We Shall Overcome

We Shall Overcome  /ˈwē ˈshal ˌō-vər-ˈkəm/  phrase. – a gospel song which became a protest song and a key anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. The song is most commonly attributed as being lyrically descended from “I’ll Overcome Some Day”, a hymn by Charles Albert Tindley that was first published in 1900.

Interview with Carlos

Tell me about yourself. What’s your background?

I’m Carlos. I’m 47 years old. I’m born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. I am a IT professional. I’ve been in several industries working in IT and IT support roles. I am a graduate of Vatterott college — a 4.0 student. I have five children — three by my belated wife and two in St Louis. I’m really proud of my kids. My youngest is 13. My two next would be my two 20 year old twins. And then I have two 23 year olds that are not twins — One male that’s biologically mine and one female that is not biologically mine, but she still calls me dad. That wouldn’t be it for me as far as, you know, getting to know me on a personal level.

How would you define beauty?

It’s kind of cliche, but I guess it’s in the eyes of the beholder. I guess… It’s generally what we tend to do to make things beautiful. For me, it’s the small things like chilling with family or friends creating beautiful moments. It’s moments that are beautiful like when you look at nature, right? Or when you look at that painting that draws your attention or you even look at the artists themselves that are expressing themselves through raw emotion — through their arts. People, in general, we are beautiful. Our inner beings are beautiful. And if we focus on that positivity, we can bring a lot of that out.

“We are beautiful. Our inner beings are beautiful. And if we focus on that positivity, we can bring a lot of that out.”

How would you describe/define Black culture?

I look at the culture — The way people handle adversity, they show love. The culture is a beautiful thing. Like the hip-hop movement… They said it wouldn’t last, but it persevered and now it’s a global phenomena cause it’s a beautiful thing. Or like afro-picks… There’s a lot more to it than the beauty of the natural nappy hair. It’s dancing… the music… the people coming together which makes beauty. It’s about being involved and loving the community. We’re very inclusive of others, despite all the things we’ve been through in this country.

One of the things that I resonate so much with this project was when I was young, I had a traditional Black fisted pick with the peace symbol in the middle of the comb and the wired forks. And even though I don’t have a particular hairstyle now, I used to have long braids and a pretty big fro. Stuff like that is really beautiful. And I’m speaking in terms of how this project has tapped into the whole hair culture. I like how the project really shows how our people can do so much with their hair and present it so many different ways.

What societal pressures do you feel because of your race?

Oh wow. As far as pressure… there’s a lot of pressure for you to conform to certain standards. Maybe people would ask you to not wear your hair like that or not wear your clothes like this or that hairstyle is a little too Black or what you’re saying or what you’re doing might offend this group of people. So it’s a lot of pressure to try to fit into certain societal norms that are being dictated by groups and organizations and industries. You go through a lot of pressure to present yourself a certain way or there’s a lot of pressure with being scrutinized more than your white male counterparts when it comes to how you behave or conduct yourself. Even if the general vibe that you might be given off is of a positive nature, it might be misunderstood or doesn’t fit into the societal norm. And somebody will say, Well, we need you to be exactly like this for us to feel comfortable. So, there is pressure there.

“You go through a lot of pressure to present yourself a certain way or there’s a lot of pressure with being scrutinized more than your white male counterparts when it comes to how you behave or conduct yourself.”

Have you ever experienced of racism or discrimination? If so, any stories you would be willing to share?

I’ve seen a lot of instances and have been involved in a lot of instances [of discrimination.} Just for the sake of being discrete… I won’t go into a lot of detail on my part or the part of others. I’ll just say that it’s always been there. The negativity has always been around you because certain people haven’t elevated themselves. Like, people speaking to you a certain way disrespectfully or condescendingly. And my people will have a hard time dealing with it. So, they’ll come to me when they’re down and they’ll be crying about the discrimination that happened. And, you know, it [racial tension] has something to do with another person dealing with racial issues within themselves. I’ve had instances where I’ve had things said to me that are inappropriate. I’ve had certain people, like officers or the law, and basically say, Hey, just give you some advice… There’s a lot of organizations around here that don’t want you in this area of town. So if you want to be safe, you might want to leave. So, you know, things of that nature have happened. So, the negativity is there… it is present. My people go through a lot. We wake up on guard. You don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen and what might come at you that day, but you try to stay focused and remain positive.

What do you feel you have accomplished in your life? What are you proud of?

The one thing in my life that I can say that I’m very, very, very proud of is living out a dream. It came to a point in my life where I was either going to work in the industry of technology — [a place] that I’ve always wanted to work in — or I was just going to stick to grind with my regular nine to five that I kind of hated at the time. And, you know, I made the decision to just stop right there and pursue my dream wholeheartedly. And so I’m kind of proud of that [choice] because when I did it, it wasn’t acceptable in society.

It wasn’t acceptable when you got a good job to just say I’m done. I’m going to pursue my dream or what makes me happy. So, you know, I’ve got a lot of negative feedback from people in society who would normally probably support me or stand behind me. Saying things like, Oh no, don’t do that. That’s stupid. That’s not normal. That’s not going to help us right now. But I’m really proud of the fact that I didn’t listen to that. I moved forward and did what made me happy with my journey. You know, despite all the pressure, all the negativity, at that point in my life, I decided, I said, Hey, I need to do this for me to wake up in the morning and be happy with me. And then with me being happy and me being focused on happiness and love that can spill out into the rest of my life. So I’m proud of that one moment and it really changed my life a whole lot.

“I said, ‘Hey, I need to do this for me to wake up in the morning and be happy with me.’ And then with me being happy and me being focused on happiness and love that can spill out into the rest of my life.”

