Page 1




Date Read

TABLE OF CONTENTS Examining the Album Embracing Love & Emotion Manhood & Masculinity Sex & Sexuality Black Women, Their Work, & Misogynoir Gender Fluidity Black Nationalism & Colonialism Wealth & Capitalism Black Fatherhood Black Mental Health & Wellness 4:44 and Novels 4:44 and Musical Peers * denotes a film or a documentary

Contributors CORE TEAM MEMBERS Anthony Boynton


Anthony J. Williams Daniel Johnson Henry Washington, Jr.

Neal Carter Jourdan T. Pittman Isaac A. Sanders Reggie Cunningham Adam Carnegie Jameelah Jones Fred Mason Whitney Sewell Joel N. Jenkins Terrance Thomas William Jamal Richardson Jarred Bowman

Graphic Designers Corey Pilson Matthew Wright Alton peques

Introduction 4:44 is a testimony of Jay-Z’s relationship with megastar Beyoncé, a response to her 2016 Lemonade, and an apologetic reflection of his damaging infidelity and lessons learned. This album’s autobiographical nature forces us to wrestle with the continual harm we as Black men perpetuate. A verbal apology is not enough. Collective work must be done to mend brokenness and unlearn actions that tear apart our homes and communities. The​ ​4:44​ ​Syllabus​ ​is​ ​a​ ​living​ ​document​ ​created​ ​by​ ​Black​ people across the spectrum of gender representation​ ​who​ ​were​ ​inspired​ ​by​ ​the​ ​labor​ ​of​ ​Black​ ​women - their emotional, spiritual, physical, and intimate labor on our behalf. ​​This​​syllabus provides nearly 200​​resources​compiled by a community of over 30 people ​to​​help​​us​​unpack​​the​​album’s​​content. This syllabus is a purposefully communal effort. We have compiled audiovisual and written works that examine​​Jay-Z’s​​​album. The sources cover topics including, but not limited to, Black​ ​men’s​ ​relationship​ ​to​ ​masculinity, emotional​ ​availability and vulnerability,​ ​maturity,​ ​sexuality,​ ​Black​ ​capitalism, and parenthood. Our communal work is hopefully a call for self-accountability, self-reflection, and self-work that is necessary to healing ourselves and our communities of violence perpetuated out of unchecked toxic masculinity. It is our intent that this work will be widely shared. It is our hope to uplift the work already happening, while inspiring new conversations and unlearning among communities of Black men. We strive to do the difficult, emotional work to unlearn toxic systems of domination that have never served or loved us. We hope to do our own work to move closer to collective healing and liberation. This is not intellectual flexing or some internally circulated homage to our personal knowledge. Nor is it to be used to pat ourselves on the back for being some of “the good ones.” This is a contract to do better, to be better, collectively. In peace and light, Anthony Boynton Curator

Examining the Album Jay Z’s introspective and deeply personal album prompted widespread critical responses upon its release. The album is a beautiful work of art, featuring samples and collaborations that not only spoke to Jay’s master musicianship, but also to his knowledge of--and appreciation for--music across genre and time. Jay also delivered the high caliber of lyricism that his listeners have come to expect. The featured authors’ analyses make clear that Jay offers a raw, vulnerable perspective on what it means to be black, male, American, and socially conscious in this dire political moment. His perspective requires engagement of us too. From notions of forgiveness and infidelity to his reflections on black fatherhood, black mourning and that bomb-ass Nina Simone sample, 4:44 is memory, reflection, and healing.

“Kill JAY-Z, they’ll never love you/You’ll never be enough, let’s just keep it real, JAY-Z/Fuck JAY-Z, I mean, you shot your own brother/How can we know if we can trust JAY-Z?”

