Defining Moments that Shaped Me as an American

Black In America

A few of the most frequently asked questions I’ve been getting since the release of my new project are: “What’s your inspiration for your music?” Or “what was your thought process while writing it?” Those are two great questions, and I now realize that I don’t have time to write an exhaustive answer, but it wasn’t inspiration or thinking only that got me here. It is my entire experience as a human being. Early memories of my late grandparents, awesome holidays and family meals, as well as experiencing my little brother being called a “nigger” by some teens speeding by our home in a pickup truck as we worked in our yard in Spanish Lake, Missouri are a few of the things that made me who I am today.

Over the next few months I will begin to share some of what has shaped me as a man, husband, father, son, brother and U.S. citizen. The memories won’t always be in chronological order because some things will trigger other memories, causing dates and times to jumble together. They won’t always be beautiful, either, but I promise to share my life as I’ve lived it. Are you ready? Here we go…

A Strong Foundation

I am a blessed man—blessed to grow up with a mom and dad that loved my brothers, sister and I. As a kid, I admired the strength of my dad, his willingness to never quit on his family. I enjoyed when I was able to steal some alone time with him as we rode around doing errands in his Ford F150. From my mom I learned the importance of spirituality and prayer. She was also tough as nails. I don’t know how she kept 5 sons in line who physically towered over her:)

My parents were young adults during the struggle of the 60’s, and I’m sure they endured much. But I don’t recall them sharing those experiences with us. I’ve often wondered why they chose not to. Mom and dad never said much at all about “White people”except a brief comment here or there, yet there was always a tangible uneasiness when we found ourselves sharing a grocery aisle, the line at the bank or browsing through a crowded department store. The feeling of performing for some invisible, yet, superior audience always plagued me. As a child I felt as if there was a conversation that the older “black” and “white” people may have started, that, somehow, was cut short and no one really knew how to get it started again. Again, no one ever said anything, but it was there, and that silence was very loud.

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Mom and dad wanted us to know that we weren’t second class citizens. Sometimes they gave us the inside scoop on how they believed the larger society truly felt about us as “Black people”. To be honest, I don’t know if that helped or hurt me. I was more concerned with how they felt about me than a few strangers that I rarely had interaction with outside of school and shopping trips. As a kid I couldn’t understand what experience had yet to teach me. The only history I knew was that which was taught to me at church and drilled into us at school, which always seemed to be at odds with each other. My mom and dad wanted to be respected and they showed us that we should expect that even from those who thought otherwise. They taught us to have pride in ourselves. They taught us that we could do most anything we set our minds to accomplish.

“I’ve always believed that I was good enough…”

The older I get the more I realize that I didn’t need an opinion outside of my home. I didn’t need to be liked to be successful. I didn’t need to be accepted to feel accepted in the world, which is why I’ve never bought into the idea that I was 2nd class to anyone. I’ve always believed I belonged. I’ve always believed that I was good enough no matter how highly educated, decorated, wealthy and privileged others were around me. No one on earth could ever change my mind. Some call it pride, and I would agree with them. God didn’t give me two legs to bend over. I believe that He gave me two legs to stand as tall as the pine trees that lined our families land in south Alabama. #IAmAmerica