Black Man, What Does It Mean To Be You?
We are still trying to paint our Black men in a positive light in such a negative world. Continuing with the men’s series this month, we talk with Jamal Moss about how he defines masculinity and what being a Black man means to him. Women aren’t the only ones with societal standards that need to be redefined. Jamal shares with us life lessons he has learned along the way as a Black man. Through reading his answers, you will be to understand just how humble, strong, and amazing he truly is. I am proud to call him my friend.
I always have my featured persons introduce themselves to the audience. Take some time to let the readers know who you are. Don’t hesitate to drop some accolades.
I am Jamal Moss and my pronouns are he/him/they. I grew up on the east side of Charlotte, NC (Queen City 704444) and I am the oldest of five siblings. I graduated from NC State University with a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology and attended graduate school at Duke University where I obtained a master’s degree in bioethics and science policy. Shoutout to all the first-generation, low-income students.
I currently live in Nashville, TN where I attend Meharry Medical College as a second-year medical student. I plan to practice family medicine and I am passionate about healing and transformative justice. I love serving my community and finding different ways to give back.
I recently served as the chair of the Environmental Justice and Health subcommittee of the Racial Equity Task Force for the City of Durham. Right now, I volunteer at Meharry’s community COVID-19 testing sites and serve as the City Council Liaison and Political Organizer for Meharry’s White Coat For Black Lives chapter.
What was your first lesson on masculinity? Does that “lesson” have any impact on your life now?
I first became aware of masculinity in middle school as a shy little Black boy who was trying to understand his queerness. I learned early on that being masculine was associated with being emotionally numb, aggressive, violent, misogynistic, egocentric, and homophobic. I spent a lot of time reflecting on who I was and why I existed. I felt like society told me that I should hate myself and didn’t deserve to be happy. It made me think that I was destined to live a life full of violence, trauma and unfortunate events. As a kid, I was depressed but at the time I didn’t have the emotional intelligence to comprehend what that meant. My adverse childhood experiences have heavily affected who I am today and how I chose to express myself as a Black gay man. Today, I choose joy. I choose to live unapologetically. And I choose to love and protect myself.
I define masculinity as being able to lead with compassion without relegating or subjugating others……..I define masculinity as supporting the people in my life in ways they want and need, and not how I think they should be treated.Jamal Moss
What was your first lesson on being a Black man in White America?
It’s hard to pinpoint the moment I realized what being a Black man in America meant but one salient memory I have involves my childhood best friend who is white. I lived with my grandmother in Virginia up until middle school. She worked in the timeshare industry and always had long work days. After school, I would spend a lot of my time with my best friend and his family. One day, he asked me why do Black people sag their pants. We had to be no older than 7 or 8. I can’t remember what my response was, but I will never forget how it made me feel. I could tell there was a negative connotation associated with his question and it made me uncomfortable. That moment was my first encounter with a stereotype about Black men and I didn’t know how to react. That experience, along with many others, made me conscious of race and its impact on how people interacted with me.
How do you define masculinity?
I believe masculinity is an energy and is not restricted by the constructs of gender or sex. I understand masculinity as being fluid and dynamic. I define masculinity as being able to lead with compassion without relegating or subjugating others. It means embracing vulnerability and the courage to ask for help when you feel like you have nothing left to give. I believe that masculinity does not mean the absence of femininity nor does it see weakness in it. The two energies work harmoniously and both are needed to be balanced. They are yin and yang; they are giving and receiving. It’s finding the right balance of being selfish and selfless in order to protect and nurture your energy.
I define masculinity as supporting the people in my life in ways they want and need, and not how I think they should be treated. I define it as exuberating love and making space for people to express themself unapologetically in ways that make them feel happy and secure.
What does being a Black man mean to you?
Being a Black man means I am constantly fighting for my life. But it also means I have to be cognizant of the ways I engage with the people in my life and community. It means I have to work twice as hard to unpack my trauma, toxic behaviors, and emotional baggage so I don’t place that burden on my partner or loved one. It means I have to address the violence and harm Black men inflict on Black women and hold those men accountable, including myself. I also have the responsibility of combating homophobia and transphobia, forms of violence that hold back the collective fight for liberation. As a Black man, I have to be more intentional about choosing health, wellness, and peace; I am responsible for my healing, not anyone else.
How have the recent killings of unarmed Black men affected your life as a Black Man?
It has left me an emotional wreck. I’m enraged by the violence and racism Black people face in this country, and around the world; anti-blackness is global. I’m fearful of doing things that are beneficial to my well-being like going on walks or bike rides around the neighborhood. I’ve even started having nightmares about angry white people attacking me and breaking into my home trying to kill me. Anxiety has taken over my life and I’m trying to find healthy ways to deal with it. I’ve never experienced this level of stress before and it is challenging me to be more intentional about practicing self-care and doing things that bring me joy.
Recently, I’ve been going to therapy and being more open with my friends and family about the ways stress physically manifests in my life and its effect on my behaviors. This moment in time has also inspired me to join the fight to dismantle systemic racism. My rage and disgust fuel my desire to fight for equity and justice in this white supremacist, cis-normative, hetero-normative, imperialist, capitalist and patriarchal country. Until all of my people are free, none of us are free.
Black men have regimens too. Do you have any hair, beard, or skincare regimens? If so, what are they?
I am trying to do better about building a consistent regiment. It’s hard. I’m not going to lie lol especially as a medical student who barely has time to sleep. However, I’ve found that I am my best self when I have time in my schedule for reflection and introspection. Right now, I enjoy going on evening walks along park trails and dancing. My skincare routine is very simple and consists of me washing my face daily and applying facial toner and argan oil. My beard game is weak so I don’t even worry about that but I do enjoy finding new ways to style my hair. One day you might catch me with a man bun and the next rocking some twist. I embrace it all. Areas that I want to improve on are journaling and finding more creative outlets.
Lastly, we always love to end an interview with some words of encouragement for our readers. What words of encouragement would you like to share?
Your crown has already been bought and paid for. All you have to do is get it.
I hope you enjoyed reading everything Jamal had to share as much as I did. Drop a comment below if you would like to continue reading material like this. Also, make sure you subscribe to stay up-to-date on all new posts!