Earning Your Keep – Vent LXXII

“I’m not on the outside looking in,
I’m not on the inside looking out
I’m in the dead fucking center, looking around” – Kendrick Lamar [Ab-Soul Outro]

When it comes to differentiating between rights and privileges, let’s look at it like this. You have a right to walk on the sidewalk on a downtown street. You are privileged to walk on a downtown street in a big city in North America. You have tools as a human being that you can use because you are allowed to, and then you have tools that you can use to your advantage to help you grow. There are more analogies that you can use to explain the two, but it’s been a pressing topic of conversation over the past couple of years, although it’s been a centuries long problem that divides White & everyone else. This is not what my vent is about.

We all have the right to dream, and the right to aspire to what we want to do in life. We’re told that as children, and then that same theory breaks down as we get older. Why? Why does that happen?

“You can’t go to the NBA”
“You can’t be a lawyer”
“You can’t win an Oscar”
“You can’t win a Grammy”
“You can’t make a million dollars”

I know not every person has these same views, but it’s not a lie to know that there are naysayers in or around your circle that don’t share the same vision as yourself.

“Man, don’t even waste your time, because there are so many other people who are ahead of you”
“Do you know how hard that is? You’re better off focusing on something else.”
“Be realistic”

Chances are, there will be people who decide on not pursuing the dreams that they started off with, and that is their choice, but no one gives people the right to strike down others’ dreams because they themselves don’t have those high aspirations. There are a lot of doctors, mechanics, lawyers, singers, actors, dancers, etc., all over the place. To generally want to fit into society because it’s more practical and reasonable shouldn’t be the outcome. Yes, there are people who are vaulted into circumstances that hinder their dream chasing, and also having a dead-end job that serves as a temporary income until you decide just what it is that you want to do. But you have that right, as a person to do what it is what you want to do.

I was 9 or 10 years old when my father brought me to the CBC building, Downtown Toronto, when we went on a tour. My eyes were bright the entire time, but my moment of awe came when I saw the set of The National, which is the prominent show that millions of Canadians watch nightly, and a common favourite of my grandparents, so I was familiar with it very much. Fast forward to me at 26 years old, and there are many people around my age who don’t exactly have a clear view as to what they want to do as a person. Before puberty was a thought in my mind, I knew what I wanted to do. At the age of 14 or 15, I sat in my Dad’s car and I told him about my film aspirations and that I wanted to win the highest of them all – Academy Award for Best Directing. At that point, he could have said whatever he wanted to strike down that dream, or tell me that it wasn’t possible. He didn’t. He supported me. Despite where we’re at now in terms of our relationship, that’s something that I won’t forget because it all starts with the little things and the designated few people that share that belief in you. When I discovered video editing, thanks to my high school, I discovered a different love, and thus my dreams shifted from that point on to where I really wanted to excel was in Editing. That’s currently the path I’m on now, and a lot of people don’t have the privileges of having a support system to enable them to get to that point. It’s a lot harder for others, but that doesn’t make it all impossible for them to strive.

The easiest place to look for success stories is in Sports. That’s where you can find the most captivating players, and really we’re in the shift of where Black Quarterbacks are on the verge of being dominant in a sport where they’ve always been (and still are) heavily scrutinized and questioned for their ability in a position that has always been white male dominant (see: Cam Newton), and where the 3-point shot is being more astounding to watch than a power dunk (See: Stephen Curry & LeBron). None of that happens when dreams are struck down. We all have a right to be great at whatever it is that we want to be. The only privilege that I have in this world is that I’m a male who lives in North America. When you through ‘Black’ on top of that, it gets complicated. When you’re a tall, Black male and you’re not in athletics, you’re questioned.

“You should play basketball, you’re so tall.”
“Man, you’re wasting that height.”
“If I was your height, I’d be killing it in the league”

To be a trendsetter, it takes a great deal of concentration, dedication, and sacrifice. Now mind you, not every day I’m working on being a trendsetter by any means. Some days (which are more days than I’d like), I have lazy spells where I just don’t want to do anything, because doing what you love every day isn’t always enjoyable. That’s the truth. Sitting in front of a screen to go through footage all day is not glamorous. People really don’t have the patience for it, but I love the puzzle that it creates. I’m sure not every basketball player in the world wants to play basketball every day. Practice isn’t fun, but it’s necessary if it’s what you love.

Through my career aspirations, I want to be somewhat of a trailblazer. Russell Wilson had a term during his Superbowl year (not that Superbowl) that said “Why not us?” And really, that’s a great question. Why not? Why can’t you make it to the NBA? Why can’t you be a successful artist? Why you win awards? Why not? Why do you have to sit around every year contemplating “what if?” Why not make something out of yourself? The go to answer is usually “it’s hard,” and frankly, if shit weren’t hard, what would the point of doing anything be? You can’t buy your way into success, and if you’re scared of hard work, then I imagine that you just want to fit in instead of stand out.

There are certain pressures that I face throughout my time on my career path. For one thing, I can count on two hands how many people of colour I’ve worked with in TV post-production since I quit retail in 2012. That answer? 8 and that number was updated by 2 based on this recent job. 3 of those people are Black, and only one of them is an editor (a seasoned one, at that). TV production is not something that people who look like me, want to do as a career, because of various things that happen that I won’t get into. In short, it’s not practical. It doesn’t make sense to be involved in an industry that doesn’t contain a lot of visible representation of people who look like me, because they (white people) control the media. Do they have the wealth and resources to do so, so that means they control what they want the people to see (on this side of the world, that is)?

The reason why I want to be someone who leaves a significant mark in life is because I’m a person who has constantly had to strike down the notion that I’m just another Black man in society. Raised in a single parent household through community housing, from somewhat of a rough neighbourhood. Towards a lot of people, my mother and I weren’t supposed to make it out to the point where we’d be living in a neighbourhood that had prominence and significant class status. I wasn’t supposed to find my way into the TV industry by way of an unpaid internship where I saw my losses piling up faster than I could tear them down. There are observations about young Black men that we’re supposed to have like a child, or baby mothers, or have at least been in jail or have some kind of criminal record, and I’m not one.

I have a lot of cousins and I have a sister. I also have a Godson, and a young family on both sides where I’m the first offspring from two proud parents. When you expect things of yourself and others acknowledge it and then create those same expectations, that’s where the pressure falls in, because you don’t want to let anyone (including yourself) down. Also, it’s about setting the standard. Now mind you, there are members of my family who are happily married & have their own successes, and there is no shortage of talent. But in terms of having someone to look up to when you want to do something that you want to and not what others tell you to do? There lies the difference. And it’s something that I strive for.

I know, I could have been the first Black assistant editor to work at every place I’ve worked at in the past few years, and it wouldn’t be a shock to me, because in certain environments (especially when you’re an outcast of some degree), that’s expected. The point is that, I want people to understand that you don’t have to fit a specific mold in order to be successful. What I want to be a success in has nothing to do with music or athletics, and that’s where you see most of us thrive. I want to see people of colour, especially Black people, in areas where there aren’t so many. Be part of the change you want to see happen.

But it’s not about just getting there; it’s earning your way to that position. It’s about having the basic human right to believing that you can reach a significant & successful peak, and not only maintaining your position, but also elevating it. That is a privilege you want; that’s what I want. I want others to dream and make something for themselves because it’s what they want. To be an example for those who didn’t listen to other people when they said their dreams were a waste of time. That’s why I do what I do.

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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