Today I can still count out most of Willie May's career stats off the top of my head, but the truth is shortly before or after my encounter with him, I had the opportunity to catch another ball and meet Roberto Clemente. Unlike Mays, Clemente took a real interest in me. Asking me my name. Giving me baseball socks that I still have today. He even told me I was an African. I believe to this day that he was the first person to call me that. He was killed shortly after that in a plane crash while attempting to deliver supplies to victims of a devastating earthquake in Nicaragua. A true hero Clemente was. After meeting him and learning about him, I haven't thought much about Willie Mays since. In fact, I still admire Clemente. Actually, I'm reading a book about him right now. Clemente, unlike Mays, spoke out often against white supremacy in sports and society. You would never have heard Mays make a peep about social issues, even after he was discriminated against from buying a home in the Peninsula, he never spoke about it. As for Spider Man, I haven't thought about him since I was a child. I haven't even seen the movies except one I know I watched while on a plane flying to Africa once. Now, when I think of Adam 12, I think LAPD, the farthest thing from heroes that I can imagine. And, the Brady Bunch is simply an old television series where Robert Reed/Mike Brady was acting a lie as the husband when in real life he was a gay man who didn't even have the space to be himself in a society that still struggles with accepting people for who they are.
I realize now that all my childhood heroes were illusions and/or lies. It makes sense because most of what I was taught was an illusion and/or a lie. And, clearly, I'm not alone. The real superheroes aren't on sports fields (with the exception of quality individuals like Mr. Clemente) or comic books. The majority of heroes and sheroes are day to day people who work hard, live and make decisions based on integrity, and stand up against injustice in whatever way that they can. And, since I understand that and have raised my daughter to understand that I don't need the Brady Bunch's neighborhood any longer. I don't need any neighborhood. I'm glad that my daughter grew up with real heroes and sheroes. She admired Assata Shakur growing up. I remember taking her into Marcus Books when she was three and when she saw Assata's picture, she yelled "Auntie Assata!" I remember revealing that to Assata when I met her in 1994. My daughter had real people to look up to and the point of all of this is I learned that my mission is to provide real heroes and sheroes for every young person to look up to. Probably my most proud accomplishment in life is I look at my daughter today and I feel that she's a well adjusted young person who is selfless with a huge heart. My goal was to do everything I could to spare her the traumas I had and I think that goal was met. She doesn't need the fantasy crutches that I used to survive. Now, I wonder if we can do the same for the next few generations to come because if we can, we can create something far better than the lie we are living today.