Gary L. Willis
It is important to me; that the reader of my essay, know that I am vilifying the character Stepin Fetchit— not Lincoln Perry (the actor who played the character). Also, please be aware that— I admire Mr. Perry; because he was a comedic genius and a great actor, who accomplished the following (Stepin Fetchit, 2011):
- earned the title, “The First Black Film Star”
- appeared in 54 films between 1925 and 1976
- had a star placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category “Motion pictures”
- was the first millionaire African American actor
I also respect and admire Mr. Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry; because he had the audacity to be monumental success—in spite of Jim Crow America!
Contrast of Stepin Fetchit to my Elder
Lincoln Perry (1902-1985)
Dirty Dan Daniels
J.P. DANIELS Jr. (present)
Actor (1ST black film Star)
Navy Seal (1st Black Seal Corpman)
Four Purple Hearts
Master’s Degree in Linquistics, UC Berkeley
Physican Assistant certification, Duke Univ
Married with five children and numerous grandchildren
Navy Seals must be superb swimmers
Declares his greatest accomplishment is his two daughters
The purpose of this essay is to obliterate the negative stereotype of black masculinity; as depicted in popular culture, in the persona of the misogynistic, ignorant, and narcissistic Hip-Hop rapper. Whom I contend—is only Stepin Fetch of the past—disguised in the bling of today.
As an alternative, I offer Dirty Dan Daniels, as the antithesis of this degrading representation of black masculinity! Dirty Dan Daniels—a moniker bestowed on him by his fellow Navy Seals because of his ferocity in battle.
Joseph Perry Daniels Jr. (Dan) was born on the Caribbean island of St. Maartin, in January of 1935; where he was being raised by his paternal grandparents until his grandmother was widowed. This tragedy occurred, when racist white Dutchmen, forced him and his grandmother, to watch them lynch her husband (his grandfather)—Dan was only was four years old!
After this terrible incident Dan and his grandmother, with the help of her brother, (his grand uncle) fled St. Maartin for Birmingham, Alabama. After a short stay in Birmingham, his father and mother came and got them. His father was a soldier; which allowed them move into housing on an army base in Oakland, California.
Dan’s mother and father had five other children over the next ten years; and in 1949 (at the age fourteen), Dan became the head of house. His change in status was a result of his parents’ divorcing and his father having custody of the children. Since his father was in the army and constantly being deployed and his mother was absent, Dan (being the oldest) assumed responsibility for his younger brothers; thus, becoming head of the household.
In spite of the hardship of being raised in Jim Crow America; along with the awesome responsibility raising his younger brothers; Dan graduated high school in 1951 with honors.
He was awarded an academic scholarship for gifted students and an additional athletic scholarship for football to attend, the University of California, Berkeley. Unfortunately, due to hardships, he left UC, Berkeley after one year and joined the Navy; where he became a Hospital Corpsman; fortunately, he welcomed this assignment; because his dream had been to graduate from Berkeley with a medical degree—he wanted to be a doctor.
Dan’s numerous accomplishments are:
- was a First Class Diver in UDT (underwater demolitions)
- was the first black Navy Seal Corpsman.
- was award a Bronze Star for valor in Vietnam in defense of America
- was awarded four Purple Hearts for being shot while defending America
- was awarded numerous other medals for excellence
- retired with honors from the Navy after 27 years of exemplary service
- graduated from UC Berkeley with Master’s Degree in Linguistics
- received a Physician Assistant (P.A) certification from Duke Univ. NC
Mr. J.P. Daniels Jr. also lost an eye as a result his military service to America.
He has worked as:
- a Licensed Real Estate Sales Associate, California
- a Medical Projects Manager for Military Sea Lift Command
- a Maritime-Physician’s Assistant (P.A) for numerous freighters and passenger ships
Last but not least—Dan is married and has raised five children.
During this interview I asked Dan several questions about the effects of being a black man in
When I asked him if being black was a negative in his life; he answered, “In many ways—yes—but only one of them truly matters to me”— he paused for a few seconds, and then said—“Lil Brother, I was the best that I could be—and I know—that if I were white—the rewards for being the best that I could be—would have been enormously greater.”
Then I asked him, what he thought was his greatest accomplishment; he answered, “I only have one—and that is—raising two daughters who acquired master’s degrees—one in electronic and the other in computers sciences; which allowed them to become successful business women as co-owners of their own company.”
I present Mr. J.P. Daniels Jr., as the elder, who has contributed to me and my family by being a positive influence in our lives.
One example of a result of his positive influence is my daughter; for whom Dan is always supportive and encouraging. One result of his involvement in her life—is that—she is a senior at California State University in Northridge California.
I believe the Dirty Dan Daniels image of black masculinity—obliterates the Stepin Fetchit image of this masculinity; and that, Dirty Dan Daniels exemplifies the alternative to the type of black masculinity we see and hear with today’s Hip-Hop rappers—a masculinity—which is only Stepin Fetchit—blingin’!
For those, not familiar with Stepin Fetchit, here is a link, to a video of him.
I met Dan over twenty years ago; because his wife and my wife are cousins; which makes us, cousins-in-law; however, we refer to our relationship as—Big Brother and Little brother.
I sincerely thank my Big Brother—J.P. Daniels Jr. for participating in this interview.
Stepin Fetchit, Hollywood’s First Black Film Star. (2011, December 8). Retrieved from NPR Books: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5245089