E18: Addressing Toxic Masculinity with E.G. Bailey
In this episode, SooJin and E.G. talk about the Minnesota artist community, the importance of “being in the tradition” a la Amiri Baraka, and how he and his partner are raising their two Black boys to be sensitive, confident, and creative souls. E.G. spits all kinds of wisdom, as he discusses how the women in his life, along with embracing his own feminine energy, has nurtured a healthy masculinity that he models for his sons, encouraging them to express their full range of emotions. He also discusses the importance and power of creating a mantra, a family creed, to instill in our children the core values you want to teach them. Doing so helps to build in them a strong foundation of pride, confidence, and respect that they can draw on throughout their lives. By the way, there’s an unexpected guest who makes her presence known towards the end of the episode. Her name is Prima :)
Tru Ruts (Art organization founded by Sha Cage and E.G. Bailey)
Tish Jones of TruArtSpeaks
E.G. Bailey’s Cineplays
Mamba Mentality: How I Play by Kobe Bryant
Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard
E18: Addressing Toxic Masculinity with E.G. Bailey
Co-hosts: SooJin Pate and Hannah Carney
Guest: E.G. Bailey
Intro (music by Mike Myth Productions):
SooJin: Welcome to the Antiracist Parenting Podcast, where we're working to create an antiracist world for ourselves, our children, and future generations to come.
Hannah: We are Hannah Carney and SooJin Pate. And we're coming to you not as experts but as parents who want to share our missteps and successes in raising antiracist children. Thank you for being on this journey with us, as we work together to build a community of antiracist parents who are raising a generation of antiracist kids.
SooJin: Welcome to Episode 18. We are continuing our series on toxic masculinity with E.G. Bailey, a pioneer artists, activator, and friend. But before I get to our conversation with him, I just have an announcement to make. We have another patron, Maya Daniels—who Wayne Lee wanted to lift up in Episode 16—is our most recent patron of our podcasts and just how generous and kind of her to be supporting our work. So thank you, Maya.
We asked Maya if she wanted to lift up anyone, and I'll just read the response that she sent us. She says the following. I would like to uplift Gina Gray, Erika Jones, and Cecily Myart-Cruz -- all union (UTLA) sisters who are constantly engaging in the work despite innumerable challenges, assaults on their dignity, and toxic stress. They are incredible for their persistence, vulnerability, courage, and love for education and unionism.
I would also like to uplift Godfrey Santos Plata, who is a dear thought-partner and friend. Godfrey keeps me reflective and inspired, as well as up-to-date on local and state politics. You can follow him on social media at twitter.com/godfreyplata or instagram.com/godfreyplata
I will make sure to include those in the show notes. So thanks so much Maya for introducing these great people in our lives and expanding our network. And thanks again for being a patron of our podcast.
So it’s time for my Accountability Check-In with you all. In the episode with Kyle, I made the commitment to check out the books he mentioned, as well as the resources on his website. I pre-ordered a copy of his book of poems that's going to be coming out in the Spring, “Not A Lot of Reasons to Sing, But Enough.” I also downloaded digital copies of All We Can Save and The Great Derangement - those two books that he talked about. So they are on my to-do list of books to read.
I also can’t stress enough how incredible Kyle’s resources page is! I’m totally going to incorporate some of the spoken word videos into my classroom. As I was watching them—especially the ones on white supremacy and toxic masculinity—my mind was swirling with all the ways I could incorporate them into my syllabus. So I’m excited to build them into the next class I teach.
The videos on consent were also really good. I’m going to watch and discuss with Sxela Kyle’s poem “Consent at 10,000 feet” and “Pigeon Man” by Jamila Woods. Both were just really great. So these are the ones I’m gonna watch with Sxela. I’ll let you know how our conversation goes!
So the intention that I'd like to set for today's episode: While I don't have a son, I have sons on my heart today. And I want to create a space where the energy that is generated by this conversation sends ripples, sends waves of love and joy and warmth to Black and Brown boys everywhere.
I want to celebrate the magic and brilliance that's embodied in our sons because the great men I know—and I know some incredible, amazing, great men (one of which is with us today)—they were little boys at one time. And I want to honor and cherish the amazing men in my life by honoring their journey as sons. So that's the intention for today. And I can't think of a better person who embodies this intention than E.G. Bailey, a beautiful son, a beautiful man, and a beautiful father, raising beautiful boys with my dear friend, Sha Cage, an equally brilliant and beautiful soul.
So E.G., could you tell us a little bit more about who you are, where you come from, and what you do. And if you have an intention for our time today, you can share that, as well.
E.G.: My name is E.G. Bailey, and I'm a polydisciplinary artist. I've worked in different concentrations at different periods of my life. When I originally came to the Twin Cities, I was primarily a performer and a writer. And then I got into radio at KFAI, and I was the volunteer and training director there for about four years and was also a radio programmer, running a couple shows. And then I had an opportunity to go back home to Liberia, which I hadn't been back to since I was 10 years old. When I came back from there, I moved from primarily being a performer in theater art into film. But by chance, and also feeling a community need, we started the Minnesota Spoken Word Association. We called the Spoken Word producers together, along with our elders and mentors, J.Otis Powell! and Carolyn Holbrook and had a conversation about, you know, where we were at and where we wanted to go. And that ended up spawning the Minnesota Spoken Word Association. We became actively involved with that for like the next 10 years.
