Heritage – Gordon Parks


  • Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was born on November 30, 1912
  • Awarded a fellowship for photography from the Rosenwald Fund in 1941
  • Photography: Dinner Time at Mr. Hercules Brown’s Home in 1944
  • Photography: Car Loaded with Furniture on Highway in 1945
  • Photography: Ferry Commuters in 1946
  • Photography: Grease Plant Worker in 1946
  • Authored Flash Photography in 1947
  • First African-American staff photographer and writer for Life Magazine in 1948
  • Authored The Learning Tree in 1964
  • Authored A Choice of Weapons in 1967
  • Co-founder of Essence magazine in 1968
  • Editorial Director of Essence magazine from 1968-71
  • Wrote, produced, and directed the film The Learning Tree in 1969
  • Directed the film Shaft in 1971
  • Awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP in 1972
  • Directed and composed the musical score for the film Shaft’s Big Score in 1972
  • Authored To Smile in Autumn in 1979
  • Awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Thiel College in 1984
  • Awarded National Medal of Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts in 1988
  • Parks died at the age of 93 on March 7, 2006

The Gordan Parks Foundation

Style & Substance – Chocolate Suede Grenson Wingtips

Grenson SuedeStarting February 1st, e-commerce site Park and Bond will be closing its online doors and be fully absorbed by Gilt Group’s other luxury retail site – Gilt. The closing has been in the works for some time now, and I was able to score a cool pair of chocolate suede wingtips from Grenson a few months ago. They are very comfortable, the suede is extremely supple, and the deep chocolate-brown is beautiful. Of course with the snow, sleet, and slush; I have been compelled to box and shelve these two until the streets are emancipated from the wintry, frothy muck that the season has bestowed upon them. Hopefully, that day is coming soon…real soon.

UPTOWN Gentleman: Earn Your Stripes

Striped Sweater - BurberryToday’s object of sartorial affection: the seriously striped sweater. Granted, this week’s style endorsement probably won’t persuade every gentleman to raid their local men’s store in a frantic bid to stock up. And granted, perhaps, this week’s endorsement is not appropriately suited for everyone, as horizontal stripes may not flatter men of a certain robust size. Nevertheless, the striped sweater has become quite the sophisticated sweater for gentlemen in recent wintry years. And to be sure, a striped sweater undoubtedly conveys a bold statement that distinguishes it from the standard pack of plain knitwear that usually occupies the shelves this time of year. So, if you are looking for a stylish change of pace, read a little further for a few ideas.

Okay, striped sweaters can be tricky. But, perhaps, you are looking to try something different. So, if this is the case, check out my newest entry for UPTOWN Gentleman HERE; a striped knit just might be in your future.

The Art of Shaving – The Brotherhood of Shaving

AOS POWERSHAVEFINEWant to join the brotherhood of shaving? Well, if you are a gentleman that shaves, you can also be a gentleman that saves. By simply becoming an elite member of The Art of Shaving’s “Brotherhood of Shaving”, you will have access to the private Friends & Family shopping event where you can save 20% off all The Art of Shaving products.  Perfect Shave Rewards Member’s will receive 20% off their entire purchase when they shop in stores or on-line starting January 25 through the 27th  with the experts that developed the science behind the perfect shave. With no fees required, a gentleman can sign up with the elite “Brotherhood” at http://bit.ly/TAOSFriends  to receive access to the exclusive sale starting Friday, January 25, as well as information on upcoming events and promotions! Did I mention that signing up is free? Simply fill out a short form online and your redemption code will be e-mailed directly to your inbox. Boom!

Have A Dream, Have A Purpose

martin-luther-king-barack-obamaIt was not that long ago that I would dread accompanying my wife to social gatherings. It was not because I hated her company. It was not because I hated her friends, or because I simply preferred to stay at home. The specific reasoning, rather, was I was disappointed with what I had achieved in life up to that point. The thing about social gatherings, you see, the conversation almost always involves, in one form or the other, this: what you are currently doing in life. Sure, I was soundly employed, but I did not possess a real purpose, a real passion in life. Owning a failed bid at college, I had neatly settled into a regular 9 to 5, but that was about it. And therefore, social gatherings, at least in my mind, transformed into an imaginary trial where I was forced to testify to all my shortcomings and failures. I loathed them; I would retreat to an isolated section of the room with the hopes that conversation would quietly pass me by. And then by accident, I found my purpose.

