“My Hero” by Monisha Edwards

In today’s society, Black males are portrayed in a negative view, often through media, and are often times not given recognition for their progressive masculinities and development. For the Black Male Elder Recognition Project, I chose to recognize my father for his great contribution to his family, to the economy, and to the society. I view him as a mentor and role model. Not only is he my father, he is also My Hero.
My father was born in San Bernardino, CA on July 20, 1967. My father grew up in a poverty-driven neighborhood, and his place of residence was in the Gardens Housing Projects of the Inland Empire, in San Bernardino, CA. His mother was only 19 years old when she had my father, and prior to him, she had his sister, who is my aunt.
My father moved to Fresno, CA when he was 8 years old. He attended Slater Elementary School, Cooper Middle School, and Fresno High School. Every summer, he would live with an aunt in San Bernardino who continued residency in the Gardens Projects, and began involvement in gangs. By the time he was in the 9th grade, he had become an official Crip from The Gardens of San Bernardino, CA. This particular set of Crips included childhood friends and cousins that lived in the Gardens Projects.
A turning point in my father’s life happened when he was 20 years old. He was jumped, pistol whipped, and had his jaw broken one night as he was walking to a corner store in San Bernardino. He was hospitalized, and returned to Fresno for a short while to strategize on his retaliation against the gang members who nearly killed him. He planned to return to San Bernardino just two weeks after he had returned to Fresno, however, his girlfriend, who is my mother, informed him that she was impregnated with me.
My father began to leave the gang life behind him, began to take care of his responsibilities. His father owned a landscaping business, and had my father working for him full-time, until he officially passed the family business down to my father when he was 23. By this time, my father had a second child; my little brother.
My father is still running and expanding his landscaping company, has started a motorcycle club, has gotten married to my step-mother, and has had two more sons.
Monisha: Hey daddy, thank you for helping me out with my assignment!
My Father: No problem Nisha, as long as I get paid for it.
Monisha: Paid?! Who said anything about being paid?! You’re supposed to help me out for life, remember? (LAUGHS). Now, I have a few questions to ask you, so I won’t take up too much of your time, is that cool dad?
My Father: Get to the script my lovely daughter.
Monisha: Ok, so as your daughter, I already know a little bit about your life, and what you went through based off of the stories that you told me. But I would like to know how did you feel about growing up in the projects? Can you even remember how you felt, because I know you were pretty young?
My Father: Honestly, I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t know I was poor at the time. We lived in the Gardens, you know, the projects, but it wasn’t like we were starving and without necessities. Our lights were never cut off, we always had food, and toys, plus Auntie Sharon, Auntie Jean, and Auntie Silva all lived liked two or three doors down, so to me as a kid, I had it made.
Monisha: Ok, but looking back at everything, do you think that you did not realize that you were poor because you were well-fed and surrounded by family?
My Father: Indeed. As long as you have what you need, other things won’t really matter, especially as a kid. Mama was struggling, but we never seen her sad or depressed, well not that I remember.
Monisha: So you always tell me and my brothers about your gang banging days and how that time period was the most unproductive time of your life. Please elaborate on that. Why was it unproductive from your perspective? And what would you say to individuals who are seeking family through gangs, and to individuals who would like to get out and advance their lives?
My Father: You just asked me to answer like 5 questions all at once! Ok, as far as me saying that banging was unproductive hails from the events that occurred in my life once I started gang banging. I dropped out of high school in Fresno just so that I could move back to the I.E. (Inland Empire) and bang with my friends, I was getting into fights, go shot at, and almost died when I was pistol whipped and had my jaw broken. Nothing good was coming out of banging. I made a little money by selling dope, but I spent it on stupid things like clothes, cars, and studio time. I didn’t save for college, I didn’t open a retirement plan, I didn’t invest in anything. I didn’t do anything positive with myself. I always say that you saved my life. Because your mama told me that she was pregnant, I felt a sense of emergency to get my life together. I didn’t want to go out there and get killed just so that my girl and baby could suffer. My parents had raised me better than that. So with that being said, whoever is thinking about gang banging; don’t do it! I understand that some of these young cats out here seek family and association, and guidance from older individuals or people that they feel can protect them. Going to a gang is the worst way to go. You cannot succeed in a gang. You will eventually be in prison, or get killed, one or the other. And to those who are already in gangs, get out, now! Move to another city, or just keep yourself away from them. People get it twisted when they say your gang is your family, and to always be loyal, and trust no one but your gang brothers. Speaking from experience, those niggas don’t care about you. If they cared about you, they wouldn’t have you out there getting killed over a color, and they would respect you if you wanted to get a job or go to school, but they don’t. You are considered a weak link if you do things other than bang your set. Once you are considered a weak link, you may get your ass beat, or they may even kill you because you’ll be too much of a risk to the set.
Monisha: Dang daddy, you were getting a little deep there! Ok, switching gears, you are now a gang member, turned entrepreneur and family man. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
My Father: Like I always tell you, make sure you get into something that you are passionate about. Why waste money on a venture that you don’t truly know about or aren’t truly into? Get you a business plan together, get a budget together, and go from there. I had the privilege of having my business already established for me and I just took over, but if it weren’t for my passion for the tree company, it would no longer exist. Also talk to other people who are already in business in the industry that you are interested in.
Monisha: Great advice daddy! Well those are the questions that I had wrote out to ask you. Thank you daddy, I appreciate it!
My Father: You’re welcome, anytime.
When I reflect upon negative stereotypes that depict African American males come to mind, I start to think of many, however, the most offensive and descriptive would be the Black Brute. The Black Brute, often depicted as a violent and savage, irresponsible Black male, is often heavily portrayed in the media. Because of this stereotypical image of Black men is out there, it makes it hard truly explain the fact that not all men can be characterized by the Brute.
For this project, I interview my father. I chose him because he is a living proof that violent and irresponsible individuals are not born and raised to be such a person. Given, my father shared that he was indeed a gang banger, sold drugs, fought, and dropped out of school, but he knew what was right and what was wrong, and changed his life around. Through media, Black males are depicted as being born with Brute characteristics already instilled in them, thus they would grow up to be some wild and uncontrollable Black male. This is most definitely not true.
I am actually proud to say that my father does not depict the typical Black male that we all see in the media, although he did experience the gang life, early parenthood, and poverty at one point in his life. My father has made a fine man out of himself thus far, and even though he is in his late 40s, he still continues to grow and mature.


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