Janks Morton is one “The most prolific African American Filmmaker of this new millennium that 90% of African Americans have never heard of” JANKS MORTON is a groundbreaking international and award winning Documentarian. As founder of iYAGO ENTERTAINMENT GROUP, LLC, he states “the company came into existence to reflect both the conscious and unconscious soul of Black America. JANKS MORTON has been in the entertainment industry for more than 20 years and is a much sought-after teacher, lecturer, commentator and motivational speaker.
He has convened workshops, seminars and served as panelist and keynote speaker at colleges, universities, prisons, conferences, churches and community centers around the world. In delivering his first feature length documentary, “WHAT BLACK MEN THINK”, JANKS MORTON took on the role as producer, director, cameraman, lighting, editing, mixing, entrepreneur, graphic artist, actor, auteur and more. The call to action through one simple question “Are there more black men in jail or college?” challenges not only Black Americans, but to every American, to rethink their perceptions about Black Male Identity.
Due to the extensive and pervasive amounts of misinformation around Black Men in popular culture, the statistically supported revelations of “WHAT BLACK MEN THINK” have been critically acclaimed by BET, CNN, C-SPAN, ESSENCE MAGAZINE, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE LA TIMES, RUSS PARR, MICHAEL BAISDEN and numerous of other media outlets. He states “That I would have to make a film, just to prove that black men are not in the dire state that some would have you believe, demonstrates the confusion that exists in America today.”
Tunya Griffin: What inspired you to tackle various issues that challenges many of the negative myths, assumptions and ideas that have been linked to Black Males?
Janks Morton: About five years ago on C-SPAN Book TV, Juan Williams and Michael Eric Dyson were debating over Bill Cosby’s commentary at the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education NAACP celebration. During their debate Mr. Williams blurted out a statistic that 70% of black children are born out of wedlock, and from clinical pharmacology background, I have been trained to never trust anyone who quotes a statistic that ends in “five” or “zero”...i.e. 50%, 25% (statistically significant sample sizes and representative sampling seldom, if ever, yields results in these increments/ five and zero are typically the unsubstantiated non-scientific claims of the uninformed).
I immediately went to the CENSUS Bureau to refute this claim, however to my surprise; the number was actually 69.7%. I was astonished and taken aback because I did not know this fact, and from what I know, any challenge or social ill that our community faces, can mostly be traced back to the absence of two parent homes (regardless of Socio-Economic status).
Several days later, I sat with my barber and asked him about the women who came to the beauty salon next door. I asked, “of 10 women who walk through that door with children, how many do you think are married”…his answer: maybe 1, if that. At that point I realized that a conversation needed to be had inside our community, and really start to re-focus our lens on this underlying pathology in the black dynamic today.
Tunya Griffin: According to your website it stated that “82.3% is the number of African American children born since 1990 guaranteed not to live in the same home as their biological fathers. Between birth and age 16, a generation of African American youth, specifically boys, have not had sustained access to positive male role models.” How does not having a good role model affect African American Youth?
Janks Morton: In simple terms, the man you see is the man you will be. Without positive legal male role models (who never cross the threshold of the mothers bedroom) a boy relies heavily on his immediate environment (boys raising boys), media (TV, Movies and Music) or other ancillary non-sustained influencers to help him shape his construct of his identity from a gender perspective. Juxtapose that with mostly hyper-feminine environments which cannot support or ratify his gender and sometimes are hostile-masculine, the young male has no rudder or sail to help him navigate the potential pitfalls of ascending to his own gender identification devoid of guidance.
Tunya Griffin: Do you believe that the African American Male is an endangered species? If so, why?
Janks Morton: No. It’s a self-degrading myth, mostly perpetuated outside of the realm of ascended actualized Black Male Identity. It’s vitriolic and condescending, and further divides man against woman, which I am altogether against.
Tunya Griffin: In the ground-breaking feature-length documentary “WHAT BLACK MEN THINK”, this thought-provoking expose challenged everyone to rethink the negative misinformation about black men generally circulated in pop culture. Can you elaborate on what are some of the negative misinformation about black men that is generally circulated in pop culture?
Janks Morton: I think it important to differentiate negative data and myths, stereotypes, and misinformation. Too often in Black Identity we intertwine data, convolute the information, ratify the myth and over exaggerate the stereotype. For instance, Black Men in comparison to their percentage representation of the total number of adults, are disproportionally incarcerated than other groups as segmented by race and sex.
Black Men represent approximately 6% of the adult population in America, but represent 32% of adults incarcerated in local jails and prison. Now that is bad news and may be a testament to the biases of a criminal justice system, the effects of abject poverty, racism and several other factors. Our challenge as a people is not to inculcate a message of less than, not equal too, or not good enough, constantly shining the lens on the less desirable outcomes in our culture, reiterating hyperbole, and driving down the bar of expectations for acceptable social outcomes.