Speaking to my uncle about possibly becoming a mentor, I decided to attend an event hosted by Michael Baisden for Big Brothers Big Sisters. After listening to Baisden read the other African-American men in attendance the riot act, I was shamefully compelled to sign up. Shortly thereafter, I created this blog. I started volunteering at Rescue My Son. I began volunteering in my children’s ministry at church. I had found a purpose – a purpose that extended beyond mechanically punching a clock day in and day out. And ironically, none of my new ventures placed cash in my pockets, yet they were the most rewarding to my spirit.

Emboldened, my drive for success and helping others increased. I got a promotion at work. My blog procured a larger, wider audience. I was invited to speak at a few workshops. I began to freelance write for a few companies. For the first time in a very long time, accomplishment had made its way back into my life. I felt proud. I felt fulfilled. I felt purposeful. So, on this day, the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and the second Presidential Inauguration of President Barack Obama, I want to remind every gentleman and gentlewoman to have a dream. Have aspirations. Have a purpose. And then demonstrate the drive, diligence, and persistence to make your dreams a reality. Stay blessed my friends. Oh, and by the way, social gatherings are no longer intimidating – I actually welcome the verbal intercourse. Much easier when you have something to talk about – right?

Black Thought

esq-james-meredith-0113-lg“What any human being can do in life depends upon the foundation laid between birth and age five.”

– James Meredith

We are teachers – in some form or another. Now, perhaps a majority of the reading audience are devoid of the appropriate formal certification, but we are indeed teachers nonetheless. Knowingly or unknowingly instructing through our behavior, language, and actions; we shape and mold young, virginal, and formless minds. That cannot be taken for granted. We are, first and foremost, the foreman of fashioning intellectual promise, building emotional stability, and framing principled character. During those early formative years, our guidance and instruction is needed – no – it is desperately crucial to a child’s development. Their future hinges on what we teach them in the present. And that is where we should be – present; never absent from their growth and maturation. It is time for us to lead by example. We are the models of morality. We are the cultivators of character. We are the installers of integrity. We enable enthusiasm for education, and we advocate the accrual of astounding accomplishments. The foundation is ready to be laid. Let’s not wait any longer.

Standard Recommendations – Cashmere Socks

j crew cashmere socksJ. Crew

So, as the cashier quietly tabulated the cost of my latest haul of gentlemanly hosiery, I noticed that a few selections in the bunch were priced higher than others. Thinking that was slightly odd, I surmised that I had haphazardly read the price-tags, thus leading to the modestly higher prices than I expected. And so, as I began my departure from the shopping outlet, I decided to inspect the price-tags once again. As I expected, I had misread the lapels and totally muffed the cost. Nevertheless, they were double discounted, so the damage was minimal. I also discovered the reason why three of my socks were valued a little more – they were of a cashmere blend.  Actually – 23% cashmere, 45% viscose, and 32% nylon – to be exact. Now to be perfectly honest, up to this point in my fashion life, I had only dealt with cotton or various cotton blends in regards to socks. And I was fine with that.

So, what could be so special about cashmere socks; perhaps they are an unnecessary luxury to possess – right? Well…after slipping my feet into a warm, devilishly soft pair….that is an argument I cannot make. Seriously, the difference between my cotton companions and my newly acquired cashmere buddies: night and day. I could feel the difference immediately; if you thought a cashmere sweater felt divine, try wearing one on your feet! And let us not forget the other components here. The hint of nylon provided a bit of stretch and resiliency, while the viscose added some tough softness into the equation. In all, I purchased three pairs: gray, purple, and green. The texture is fantastic. The fit is great. And the comfort…fabulous. If you ever have a chance to score a pair, I would highly endorse the purchase. You won’t regret it.

