What I Learn from the Black Men in My Life

Part I: How not to silence myself

Three men: each of them I have known for more than fifteen years, all of them close to me. I love them. I try my best to understand them. I want nothing more than to always support them. And I pray that this world sees the beauty in them just as I do. I thought, “How can I have the world listen to them for several minutes? What can I do to gift someone other than myself the opportunity to get a glimpse of walking in their shoes?” The idea that turned into the words you see before you is this: ask them poignant, in-depth questions about being men of color in this world today and see where it takes us. This is the result.


began the conversation with Dré talking about my weaknesses and what I expect of myself during therapy. “Some things, I am just not ready to discuss, you know? It’s heavy and I’d spend most of the session crying. I don’t want that . . . I felt like I’d waste her time and I know I wouldn’t, it’s just the way my brain works.”

“That’s actually a part of therapy.” He says this candidly — knowingly.

I take a moment to let it sink in, but don’t quite catch on. “Which is? Wasting time or crying? LOL!

No, talking about your issues and crying.”

It is one thing to be free, vulnerable, and open, but it is another to appear weak. Or, at least made to feel as though you are weak because you cannot hold back tearsIn the case of the “strong black woman,” the myth is that we do not cry. We do not have time for crying. We cannot let ourselves appear weak. There are walls that need to be held up, maintained, balanced . . . Who has time for the walls to come tumbling down?

“I cry at home.” I am uncomfortable crying in front of others. I have a problem releasing when someone else is around. I like to think that this is because a few of my teenage years were spent in a space full of young boys and a mother who almost NEVER cried in front of us. There was a mask to wear and all of us wore it well. He saw right through me.

“But, that’s like hiding, still, in a sense.”

“It kinda is, but it feels like being free. I felt a sense of comfort being able to just cry and be at home. Home is therapy, too.”

I sit with his words on how I am probably still hiding. This man, my close friend has overcome so much and stands tall in the face of adversity. I know he is right, there is no denying it. I must find a way to completely remove my shell. How does it feel to have nearly ten years stripped away from you — to be wrongly accused of something? To miss out on the world as you fight for your life in a caged environment? I have learned to lean in a bit closer when he has something to say. We segue into a discussion about his life after enduring obstacles and hurdles from his past. While reading his words, I could feel his relief.

“So far, what would you say is your biggest achievement in life?”

“I don’t know. Maybe surviving prison, coming home, becoming a husband and father, even a deacon.”

Now that we are adults and closer to forty and no longer eight years old, our experiences create much of who we are — our grit, our need to survive, and maintaining our sanity. His, even more so because of his background (wrongly accused and incarcerated for nearly ten years) that was given to him when we were teenagers without his consent. Not once has he made an excuse for his past, he has only worked harder and longer than anyone else I know. Dré, he is his own Central Park 5 and I hear him.


know men who do not use many words but say a lot with the words they use; men who make me think harder than I’d like to because I spend much of my time trying to speak louder than them. When you have had to yell for much of your adolescence in order to be heard, you become accustomed to either shouting or cowering when it is time to speak. I do not have to with the bonds that I have created with them. I hear them. They hear me. We simply are who we are.

Upon reaching out to Vic, I found that he has used the tools he learned in therapy to increase his sense of growth and understanding in life. He knows where he stands and he is secure in his skin. We discuss briefly what his takeaways are from therapy and how his experiences mirror mine.

“How has therapy benefited you?”

“It has given me the tools to see myself from outside myself. Through having to talk honestly, which is hard to do, about moments in my life. Therapy has helped me to connect the dots and see the patterns. From there, I can spot when the ego has stepped into the driver’s seat and have the wherewithal to dial it back. Or, how to adjust my perspective from a negative to a more positive spin. It sounds cliché but that really helps.”

His words ring true. I have known him for seventeen years and not only have I had the chance to watch a magnificent creature brave the tides of life, but I have also seen him overcome and jump some mighty high hurdles and he is still standing.

