The first book I read after adopting Tin, other than the countless ones on parenting, was Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood by William Pollack. Even though I was raised as the younger sister of four brothers there was a lot I did not know about what a boy needs in order to grow into his potential as a man. Pollack talks about the boy code, and about how much of what we know about boys has become writ large and is dead wrong.
Raising a son in a two Momma household has its challenges, but raising an African American son has even more stigma and preconceived notions attached to it. We continue to carefully scrutinize our community to find worthy men to be role models for Tin. Luckily for us, we live in New Orleans, where music is our life and you can walk a block and find many a man who has found self-expression though the language of music. And I don’t think I need to add, many African American men who have made New Orleans famous through their soulful and moving music.
I found out about Music for All Ages, sponsored by the National Park Association at Louis Armstrong Park, after taking Tin to music classes for toddlers. We would go to these classes and learn ditties that seemed so foreign to me and to him, and I could see the difference when I took Tin to live music and saw how he responded (and me too). I’m talking about the brass bands, I’m talking about Jazz, the New Orleans style of playing, that New Orleans kids learn on the streets, in their neighborhoods, from their families and friends. This is the music that sings to our family.
What I didn’t know until I saw it with my own eyes and heard with my own ears is that Tin’s musical education in New Orleans would also gain him entry into the world of men, the world of African American men, and their way of being with each other. Music for All Ages is led by seasoned musicians including Bruce Barnes, who invite any child to come on stage with them and bring an instrument. And as I sit in the audience watching my child, I see much more than music being offered to him – I see men speaking to boys, I see African American men, I see music men, I see the way they interact, the way they embrace, the way they speak and cut up, and help and support each other.
This is a world I can never enter because of who I am.
Yet, it is becoming Tin’s world. The musicians have taken to calling him “Pops” – which is appropriate since his earliest hero has been Louis Armstrong. These men are offering Tin a world that I cannot – a world with man’s language, music’s language, black language – I sit there in the audience and my heart is filled because Tin is learning how to be a boy from men.
A room full of worthy men.