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African American Folklore And Hip Hop

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“In Praise of Walter Browne”

The black father has the power to save the black family. L. Teresa Church’s “In Praise of Walter Browne” is a humorous yet heartfelt show of emotion and gratitude to a young boy’s stepfather. The poem highlights the power that the black father has when it comes to saving the black family, yet the poem focuses on the fact that the black father is not always a present figure in a child’s life. African American’s have come from a long line of extended and blended families; therefore, in the absence of a biological father there is usually a stepfather like Walter Browne, a grandfather, an uncle, or a godfather.

Since the times of slavery, there has been destruction and splintering of the black family. During the slave trade families were stolen and separated from one another, therefore leaving many unborn children never knowing their father’s, and those that did know their father may not have had blood ties to them because of the many rapes, and forced breeding by white slave masters. The buying and selling of families destroyed the core of the black family during these harsh times. However, the speaker in this poem states that just because an absent father has the same bloodline, the child does not have to see him as their dad. For the little boy in Church’s poem a dad is someone that sticks around to love his mother and him unconditionally, yet it is unfortunate that with so many black families the father is not a present figure in the household. In present time’s two of the biggest reasons black men tend to be absent fathers are incarceration and unemployment. For a jobless man it is hard to support a family that depends on him. When a father does not have a steady income if he is married, the marriage will fall on hard times or the pressures of unemployment will destroy it, when a man does not feel like a solid provider for his family he may feel useless to them and leave. Secondly, incarceration keeps a great many of father’s from their families, considering that over half the prison population in America are black males there is a void left in the black family and the community. Furthermore, in worst-case scenario when the black man is released from jail he is plagued with discrimination, it is harder for him to find a job to support his family so, begins the cycle of low self esteem, the fear that he has failure as a man, and hopelessness. Historically there has always been an agenda to deprive the black man, to make him feel useless, and worthless. Racism is definitely one of these deprivations and since early times myths have existed that, black men are nonhuman beings who had no brain capacity to form an opinion, think, or live in a civilized society. Nevertheless, during slavery and even up into the civil rights movement it was beneficial for white society to post these labels on the black man to keep him oppressed and in the captivity of slavery. However, during these hard times many black men hated themselves for being black and the darker their skin the more they loathed themselves. The mental framework that light skin is better came from slavery when lighter skinned blacks worked as domestics, and house servants, while darker skinned blacks worked the fields and tended the animals. This mental poison seeped into the psyche of the black family, and community. And still exists among some in present times. However, in a world of bigotry the black man has always known stereotypes, even within his own community. A real father sets the standard of morality and discipline in a family. He also takes pride in who he is, and where he comes from. Walter Browne has all of these qualities. He loves the child as if he was his own and he loves the child’s mother, her dark skin and all.

“In Praise of Walter Browne”

Not my blood-daddy

You’re my father

If I were a girl

I’d want a man just like

You Walter Browne

Church, in this first five-line stanza, talks about the pride a young boy has for his stepfather. Line one makes it clear that Walter Browne is not the child’s blood father, but line two poses the importance that Walter Browne is the child’s father in every way that counts. In lines, three and four it is obvious that the child looks up to Walter Browne and aspires to be like him someday. The use of first person lets the reader know that the speaker is pulling from a real life experience that has changed their life in a good way.

Mama’s Heaven-sent

Cure for color-struck

The blackest and only man

That would marry her

After I was born

The first two lines of this stanza illustrate both love and color. These factors have nothing to do with one another in the eyes of Walter Browne. In a time when many black people were color struck along with the rest of the world thinking that lighter

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