Mr. Willis by Manuel Olvera

Gary Willis was born in 1944. His mother was born in Ballmer Tennessee, she moved to Detroit Michigan with her uncle. His Father is a World War II veteran from Detroit where Gary was born. Gary was the first born; he had two brothers and two sisters. Gary was raised in Chicago Illinois. In Chicago, he lived his childhood in the Cabrini Green Projects. He describes his childhood as a great childhood. He attended three elementary schools, and then went to a High School called, Crane Technical Institute which was an all boy school that focused in teaching boys a technical skill.  Later, Gary Willis joined the Navy military service in the year of 1961.

Gary’s military career was very important because it influenced tremendously who he is today. Gary was a Navy and Marine combat Hospital Corpsman he assisted in the prevention and treatments of diseases and injury he also assisted health care professionals in providing medical care to Navy and Marine soldiers and their families. Gary says what he always wanted as he served the military during the Vietnam War era was to keep his marines alive. After getting out of service Gary’s first job was as a supervisor of a cardiac lab at the University Hospital in San Diego. This opened many doors because he later became the director of Cardio Pulmonary Services and opened a cardiac and rehabilitation and treatment center in the Sharp Coronado Hospital of San Diego which he helped develop for seven years. After leaving Sharp Coronado Hospital of San Diego Gary became a medical sales representative for pharmaceutical companies. Gary currently owns a business which takes care of adults that are mentally challenged as well as being a full time student in California’s State University of Fresno.

Gary met his first wife in 1963 while serving the Navy while stationed in Portsmans Virginia. He married her and their marriage lasted 21 years. From that marriage they had three children.  He remarried in 1986 and had one child from that marriage but he raised two of her boys from childhood. Gary’s father was an absentee father and he does not know much about him but he was raised by his stepfather. However, the difference between Gary and both his biological and step father are that he raised his children and made sure that they all continued their education. Gary is not a religious follower but he was inspired and influenced by two unique and extraordinary African American males which were Jeremiah Wright and Malcolm X. Jeremiah influenced Gary through his sermons and Malcolm influenced him through his speeches but they both talked about racism and how it should be abolished. Gary says that while growing up in the projects of Chicago he did not encounter racism but he did encounter it after serving the military and moving out of Chicago. This is when he began to see all the inequalities. After visiting the Caribbean islands he felt that like Malcolm X after visiting Mecca he also realized that black men in this country were not free. After showing a white man his passport on his way back home Gary says, “he looked at me like I came crawling from under a rock,” he realized what Malcolm saw. He realized how he was not welcomed and that he was hated by many white men. He had not realized that because he was used to this treatment, but after visiting Jamaica and the Virgin Islands where he was not seen like a nigger he realized the racism in America.

Gary Willis has made a significant contribution to his community and family and he is not limited to the stereotypes that media portrays of black males. Black men suffer from the stereotype of not wanting to work. For many years this stereotype has been popular in the media However, this is a negative stereotype of black men that is certainly not true. Gary is a great example of how black men also work hard and become very successful in their career. He demonstrated his hard work in the Navy treating diseases and injured soldiers, as well as in his career as a cardio medic after finishing his military service. Another example similar to Gary’s is Chris Gardner who is a self-made millionaire, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and philanthropist.  He dropped out of high school and lied about his age to the U.S. Navy. He had hoped to become a medic and travel the world. In the Navy he was introduced to a cardiac surgeon, who would later hire Gardner as his clinical research assistant at the University of California Medical Centre in San Francisco. He soon became a medical supply salesman, earning $16,000 a year. One day, while loading equipment into his car Gardner’s life would forever change. He caught sight of a bright red Ferrari and was immediately in love with it and all that it represented. He asked the man 2 questions. The first was, “What do you do?” The second was, “How do you do that?” The driver of the Ferrari was a stockbroker. When Gardner heard that the man was earning over $80,000 a month, he decided that his future lied in investment. He had no education and no connections, but that was not about to stop Gardner from achieving his new dream. Chris Gardner like Gary’s is by far one of my favorite hard working stories. Both stories also break the stereotype that all black successful black men are either athletes or rappers. Both Gary and Chris Gardner served in the military and after both had a job where they were successful in.

Gary demonstrated how black men can make a difference in their community by pursuing his education after high school. Although black men have a high dropout rates Gary continues to go to school. He is studying Business computer application at CSU Fresno. He is role model for his kids and also to many black boys who are need of black male role models. Thanks to his support his kids have also graduated from college. He also demonstrated how not all black males have to go to jail. He demonstrated that not all black men have to follow that system.

Presently, we face a challenge as a community because we do need to see more black males in college campuses. By better educating the black boys of our communities we will be able to make a difference in dropping the black male’s prison rates, and getting them to work in professional areas instead. There is definitely a need of black male teachers in grade schools because they will give young boys more role models. Black boys need to see more black males that look like them, talk like them and give them a push in education in their schools and as role models in their lives. Gary has definitely played a proactive role in his family and in our community. Gary has demonstrated that black males do not need to be limited to all the stereotypes that the media portrays and that you can make a difference to change that. After suffering many stereotypes and racial inequalities himself he never gave up and continues to be a role model.

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