Examining the Album Title


General Overview and Lyrics

Let Us Not Wait: a Black Male Feminist Response

Anthony Boynton

JAY-Z Broke Down The Meaning Of Every Song On 4:44

David Renshaw

The Politicization of Jay-Z

Greg Tate

On ‘4:44’, maleness, and the performance of the public apology

Jenn M. Jackson

Four, Forty-Four: On Black Masculinity, Emotional Maturity and Vulnerability

Terrance A. Merkerson

I Missed The Part When It Stopped Being About…


‘Kill Jay Z’ Music Video: What Jay-Z told directors about cheating on Beyoncé and how the filmmakers tackled his most personal song ever

Tufayel Ahmed

4:43 4:44 Sends an Important Message About Black Male Vulnerability

Candice Benbow Frederick Slayers

4:44 The Post-Script

Joshua L. Lazard

Date Read


4:44 and Narratives of Blackness Several tracks on the album allow us to discuss the transgenerational “negro problem,� both from their perspective and ours. He tackles the systemic barriers and social obstacles black folks have confronted and fought against since their arrival, by force, on the shores of the Americas. Jay further articulates the beauty in blackness and power of collective resourcing in black communities for self-empowerment. We must also ask ourselves if Jay’s messages regarding Black billionaires apply to Black folks in the hood and beyond. The readings that follow offer opportunities to reflect on the traumatic histories of anti-black racism while simultaneously affirming the strength of black people and multiplicity of their identities.

4:44 and Narratives of Blackness Title


Your Average Nigga

Vershawn Ashanti Young

Black in Middle America

Roxanne Gay

Reclaiming the Photographic Narrative of African-Americans I Reconnected To My Blackness Through Hoodoo

James Estrin

Black Nerds: Being Bullied by Your Peers As A Kid Is Not An Excuse for Anti-Blackness Undoing Racism & Anti-Blackness in Disability Justice I’m Not Your Token: Refusing to Internalize Other People’s Bigotry

Donyae Coles

Hari Ziyad Lydia X.Z. Brown

Toni Bell

No, Black-Only Safe Spaces Are Not Racist

Cameron Glover

Black, LGBT, American: Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox

Postmodern Blackness

bell hooks

Unveiling the Blackness of Hijab Black is… Black ain’t*

Vanessa Taylor Marlon Riggs

Date Read

4:44 and Narratives of Blackness Author

Title Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates

I Am Not Your Negro*

Raoul Peck

A Question of Color*

Kathe Sandler

Ethnic Notions*

Marlon Riggs

Color Adjustment*

Marlon Riggs

Date Read

“Light nigga, dark nigga; faux nigga, real nigga / Rich nigga, poor nigga; house nigga; field nigga” “Legacy, legacy, legacy, legacy / Black excellence, baby”


Embracing LoVe & Emotion Most men are socialized from birth into complete disregard for their emotions. They are told to “man up”, to put on their “big boy clothes”, and to never cry. Black men in particular often perceive this emotional apathy as a necessary way of coping. It is a shield to deal with the pervasive physical violence and emotional terror they can expect to experience throughout their lives as a result of the pathologizing ideas in the public imagination of “thug,” “Mandingo,” and “nigga.” Yet these ideas and behaviors can materialize as violent reactions and emotional immaturity as those men grow into adulthood. These texts reflect on the importance of emotional intelligence, challenging men and masculine identifying folks to embrace the full range of their emotional capacities in service of building healthier relationships with themselves and others.

Embracing LoVe & Emotion Title


all about love: new visions

bell hooks

Salvation: Black People and Love

bell hooks

Love as the Practice of Freedom

bell hooks

Say Yes to Decolonial Love: 5 Ways to Resist Oppression in Your Relationships

Anni Liu

Personal Is Political: The Necessity of Spaces for Black Vulnerability

Antonia Randolph

What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)? Got Me in My Feelings: Why Drake Isn’t as Emotional as You Think

Michael Akers & Grover Porter

#WANNABES4JIGGABOOS: When “loving dark-skin” turns into violence.

Date Read

Jeremy D. Larson

Marcus Borton

“Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed / Smile” “What I thought when I met my dad was, ‘Oh, I’m free to love now.’ But it’s like, OK, yeah, but how are you gonna do it? You wanna do it--I get it--now how are you gonna do it? You’ve never done this before. No one informed you how to do this. You don’t even have the tools to do it.”

