HERE'S WHAT ONE JOURNALIST WROTE:
Imagine you're sitting in an auditorium when a White man gets up in front of the audience, and starts making a presentation about Black History -- complete with PPT slides projected up on a large screen behind him.
What might be running through your mind? Skepticism? Disbelief? Cynicism? Curiosity?
Here's the reality. Your immediate thoughts at this very instant may well represent what others might be thinking in a similar situation.
When Joel Freeman is the White man holding the microphone, he is presented an opportunity to share from his heart, so that those in the audience not only hear the words, but they also hear and feel the "music" -- his passion & sincerity.
Joel A. Freeman, Ph.D. is asked to speak on various topics: leadership, teamwork, emotional intelligence, cultural competence, entrepreneurship -- and Black History. Most people who attend his lectures and presentations are there because they have heard about his work in the NBA, his books or have watched the film (Return To Glory) he co-wrote. They are interested in what he has to say.
But there are times when he gets up to speak on Black History in front of people who have never heard of him, when his credibility is often questioned...even before he speaks a word.
Some professionals and laymen alike believe that, despite his more than 4 decades of extensive research, a collection of more than 3,000 authentic Black history documents and artifacts (the earliest dated 1553), Freeman is an unqualified facilitator simply because he is White.
And there are credible elements present in this perspective.
Clearly, the implication is that because of his race, ethnicity and culture – he doesn't embody representation. Joel understands the historical reasons for these thoughts and feelings.
With travels to well over 55 countries around the world, Freeman has taken time to search, identify, verify and process information about the champions of Black History. This is, as he calls it, "A White Man's Journey Into Black History: An Eye-Opening Experience that Transcends Race."
In his books, films, presentations, and media interviews, Dr. Freeman shares the significant accomplishments of African people since early civilization.
Freeman says, "These are the 'blades of grass in a concrete jungle,' who have flourished in spite of severity and oppression -- leaving a collective legacy that needs to be remembered.
The thicker the concrete, the more inspirational the story.
These are the stories that transcend race, ethnicity and class."
Legitimate question. However, I do not have a very quick response (or perhaps even a very good response, for that matter).
But I can communicate my story. A two-hour response to this question is contained in the DVD presentation, "A White Man's Journey Into Black History."
In the video section of this website there are six segments from an event where I was invited by Defense Security Service (DSS) at Quantico, VA to make a Black History presentation.
For 20 wonderful seasons I served as mentor/chaplain of the NBA Washington Bullets/Wizards (1978 - ’98) -- surviving 6 coaching and 3 GM changes. At the pro level, ball players attract a lot of insincere people. People with hidden and not-so-hidden agendas. They want to be assured of the inner motivation and authenticity of someone working with them on such a personal basis.
Pro athletes do not want to share personal issues...only to end up on the front page of the sports section of the local newspaper on Tuesday morning. Absolute confidentiality is the key and they needed to test my motivation.
The NBA players probably were either consciously or unconsciously testing my sincerity by asking questions about the location of the Garden of Eden, Africa’s involvement in biblical history, et al. They asked questions that previously weren't even a blip on my radar screen.
This opened my eyes and in 1980 -- well over 40 years ago -- I began to do intensive research on the topic. I was genuinely intrigued, but still didn’t have a full panoramic picture of the issues at hand.
In 1995 I met Don Griffin. At the time he was the Senior VP of Human Resources of a large milk company near NY City. Don had hired me to facilitate a leadership initiative for the senior management of the company, which involved a series of seminars entitled, "Dealing With People Who Drive You Crazy."
Between sessions Don and I would go to his office in the complex to relax and talk. During one of the breaks he communicated some intriguing information that connected the Bible with ancient Africa (Isaiah 18, around 740-700 BC). As a student of the biblical record and how it connected with other aspects of documented human history, I was fascinated. But what he was saying about Black History was so new and different to me that I had to dig deeper.
After one of the training sessions at Don's company I came back home to Maryland and conducted some research on my own. It didn’t take long for me to realize what Don was saying was true. This new knowledge fueled my passion for learning more.
I began my research in 1980. As time went by, my research included watching videos from the local library. Africa: A Voyage of Discovery, an 8-part BBC series by Basil Davidson. The Promised Land, a series about the move of Black Americans from the South to the Chicago region. Eyes on the Prize, Part I & II. And many more...
I also began reading books (pro and con) on the topic by Martin Bernal, Chancellor Williams, Mary Lefkowitz, Richard Poe, Basil Davidson, Cheikh Anta Diop, Warren Barbour, Clarence E. Walker, Gaston Maspero, Robert Levine, John Henrik Clarke, Dr. ben-Jochannan, Ivan Van Sertima, and others.
Quick Story: Back in 1994, Ivan Van Sertima sent me a box filled with many of the books he had edited and written about the Moors, Black presence in Asia, and so much more. Egypt Revisited was especially an eye-opener. After reading that book from the box, Ivan gave me permission to call him and ask any questions that were ricocheting around in my brain. He was very patient with me, becoming my main historical guide. Ivan passed away in May 2009. I miss him and our many conversations.
