Earlier this year, powered by her non-profit, Clever Communities in Action (CCIA), Starr Armstrong launched the Razor Sharp Readers program, using urban barber shops to provide a venue and atmosphere for youth to read and interact with positive adults.
The Razor Sharp Readers Corners provide culturally affirming literature for Black boys centered around their experiences.
The boys read while they wait for a haircut and in the barber chair, aloud to their barber.
Armstrong is still at work.
This fall, she is promoting a book she penned, “Dear Black Men: I Need You.”
She defines it as a micro-book, designed to create a dialogue and cultivate a stronger gender and cultural bond between Black men and women on a broad range of issues separating them and heal problems facing the African-American community in general.
“As a Black woman, I wrote this book to speak to the need for Black men and women to understand and admit that we need one another,” said Armstrong. “We are phenomenal people but we do have problems. Work has to be done in our community to heal and it won’t happen until we come together.”
Armstrong said there must be a sincere and concerted effort for Black men to reach out to Black women, and visa-versa.
Armstrong addresses the historic negative social images of Black men as irresponsible, abandoning their children, lazy, unemployed underemployed, and refusing to date Black women.
Black women, on the other hand, are being defined as angry, too loud, ghetto, indifferent to men and say they are independent and do not need a man.
She said these negative images and perceptions have been reinforced by traditional media (TV, movies, and literature) and are now amplified on social media such as Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. She believes that Black people who know better need to take control of the narrative.
“There are many good Black men and women,” she said. “There are many real-life stories out there which are opposite of the negative stereotypes.
She said the long-standing and complicated barriers and tensions which cause both genders to dismiss and devalue each other’s role culturally have been prohibiting the Black community from being empowered and productive in many areas.
Such communication would foster dialogue, action, and resolution of social, economic, and educational problems facing the Black community, which impact specifically its children.
Armstrong wrote the foundation of the book several years ago as a blog. She said she deliberately wrote a thin publication to give readers of various generations the opportunity to read and digest its message easily and quickly.
Armstrong, at 12 and in the 7th grade, migrated to Virginia from Alabama, where her father, Reginald Armstrong, an uncle and other extended families, helped her navigate her way to adulthood.
“So I know that Black men do love, raise and take care of their children,” said Armstrong, who attended Lake Taylor High School and later enrolled at ODU.
She wants the book to be the beginning of a movement which provides a source of balance between masculine and feminine energies.
“The bickering and blame are played out,” she writes in the book. “It’s time for us to see each other, listen to each other, value each other and move forward, together.
“If you are a Black woman who loves Black men and refuses to give up on our brothers or if you are a Black man who craves a reminder of how important you are to the advancement of our homes and communities, this message, and movement, are for you,” she writes.
The reader will find a “Dear Black Man Checklist” and “Dear Black Man Challenges” to assist men in making life-changing improvements in the privacy of their own space at their own pace.
For more information about the book and the “I Need You Movement,” e-mail: Starr@conveyingculture.com or visit https://www.facebook.com/ineedyoumovement
By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide