Student Oral History Projects ———————————————————————————— “Hershey Norise” by Kimberly Mayo

MayoI interviewed my friend’s father named Hershey Norise. Mr. Norise grew up on the South Side of Chicago in the Englewood area, a community that is notorious for its violence and high crime rate. He lived with both of his parents plus seven brothers and two sisters. Mr. Norise felt he had a good support system as well as a stable family considering he grew up with both parents. As a pastime, he would play basketball everyday to keep himself distracted from negative influences that were present in his neighborhood. In high school, he was considered a nerd since he was seen as the weird kid in the neighborhood. Also, even though his community was heavily gang affiliated, he never got involved and never even had a police record. He took it upon himself to make sure his younger brothers were out of trouble. He also made it his responsibility for his younger brothers to also finish high school.

While he was a teenager, he and his friends have had more than a few racist encounters with white police officers. In one encounter in particular, he and his friend were kicked out of the beach by a white police officer, most presumably because they were both black. After that encounter, he told himself that he would become a police officer to work to stop such injustices from occurring towards Black males as well as other people of color. After high school, he attended Wilson Junior College and at twenty-two years old, he worked at the police office. As he lived through his twenties, he decided that becoming a police officer would give him the privilege of also helping all kinds of people be protected from harms way. As his older brother was one of the greatest influences in his life, he was inspired by him to not only become a police officer, but to also become a county sheriff. At age twenty-four, he was called into the sheriff’s office and then became a Cook County sheriff.

After being a Cook County sheriff for ten years, he married his wife and had two daughters, Catherine and Sarah. After being a sheriff for twenty-seven years, Mr. Norise was able to retire early. As he has been able to provide for his family, he feels that he is successful for a Black man in Chicago. Now, one of his daughters is in medical school while the other one is attending college with the pursuit of attending an institution of even higher education. Because both of his daughters are successful, he also feels that is an accomplishment in and of itself. He can’t ask for any better. To this day, he has continued to help his younger brothers find jobs if they have not been able to do so. For his community, he served as neighborhood watch for a time to keep the community he lives in safe. With all of his life experiences that came along with being a Black male, Mr. Norise has been able to successfully overcome the stereotypes put upon him.

After interviewing Mr. Norise, I noticed that there are many aspects of his Black male experience that contribute to the argument that Black males are not limited to stereotypes that plague Black men in the media. While in high school, Mr. Norise was considered the weird kid in his neighborhood because he wasn’t in any gangs or in any kind of trouble whatsoever. As many rap artists glorify crime, drug use, and joining gangs, Mr. Norise finished school and instead became a Cook County sheriff. Also, instead of giving into violence and crimes, he became a sheriff to work to prevent such violence from occurring. Furthermore, he became a sheriff to try to stop injustices as well as racial profiling done towards Black males and other people of color. During his time of being a Cook County Sheriff, Mr. Norise worked in a job that may be considered the opposite of a job that a Black male would have considering the stereotypes portrayed of Black men. Because he was able to become a county sheriff, he has proven that Black males are not limited to the stereotype that all Black men want to be affiliated in violence or just want to become basketball players or rap artists. For young Black men, education is not seen as a goal to accomplish for future successes. Mr. Norise knew he had to finish school in order to become a police officer and fulfill his other life goals.

Mr. Norise also helps disprove the stereotypes of Black men as docile, violent, mentally inadequate, and indolent as plagued by the media. Mr. Norise successfully completed his education and even went further to become a police officer and then a Cook County sheriff. The hard work and dedication he put into becoming an accomplished Black man is certainly more proof to the argument that Black men are not just limited to stereotypes from the media that are related to their work ethic. By being a county sheriff, he has had to live up to completely opposite methods of work and life that are not expected of Black men. Like Mr. Norise, other Black males are also capable of achieving educational goals as well as higher standards of living that are not always expected of them.

Lastly, as plagued by the media, Black males are seen as unable to provide for their families and are often times portrayed as not willing to care for them. Mr. Norise has been able to once again defeat those stereotypes and has willfully cared for his wife and children. In addition, he has supported, helped, and motivated both of his daughters to pursue higher education and an even higher standard of living. By not only motivating himself, but his children as well, he is exhibiting other work ethics that are not generally expected from Black males. By also becoming a county sheriff to help prevent racial injustices towards Black males and other people of color, he is exhibiting other work ethics not expected from Black males such as the willingness to help, care, and protect others as well as help bring social justice to disadvantaged races. In many aspects of the life Mr. Norise has lived, he has contributed in a number of ways to the argument that ultimately, Black men are not limited to the stereotypes that plague them by the media. Like Mr. Norise, Black men are capable of being just as successful as any other man no matter what race they are.


4 thoughts on “Student Oral History Projects ———————————————————————————— “Hershey Norise” by Kimberly Mayo

  1. Again, for a second time, I would like to note an omission of Hershey Norise’s oldest and only son, Branden Norise from his first marriage not acknowledged and/or recognized in the Kimberly Mayo interview. Branden too is a Cook County Sheriff. Branden served in the United States Marine Corps as Military Police. Most importantly he is a devoted husband and loving father to a beautiful intelligent daughter Kaylan, a 2nd year student at University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). In highlighting Hershey Norise as an icon for black males, it’s ironic that his own son was not included nor mentioned in the interview. Hershey Norise is blessed to have a wonderful son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter as his family also.

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