I wrote my Black Male Elder Recognition Project based on an interview I conducted with my father, Allan Roy Marsh. He has had a fundamental impact on my life, shaping my own notions of masculinity. He engages both with his family and his community and is one of my role models of progressive masculinity. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica on November 8, 1962 to Beverley and Allan-Roy Marsh. He was born in a middle-class family, went to private elementary school and then one of the top public high schools in Jamaica. He left high school in 11th grade, at the age of 16, to move to the United States and attend community college in Florida to pursue his swimming career. He stayed in community college for two years before getting a swimming scholarship to Georgia State University. In order to keep this scholarship he had to maintain a fairly high GPA. At Georgia State, he pursued a degree in Business Administration and after graduation represented Jamaica in swimming at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Allan then moved back to Jamaica and worked in the hotel industry for two years where he was a recreation coordinator. After that he worked with Jamaica Promotions Company (JAMPRO) for 4 years. He wanted to get involved in international business and marketing and JAMPRO provided that opportunity. While working with JAMPRO, he was transferred to Trinidad where he stayed for two years and married his wife, Orealis Marsh. One of the most influential professional role models in his life was the CEO of Caribbean Export because he showed a passion for trade development and customer service. After JAMPRO, Allan moved on to work with Caribbean Export, which is a trade promotional organizer for the Caribbean, in Barbados. He stayed with Caribbean Export for 10 years and had his first child, Gervais Marsh. While in Barbados his father became very ill and he decided that it would be better for his family and his relationship with his parents if he moved back to Jamaica. He wanted his children to spend more time with their grandfather before he passed away and also to be closer to his mother. He also did not enjoy all the traveling that came with the job at Caribbean Export because he did not get to spend as much time with his family. Allan left Caribbean Export and began to work with Grace Kennedy, making a move to the private sector. He had his second child soon after moving to Jamaica. After working at Grace Kennedy for 10 years, he left his job to work with Epping Oil Services because he wanted to get a break from the rigorous work hours and spend more time with his family. Epping Oil Services is owned by his cousin and so it is a familiar environment. He is currently still an employee there, where he does marketing work. He is also currently the Vice-President of the Amateur Swimming Association of Jamaica (ASAJ) and his work with this organization is a major part of his life. He lives with his wife and two children, although his oldest child is away at college in the United States.
In examining the current societal construction of Black masculinity, the image that seems to be at the forefront of people’s minds is that of the deadbeat absentee father. There are many different systems of oppression which contribute to the Black male fulfilling this stereotype but still the notion of Black men being viewed as positive father figures is almost non-existent. Allan Marsh, in a number of ways counters these stereotypical views of the image of the Black father in contemporary society. He has been a major part of his children’s lives as they have grown up and has deliberately pursued professions that would allow him more time with his family. He acted as a positive role model for his children and pushed them to achieve success both in academics and sports. He also was, and continues to be, very supportive of his wife and tries his best to share the load of raising two boys. He has done his best to subvert the image of the lazy Black man, working incredibly hard to get into a U.S. university and achieving great success in swimming. He mentions throughout his interview that one of the major factors that shaped his masculinity and work ethic was being involved in sports. He highlights the positive aspects of competitive sports that made him very goal driven and helped him to understand the value of honest hard work. Allan understood that his goals in his life would not come easy and he would have to work extra hard in a white hegemonic society if he was going to achieve them. He has worked with his children to teach them the importance of sports and the positive impact they can have on their lives. He complicates the perspective of the Black male being a very hyper-masculine figure in the household by splitting both household and family responsibilities with his wife as much as possible. He tries not to prescribe to the rules of patriarchy and hopes that his children follow in his example. He also goes against the belief that Black men cannot have emotional relationships with their children, often having very serious discussions with his sons about the emotional issues that are affecting their lives. Black men are often reduced to being viewed as either a hyper-sexual or athletically predisposed body, thereby taking away their ability to pursue other avenues of success. Allan defies this construction of the Black male athlete who can only play the sport by finding and gaining positive attributes from the sports he participated in. He has used swimming to get involved in community work because he believes that it helps to develop the mind as well as the body and improves work ethic. He also mentioned that swimming provided various opportunities such as being able to travel and gain exposure to different parts of the world and getting him scholarships as well as providing an avenue to gain employment. Understanding the value of swimming in the lives of youth, he has become the Vice President of the ASAJ and is doing great work to get low-income communities connected to local pools and swimming programs. He wants swimming to become a major national sport instead of being restricted to the middle and upper-classes.
In analyzing the interview with Allan Marsh, there is a move to being a more involved father who contributes not only to his family but also his extended community. He is taking the stereotypes of the Black male athlete and using it to create positive change. He is also actively working to maintain a healthy marriage that tries to defy the oppressive patriarchy that is often noted as a characteristic of Black men. There are so many societal structures that oppress Black men and so the work of Allan Marsh is to be viewed as being even more commendable. He demonstrates a move towards progressive masculinity, complicating stereotypes of the typical Black man. In order to subvert media representations of Black men, role models like Allan Marsh need to work against societal expectations, providing examples of the alternative masculinity that we have worked to construct throughout this class.