“Pastor Dr. W. R. Keel” by Sequoia Battiest

Sequoia BattiestName: Wilbert Ray Keel
Birthday: August 12, 1954
Education: Doctorate degree, Theology 2012
Childhood: worked on a farm, because that’s where parents worked, in Central Valley
Siblings: 10 (3 sisters, 8 brothers) – youngest
Parent’s education: elementary school, stressed the importance of education for children
Home Structure: Patriarchal, strives to structure own home the same way
Dream job: police officer
Decided to go into the military, to get away from home and do something other than farm work, parents supportive
Jobs:
Military
– Marines, Navy, Army
-retired after 22 years
-highest rank E7
-United States Postal Letter Carrier- first African American full time employee
-retired after 14 years
-Bus Driver
-Reading Specialist, kindergarden-6th grade

Religion:
-mother and father both attended church regularly
-started own church 1995 in Lemoore, CA
-ordained deacon, minister, ordained elder, and lastly ordained Pastor
-pastoring= calling from God, parents were always supportive

 In your opinion, what does it mean to be a MAN?
“To be a man means to have the ability to take on responsibility and have the strength to carry it out in a responsible way and to know what is expected of you.”

Are there any differences in what it means to be a black man?
“There should not be, but in our society there seems to be.”

What is the role of the man, when it comes to family?
“A man should hold the role of being the protector, provider, as well as the spiritual head.”

How were the gender dynamics different now than they were where you grew up?
“I would have to say that women were more passive back then, while today they are more independent. I remember being just as submissive as the bible had instructed her to be. She was a help mate to her husband.

What effects do you think slavery had on the black man today?
Many black men are angry and bitter and feel as if they don’t have an equal chance. It may still be unequal but there is still a chance if we exert ourselves. But I do realize that slavery still lurks in the mindsets and actions of people today. Black men were not able to be a man then and have no idea how to define themselves as one today.”

Is there a need for more black men in the home? Why?
“Yes, every home needs a male figure as a show of strength and fortitude. The home needs the male strength and protection as well as the female nurturing.

What in your life has been the most influential in making you a man?
“My military career where I learned responsibility and grew into a man.”

What is your definition of progressive masculinity?
“The ability to grow into manhood and to be confident in who you have become?

How does your life contribute, good or bad, to the argument that all black males are the same out of control image we see portrayed in the media?
“My life is geared towards living a peaceful and meaningful life to show by example that what we see is not who we have to be.”

What are ways you think that black men can use to break the negative image?
“By applying himself, set goals, assert himself, and always keep a positive outlook.”

You’ve listed how black men still have a chance, do you think they all have agency (the capacity to act or change their present location)
“Yes, if the choice is made to change, there will be action behind it. It lies in the choice.”

Do you believe the playing field is leveled for all cultures?
“No, but it is better than it was before.”

Where do you believe most mentorship comes from in the black community?
“I feel that most mentorship would normally come from home, but I’ve noticed that it is increasing common that children in the black home also find mentorship in the streets as well as television. It has become more common for children to aspire to be doctors and lawyers and is now common for them to aspire to be rappers and athletes.

Is this positive or negative?
It gives false hope. Most of our black youth feel that entertainment and sports is there only way out.

How did black stereotypes hold you back?
Felt that post office, there had never been a full time African American at the job and it became my aspiration to be the first ones.

Greatest Accomplishment?
Receiving doctorate degree in theology

Pastor Wilbert Keel has been living proof of someone who has devoted his life to being a progressive black male. To begin, his life has been one that wouldn’t conform to what society said it should have been. His life makes a great contribution in the argument that Black males are not limited to the stereotypes that have been placed into the media. It has been said that no one is progressive at everything but taking a look at Mr. Keel’s life shows a host of different way a Black Male can be progressive.

