Be steadfast because you never know who’s watching and who you’re inspiring: A Q+A w/ Kyr Rashad Mack & Jeremy Herte

Sinclair: My wife introduced me to your podcast and work via Instagram because she knows I’ve been seeking out more Black men, conversations about mental health, and folks who center Black masculinity in their work. Ever since listening to your podcast, Let’s Talk Bruh, I’m realizing my wife sent me gold! What led to the creation of it?

Jeremy: First and foremost, shout-out to your wife for being the plug. For me it was simple. I wanted to have deeper conversations with black men and create a space that allowed us to vent, grow, and challenge our own problematic shit.  Black women have created so many dope spaces online and in-person for themselves for healing, support, and everything else, so it was important to start imagining what that could look like for us.

I was also frustrated with our – sometimes – lack of accountability, myself included, when it comes to the way we discuss and treat black women and LGBTQ folks. The discussions on social media, especially twitter, often lack a certain nuance that podcasts can provide, and that’s what we’re mindful of with our show.

Kyr : A semi-intoxicated conversation, really. Jeremy wanted to start a project around black men and wanted me to be a part of it. So when we started creating the idea, we felt that the lack of discussion and intelligent conversations around black men weren’t happening on Twitter and our respective GroupMes. So, we wanted to craft a lane where we could share our frustrations, but also to think deeply about some of the issues surrounding black masculinity.

Once we really got a grasp of the topics we wanted to discuss, we wanted to make sure that when we got on the microphones, we didn’t want to just hop on them and talk shit like other podcasts we’ve heard. So our goal was to remain authentic and still bring some thought provoking content to the table.  

Sinclair: The episode titled, What does Mental Health look like for you? hit home for me. You all get real and share all the things. How did you get to a point where you were able to speak openly about your own journeys with mental illness?

Jeremy: I started going to therapy in March and the entire experience so far has really opened up my eyes to a whole bunch of shit that I had suppressed my entire life, especially when it comes to my anxiety, family relationships, and childhood.  Every time I come out of a session with my therapist, I learn something new about myself. It’s wild. Scary sometimes, but extremely necessary for becoming a whole person again.

Kyr: When Jeremy started talking about his breakthroughs with therapy and telling me that he wanted other black men to go through the same thing, I started thinking about my hang-ups with therapy. While he was talking, I really thought about the stuff I go through on a daily basis with depression, social anxiety, and paralyzing fears. And I realized that I’m probably not the only one going through this, so maybe I should just be upfront and transparent about it. You’ll even hear the apprehension in my voice as we discuss it during that series of episodes.

Sinclair: What does healing mean for you today?

Jeremy: Therapy. Directly confronting my fears. Self-care.  In that order.

Kyr : Meditation is very key for me. Jeremy mentions self-care. My self-care involves comics and movies.

Sinclair: Jeremy, you spoke about failure in your episode, and said “sometimes niggas just wanna be Black and average – fuck all this gotta be twice as good shit.” Tell us more about this.

Jeremy: Whether it’s stories from our parents, family, or examples in media, we’re taught that in order to succeed you must be twice as good as white folks. There’s definitely truth to that. No doubt. But the reality is, carrying that mentality with you everyday is exhausting as hell.  Part of my anxiety comes from feeling like I have to be working at all times in order to accomplish my goals. So I had to realize that for my own mental health, even though I may not accomplish everything, success does not define my self-worth and it’s actually okay to fail or even take a day off at times.

Kyr : What’s wild is that Jeremy said it so matter of factly on the episode that when I agreed with it, it felt like I was going against what my old man instilled in me so many years ago. Sometimes I feel like being average. The sentiment “being ‘good as’ and ‘better than’” has always had racial connotations attached to it. The real tiring thing about it is that being a black man in America brings a level of surveillance that puts one’s actions and words under a microscope to the point where it has negative consequences for other black men. It’s almost the inverse of the “being a credit to your race” narrative.

Kyr Headshot
“We want our work to tackle issues of toxicity in our daily interactions, friendships, and relationships.” – Kyr Rashad Mack

Sinclair: You’re both into hip-hop. Who are your top fives?

Kyr : 2Pac, Jay, Ice Cube, T.I. and OutKast. If you ask me next week, it’ll change.

Jeremy: Phonte, Common, Jay, Kendrick, Pac.

Sinclair: How did both of you meet?

Jeremy: The Real HU. Hampton University. We were also roomates for a year when we first moved to DC.

Sinclair: What do you hope folks get from all the work you produce?

Jeremy:  I want black men, specifically straight black men, to start rethinking our preconceived notions of black masculinity and manhood.  Know that it’s okay to cry, express, feel a wide range of emotions and be vulnerable. Also, be aware of our black male privilege and consider the ways that oppression affects black women and black LGBTQ folks differently.  That being said, with Let’s Talk Bruh, we also want folks to laugh and get these jokes too.

Kyr: We’re both children of Chappelle so we’re going to get these jokes off regardless. We most definitely have to give the medicine with the candy. But more than that, we want this podcast to be cathartic in that it helps knock down negative perceptions of and stereotypes relating to black masculinity. We want our work to tackle issues of toxicity in our daily interactions, friendships, and relationships. And most of all we want to challenge our brothers to do better and be better.

I wanted to have deeper conversations with black men and create a space that allowed us to vent, grow, and challenge our own problematic shit.  – Jeremy Herte

Sinclair: Why is it important for Black men to practice self-care and focus on their own wellness?

Jeremy: Life is hard. Period. Intentionally doing things to bring us joy and destress helps maintain a sense of sanity. We often struggle with this because there was no guide to self-care or wellness growing up ,and we haven’t yet created many spaces for black men’s wellness so many of these concepts are foreign and hard to grasp.

