As far back as history can take us Black men have always been a part of our story—some good and some challenging.  Far before the hashtags, Black men’s names and narratives have been written for them and at times by them. In the following letters, 21 Black men openly share radical intimate words and with their fellow Black men. Providing space and time for growth and healing. During these times of daily unrest from views of Black men being killed, abused, protesting, and peacefully kneeling—we must not forget to celebrate Black boy joy, Black men making the world smile, and spreading countless affirmations that Black Men are magical, too. 

 


Black King,

I call you King because you are powerful and deserve your crown (you just don’t know it yet).  Tomorrow people will follow you, be influenced by you, and be better positioned because of you.  Even so, I vividly remember the fears you currently wrestle with.

  • I remember our desire for acceptance.
  • I remember being frozen by intimidation
  • I remember the times that we wished we were “them”
  • I remember holding back because winning would draw attention.

I will keep this short but listen to me well

  • Uniqueness is your superpower and acceptance is found by accepting yourself.
  • “Freezing” provides time to strategize and win with your next step.
  • Stay true to you and tomorrow “they” will ask how to be like you
  • Attention comes because people see a power in you that they don’t see in themselves

Life is reinvention – YOU ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH!

-Darius Hicks
Founder, “While Black” Podcast

 


Dear Black Man,

God has great things in store for you. I know you are tired of hearing people lightly toss those heavy words and you are right to be skeptical of the manner in which they so easily roll. The fact remains that God does have great things in store for you but they will not come without struggle, suffering and sacrifice. You will love and fail, fight and lose, strive and fall short. Even still, God has great things in store for you. 

Nothing about your life has been easy: born to a rebellious teen mother, absentee father, reared by your grandmother, financial hardship, the death of your mother and so many other obstacles. Yet, you have been surrounded by a loving family, a nurturing village and have received the best education. 

Every lesson and experience of adversity that has shaped you as an adolescent will cement the character you will need as a man. There is value in learning to trust God early in your life. Be strong and courageous. God is with you wherever you go.

–The Rev. Eric G. Vickers
Pastor of Beulah Baptist Church, Vine City

 


Dear Black Man,

I would tell you to slow time down as much as possible and don’t be in a rush to get old. 

With age comes more responsibilities. At fourteen years old, I wish someone would have told me to wait until I was a little older to have sex, as it’s more meaningful when you find the right person. 

At fifteen years old, I would say to stop hanging around with the older kids on the block, they are bad influences. Hang with the people headed in the same direction as you. Being sixteen, all there is to do is get better in school and get those grades up, they’re horrible. The more you know is the more you get paid. 

At 17-years old, I would say that you’re doing better in school, but don’t be jealous of the seniors that have the hot cars and the hot girls. One day you’ll have all the hot cars that everyone will be jealous of.  You are 18 years old now, study hard, and earn straight A’s. The real cool kids are the smart ones. Look into studying architectural engineering, you will be a builder one day, that will come in handy.  

Nineteen years old, finish college and get your degree; you’re paying for it, you might as well get something for all the hard work you put in. In your twenties, enlighten yourself with real estate. You will be a broker and a contractor one day and own multiple properties, own apartment buildings, build houses, and manage properties. 

Overall, stay true to yourself, stay loyal, stay humble, work hard, help others, protect your peace, and find happiness in little things. You will find your tribe and get to the place where you want to be in life. You will face challenges, but you have what it takes to overcome them. Use the gifts that God gave you.

-Shaun Wedderburn
Founder of SEW GLOBAL REALITY

 


Dear Black Man,

First of all, you’re fourteen and Mommy passing away is not your fault. At fourteen, you have a fourteen-year-old mind and you’re not mature enough to understand that you need to “love your Mother” and don’t take her for granted because no one is promised to be here tomorrow, especially your Mother. When you are boxing down in Miami, take your training more seriously and really immerse yourself in it—TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. Boxing can take you places and the discipline that you will learn from boxing will help you in the future. 

