This ‘About Me’ section is not so much about me as it is about what drives me to relentlessly work to provide our disadvantaged males with the same opportunities awarded to the more fortunate males. I’m using the term “disadvantaged” rather generally, though. While I sincerely care for the welfare of all disadvantaged males, every thump of my heart beats for our young Black men. Affected by socio-economic and political dynamics rooted in a wretched history, our males are still fighting an uphill battle in gaining a strong footing as respected, positive and productive citizens of this country. We’re plagued by age-old stereotypes that stereotypes that continue to hinder us in the workplace and in our communities, and many of us are plagued by reinforcing these same stereotypes out of our own ignorance. Our young brothas are born to single mothers, forced to make a man of themselves with no positive male figure. They only see those who pride themselves in teaching them how to roll up, smoke and sell weed. We have brothas are trapped in dilapidated neighborhoods, afflicted with ignorance, defiance, and apathy. We even have brothas who come from households of two loving parents who worked their entire lives to provide their son(s) with the opportunities they probably were not afforded when they were younger. All, in my opinion, are disadvantaged to some degree.
One of the most intense obstacles of the African-American today regardless of family background and socio-economic status is the stronghold the peer group has on the psyches of our young brothas, and the ingrained inferiority complex that has generationally permeated within the consciousness of the Black community. Often the case, we do not do better because we have not seen better; we choose not to do better because we feel we can’t do better. Many feel that tt is not our place to step outside of what we feel our role in this country is to be, or what society dictated to us through hundreds of years of disenfranchisement and discrination. We are trapped within the stereotypes that hinder our progress. Some of us challenge those stereotypes (as Martin Luther King, Jr. eloquently wrote about) while others embrace it.
I was told that your early childhood experiences greatly shape who you are as an adult. If that is true, my journey began back in Aliceville, AL. where I spent a good 9 years of my childhood. Many of my friends (I could comfortably say ‘most’ of my friends) did not enjoy the same luxuries as I did. I’m not referring to materialistic possessions, however. What I had that they didn’t—which, in the Black community is considered a luxury—was a father in the home with me every day who scolded me, whipped me, preached to me, mentored me, and most importantly, showed me most of what it took to be a real man (I learned the rest through trial and error). Even further than that, I also had a mother in the home. I had two working parents who did everything they could to provide for my brother and I. We had no reason to want or need for anything (that doesn’t mean that we didn’t have our own struggles with trying to assimilate into the thug culture. My father played a remarkable role in knocking me back on track when I went awry.
I remember basketball being my passion at the time, but I was having trouble getting consistent playing time on the court. I think I was more fundamentally skilled than they were (because my father sent us off to basketball camps in Auburn and Univ. of Alabama every summer), but as for athleticism and the street-smart machismo, many exhbited a lot more athletic prowess than I did. These guys dominated the basketball court and the football field, and would probably do the same in lacrosse, rugby and water polo had they set their minds to it. But that’s where it stopped. I went on to finish my high school career as a basketball player and then going on to college to do the same. And I graduated college, three times. They didn’t. As I got older I thought about this a lot. How could it be that I managed to achieve what they dreamed of and many of them were far better than I was athletically? The answer goes back to the “luxury”—I had a consistent positive male figure in my life. They didn’t. While many fell to guns, drugs, prison, complacency, apathy and aloofness, my father pushed me both in the classroom and outside the classroom, and on the basketball court. He refused to let me succumb to the pitfalls that had entrapped my friends, and when I did, or tried to, he was there to snatch me right out (oftentimes with a belt). My father played the largest, most significant role in me becoming the man as I am today.
For the young men who come through this program, they remind me of many of my friends I left back in Aliceville. Many of these kids are extremely talented, bright, and oftentimes misunderstood; they’re just misguided. All they need is what my father was to me: a mentor, a disciplinarian, a coach, trainer, a big brother. My obligation as a Black man is to give back to my community and empower the younger generation.
This blog is is dedicated to my excursions in developing boys into men, and my musings on leadership and committment to our community.