My uncle, Stacy Williams is a 43 year-old African American man. He has a son named Desmond who lives with him and for whom he works two jobs to support. His wife (Desmond’s mother) divorced my uncle shortly after Desmond’s birth and left the family as a whole only a few weeks later to pursue more important careers like heroin and cocaine. Her current whereabouts and legal status are a mystery, but more importantly, my uncle works very hard in Atlanta to forge a living for himself and his son. The two reside in Atlanta, Georgia only a “stone’s throw” (down the street) from my Grandmother.
My uncle was born in Tallahassee, Florida. He was the youngest of three brothers. In age-based order it went my Uncle Stacy, my Uncle Nick, and my father, Corey. All three of them had different fathers (none of them knew their fathers) and grew up depending on each other for guidance and morality, since my grandmother was working two jobs to support all three. Under emergency contingencies, they were able to integrate into my great uncle (my grandmother’s brother’s) family and move in with him on base, as he was in the military. So, my uncle Stacy spent the first 6 years of his life living on a military base before returning to the United States and settling down in Atlanta, Georgia.
He has lived in Atlanta since that time. He lived deep within the black ghettos in Atlanta, in an area that was home to a lot of violent gang tension between local African Americans and the Haitians. Once he graduated from the local high school, he went on to attend college at Dana junior college and played wide receiver there for two years. While he never earned his degree, he did manage to come back to Atlanta, and land a job to take care of his son and wife. After his wife left, he had to take on another job to support his son Desmond. My uncle works extremely hard, and works long hours; splitting his time between late night patrols as a hospital security guard, and daytime shifts as a basketball coach at the local youth center.
He and Desmond often stay with my grandmother, as she is alone in advanced age, and has severe arthritis (she worked as a prison guard until her 65th birthday). The two often stay with her just to make sure she has adequate care. I’m extremely proud of my uncle, and I would consider him my favorite uncle.
I think that my uncle defies the hegemonic stereotypes that are out there. Where to begin? To start, I so often hear excuses from troubled black males as to why they act the way they do. “Oh, I didn’t have no daddy,” or “I grew up in the hood,” or “I didn’t have no education,” and the list goes on and on. Well, my uncle defies all of that. He, along with both his brothers, had absolutely no clue as to their fathers’ identities; and there were three fathers! All three brothers (my dad, Uncle Nick, and Uncle Stacy) had different ones! Yet, none of those three ended up having a criminal record, or having any troubling issues with the law. Specific to my uncle Stacy, he has never been arrested, found not one, but two jobs despite not finishing college, and is being a good father to his own son even after his wife left him for drugs. He is making it as a single father with two jobs, and has been for the last 13 years with Desmond, and as long as I’ve known him before that.
My uncle also is one of the hardest working people I know. Despite growing up rough, he still has a strong work ethic. Namely, he works two jobs to support his son by himself. He works all night from eight p.m. to four a.m. as a hospital security guard, awakens to see his son off to the bus stop every morning, (made his lunch when he was younger) and then goes to work again as a basketball instructor-janitor combination at the local youth center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. He rushes over to the school after his work to watch his son go to football practice, and after that at around 7 p.m., he goes home to prepare dinner. The two have dinner at the table, father and son every night (it’s a really important thing to him because he never had a father) and then he has to hustle over to be at his late night shift at the hospital. Lather, rinse, and repeat for the last 15 or so years missing only one week when he had a herniated disk in his back, and you have how hard my uncle works.
I also often hear troubled youth say things like, “I grew up in the hood, I didn’t have no choice,” well, neither did my uncle. He grew up in the poor projects of Atlanta. My grandmother (his mother) worked two jobs to keep rent up and buy bread with grape jelly for most meals. This was a female working a prison job before the civil rights movement, so the glass ceiling combined with discrimination to offer Back-breaking and hazardous labor watching over prisoners for long hours with very meager pay. This left my uncle and his brothers alone for much of their childhood. As I mentioned, my uncle also lived in a very dangerous area; an area that was a hotspot between the “Miami Boys” gang and the Haitians. Fights and shootouts were commonplace, and my uncle and father used to tell me stories of fights every day walking to school and passing Haitians.
They endured all this with no father, and often times a mother who didn’t come home until late at night exhausted. Yet he still is an upstanding, taxpaying, law-abiding single father who works his behind off making sure that his son has it better than he did growing up. THAT’S a real man in my book.
Alright, so I appreciate you doing this interview, Uncle Stacy. My first question is, what do you see as the most common stereotypes about black men in the media today?
