John Pierce Mitchell: A Journey into the Past
How does a child learn to become a man? A better question to ask is who does a child learn the values of what it means to be a man. The bombardment of media stereotypes for African American men has made a huge impact on the ways White America perceives them. Let me remind you that positive black male role models are not celebrities that are seen on TV nor are they sports figures that sell tickets at your local arena. Many can be found within the local community as coaches, teachers, counselors, pastors, and neighbors. I am grateful to have such a man in my life who displays the traits of a progressive black male masculinity.
My father John Peirce Mitchell was born at Jamaica Queens General Hospital, Jamaica, Long Island, New York on June 28, 1948. He is the first born son of Bernice and John Henry Mitchell who were at the time 21 and 28 years old. My father is the oldest of five children that my grandparents had while they were still together. At the age of 34, grandpa John Henry passed due to complications of cancer in his digestive system. The unexpected death placed a heavier burden on my grandmother who was forced to raise a family of five with no means of financial support. My father took upon himself to fill the void as the male figure in the household.
In the summer of 1962, my father along with his younger siblings, were sent to live with relatives in the rural south, St. Pauls, North Carolina. Here, he learned to have a hard work ethic by working on Great Aunt Gercue’s farm by planting various crops cotton, corn, and tobacco. At the same time, my father was entering his last year of grade school and still had not experienced any type of racism until then. It was a cultural shock for him to see how segregated the town was compared to what he had witnessed in Queens, New York. He describes how the segregation laws of the 1960’s separated the town into two distinct regions, where signs posted that no coloreds allowed, and were seen in restaurants, shop, and markets. Even the transportation system for the elementary and high school students was compared to a cattle car. Children only had one school bus to transport them to and from their homes which didn’t leave very much room for some to sit.
At the end of his junior year at Eastside High School, my father was going to take part in an event that forever changed his life. In 1966, the nation started to integrate African Americans into the white school systems to promote change and progress during the civil rights era. My father along with three other African American students were the first to integrate into St Pauls all white High School and graduate. This political movement permitted my father to make a proper representation of the African American community. Everyday was a battle with racial discrimination as the only African American in the classroom and on the football team. In the classroom, he was constantly challenge by his classmates and instructors who perceived that African Americans could not comprehend the coursework. On the football field his courage was tested numerous times during contact drills with the white teammates.
My father often describes the mentorship he received from Great Uncle Duncan (Grandma Bernice’s Uncle) who helped him cope with the stresses that were placed upon him. Wade Duncan Glover, also know as Great Uncle Duncan, was the example of a progressive black man in the community. He also provided support to my grandmother’s family during certain financial hardships. He was a veteran of the Korean War and served 22 years in the United States Army reaching the rank of Master Sergeant. He was known throughout the community as a leader and a counselor in anytime of need. Great Uncle Duncan was also a major influence in my father’s decision to think beyond an ordinary high school education.
After graduating from St Pauls High School in 1967, My father pursued a college education at John C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina majoring in Liberal Arts. Like so many others, he was forced to drop out of school in order to support himself by doing various part time jobs. In the spring of 1976, my father decided to enlist into the military within months he was given orders to report to Orlando, Florida naval base for basic military training. He enlisted as a aviation mechanic and devoted twenty years defending our country and our way of life from foreign and domestic threats Shortly after, he met the love of his life and married Maria Theresa Repique (my mother) in Negros, Philippines in 1978. Afterwards, he received orders to for Lemoore California Naval Air Station where they resided for 22 years. As the years passed my mother gave birth to John Martin Mitchell in 1980 and I came to follow in 1986. Although my father did not have a prominent male figure in his life other than Great Uncle Duncan, he was adamant about being involved in every aspect of my brother’s and my life.
My father is the prime example of a strong black man that has lived his life in the forms of a progressive black masculinity. White American media constantly stereotypes African American men as lazy, hypersexual, violent, unintelligent, dishonest, diseased, predator, irresponsible and irrational. My father is a god fearing, educated, responsible, compassionate, loving, kind – hearted, honest friend, uncle, son and father. Much like the character in Deep Space Nine, Captain Benjamin Sisko, who played by Avery Brooks, is not afraid to express his emotions of how much he cares for his children.
In the film Always Outgunned Always Outnumbered, displays the three levels of mentorship from Right (Bill Cobbs) , Socrates ( Laurence Fishburne) and Darryl ( Daniel Williams) each experiencing a level of mentorship from one another. The elderly character giving advice to the middle aged and passing his knowledge to the child. As my Great Uncle Duncan mentored my father he in turn mentored me showing the three levels of mentorship. This form of mentorship is rare in today’s society as White American media portrays all three levels as unintelligent and individualist, removing the idea of seeking advice or wisdom from our older generation and dissolving the ideology of community.
The most influential person a young man can have in his life is his father. As we grow thorough life, they shape us, groom us, and direct us to become the best that we can become sometimes better than they will ever be. Every man should take on the responsibility when the time comes to teach, love, and strengthen the bonds with their sons and daughters. A man that loves his family more than himself is a father every man should aspire to become. My father has always expressed his love for my brother and I on a constant basis to where it is almost embarrassing at public venues as well as comforting at the same time. My father John Pierce Mitchell, from St. Pauls North Carolina son of Bernice and John Henry Mitchell, displays traits I aspire to show towards my children. Without his love, compassion and encouragement I would not be where I am today in my final semesters of college and taking steps in becoming a Air Force medical officer.