We had supported and mentored the next generation of young artists, you know.
SooJin: Sure did!
E.G.: And created platforms and opportunities for them to grow as artists. And just in the way that, you know, J.Otis and Carolyn and Ani Sabare, Renee Ford, David Mura, Alex Pate, Carolyn Holbrook, Laurie Carlos, Patrick Scully, you know, all these folks that have mentored me and given to our generation, I felt like it was the right time to pass the torch, you know? And so we handed some of the programming off to Tish Jones and TruArtSpeaks and felt that we had done the groundwork and planted the seeds and supported the Spoken Word community and helped to make it more known and taken seriously as an art form. It felt like we had tilled the seed enough for others to move it forward. And many of those things still continue.
So at the same time, I was running Tru Ruts and, also along with it, a record label. I got to a point when my first son Jordan was born. Running nonprofits is very, as you know, it's very taxing and draining and it's just a lot of work. And I was working about a hundred hours plus a week, running these different organizations, at the same time, managing artists, trying to tour, producing. You know, we produced like 20 albums in a period of four years. It was very intense. But I started to realize that I wasn't being as much of an artist as I was more being an organizer. I had gotten away from the reason why I even started the organizations, which was to create platforms for artists. But then I wasn't practicing as much.
And when our first son Jordan was born, I just remember— You know, there's a photo of him that I sent out with the birth announcement of him, laying and looking at the camera and he just had these piercing eyes. But I remember looking in his eyes and it was very challenging. It's almost like he was speaking to me and challenging me, like, “Yo, dude! What are you going to do?” And this thought came to my mind and I was like, “How am I going to teach this child to strive for his dreams to be the best he can be? Everything that I had within myself in terms of what I envisioned for my life and my future, how can I pass all this on when I'm not doing it?” And it really checked me, and I had to really sit down and look at, “Okay, what do I really want to do? And how am I going to reconcile this and raise my child the right way? If I'm not going for my dreams, if I'm not striving to be better and to accomplish things, how can I teach him the same things?”
And that's when I realized I needed to go back to my core and to where I started. I needed to reground myself. And so I pulled back from running the organizations. And we closed down the record label. And I started all over. I went back to being an assistant theater director. I had already been a director. I had already been an actor. But I just felt like I wanted to go back to ground zero. I wanted to go back and start all over.
We were teaching theater classes at the U of M at the time. And I walk out of the class and I literally bump into Marion McClinton. I had seen him about a year or so before. He had just directed “Pa’s Hat,” which is a Liberian play. And I had gone to see the show. You know, he was an icon in the cities, but he was working on Broadway and he was busy. He was hardly ever in town. And so we didn't connect as much as I would've liked to. So when I walked out of the theater class, like a year later and bumped into him, he's like, “What are you up to?” And I said, “Well, I'm trying to be an assistant director.” And he said, “Do you want to be my assistant?” It took me about five seconds. I was like, “Yes!” And he said, “Okay.” And I became his assistant and, we worked together about eight years, and we spent a lot of time together.
It was amazing period of learning, of friendship, of building as artists, of being collaborators. You know, sadly, he passed away the end of 2019. But he taught me so much. He taught me not just how to be a better artist but to be a better man. But a big part of what Marion also taught me is how to be a father. I really watched how he interacted with his son Jesse and the kind of relationship that they had and how he just— You know, Marion had had a chance to run very large theaters, but it would have meant leaving the Twin Cities. It would've meant giving up life here and being away from his son. And he wouldn't do it. He gave up those opportunities to be closer to home and be with his son and his family. And that was profound to me ‘cause he could have had a very easy, cush job and life and been in the limelight and things like that. And he gave those up for his family, and it was just always amazing to me. And just the relationship between the two of them was always amazing and wonderful to watch, and I just love watching him be a father.
So I took a lot of that with me. In raising my kids, I try to do the same. I try to be present. I try to be there for them. And you know, there's some things I've given up and some things I've sacrifice because I want them to have the kind of environment and stability that they need to grow up to be brilliant, healthy, strong, loving young men. Yeah, it's a choice you make and I'm happier for it.
An interesting tangent: the pandemic opened an opportunity to actually bring theater and film together with this new style that I developed called “cineplays,” which is looking at theater, capturing the performance like you would shoot a scene in a film, and use all the cinematic language, the cinematic techniques, and approach it exactly as you would approach shooting a film. It's giving people a chance to experience theater in a new way. When you're seeing it as a theater show, you don't get a chance to get close to them. But getting a chance to actually be close to the set, be close to that light pole, be able to go upstairs with the actor to the different rooms on the set just gave people such a more personal intimate and lived in experience of the play. So that's kind of where I am right now: shooting cineplays, shooting music videos, and shooting short films.