Embracing LoVe & Emotion Title


Trans Love in the Black Community: Living Color

NBC News

A Queer Vision of Love and Marriage

Tiq Milan and Kim Katrin Milan B. Cole

Gender Justice in Action Outside the XY: Queer, Black, and Brown Masculinity

Date Read

Morgan Mann Willis

“Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed / Smile” “What I thought when I met my dad was, ‘Oh, I’m free to love now.’ But it’s like, OK, yeah, but how are you gonna do it? You wanna do it--I get it--now how are you gonna do it? You’ve never done this before. No one informed you how to do this. You don’t even have the tools to do it.”


Manhood & Masculinity From its inception, hip-hop has been concerned with manhood and masculinity. Until recently, however, these ideas tended to be rather rigid in conception, resisting the inherently dynamic nature of gender performance and expression in ways that stigmatized queer (non-heterosexual) black bodies and objectified women. 4:44 joins a growing, though not new, movement in hip-hop that is interested in examining and reimagining what black masculinity can be. In this section, we highlight texts that challenge traditional, limited ideas about masculinity and the current societal conditioning that expressly targets the black women and black LGBTQIA+ folk that are an important part of our community.

Manhood & Masculinity Title


Looking for LeRoy

Mark Anthony Neal

New Black Man

Mark Anthony Neal

Progressive Black Masculinities? Revolutionary Hope: A Conversation Between James Baldwin and Audre Lorde

Athena D. Mutua Essence Magazine

The Patriarchy Series

Daniel Johnson

Understanding Patriarchy

bell hooks

The Crisis of African American Gender Relations

bell hooks

There is No Hierarchy of Oppression

Audre Lorde

Troy Maxson and Toxic Masculinity

Anthony Boynton

We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity

bell hooks

What’s Wrong With Being a Sissy?: Critiquing the Idea of Hollywood Turning Black Men Gay

Isaac A. Sanders

Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation

Natalie Hopkinson & Natalie Moore

Date Read

Manhood & Masculinity Title Being a Man About It: Manhood Meaning Among African American Men


Date Read

Wizdom Powell Hammond & Jacqueline S. Mattis

“You Ain’t No Denzel”: African American Men’s Use of Popular Culture to Narrate and Understand Marriage and Romantic Relationships

Armon Perry, Siobhan Smith, & Derrick Brooms

Taking it like a man: Masculine role norms as moderators of the racial discrimination-depressive symptoms association among African American men

Wizdom Powell Hammond

Responsible men, blameworthy women: Black heterosexual men’s discursive constructions of safer sex and masculinity

Lisa Bowleg, Andrea L. Heckert, Tia L. Brown, & Jenné S. Massie

“And you know better, nigga; I know you do / But you gotta get better, boy, you owe it to Blue”

Manhood & Masculinity Title


Navigating Masculinity as a Black Transman: “I will never straighten out my wrist”

Kai M. Green

Black Men, Don’t Make Trans Women Pay for Your Fragile Masculinity

L’lerrét Jazelle Ailith

“But How Do You Know You’re a Man”: On Trans People, Narrative and Trust

Mitch Kellaway

Date Read

“And you know better, nigga; I know you do / But you gotta get better, boy, you owe it to Blue”


sex and sexuality We must destroy the narrative that who or how many people someone sleeps with determines their worth. This lie, along with the idea that masculinity can be threatened or taken away, produces trauma and intimate partner violence in black communities. It is imperative that we intentionally unlearn and actively stop the pieces that make up rape culture and unhealthy sexual-romantic relationships. These texts offer ways black men can have a healthy relationship with sex and their sexuality while also offering opportunities for folks who may not identify as men themselves.

