GROWING UP: I was born and raised by a single mom in South LA and attended inner- city schools, until I was bused to the Valley for High School. After joining the workforce for many years I returned to college and received my B.S. in Public Administration in 2010.
CURRENT GIG: I currently work for the Los Angeles Fire Dept as an Administrator in the EMS training dept. I am also a Real Estate Agent and a Division 1 NCAA referee.
EXPERIENCES WITH RACE: I applied to become a firefighter with the Los Angeles Fire Department and was hired. After completing a rigorous Fire Academy I began work as a Firefighter in the field. At this time some of the the other African- American firefighters as well as myself suffered racial discrimination and harassment in the workplace. As a result of being hazed and harassed I suffered a career-ending injury. Subsequently I was an integral part of pressuring necessary policy and organizational culture changes within the department. I think my story is important for people to hear about because so many believe that racism no longer exists, when in fact it is alive and well. Because I am educated, articulate, professional and successful many people assume that I would never experience these kind of injustices. but the reality is that racism runs so deep at an unconscious level and is so engrained in our culture and history that the African- American man is extremely vulnerable.
FINAL THOUGHTS: At one point in my life I used to be unaware of how prevalent and institutionalized racism was. I thought since I hadn’t experienced any blatant racism that I could avoid it by looking the part, fitting in, being agreeable and non-threatening. I didn’t want to be on the front lines fighting the battle I wanted to make change from within by being a “model” black man. Now, after numerous experiences of both blatant and institutionalized racism, I know it is important now more than ever to be willing to stand up and speak out.
Photograph by Elmar Van Der Watt