01 Mar 1997 What A Boy Needs To Be A Man, by Michael Sharp
by Michael Sharp
(Michael Sharp, a member of the national Advisory Council of the African-American leadership group Project 21, is a freelance writer in Freemont, Ohio.)
A New Visions Commentary paper published March 1997 by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Court, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax (202) 543-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web http://www.nationalcenter.org. Reprints permitted provided source is credited.
Being in tune with nature is easiest when you are a child. It is at this stage when you search for the simple truths in life. You are not jaded by other people’s prejudices yet, you are just trying to make sense of your world. This was, at least, how it was for me as I was growing up. These were the times when nature was my friend.
In the midst of my youth I’d ride my bike during those endless hot summer days, park at the base of a gigantic, old weeping willow tree and climb up into it’s shade. While sitting there amid the trees gnarled branches, I’d gaze out at the sky through the bushy, slender leaves lost in myself. It was during one of these boyhood ventures that the concept of manhood completely overwhelmed me. A sense of power surged through me followed soon after by a sense of dread. The contradiction of this situation intrigued me. I was in awe of the pure power of my masculinity yet I was afraid of what could happen if it was misapplied. I remember thinking of how it would be if I lived in an age or place where society wouldn’t allow me to be a man. I couldn’t imagine myself behind bars with a gift as wonderful as this. I thought of my ancestors who were also aware of this gift and the horror and despair that they must have felt by not being allowed to exercise and express this most basic of God-given rights due to the ignorance, tyranny, and oppression of slavery.
I don’t want to mislead the reader. While it is true that I was able to heed the call of manhood, the person who enabled me to recognize it was my father. Although he wasn’t my biological father, he is my dad. As an ex-orphan, I sometimes let my thoughts wander and think about the type of person I might have become if it wasn’t for this man’s influence in my life. The conclusions that I come up with are rarely positive.
From my early, formative years I remember having a strong sense of my own masculinity but no direction. It was just as natural as breathing. At the time it was something that I took for granted. As I grow older and (hopefully) wiser, I realize how important an aspect my father was in my development and how disastrous I could be if I had no guidance. As I mentioned before, I was orphaned. Since I came from nothing with nothing I was dependent on the kindness of strangers for my survival. As the fates would have it, I survived, thanks to my foster mother, the state of Kansas and my adoptive parents.