When you move in with Daddy, try to spend as much time as you can learning and being committed to learning. Time is going to go by so quickly and, before you know it, you will be an adult; so take your time and try to focus on things that can and will help you in the long run such as real estate and online marketing. Think for the long term. Just because you feel a certain way today doesn’t mean you will feel like that tomorrow. Stay out of harm’s way and follow your own path. Don’t be swayed by what everyone else is doing.

When you finish High School, STAY IN THE AIR FORCE. Toughen it out — no matter how hard it gets, stick with it. There is nothing to go back to Springfield. Stop thinking about what your friends are doing and what parties you can be throwing and stay in the AIR FORCE. Make Daddy proud once you get out of the Air Force. Don’t go back to Springfield. Move to Houston or somewhere progressive but, no matter what you do, don’t go back. There is a big world out there just waiting for you to conquer it and don’t try to be in the ‘Music Industry’ and don’t waste your time being a manager. That’s STUPID. There’s no money or longevity in that; instead, focus on the Internet and real estate.

Don’t waste time on things that you cannot control and people you cannot control. Focus on yourself and on education because the more you learn, the more you earn. And there are millions in real estate, the stock market and the Internet. The cool kids won’t be around but the smart kids will be. Leave them alone and walk your own path and stay out of harm’s way. Associate yourself with people who are going somewhere. Get out of your comfort zone and stay in the military. Don’t listen to others, but follow your own heart.

-Ricky McKenzie
Founder of McKenzie Brothers Realty

 


Dear Black Man,

I write this on the day of my daughter’s 21st birthday. Take your time, young man. There are many lessons hidden in the work. Yet, more to be learned by simply living. There is no way to prepare for losing loved ones; just understand that it will happen. Honor them by being grateful for each breath. Save your money now. Your family will love you for it later.  Although this life has many ups and downs, trials and injustices, you must wake up every day and love it. Walk tall, keep your word, and always keep the main thing….the main thing.

-Tory Edwards
Co-Founder of Atlanta Influence Everything

 


Dear Black Man,

This life won’t be easy, but it can be when you learn to let go and laugh. You have to be willing to use anything beneficial for the greater good of humanity. You will laugh harder than you thought you could and probably find yourself in tears with the same intensity. 

You’ll find that discrimination is rampant and real. It’s even more disheartening when it comes from people that look just like you (and me). It’s psychological. Taking on the perspective of your oppressors is def-minded at its highest level, but still, you must and will rise. The same thing they use against you will provide you ultimate power and alignment from the ancestors. When I speak of tapping into your power, use it wisely. 

Now, let me speak—singularly to myself. I’ve stumbled hard and many times. I’ve been fearful, uncertain, and insecure at different points, but it will get better. Focusing on the Creator and finding purpose puts things into perspective. Lack of self-control (chasing every woman you see), envy, greed, and all lower vibrational thoughts will keep you stuck. Avoid those things and always strive to be better. 

Pay homage and show respect to other Kings. Uplift them. There have always been and always will be, multiple Kingdoms. Lastly, respect our Queens. Protect our Queens and watch how much better things become. I can’t get it all done in this message, but it’s a reference point for us to begin to get better. I think I need part two.

-Osei Kweku
I am a Father First, Philanthropist

 


Dear Black Man,

You’re a gift to the world that only you can open. 

Trust yourself. Everything you want for yourself is yours to earn. You are already the version of yourself that you see in your head. 

You’ll meet people who fall short in their understanding of your hopes, your focus, your gifts, your beauty. Laugh. Laugh at them. Laugh at yourself and with yourself. Laugh every time you get yourself wrong, and every time you get yourself right.

You’ll be older soon, and you’ll learn more about yourself. You’ll rise, and fall, and prove yourself, and free yourself from the desire to prove anything. That comes with time. And laughs.

