Last week I was invited to a free screening of writer and documentary producer, Dwayne L.Buckingham’s “A Black Woman’s Worth: My Queen and Backbone.” Before the premiere of the movie at the Tivoli in University City, I sat down, well, we eventually sat down after meeting up at the Tivoli in a nearby St. Louis Bread Company and discussed his works and thoughts regarding the Black man, the Black woman, and his present works.
Dwayne Buckingham: I did things. Hustled, never got caught. You know, I was one of those brother I tell people, I don’t think I’m blessed for that, you know? I was blessed because you wasn’t because you got caught, and I never got caught up? I don’t say that I’m blessed. I say that we all have free will and I was able to make some decisions that kept me clear of somethings. I was level headed. Even when I hustled, I didn’t drink or smoke, so I stayed level headed. Always had my game together. With other brothers that I was hanging out with, they were getting drunk and high, so they mind wasn’t ever right. So, the decisions that they would make, always put them in the position of getting caught up[arrested]. And they all did get caught up…cocaine…these brothers going in five to ten, fifteen to twenty.
Like I said, these guys dove into somethings I never got off into because of my mother – that fear. That fear that if I went to far off in that direction there would be no coming back with her. So, I walked that thin line, like you said, because of that environment.
Owl: Yeah, you do what you have to do, well, to be cool. You don’t want to have to go to school and have to fight every muthafucking body.
Dwayne: Right! Right…
Owl: What was it though, because we all had mommas, and not all of them saved us. What was it about yours?
Dwayne: Well, let me tell, because I have seven siblings. I have four sisters and three brothers. All older than me, with the exception of one. I’m the only one that went off into college, the only one to do anything. What was instrumental for me was when I went out to Parkway West, as part of the deseg[reation] program, in that county school system, I met people that were instrumental.
I saw a world were a guy had a mother for a lawyer, a dad for a doctor, and thought to my Self,” This is what it is really about.” So, I began to study them. I had a few people I knew playing sports, my basketball coach, he took me under his wing. And I started being exposed to a different culture. So, what I learned at an early age, was how to negotiate in that environment.
What I saw from dealing with these people was their value system: these people’s thinking was based on how they were going to pull the people that were going to come behind them, forward. I began to learn the importance of: how do you create inheritance, how do you instill the idea of, I need to do my best so that my children and my nieces and nephews can do well. That’s one of the primary things, how do you pull people ahead, and that has shaped what I do now. That’s what I learned in that Parkway School District – how to help people get to where I am. And I took that, Jay, and ran with it…
By the time I got to college, I sent back for my little brother. He was around here selling drugs and hanging out. I put him in a GED program that we had on campus. I was 19 years, had a two bedroom apartment, and was already giving back. Now, this is the thing, Jay, I was a behavior problem, had a speech impediment, and got up to the college, first semester: 4.0. See, that’s the thing, Jay, we’ve got it. We’ve got it. We feed too much into the negative. I had a speech impediment and got a 4.0. I made enough money from scholarships academically to send for my brother. Got him up there, and put him in a GED program. 10 months later, he’s got his GED I then get him enrolled into college. Four years later, he’s walking out with a Bacchelor’s in Criminal Justice. This is what we’ve got to do. But I was only able to do that because I learned how to work that system.
Owl: Break down your understanding of the overall system, because it seems to me you are speaking of something more than black and white…