sex and sexuality Title


A Black man’s guide to rape culture: a syllabus

Neal Carter

Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power

Audre Lorde

In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology

Joseph Beam

Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam’s Call

Steven Fullwood Charles Stephens

I Used to be Your Sweet Mama

Angela Davis

It’s Never Been about R. Kelly. It’s Always Been about Black Girls

Evette Dionne

Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South

E. Patrick Johnson

Masculinity is Killing Trans Women

Anthony J. Williams

How Activists Failed a Gay Black Man Nearly Convicted of a Hate Crime

Terrance Thomas

Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry

Essex Hemphill

Tongues Untied*

Marlon Riggs

Date Read

sex and sexuality Title



Barry Jenkins

Paris Is Burning*

Jennie Livingston

Kiki *

Sara Jordeno

The New Black: LGBT Rights and African Communities*

Yoruba Richen


Marlon Riggs

Date Read

“Cried tears of joy when you fell in love / Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or a her”


Black Women, their work, & misogynoir Scholarship on social movements too often neglects the outstanding fact that black women and femme identifying folk lead, organize, historicize, and archive movements. Where would we be without the work of Ella Baker? Septima Clark? Marsha P. Johnson? Alicia Garza? Rosa Parks and the often erased Claudette Colvin? We must intentionally refuse erasing of black women and femmes from narratives of social justice and civil rights. This erasure is an act of misogynoir, the specific double oppression black women and femmes face at the intersection of race and gender. This section amplifies the work of black women, honoring work they’ve done and giving space to learn directly from their labor.

“Broken is better than new, that’s kintsukuroi / You’re fine China”

Black Women, their work, & misogynoir Title


Lemonade Syllabus

Candice Benbow

On Moya Bailey, Misgynoir, and Why Both Are Important

Keir Bristol

Meet Moya Bailey, the black woman who created the term “misogynoir”

Marie Solis

Explanation Of Misogynoir


Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex

Kimberlé Crenshaw

Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color

Kimberlé Crenshaw

The Urgency of Intersectionality*

Kimberlé Crenshaw

Report Reflects on the Status of Black Women in the U.S.

Taylor Crumpton

When and Where I Enter: the Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America

Paula Giddings

Women, Race, and Class

Angela Davis

Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism

bell hooks

Trans Women Are Women. This Isn’t a Debate

Raquel Willis

Date Read

Black Women, their work, & misogynoir Title


A Seat With Us: A Conversation Between Solange Knowles, Mrs. Tina Lawson, & Judnick Mayard

Judnick Maynard

Black (W)holes and the geometry of Black female sexuality

Evelynn Hammonds

Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment

Patricia Hill Collins

Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female by Frances

M. Beale

A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement

Alicia Garza

Invisible Families: Gay Identities, Relationships and Motherhood Among Black Women

Mignon Moore

At the Dark End of the Street

Danielle McGuire

Daughters of the Dust*

Julie Dash

The Color Purple

Alice Walker

I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings by Audre Lorde

Rudolph Byrd Johnetta B. Cole Beverly Guy-Sheftall

Date Read


Gender Fluidity Any man who falls outside of what we think of “masculine” often faces emotional, psychological, and physical violence at the hands of black men. Add transgender identity, or femme identity to that man and the risk of violence increases. Understanding gender identity and expression beyond the stark, heteronormative binary drawn between masculinity and femininity is a way for black men to unlearn violent behavior and embrace a more whole self. The texts of this section are purposed for the learning of the spectrum of gender, encouraging those who do not know to respond to their confusion by seeking knowledge rather than inflicting pain.

“And old niggas, y’all stop actin’ brand new / Like 2Pac ain’t have a nose ring too”

Gender Fluidity Title


Pirelli Tire Ad

Carl Lewis

Album Cover for My Name is Jeffrey

Young Thug

A Guide to Navigating Gender Pronouns

Anthony J. Williams

Too Queer for Your Binary: Everything You Need to Know and More About Non-Binary Identities

Kaylee Jakubowksi

3 Reasons Why Folks Who Don’t ‘Look’ Non-Binary Can Still Be Non-Binary

Hari Ziyad

The Non-binary Negro

Alexis Templeton

My Gender Is Black

Hari Ziyad

Redefining Realness

Janet Mock

Thinking Sex

Gayle Rubin

Compulsory Heterosexuality

Adrienne Rich

Sex in Public

Berlant & Warner

Date Read

Gender Fluidity Title


Transfiguring Masculinities in Black Women’s Studies

Riley Snorton

Black Queer Gender and Pariah’s “Grand Swagger”

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan


J Mase III

Date Read


Black Nationalism & colonialism Much of black radical politics relies on the creation of a black nation as a means to liberation, an idea that Jay clearly ponders throughout much of the album. Many activists and “race men” have pondered similar. The texts found in this section wrestle with these questions in response: What are the limits of nationalist thinking? What opportunities lie ahead? How are we harming other people on the margins by resorting to nationalist and colonialist paradigms or projects? When Jay refers to those affected by blood diamonds as losers and himself as a winner, is that truly Black nationalism or colonialism with a Black face?

