I believe I’m a totally different person from how America see’s a black man. I believe I’m a gentleman. In all respects — I’m a gentleman.
I believe I defy every stereotype of a stereotypical black man. I seek knowledge, I am motivated, I am loving, and caring. I hope to really change the world and change the image or representation of a black man in America. And, I will do this by motivating young black men and teaching them that their life is as important as their counterparts. No matter what race, creed, or religion.
I’ve always fought hard to not be portrayed in America’s stereotypical view of a Black man. I’ve always fought to not be put in a bucket. As a Black-Latino I am so many things so guess what, I don’t fit in your bucket. My family is from the Dominican Republic. I was born in Puerto Rico. I love Hip-Hop. I love Bachata. I love John Mayer. I have a Degree in Engineering and a minor in Math. You can never know these things about me if you don’t endeavor to see beyond my Blackness.
I am the stone that the builder refused. Being multi-ethnic in all communities including the black community can be a challenge. Being wrapped together with so many ethnicities like Mayan, Filipino, and African American can leave people confused and leave you left out. The way a stone becomes a precious gem is by tumbling and reshaping itself over and over again. I have spent years refining myself to become the Cure. I am the cure for what holds us all down. I am prana. I am Qi...
I believe the image painted by mass media on Black men is mostly based on assumptions which are in itself a form a mental laziness. The truth of the matter is black men, just like any other race, run a gamut personality types and experiences. We are individuals who have a story to tell. I see myself as the antithesis to what mass media tells black men they are supposed to be. I seek to break down assumptions and make people question their ideas of what a black man is and what a black man could be.
I am of the African diaspora. A Pan African global thinker and lover. I chose to be born when European colonies in Africa were being overthrown, liberation activities in the U.S. were succeeding and all manner of beleaguered people were awakening to take control of their stories and destinies.Because of those formative experiences, I’ve learned to view my experiences with financial struggle, court systems and potentially deadly encounters as chapters in my story rather than the whole narrative.As an African-American man with a physiology that could be many things and a name that is unusual in the U.S. (The name comes from my experience with Rastafari. Most people think it is Arabic, but the etymolog y is I and JAH. It means, we are all one within God or Truth. It is a personal statement of Kujichagulia, self-determination); people are sometimes unsure if I come out of the U.S. capitalist tradition of people as property, better known as slavery. I do.My people have been in the U.S. a long time. I’ve got generations of freedom fighters in my family and the fact we’re able to do this interview is testament that they did some things right. Like all families, they left me work to do on my own. That’s the image of a black man that I hold for myself. One who desires to manifest greatness even more than my ancestors did. The greatest generation has yet to be born. In our museum that just opened in DC, there is an exhibit about the hospitality business my great grandfather started on Martha’s Vineyard in 1900 – after he escaped from slavery. At that time, it was the only place guests of color could stay on the Vineyard. I’m sure he and I both want my exhibit to be even bigger than his, as I want my children’s to be even bigger than mine.
I’ve grown and I’ve been able to understand culturally this country. I’ve had the opportunity to see that particular reaction that people have on just my appearance before I could even understand the language. As I continued to grow and educate myself, I was able to distinguish between accents of the English language. The same this is happening now, as I learn more of the cultural background/makeup and how people react and why they react in certain ways, is that I understand that they are reacting to the way I look and the way I behave. I don’t wear my beard all the time, this is probably the second time in two years that I have let it grow. But I can see how I am treated differently sometimes just because I am letting it grow. One of the experiences that I have had in the past, recent past, when I travel internationally I travel business casual, just like this suit that I have on. The other day I was coming alone with my brother, walking in the same line, and my brother happens to be light-skinned. He is my brother from the same mother and father but he just happens to be lighter skin, or what you would consider white. We both have global entry which is a special pass that you do a 10-year background check and basically you don’t talk to anyone- you just go through immigration, customs and now the airport. That day I was traveling very comfortable and I didn’t feel like dressing up. I had sneakers, jeans, a loose shirt, hat backward and a bag on my shoulder because I typically don’t travel with any luggage. And as we were going up the line, I was the one that was stopped. We both had the pass, but I was the only one that was pulled aside and stopped, and that only happens when I don’t have a suit. My brother right away picked up on it because he just went right through. So before I wouldn’t have felt this way, but in the last 5 years I have been able to educate myself culturally and that being said I think we are more than that. I think we all have unique qualities and that they just have to be projected in a way that you people understand that looks don’t mean a thing whatsoever. Unfortunately, it’s going to be hard work.
