As we all know it is not difficult to follow the foot steps of another. For many years society has created this patriarchy meaning of what it is to be a man. Qualities such as, being physically dominant, family oriented, bread winners and being educated has stamped this image in the eyes of America. Those who were incapable of obtaining these qualities especially in this generation has been considered a weak man. Being a black man in America, their image has been tortured and ratified as a reflection of hip-hop. Nice cars, chains, and from riches to riches has been the expectations of the black man and has since been their down fall. Under these circumstances, stereotypes has followed the black male before he has even been born, even before his first step his life has already been paved out and his future in the hand of Hip-hop. These expectations were created to define the characteristics of a man but how can a black man obtain these qualities and characteristics when it was never created nor feasible for them to obtain in the first place. Their are many black men In America here today that have taken an alternative route than what the media and stereotypes have paved out for them. In this case the one person I decided to interview in-particularly Wayne Byrd has set forth a path that was created by non other his own, Also being a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, he applied the principles of Brother Hood, Scholarship and service into a life of his own.
In introducing this gentlemen I would like to say that through the short amount of time that I have been a student at Fresno State Wayne Byrd has been a very influential mentor not only to me, but as well as thousands of individuals who has been placed before me.
Wayne was born and raised in Richmond, California March 26th, being the humorous individual he is, he told me not to go around telling his age in this interview, so I promised I wouldn’t. Carrying on with the interview I asked,
What was it like growing up in Richmond?
“It was pretty good actually, I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in a working class black neighborhood with teachers, nurses, barbers, business owners, and insurance men all throughout the neighborhood. It was a pretty close neighborhood but it has changed a lot since then but it was a good neighborhood.”
What was your relationship like with your parents?
“Pretty Close, I had both parents and my parents have been together for 42 years before my father died. I was 18 years old at the time.”
How did you feel once he died and how did it impact your life?
“I remember it very clearly when he passed away, I felt like I didn’t have any more legs. It was as if your back up is not their, your strength, it was pretty devastating but it was also motivating. He didn’t have the opportunity to get the education I did and so I just buckled down at 18 and decided to get my college education, through him.” (the highest education level his father reached was the 5th grade. )
“he grew up in the south in the 20’s and my grandfather died when my father was 5 years old, this was before the Roosevelt New Deal, there was no welfare, no food stamps or nothing like that so now theirs a single mother trying to raise her kids and it was just a tough time for them and during the depression years too. They all had to work real hard through a difficult time.”
You said your father died when you were 18 so what were the 18 years like you had with your father, what kinds of things did he teach you with the short time you had together?
“He taught me how to be a man in which he taught me how a man should act and react. How to remain calm during a storm and how to be a leader when necessary. He mostly taught me about the Lord and how to stay close to him, to never make a decision without praying about it without the Lords incest and tuition, he also taught me about baseball, football and all kinds of things like that, I had a real close relationship with my dad.”
What kinds of things did you take in most from your father, as far as how you were shaped?
“Be prepared to work hard, be prepared to push yourself. Think theirs so many people with potential that are satisfied with an average free life style and they don’t push themselves. I’m not saying everyone has to be a Donald Trump or nothing like that but just get off your and make an effort and my dad was one of those who worked hard all his life.”
Do you have any children and what kinds of things do you teach them?
“Yes two girls, and to avoid that term that I think a lot of women overuse is the term independent and lean towards the word I like to use, self reliant. Independence implies you don’t need anybody and thats not true, we all need each other. Self reliant just means your covering and carrying the weight on your part of the bargain, your part of the team. Self reliant is not expecting someone to take care of them or doing the work for them but being able to do it themselves if need be.”
Who or what shaped your idea of progressive black masculinities of what it is to be a man?
“My dad and my uncle, with their strong examples, relationship with the Lord, the desire to get jobs and work hard rather it’s being good with your hands,skills or going to school.”
When your father died, what was it that motivated you to carry on to getting your own education?
“Thats what my father wanted me to do, that was just enough for me. I hear some people say, well when my fathered died I just got all depressed and I lost all hope and I’m like, how could you honor someone you suppose to love by just giving up? I want my dad to down here upon me and say thats my boy!”
What expectations that others have on you effect the way your viewed such and media and television that shows the ideal black man, what ways were you affected by that?
“I get followed around a lot in malls, well you know everything is more difficult for a black man in America, thats not an excuse thats a fact! And you just have to rise through the occasion. Rather your taking out a loan, house, or getting pulled over by police we have to maintain a different type of demeanor. We come from a long line of over comers and I’m here to make mine.”
Regardless of how difficult the struggle was for Wayne Byrd’s father who had lost his dad at the age of 5 and with the same education as a 5th grader, he did what he had to do in order to provide for his family without any excuses. All of his life’s work and principles of what it is to be a man he had embedded in Wayne himself. After Wayne father died not only did he persevere through the lose of his father, he instilled what he has learned and observed from his own life into his children’s. Though America has set for a path for all men, Brother Byrd made a decision that all progressive black males have the ability to do, Pave your way!
Today Wayne Byrd is a Academic Counselor at Fresno State where he embodies his mentor-ship into life’s of many students, friends and family. Not only is Wayne a educated black man, but a successful black man, a progressive Black man.