“A nice peace, fund ideas from people who look like we / We gon’ start a society within a society”

Black Nationalism & colonialism Title


The Wretched of the Earth

Frantz Fanon

Black Skin, White Masks

Frantz Fanon

Overview of Decoloniality

Gurminder K Bhamabra

Discourse on Colonialism

Aime Cesaire

I Write What I Like

Steve Biko

The Anti-Imperialist: The Pitfalls of Black Nationalism

Adam Elliott-Cooper

Stokely Speaks: From Black Power to Pan-Africanism

Kwame Ture Mumia Abu-Jamal

From Toussaint to Tupac: The Black International since the Age of Revolution

Michael O. West William G. Martin Fanon Che Wilkins

Traces of History: Elementary Structure of Race

Patrick Wolfe

In the Wake: On Blackness and Being

Christina Sharpe

Freedom as Marronage

Neil Roberts

The Radical Evolution of Du Boisian Pan-Africanism

Anthony J. Ratcliff

Assata: An Autobiography

Assata Shakur

Date Read


Wealth & Capitalism

Jay-Z is a successful rapper and businessman, the winner of 21 Grammys, and his 810 million dollar net worth is no secret. Is it easy for him, given his wealth and status, to consider capitalism as a means to freedom, an idea considered throughout the album. However, we know systems of power and access don’t love us. How are black folk to accrue wealth after centuries of second-class citizenship that affect our bodies, our neighborhoods, our education systems, and our futures? Should we work within capitalist system despite its history of denigration of marginalized people? This section sparks discussions around these questions and more, challenging us to think beyond what we know as the impossible “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” narrative.

Financial freedom my only hope / Fuck livin’ rich and dyin’ broke” “Fuck a slice of the apple pie; want my own cake / In charge of my own fate” “Daddy, what’s a will?”

Wealth & Capitalism Title


Gramsci’s Black Marx: Whither the Slave in Civil Society?

Frank B. Wilderson

Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition

Cedric Robinson

The Case for Reparations

Ta-Nehisi Coates

The racial wealth gap: How African-Americans have been shortchanged out of the materials to build wealth

Janelle Jones

Breaking with Capitalist Orthodoxy

Michael Jacobs Mariana Mazzucato

The End of Progressive Neoliberalism

Nancy Fraser

In Defense of Looting

Willie Osterweil

3 Reasons to Say “F the Police”

Anthony J. Williams

Capitalism and Slavery

Eric Williams

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

Edward Baptist

Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism

Kwame Nkrumah

Class Struggle in Africa

Kwame Nkrumah

Date Read


Black Fatherhood Despite the age-old stereotype of black men being deadbeat dads, black men are are statistically more present in homes across the nation than those of other races. Even considering this fact, harm done onto black men is still often replicated in the home onto their spouses and family. We challenge the idea that black fatherhood is used as the fix-all of black communal ills, recognizing how black motherhood, sisterhood, and alternative family structures can benefit Black communities. In other words, the texts of this section provide healthy visions of black fatherhood.

“If I wasn’t a superhero in your face / My heart breaks for the day I have to explain my mistakes” “A man that don’t take care of his family can’t be rich” “Who would’ve thought I’d be the dad I never had”

Black Fatherhood Title


The Doll

Charles Chesnutt

Ain’t I a Feminist?

