I speak a lot about how my Mother changed my life. I talk and write about how I learned about my working in her store, buying and selling goods like pants, underwear, shirts, dresses, blouses, tables, chairs, books, bicycles, beds lamps and the whole range of merchandise shorts of automobiles. We went to the yard sales and rummage sales where people sold what they no longer wanted or could use.
I also write about the Black men who changed my life, the preacher who owned the barber shop, the shoeshine men who owned the Shoeshine stands, the barbers who owned the barber shops, and the newspaper men who owned the newspapers stand. All set the examples for the direction of my life. I shined shoes in a barber shop, and later at a shoe shine stand and later I owned my own barber shop.
A lawyer told me that I could be a lawyer. An Uncle, who was a postman agreed with the lawyer. An Affi rmative Action offi cer taught me how the Law applied. My Father who had the forethought to leave the south and come to California, and my wife’s uncle who asked me one simple question when I dated his niece, who later became my wife. That question was, “What are your intentions for my niece?” (That question totally caught me off guard, as I stumbled for a response.)
These men didn’t know they were changing my life. They were merely improving theirs. My Mother had five brothers. My Father had none, but I learned plenty. My three sons have also impacted my life in tremendous ways. One is a, musician, performing throughout the country and all over the world, one is an educator who speaks and makes presentations throughout the country and all over the world, and one is an officer with the County Sheriff who is currently responsible for fulfilling the dietary needs of the inmates in the county. I have had the privilege of traveling to some of the places they travel to.
I appreciate the lessons I got from my Uncles. They range from janitor, entrepreneur, shoe shine man, teachers and friends who I spent numerous hours with, discussing the issues of life. It was an uncle, along with the lawyer, who convinced me to run for the Bakersfield School Board. I was the first African-American to run in Kern County. As a self-employed barber, I couldn’t get fired.
My dad was a quiet man. He was an example of a gentle giant and a powerful example of what a man was supposed to be. He’s been gone a long time now, but I often think of him and some of important lessons he taught me as a hard working man who took care of his family. It was my Father who signed permission for me to get married, as I was under the age of 21. Back then (60 years ago) my wife did not need permission. Girls were considered grown at 18. There were other men in my life, but these men greatly influenced me. I thank them for making me who I am.