When given this opportunity to interview an African American male I knew right away that I wanted to interview my father, Keith Alfred Wynn. Last year, I had the opportunity to interview my grandmother for an elder project similar to this. The interview became a conversation that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Being able to interview my father, I seen it as perfect opportunity to learn more about my paternal family. Since I did not grow up with my paternal family I knew this would be a great time to learn about my background to have a better understanding of where I come from. The interview went as follows:
Tailar: So dad, how was it growing up as a black male in South Central?
Keith: Growing up in South Central had its ups and downs. As a young black man, you have to learn to deal with the harsh realities of the streets and what is expected of you as a man. Luckily for me, I never got caught up in the gang, criminal, or drug violence. I was the average little boy that wanted to enjoy life that followed suit as I became a teenager and the man I am today.
Tailar: Growing up what did you want to be in life?
Keith: As a child, I learned that I had a skill of being able to communicate well written and verbally. Initially I thought all kids could speak and write well until my teacher pointed it out to me. After this I knew I would be successful. In high school, I figured that I wanted to be a politician, and if not, a lawyer. I wanted to be an advocate and lead people with whatever I did.
Tailar: How was it losing your father at a young age?
Keith: When my father passed away having to move into a new home, school, and environment was most shocking. My grandmother wanted me to live with her because I was staying with my stepmom, stepsister, and brother. I remember her saying I had no real blood over there and that it was time to live with her. When my father was alive he was the provider, but he kept to himself. He would come home from work and would go to his room. We never had family dinners. My father never showed any fatherly affection. Losing my father at the age of 11, I just tried to move on from the situation. I think everyone thought affected from it more than I really was. As I got older, there were times I wished I could’ve asked my dad a question.
Tailar: How was it being raised by your grandmother?
Keith: Grandmother was the dominant figure in the house. Grandfather was the provider, but Grandmother ran the house. Grandfather would step in when he needed to. He epitomized his role as being a man in the house. I started working at the age of fourteen because I lied on my applications. From fourteen on I always had a job. Grandmother would take a portion of my checks which is what would start most of our disagreements. My junior year of high school I moved out of her house and into an apartment. Stephani left her apartment to Jonathan and me, but she would pay all of the bills. We just had to pay our pager bills and keep the house clean. She would come to check on us maybe once a week.
Tailar: As a teenager, how was your relationship with girls?
Keith: (laughing) I never thought I would be having this conversation with my daughter, but I always tried to be a gentleman when it came to talking to girls. I wanted the girl to girl to feel as if they have never dated or talked to anyone like me; and that’s usually the response I got.
Tailar: How was your relationship with other guys?
Keith: I always had two sets of friends. Growing up I was considered a nerd so I would have my group of friends in class and another set outside of class. In high school, my outside of class group of friends started dealing with drugs and gangs and I wasn’t really into all of that. I was the popular nerd in high school. My junior year I was homecoming king and on the academic decathlon team. My best friend A’aron fist fought each other before we became friends. After that we were together tough just about every day.
Tailar: How was it losing your best friend?
Keith: Losing A’aron hit me hard. Like I said we were together every day except for that one year I went to FAMU, but even when I came back we were on like old times. He was like a brother to me. I would have never imagined A’aron being gone so soon and right before my eyes at that. I miss him, but I see him through his daughter. She is an incredible young lady and I know she is making him proud.
Tailar: What is your relationship like with your kids? What does it mean to be a father?
Keith: I always knew I wanted to have a family at a young age. I wanted to be married and have children at a young age. I want my kids to know that they can always depend on me and I will always be there for them. I always try to show love and support them. Being a father to my daughters is more difficult because I worry about their protection when they walk out the door. I want my sons to know more than anything else is that as men if you have the ability to do it, it needs to be done. Always try to do the right thing as much as you possibly can. At the end of the day men are judge by what they do, and how well they do it. We are in control of our positive mental energy. The energy you put out will be the energy you get back.
Tailar: Why did you join the air force?
Keith: I joined the air force because after having you I needed to be your provider and the fifteen dollars an hour I had at the time was not going to cut it. The air force gave me everything I needed. I was in the air force for five years. I was able to get my schooling and learn how to be a man. Being surrounded by other men 24/7 you learn what is and is not expected of a man. It took me thirty something years to figure out who I was, but I learned how to be a man in the military.
Tailar: What does it mean to be a man?
Keith: A man is someone who shows strength, who is responsible, and a protector. A man has to be willing to all of these things.
Tailar: What is progressive masculinity?
Keith: Progressive masculinity is being able to break down the stereotypes. Being able to break down the traditional roles of men in society and being able to accept their roles in the household. Old school men would not accept homosexuality. They were the providers, not working under a woman.
Tailar: How do you feel about the role of masculinity in the media?
Keith: I think the media tends to overdo the topic of the day. Right now the topic of the right now seems to be homosexuality and gay marriage. Everything has a homosexual undertone. The media forces people to see or talk about things they would not usually have to talk about. I have to have conversations with my kids that I might not planned on talking to them about right now, but because it’s on the news stations, the sitcoms, the radio shows I have to address it. Before I moved to San Francisco I would say that I was homophobic. The move allowed me to open up and not be prejudiced towards homosexuality. Although I am accepting of it the issue to a certain extent, the media brings urgency to issues you might not want to deal with.
Tailar: Do you think the African American male community has progressed or regressed over the past ten years? Do you see them progressing in the next ten years?
Keith: I think the African American male community has regressed over the past 40 years. We used to have full black communities with black owned businesses. We are now in competition with each other. We have very few men are standing up to be an example to their children. Letting someone in as a sign at a time of vulnerability is a sign of weakness. We should all be attempting to uplift of brothers. When the man goes down their family goes down. I would have thought having a black president elected would have been a great start to progress. However people do not care to change. Everyone’s motives are goals are for the wrong reasons.
Growing up my dad dealt with many of the harsh realities of life. However, he was one who always an optimist. He was not focused on what was going on in his life. He just wanted to be of help to others. He was able to overcome the many obstacles that he faced as being an African American male in South Central. Even without a strong family foundation, he always kept a strong head on his shoulders.
Although my dad and I have had a rollercoaster relationship, he has always been there for me. I admire how even though he has never had a father figure and he has grown to be an amazing father, husband, and philanthropist. He has succumbed all of the stereotypes African American are frowned upon today. Over the years my father has dedicated a large portion of his adult life giving back to his community, volunteering not only as a coach for my younger brother’s football team, but also serving as a mentor to the youth. He is constantly encouraging young men who are growing up in similar situations as he did to keep pushing to be the best that they can be. He turned out alright, but he wants these young men to be successful. My dad is a great support system to those he sees potential in and care about.
My dad moved his wife and my younger brother back to South Central into his grandmother’s house to take care of her because she now has Alzheimer disease. My father became a stay at home father taking care of my great-grandmother and younger sister. Although the roles had changed with my step-mother being the provider and my dad taking care of the house, he still played dominant role in the house. Now my dad and step-mother are living in Glendale and are both working full time now.
I admire my father and see him as a progressive African American man because he has been able to persevere through every obstacle he has encountered. He has never let himself hit rock bottom, and has always pushed through his situations. He has presented and carried himself as a man. Because of this I respect him and I am proud to call him my father.