And your laughs are the sweetest sound on Earth.

-Howard L. Robinson, Jr.
Founder of RedClay-Hill

 


Dear Black Man,

We need you. You can do this…keep going. There is so much more on the other side, do better find your tribe, and lastly…GO NOW!  

Compañero, know this: none of this is just for you. Look, of course, some of what you go through is only for you but, mostly, not so much. The experiences and lessons you have the opportunity of going through are also for who you meet and those that come after you. 

One of our main gifts is facilitating in any situation, helping and reaching people where they are. Think, “point guard” — run the offense and set up the situation so that you and whoever you are connected to can be in the best position, more moments than not. 

Set boundaries.  If you don’t know where they are or you’re not clear about them, be prepared because things fall apart. 

Now, GO be who you are capable of being. I love you……GO NOW!

-Derrick J. Parris
Father of a young Black Man

 


My Brother,

As you progress in life learn a healthy selfish love for yourself. The better you maintain yourself, the better man you will be for your family and community. I beg you to remember the following:

  1. Put GOD first. Your spiritual life will manifest your earthly life.  
  2. Education is Freedom and Knowledge is Power. Therefore, you should forever remain a student. Always feed your mind. Never stop learning new subjects, skills, and cultures. Read on all topics from history to current events. 
  3. Health is Wealth! Your body is your spirit’s temple and you need to maintain it at all cost. The best way to do that is to be mindful of what you consume. Everything in moderation. Drink a lot of water daily. Daily physical exercise.
  4. Money is a tool that should be managed as such. Use it to build a stable home environment for you and the ones you love. Also use it to purchase as much real estate as you possibly can. God isn’t making any more earth so you should own as much as you possibly can.
  5. Travel Far and Often. See the world and touch every continent.
  6. Never meet a Stranger. Life is relational, speak to and get to know as many people as possible.
  7. Listen more than you Speak. You learn more when you listen. Become an active listener.  Speak when you have something meaning to say.  

Richard Dunn
Founder of I AM Richard Dunn and Muddy Waters Group

 


Dear Black Man,

As you go through life now, you look back at the things that you thought were cool or things you looked at as a way out is no longer cool or an option.

Learn about real estate and pay close attention to politics. A Black man making money, buy houses and be a power player in the political space. Also, try your best not to have children by random women, use condoms every chance you get. 

All though we are taught not to have regrets, you will have them. My biggest regret today is becoming a Sports Agent instead of going to Law School.the money was great as a Sports Agent but the world (our communities) require more Black men as Lawyers more so than a Sports Agent. Think long game. It’s chess and checkers. 

Duwon “Mooley” Robinson
Owner-Franchisee of Mr. Everything, Decatur

 


Dear Black Man,

There are things I want to tell you about the life you are about to experience. While the path you will choose won’t be easy, be confident in your journey, even when you aren’t clear where you are going. 

Relinquish control as early as you can.

Fatherhood will scare the hell out of you, and it will also make you the best you that you could possibly be. For a period, you will be lost. This is perfectly alright. In fact, it’s a requirement of the job. Don’t spend as much time attempting to figure it all out, as much as you spend the time to truly be present through the experiences. There will be many of them. Each will teach you to lead your home and prepare you to lead communities. You will need every aspect of this preparation. 

Fully accept both the honor and the burden of leadership. That balance matters. 

You have always desired to lead. You will. Despite your confidence, you are about to discover that you are not fully in control. There is great mystery in this life, and that is the beauty of it.

You are up for the challenge. 

Remember what you have learned so far, and be ready to surrender what you think you know for sure. Some of your majestic thinking will have to be sacrificed along the way. You understand the power inside you, but you are a bit naive about the way you understand that power working. That naivety will be taken and replaced with regal understanding,IF you allow it. 

You will receive direction at various points of your journey. Not everyone will understand the nuggets you receive, why you receive them, and why you respond the way you do. That’s because your purpose and journey is uniquely yours. It’s not for anyone else. It’s for YOU. 

