After learning that we would be conducting the Black Elder Project, I became extremely ecstatic because I had an array of progressive Black males to choose from. I thought that it was nice that our class is representing the Black males who the media fails to represent. It was always a no-brainer that I would choose my father because in my eyes he is the epitome of a progressive Black male.
Randal Dana Dawson was born on August 7, 1957 in Topeka, Kansas to Buddy and Reba Dawson. He is the second oldest of four boys.
Randal stated that he had a normal Midwest upbringing. He told me, “While I was growing up in Kansas, it was very clear that you had to work hard.” His family instilled the fact that education was important at a very early age. He noted that, “Education can change your life.”
His childhood had a large emphasis on friends and family. Randal had a lot of family that lived nearby and they always got together for major holidays. He and his brothers spent a lot of time together and can remember playing outside from sun up to sun down. Randal had a very enriching childhood and was extremely active. He attended church every Sunday at Shiloh Baptist Church and was even a junior deacon. He spent a large portion of his childhood participating in the boy scouts. He became a Cub Scout at age eight, Boy Scout at twelve, and then attained the highest honor, Eagle Scout, at age 15. One of his fondest memories of his childhood is when his Boy Scout troop canoed from International Falls, Minnesota to Canada. The troop had 15 canoes and sailed to Canada over the course of seven days. He stated that the trip instilled perseverance and made him realize that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
Randal was also an extremely competitive junior wrestler. He would wake up every morning to run and followed a strict diet. He told me that any one person has the power to be successful at whatever they choose to do in life. During high school, he was a camp counselor for eight weeks every summer at a camp two hours from Topeka. There, he was able to teach younger children how to canoe, sail, and row. He stated that his childhood has shaped him into the well-rounded person he is today.
Randal attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. He told me that he knew he would always attend KU and that it was the only college that he applied to. His father wanted him to attend KU because it was the only school in the Big Eight Conference that admitted Black students in the early 1900’s. He told me that in 1954, Wilt Chamberlin was the first African American to play collegiate sports at a Big Eight school. Although Wilt was admitted, he could not, as it was with other Blacks at that time, live on campus. Randal’s father believed that KU was more progressive than many other schools, so he urged his sons to go and that is exactly what Randal did.
After graduating with a Business degree from KU, Randal had several jobs before landing his current position. Today Randal is a Senior Vice President in the north-central region of the United States for the world’s largest international real estate service company. He attributes his success to having dreams, setting goals, and relentless determination. He said, “You have to know your particular strengths and talents, and then combined it with precise goal setting strategies and discipline. You can’t have someone else define what success is for you. You have to believe in yourself, be true to yourself, and have faith.” Randal now resides in suburban Chicago with his wife Carole and daughter Lauren.
Throughout the course of the semester, we have critically analyzed Black masculinity. From the moment Black males are born, they are marginalized by society. Social class issues, for-profit imprisonment, and lack of education are just a few elements that continue to plague the Black male. In my opinion, a Black progressive male is one that rejects the stereotypes that are imposed on him and strives toward self-improvement. My father exemplifies a progressive Black male because he has done just that. He has never been handed a silver spoon and has rightfully earned all the success he has achieved. He taught me that whatever happens in life, both good and bad, is based on a succession of choices we make. The Black community, (specifically black males), need guidance and support from family and members of the community. They need positive role models and mentors that they can interact with. My father was lucky to come from a strong family, as well as, have people who were positive influences in his life. He had a support system in the ups and the downs of his life. He believes that the community, both Black and white, has a responsibility in helping those who need guidance. My father has given back in many ways.
Growing up in Kansas, my father experienced racism and constantly had to prove himself. He was unable to caddie at the local private country club because they didn’t hire Blacks as caddies nor as waiters or bus boys in the restaurant. In spite of this racism, he has never let others define what he should become in life. When he was a senior in high school, his Caucasian counselor suggested that he become a shipping and receiving clerk at the Santa Fe Railroad instead of attending college. At an early age, African American boys need pride and self-confidence instilled in them so they don’t get discouraged when confronted with discrimination and insults. My father turned his frustration with racism into his determination for success. I asked him what advice he would give to young Black males that want to obtain success in society. He told me six key things, which include: education, values, morals, manners, life experiences, and most importantly self-confidence. A progressive Black male is one that embodies all of these attributes. My father knew that the odds were against him, but persevered through all adversity. He is the only African American that works in his office and, although he has achieved success, he still deals with overt and covert racism. He is a progressive Black male because he understood that he had the power to become one.