I embrace my black color. I am proud of myself. I am proud of the black community. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white or whatever the race, it all depends on your personality. What matters is how you perceive yourself as whoever you are or whoever you may become.
An old African proverb said “if there is no enemy within the enemy outside can do us no harm”. You can ignore us, you can take our history out of the textbooks, but you CAN’T take away the fact that we were here. We ARE here. We Are Fathers, Sons, Brothers. We are Men, Kings, We Are One. I Am A Model, I Am A Lover, I Am A Black Man.
As a Black Man in this country, I’ve never gone the way of the societal expectation of the Black Man. In that sense, I AM an anomaly. I AM spiritual, a healer, a teacher, a sharer and gatherer of knowledge. I AM a legacy builder; working to change the misspoken narrative and tattered image of Black Men in my community and in the world. I AM one with nature, I AM a cultivator of tree-huggers, I AM a trailblazer; following trails that have been laid before me. I AM history, I AM significant, I AM important. I have always mattered. It’s my responsibility as a Black Man, as a Black Father of Black Boys, to set an example and break negative perceptions of Black Males on a global scale. To quote Maya Angelou, I AM “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I AM the dream and the hope of the slave.”
I am a part of the continuous black male experience. I grew up falling thru systemic cracks in society. I fed the original narrative. I was born in poverty. Struggled with public schooling. I come from a single parent household, exposure to street life culture (gangs, drugs, violence, prison, death). But at every intersection of adversity in life, someone helped me to make a decision that saved my life... Now, I attempt to influence others to save their own lives as well. Because at some point every black kid will need help, and I strive to help them just like I was helped. Keep someone off the streets, help someone get back in school, stop using drugs, not take a life, avoid prison and street assisted death, to learn to cope from and speak to oppression in society. I am here to serve, my people, my community.
I have to admit that at one point in my life I did believe the media. I lived “that life.” No good came from it. And I finally woke up and realized that I didn’t have to be who they portrayed me to be as a black man. I could be a good man. I could get married and raise a family. I could love my wife. I could be a great father to my kids. I could teach my son to be a man and my daughter what a man should be like. So today I can say the media had it all wrong. I’m big, I’m black and I’m amazing.
I am an entrepreneur, Photographer, Videographer, Music Producer. This goes completely against the stereotype of the Black Man. Ironically I gained most of my knowledge in these fields from other Black males. Photography I learned from my father, a strong Black male. Music production from many of my peers all across the world that are Black men, my first industry placement was from help of a Black man. Videography, I learned from Black men younger than me that are very savvy with technology. Unity and sharing of knowledge is often not portrayed in the media among Black men but it is very prominent.
In contrast to the images of what the media portrays is that rather than be a “statistic” I strive to set an example for young men looking for a way to be successful outside of being an athlete, entertainer, or criminal. Sometimes I feel like many young men feel they are trapped if they don’t fit into a particular category of what they see as “successful” in mainstream media. I was an athlete, I went to college, went to grad school, became a father at a young age, have many tattoos but with all of that found a way to reach back to those in my community ...particularly those who look like me and use my own experience as a point of reference to connect with inner city youth. I am no angel but what I have learned is that those who came before me worked so hard for me to have opportunity...I truly stand on the shoulders of giants. In understanding my ancestor’s sacrifices I have no choice but to be great...and even better than them so that the next generation are inspired to be better than me...that is the only way for our culture to progress.
