Today, I took my little brother (signup to be a mentor in Big Brothers, Big Sister!) to an opera viewing of Hansel & Gretel in one of the richest parts of Southern California. Mind you, I’ve NEVER been to an opera before and neither had my bro, so this was going to be an experience nonetheless. When I go to pick him up, his grandfather informs me that he was surprised that I was taking his grandson to the opera because he doesn’t hear young people say that they want to see the arts in that manner. I told him that I thought the exposure in itself would be a wonderful opportunity to see and do more, plus what 14 year old Black boy can say they’ve been to the opera before? Before we leave, his grandfather informs me that there is typically a dress code, which looking at my attire I knew I didn’t meet: a t-shirt that says “CULTURE”,a black hat with a fist, black jeans, a brown sweater, and Sperrys. Again, I find myself prepared to enter a situation where I’m challenging the norms of society. My little bro was definitely prepared with an icey chain, Jordans, and a collared shirt. Here we are, two Black males going to the opera.
We make it to the venue (CPT, of course) and my bro quickly expresses that there is a distinct difference between where we are and where he resides. I told him about the location that we were in, how it is a pretty expensive city and he will begin to notice a lot more once we go inside of the venue. We walk up to the place when I notice a couple of families taking a long glimpse of us, yet I don’t pay it any mind. Once we get to our seats, there’s a another Black male big and little right next to us. The looks on their faces tells me that this isn’t exactly Showtime at the Apollo. We exchanged quick pleasantries and made our way to our seats.
The whole production was a good way to introduce the opera: not too long and not too many songs. The music was definitely my favorite part as it provided an excellent backdrop to the action that was happening on the stage. After the play, I asked my little bro his thoughts on the opera and he said he enjoyed it. As we walked out, I asked him to look around and tell me what did he see. He noted how there were a lot of kids (which I found out later on that its a kids opera), parents carrying boxes (for their kids to sit in), and the happy expressions on peoples’ faces. Then I did a scholarly thing (damn you doctoral school), and asked him, “what don’t you see?” He quickly answered, “nobody that looks like me. There aren’t any Black people besides the ones sitting next to me.” He understood. I explained to him that was the reason why I brought him to the show so he can see something new and different, something that I never got the opportunity to do until today. I thought to myself, we need more of this. More Black men showing the next generation different doors and paths to open their minds to the possibilities of life. We need more Black men as both formal and informal mentors.
Although growing up in a single, parent household led by a strong Black woman, I recognized the influence that many Black men had on my life. Whether in elementary school, in college, or even currently, I’ve had the honor to call on some amazing Black men whenever I have an issue or just want to talk. Most of these men will be standing next to me as I marry the Queen later this year and I know that something like that is rare. To see a lineup of Black men who are entrepreneurs, leaders in education, accountant, an actuary, a serviceman among other roles is rare. We’ve counseled on another on things from relationships to finances and continue to sharpen each other after all these years. Needless to say, I’m going to introduce my little bro to these men just so he can see the possibilities in life. So he can see that being an actuary is a lucrative career or living across the world isn’t as difficult as it seems.
Having a strong Black male role model is imperative for this next group of young Black men coming up. In a period where everything is instant, when will our young Black men know when it real? Who’s going to educate them that everything that looks good isn’t always good for them? Being a Black man in this country is difficult right now is difficult and our young Black men need that support from the OGs before its too late. And I’m not saying those that subscribe to ideals of toxic masculinity. I believe thats an insecure, overcompensating way to think about masculinity. Last year there was a photo that went viral because an adult son was resting under his father’s arm and sparked a huge debate in the Black community. To see people in such an uproar about a father showing his son love at a time when many of these adult Black men wished their own father called them leaves me stunned. There is a need for more Black men to normalize that it is okay to show emotions or ask for help when its needed. I believe the movie Fences depicts this idea in a strong manner (another post for another time).
That’s why I enjoy sites such as The Black Man Can and Black Men Smile because they’ve shown me awesome stories/photos of Black men doing great things in their respective communities and with their families. It’s images like these that I refer my little bro to review, so he can see the counter narratives in the world and know his true worth. As Nino Brown once proclaimed, “I AM MY BROTHER’S KEEPER”.