As I began this interview I was more nervous on whom to expect than anything else. I wasn’t familiar with any black men over the age of 40, so even to find someone was going to be a challenge. Thank goodness for connections! My godmother, who is a wound nurse at Saint Agnes encounters with more people than I do so having her find me someone was easy. She hooked me up with a client she had treated who was in danger of loosing a leg due to diabetes and infection; Saint Agnes was his last and only hope. As you will follow along in my interview you will see how almost loosing a limb changed him for the better.
(Setting in Starbucks, waiting for a gentleman I had never met; not knowing who to look for or what to expect. In walks in a man in his early 60’s, tan blazer & a white collared shirt.*]
Samuel: Hello, are you Inga’s goddaughter?
Naomi: Yes! Hi, I’m Naomi
*Hands shook & he took a seat*
S: I’m very happy we could meet on such short notice & I would love to help you out with your little project!
N: Thank you for meeting with me, I really appreciate it. Do you want to buy anything or just get started?
S: I was never the coffee type so shoot with the questions!
N: All right, well can you tell me a little about yourself? Birthday, where you grew up; things like that…
S: Well, I never reveal my age but for you I will *a quite smile/grin* I was born on June 16, 1953 in Sacramento California in a very small house. My mom raised me herself after my father left & I grew up with very little possibilities of anything better.
N: How was your childhood growing up? Was it harder because you didn’t have a father figure?
S: My years growing up were tough on everyone I think. My mother worked all day so being with my friends on the streets and in school ended up filling that ‘father figure’ beyond what my mother could teach me. Don’t get me wrong, she was the best mother but there’s just things she couldn’t teach a man.
N: How about education?
S: No one expected anyone to go to college in my part of town but it was a shame if you didn’t finish high school so I had to get that done, it wasn’t until I meet my wife that encouraged me to get more education, instead of working myself dead every day. She taught me to work smarter not just harder.
N: I’m going to ask a question relating to the main topic of the class I took. When I mention black masculinity what comes to mind? What is your definition?
S: I haven’t been asked that in years! That’s a good topic for you college kids. My definition of this would be a man who takes responsibility, who cries when he needs to and who handles his business when he needs to. There’s not much to it, were all human.
N: I definitely agree with you on that. Now that you’ve lived through so much, would you go back and change anything?
S: After having diabetes and being so ignorant to the damage it can do if you’re not taking care of yourself made me appreciate life so much more. I thank God for another day and I make sure I leave my mark on this world.
N: What do you mean by leave your mark?
S: Being a black man in my time was the definition of ‘struggle’! Are you kidding me, some of those days sucked! Now, we still have to work twice just to prove ourselves once. That’s the beauty of being a black man. All you kids have it easy now & you have no idea.
N: Sadly, I’ve heard that before too. Do you have anything you would have liked to know when you were younger?
S: I think about this often, I would tell myself to monitor the diabetes so the pain wouldn’t be so bad! I wouldn’t have wasted so much time before going back to college and making a decent living for myself & I wouldn’t have wasted so much time trying to be someone I wasn’t; a thug to get the girls!
N: That’s good advice, even to kids my age now. Well, I think I got everything I needed so I want to thank you again for meeting with me! Others will definitely enjoy your words.
S: *smiles & nodes*, grabs glasses & I snap a quick picture.* Have a great summer dear.
Picture perfect on the first take!
Analyzing the interview and relating it back to the class materials was very easy to see. Such easy questions can give you a deep insight into a persons thoughts and that’s exactly what I received from him. He became my prime example of the black man who can be tough and show feelings all at the same time. He reminded me of Socrates Fortlow in “Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned”. He took care of what need to be handled but showed emotion at the right times. That to me, from being in this class, is what true progressive masculinity is. Progressing from the stereotype of the brute, the sambo & the coon.
He worked his days away before returning to school. Defying that all black men were lazy. He didn’t defy the law by selling drugs to put food on the table, instead he let himself be motivated by his wife to continue to higher learning in order to progress and know what hard work was. He cared for his wife till her final days since being raised by his mother taught him to not be that hyper sexual, hyperactive violent man society and the media has set out to portray men. Even though the streets and friends taught him so things he didn’t let that get over his head. He would go home every night & seeing his mom work so hard seemed to steer him in the right direction.
Learning about his single mom & falling in love with a wonderful women showed me behind a good man was a women who guided him to be that progressive man. A man who can handle his business but come home and tell his wife how much he loves her. Samuels’ definition correlated with what I have learned this semester in my AFRS class. He truly is the prime example of progressive masculinity, we can all learn from his past & his bright future.