I grew up in a single-parent household. For as long as I can remember, it was always my mom and I. Unlike others in my position, I can’t say my father was a complete deadbeat. He paid child support, and when I was younger (up to the age 7, I believe) we’d spend some time on the weekends together. Although he never actually lived with us, he was present enough for me to recognize his face. Some weekends we’d fly kites, others we’d just go shopping. Nonetheless, he was somewhat present in my life.
Unfortunately, sometime after my 7th or 8th birthday (I honestly can’t remember), all that changed. He still paid child support but seeing him on the weekends was rare. Like, so rare it never happened… In fact, we probably went 10+ years without saying much to each other, let alone see each other. In his absence, my mother and I were left to figure things out on our own.
My mom is the strongest women I know. I’ve seen her work from sun up to sun down, 7 days a week, year after year after year. It’s practically through her hard work and guidance I became the man I am today.
Even though my mom is pretty much Superwomen, there were things she couldn’t teach me, nor protect me from. Things that only OGs like my grandfather could teach me. Knowledge that could only come from other black men who had found success in a society that was designed to entrap them. James Baldwin once said, “for a Negro, there’s no difference between the North and South. There’s just a difference in the way they castrate you. But the fact of the castration is the American fact.”
My mom knew that if I was going to survive in this country, I needed to hear this knowledge from someone I could personally relate to. My mom made it her duty to surround me with positive male role models who looked like me throughout my life.
If my mother had not done this, I fear I’d be in the same situation a lot of my childhood friends are currently in. I’m blessed to have made it to 27 with no arrest, a BA in Business Administration, and a job I’m fairly passionate about. Looking back on life, I’m 100% certain that if I didn’t have positive role models throughout my life I’d easily be another statistic.
I’m not writing this piece to highlight all the mentors I had in my life cause that’ll take all day. However, I am writing this piece to stress how important it is for us black men to be mentors for our future generations.
My Brother’s Keeper
“Niggas from the hood is the best actors
We the ones that got to wear our face backwards
Put your frown on before they think you soft
Never smile long or take your defense off
Acting tough so much we start to feel hard” – J. Cole
There are certain pressures in the black community that every black person must deal with at some point in time in their lives. Those pressure can differ from male to female but, nonetheless, these pressures are very real. Since I’m a man I can only speak on behalf of myself and other black men like myself.
Society has created a picture of what a “black man” is supposed to look like.
Society sees us black man as hyper-sexual, unregretful, misogynistic, aggressive beings. That image is then complemented by the images of black men we see in the media. Unarmed brothers who fall victim to police brutality are constantly smeared as “thugs,” or possessed demons when footage of their last minutes on Earth plague the internet waves…
Being surrounded by these negative images and stereotypes of what “being a black man” means can cause one to eventually embody those pressures. I must be clear that these pressures are influenced by the negative perception of what “blackness” means to the black community & society at large. This was the fate for many of my childhood friends, and honestly, could’ve been mine as well had it not been for the role models my mom surrounded me with.
Brothers, our youngins need us. They need us to show them that we understand their frustrations. More importantly, we need to show them how to use those frustrations to channel positive change. Change, not just in themselves, but a change in our own communities as well. We must show them that they too can dream big. That there are more career opportunities outside of sports, music, and drugs.
We have to teach them that it’s not about “escaping” the hood, but instead, it’s about uplifting the hood so it becomes a safe place for generations to come.
This year I’m going to make it a real effort to do more for our future generations. I’m not sure what all that entails but I do know I can do more and I will do more. I was blessed to have help along my journey and now its time to bring the less fortunate with me. I’ve been looking into MBK Alliance, so maybe I’ll start there. I hope you all join me, and if you have suggestions I’m all ears!