Back around 2010, I cobbled together the TruthCentrism website that will give you a glimpse into my thinking about both Afrocentrism and Eurocentrism. At the time, I was really into website analytics and was pleased that over 1 million scholars, educators and students had visited the site. I have received a lot of correspondence from visitors to that site. You can finish reading this website and then feel free to check out the TruthCentrism website, if you want.
I encouraged Don Griffin to write a book. After some consideration, Don suggested that it might be quite powerful to have a Black man and a White man co-write a book. I agreed with the idea and over the summer of 1996 we embarked upon the project.
Don came up with the title – Return To Glory. I came up with the subtitle – The Powerful Stirring of the Black Man.
Don wrote the first half, addressing the historical information, entitled -- THE BLACK MAN: HIS PAST RESTORED / HIS PRESENT FACED / HIS FUTURE HOPE DEFINED. Out of 14 pages of research notes in the back of the book, Don filled 13 of those pages. He combined a scholarly approach, with a reader-friendly writing style. He was influenced by Dr. Clarence Walker and others.
I wrote the second half, entitled -- ROAD TO GLORY: THE MENTAL, EMOTIONAL, AND SPIRITUAL ROAD MAP TO WHOLENESS.
In preparation for this part of the book, I interviewed somewhere around 40-50 Black men. I was present at each interview to ask questions, listen, take notes, and learn. Through these conversations I began to weld the impact of the Grieving Process (Elizabeth Kubler Ross model) together with racism and prejudice. I was influenced by Jeff Wright, Ivan Van Sertima and others in the writing of that section of the book.
The book was subsequently published in 1997, endorsed by Julius Erving, Joe Frazier, Tony Evans and many others. Based upon the positive response to the book, we decided to make the 45-minute film version, which was released in 2004.
The film has now been translated (subtitles) into French, Portuguese and Spanish, along with subtitles in English (for hearing impaired).
When I speak on the topic of Black History, I sometimes communicate that even if I were surgically altered to look like someone of African descent, I still wouldn't have a complete understanding of the Black experience.
Why? Because I was raised with not only a White consciousness and also a Canadian consciousness.
I cannot explain much. I merely report what I am hearing. I have two ears, one mouth. Perhaps there's a parable there somewhere.
Try it for the next 30 days and watch it become a 24/7 lifestyle. I have learned a heck of a lot more by listening than I have ever learned by speaking. Asking questions. Listening. Asking more open-ended questions. Listening some more. Learning.
Seeking to understand doesn't preclude the need to be understood. Nor does it guarantee that one will be understood. But it's the best way.
When I present on the subject of Black history, I generally close out the session with "Q&R" (Question & Response) I do not call it "Q&A", because I do not have many answers...but I can and WILL respond to any and all questions. Hopefully, when my responses are not adequate, the collective wisdom in the room will emerge, addressing the specific issues communicated in the questions posed.
Both Afrocentrism and Eurocentrism have good points to them. However, the more I have realized that both disciplines also have some pretty crazy/fringe stuff that's isn't corroborated by original sources.
I'd rather use the term: "Truthcentric" -- hopefully providing more light than heat.
After finishing this page, feel free to review my web page about "TRUTHCENTRISM" that has already been visited by well over a million scholars, professors, students and others. Be prepared to get upset with me, regardless which way you lean.
I am a student of Black History -- not an expert. There are many others out there who have engaged in peer-reviewed research who have a much better handle on specific aspects of the historical record. I have read extensively on all sides of the debate. With travels to 55+ countries around the world, I bring a passion and curiosity to my studies.
In spite of it's many warts, faults, inequities and historical injustices...I love America. If you have traveled much to other regions of the world you may agree, understanding what I am trying to communicate.
I lived much of my younger , formative years in Canada and have resided in the USA for 50+ years. I am a grateful for America, with a love and respect for my Canadian roots.
If you have not traveled, I encourage you to do so. Mark Twain once said:
I agree with Twain's assessment, postulating that many who seem to only have a negative, "problemizing vs. solutionizing" perspective of America may have never traveled much. And those who have traveled outside North America, may have stayed solely in American-influenced 4-5 star hotels/resorts.
I hosted a radio talk show for 11 years in the DC/Baltimore region. Needless to say, I do not shrink away from tough topics. If there is an ELEPHANT in the room, I am likely to be the one who says, "Hey, there's an elephant in the room..."
Even though I own an extensive collection of genuine Black History and Rosetta Stone historical documents and artifacts (3,000+ items; oldest piece dated 1553), I have no degree in Egyptology or Black History. My Ph.D. is in psychology/counseling.
Hence, I tend to approach everything through the gateway of mediation and conflict resolution -- seeking to understand the human dynamics that surround each issue...before seeking to be understood.
I enjoy pleasantly spirited conversations on relevant topics. I do not argue or debate. I just don't have the interest, inclination, time or energy for it. Zero bandwidth.