Enjoy the journey. Be happy with where you are on the journey, even when you don’t know how it will end. Many people will give you advice. You will thank them sincerely, store their recommendations away, and live YOUR life. Do not hesitate or second guess that mode of operation. It’s exactly how you live a life of no regrets, and the key to the life you desire.

Don’t take so long to let people experience the whole of you. 

Feel your feelings fully. All of them. You can expect to get lost in the journey to understanding your place in the world and your place in YOUR world. You can expect for your heart to hurt -and it will. Your ability to feel is what will protect you, keep you safe, and give you the empathy to continue to give your gifts to the world. Let yourself feel that. Let it sink into your soul. 

GIVE ALWAYS.

Giving is how YOU receive. Those who take advantage of your giving spirit aren’t getting over, they’re getting by. GIVE MORE. It sounds good, but in the midst of those moments, it won’t make sense to anyone. GIVE ANYWAY. Maybe they’ll get it later. Most likely they won’t.

Run your race. 

No matter what happens, you can’t lose. Finish the race you started, and be proud of the race you run. Regardless of the outcome, have an experience that you are proud of. That’s what you can control. The rest will remain a mystery. As soon as possible, get right with that. It will be easier to live, love, and lead. Enjoy the ride as well as those who join you on it. 

I Love You.

Your biggest fan,
Odie Donald II
City Manager of City of South Fulton 

 


Dear Black Man, 

Being a Black man in today’s world as we know it requires knowledge with positive energies. We must always be enlightened by our history and what our ancestors have endured in order for us to be where we are today. 

Be inspired, stay motivated, because the reality of life is “we were born at a disadvantage” this requires us to work twice as hard to achieve the bare minimum. From the teachings of Marcus Garvey to the rise of Barack Obama as the first African-American President of the United States, let’s not forget our true value and self-worth, never doubt yourself or your abilities to be great. 

Unity is strength hence the reason they put us to fight against each other, let’s unite and claim our right to existence. Today, I say rise and be great let’s live in love and peace while we change the narrative of the Black man. We were born kings, we are still kings today and we will be Kings forever.

–Elrick Cross
Retired Corporal of The Jamaica Defense Force

 


Dear Black Man, 

First of all, I just wanted to say, “thank you.” I really appreciate you taking the time out to read my thoughts and ideas as a Black man and father of two at 41 years old. I was wondering what to say, then a song came through my playlist, “The Light” by Big Sean ft. Jeremih. That’s when I knew what I wanted to tell you — do not to let them take “your light,”  no matter what “they” throw at you. 

In my experience as whatever an African American male is, it seems as if conformity is pushed on us at every turn. America, in particular, doesn’t seem to be too keen on embracing the Black man’s light. I’m not sure how others would define “the light,” but my definition is based on “The Glow” from “The Last Dragon” and my own wanderlust to live “my life” to the fullest. In theory, this shouldn’t be hard, especially due to the monetary status of some Black men, but this is just perception mirrored in reality. 

In truth, it’s identifying your true self and using that to ride the wave of the world, because it is truly yours, King! As I’m currently experiencing, when you start embracing to your own light, it starts to glow outwardly for all to see. At, this point, you must remember to whom much is given, much is required. Protecting the Black Woman, raising the Black Family,  and leading the Black Community shall lead us all into the source of the LIGHT… GOD!!!

– Bem Joiner
Co-Founder of Atlanta Influences Everything

 


Dear Black Man, 

Continue being patient in making moves and accepting all people. 

Dr. Maya Angelou once said,I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This is something you try your best to live by, yet we don’t always make it that easy. 

Remember, always be thankful for the community that surrounds you. Be thankful for the past because those giants kicked down doors you’ll never have to pass through as you move forward. 

Be patient with self and others as these blessings continue to shower during the darkest of moments. Stay Humble! 

