Updated: Aug 9, 2020
"The yard is where I found brotherhood. Growing up without a father, I relied on my two brothers to make me strong and teach me wisdom. We spent hours in the yard, digging up the secrets of life."
When I was younger, my backyard was my solace – the place I could spend time with my family and friends; where I could escape the dark corners and traps the world had waiting for me. As a Black man in America, the yard taught me how to be a man: take care of the earth and my family – growing not only spiritually but physically as well. The yard was my stomping ground where I learned my most important lessons, like how Taino elders would tell children stories around the campfire. Now, it is my turn to tell stories of hope, strength, and courage from where it all started: the yard.
The yard is where I found brotherhood. Growing up without a father, I relied on my two brothers to make me strong and teach me wisdom. We spent hours in the yard, digging up the secrets of life.
The yard is where I found compassion. Lessons from my elders made me smart. My mother’s love showed me there is strength in tenderness. Together they imparted on me lessons that are still with me ‘til this day.
The last conversation I had with my second brother was in the yard – a series of I love you’s and I’m sorry’s. DJ passed away when I was 17. He was murdered in cold blood due to gang violence. His death cast our home in a different light. The spot on the patio steps where we’d hang out, the stump of the tree we cut; they, along with my life, had been irrevocably changed.
Soon weeds started taking over. Unkempt bushes became the norm. Healthy blades of grass turned wilted and withered. It’s like the yard was mourning alongside us. Once so full of life, my desire to do anything at that point fainted to a whisper. My brother Jerry moved away to West Virginia shortly after that and grandmother went back to Haiti to spend the rest of her days. It was just me and my mother. My mother had friends and family at her side at all times. Although I also had family and friends come see me, I couldn’t help but feel alone at every turn, slowly descending into madness and depression.
The Yard. When you hear it an image comes to mind – maybe your backyard, the park or anywhere you correlate nature and nurture. But there is a yard that goes beyond physical space. This yard is with you at all times, often springing about with unwanted plants, whether they were planted by self or others. This garden in particular has the ability to change your life, if you water it and plant the right flowers.
Our environment surely impacts our access to resources, but it is our minds and souls that determine what to make of them. Sometimes our surroundings are beautiful, immaculate, but the real mess can be, and often is, inside. There’s no shame in acknowledging the “internal clutter” that we may be harboring in order to find our way out of this mental maze.
My journey back to self started with meditation. Understanding my new reality was the first step to betterment. I would accompany those sessions with journal entries, needing to dig deep into how I felt in order to properly heal. Fitness came next. When I started my fitness journey, I started with simple push ups and jogging – even if jogging meant walking. I knew the more I moved the better I felt. Each workout session, tearful journal entry, and mindful meditation; my yard grew back better than ever.
Reclaiming my internal yard gave me my power back. It was never a journey to another or a different “me”– it was a reclaiming, a taking back from what was left in the ashes. I allowed myself time to uncover and remember who I really was.
Being a Black male in America sometimes it’s easy to become marred by the social atrocities we are perceived to be and the lack of the mental health conversations we critically need. This all takes its toll on our community. We must do a better job at not only encouraging and supporting our own individual yard, but also the collective. Normalize encouraging others to receive whatever mental treatment they may need at the time, destigmatize the act of seeking mental help. It's time to be open and honest with each other. This is the true hallmark of growth.
Our childhood yards may be rented by the next family or on a rooftop of your apartment building, but our mental gardens are with us at all times. Cultivate your mind, tend to your space, and express yourself by moving – healing how you see fit! There is no one right answer. Get back to who you are by cultivating who you are. Tend to your yard, heart and mind. The body will surely follow.
Meet the Family
Richard Roy is a 26 year old from the streets of Staten Island, New York. He is best known for his personal training skills and becoming a coach at 17 years old. After training for a decade and helping hundreds throughout New York, his debut Health & Fitness book, "How to finally lose some f*cking weight" is poised to hit the shelves this winter. As a self proclaimed art muse he also paints, makes music, and recently opened for Method Man & Redman at Starland Ballroom.
During his downtime he also hosts a podcast called 'Back To Center', a bi weekly podcast about life, love & the millennial struggle. Check out Roy's music here, his fitness tips & art here, & his podcast is now on Apple Podcast, just search 'Back To Center' for the latest episode.