What are your personal dreams?

Right now, one of my main focal points is to further my education, my career track, and personal business goals. So investments, real estate, things of that nature. Basically, I am still a student, so I still do my studies and by advancing in that… That’s good for me right now. That’s the place I’m at right now.

What is one major problem minorities face that you would like to bring awareness to?

Wow. Oh, it’s a lot out there. You know what I mean? It’s a lot going on [out there]. The main thing that’s going on or been happening right now is this thing with [Colin] Kaepernick. And I know most people might consider it all swept under the rug or it doesn’t appear in the media that much, but I think a lot of people really the whole time missed the point. As soon as this brother started protesting and making waves that weren’t deemed acceptable in this society, I believe that a lot of people lost focus. They tried to make it about veterans. And I know a lot of Black veterans who sacrificed their time with their family, sacrificed their lives and their health as well. But it wasn’t about any of that. It was about systematic abuse and oppression of Black people here in America.. That’s what it was about hands down. All the media did was take and make it some kind of war with veterans or some kind of reverse racism. No. This was a young man saying, you know I don’t want to be shot anymore on the streets. I don’t want to be pulling out my wallet and getting killed anymore. I don’t want to be beaten anymore. I don’t want to be mistreated at work or treated differently or considered lazy. I just don’t want to be oppressed anymore. That was the bottom line. It was a statement against oppression.

What are you dreams for society?

My dream. It’s interesting that you ask that because around this time of year people focus on the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King. If I was to talk about my dream, it would not be to overshadow the dream that has been perpetuated from Martin Luther King jr. but add to that [dream] because we still are facing issues. We still have problems that we have to work out. I would say to add to that [dream], now that I work within a multicultural environment. I work with other races in peace and harmony. Now that we are actually living that [dream], let’s take it a step farther…. Let’s break down even more barriers. Let’s have open dialogue. Let’s have a peaceful dialogue. Let’s not take jabs. Let’s not make assumptions on each other. Let’s not have secrets, right? Let’s not have racism going on in the background where people feel a certain way or are enacting their systematic racism secretly. Now that we’re working hand-in-hand, let’s break down even more barriers. Let’s get even closer. Let us commit to being even more loving. And that’s a good dream for me.

“We can vote for change, we can do all these outward things, but if you are still full of hatred on the inside, it’s going to spill out.”

How do we make progress on your dreams for society?

I mean, it all starts within. It’s an inner work. Yeah, we can have the interviews. Yeah, we can have the dialogues. We can open up the conversation. We can break down the societal norms. We can vote for change, we can do all these outward things, but if you are still full of hatred on the inside, it’s going to spill out.

And if you are the one in control of things [a place of power], it’s going to spill out. I would say the first step is for people to focus on being more loving within. Start with loving yourself. If you have some kind of racism in you or some kind of prejudice, then you’ve got a problem with yourself. If each of us turn inward… and keep that inward focus… and keep focused on love, and kindness, It starts to come out.

What advice would you give to other Black people?

My advice to other Black people is to keep your head up. Keep being beautiful as you are. Keep being strong as you are. Keep being resilient as you are. Look around you. You will see that you are actually living the dream… the dream that was dictated all these years ago by our ancestor. You’re actually getting to live in that. Be grateful for where you’re at and know that there’s a lot of people out there, from many different races, that are committed to the same stuff. They’re committed to the breaking down of oppression. They’re committed to the breaking down of societal norms. They’re committed to advancing and sharing culture. They’re committed to all these loving things and these loving attributes… And, know that you have other people around you and with you that are focused on that. I mean, I feel my people are already good at doing that. It’s common knowledge, not like advice coming from me, but it’s more like encouragement. Let’s say it that way.

“What you see in the media… All the killing. All the violence. All the gang banging. That’s not what’s happening… It’s a lot of love going on here.”

What advice would you give to non-Black individuals to help them understand the Black experiences?

I’m gonna just be open and honest… That question is kind of hard for me because I believe we all come from Black, from Africa. Do you know what I mean? So, I see where you come in from because other people might not view it that way. And I get it. They see the differences in our human bodies and, and you know, it’s just natural to react to that. But I would say, like I said in the first part of the interview, just focus on love because I see my people and that’s what they’re doing. What you see in the media… All the killing. All the violence. All the gang banging. That’s not what’s happening. A lot of love is going on here. A lot of forgiveness is going on here. It’s not like any reverse racism and things of that nature. You know what I mean? So yeah, one thing I would like to let them know is that’s not what’s going on here… not with us. It’s a lot of love going on here.

Since I know you from work, I have seen you in action… How do you stay positive and present a consistent high level of energy?

Oh, wow. Man. Well, I guess you do get more of a personal feel from being around me. Okay. let’s tackle that one… Hey man, you know, to be honest… At times being human is difficult, right? To keep a high level and to stay focused on being loving or kind regardless of all the outside nuances. One of the things that helps me out alot is meditation time. Even though I don’t do it on a daily basis like I should, it really helps me keep my focus on that particular thought pattern of being more loving and more calm. I really think that changing oneself starts with how you’re thinking, right?

I try to control what I’m thinking. And if you can somehow try to think more positive thoughts per se — think more thoughts that are loving — I’ll sit down and if I see my energy levels going down, man, I’ll pull out some paper and a pen, just sit down, and I’ll keep writing things that I’m grateful for… I’m grateful for how dandelions look. I’m grateful for the first time I received a hug and felt loved. I’m grateful for anything and I’ll keep writing until I feel that higher energy level — that higher vibrational level. And then when I get fueled up like that, I have so much to give to people.

Additional Information

Interview Date: January 25, 2020

Day 21 — Story posted on February 20, 2020

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