#MelanitesMen: D'Mauri Jones
As a boy growing up, when did you first realize that your experience was going to be different than your peers?
I first realized that my experience would be different than my peers in high school. I was being recruited by top colleges such as Miami, Georgia,
Florida State, and West Virginia etc. None of my peers had that opportunity and it set me apart and give me an opportunity to do something different with my life. Something that no one from my city has ever done before. One thing that I wish I would have known about being a black man in America is the power of unity. I used to think that I had to do everything myself, that I alone would succeed without any help. Today, I realize that that is far from the truth. I believe that today we have a mindset that it is a dog eat dog would. If we could all just switch our mentality to helping others and uniting together the world would be a better place and more black families would succeed.
Can you think of an example from your childhood when you remember thinking: Is this how I’m supposed to act? The messaging I am receiving conflicts with me internally?
Having a single mother with four children to raise, money was tight. I was very aware of this at a young age. I had thoughts of “why should she have to pay for an item when I can just take it?”. I recall a memory when I was younger. I was with a cousin and my older brother. We were in target and my cousin decided that he was going to steal something. I was right there and was actually getting ready to steal items myself. However, the internal conflict I was having made me put down the item and I run away from the situation. I decided at that moment that it wasn’t right to steal. My older brother was also in my ear at that time and reminded me that stealing was wrong. He was my saving grace that day.
Was there a particular conversation/message your parents or a significant adult gave that stuck with you?
My mother had conversations with my brother and I on how we should carry ourselves as young black man in America. She also taught us what our role was in society. She taught us that we must carry ourselves with class and be very respectful to all people. She reminded me that my appearance may be intimidating to others so, I have to beware of myself and carry myself in a certain way. She also taught us that we have to know and be aware of our surroundings. To be aware of the people that we keep around us. To know when we should speak and to know when we should merely listen.
Do you feel like there were some challenges unique to you that added a complex experience to your childhood that we as a society don’t normally speak on?
Yes! Coming from a low socio-economic status, my family and I have faced several challenges. We never had equal opportunity. Out of three generations I am the first to have gone to college and graduate. I feel that without football, I might not have been able to accomplish that goal. If I didn’t have sports working in my favor would I have even thought of college as an option for me? I am driven because of those experiences of the struggle that I had as a child.
What advice would you give your younger self on how to navigate the journey from a boy to a man?
I would tell my younger self to follow your heart always. Chase things that add to your happiness. Do what pleases you. The world will try to fit you into this little box but you must break out of it. You must live to your greatest potential even if you are criticized for it. At the end of the day life is short so, you might as well do what makes sets your soul on fire.