“What’s it like to be a man of color in the working world?”

“I’m not a big talker, to begin with, so it’s not a thing to me. I do my job which I love (graphic designer), then leave. Not saying I’m chummy-chummy with everybody, not hanging out with them on the weekends. But, yeah . . . I’m aware I’m the only black guy in the office side of the building. I’m left alone to do what I need to do which I’m appreciative of.”

Vic, he is an artist, a lyricist, and a strong voice of reason whenever I need it. And, I hear him.


I have written about Levy (The Outstanding) here on Medium twice before. He braves many things in life it seems, effortlessly, but today, I learned how equally hard he has it in the South in “this skin that we’re in.” I begin our conversation yearning to know how it feels being a black man and from there, Levy took me deep into his mind — his heart. He laid it all bare and all I could do was listen.

“What does it feel like to be a black man?”

To be a black man is to be routinely confronted with society’s preconceived viewpoints of who you are or who you should be. Although these points of view are ultimately beyond our control, black men, even at an early age, are burdened with either defying or reaffirming these stereotypes, as it often determines success or survival. However, what may be seen as a positive quality by one group may be seen negatively by another group. Masculinity in itself, for example, may be seen as an ideal quality by some and as a threat by others.”

When I compare some of his experiences to mine, I can relate, but it gets deeper . . .

“Therefore, when facing the world, black men are often required to raise or lower certain aspects of their personality depending on their immediate situation. This can lead to black men, at least on a subconscious level, conflicting with their own system of beliefs.”

At the very least, this becomes mentally draining; eventually, though, this can become psychologically damaging.”

Whoever you are, take a moment to sit with those words above, really sit with them. This is not to say that men, in general, do not have struggles, I do not take that lightly at all, they do — this is to express how much harder one struggles as a man of color in and of a system that is designed for —waiting for — them to fail. Next, we tackle the same question, but with a twist . . .

“How is it for you as a black man in your thirties and in the South?”

“As a black man in my thirties growing up in the South, the hardest thing to achieve has been complete peace of mind. Despite what I have achieved and may accomplish in the future, I will always have a deep-seated feeling of not totally fitting in. There will always be a part of me that remembers third grade, when John Rice told me to “move, Blackie” and my teacher heard it but did nothing about it. Always a part of me that will remember, at twenty-seven, being turned away from a nightclub due to the “dress code” although the person in front of me was just as casually-dressed. Always a part of me that will remember just a few weeks ago, when the bartender told me that she didn’t know how to fix the advertised special drink, but prepared the same drink for a white patron less than thirty minutes later.”

“At this point, I’m always aware of and prepared for ridicule or discrimination. I would love to be freed from this constant burden, or at least oblivious to it.”

Imagine yourself living in the year 2019 actually fearful of going into establishments built on serving others and not getting served or served properly. Do you know what it feels like to watch multiple non-black parties come into a restaurant and be seated within two minutes while you wait for more than ten to fifteen minutes when you arrived before them? Or, if you work in a public setting where you deal with people on a daily basis and they are rude to you for no other reason than the color of your skin. Just imagine what that feels like. Could you cope?

He shared his story. He shared his life. He isn’t one to be extremely loud and boisterous. Levy, he made his point and I hear him.


I often think that I know where they’re headed since they have good things going for them now, nothing bad will happen. But, that is a fantasy. Bad things happen to our men of color every second of every day. I pray that they are not pulled into the depths of deception ever again.

Being able to question each of my friends regarding their experiences in life opened up my heart — my ears to them so much more. What they have taught me is to stand tall, even in the face of adversity, even when I feel invisible. They have taught me to roar like a lion, not to be ashamed of admitting that I need help, and to strengthen my core and be prepared to fight as hard as I can to succeed in this world with my mental fortitude still intact. I feel a sense of relief being able to freely converse with each of them and I pray that as the years pile on, we can continue to trade thoughts and confess our fears too. With each of them around, I am guaranteed not to silence myself.

want to thank each of these men for giving me more to digest as it pertains to life and the ways of this world for a man of color. Andre Murray, Victor Garcia, and Levy McLain — here you will find their voices. Here, you will find their hearts.

