John Willie: The Progressive Black Male
John Willie Morris was born in Drew, Mississippi in 1939 to Mabel and John Willie Morris Sr. who were seventeen and twenty-old respectively. He is the oldest of four children. Mr. Morris grew up on a farm and as a child, he was required to help out around the house. During his high school years, he was a phenomenal track and field athlete but he struggled in the area of academics this in turn prevented him from running track at the collegiate level. Mr. Morris did not have a learning disability, he claims that he simply did not find the academic part of school to be very entertaining. In 1956, he graduated from high school and soon thereafter, he met his future wife Thelma. In contrast to Mr. Morris, his wife came from a well-educated household. He claims that due to Thelma’s strong beliefs in higher education, he felt pressured to go to college. As result, after the couple married in 1959, they went on to obtain their bachelors degrees from Tugaloo University in Tugaloo, Mississippi. Mr. Morris and his wife obtained their bachelor degrees in education and accounting respectively.
In 1965, Mr. Morris made the decision not to want to spend the rest of his life in Mississippi. He based his decision off the high level of racism that he experienced as child in state and he did not want his children to go through similar situations. As result, he decided to move his family to Los Angeles, California. During his first few years within the state, his wife gave birth to their two sons Derrick and Terrance (my stepfather). During this period, he also struggled to find employment and as result, he became a stay at home father while his wife worked as a banker. In his view during the first few months of his dilemma, he felt like less than a man because he depended on his wife to take care of their financial obligations, something that do not witness men do when he was a child.
Mr. Morris was a stay at home father for approximately five years. In 1973, he took a job as a real estate agent and from this period on, his career begin to blossom. Although he went to work, he decided that he wanted to still play a part in taking care of the household duties and as a result, he spilt the household duties with his wife. Mr. Morris stated that he did not want to leave all of the household duties to his wife because he saw his mother stress daily about making sure that everything around the house was up to par.
After seven successful years within the real estate business, Mr. Morris purchased a lovely home in a Baldwin Hills, which is a wealthy predominately-black neighborhood in Los Angeles, California. Although he moved out of his old neighborhood, he never lost touch with the people within that community. In order to stay in touch with them, he became a community activist. In 1995, his youngest son was killed in a drive-by shooting in his old neighborhood. In order to honor his memory, he created a scholarship foundation that has enabled hundreds of children within Los Angeles to pursue their dreams of going to college,
Mr. Morris is the prime example of a strong black male that has lived his life in the form of a progressive black masculinity. In white America, blacks are stereotyped as being hypersexual, lazy, unintelligent, violent, irrational, unemployed/unemployable and silent. Mr. Morris however, is a black God fearing, educated, faithful, loving, supportive, humble and compassionate husband, father and grandfather. Similar to Socrates (Laurence Fishburne) in the movie “Always Outnumber Outgunned,” Mr. Morris is someone that people look up to within his community because he shows them that he is a leader that is compassionate and patient.
In the documentary produced by Mario Van Peebles “Bring Your A Game,” it was stated that only fifty percent of African .American annually graduate from high school, this is due to the fact that they lack good mentors and they see sports and music as a way out of the “hood.” Mr. Morris has teamed up with the Los Angeles Urban League in order to encourage at risk youth to stay in school and develop a legitimate backup plan in case their plans of being a musician or professional athlete do not become reality. He stated that without his father being involved in his life he is confident that he would have went down the wrong path.
According to an essay in Athena Mutua’s book, “Progressive Black Masculinities,” the media portrays black males as hypersexual. In contrast, Mr. Morris has been married to his wife for fifty-three years and he stated that he takes pride in never participating in extramarital affairs. His love and commitment to his wife has carried over to his oldest son Derrick (my uncle) who stated that because of his father’s commit to his mother, he can not gather up the courage to cheat on his wife. Mr. Morris stated that at times he becomes very angry about all of the stereotypes that America has about black males. However, he stated that it is up to us (black males) to change white America’s view of us as men.
In conclusion, I am honored to have Mr. Morris mentor me during my throughout my life. At times when the stress of life seems to get the best of me, Mr. Morris is always there to encourage me to keep a smile a on my face and fight with my mind. Without his encouragement, I would be not one semester away from obtaining my masters degree in Public Administration. Mr. Morris’ presence and influence on my life has encouraged me to help other young black males succeed.