What do you do for work?
I’m in media and advertising. I’m a media strategist.
Who were some of your icons growing up?
I grew up in Chicago, so Michael Jordan was really important. I’m a huge basketball fan! In the 90’s—as a child—he was a great idol to have. When you’re a kid all you care about is winning, and he was the ultimate competitor—bigger than life itself. But when I got older I realized how his competitiveness got the better of him.
Do you think you fit in?
No. I don’t think I fit in. I think I’ve always had an issue with fitting in, except with a small select group of people. I’m most comfortable around my closest friends. I know I’m not going to say anything that’ll offend them. At work, I don’t fit in. I feel very boring at work. There’s this self-censoring that’s going on when I’m at work. But really, it’s all bullshit.
Music, books, movies, or TV?
Music. Music. Music. I enjoy books but my attention span is too short. Bob Marley once said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” It can inspire you. It can relax you. It can make you laugh. It can get your adrenaline pumping. I remember wanting to work in radio when I was a kid—being a DJ just so I could play music all day.
Is there any type of music you don’t listen to?
I can’t say Heavy Metal is something I like.
Did you grow up around other black people?
Yes and no. I grew up in an area that had a lot of black people. But outside of seeing my cousins and relatives at family functions, I was usually around a real mix of kids—white, black, Asian, Hispanic. It was pretty diverse. I’ve always had a weird relationship with black people—being either too black or not black enough. And people adopt black culture, so I felt like I had black friends even when they were really white or Latino.
Did you identify with the black people you grew up with?
To be honest, I didn’t really. When I was in middle school and high school there were black kids around, but not very many of them were in the accelerated AP classes that myself and my friends were in. So already there was an outsider perspective.
What were your classes like?
In my middle school there was something called GAP, the Gifted Accelerated Program, which had a handful of black kids in the program. The regular classes had mostly Hispanic, and black kids. Those of us in GAP had the second floor entirely to ourselves. I remember one time, a black kid who wasn’t in GAP started walking up to the second floor and one of our teachers—Mr. Stewart—stopped him by putting his hands up to his chest and said, “Where do you think you’re going?” Meanwhile, this kid sees me and a bunch of white kids walking down the steps past him. I didn’t think about it then, but now I think about how symbolic that gesture was!
Did you ever want to be white growing up?
I probably thought it would have been easier to be white when I was in middle school, just because I was in these accelerated programs without many black kids in it. Then at lunch I’d walk by a bunch of black kids and I’d think, “I’m one of them, but I’m not.” I wasn’t really accepted. It just felt like looking in a mirror and not seeing myself—just seeing them—this table of black kids looking back at me. If I were attracted to a white girl I would feel pressure from my black peers to stay away from them. There’s this idea that being attracted to white women meant that you were white-washed. Or because I “talk proper” and was in these GAP classes, for me to take a white girl would be fulfilling this stereotype. So I kind of denied my attraction to them for a long time, even though they were who I was around most of the time. I probably wouldn’t go all the way and say I wish I were white. Instead, I’d say that I wished they were black. I was afraid of being the nerdy black kid who talks white and hates his race, so he dates white women. People would assume that I didn’t find black women attractive, which sucks so much, because when I was younger I felt like black women didn’t find me attractive. I got more attention from white girls who were probably more impressed with how I spoke, while black girls were like, “You sound lame!”
What was the most important thing your parents ever taught you?
Fearlessness. My grandmother always seemed fearless to me, and I was very fearful growing up. I was afraid to let go; of her hand, of my home of Chicago. She was someone who came to this country from Jamaica at 21, and didn’t know anybody—a definite outsider due to her appearance, her culture, and how she spoke. But despite all that, she worked what she could, and knew that there was something better just ahead. Until very recently I feel like I’ve just done what was safe. Now there’s a yearning for me to cut that tether to what’s safe and fulfill some feeling of destiny and be fearless the way she was.
How would you describe your worldview in 3 words or less?
Love conquers all.
Favorite historical or fictional figure?
Muhammad Ali. His story was more epic than any fictional character. He was fearless, but inside he was just a man. You don’t have to be a god to do what he did. He just saw through the bullshit, and decided he wasn’t going to let what other people’s expectations of him shape who he became. He said he was the greatest and no one believed him, but he just went ahead and fucking did it anyway.
Do you consider yourself patriotic?
It’s like when people say, “I can talk about my family, but you can’t talk about my family.” Am I patriotic? In sports, YES! I love America. But I’m going to own up to our mistakes when talking to someone from outside the US. Also, I’m never going to be that guy waving an American flag in the middle of some foreign country shouting, “USA! USA! USA!”
Would you have ever described yourself as angry?
No, quite the opposite actually. But maybe that’s a bad thing. I was recently in a relationship where the girl I was with wanted me to get angrier at things. I’ve always been very happy-go-lucky. I’m always trying to laugh and smile. I rarely have angry outbursts and I speak very calmly to people. I find anger to be uneccessary a lot of times. You can express what you want without using anger most of the time.
Black or african-american?
Black. It’s one sylable.