Umar Johnson (aka Umar Ifatunde or Umar Abdulla-Johnson or Jermaine Shoemaker), is a self-proclaimed “nationally certified” expert on child psychology, who gives presentations and lectures all over the country. Though no one I spoke to is clear on where he was educated and he does not reveal the name of this national certification agency, he is given lots of credit and support for his somewhat controversial and sometimes downright crazy theories. He is most noted for his condemnation of single motherhood, black women and homosexuality in the black community which he blames on – you guessed it – single women raising their sons.
His name is in the news most recently for a push to collect donations to the tune of $5 million to buy the land and buildings of now-defunct historically black college St. Paul College in Lawrenceville, Virginia. One of the nation’s oldest historically black colleges, St. Paul’s closed its doors last year amid accreditation woes and a pile of debt, leaving dorms and other buildings sitting empty. A deal was struck recently with the Federal government to keep the school open for business transactions such as sending out transcripts, and for grounds maintenance and security.
That’s the back story. Let’s talk about this week.
On June 24 2014, the site Madam Noire ran a piece authored by Charing Ball entitled Why its Not a Good Idea to Support Dr. Umar Johnson’s Bid to Start an All Black-Boys Academy which broke down her reasons why Umar Johnson was the wrong man to pull off this project. A memorable quote from the piece:
“Yes, on paper, particularly the cover, the plan sounds absolutely wonderful. However, when you begin to peel back the flap and delve into the pages, Dr. Johnson as a whole reads a little less impressive, specifically when it comes to his beliefs about homosexuality and gender. And that is kind of important considering that he wants to head an all-male academy of impressionable young boys.”
Ms. Ball was immediately attacked as being a “black feminist” and for “trying to destroy Umar Johnson for his conservative views on homosexuality.”
Those accusations were followed up with pie in the sky conjecture, fabrications and fairy stories about what might, coulda, woulda, if only by Boyce Watkins.
“If Dr. Johnson were a rapper or athlete spitting out ridiculous nonsense, he would be everybody’s favorite negro. But when he tells black men to empower themselves, he’s suddenly a threat. Get out of my face with that crap. You can disagree with the man without undermining his right to educate black boys. Ironically, if he were a gay man, he’d have his five million dollars already.”
I find these accusations to be very disturbing twists of words. Ball did not try to bring Johnson down, she merely reported facts and raised questions to which people all fired up to support this bid have no answer. Every statement Ms. Ball made and quoted from Johnson, she provided a link to back it up so people could hear him say the things she discussed themselves. If he didn’t want to go on record as being homophobic, misogynistic and a questionable individual to be in a position of authority over impressionable young black minds, he should not have done and said the things she quoted!
Therefore, if he is “destroyed” he will have no one to blame but himself.
I was happy to see her piece, because I have questions about Umar Johnson and this project as well.
#1 Why is it he never says where he matriculated? Every professional with an advanced degree I’ve ever interacted with proudly shows their credentials on their curriculum vitae. Not once has Johnson provided information about his undergrad degree, his Masters degree or his Doctorate. I looked for it today, and it’s not even on HIS OWN website.
#2 Where is the business plan for this project? Has anyone seen it? Why would people as individuals and groups turn over millions of dollars to anyone without seeing in written form how the money will be utilized? A You Tube video posted on a website in cyberspace is not sufficient.
#3 Who would be on the Board of Directors overseeing this project? As a matter of fact, what is the name of the law firm or accounting agency handling the funds? Also, there is no mention of other people involved in this project to provide checks and balances or professional guidance for the project.
#4 If Umar Johnson is “nationally certified” what is the name of the certifying agency? Shouldn’t that information be front and center so that people can verify his credential and discern his “good standing”? It was easy enough to find out however, since there is only one. And no, he is NOT certified by them.
#5 What is Plan B? He allegedly has until mid-August to raise the money to take ownership of the college. But what if he falls short? What happens to all the donations? Where will that money go and what will be done with it and by whom?
#6 What makes Umar Johnson the right person to start a school for boys? He rants and raves about homosexuality constantly, and blames single mothers for everything wrong with black boys. Where are their fathers though? Should a grown man with his platform not focus on getting in the butts of other GROWN MEN instead of worrying about women and gays? How much of his belief system and disdain of these two groups will be transmuted to young men in his charge, tucked away thousands of miles from their parents in a boarding school?
