast feeding in a gender class. Its very appropos. It shows in real time what women working in academia with babies have to deal with. Why is breastfeeding so controversial in American culture? Why is the only acceptable cleavage to show in public that cleavage which is used for commercial purposes? The breast did not evolve for sexual attraction, it evolved to feed infants. That is the function of the breast!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, I agree completely. Keep asking these questions: I think your last statement is very close to the root answer. Keep reminding folks that not only American, but global thinking toward women needs to change. Huge paradigm shift that I hope to see begin in my lifetime.

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