I was raised and taught to travel and think outside the “box” that America has set forth for me, and to always push beyond the confines of the generic and comfortable stereotypes that mainstream has forced upon me as a young black male. I may have grown up in the projects in Detroit by a single mother on welfare, but I was raised by single mother who was a black feminist, who worked with the black panthers, and who was a Univ. Mich. Alumni with a degree in Archeology and a minor in black studies. I grew up in poverty with always a massive library of books, and National Geographic magazines, and where listening to NPR, and watching PBS programs were second nature. Poverty has always been a part of my life, but it never stopped me from learning new things, and garnering new experiences such as spending more than a decade as a small time farmer in the deep south; attending the original Million Man March; living in historically black towns and cities such as Tuskegee, Birmingham, and Detroit; traveling throughout the United States and Canada; gaining over twenty years of work experience; dealing with a life-long chronic illness and learning disability; traveling home to Ghana for the first time, and strengthening my Ghanaian roots; becoming a trailblazer, and leader; working and marching with Black Lives Matter Movement; being married for seven years, with two beautiful girls; graduating with a degree in sociology, and a minor Africana Studies from UMass Boston to become a young black Social Scientist.In contrast to what American mainstream media presents of the negative image of black men as the thug, the angry-black radical, the deviant, the pimp, the drug dealer or addict, the ladies-man, the backwards African, the bafoon, or the Muslim terrorist. I do not fit anywhere near these racial, ethnic, or religious stereotypes that have been placed upon me as a Black man, a Muslim, and a Ghanaian. And I will not accept these stereotypes as facts either. Because the negative stereotypical images of black men that America has gotten comfortable with are not only incorrect, but they are harmful and in many cases, deadly. So to resist is to challenge, and to challenge is to fight, and to fight is to rewrite the narrative of what it is truly like to be a black man in America.
I am a black unicorn compared to the media’s portrayal of black men. I was raised understanding the value of knowledge and love and like many great black men that I know, I use love to fuel everything I do. Love for my passion, love for my community, love for myself. I choose to block out the noise from stereotypes by pursuing my passions and sharing my findings with others who share the same interests. Educated black men like myself are not a rarity or a statistic. We are the norm and the younger generations need to know that we are there for them just as we need to remember that we need to make ourselves visible to them as well.
I grew up in a household led by a black Trinidadian revolutionary. At a young age, I learned the stories of Toussant L’ouverture, Steve Biko, Malcolm X and Walter Rodney, to name a few. A black man, in my eyes, was always powerful, intelligent, and had a firm and unwavering commitment to justice. My father, a leader in the Black Power movement in Trinidad, was one of the many who epitomized the strength and impact of black men. I aspired to follow in their footsteps, and pursued my journey towards activism and justice through medicine.A young black man may not be the first image most will have when they think of a physician, but conforming to societal expectations has never been my way.Recognizing boundaries placed on black men has allowed me to extend beyond them, to live outside of the box that society has manufactured around us - ingraining only the most negative images of ourselves through media and a corrupted educational system. Fighting through the suffocating social and academic expectations through cultural exploration and immersion has been liberating for me; it has allowed me to connect with people beyond my own perceived cultural confines. Beyond gaining cultural competency, one of my greatest sources of pride is acquiring two Latin American languages that were not originally my own- Spanish and Portuguese.In this country, I feel the need to say that I am a human being that deserves life and respect. Beyond this, I am a Kung-Fu practitioner, competitor and instructor. I am a B-boy, who practices an art of resistance and perseverance born from the black and brown American experience. I am also a Latin dancer and founder of one of the most successful student dance troupes of Boston College, Fuego del Corazón. As a black man, I embrace many aspects of Afro-Caribbean, African-American and Afro-Latino culture. As a people stripped of our original culture and home, there is a common energy throughout the African Diaspora that connects us all. Celebrating and learning from the stories of black men past and present gives me strength and hope. Attempting to bring it all together as a black physician in my community of Roxbury, through culturally responsive medicine in a broken healthcare system, is only the beginning of what I view as my life’s mission. I am privileged to practice as a physician in the urban neighborhood where I spent my formative years. I endeavor to be among those who continue the struggle towards justice that countless before us have begun. For me, it begins but does not end in the exam room. Many in this country will say that as a black man I have exceeded expectations. As a black man, I say, that I am still striving to meet them.
The portrayal of black men in society doesn’t show the beautiful complexities of what makes us who we are. Society seems to be so afraid of layers and distinctions that they take the easy way out and categorize us as one type of individual. Personally, I’ve never felt like I was someone who could be put into a generic box. I’m not this thug or aggressive being the media likes to portray men of color as. I’m a college graduate, a successful artist, a loving brother, and a loyal friend. There are so many layers to the construction of me. One day I hope the members of society would stop blinding themselves and recognize us for the things that make us brilliant and magical.