One time, an OG Told Me: “We’re not getting older, we’re getting better.”
It made me think…
In life, there is beauty in growing old, why would I want to die young?
In America, why are we glorifying young death and degrading becoming an elder?
In Black America, If they don’t have fathers- where are they getting guidance about manhood from?
In manhood … WAIT … how did I get here?
At 24, I find myself in this strange world called, “manhood”, you might have heard of it… but … not all of my homies made it, some of them never even heard of it.
So, once again I ask: How did I make it to manhood?
As a young man growing up in Oakland, Ca … I followed the OG’s. Religiously.
Their way of talking, thinking, breathing, and blinking… I studied that. Vigorously.
As an 80’s baby, growing up in urban America, surprisingly enough: I wasn’t the only one without a father. Eight of my friends were fatherless too. In turn, we came together as a brotherhood; a fraternal support group. This is sometimes called a gang, a posse, or a clique… na, we were just boys becoming men.
We would pick-up small insight into manhood ( i.e. ideas on approaching women, how to make money double, or even something as essential as: how to fight); we would bring that back to the boys and share the newly acquired knowledge.
From this, I quilted together my concept of manhood.
Through this photo essay, I wanted to recreate that quilt; and show the world my version going from boyhood to manhood.
I call it: OG Told Me.
The project takes the phenomenon that I’ve encountered throughout the process of growing up, and documents it- so now babies of the millennium can find concepts about manhood where they hang out: the internet.
A basic photo essay: head shots of elder Black men, with the addition of clever-wisdom laced quotes. This photo essay is not just documenting elders, no-it’s bridging the gap between generations. It’s giving young men an idea of what they might look like at a later date, and it’s … giving me insight to the problems that plague the black community.
I found a number of the issues that plague Black men in society through my OG told Me project:
- Lack of accountability.
- Communication issues.
- Self destruction.
- Total disregard for another man’s dream…
- Lack of critical thinking.
- Idle time.
Through this same project, I also found some of the blessings that are found in Black men in society…
- Deep beliefs.
- A way of life that is unobserved by others- yet seen everyday: the invisible man.
-The natural occurrence of a rights of passage in the Black community.
The biggest conundrum I found myself facing during this year-long project: Finding the purpose of life…
All around the world people are living for two things: to get older and to get smarter.
This is survival. Basic survival.
However, where I grew up, people are living for two things: to get money and … to get money.
In result, our illusionary pursuit of money results not in getting older and getting smarter- no, it results in us dying young and dumb.
This is not survival. This is basic.
The aging process should be appreciated. It’s the beauty of life.
I haven’t made it all the way-I’m still growing, learning, aging- or as the OG told me, “getting better.”
And I’m enjoying every step of the way.
… And that is why I created this photo essay.
Now the question remains:
what exactly were those lessons that I was taught as I was growing from a boy to a man?