Taylor: Are you over 40?
CJ: Nope… just kidding yes I am a little over 40.
Taylor: Okay lol. Where are you from?
CJ: Compton, CA
Taylor: How did you grow up?
CJ: Rough, on the streets.
Taylor: Did your upbringing affect the way you choose to raise your boys?
CJ: It had a huge effect, 1000% I didn’t want them to have the same lifestyle.
Taylor: What is the most important value you wanted to instill into your children?
CJ: Affection for sure, because it’s the hardest thing men can to. Affection is everything to me, it’s love. I was raised with affection and now I’m passing it onto my boys.
When told about this final project, only one person came to mind: Clarence Johnson, or as everyone calls him “CJ.” Although he is not directly my family he is my boyfriend’s father and we have become very close over the years. He came to mind because before I met him I was never really exposed to a progressive relationship household with a progressive father present. He has been present in all three of his son’s lives their entire lives. I wasn’t exposed to this directly in my own family since my dad was never present in my live so seeing the love and pride he puts into his parenting was inspiring to me.
He grew up in Compton, CA and he states that it was a “rough life and the best decision he made was leaving.” He explains that everything you see on television about Compton is true, he was shot at 13 years old and had to experience many losses due to gang violence. Although he chose to live a rough life he was raised by his grandparents and was very spoiled. He states “I was the first grandchild and you know how that goes we get everything we want.” He was much loved and states that his upbringing had a huge effect on his parenting techniques. He was shown love and in return he chose to do the same with his three boys. Although he was loved as a child his life on the streets made him appreciate leaving Compton and attending San Jose State University. “Getting out of Compton was one of my greatest accomplishments,” says CJ. He was the first in the family to receive an athletic scholarship. He played football for 2 years, and made it a point to say they beat Fresno State back to back the years he was there playing. Although leaving Compton was his greatest accomplishment not graduating college was his biggest regret, his only regret.
Although he wasn’t fortunate to graduate from San Jose state he did meet his wife there. Denise Johnson and they have been together ever since. With raising their boys, college and school in general was a very important thing. He called his parenting style “tough love.” He was always hard on them because he knew that being hard on them would give them a better future. He made school a priority and socializing was never the main focus. This led too, two of his boys with athletic scholarships and one very interested in ministry. He pushed them to really focus on their future and it paid off in a big way. Denzel Johnson, my boyfriend, and the reason why I know CJ is how I got the privilege of an inside view to Cj’s child rearing. I saw the tough love but I also saw the genuine friendship they shared. He is always there for him. Due to illness CJ has been unable to work but that provided him with even more time to spend with his children. He made breakfast and dinner and attended every basketball game and function Denzel had going on. Now that Denzel is attending Santa Clara and playing basketball 3 hours away, his family still manages to attend every home game.
When asking him what the greatest lesson he would like to pass on to his children was and hearing that it was affection I was surprised. Although it is a very important trait I find that many men have lost sight of the importance of it and have left that lesson up to the women to teach. This led me to connect with the lesson where we focused on affection and how rarely it is displayed in the media by watched an episode of Star Trek. We were told to focus on the affection between the father and the son, as the father was traveling through time and watching his son grow older and older. Although at one point the son was older then the father the affection never changed and he was still loving on him and hugging him as if he was still his little boy.
When meeting CJ and the entire Johnson family I immediately noticed the love and affection they all showed to each other, always saying I love you, kissing and hugging each other, and not being afraid to show affection in front of others. He makes it a point everyday, multiple times a day to tell his boys that he loves them, and since we spent an entire class talking about the struggle with doing so it made me appreciate his affection even more. He is the opposite of the traditional stereotype we are used to seeing. The traits black males are perceived to have are unintelligent, hyper-violent, hyper-sexual, and lazy. He breaks down all of these barriers challenging them every day by being a complete contrast. This is why he portrays a progressive masculinity instead of hegemonic masculinity. He has learned to work with his wife, they truly display a partnership helping each other and their families become stronger every day.
Since CJ has been suffering with health problems and hasn’t been able to work he takes on another role in the household since his wife Denise must work. He stays home and does the cleaning and cooking which is another example of them going against hegemonic relationship standards. He still makes sure to do his part and he helps his wife in any way possible making her days go by easier. They have managed to display a very progressive relationship to their children regardless of what challenges life threw them. And managed to show affection and love during the process.
Every text and call I have ever received from CJ he has told me he loved me, and for me at first this was uncomfortable since I have never had a male tell me that on the regular. He has made me more comfortable with receiving affection and showing it to all of my loved ones without feeling awkward. So his lesson has definitely gotten across, love and affection shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of and men shouldn’t feel less masculine if they show their love on a daily basis. This is one of the greatest lessons I have gained from the interview, and I actually had been learning it over my time of knowing him. Since I was raised absent of a father he has really made an impact on my life showing me what a loving present father looks like. And for that I am forever grateful, he has raised three amazing boys and I have no doubt in my mind that they will be just as present and affectionate with their children as he was with them. And the lesson of affection should forever live on continuing to pass on from generation to generation.