More simply stated, walk into any barbershop on any given Saturday and ask what percent of black men have been to jail and you will hear some outlandish responses.
iYAGO Ent. Group
Tunya Griffin: As founder of iYAGO ENTERTAINMENT GROUP, LLC, a company that came into existence to reflect both the conscious and the unconscious soul of Black America, so how do most people respond to the documentaries and films that you make? Do many people see you as controversial? If so, how do you feel about that?
Janks Morton: “All great truths begin as blasphemies” – George Bernard Shaw. I don’t know if many see me as controversial, what I do know is that subject matters I take on in my films usually reside outside of the normal paradigm of black perception and evoke a very loud, a very passionate, and sometimes a very personal response from those who have framed their reality upon a non-truth that I have decided to shine light on.
Tunya Griffin: Janks, there are many single mothers who are raising their sons alone and in your documentary "MEN TO BOYS: 101 THINGS EVERY BOY OF COLOR SHOULD KNOW" that was released in February 2009 during Black History Month asks another simple, yet socially and psychologically complex question. "Can a Mother teach her son to become a man? Please elaborate on your view?
Janks Morton: This is where I have to answer delicately, as well as qualify my answer with a preface. As we shared earlier, 82.3% of African American children are guaranteed to live in a fatherless home prior to graduating High School. With that being said, the trials, tribulations and triumphs being faced by the modern-era single-mother has to be acknowledged, and I am no way attempting to marginalize and castigate their efforts. With that being said, a woman, can never teach her son to become a man, at best she train up a responsible human being (one of whom will navigate the world from a feminine lens) at worst she will raise up a boy in “her image” or ideologue of what masculinity should be… a job best reserved for men.
Tunya Griffin: The film “GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT” that the greatest civil rights violations of our generation. It deals with the absolute bias against fathers and utter disregard for the equal protection clause of the US constitution by the Fourth and self-governing arm of government...the family court system. It’s an exploration of the systems that exploit and divide families, mothers, fathers and children for power and profit. In our post modern era how is this still true today? Also, what are some of the civil right violations against our generation today? Elaborate on the absolute bias that you see are against fathers.
Janks Morten: I really am not looking in other spaces for civil rights violations because, on this issue I am maintaining a singular focus. Just walk down any street USA and ask an 18-24 year-old a simple question. “When a couple splits up, who should the children live with”. The response will demonstrate how the American psyche and narrative is wholly biased against the concept of co-equal and shared parenting. In a nutshell, men are riding in the caboose of the family train, and have to ask permission from the court system just to be able to come to the front of the train and have seat. Men are seldom, if ever, empowered to contribute to a child’s life without navigating the unregulated fourth arm of government (the family court), expending time, money and spiritual capitol, all just to prove their competent and fit.
The presumption is that men are neglectful, infidels, pedophiles, wife-abusers, vermin and several other superlatives prior to the custody process, and judges and lawyers in this system are in direct opposition to the equal protection clause of the US Constitution.
Tunya Griffin: In your semi-autobiographical work you talk about the subject “Maternal resentment in the African American Community”. Why maternal resentment? And if young black boy's rage is directed at the person who is responsible for their guidance, which you point out that mainly this is against the mothers, how can reconcile maternal anger, which boys and men have against their mothers, ever change? Also the words ‘hate’ and ‘rage’ are strong words to use when referring to how young boys feel about the parent who is responsible for their guidance so why use these two terms?
Janks Morton: I will evoke my faith-base side for just a moment if you will indulge me, Ephesians 4:31-32 (New International Version, ©2011)31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. I didn’t write the book, someone on a higher pay grade than I did. The answer lies specifically in verse 32, and is the central thesis of the book…reconciliation through forgiveness.
Purging bitterness, anger, rage or hatred specifically directed at either parent is desperately needed in order for a person to ascend to healthy and proper adulthood. The single greatest and debilitating cultural mantra is the 11th commandment in the Black Community... “Thou shalt not challenge, confront or correct thy mother”, which leads to all types of repression, suppression, displacement, dismissal and a multitude of relationship consequences that manifest in a person’s adult life, if not dealt with properly
Tunya Griffin: What new projects are you working on?
Janks Morton: “DEAR DADDY”, an exploration of fatherlessness on a group of 18-24 college-aged girls. I will be working with them to try to make them understand how many of their life choices, from relationships to friendships, are significantly impacted if their father’s were not present in a sustained positive fashion during their formative years.
Tunya Griffin: How would you like to be remembered?
Janks Morton: A Man. A man who had a great love for his people. A man who had more love for his people than he did for himself.
Tunya Griffin: What do you do in your spare time?
Janks Morton: Halo, Halo, Halo! Surprising I bet! GT Dantez Inferno for your readership who know!