GROWING UP: I was born in Belize. My dad was in the military and we moved around a lot. We lived in North Carolina for 3 years in between our time in Long Beach. I attended Long Beach High School. I have a Master’s Degree in Education from Cal State Dominguez Hills.
CURRENT GIG: I am the Lead Coordinator for ARC, it is an After School Education for the LAUSD. It is supplemental education outside of school. I facilitate workshops for teens that help them with preparing for job/life readiness, topics like How to Interview or How to Present Yourself. We are empowering young people for their future.
EXPERIENCES WITH RACE: The first time I realized there was racism, I was about 10 yrs old. I was the only black boy in my class in Havelock, North Carolina. There was only one black girl. I started out in the smart class. I was feeling good about answering questions in class and getting into the groove. One day a white boy turned around and said “You’re pretty smart for a nigger.” It floored me, appalled me and I was offended. I hadn’t heard anything like that growing up in Long Beach. I felt horrible and ended up shutting down. I stopped trying at that point. Other people in the class heard it. I waited for someone to say something but everyone acted like it was normal. It was how I was viewed no matter how smart I was. It shaped my thinking for the rest of my life.
I was talking a lot with my son about the Trayvon Martin tragedy. We always spoke about how to handle a police officer asking you questions, or if someone is following you. As a parent, it is scary to explain to my son how to defend himself and stay safe. Then we see Trayvon try to defend himself, but still get killed. I feel bad that I don’t know how to tell my son how to protect himself now. Racial issues have changed, but not enough. I wanted to put faith in the system and the courts to see justice for Trayvon. It felt like a slap in the face to every black parent and teen. I felt so much sadness in my community for not feeling protected. It was a painful situation. I cannot believe we are still dealing with the same issues. I want to apologize to my son and the younger generations since my generation didn’t do enough to change things for them. I do what I do to make changes for my son and his peers.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I studied education in college because I had a professor who told me to drop out of school and get a job because I wasn’t smart enough to stay in college. I felt small and not good enough after that statement. It was contrary to everything my parents taught me. I set out to prove him wrong and show him that I was smart. I also decided to become an educator so students would encounter positive teachers who encourage them to do better. I have a bucket list that I want to complete, like running with the bulls in Spain. I want travel everywhere.
Photographed by Renee McMahon