I am the son of a pipefitter and a substitute school teacher. I grew up in Inkster, Michigan, a predominantly black working class suburb of Detroit. My friends growing up were bookworms, athletes, bullies, and felons.
I am the son of a pipefitter and a substitute school teacher. I grew up in Inkster, Michigan, a predominantly black working class suburb of Detroit. My friends growing up were bookworms, athletes, bullies, and felons. I am young enough to never have experienced anything like Jim Crow personally, but old enough to remember how the oil embargo devastated Detroit. Old enough to remember how hard my mother and father worked to make a way for me.
These experiences shaped me, and they constitute one set of reasons why I do what I do.
But the experiences alone are insufficient. Others have gone through what I’ve gone through and chosen another path.
When I talk to my students about their power, about their capacity to change the world, I often tell them “there aren’t as many of us as we’d like, but there are more of us than we think.” I do this to let them know that we aren’t alone, though it may seem as if we are, that allies and comrades abound. I also do this to let them know that another world is possible. All we have to do is simply look with open eyes and open heart. That world won’t be created without struggle. It won’t be created without pain. But it will be created.
This represents another set of reasons as to why I do what I do—to create space, to make way for a new set of circumstances, a new set of peoples, a new set of realities. Along these lines my wife and I are parents to five children. Like my parents we want to affirm them and give them everything they need to be everything the universe intends them to be.
But this too is insufficient, albeit for different reasons. I’m not alone in my desire to create a better world, nor am I alone in my desire to create space for people like us. And although my wife and I have more children than most professionals there are literally hundreds of thousands of parents who choose another way in raising their children.
When I took my picture for this project I wrote “To make room for more rat bastards like me.” At the time I wanted to add punch to my standard answer. But in hindsight I think it is fitting.
What the answers above miss is one simple thing. I do not know any other way to be. At my best and my worst I am aggressive, audacious, and relentless. I will live and die being that. Being a rat bastard if you will.