Cause you know, my personal position is that men who rant and rave about homosexuality all the time are suspect. Historically these men are wrestling with their own demons about their sexual identity. This has been the case numerous times with high profile men – both white and black. Alabama Attorney General Troy King was one. Pastor Ted Haggard one. Eddie Long ring a bell or have people forgotten already?
So these to me are valid questions for anyone donating money to a man to have. Instead of saying she was trying to destroy Johnson, Charing Ball should be given credit for raising some very intelligent questions that need answering.
Many blacks feel that supporting someone who has a passion for something and who they “like” is why people donate large sums of money. That may be true for a few hundred bucks or so, but we’re talking $5 million bucks! To me giving money to a man with no track record is a huge mistake. Investing large sums of money with the expectation of a certain outcome is a business deal, not a popularity contest. Normally there would be a Prospectus for investors to peruse to know the ins and outs of the deal, expectations of return on their investment, the bios of the principal parties, etc. There is no such professionalism offered here.
Being moved by talk is how people get scammed. Just because it sounds good doesn’t mean it is. And black women are some of the easiest to scam with a fast talking man who shouts and prances and instills fear of what will happen if you don’t do as he says.
This script is played out in churches all across the nation every Sunday morning. The unfortunate part is that black people pay questionables to make them FEEL GOOD instead of looking hard at that person’s track record and business model. Ideally when a large scale business deal is being proposed for investment, the principal party/parties should have both professional credibility, a track record in the field, and a concrete plan with contingencies. There is no such plan offered here.
I agree with author Charing Ball – this is not a project which should be in the hands of Umar Johnson. Instead, black men need to get together and do the work, and stop depending on some other person (like Umar or the government) to do the work to save their sons, nephews, grandsons, step sons, cousins, etc.
I have an alternative plan that I think would work far better, be less expensive, and get immediate results on a local level.
Many black male professional are members of fraternal and civic organizations with branches worldwide. These men have a lot of power, influence and money. So why have the black frats not gotten together and started schools for boys? Lots of them dudes are lawyers, financiers, politicians, professors, real estate moguls, developers, contractors, etc. with the wherewithall to make schools for black boys happen!!
Why is everyone looking for “a black leader” when each of you black men has the power to make a change right in your own city!?
Imagine if 100 Brothas got together in 1000 cities across the country and started a black boys school in their city. With black fraternities having well-established undergrad and grad chapters all over the nation, there could be one school for black boys in 1000 cities within 12-18 months. I believe this plan is very doable. There are hundreds of thousands of educated, professional black men with the skills, talent and knowledge to make it happen.
What we don’t have is black men getting off their ass doing the work to make it happen, though.
This lack of concern for black youths has nothing to do with “black feminists” and everything to do with men seeking a scapegoat for their lackings and failures to take action. It’s easier to sit on ones ever widening ass at a computer monitor on Facebook, blaming women for the way black boys turn out, instead of rolling up one’s sleeve to make the change you claim need to happen… the changes you want to see.
Creation of schools for young black males should be done by black men within their cities, and it can be done for a lot less than $5 million.
A team of brothas from each of the major black fraternities and black civic organizations can develop a model, a template if you will, upon which schools across the nation can be established easily. This avoids having to re-create the wheel. Establish a board of directors to oversee this nationwide roll out. Establish contracts for large scale purchases of desks, chairs, tables, lab equipment, etc. buying from black owned businesses whenever possible. Get donations from large corporations if need be.
This is very, very doable if the right men become involved.
They just have to care enough to do it. And they have to DO THE WORK and stop talking about WHAT IS WRONG WITH BLACK BOYS. Get off your asses and FIX THE PROBLEM BLACK MEN!!! Whitey ain’t gonna do it for you, neither are black women. It’s not our responsibility to teach the young boys how to grow up to become men of confidence, knowledge and courage, it’s YOURS.
Until next time.
UPDATE – June 26, 2014
According to the website of the auction agent, the sealed bids for this property (offered in two separate parts) took place on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm EST. According to Umar Ifatunde or Umar Abdulla Johnson (depending on where you see his name written), he “may have” won the bid. However, this is a sealed bid process, which means it is confidential. There is no way for him to know that he “won” anything.
A subsequent exchange with the auction house confirms that no contract has been entered into, and that they are entertaining offers from several groups and seeking more bids, even though the official bidding date and time has closed. See Motley’s Auction House for more information.
In any event, he is still asking for your money – by mail, in cash, or via PayPal.