Aaronette White

Letter to my Son

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Knock Knock

Daniel Beaty

The Myth of the Missing Black Father

Roberta L. Coles Charles Green

Viewing Black Fatherhood from Both Abandonment and Fulfillment

Dr. Larry Walker

4 Off-Putting Messages We Send to Trans Men Considering Pregnancy

Mitch Kellaway

New Father Chronicles

La Guardia Cross

The State of Black Fatherhood: Parenting Behind Bars

Dominique N. Mack

Date Read


Black mental health & wellness Self-care, or the act of taking care of our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, needs to become a priority in black communities. Too often Black women take care of Black men to the detriment of themselves. Too often Black men ignore their own health to the detriment of their communities. When we think about how often we go to the doctor, if we have ever considered talking to a therapist, or if we can just pray it away, we recognize that Black men have to start taking the time to consider our physical and mental health and wellness. Studies have shown that doctors see us as capable of taking more pain and being superhuman, yet we also know that we have to take care of our needs. This section seeks to dispel myths surrounding black mental health and holistic wellness by exploring the realities of intergenerational trauma and ways to go about healing.

Black mental health & wellness Title Why Black Mental Health Literacy Matters

Author Yolo Akili Robinson

Race & Trauma: Race Based Traumatic Stress and Psychological Injury

Robert T. Carter

How Racism Is Bad for Our Bodies

Jason Silverstein

Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race: Special Issue - Racial Inequality and Health

David Takeuchi & David Williams

3 Ways to Prioritize Self-Care While Resisting Dehumanization – Because #BlackWellnessMatters, Too

Akilah S. Richards

Giving Voice to the Feelings of Black Boys

Amber A. Hewitt

Things to Consider When Starting Therapy

Alex Hardy

Forests, trees, and streams: Why an integration of discursive psychological frameworks and gender role strain paradigms is needed

Wizdom Powell Hammond

Reflections on My Thirty-Four Years as a Black Man With Mental Illness

Kelvin Easiley, Jr.

“Down in the Sewers”: Perceptions of Depression and Depression Care Among African American Men

D. Hudson , J. Eaton, A. Banks, W. Sewell, H. Neighbors H

Date Read

Black mental health & wellness Title


Date Read

“Racism?!?. . . Just Look at Our Neigh- D. Hudson, J. Eaton, P. borhoods “ : Views on Racial Discrim- Lewis, P. Grant, W. Sewell, ination and Coping Among African K. Gilbert American Men in Saint Louis Interpersonal Racial Discrimination and Structural-Level Racism Race, life course socioeconomic position, racial discrimination, depressive symptoms and self-rated health

D. Hudson, E. Puterman, K. Bibbins-Domingo, K. Matthews, N. Adler

First Person: Dude, I’m Never Breaking Up With My Therapist

Maco L. Faniel

“See how the universe works? / It takes my hurt and help me find more of myself” “Sexin’ the pain away / Vacay the pain away / Drinking the pain away / Smoking the pain away” “Our external reality is an opportunity to heal our internal upset”


Novels Title


If Beale Street Could Talk

James Baldwin

Invisible Man

Ralph Ellison

A Father’s Law

Richard Wright

Native Son

Richard Wright

The Color Purple

Alice Walker


Martin Delany

Salvage the Bones

Jesmyn Ward

Giovanni’s Room

James Baldwin

White Boy Shuffle

Paul Beatty

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching

Mychal Denzel Smith

Date Read


4:44 and Musical Peers Title


Fear of a Black Planet

Public Enemy

The Odd Tape


Oochie Wally (Lala Mix)

Rahrah Gabor

Mr. Rager

Kid Cudi

Running (Jamie xx remix)

Gil Scott-Heron

Me and the Devil

Gil Scott-Heron

A Sucker for Pumps

TiRon & Ayomari

Life is Good



The Foreign Exchange

Leave It All Behind

The Foreign Exchange

Pieces of a Man

Gil Scott-Heron

The Listening

Little Brother

Boy Meets World





Mykki Blanco

Mama’s Gun

Erykah Badu

A Seat at the Table


Below the Heavens




Date Read


4:44 Syllabus  
4:44 Syllabus  

The 4:44 Syllabus is a living document created by Black men and masculine nonbinary people who were inspired by the labor of Black women, th...