Jean Messeroux (@JeanTheHueman) is a New York-licensed psychotherapist, photographer, creative director, and mental health educator. To redefine narratives of Black fatherhood, Jean launched a photography and interview series called Our Fathers in June 2017, which explores the complexities and nuances of Black fatherhood through conversations with fathers born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. You can learn more about Jean’s work at https://thehuemangallery.
Jahad & Jahad II
“I knew my father, but he just didn’t come around like that. I lived on Goldsmith. He was 3 blocks over, on Lyons Avenue. He sold drugs on Lyons. My mother ain’t really want me around him like that ’cause she knew what he was into. He coming home at 4 o’ clock in the morning and sleeping late. Doing everything other than what he needed to be doing. I remember I went out with him one time. I was young and we was in the Chinese store. It had to be like 9 o’ clock at night. One of his friends was playing and made a mistake and dropped beer on me. Ever since then my mother was like ‘nah… I’m already seeing too much and now I’m coming home with beer spilled on me… It’s over. But my father still ain’t really come around like that. He was too into that lifestyle.
“When I was little I used to see my brother going to his father’s house every other weekend. He leaves and I’m just here by myself and my father ain’t doing shit, you feel me? At all. I was like, ‘Yo why he ain’t doing this? What’s going on? Where he at?’ I used to try to make excuses for him but now I can’t ’cause I would never do that to my son.”
“Abortion was never really an option ’cause I love my girl. I love you. Simple as that. Even if we argue, that’s my girl. When she told me she was pregnant I asked her, ‘what you wanna’ do? ‘Cause if we keep it this is what we gon’ have to go through. We might struggle a little bit, we gon’ have some hard times, but trust me, it’s not staying like that. If you serious, then I’m with it. It’s mine.’ I came from not having a father, so I’m not gonna’ put somebody else through that. I would never do that. I knew I was gon’ have a son and his name was gon’ be Jahad Sanders. That’s it. I feel like my son gon’ be great but even if he grow up to not be shit I’ma still love him. He aint ask to be here. I gave him his chance just like my mother gave me a chance.”
“My mother and grandmother raised me. I love them but I never really got that support, like, ‘oh you like this? You good at this? Imma make you great at this. We gon’ pursue this.’ You don’t really see much support like that for kids, where I’m from. I knew at a young age that I liked to draw and I liked music. I didn’t have anybody to be like, “I’ma help you with this.’ It was completely on me to do it. So, with him, if I see that he shows an interest in anything, that’s what we gon’ work to do. I let him listen to music and I want him to be interested in music, but at the end of the day, if he’s interested in like, bowling, that’s what we gon’ do.”
“I went to Maple Avenue School. My house was right across the street. We coming out of school, walking across the street and they’re shooting in front of the school. Shooting. My brother’s outside getting pushed and he can’t even get back in the building and they’re not trying to let me out. So now I’m like, ‘where’s my brother? Did he make it across the street? Did he get home?’ Stuff like that.
“My first time catching the bus… waiting downtown on Broad and Market. Me and my boy Pierre. Somebody gets stabbed in the neck. Right in front of us, our freshman year. Blood on my boy. He had a white Aeropostale collared shirt. Blood on it, it’s over. It was mostly kids that witnessed that. Now it’s alot of kids doing it. I know kids now, younger than me that’s really shooting niggas. They really shooting niggas. It wasn’t always like that. Now lil’ niggas is going crazy. Every generation it gets worse. By the time he goes to school I don’t know what they gon’ be doing and I ain’t trying to find out. I’m not gon’ find out.” From 6th grade up, I dont see him being here in Newark. I seen a lot out here. I wouldn’t want that for him.”
“I can’t have nobody remove me from this earth. At all. That’s the only fear I have. Getting locked up or killed. I got someone to go home to. I’m gon’ get back home, regardless of the situation. I ain’t just here for me.”
“When I lay down in the bed and he laying next to me and I look at her laying next to me… I’m thinking, ‘Yo, like, this is really my family! I really got a whole family in here! Like, how did this happen so quickly? Life be coming crazy. That shit was fast. I feel like I gotta’ protect both her and him. Gotta’ make sure they’re good. This is me right here. This is my whole bloodline right here. I feel like the lions we watch on Discovery Channel. He got that one job, that if somebody new comes here, it’s over. As long as everybody in his family is good, he can sleep.”
Photographer & Writer: Jean Messeroux as a photojournalistic creative documenting the beautifully complex realities of our people and our communities.