Kyr: Practicing on my self-care really helps me center myself and also helps me not lash out at people or opinions. The way society weighs on black folk’s minds can really drive you mad. So it’s important to practice self-care so that you can remain steadfast and moving towards your ultimate goals.

Jeremy Headshot
“Part of my anxiety comes from feeling like I have to be working at all times in order to accomplish my goals.” – Jeremy Herte

Sinclair: Why do you think so many Black men struggle with this?

Kyr: I’m not sure if we really had a wellness space — other than a cypher at someone’s crib — to talk about what’s really going on with us. And mental health and wellness has been a taboo subject for the black community for a number of years. We’re just really starting to understand the importance of therapy, spirituality, and wellness. But again, it was such a taboo subject back in the day that we were holding a lot of the negative shit in, and it was tearing us apart. It has come to the forefront now and we see that the lashing out we do hurts the people around us. Self care has become very important in decompressing after trying days. Especially these days we have in 2018.

Sinclair: What’s the best part about going to work each day?

Kyr: Inspiring my students and hoping they learn from my limited experiences. I’m somewhat close to their age group, so it’s crazy to hear that I’ve had a slightly profound effect on them in such a short amount of time.

Jeremy: I get paid to tweet (laughs).

Sinclair: What is something you’re both trying to unlearn?

Jeremy: My passivity and nonchalant nature at times. I’m naturally an introvert, but recently I’ve been learning the importance of finding and asserting my voice when necessary. It’s probably my biggest struggle right now.

Kyr: I’m definitely trying to unlearn my emotional distance towards folks who get close to me. I know that can be detrimental to my friendship and relationships. So I’ve been working to understand why I am this way and how I can move forward from it.

Sinclair: What’s something you wish you could say to your 16 year old self?

Jeremy: You won’t make it to the NBA, but the good news is, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be right now.  Just keep going. Also, try to learn what empathy means. It’ll help you later.

Kyr : Remain confident in yourself and your abilities. And know that you can’t plan for the unknown. So don’t be fearful of new beginnings. Embrace change.  

Sinclair: What’s one challenge you face in your work that you’re still working on navigating?

Jeremy: For our show, reaching our intended audience is extremely important. We absolutely don’t take for granted the fact that black women have been our biggest and most vocal supporters, however, one of our goals of this show was and still is to reach black men.

Kyr: Jeremy hit it right on the head in terms of our intended audience. But on a more personal note, I want to make sure that we understand the power we have when we get on these microphones. So we can’t take any topic lightly. Even the venting sessions. We have to make sure we have a clear purpose and a vision each and every time we speak.

 Sinclair: When was the last time you practiced self-care? What did you do?

Kyr: Last week. Right before classes started back up. Re-watched the Godfather Saga and read comics.

Jeremy: Today. I went to the meditated and went to the gym.

While he was talking, I really thought about the stuff I go through on a daily basis with depression, social anxiety, and paralyzing fears. And I realized that I’m probably not the only one going through this, so maybe I should just be upfront and transparent about it.  – Kyr Rashad Mack

Sinclair: What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

Kyr: Finally realizing that I’m passionate about teaching. Most days I have imposter syndrome. But getting feedback from former students about how they enjoyed my class during a semester is one of the most fulfilling things I can hear as a professor. It lets me know that I’m doing something right.

Jeremy: I recently had a birthday so receiving the birthday love was dope. My girlfriend. I started a gratitude journal a few months ago so I’ve been trying to get in the practice of being grateful for the little things.

Sinclair: What’s something that’s been pissing you off lately?

Jeremy:   Twitter. I waste countless hours scrolling and consuming the most meaningless of content.

Kyr: Definitely social media. People don’t take time to critically think or read before speaking. And it sucks that people would rather say something shocking instead of something thoughtful and insightful that considers a myriad of perspectives.

Sinclair: When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

Kyr: I talked about this a little on the Mental Health series we did. My self-doubt in undergrad and graduate school caused my depression. I had no idea what I wanted to do and I didn’t know how to figure it out. So it really sank low. It wasn’t until my mentor suggested graduate school as an option, and then teaching as a profession that I found myself working towards those short term goals. But I still struggle with self-doubt and imposter syndrome.

Jeremy: Similar to Kyr, I struggle with self doubt and imposter syndrome too. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a serious low point, but for me it comes up periodically here and there.

Sinclair: What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone struggling with self-doubt and feeling like giving up on their dreams?

Jeremy: Stay in your lane and run your own run race. Don’t get distracted and compare yourself with other folk’s journeys. Success and happiness are different things but both are defined by you and only you.  This is actually advice I need to take myself.

Kyr : Man, I’m terrible with advice. We all struggle self-doubt. But Jeremy hit it right on the head. Comparing journey’s is the worst thing you can do. Be steadfast because you never know who’s watching and who you’re inspiring.

💎💎💎

Kyr Rashad Mack is currently a writing lecturer in the Department of English at Howard University. He graduated from Howard University in 2017 with a Master of Arts in English with a concentration in contemporary African American literature. When Kyr is not trying to inspire young minds in the classroom, he’s usually indulging in comics and hip hop. Learn more about Kyr and connect: Instagram  |Twitter

Jeremy Herte is a Digital Marketer and Content Creator with experience in Social Media Management and Management Consulting. After graduating from Hampton University in 2013, he began his career at KPMG before switching to a career in digital marketing.  From 2016-2017 Jeremy also hosted and produced “For The Culture Radio” interviewing up and coming DC hip-hop and r&b artists. Learn more about Jeremy and connect: Instagram |Twitter

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