You know, this is my curse. You asked one question, and I can go on forever.
SooJin: Yeah, so can I get in another question here?
SooJin: Because given that the topic for this particular episode is around toxic masculinity, I want to make sure that we do hit on that topic, especially since you're raising boys. Curious about like, when you're thinking about the kind of men that you want your sons to grow into and to be, what have you thought about? What are you thinking about? And how are you raising your boys to become men who don't participate in these very toxic, harmful, forms of masculinity in our society?
E.G.: Yeah, yeah. It's interesting because our generation, that type of thinking wasn't really at the forefront. And you would get sort of that traditional like “Men don't cry” and “You have to be strong and not emotional.” And there was a period in the mid to late nineties. Metrosexual came to the forefront and that kind of threw a lot of men ‘cause they're like, “We're supposed to be strong men” but metrosexual is a thing. How do we get in touch with that?
But for me, I always feel like I've been in touch with my emotions. And I would always say, even in high school, in college, like being in touch with your feminine side, not feeling a need to always be so masculine and so testosterone and so male. But I always felt like I was in touch with my emotions, and I didn't fear being emotional. I didn't fear crying and breaking down and being hurt. If I was hurt, you know, feeling it and showing it.
Women always factored heavily in my life. Women have always had such a huge influence on my life. And part of the reason that I was even able to come to the US was because of a Peace Corps volunteer named Phyllis. I just showed up at her door one day ‘cause I was very actively looking for my father. And so every time I would see a white person, because my father' white. He was a Peace Corps volunteer and ended up in Liberia and married my mom and then ended up coming back to the US because in the Peace Corps, you only get two terms. And so he had to leave. And because the way our tradition is that the oldest daughter, the Mandingo tradition, the oldest daughter stays behind for the parents when they get old. And so my mother couldn't leave because she was the oldest. And so I knew my father was American, and I knew my father was white. So anytime any white person would come to our village or I was in Monrovia and I see a white person, I would approach them and say, “Do you know my father? Can you help me find him?” And so I went to Phyllis's house and [asked], “Do you know him? And can you help me find him?” She was very shocked and she was just kind of curious about this whole situation. And so, because she had access to the Peace Corps database, she was able to find the contact information for my father. And so she contacted my father, and we were able to connect and I was able to come to the US to meet him. So she was a huge influence. I mean, she changed my life.
And before that my mother was a huge influence on me. Taught me and raised me. And she was running her own business; she was running a restaurant in a hotel. Anybody that came up and didn't have food or didn't have money, she would feed them, you know? So she was just an example of how to be in the world. And through grade school and junior high school, women teachers always supported me and looked after me.
And I always felt closer to women in terms of friendship and relationships than men. Most of my closest friends are actually women. And so I just grew up really honoring and appreciating women and respecting them and holding them up in high esteem.
You go through relationships and you can strive to do better, you know? I mean, we all do. And so there are times when I was very male in relationships. But the opportunity to meet someone like Sha and build a relationship with her, just this amazing light of a person. I always say she walks into a room and she just lights it up. The chemistry and dynamics of a room changes when she walks in.
E.G.: And she just carries so much joy and so much light in her and literally just changes people. And so the experience of being with her and just really seeing— I mean, she amazes me and I admire her so much. She's so intelligent, so talented. And I just always felt honored to be in a relationship with someone that is just so strong and powerful. And this male idea of, you know, “The male leads.” My experience in life, in my relationship with women, has always dispelled that. I always said, I'm looking for a partner that I can walk side by side with or even follow. I don't want to be in a situation where it's this paradigm where the person I'm with is supposed to be behind me or these patriarchal kind of structures and concepts. I feel lucky to have found someone like that. And so in raising our boys, they have that example of just what a paragon of femininity and womanhood and what a strong, powerful, independent, beautiful, intelligent woman looks like and is. And so we talk about that a lot and teaching them about respecting women, teaching them about how to interact with women and the kind of relationships you have. But also teaching them, you know, it is okay to cry. When they were younger and something would happen, whether they got hurt or some emotional thing would happen, we encouraged them to let it out. Don't close off that emotion, you know? Experience that and let that out. It's okay. Don't let people tell you that men don't cry or men don't feel emotion.
And for me, one of the key things is respect. Like it’s one of my lines in the sand. A lot of things can happen to me, but disrespect? I don't engage well with people that don't respect me because I always give people respect. And so I expect and appreciate respect back. You don't have to like me. You don't have to agree with me. But that foundation of respect has to be there because then we can't engage and we can't function. And so I feel like that's important in our relationships but also male-female relationships because that's the utmost.
If you don't respect anybody, you can treat them any kind of way that you want. And when you respect people, even if you don't agree with it, you value who they are and where they are. And then you can have a dialogue and you can engage. But also it leads you to a place of non-judgment. And to me, that's one of the key things that I try to teach the kids is getting to a place of non-judgment. I think that's where you do value people's experience, you do value where they are, who they are. And I think when you have that, we evolve as a culture.