Who will you listen to? What do you hear? How will you learn?


Originally published in Our Human Family via Medium.

Young Ones, You Have A Voice–Use It!

It’s that time again, time for the second submissions call for young ones ages 15-25. I posted this on Medium as it is a call for users there, but I will always share the submissions call here also. If we do not give our young ones space to express themselves in ways they feel that are helpful and also allow them to be vulnerable, they will more than likely turn to other ways to fill that void. And oftentimes, those ways are not the best. Below is the call for submissions.

Young Minds of Medium

Who or What Inspires You?

This is a call for submissions. Young Minds of Medium — this is your challenge. I am looking for work from the young Writers here on Medium, ages 15–25. Submissions will be reviewed and posted on Mondays and Fridays during the month of July. THIS IS YOUR TIME TO SHINE! I want to hear from you. I want to feel, connect with, and fall in love with the words you would like to share with the world.

Your theme: “Who or What Inspires You?”

What am I asking?

Who or what inspires you? What drives you as a young Writer, as a human being? If you had to think of a positive role model, who is that person? If you have more than one, get creative with your submission and mention them. You think you can’t put what you’re feeling into words, try me — let’s make it happen together.

I am looking for:

Poetry
Micropoetry
Fiction (no more than 850 words)
Non-fiction (no more than 850 words)
And, your heart. ❤


•You will need to be a current user on Medium for this challenge. Request to be added as a Writer by emailing me at acorneredgurl@gmail.com with “Please Add Me” as the subject line. For the young ones, ages 15–25 already contributing to ACG, please submit your work in draft-form directly to A Cornered Gurl for review, scheduling, and/or publishing. You can submit twice per week, your works will be published on Monday and Friday of that week. Please have a suitable image for your work with notable credit to its source/artist (Please include the link!). You can find plenty of great images via UnsplashPixabay, and PexelsIf you are the source for your image, please caption that.

Please subtitle your entries “Young Minds of Medium Inspiration Call” and tag your pieces with the following “Growth” & “Inspiration.” CHALLENGE SUBMISSION BEGINS NOW!

The start date for publishing the YMOM pieces is Monday, July 1, 2019, and the end date is Friday, August 02, 2019. Other contributors to ACG, please, no worries. You can submit as you normally would to A Cornered Gurl and your work will be published as well, however, a total of three pieces will be published on Mondays and Fridays for all other Writers, leaving the floor wide open for our young ones. I hope you will understand and accept this.


*Please remember that A Cornered Gurl is a read-for-all community and there will be no metered paywall or locked pieces published here. Thank you.


And now, a little inspirational music: David Bowie/Heroes


Young Minds of Medium, WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

ACG Submission Guidelines:



Originally posted via A Cornered Gurl on Medium.

Excelsior

Photo Credit: Banter Snaps|Unsplash

Musical Selection: Rahsaan Patterson|Sent From Heaven

I am supposed to forget you. That is how this thing was meant to be. But, I feel . . . see . . . hear you every-damn-where and the moment I reach to turn you off, the volume only gets louder. I keep telling myself that I dodged a bullet. Hell, I ain’t ready to die anyway and you would’ve killed me.

I keep telling myself that I dodged a bullet.

But, here I am, digging into the past, trying to pull you out. Shouldn’t I be done with this shit by now? Shouldn’t I? I canceled my therapy appointment yesterday because you followed me all over my home and I really didn’t want you taking over her office too. Afterward, when night crept through my blinds, I told myself, “You cannot run away from the past, Tre. When it sneaks up on you, run into it head-on.”

Shouldn’t I be done with this shit by now? Shouldn’t I?

I’m thankful and grateful to have you here in my life. Stay forever, make me yours and we’ll love through eternity.