Scripture tells us all the time, in James 1:19, “My beloved brothers, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” 

Baldwin reminds us, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

– James King, Jr. M.A.Ed
Founder of Hollis King Company

 


Dear Black Man,

Why do we say “Black Lives Matter” then a year later we are killing our brothers and sisters? I get that the government put guns and drugs in our communities but how come we just can’t overcome it? Can’t we just think of a good way to use it instead of using it in harmful ways? 

Also, why when a Black Man dies it’s a whole lot of outrage (not saying that it’s not a big deal), but when a Black woman dies it’s just nothing being said or just not getting enough attention. For example Secoriea Turner, Atatiana Jefferson, Miriam Carey, and etc. None of those women got the attention that they needed or deserved. Why, do we come up with gangs instead of business? 

If we make a business, imagine what we can do next. Other communities have their own businesses that are created for and by them—we can too. It might be a long shot but if we put our heads and money together then we can be as powerful as I know we are.  

-Gabrie Irving
Atlanta Native + 5th Grade Student

 


Dear Black Man, 

Keep going even when you don’t see how it will end,

Enjoy the moment more and stop rushing everything,

Keeping God first isn’t a slogan, it’s a way of life,

Save more money than you think, you’re gonna need a lot more of it,

When it comes to money realizing your burn and spending habits are more important than what you make,

You won’t realize that you love her until she already loved you and left you, only make that mistake once,

Never buy someone else’s attention that came with borrowed time,

You can never have enough true friends, only enemies

No one is paying attention to you as much as you think, be happy,

Even if your work is not good enough to your standards, put it out anyway

Love your father with the same energy as your mother, it will help you be whole

Your brother is a gift from God, cherish him,

Your aunt is a blessing, your uncle is a blessing, your grandparents are blessings,

Count all of them,

There is no happy ending and that’s the best thing to happen, happiness is continual and has no expiration date,

Keep God first.

-King Willams
Freelance Journalist & Film Director

 


Dear Black Man,

Love is all that matters.  Love rules the world.  Love makes things happen.  Love heals all wounds.  Love conquers all.

If you spread love, you’ll get love in return.  And when you get an abundance of love, you are a king.  Because kings don’t rule out of fear, they rule out of love.  Dictators rule out of fear.

Love is the answer to any question you will ever have.  If you lead off with love, it will soon come back around… sometimes ten times as strong.  Love is why I am the man I am today.  I think Brooklyn and my mom taught me to spread love.  They say “Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way.”  And my mom shared love with everyone; even when she was hating, it was out of love.

But, don’t let your heart control your mind. That’s when you start making bad decisions… illogical decisions. Love sees no wrong, you need the logical mind to balance things out and direct your decisions. However, most of the time, the decision based on love is the best decision.

So Black man, continue to love and practice love every chance you get.  It will make you a happy man in the future.

-Ian Ford
CCO of Atlanta Influences Everything

 


Dear Black Man,

Don’t be in a haste to grow up. Enjoy your school days with your peers. Whether you like most of them or not. Enjoy your weekends home listening to your Dad play music. Meanwhile, your Mommy prepares dinner. As a matter of fact. Go into the kitchen and help your mother. Maybe, you’ll learn to prepare a meal or three!  

Acknowledge the teachers that took an extra interest in you. For they saw the potential you never knew you possessed.  Not only should you listen to their words. But, take heed and make the necessary changes and improvements. 

Another key thing: stay with track and field. Your parents aren’t as supportive. But, it’s not because they don’t care or think you can’t make it. They are products of how they were raised. All they know is work, work and work. Their focus is paying bills and taking care of you and your siblings. They were not taught that slaving yourself for a job that cares minimum to zero about their workers is not the way to wealth or financial freedom. But, give thanks anyway. Because that same hustle from your parents is injected in your DNA; as a man with his own family one day, you’ll want to hug, hold and thank them for those examples that they weren’t aware they were setting.

