As a teenage boy, it was seemingly all at once that I was watching my height grow like a stack of unpaid bills and my voice deepen like I was the bass singer for the Temptations. By the time I began growing facial hair, every morning I looked in the mirror and saw myself going through a real-life metamorphosis. During these precious moments in a boy’s life, it’s so important for him to have the support and guidance of men as he goes through these transitions. Let me tell you all about the men who supported and guided me through my journey, I call these men: ‘Everyday Brothers’.
There is no doubt that my father played a pivotal role in my life during this time—from teaching me how to cook, do laundry, and use multiplication and division to being the first person I vented my personal feelings to. My grandfather—his father—passed away before I was born, so my Dad shared inspiring stories with me about the man I never met. He told me about my grandfather’s days fighting in World War II, being a longshoreman, and coaching and funding the local little league team in Bed-Stuy during the tumultuous 1960’s. There is nothing more inspiring to me than hearing about my forefathers and the sacrifices they have made for me to be in the position that I am in today.
However, when I reference the ‘Everyday Brother,’ I am talking about all the active fathers in the neighborhood. I’m talking about the local garbageman, the construction worker, the school dean, the plumber, the technician, the basketball coach, and all the other brothers who put in work every day to make our lives a little easier and keep our communities strong while going through complicated times.
Along with my father, I was blessed to have the presence and influence of many other Black men who I want to thank on this Father’s Day. I attended Benjamin Banneker Academy high school in Fort Greene, which I feel like was destined for me because there was no shortage of positive Black men in the building.
It all started with my childhood basketball coach and neighbor, Mike Senior, bringing me to a basketball camp, which afforded me the opportunity to stay on a college campus for the first time at age 13. He also helped me get into Banneker, which truly changed my life and shaped me into the man I am today. I was able to learn about the history and culture of my people, and the staff blessed me with the confidence a Black boy needs to feel like he can compete with anyone in the world.
At school, I met many great men who I would like to thank, including: Eric Windley, school dean and teacher Carlos Walton, my film teacher Jim Fielder, principal Daryl Rock, Jean Reigner, Mr. Higgins (who helped me get my first real job), Coach Wendell Saunders, Coach Fernandez, and many, many more Black men who I don’t have room to name. Having these men in my life was powerful. I am grateful for their level of patience with me, their honesty, and their ability to believe in me while I was a teenage mess.
The gifts of positive Black men continued to overflow in my life as if I was a kid on Christmas morning. After graduating from Banneker, I attended Medgar Evers College and then Norfolk State University, a historically Black college in Virginia. I would not have made it through college without the love and influence of Akil Kamau, Temond Jones, Nosaze, Anthony Moore, Professor Cole, Latief Gibson, my cousins Antwan and Man, and many others.
Some people may wonder how I have been able to establish true brotherhood with this many men in my life. For me, the core values of brotherhood are honesty, accountability, resilience, communication, support, and loving your brother even with his flaws. These are values that the men in my life and I have held onto, which has helped us persevere through times of anger, disagreement, and adversity.
The experiences I am sharing with you are what encouraged me to start a new social group, ‘Fatherhood Social’, here at the Center for Wellbeing and Happiness. We are a group of men who either live or work in the Lower East Side, and we meet every Wednesday afternoon to discuss and strategize how we can support other men, families in the community, as well as each other. It is becoming a very transformative space, and I can’t wait to see what’s to come.
If you would like to sign up for Fatherhood Social, please register at centerforwellbeing.nyc/classes.
Well-Said is a virtual salon for personal essays, interviews, and reflections from the Lower East Side community. If you are interested in submitting to Well-Said, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.