You know, we've been through so many changes. Especially the last five years. I think you can engage with that in a healthier way when you have that foundation of respect and non-judgment. And I think it takes away a lot of the toxic-ness in all areas, the toxic-ness of race and in masculinity. I just think it's so important. And I think we're missing that a lot right now. It's sort of like everybody's sort of creating their territory, you know? Like, “This is my territory. You can't impede on it. I'm going to do what I'm going to do and if you don't agree with it, there's something wrong.” And I just think we're in such an unhealthy place in that way.
One of the things that you mentioned before as we were connecting to make this work: how do you raise kids in an environment today in terms of antiracism? And for me, a big part of that is pride. When you teach kids to have pride in who they are, where they come from, where they're going, and they have that confidence in who they are and where they're from, I think then they can have better relationships with others. And it minimizes a lot of that toxic-ness. The more you can love yourself, then you're able to love others.
I think it's very difficult to be happy and love others if you can't even look in the mirror and love and appreciate what you see and who you are. And so that's always been very big for us from the start, from before they could even speak, you know. Speaking words into them, speaking confidence into them, and speaking pride into them. Those are the foundations of pride, respect, non-judgment but also being aware of what's happening in the world and in your community.
It was a challenge at first, you know, being an activist and thinking, when are they ready to engage with what's happening in the world? And how much do you protect their childhood and not have it be impinged by all this happening in the world, especially in terms of how Black folks are treated in the world, you know? And how do you protect their wellbeing, their self-perception? How do you protect that from the negativity that all that comes with? So that's always been a huge part of raising them is teaching them where they come from.
And we have a mantra that we created that they've been saying since, two, three years old. As soon as, you know, they can make sense of it. And it's, “I'm smart. I'm strong. I'm confident. I'm African. And I'm a Cage-Bailey.” We always say that. We say it when we wake up in the morning. We say it when we go to bed. And, for me, again, it's creating that foundation from the go: I'm smart, I'm strong, I'm confident, I'm creative—like those are the core values. And then also to remember where you come from: I'm African. Yes, you're American and yes, you live in America and this is where you were born and where you’re gonna grow up. But you're African. And then back to family: I'm a Cage-Bailey, you know?
And to me, that sort of summed up that core foundation that we wanted to create. And then where they go from there—as we go through experiences in life—we don't know, but I felt like if we could instill that, that's a good start.
SooJin: Yeah, they’re going to be all right. They'll be able to navigate their way in the spaces that aren't for them and that don't respect them, right? It's not only a touchstone and foundation that you're providing them with; it's also armor.
E.G.: Yup. And we take them— You know when the George Floyd protests were happening, we would take them to protest and we’d take them to organizing events, and they’d engage and they’d sit in circles with us, and we encouraged them to speak up and encouraged them to be clear and confident about who they are and to claim who they are. At like six, seven years old, Jordan was saying, “I'm an artist.” You get goosebumps the first time. You're like, “He’s like claiming who he is!”
SooJin: Whooo! Yeah, so powerful!
E.G.: And he's a brilliant artist. He draws these monsters and creatures. He has this 50 foot terrifying snowman man with tree branches for hands. So it was beautiful to watch him grow into that because, initially, they were hesitant but now to see them be confident and claiming what they do and who they are and what they envision and how they see the world.
You know, you get heavily influenced by what your parents do. I look at musicians that have kids: they end up being musicians. And so, we always tell the kids, “You're going to participate in whatever we do, you know, artistically, you know, activism and things like that. What you become is up to you, but you will grow up artistically and creatively. You can apply that to anything in life. You might become the CEO of a company, but you'll be an artistic CEO. Or you might become a filmmaker or you might be a visual artist or you can become an architect. Whatever you do with it, we don't know. But this is what we do and that's what you'll learn and experience and see and will naturally become a part of you. And then whatever you decide to do, if you decide to become a politician, maybe you'll fight for the arts, you know?”
So yeah, I would love for them to follow in our footsteps and become artists, but I'm also perfectly okay with whatever they ended up doing, whoever they ended up becoming. For me, it's just about those foundations: being smart and creative and confident in whatever else you do and become who you're supposed to be.
SooJin: Wow, this is so beautiful, E.G. Thank you so much for that. I love how in sharing your blueprint for parenting, you're also providing blueprints for others to follow. There's just so much wisdom and love oozing out of that mantra that you created for your family. And I hope that folks listening curate their own kind of mantra for their children and for themselves.
Before we move on to the lightning round, is there anything else that you'd like to lift up or promote?
E.G.: Well, I think, you know, you kind of touched on it a little bit. I think, as an early parent, I completely encourage creating a mantra. I listened to the first episode and the guest that was on talked about his young daughter and the saying that they say every night before she goes to sleep. It may seem casual or like not a lot of value, but it's one of the most valuable things you can do. Create a mantra, create a creed for what values you want to instill in your kids. And have it be something short or something memorable that they can say and carry with them. Because even when they're not around you, they will carry it in their head, you know?