Man of Substance – Iman Blyther – Brotherhood

Iman Blyther Brotherhood

  • Brotherhood is an intimate association of men that are not actually blood bothers. It is a fraternity of young men that have grown to become adult men together, overcome many of the same obstacles in life, and have continued to build a relationship with each other over several years.
  • I realized I was part of a brotherhood after I finished my intake process with the Society of African-American Men (S.A.A.M.) while at Michigan Technological University. I was no longer a boy without any siblings, I was transformed into young man that was now part of lifelong friendships – something I had dreamed of my entire life. Being a part of something in which words couldn’t even begin to explain.
  •  S.A.A.M. helped me grow as a man by showing me what it was to be and become a man.
  • It helped me with my confidence and built the kind character for myself that would be respected by all. It also showed me that in order to get respect, I would first need to learn to give it.
  • I would consider myself to be a much better person because of the organization that I joined many years ago. I have been in this brotherhood for more than 15 years now, and I would not trade anything I’ve been through for all the riches in the world. My brothers are all the riches I need.
  • There are many benefits to being a part of such a great group, but the biggest benefit is the friendship. Knowing I can email, call, text, etc anyone at anytime to say, what up, how you doing, how’s your family, what’s new, or even just I love you. It is by far the biggest benefit to being in such a tight-knit group.
  • How has my brotherhood helped me through a tough time? One tough time in particular is when my grandfather passed. Not sure of whom to talk to, I called up some members of S.A.A.M. and they assured me that if there was anything I needed from cash, to a listening ear, to just whatever I needed, I was told to call at anytime, day or night. That right there, assured me that the organization I had joined, was the right one for me.
  • These are men that you can call upon at anytime to laugh with, cry with, argue with or just share some gospel with. It’s a brotherhood for LIFE.

Heritage – Thomas L. Jennings

Thomas L. JenningsThomas L. Jennings was an African-American abolitionist, tailor, and dry cleaner who resided in New York City, New York. On March 3, 1821, Jennings became the first African-American to be granted a patent for his dry cleaning process known as dry scouring – which eventually transformed into modern day dry cleaning. During this era, slaves could not own the rights to their own inventions, as it was legally the property of their owner. Nevertheless, Jennings was a free man and therefore retained the rights of his invention. Jennings was a devout abolitionist who used the profits from his invention to free his family from slavery. He also used his money to further fund the abolitionist agenda. He served as assistant secretary of the First Annual Convention of the People of Color in addition to being the founder and president of the Legal Rights Association. Jennings died in 1856.

Jessie Carney Smith, Black Firsts 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events, Visible Ink Press; 2nd edition (December 1, 2002)

Style & Substance – The Floral Pocket Square

HF Floral PSIn the past, my attempts at unearthing a floral pocket square has been a successful operation in futility. Floral pocket squares are sometimes a rare find. Apologies, allow me to restate that last sentence, floral pocket squares with well-defined character are a rare find. Sure, one can locate a floral pocket square of choice at a local department store, but sometimes the visual presentation leaves more to be desired. However, this mosaic of floral pageantry immediately seized my attention. The pocket squares above were available at the now defunct e-commerce site Clad. I swiftly dove into action and ordered both these offerings from Hickey Freeman without hesitation, as $24.90 was a fair price given that they were on sale. The demure touch of a beautiful floral arrangement in the chest pocket is a fantastic way to balance a decidedly masculine aesthetic. I selected the square in blue because I will be able to coordinate it with a number of suit jackets or blazers. Blue is trending big this spring season, so I was very fortunate to discover this beauty before the stock had been depleted. And fortuitously, the brown version was also still available, so ordered that too. Constructed from a light touch of wool and silk, the generously sized square folds effortlessly into my suit jackets beautifully. Now, perhaps floral arrangements don’t tickle your fancy when it comes to clothing. Nevertheless, I strongly suggest you give it a shot. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Boss Hugo Boss – The “Ready Is” Campaign

Boss BlackGentlemen, the new year has officially commenced, and Hugo Boss wants to know if you are ready. And when we say ready…we mean…really ready. Launching a fresh campaign entitled “Ready Is…”, Hugo Boss wants the gentleman to be ready for whatever life has in store – from looking stylish as temperatures begin their seasonal dip to exuding a sophisticated presence during after-hour social gatherings. Being ready means smartly anticipating your day or night, and thoughtfully considering the things you can do now to make things go smoother later. And this is all accomplished by employing an alluring scent – courtesy of Hugo Boss. Because, when a gentleman feels ready, confidence naturally follows.