You are coming of age, coming into your manhood, gaining more self-confidence. Don’t forget to remain humble, and don’t let your naiveté make you think you’re any less of who you are. It can be a blessing. Just protect yourself and your energy. Also, don’t forget the things you witnessed take place between parents. 

You got married young and you blame yourself for A LOT. But, don’t! Being married saved you, especially being married to the woman you chose. She couldn’t have been better fitted for you. Just respect her more, cherish her more and continue to love her. Let her know the only regret you had is not being better prepared for such a blessing as her and your children.

I know things can get rough. But, don’t get too caught up on work, work, work. You’re gonna fall into the same pattern as your parents. Instead, make more time to spend with your children while they’re young. Spend time grooming, teaching, and loving on them. They’ll need that most importantly as young men in a society like today.

You’re doing the best you can. Keep the Almighty first, as He makes all things possible. Many times, when you didn’t know how, what, where, or when. He made a way!!  So, keep praising him, doing good and goodwill continuously follow as ALWAYS!! Love is the answer and the only way.

–Stephen Dyer
Founder of SDD Mechanical, LLC 

 


Dear Black Man,

I remember only yesterday you were a boy. You’re a man now with your own convictions, investigations due to the folds of experiences you’ve gathered on the road. You’ve been through the motions very fast. 

Time has been eventful with love’s nurturing from parents and family all through these years. Though you did experience downtimes from which you’re still learning to gain adept insight of the self, you’ve walked more than half the journey of pain, and, certainly, you’d overcome its weights. 

Pain isn’t sweet, it hasn’t been sweet, but you’ve indeed expanded the scale of your mind’s worth through it. This is the path many would have loved not to travel, and indeed few welcome it without breaking apart or falling into the thief’s vault of depression like a prisoner on death row. So, just keep going. It will all make sense one day. 

Elikplim Akorli
Poet. Writer. Artist.

 


Dear Black Man,

I hope this letter finds you well as you matriculate through this current stage of life.  A life that you have been blessed with. A life that has presented so many challenges that have deterred and distracted you from discovering your true purpose.  

This thing called life varies in stages, and the challenges that you face will be personal. Your challenges will involve family, your professional career, your health, and relationships. Your priority will be to persevere through adversity and come out on the other side a better person.  Life is funny. We are either currently in a storm, coming out of a storm or about to go into a storm. You must prepare yourself accordingly. 

Remain focused and disciplined to accomplish the task(s) at hand, which will in turn enhance your self-confidence. Continue to learn about yourself on every level, mentally, spiritually, and physically.  The only limits in this life are the ones you place on yourself. Remain driven and ambitious. Always celebrate the small victories as much as the large ones. 

Remind yourself that it is necessary to learn through the process of failure. And no matter what, never stop moving because nothing happens if you do not put things in motion for yourself.

–Lance Irvin
Founder of Irvin Development, LLC 

 


Dear Black Man,

 

You are loved. I love you. Your village loves you. God loved you first.

You will not always understand and appreciate what life gives you but it is only designed to fulfill the Will of the Father and enlarge your own territory. Lean into the gifts He has given. Trust the wisdom of the ancestors. Feel deeply and wholly.

Treasure the 35 years you had with your Twin Brother. One day, the Ancestors will call him home in a senseless act of violence. It will take lots of self-love and healing to get over that loss, but you will survive. He will become one of our guardian angels.

Continue to love hard and give freely. Your real wealth is in the Spirit realm.

You are loved. I love you. Your village loves you. God loved you first.

—Marshall Latimore
Editor-In-Chief, The Atlanta Voice

Tory Edwards, co-founder of Atlanta Influences Everything, and Zak Wallace, owner of Local Green Atlanta, share a brotherly embrace at the opening session of TEDxCollier Heights last fall. (Courtesy: TEDxCollier Heights)

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