So I think that's important. I think as soon as you have a kid, figure out what the mantra is, what the core values are that you want to instill in them, and repeat it to them—even when they can't speak. Even when they look at you like, “What is this strange creature that’s carry me around?” It will grow. And I say that because last night, I was talking to Jordan and we were talking about Spoken Word. And Sha goes, “You know, Jordan wrote an I am from… poem, and I was like, what? Oh, wow!” It was just sorta like that moment of things coming full circle. When they weren't even born, we're going around and teaching these little babies I'm from… poems. And then like here he is with an I am from… poem and it was so wonderful. I want to read it real quick because it'll kind of connect to some of the things that we've been saying. So this is an I am from poem by Jordan:
“I am from the snapping of pencil led and crumpled up paper, from the swishing and rattling of the basketball hoop, and the sizzling of waffles and bacon on a pan.
I am from the sound of gravel kicking up from the ground when I'm biking. I am from the pitter-patter of my feet on concrete, from flashing TV screens, jump scares, and spilling popcorn. I am from loving hugs and pillow fights, from getting car sick on road trips and aching ears on planes. I am from early mornings and late nights, from my mom's home-cooking, biscuit, rice and salmon, my dad's three-hour-long lectures: respect, discipline, and more respect.
I am from a hilarious family, board games, and neighborhood walks. I am from bikes up to Waite Park with my brother, fun walks to the gas station, and from building frustrating and complicated Lego sets. I am from interesting and intriguing books, magic and medieval, from the giggling laughter of my brother, and tickle fights, from delicious smelling pizza and gourmet-looking salad, from Dungeons and Dragons, posters on my wall, comic books, and from sweet and loving, happy birthdays.
I am from this mantra: I am strong. I'm confident. I'm creative. I'm African. I'm a Cage-Bailey.”
And I'm…I almost started crying like I'm almost crying now. It was really a full circle moment. You know, parenting is not easy. And you never know if you're doing it right. You never know if it's getting through. And most of the time, 99.5% of the time, you feel like, “I'm doing this all wrong.”
And then they write something like that and you go, “Wow. It is getting through. It did get through and it is connecting.” And I was speechless. All you can do is just hug them in that moment and just be thankful and grateful that you have that chance and that experience because they're gifts. It's a gift to be chosen by them to show up in your life, you know. They saved my life really. Before Jordan was born, before I knew that Sha was pregnant with Jordan, I was in a very difficult place. Probably the lowest place I've been in my life. And it was a struggle. And there were some days you just feel like, “Man, this can't continue.” And when I got that news, everything changed. I had something to live for, and it lifted that darkness from me. And I felt like everything that had been going wrong and all the darkness that was felt like it was ahead of me and that I felt like I wasn't sure I could get through—and sometimes felt like I didn't want to get through, like I want it to be done—it all lifted, and I had something to live for. And I felt like, “Okay, I gotta get things right. I gotta get myself together, get ready for this.”
And that's why when he was born and he looked at me like that, it was an affirmation of that. And I was like, “Oh, shit. Like, yeah, he's serious. Like he's confronting me. Like, ‘What are you going to do?’” And it changed my life. I'm an optimist, and I'm sure I would've gotten through whatever was going on and I would have come out the other side. But that was such a visceral, immediate, you know, just pointing me in the right direction in letting me know what I needed to do and who I needed to be in order to raise them and to do right by them. ‘Cause if I kept on the path that I was going, I wouldn't be doing right by them. And 12 years later, he comes out with this poem, you know, I was just like, “Whoa.”
SooJin: “Whoa” is right. I mean a 12-year-old Black boy: this is how he's claiming himself? My dear, you and Sha are doing a lot of things, right. Wow.
E.G.: It's amazing. And I was telling him, I was like, “I didn't start doing Spoken Word till I was like mid-twenties. You have a 13-year head start on me. I wasn't writing like this when I was 12 years old. My first poem was “Friendship Is, Friendship Is Not.” I don't even remember what the ends of those lines were, but it was a two-line poem. It was the first poem I ever wrote because I was upset. I had had an incident with some classmates and wanting to be their friend. I was the only Black— I was one of five Black people in a town of 30,000. And they didn't want to be my friend. And I was so hurt that I went home and wrote two lines: “Friendship is, and friendship is not.” But for me it was life-changing because I discovered I can go to this paper and write down my thoughts and feelings. And one, it purges it from me so I don't have to carry that around, and I don't have to tell anybody. And I'm free, and I feel lighter. And so I was like, “Oh, my God. I can always go to this paper and write.”
But I was like, “Man, you're lightyears ahead of where I was,” you know?
SooJin: Isn't that what we want for our children, though? We want them to be light years ahead of us.
E.G.: That's what I was telling him. It was like— I forget what he said, but it was something like, “I'm not better than you.” And I was like, no, you are! Like you literally are 13 years ahead of me right now. This is the way it's supposed to be. Like you are supposed to be better than me. You know, I want you to be better than me. I want you to reach higher heights than me. I want you to be able to do more than I was able to do.” You know?
