December 12, 2011
Black Male Elder Recognition
For this project I instantly knew the perfect fit for my paper. My Grandpa James Earl Vaughn or as I call him, “Papa”. I knew interviewing him it would help me gain a better understanding with him, hear some great stories and also add to the argument that Black men aren’t limited to what we see in the media and I think my Papa is a great example of how a Man should be.
James Earl Vaughn, my loving grandpa, was born on February 25, 1943 in Florence Arizona to parents Gladis & James D. Vaughn. He said, “Thank god I wasn’t a junior”. He didn’t like his father’s middle name, Delocha and I do not blame him. His family consists of 5 boys and 3 girls: Sam, Willy, Jimmy Ray, Andrew, Gloria Lee and Nora Lee (who are twins) and Nelly May. He is the oldest out of all of them. He is married to my grandma Norma Vaughn and they have two children, Ronda and Terence. Ronda is my Mother and has two children, My brother Anthony and I. Terry has 3 Children: Sheena, Terence and Johnathan. Terence, Johnathan and Anthony all have one child with Jay expecting his second soon. My grandpa and Grandma have been the glue to our family keeping us together. They both are very caring & loving, provide their wisdom and set a great example of how we should be when us younger kids grow old.
During my grandpa’s childhood, he moved around from city to city and sometimes state to state. He said, “We finally get settled in, then we move again”. He has lived in 6 different cities: Florence, Arizona, Pixley, Marysville, Oroville and Madera, CA and last Portland, Oregon. The reason for moving a lot was because his father often followed his Father and Mother where ever they went, which was often back in the day as my grandma said. His Father did irrigation and farm work so they often lived in the country and houses his father built on his own. The main city he stayed in was Madera, CA, which He and I still live in to this day. While in his stay in Madera, his father became a shade tree mechanic where my Papa learned much about mechanics from because of the shop his father ran out of their own house. While in school in Madera, I asked if there were any problems relating to race, or schools population being dominated by a race. He said, “I didn’t pay much attention to anything about race while in school, I was just focused on class.” He did say that while in Portland, Oregon after a recent move across that it was “Earth shattering” moving from a predominately white school to a mainly Black school. It was the first time he had witnessed a school like this. He would later encounter a racist problem that eventually got him kicked out of high school.
Riding the bus home one day, kids in the back were throwing firecrackers on the bus. One had landed next to my papa’s foot, so he stomped on it and threw it out the window. The bus driver stopped and told him to stop throwing firecrackers on the bus. He said in reply, “Take your antique ass to the back because I didn’t throw any firecrackers.” The following day he and 6 other Black boys rode the bus to school but did not make it. They were dropped off at the bus shed and told to walk to school, while the other kids were taken to school. While at the bus shed they were talked to by the transportation manger and Vice principal. They accused the boys of throwing firecrackers even though 2 of the 6 were on the bus that day including my grandpa. The real boys throwing them were Mexican. They waited until someone confessed bit no did and my papa saying to them” We’ll be here all day because no one threw them”. The VP told the boys I am going to get you out of trouble but my papa laughed and said, “No one is in trouble”. VP then asked if he wanted to go home, he replied no and the VP said answer me in No sir or yes sir and until then you’re going home. My grandpa never returned to that school again and was never able to finish until far later in life when he went back to get his GED. It’s He wanted to go back but after telling his father, his father responded “It’s ok, you can stay home with me”. My papa told me that he was upset because he thought his father was going to fight to get him back in school but he didn’t. He said his father had the mindset, “Well he got further than me in school, and I made it in life, so he will be just fine.”
My grandpa would later join the army and score high on the test in Mechanics, so he became a truck driver in the army for 41 years, retiring in 2003. He joined because he wanted a different life than doing farm work and shade tree mechanics like his father did. Even if he didn’t join, he didn’t want to be like his father, he didn’t want his life. He wanted a better one.This was the real start for him becoming a man making his own decisions and what he wanted to become in the future as a man. While in the army he was stationed anywhere from Fresno, Texas, Washington and Germany. Soon after he joined he married my grandma on August 31, 1962 and have been together ever since. While in Germany his first child, my mother, was born there. Also in Germany to add a brief note. My grandpa told me that White U.S. soldiers told the germans that, “Black people had tails that only came out at night”. Outside of the Army, my grandpa drove school buses in Madera up until he retired in 2003 the same year he retired from the army.
I wanted to get a deeper sense of why my grandpa does the things he does and how he became the man he is today, so I asked him, What made him, him? His response was “ I didn’t want to be like my father. Whatever he did, I didn’t and vice versa.” He told me that his father always asked him “Why can’t you do something like that?” He then told me that his father wanted him to succeed and be successful but never was willing to help them be successful. He had to do it on his own with no help. He voweled ever since he was little that he would never do the same. He was going to be better. I never got the chance to see my great grandpa and how he was but If you ask me, I think my Papa has succeed in his goal to be better.
Having lived most of my life in the same household as my grandparents, My papa has been involved in my life everyday since day one. He used to work on his cars when I was little and he would take me out there in the garage and I would help him. I used to love helping him on cars, even though I couldn’t do much nor remember much about it. It was still fun. I would help him work on his lawn cutting business and he would give me money for my work so I could spend it. When I was little I used to love trains. He bought me the biggest train set I have seen. It took up nearly the whole backyard patio. Later in High school when I continued to play Football and was pretty good at it, He would be at every home game and some close away ones too, filming me and cheering me on. I think he was more excited when I moved from starting running back to starting QB for the Varsity team. He couldn’t be more proud of me, even if I wasn’t the best QB. I was to him what Tim Tebow is to his fans now.
My point I am making is that near every point in my life, my Grandpa has been there for me. If I need help, there is no need to ask, He’s there and willing. I see that now transferring over to his great grandchildren. My uncle told me that Lexy, my 2 year old niece, has him whipped. I asked him if she did and his response was “Yeah, She does” with a smile. Recently he and my grandmother had some problems and he temporarily moved out. During that time, the house just didn’t feel the same. His presence was truly missed. On his time away, every single day. He texted me at 7 in the morning saying, “Good Morning”. He never missed a day and hasn’t missed one since moving back in. This is something I never heard any one of doing. I am not the only who gets this text, My Mom and my Brother got this text and even my Grandma got this when he was away. I am pretty sure there is more on the list but this is all I know of.
A stereotype that would be applied to my grandpa would be “An angry Black man” since he is big and strong but everyone who knows him would dispute this. He is lovable as a teddy bear. Every year during christmas time he makes these candy reeves, bakes cookies and sweets that he takes to former coworkers, army friends and family members. Now tell me how he feeds into those stereotypes that plague us Black men? I will say that you don’t want to make him mad because you do not want to see that side but who doesn’t get angry when made mad? That is just an emotion every human being has. I don’t think there is a stereotype that would be able to fit my grandpa. He is just one of a kind. My grandpa stands up and fights for what is right and also for what he loves. I can guarantee that my Papa will be the first one, right there on the front line, ready. Like I said him and my Grandma are the glue to my family. Without him or her, I think our family would be dysfunctional. They are the heart and soul to our whole family and for my papa, he sets a great example for me to follow in. His goal for me as he told me, “Do better than I did”.