Through the media we have learned that black males are assumed to be: oppressive, hyper-violent, hyper-aggressive, unintelligent, hyper-sexual, dehumanizing, uncaring of relationships, and incapable of succeeding. The first thing that I will deal with here is the concept of a black man being uncaring of relationships. Mr. Keel has made sure to set up as a patriarch due to both biblical saying and his own upbringing. Pastor Keel is a man who has been married once, and recently celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary. He is father to 1 boy and 4 girls. He has been a great example of what exactly it means to be a father. All of his children are by the same mother, his wife and they have been a functional family since the beginning. The entire family resides in Lemoore, California where they (we) are all members of his church. As far as his biological family, Mr. Keel has lost both of his parents and has inherited the role of spokesman, peacemaker, caregiver, and the list goes on in his family of his sibling who are yet living. He has taken on this role of protecting them and being there for them although he not the eldest. He has been able to model with his own life and his own relationships how it is possible to maintain a relationship both with friends and family, even when media says it’s impossible.

Mr. Keel’s life has shown us that masculinity surpasses physical strength and therefore must incorporate both the mental and the spiritual. Another area that we see out black males struggle in is in education. They are just not represented. As for Mr. Keel he is big on education. He not only made sure that he was educated but he ensures that his peers and his offspring are educated. As an incentive he has told all of his grandchildren that the day that they match or exceed his level of education, $1000 is theirs.

We also hear and see plenty of how the chances of a black man being unintelligent and/or succeeding are slim to none. Mr. Keel has wanted more for himself since day one. Mr. Keel and his family have always put the need to be educated first. The fact that his parents were limited to only an elementary level of education, motivated him to achieve all that he could in the realm of education. He worked a host of natural jobs and excelled in every one and now that he works a spiritual job of being a pastor, he still wanted to be as educated as possible in that as well. Though this interview I was able to hear of example of someone being a huge success without the mischief or becoming the stereotypes that are shown are television. There was no need t sellout.

When it comes to the spiritual Pastor Keel, is constantly reminding the males in our church that it takes a real man to be willing to surrender their lives to HIM who is greater. Spirituality has kept Mr. Keel grounded, under control, and able to let someone fight on his behalf when neither angry words nor a physical brawl could solve the problem. While some black men rely on entertainment in forms of athletes, musicians, and sit-coms to find where they fit in society and who they should be. Pastor Keel has picked up a bible to seek out his purpose and to let others know that they are just as capable of succeeding in a world that wasn’t necessarily designed to see that happen. He has noticed that being a pastor requires transparency that goes hand in hand with the idea of reflexivity that we learned about earlier in the semester from  D.L. Hughley. Learning to rid yourself of being the victim and critiquing yourself as you critique others is a sign of maturity. It is a sign of higher thinking. For it allows people do look up to you and actually believe the things you say, making you effective, enabling you to be a voice in your community that can pull the other people up.

In this interview I realized that very little spaces that are available for black men to congregate. When we see them in music videos they are drinking, smoking, and devaluing women, in sports they are violent and fighting, and lastly in television shows they are doing all the above. We have learned that the only legal space that is available to them is through church and fraternities. Church has a way of providing them with social and political mobilization if shown in the right way. Pastor Keel is now able not to only deal with issues concerning the soul of those in his culture but because the power of his position and the respect that the African American culture has for the man of God, he is able to make known some of these stereotypes and how to defy them. Statistics tell us that the only place black men seem to congregate is in prison and the results of that are not any better.
When it comes to the black male stereotypes mention in the course I don’t find a space for Pastor Keel. The sambo that came up during Jim Crow states that the black man is lazy, not very bright; over indulging in anything pleasurable doesn’t fit Mr. Keel. The Zip Coon that presents that black man as overdressed, uneducated, yet trying to fit in, isn’t Mr. Keel. Uneducated doesn’t fit the Dr. Keel with his doctorate in theology. The brute, men as innately savage, animalistic, destructive, and criminal, in which Mr. Keel doesn’t fit do to his calm spirit and his lack of contact with the law. Through this interview with Mr. Keel I have realized that there is still hope for the black men of today.

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