And that's why we do the community work, we do the work with young people, and we want the community to be better than we were; we want the young people to have spaces and opportunities to be better than we were. How can you pass on a torch if there's no torch to pass on? You know what I mean? Like that's what I was given with all the mentors that I mentioned. They gave me the time and the energy and the support to help me evolve and carry on and push further with what they did.
And so it's the natural path to things. You know, Amiri Baraka talks about “in the tradition.” J.Otis really schooled me on this. It's a principle I've carried with me. He told me that Baraka talks about “being in the tradition” and he says, the responsibility of the artist is to learn the tradition that you're in, study it, practice it, and push it to the next level. Like figure out the tradition of the discipline that you practice and how you can contribute to it for it to evolve. And that's “being in the tradition.” And I've carried that with me. That's what I try to do as an artist: how do I take this form and how do I push it? What am I contributing to it? So I always study: studied the artists, studied the forms, and practice to push it, to contribute, and take everything I've learned from all the masters and apply it to what I can do to take it to the next evolution of it.
So yeah, I hope they're better than us because there's a lot of things that can be better and stronger, and we need to evolve, you know. It's not easy. There's so much pushback against evolution. There are people invested in going backwards, you know? It's like really, we're back talking about voting rights? Really? We're back to dealing with civil rights? Really? And we're back dealing with abortion? Really? We evolved. I mean, we were making so many strides but, as Andrea Jenkins said, there are people invested in things not working. And it's sad and disappointing because, as human beings, we are supposed to evolve. So it was just always odd to me why there's such a resistance to it and always a backlash. But a lot of it comes from fear, you know. Fear of losing something: losing place, losing security, losing self, and I think that's what drives a lot of those things.
SooJin: And in focusing on the fear of losing, they forget to focus on the gains that they would be getting, right, if we went the other way.
E.G.: Yeah. So these brilliant young beings have to be better than us. And so that's what I always try to teach. We'll give and teach you and mentor and give you everything that we can so you can be better than us, you know. Nothing fulfills our dreams and fills our heart more than to see you— You know, I see Tish. And I'm just like, “Yes!”
SooJin: Dream come true!
E.G.: Yes! Tish is exactly what was supposed to happen,” you know? And I look at Sha and it's like, “Yes! Sha is exactly what's supposed to happen from where the mentorship and the support that she got,” you know. I'm exactly what was supposed to happen from J.Otis and Marion and Alexs and David and Carolyn and Laurie. Like I’m their children, you know? I'm supposed to do all this stuff and push, you know. And that's part of why I do it. It's like they put all that investment in me, and it would be a slap in the face to not honor that and work to use all of that to better the community and push things forward. So for me, that's what I try to do with the next generation so that they can be better.
SooJin: E.G., so good. So good. Are you okay if we move on to the Lightning Round? So just fill in the blank, whatever comes to mind first: Anti-racist parenting or caretaking is…
E.G.: instilling love and pride in self, an understanding of and appreciation of the existence of others in your community.
SooJin: What's the last thing your boys did to make you smile?
E.G.: Jordan, writing that poem, and Jalen— He reminds me a lot of Sha. He has a lot of Sha’s energy, and he's just a ball of energy and light. And so he's just always making us laugh. He is truly just the comedian of the family. Sometimes we're nervous. We're like, “Oh my God, he's going to become like a Kevin Hart and just expose us.”
SooJin: Airing out all kinds of laundry!
E.G.: I was just like, “Oh, my God!” You know, they love to watch Kevin Hart. And I'm just like, “Oh God, 20 years from now, we're going to be like, ‘Dude, that was not supposed to happen.’” But Jalen, he's just so fun and hilarious and just constantly making us laugh.
SooJin: What are you reading right now?
E.G.: I am reading a book called Mastery. It's about self-mastery, and I forget the author. I'm also reading Ultralearning, which is a book about how do you learn a language in like four months? Or how do you master photography in like six months? So this author, he got his MIT degree in like a year or two without attending MIT; he did it all online. And then he's gone to different countries and like learned three, four languages in a couple of weeks, you know? So it teaches you how to do massive learning. And I'm reading a lot of screenplays and then just a lot of news articles. My kids are like, we never realized that like you were so into the news. And this was like around the election. I was like, I got to be. There’s too much going on. I can’t let up right now.
SooJin: Yeah, gots to be informed. So what are you doing to take care of yourself?
E.G.: Actually, I was writing about this last night. When the pandemic started in— When George Floyd was murdered, I went into a very intense mode. From the day after his murder to December 31st, I didn't go to bed before 5:00 AM, and I would get one to four hours of sleep max.