I think, um… I think the most common thing is that there’s a lot of um…There’s a lot of black men that… they don’t really have like, I mean you got a lot of them that think about what they say before they speak it, but you have a lot of them that don’t understand a lot of things that’s going on and they actually voicing their own opinions.
I see… alright, my next one is uh… How do you think the modern media defines masculinity; or “Being a man?”
Um… I think it’s, I think that actually there’s a lot of pressure on them, um, a man actually trying to be a man because I mean, it’s so many issues that’s going on that people will actually let it get to the point where they’re… they’re like um…that’s a man’s job, or it’s the… or… I mean… or… it’s like, they will voice their opinion as far as what’s a man’s job, and what a man is doing wrong. So there’s a lot of pressure on them, on just a man trying to be a man
Do you agree with these definitions, do you think they’re right?
Yeah, I think so…
I got you. Well that leads me to my next question, How do you define masculinity? In your terms, What does it mean for you personally to “Be a Man”?
I want to say, well, I mean, What it means to be a man to me, is being able to take care of your business, take care of your family, and make choices that you feel will make a difference in, as far as a lifestyle, or within a family, or just…. a lifestyle just for a man by himself period. I mean it’s just something that you got to stand up, you got to go work on your own, and you got to be able to do stuff on your own, and that’s not looking for help or a handout or anything.
Alright, so what gave you the definition that you have? Was it upbringing, values, or something else?
Just like, um… just yeah, upbringing and values. Uh, just learning, from um… my brothers, my mom, and just being able to just go through things on my own. And, and actually working through whatever problems I been having and that’s basically what brings me to that… uh mindset because like I said, it’s just , as far as… as far as, if you don’t go through things as you’re coming up, then it’s hard to say that you can work through things that’s happening in the future.
Definitely true… So my next question is what (if anything) do you think could be done to address these stereotypes and all the things we discussed earlier?
Um, I think you got to have, I mean… I think a lot of stuff that… what could be changed could be like, well, as far as um… more people in higher places making better decisions and even if people not in higher places, are at least being able to make, um… making ordinate and reasonable decisions that.. that like I said can actually make a change, you know… in like what’s going on.
I got you. That’s funny because that goes right into my next one: Do you think President Obama’s election and re-election did anything to change people’s minds about what black men are capable of?
Definitely. Definitely, I mean I think it… it uh… it opened a lot of eyes for a lot of black men because you know, you got to look at it because, who would’ve ever thought we would’ve had a black President? And at the same time, it’s not even about um… being a black president, it’s just since he’s been in there, he’s been in so much pressure and so many things going on where it’s like uh… it’s like a lot of people, they was looking at “he couldn’t…” “That he wasn’t going to be able to do this,” and “he wasn’t going to be able to do that” but, he actually accomplishing a lot of stuff that people said that he couldn’t do. And I mean, out of anybody, he should… He’s got the most pressure on him. And I actually feel like he’s uh… handling it well.
Definitely. Alright, so only two more, but uh… we talked a lot about the effects of the media, and effects of stereotypes, now here’s my next question. What do you think that those stereotypes, and all those things in the modern media; what effect do you think they have on the next generation?
Um… I think some of the effects that it has on the next generation, um… because, I mean, a lot of it you got to look at they um… they’re affixed to the younger generation because they’re actually seeing a lot of it, it’s a lot of people that’s not paying it no… A lot of young people that’s not paying it no attention, but um… believe it or not, it’s making a difference because uh, some of the choices that are made, some of the choices that are made by our generation now, it’s going to affect the younger generation. It’s going to affect the younger generation, but…uh, I don’t think it will affect it, or I don’t think it will affect the generation as much, but it will make a difference in, in… what’s going on now, and what’s going to happen in the future because as some of the… the outstanding and outrageous decisions that’s made now.
One last one I have is: What values about manhood and masculinity would you want to instill into Desmond? (Desmond is his son)
Um… I think some of the values in as far as, I want to have, I mean, as far as with Desmond, um… like values, it’s like, basic values that I grew up with. I mean, respecting… respecting people, and… if you want respect, you got to give respect. And… just… just being a man about…just, like I said, your decisions what you make in life. Don’t always look to point the finger or blame anybody else for the decisions that you made. And, just be able to stand up, and you make decisions. If you make a bad decision, be able to work through that decision. And, and, and… make it right.
Outstanding; I like that. Well, thank you so much for your time, Uncle Stacy. I appreciate the interview.