GROWING UP: I was born in Kansas City, KS into a military family. We travelled all over the country and the world for the majority of my formative life. I attended Andrew College, a religious 2 year institution and received my Associate’s Degree in Theater. I then attended Prairie View A & M University, a historically black college, for a year. I then transferred to the University of Kansas and obtained my Bachelor’s in Communications. Finally I attended Yale School of Drama and obtained my Masters Degree in Acting.
CURRENT GIG: I am currently an actor living in Los Angeles. I am a writer, brother, business man and humanitarian.
EXPERIENCES WITH RACE: I lived in Ankeny, Iowa for a year when I was younger. The town of Ankeny was all white and there were two elementary schools. So in order to have the same number of black students in each school, they wanted to split my sister and I up. The answer was no, of course.
In June 1991, I learned a great lesson about humanity vs race relations….humanity is much more important and to be valued as such. I lived in the Philippines at this time with my family. We were stationed on Clark Air Force Base, approximately 2 miles from a volcano that had been dormant for 700 years. This volcano was called Mt. Pinatubo. While living on the base, the volcano became active again and the evacuation process began. I can remember everyone being concerned for the safety of everyone, regardless of color, religion or creed. I vividly remember traveling in a caravan and looking outside the car window to see a sea of native Filipinos being evacuated by foot. As my family and other families of various ethnicities drove through, the native people began to hold their babies to our windows, begging us to save them. Although we could legally do nothing, I remember being terribly affected and ashamed because of my inability to help. I also saw these emotions on the face of a white woman traveling in a car beside us as a woman held up her baby. I saw it in the face of the Hispanic father driving behind us. Everyone in my sight was crying, not knowing what would become of these people being “left behind”. Humanity is more important! This lesson served me well as I grew up and left home for collegiate studies.
FINAL THOUGHTS: As you can see there were a lot of changes in my life the had to do mostly with living with different ethnicities. Things were always changing, the way people talked the way people dressed and the foods they ate. However, the one thing that remained constant is what I consider humanity. The way a mother cared for her child, despite her skin color, the way a father helped his son learn sports, despite his skin color, the way school girls giggle with their friends, despite their skin color and the way school boys play games and enjoy sportsmanship, despite their skin color. This is the fabric that makes our world habitable and human, which consists of love and respect for one another, disregarding fear of the unknown or of being thought of as inferior or out of control. I have learned this in 30 short years of life. Imagine what other valuable lessons are available to us regarding our world and the people we live with, if we would only open our eyes.
Photograph by Spencer Susser