For the day, BOSS BOTTLED incorporates a soft, smooth and sophisticated character that subtly extends the wearer’s confident and assertive personality. Apple, cinnamon and vanilla tempered with a combination of sensual woody notes produce a daring, delicately soft and sensual, yet distinctively masculine scent. Come darkness, BOSS BOTTLED NIGHT has a purposeful, edgier character that imbues the wearer with a personal magnetism that attracts others. Infusing him with the confidence that will make him feel irresistible at night, the scent artfully blends rich woody and powerful musky notes in the base.

So, what are you ready for this year? Hugo Boss Fragrance wants you to join the conversation. Share your “readyism” on Twitter using the hash-tag #ReadyIs, or alternatively you can visit readyis.com and share your wisdom there. Submit your comment and enter to win a BOSS bag– and once your readyism is posted, you will receive an email notification from the site. The good people at Nike Communications were kind enough to send me samples of both fragrances, and my preliminary impression is this is a great fragrance to start the new year off with. Be sure to check back here for a full review. Until then, get ready and let us know how you’re ready!

UPTOWN Gentleman: Top It Off With The Right Topcoat

Acne TopcoatThere are but a few wardrobe staples that a gentleman absolutely, positively must possess in his fashion collection. And given the time of season, we have found it appropriate to highlight an indispensable garment that should be hanging in your closet – the overcoat. Sure, you probably have jackets and light wool coats galore, but if you are a gentleman of a mature age, trust me, you really need an overcoat. And by mature age, I mean you are a guy that will find himself in adult situations such as job interviews, weddings, funerals, classy dinners, and the list can go on forever. Therefore, it would be intelligent that you own an overcoat that coincides with the sophistication of the moment – whatever that moment may be. To ensure that you are smartly prepared, here are a few suggestions…

I’ll admit, it took me quite a few years before I invested in a good topcoat. Actually, I invested in two, one in dark navy and the other in camel. And you if you haven’t yet, perhaps it is time you did. Trust me, I wouldn’t steer you in the wrong direction. Check out my topcoat entry over at UPTOWN Magazine and give it some thought.

The Mr Porter Paperback

Mr Porter BookEsquire has its own style manual. GQ has its own style manual. Hell, even Details has its own style manual. Well, it would now appear that luxury e-commerce site Mr Porter has published its paperback version of a gentleman’s go-to guide for exquisite, impeccable style. Compiled by Mr Porter’s Editor-in-Chief Mr Jeremy Langmead, this style guide is an amalgamation of sound advice that ranges from tips from contemporary style icons to lessons in gentlemanly etiquette that strives to refine your swagger. Mr Porter Paperback: The Manual for a Stylish Life, that’s the full title and it’s only Volume 1, certainly looks the sartorial part. Looks like I will be ordering a copy to add to my book collection – I’m a semi-hoarder. I’ll be sure to check back in with a review. For ordering information, please visit Mr. Porter HERE for more details.

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Black Thought

frederickdouglas“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

-Frederick Douglass

As a parent, it is absolutely paramount that you ensure your child’s maturation is nurtured and cultivated for maximal, positive growth. To be certain, there are a myriad of unfortunate realities that work tirelessly to undermine and hinder your child’s development. Harsh realities such as poverty, crime, low self-esteem, bullying, and poor academic performance can lead to self-destructive behavior that regretfully transitions into adulthood. Moreover, if that adult decides to have children, there is a high risk that self-destructive behavior will be consciously or subconsciously transferred to the subsequent generation. Truth: Some of the biggest bullies, critics, and abusers live right in the household. And that is a reality that we cannot tacitly accept. We have to do better. We must become increasingly more active by protecting and educating our youth, ensuring that they are intelligently prepared for the life that awaits them. We have to encourage. We have to impart meaningful wisdom. We have to enlighten them. We must unconditionally love them. We must fortify the integrity of their spirit and reinforce the foundation of their character. They deserve our parenting best – let’s get to work.

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