The deer run through the wood-chipped areas of my apartment complex, kicking up perfectly shaped triangles — their hooves marking the grass. I watch them gallop in sync and wonder if they have any baggage and if they do, how heavy is it? How often do they carry the extra weight? They look so light and free and that’s how I want to feel, light and free.

But, I won’t be. I know this . . . I also know that my therapist will have extra homework for me and perhaps, I will benefit from her wisdom — her techniques. I should have kept my appointment, but now I am here avoiding every imprint of you, shedding worthless tears.

They look so light and free and that’s how I want to feel, light and free.

I will never be free until I shake you out of me. In my heart, in my soul, you have made your home. There is no eviction notice big enough for me to issue to you. No variation of the color pink that would be bright enough. You have planted yourself in the depths of my being. Surely, someone knows how you can be uprooted without pieces of me leaving too.

I thought you were perfect. I was wrong. My previous manifestations of you are proof that I was foolish. I was blind. I am not without fault.

I’m thankful and grateful to have you here in my life. Stay forever, make me yours and we’ll love through eternity.

I am not without fault. And that’s what hurts the most.

Welcome to living, baby. You ain’t alive unless you’re feeling something.”


Originally published via Medium.

The Journey Back To Mental Wellness

Will Rogers’ paraphrased quote, located in my therapist’s office. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

Part IV: Releasing Tension

“So, do you think you’ll take the job with your old supervisor?”

“I am still weighing my options with that. I’d have opportunities afforded me there that I do not at my current job, plus — no weekend work and more holiday time off. Did I mention that the practice is closer to where we live?”

“So many pros. Cons?”

“Well, if I took the position, I’d be leaving a team of great people and I love where I currently work. I’d put them in the position of trying to replace yet another person. I just wish things had not taken place the way that they have, but I have no control over that and I am trying to find a way to deal with each blow as they come.

“You said it best. You have no control over these things. I have a feeling you will choose what you believe to be the best option for both you and your current place of employment. Remember, self-care is important and if transferring will possibly aid you in maintaining self-care, do not deny yourself that.”

Jarred seashells. My therapist has collected these over the years during her visits to various beaches. Just seeing them made me want to start collecting shells too. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

won’t deny myself what I know is best, but I will not live in the world of a “possibility” or “probability,” either. The job offer comes as an “if.” The facility is new and building a name for itself while marketing its existence and gaining a few new patients each day. I could be a big part of this as I do love telling people about where I work. Our organization has proven to be one of the top organizations in North Carolina. I also believe that I could advance a bit more with this new facility and it would be such an honor to watch it grow and shift and take on new phases in operations as they come. I also know that there is a big chance that other people may be hired even if my old supervisor is currently the Clinic Administrator. She has power, but the higher-ups of our organization have more.

I am waiting, but not waiting at the same time. “Whatever will be, will be.” I tell my therapist this and she commends me on my ability to go along with what is taken place without emotionally breaking down.

“You are moving closer to your center, Tre.”

I hope she’s right. I tell her how I feel myself holding in so much tension and it is all piling up in my neck and shoulders and she stands up and shows me a method her chiropractor introduced to her since she tends to hold tension in the same area. She signals me to rise from the couch and follow her in motion. I do so. We center our heads, hold our arms out horizontally, spread our fingers, and then push our arms down, centering our elbows, and touching our hips with our hands. I could feel the relief in my neck area as the method ends. I tell her that this method will be a useful thing to do right before bed. She agrees.

There were brief moments where I teared up — just thinking of possibly leaving yet not knowing what lies ahead, frightens me. I want to be able to make a difference wherever I work and I get the opportunity to do this daily at my current job, however, roles have shifted and some people are clueless to their roles and that can be a harmful thing. I fear another toxic work environment, but I also believe that I can prevent it from becoming one.

That is too much pressure for one person, Tre.”

She’s right. She is definitely right.


Originally published via A Cornered Gurl on Medium.

Part I

Part II

Part III