This is part of an occasional series of talks with my 13-year-old son, titled, “Mornings with Malik: The road to manhood.”
Dear Son, there are 12 things, in my humble opinion, that every young black man needs.
My list is not meant to be the Gospel — only the gospel of John, lol, as it is based on my own experiences and tried in the fires of life, and born out of some of my own lack of full preparedness for this walk called manhood.
I suspect that you will find some of my golden nuggets a little outdated or old-fashioned. But trust me. I have found them indispensible and some of them life-saving. Remember: I was once young, too. And, yeah, I even had hair like you once upon a time, lol. So maybe, just maybe, I might know a thing or two.
Anyway, I hope that as you continue to mature and your raspy voice steadily deepens, and your face someday sprouts fuzz, that you will embrace a father’s words for a son whom I loved before the day you were born. At least, give your old man a chance, dude.
So here goes:
No. 12 — You need a good education or solid skill by which to earn a living. As a man, you will be a provider, producer and protector. You don’t have to be a Ph.D. to earn a good living. But in an ever-competitive world of specialization, you’ll need marketable skills.
No. 11 — You will someday need a job. Holding down a steady j-o-b is a sign of stability, a characteristic of responsibility and your willingness to earn the things you want. Son, you must work.
No. 10 — You need to able to tie a tie. The childhood clip-ons are a thing of your past. And yet, the occasions for wearing a suit, for dressing to impress — the interviews, awards ceremonies and banquets, times when your sneakers and jeans will be inappropriate — will require a tie.
No. 9 — Practice good hygiene and grooming. Your appearance is a reflection of you. Comb your hair. Shower regularly. Put on deodorant and even a dab of cologne. Stinky ain’t sexy. Or cool.
No. 8 — You need to be able to speak the King’s English. Language and effective communication grant you access.
No. 7 — You need to save. Save your money for a rainy day, or for a house someday and for some of those things that are the objects of your dreams.
No. 6 — You must respect others. Respect is earned. Show others respect and you can expect it in return. Pay special respect to women, remembering that no woman is a female dog or a “ho’” — not your mother, grandmothers, sisters or anyone else’s.
No. 5 — You need a hard-work ethic. Don’t be a slacker.
No. 4 — You need to control your anger. Act; never react. Acting indicates control. Reacting means someone else is pushing your buttons.
No. 3 — You need a driver’s license and voter registration card. A state ID validates your identity. A voter’s card enables your participation in democracy — a right for which your ancestors died.
No. 2 — You need a plan — a blueprint for attaining your hopes and dreams.
No. 1 — You need a dream — a reason to love, something to live for, work for and persevere. Inspiration.
Well, son, I can’t promise that these will foolproof you against the wiles of life — only that they will help fortify, protect and prepare you for manhood. That is my hope.
Anyway, I love you. Always have. Always will. And I am here for you.
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