OZY Does #GrowingUpBlack

OZY Does #GrowingUpBlack

Why you should care

Because growing up is hard and hilarious for everyone.

The African-American experience encompasses great joy and sorrow, immense challenges and wonderful food. Which is all pretty universal. But as African-Americans used the #growingupblack hashtag on Twitter and Facebook this week to share memories of their childhood, we’ve been flooded with stories that are fun, hilarious, unique.

Take the kid who missed curfew by a single minute and whose super-strict mom lay in wait for him with the lights down. To scare the living lights out of him, of course. There was also the story of the cousins that visited grandma only to spend the nights sleeping on the floor with their cousins under a single blanket. Then there were the stories of hair, in all its glory and arduousness.

At OZY, we often profile African-Americans on the rise. Check out their stories below.

The Terror of the Flatiron

Southern California writer Hope Wabuke tells the true story of her difficult experience growing up with the ideals of white beauty and how she eventually managed to learn to love herself.

“I wanted to see myself. I wandered the stacks, looking at the book covers, searching for a face that looked like mine. There was none — just like there were no faces that looked like mine in the books we read in class or the shows we watched on television at home. Until, one day, I found The Bluest Eye. It is not just that Toni Morrison wrote a story about a little black girl; Morrison wrote the story of little black girls everywhere. In a world that adopts whiteness — specifically blond, blue-eyed whiteness as the sole standard of beauty — the one thing every little black girl has experienced is being told your blackness makes you ugly. And reading the story of a little black girl named Pecola Breadlove and the necessity of learning to love yourself and value your blackness despite those voices shone a bright light. It validated my existence.” Read more here.

CJ Pearson

Source Jon-Michael Sullivan for OZY

The Conservative Whiz Kid

Coreco “CJ” Pearson Jr. is a 12-year old kid who knows and cares a lot more about the American political process than your regular Joe. He’s also working – hard – to lower the age restrictions on holding public office in his home state of Georgia.

“At CJ’s house in an Augusta suburb, overlooking a lake, his parents were surprised to see a reporter show up on their doorstep. CJ had, apparently, forgotten to tell them. But his parents — two Democrats, at that — seemed used to CJ running his own show. “My husband goes, ‘Well, I think he’s just doing this for now,’” Robin Pearson said. As for her? “I told him, ‘You’re a child. You’ve got to run slow.’” Like many moms, CJ’s plays chauffeur plenty. Only instead of shuttling him between swim practice and quiz team, it’s 8 a.m. breakfast meetings. He devotes at least 40 hours a week to political business — as soon as he gets home from school, it’s straight to the telephones to agitate legislators.” Read more here.

Eric Dean

Portrait of Eric Dean

Source Alyson Aliano

A Childhood Dream Beckons

Eric Dean Seaton was a successful TV director and producer by his early 40s but he always felt that he could have been a great comic writer. So he just decided, on a whim, to become one. And guess what? He did it, by mining his own community for inspiration for his fake-heroes. And his stories might affect kids growing up.

“It didn’t take long for Seaton to decide that he would one day create his own story where he, an African-American, could be a hero. It was important to me that my character be a minority, because people of all nationalities are around us in the real world,” Seaton says. “And even though the book is multicultural, since I didn’t see a lot of characters that looked like me growing up, he had to be an African-American.

To be sure, there’s more diversity in the comic universe today than when Seaton was a boy. Marvel recently appointed an African-American as the new Captain America, a black Hispanic as Spider-Man and a female as the new Thor. It also cast actor Michael B. Jordan in the role of the Human Torch in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot film. Still, for the most part, African-Americans are only added to an already existing universe that is otherwise devoid of color.” Read more here.

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