I welcome those who come to this topic with intellectual honesty and curiosity -- Afrocentrist and Eurocentrists alike. I simply ignore people who engage in name-calling, hurling insults and invectives at others who have developed a different studied perspective. Especially those who choose to remain anonymous. I have received veiled threats. When you review my TruthCentism website, I will share a list of the names and invectives people have thrown at me. It actually makes me laugh and then turn to work on the next project.
In my view, cowards hide incognito behind the supposed anonymity of the Internet -- throw insults at others who are trying to enhance their cross-cultural understanding and who are also trying to catch up on learning the history they were never taught in school.
Regarding my motives: Time is the best friend of truth. And I am confident before God and humanity, knowing how many times and ways my motives have been tested by time and many questions -- desiring to educate and inspire in the most non-partisan, pure manner possible. I choose to let my work speak for itself.
But I also am very aware that on a "SUSPICION SCALE" from "somewhat suspicious" to "extremely suspicious" we are banging on the "extremely suspicious" end of the scale when it comes to a White man discussing Black History...and for good reasons, historically. Every Black person must test me, seeking to gain their own understanding of who I am.
<Somewhat Suspicious 50% Extremely Suspicious>
When I speak or write on the topic, it is my hope that people will not only "hear the words", but will also hear the music" -- the sincerity of heart...the passion.
Believe me, I am a work in progress. A number of years ago, I was afraid of saying something stupid, so I kept my thoughts to myself. I no longer do that. I believe in relationship-building and boldly risking along the way as trust is built. When I say something stupid in dialogue with another Black American, I ask the person to feel free to attack my head (I wasn’t thinking), but please do not attack my heart (I really do mean well).
* * * High Risk = High Reward
* * Medium Risk = Medium Reward
* Low Risk = Low Reward
My "Relationship Portfolio" is mostly High Risk. Similar to the world of "high risk" financial investments, I have quite a number of dear, trusted friends. And I suppose I have also have people who continue to view me with great suspicion. I chose to not get wrapped around the axle with the things over which I have no control.
The "Egg Shell" Effect: Some cross-cultural competency initiatives that are implemented in organizations leave the participants in such a state of hyper-awareness about their differences that everyone is left walking on egg shells. On edge. Nervous. Fearful of saying something stupid. Risk-averse or risk-neutral. Very little sense of humor.
Whether it is a something conscious or unconscious, many White people can engage with people of another race, ethnicity or class when it comes to sports, the weather, etc., but in everyday life it seems to be much more challenging to engage at deeper relational levels. That is troubling...whenever this is true.
Enter the "anti-egg-shell" experience that engages both the head and the heart, encouraging people of all races and ethnicities to understand the risk/reward ratio. The higher the personal risk of vulnerability, curiosity and openness, the greater the relational payoff. Embracing the spice of life!
The freedom to enjoy the humor (even laughing at ourselves) is one of the side benefits of greater understanding...as we delight in learning about ourselves and others around us. This is the kind of stuff I am passionate about!
It's the wisdom that emerges from the curiosity-driven life --possessing the potential of transcending the humdrum existence into a transformational multicultural-astute lifestyle (24/7).
My first love is talking with White people about the topic, but I also have realized that relatively few Black people have an awareness of their history. Initially this was a rather shocking revelation to me. And I am still wondering how this picture can be changed.
I have asked certain people to be my cultural guides and others to be my historical guides (like Ivan VanSertima was for me when he was alive).
I have been criticized by some and perhaps their criticism has some merit. For the most part many people have been respectful...even kind.
About a decade ago a White friend (we'll call him Pete) shared with an Black American friend (retired NBA player) about a personally-stressful incident. Pete felt he was being unfairly judged by another person because of his interest in Black History. The pro athlete smiled and then wisely responded with, “Welcome to the struggle.”
I respect that reality. And I am still learning...
In early 2018, Dr. Walter Milton, Jr. called, asking me to coauthor K-12 Black History -- the textbook/curriculum that is currently being adopted by public and private schools across America.
What emerged was a textbook that weighed 5.5 pounds, with 1,248 pages, 1,200 QR Codes, and 2,567 images throughout. Later, 41 songs emerged -- 1 song per chapter, with lyrics inspired by the contents of each chapter -- forming a sort of musical anthology of American history (already hit #1 in downloads on iTunes in the toughest category, Hip Hop).
And that's another part of my journey that you can better understand by clicking on the Black History 365 link at the top of this website...
"A WHITE MAN'S JOURNEY INTO BLACK HISTORY"
This uniquely intriguing presentation can be customized for any organization, including faith-based organizations. Not so much Afrocentric or Eurocentric. Truthcentric. Rave reviews. In August 2002 over 100 Kings and Queens of Africa attended a Pan African Conference in Benin, West Africa. Dr. Freeman participated in this event and learned a lot about tribal conflict, the impact of AIDS, along with the genius, creativity and inventiveness of Africans.