And if I wasn't sleeping, I was working or taking care of family. And then I had two weeks off in January, and then it started all over again up through like 4th of July. So it was a very intense year-and-a-half of just work. And not in a negative way, but it was very draining. I have a high capacity, but I pushed my myself to the limits. And so this summer, I really started to get re-grounded and recentered and went back to looking at emotional intelligence and looking at mastery and listening to motivational speakers and really started studying Kobe Bryant and sort of his Mamba Mentality and his emotional intelligence and self-mastery that he did to kind of achieve what he did.
And so I incorporated a number of new practices. So rather than going to bed at 4:00 or 5:00 AM, I started waking up at 4:00, 5:00 AM. I read for about a half hour to 45 minutes, and then I’d do creative work until the kids get up and then I’d spend time with them. And if they're going to school, I’d drop them off and then go back to work. And I usually try to end between 2:00 and 4:00 and then spend time with them again, playing basketball, hanging out. And then, if we have time, we try to catch an episode of a show or movie, or listen to music, play board games, and then going to bed earlier. I try not to stay up past midnight or 1:00AM so that I'm getting that four to five hours of sleep. I've always been able to go on not a lot of sleep. And then I'm also fasting 18 hours. I'm doing intermittent fasting where I fast 18 hours of the day. And then I have a six-hour window where I can eat, but I usually do like a smoothie and a meal. And I started exercising. You know, I put on that COVID plus 19 plus 20, and I just started to feel really heavy and not healthy. And so I set a goal for myself for August to get down below 200 and I got down to 204, lost about 20, 25 pounds. And then I pulled a muscle and so I had to stop, but I kept up the intermittent fasting and kept off the weight. I was kinda shocked: at like a month after I pulled the muscle and I stopped exercising, I was still at the same weight. And I was like, “Oh man, okay. Maybe this does work.”
And you know, getting into that practice of self-care. It's the first time I've really looked at self-care. I mean, looking at myself and reground myself and change the paradigm. And so this summer I really felt like I really restructured and recentered myself to be healthier. And I'm really happy with it. I feel so much better, so much healthier.
SooJin: And also you're providing a sustainable model for your artist children, you know, to, follow. They'll realize that you don't have to work yourself to death to be an artist.
E.G.: And that was one of the best things about it is because, when you work so much, you don't get to spend a lot of time. And I felt like the kids, during this pandemic and post-George Floyd’s murder, they really sacrificed a lot because we had to be so engaged. And we were doing so much work because the need was there that they really didn't have their parents for a long period of time. I felt like I was doing a disservice to them. And so that was one of the key things. Like I need to shift this and so we would play basketball like an hour or two every day and hang out and go do fun stuff. ‘Cause they grow fast. They hit 12 and 10, and I was like, “I don't wanna be at high school graduation and be like, man, I wish I had spent more time.” Yeah.
SooJin: And there's going to be a day coming up real close where they're not going to want to spend time with you. So get while the getting's good!
E.G.: I know, I know. It's been good. I'm still figuring out how to like get all this work done, but I feel healthier and I feel more present and clear and excited. I don't feel like I'm carrying such a heavy load all the time. So the struggle now is connecting with people and engaging with people, staying in communication with folks. So yeah, I’m in a good place.
SooJin: Awesome! You sound like you're in a fantastic place. Right where you need to be. Last question: What question would you like Antiracist Parenting Podcast to answer in a future episode?
E.G.: That's a good question. I guess strategies on instilling joy. Like what are [the] practices that parents have to create an atmosphere and energy of joy within the family? I'm always curious, like what other parents do. Like what can I learn from other parents? Like we have our strategies and our ways of doing that, but I'm always curious on how other parents do it. Somebody out there might have a strategy that I can learn from to do even better. So yeah, I'd love to hear more about what parents do to instill those things that I can incorporate into our practices.
SooJin: Awesome. Great. Thank you. Well, my dear, thank you for connecting with me. It's been really wonderful to reconnect with you in this way. And your family is just so incredible. And our community, our city, is so blessed to have you all here, doing what you're doing.
E.G.: Thank you. Thank you. We feel blessed. I mean, I fell in love with this community because of the people in it. And I always feel blessed to have the opportunity and experience to be in this community and really come into my adulthood, my manhood, my artistic life and career in this community. I couldn't have been luckier. I just feel incredibly, incredibly blessed to find home in Minnesota, in Twin Cities. Some other Black folks be like, “What? Like Minnesota? Really?” But this is a very special community. And the artistic community I just think is phenomenal. I’m always in such complete awe of the artistry here. But it's the foundation that blossoms that artistry. You know, they're artists all over, but artists can be very dysfunctional. But here, it feels like the artists here are grounded, you know? They're good people, you know what I mean?
SooJin: Yes, they are!
E.G.: It's like a good healthy tree that bears this amazing, like the most delicious fruit, you know? So the fruit is the benefit, but it's the people, the grounding, the heart, the presence, the being of the people and the artists that creates the amazing art. And that's what's always so amazing to me because, you know, there are great artists all around, but a lot of artists can be jerks.
