Do you feel as though you live your life with purpose? If so, what is the driving force for that purpose?
I absolutely feel that I live my life with purpose! I think it's easy to get caught up in the general motion of things in such a way that you can disconnect from your purpose and begin to lose your sense of value in your "why."
The driving force for my purpose is my understanding of the phrase, "No man is an island," meaning that no one can successfully do life alone. There are people that are absolutely necessary for your life; there are people for whom you are absolutely necessary, too! I know that the things inside of me, my aspirations, talents and skills, are integral for more than just myself. Somebody needs something that I have within me!
Why is it so difficult for Black American men in this culture to be themselves, their essential
selves, and remain who they truly are?
Oh man! This is a complex and layered question. There is not one set answer to this, but an actual intersection of several contributing factors. Systemic oppression. Hypermasculinity. Limited spectrum of what Black Male Success is acceptable. Policing Blackness. Policing Maleness. Policing Emotional Expression. I'm sure that if I sat with this longer, I'd think of even more layers to this foul onion.
Essentially, we live in a society that was created by the degradation, exploitation, and utilization of our bodies. The oppressive, racist system that Black American men come up in is the same judge and jury that continued to find ways to tear down the concept of Black manhood. From slaves, to sharecroppers, minstrels, troublemakers, thugs, and the like. The concept of hypermasculinity was something that I believe to be birthed through the internalized inadeqacy of white men during the times of slavery (extreme attempts to overexert male dominance, i.e. "buckbreaking") and over time was ascribed to Black men when it was no longer useful to White Male dominance. So we adopted the idea of the macho man that has to go above and beyond to prove their manhood. In this warped idea of manhood, there's no room to express the full spectrum of your emotions, become the master of all things with which you are gifted, and fully embrace all of the ways in which you as a man take up space in this world.
I will acknowledge that we have arrived to a place where some sexist, toxic heteronormative and downright homophobic ideas are being challenged and dismantled, opening up space for men to live this very real truth: your full humanity and your masculinity are not mutually exclusive and don't exist at the expense of one another.
At what point does a boy become a man?
I feel that manhood does have its official jumping-off point at 18. I think it's unfortunate that we as a society tend to minimize their adolescent years unwittingly, though. We start calling teenage boys "young men" and contribute to harmful realities like taking away that child's space to make mistakes. We have 14 year olds being tried as adults in our court system. As an educator, I made the personal decision to stop calling boys young men in classes.
What is something that people misunderstand about you?
Over time, many people have misunderstood me! An interesting, kinda curveball one is the idea that I'm self-seeking or always looking to be the center of attention. That feedback was so strange and really affected me while I was in high school & coming of age. It made me try to shrink myself and dim my light even more at a time where I was already policing/critiquing everything about myself. I was so insecure and unsure of myself, and it took a lot of work to grow from that pain and become this man that makes a choice to be brave enough to use the talents and skills that I have to meet the opportunities afforded me. Those that misunderstand now have my sympathy for that egregious conclusion, but no apology; I'm proud of the me I be!
What in life is beautiful to you?
So many things! Life is beautiful in all its glorious triumphs, tragic losses, and everything in between. Experiencing the individual ways that each and every person demonstrates love is beautiful. Giving your best is beautiful. Resilience is beautiful. The parallels between the beautiful decay of autumn leaves and our elderly embracing the tail end of their earthly journey is devastating and remarkably beautiful. So many things, so many thoughts.
Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from the journey of my life. I am thoroughly inspired by the strength and resilience of my parents, elders, and ancestors. I am constantly inspired by the people in my circles-they are doing some amazing things and are so talented that it blows my mind.
My inspiration comes from life imitating art. From my students. From failures as well as victories.
Who is the most impressional man in your life?
Easily my father! My dad is the epitome of resilience for me. He survived tribulations and his own obstacles and held on tight to his reason why: Me and my brothers. Every time that he wanted to give up, he stood up and pressed forward. It is so rewarding to see him now, slowly but surely reaping the benefits of the seeds he sowed. I love you, dad!
For future generations of men reading this: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know? Do you follow this advice yourself?
To the future generations: You are not alone and you are powerful beyond measure! It is your divine right and responsibility to discover all that you are meant to bring into this world. Your manhood is yours to claim and define whether you're in pointe shoes, penny loafers, or pumas. I'm not in the ministry of not practicing what I preach. I'm walking it like i'm talking it. Daily!