The person that I chose to interview for the black male elder recognition project was my father, Johnnie Lloyd Damon III. My father is 56 years old, born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. He grew up in a two-parent household but his father had passed away when he was 10 years old. He has two younger siblings, a brother and a sister. He grew up poor in the projects, on welfare, in a chaotic and dysfunctional family. His father was verbally and physically abusive to his mother and suffered during his first 10 years of life watching his father abuse and cheat on his mother. My grandfather (his father) was a long distance semi tractor-trailer truck driver and my grandmother (his mother) was a substitute teacher, worked for a nurse in the home, and a domestic worker cooking and taking care of families.
Growing up my grandmother kept my father and his siblings in church participating in all types of church activities such as choir, and bible study. My grandfather wasn’t around much due to traveling because of the truck driving. My father stated that although he loved his father he knew that he had some underlying problems that caused the family to be chaotic and dysfunctional. (Damon, 2013) His father was an alcoholic and when under the influence he would hear his parents arguing and fighting and would take his younger siblings out the house so that they didn’t hear or see anything. My father seen my grandmother working hard by working more than one job to feed the family as well as keeping the family together by going to church together on the regular. Once my grandfather passed away that was when my father stepped in and took on the fatherly figure role. It was that moment in time where he had no choice but to step up to the plate to help take care of his younger siblings and to help my grandmother. (Damon, 2013)
At an early age my father got a job bagging groceries at the local grocery store, to becoming the head of the meat department in the grocery store just to help his mother take care of the family. He stated that when he was paid, which wasn’t very much, he would give every dime to his mother. (Damon, 2013)They received canned food from the community food bank. I asked my father if he felt that by growing up in an abusive household made it harder for him in terms of becoming a man and being a positive role model for his younger siblings. He replied that his father was extremely strict, yet aggressive and was an alcoholic but tried to look at it as a sickness. He learned what it meant to be a man by staying in church and having positive godly men around him at all times. (Damon, 2013) His mother kept him in church to help mold him mentally into the man he is today.
To keep from trouble while growing up he formed a vocal group with his neighborhood buddies and would perform at talent shows around the city, as a hobby. At the age of 17 my father joined the Army to get away and be independent. After serving in Germany he was stationed in Monterey where he met my mom and started the family.
When it came to women my father didn’t have a positive role model on what it means to have a progressive and healthy relationship. My father was never around and was abusive. He said that with the absence of his father he suffered with certain aspects of being in relationship but has always known that with the experiences of helping his mother and by stepping up to help take care of his younger siblings at a young age his respect for his mom was greater than anything. He had to learn to forgive his father. (Damon, 2013) He stated that there was always someone in his life that would steer him in the right directions. My father felt that part of being a strong masculine black man is to never be afraid or ashamed to admit wrongs and that being masculine has nothing to do with possessions but all to do with personal responsibility and accountability. (Damon, 2013)
Based on the information my father had given during the interview gives insight into how much of a difference in which people are raised and the generation gap. Now and days black males limit themselves and become a factor to the stereotypes that black males can only portray their masculinity through being some form of an entertainer. Fortunately for my father his way of learning and internalizing the idea of being a masculine black man was through the church. He did not have a father throughout his whole teenage years, but depended on the relationships he developed with people in the church.
In the black community it is quite common for the single mother to place their children in sports a young age, not just single parents, but black parents in general. With my dads father dying while he was 10 not only forced him to mature a bit faster than the average but also pushed him into taking on the fatherly figure role in the family. A lot of the ideas of masculinity and being a man stems from being young and having many jobs just to help his mother and helping take care of the rest of his siblings. His younger siblings began to look up to him as an extremely influential role so he had no choice but to only do things that not encourage them to be do the right things but to help them look forward to a better situation than they were in. My father does sing but didn’t use entertainment as a means of an escape. He joined the military as an escape route to independency and to travel the world.
Overall the church, religion period, are one of the major missing pieces to the puzzle in the lives of a lot of young African American men. When a father is missing in the home not only does community groups pose as positive ways in which men can learn some positive influences but religion and worshiping a higher power is what our ancestors were so loyal to and is what has gotten us thus far. Although my father was taught to appreciate all types of genres of music, he believes the music today exemplifies weaknesses. He doesn’t listen to hip hop and refuses to watch music videos for the simple fact that violence, sex, and money are all that is being talked about and because of the way he was brought up and the belief that those negative messages damage peoples character and self esteem. (Damon, 2013) It confuses people, in terms of who they really are, and often times leads them to believe that one entertainment is the only way to make a living, acting a fool.