Tuesday, June 29, 2010


So my little town is celebrating 200 years of existence this summer. One of the events of the bicentennial is an exhibit showcasing the history of the Black community here in good ole Washington, Pa. There will be old photos, memorabilia, choirs singing, and a guest speaker. That's all relatively normal and uninteresting except for who they decided to call upon as the guest speaker. Yup. You guessed it. Me.

When the person running the show called me, she said they were hoping to get someone who was young and contemporary, yet still a pillar of the community. And then there's me looking around trying to figure out who she's referring to. Kinda like that moment at the club where the finest girl in the room is staring in your direction with the come hither eyes and you're going, "Wait. What? Who me? Seriously? You're looking at me?" Forget about the fact that you went to this club because you knew she'd be there. Never mind the fact that you've been staring at her all night. When she stares back, its nothing short of confusing.

I've been working in social service for the past twelve or so years. I've been in music and the arts since I was a teenager. I started my first business at age 21. (I sold printing supplies, like business cards and letterhead.) I got national distribution and major radio station airplay for my own record label while sitting in an office across the street from Shorty's Hot Dogs. Everything I've done has, in one way or another, been an attempt to let my light shine. I have been attempting to be an example for the young black kids of my town for a really long time. I refused to leave Washington when pursuing the music business because I decided long ago that if I were going to make it in music or anything else, I was going to do it right here. Why? I just believe it can be done. I want to show all those kids who don't have hope that there is a reason to have hope. I have dedicated my career in psychology to the study of the phenomenon of role modeling and how it effects young peoples beliefs and choices. Make no mistake, I am where I am on purpose. I didn't just end up at this club. I waited in line a long time to get in. But now that I'm here, I'm left scratching my head trying to understand when and how I arrived.

I hear stories about my father and the things he did for people here. The way they talk about him and others of the "old guard" make them sound a little bit like saints. I have this image in my head of what a leader looks like. I have this idea of what a role model might FEEL like. I can tell you, I don't feel like that. I'm just a guy. A regular guy. I'm broke. I'm struggling to make my dreams come true. I'm piecing things together in an attempt to be a good dad and a good psychologist at the same time. I make mistakes. I do stupid things. I think I imagined that one day I'd wake up and realize that I'd "made it." Apparently not. Or maybe today is that day.

It was with great honor that I accepted the invitation to speak at the bicentennial event. But giving a speak is easy for me. Accepting that the pretty girl was staring at me and is now walking over my way is gonna take some time. I hope she walks slowly.


  1. Rueben - I drove through the old neighborhood this past weekend. Up Allison, left onto Hallam... noticed the Spencer's house and Day's house both up for sale. Granted, I don't even know if Spencers or Days live there anymore. But I was kind of sad to see the neighborhood changing, to see Washington changing, what I perceived at the time to be 'for the worse.' But then I read posts like this and I'm reminded that not everything in town is in decline - folks like you are reminding the city (and alumni like me)how much good is really still there. Thanks for that.