SooJin: They can. And like what you're saying, I mean you named all the folks, you know? Like JOtis, Laurie, David, Alex, Carolyn, Seitu, Marion—like all these folks have come together to build and nourish this amazing soil where the root can be strong and where it can produce such rich, delicious fruit. And now you're a part of that. Not only are you a fruit, but you're also enriching the soil, too, and creating other fruits like the Tishes, like the Jordans, like the Jalens.
E.G.: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there's so many people I haven’t named. If you've come to my show, if you’ve mentioned my name in any form or fashion in a positive way, you've supported me and you helped me become a better person and better artist. And so, I may not always remember and may not always name, but there's such an army of folks that have contributed to me and to us and what we do. It'd be impossible to name everybody.
SooJin: That is a good problem to have.
E.G.: Yeah. You know, when I ended up in Minneapolis, I was by myself. I was here in a lot of ways by myself and navigating and figuring out. And I've had many angels along the way. I'm always grateful for that ‘cause it could have been different.
SooJin: You have an army, you have a cadre of ancestors looking after you, my brother. You do. And so do I, and they came together and made sure that our paths crossed in this moment. So I thank you.
E.G.: Thank you. It was so wonderful. It was perfect.
SooJin: Well, kiss and hug your family for me from me. And take good care.
E.G.: Thank you. You, too. We'll do. So good to see you. Thank you for the invitation.
SooJin: Of course! I've been trying to strategize a way to bring you in, and this was the right topic. So thanks.
E.G.: Well, have a blessed rest of the day and an amazing rest of the week. And we'll talk to you soon.
SooJin: Sounds great! Thank you! Bye!
E.G.: We'll see you!
SooJin: Oh, my goodness. I find myself at this place after every conversation. And that is, there's just so many good things that was shared, that was spoken. And again, my mind is swirling with all kinds of goodness. Um, let's see. I really liked what E.G. said about re-grounding because it helps remind us of our core, what's really important and valuable. And in re-grounding himself, it shifted the path that he was on; [it] brought clarity and focus to help him manifest his purpose.
When we ended up talking about masculinity and the ways to dispel, to eliminate, to disempower harmful, ways of masculinity, one of the first things that he talked about was the women in his life. And it just got me to thinking that perhaps the greatest antidote to toxic masculinity is powerful feminine energy, you know? Actually, that was the first thing he mentioned. The first thing he mentioned in talking about like, “How do you dispel toxic masculinity?” is when he said, “I got in touch with my femininity, with being feminine and all the feminine things not only in me but also in my life that have given me permission to feel, to tap into my power in ways that don't look male.” Yeah, maybe that's the antidote is the feminine, is radiant feminine power. That when all of us actually are able—regardless of gender—when all of us are able to tap into our femininity and harness the brilliance and magic and power that comes from that, that's the medicine. That's the healing medicine that we need.
I also loved like the ingredients that he shared in the mantra that he provided for his family and for his children around pride, around respect, around carrying a nonjudgmental attitude that makes room for—and that not only makes room for—but also values people for wherever they're at, whoever they identify as, whatever they are. And then coupling that with awareness. Like we gotta be aware. We have to be informed about what's going on about the communities, the peoples, the groups that are being harmed, the rights that are being infringed upon, the disrespect that is taking place. We have to be informed about those things so that we can intervene and interrupt the places where disrespect is happening. So I guess those are the things that are bubbling up in me given the conversation. Yeah.
Okay, so commitments: What do I want to commit to based on what I've learned? In our family, we have had mantras along the way but nothing as consistent, as persistent as the one that E.G. and Sha have created for their kids.
So Sxela in her history class: one of the projects that they're doing in her history class is to come up from scratch, build a society. And one of the first things that you think about in building a society is coming up with a constitution. So in coming up with a constitution, I want to see if she would be cool with us coming together to create a family creed, for the three of us—her dad and I and her—to come together and put together a constitution of our own and see what that might look like, what that might feel for us. And I hope this is one of those conversations that actually goes the way that I expect and hope, which is that she's on board and wants to do it. So crossing my fingers there.
Um, actually, no. I don't need to cross my fingers because if this is the right thing for her in the stage of life that she's at, then it will happen. I trust in the timing of the universe fully. And if it's the right moment, if it's the right time, then it will happen. So I will put out an invitation to my family to see if they're interested in crafting a community, family creed for us. Okay. So that's what I'm doing.
Thank you, everybody. I hope you're able to take something away from this conversation. E.G., as you could sense and feel, is full of all kinds of wisdom because he has filled himself with all kinds of wisdom, from all kinds of mentors and gurus and teachers and healers and artists and creatives. So I hope you're able to take something away and make your own commitment around how you want to implement that learning into your parenting, into how you relate and work with others.
So thank you everybody for joining me, for tuning in, and I look forward to our next conversation. Okay. Take good care, everybody. Lots of love to you. Bye.
SooJin: We just want to say thank you for joining us today. You can find more information about us and past episodes on our website antiracistparentingpodcast.com. A big shout out to Mike Myth Productions for the intro and outro music.
Hannah: This work requires us to challenge ourselves and take care of ourselves. Be well.
SooJin: Be antiracist.