S: Hello, hello! So who are you? What do you do? What do you like? What’s up?
J: My name is Jimmie Cummings. I am a...well first of all I’m a husband and a father. I’ve been married for 25 years now. We’ve been together 29 years. I have four amazing kids. 13, 13, 12, and 10. I work for the Chatham County Board of Aid and I’ve been working there for 27 years this year. I also drive SCAD bus. I’ve been doing that for the last about two and a half years.
S: Do you like it?
J: I do! I meet a lot of people. Interesting people [laughs] A lot of people with a lot of different stories. I like that I get to talk to them, and if they’re down I get to cheer them up and I’m happy with them, you know?
S: You’re the best!
J: Yeah but you know my love is acting. I love acting. I’ve been doing that for about two years.
S: Well you’re good for two years! [laughter] Have you ever heard of the phrase “carefree black boy?”
J: I haven’t!
S: So [based on context clues] what do you think it means and what can it meant to you?
J: To me it means really just being comfortable in your own skin. Just doing what makes you happy, and maybe care about what people say if you’re acting crazy, but don’t [generally] care about what others think.
S: Do you think you embody the spirit of a “carefree black boy?”
J: I do. I like the phrase because personally I do whatever I think is going to better me, better my family no matter what anyone thinks! If I think it’s going to do good for me and my family, I go for it.
S: So what’s the most important message you want to put out into the world?
J: Man just…love each other. It doesn’t matter skin tone, sexuality you know? We cut-we all bleed. As Rodney King said, “We can all get along.” I just think we can do a lot more loving each other and caring about other people. We’re in such a society today that’s all “me, me, me.” If we cared this much for a second about other people it would be totally different.
S: That’s true! What are some stereotypes placed on black men?
J: We’re all evil. We steal. Up to no good. We’re not fathers to our kids. Aw man…so much. I don’t know there’s just so many, it’s a lot.
S: Do you actively try and push against these stereotypes or do you think that you just live a good life in general and transcend them?
J: I think that I’m not actively doing it but I do try to live a good life. Like I said, what’s good for me and my family. I do try to push pass what people may think of myself, or my brothers, or my friends. Basically to show people that it’s not really like that. I try to be a good father-a good husband. I try to do those things mostly because it’s morally right. But then I do have that [pushing against stereotypes] in the back of my head.
S: What are the biggest insecurities you face or have faced as a black male?
J: I'm afraid of going to jail for something I didn't do or getting gunned down because I fit a description.
S: That’s really sad. We shouldn’t walk around paranoid and worrying about what descriptions we fit but there’s a lot of pressure from all corners of our lives being black individuals. It’s pretty much always thrown in our faces. What do you think about this?
J: Well I haven’t really thought of it that way...well… I’ll be careful when I say that because I have thought about it that way. I guess basically I just didn’t care. I see myself as a human, like everybody else sees themselves as a human. You know? I have the same rights as everybody else and I just go for it. I try to treat everybody equally and respectfully and just do me.
S: Have you ever heard the saying “you have to work ten times as hard to be half as good as they are?”
J: All the time and you know what? I see it a lot in the workplace, I see it in different places and me at first I’m like “nah it’s just coincidence” but then when you [continuously] see a black person that’s qualified, and a white person that’s not as qualified and you see who gets the position…you understand what I’m saying. So you’re like “okay I see something’s going on here.” And I’ve seen it more than once from being on the board and from being in the film industry. So definitely, yes.
S: Something I discuss a lot with my black friends and want to see for black people is for us stop victimizing ourselves to make white people/establishments more comfortable. I remember when I was working at American Apparel black people would come in and they’d immediately come to the front and ask, “Hey do you need to check my bag? Do I need to put it down up here?” and I’m like “No! Are you crazy? Absolutely not.” No white person would ever think to walk into that store and ask that. We’re so conditioned to being seen as targets, and it’s true we are in their eyes, but I wish we did not have to think of ourselves that way. It’s kind of like we’ve accepted this tragic image of ourselves.
J: Yeah just don’t even think about it! Just live your life, like nobody's watching. I understand what you’re saying too, but it has been drilled in our heads. It’s based on the actions of other people when you go in stores from them following you or from people asking you to leave your bag at the door so you think “uhh well I guess I have to leave my bag everywhere I go.” It’s kind of ingrained in us but I wish we could get out of that as well.
S: Yeah, I feel like in a lot of ways we make ourselves inferior in order to make them comfortable.
J: I just think that we’re different in ways. We are raised in a certain way and they are raised in a certain way...and I’m not saying all but [generally speaking] they are. [Laughter] We’re just...just different in certain ways. We are. Like I said earlier we are all the same as humans and all of that, but our cultures are different.
S: We are different and we should be able to accept that and live in unity. I mean one thing I love about being black and black culture in general is our sense of unity. I just love that we have this strong sense of each other in a way. I mean you’re walking down the street and you see brother or sister it’s just like “what’s up?” A small personal connection.
S: So why is it important for you to be carefree?
J: You know because I want to remain true for myself. I don’t like to be uptight about stuff, I don’t like to worry or fuss about things. So I just do what I do without thought. I’m just comfortable in my own skin.
S: That’s great! I feel like the biggest thing I’ve gotten from all of these interviews is that you guys just see yourselves. You guys want to put out love into the world.
J: But really that’s the way it should be. I mean here we’re a free country, why can’t we be free? Do what we want to do when we want to do it. Not anything illegal or immoral or anything like that but if I want to eat here, if I want to go to the beach [without feeling judgement or pressure] i’ll do it! Who cares if someone is looking at you a certain way? If someone is going to feel this certain way about you, who cares?
S: [in response to judgmental people] Yeah for me I’m like “that’s not my problem it’s yours!” [laughter] So I know I reached out to you, but why do you think I chose to interview you?
J: Oh wow! I don’t know. Ummm...I don’t know! I think maybe because you thought I was carefree.
S: Well what qualities about yourself do you think made me want to interview you?
J: I thought about that and I was wondering if we talked and I told you about my family and my kids and that story of my wife and maybe you were intrigued. I don’t know!
S: Well that’s pretty much it; and also whenever I bring up your name everyone is like “Wow! Jimmie is such a great guy!” You have this respectable personality and persona.
J: Aw thank you!
S: Yeah! You’re a black man who carries himself well and you actually remind me a lot of my father! [laughter] Very respectful, very genuine. You get what you see.
J: Well that’s good to know!
S: How do you hope to better your community?
J: I see the young black man as the pillar of our community. So, I plan to better our community by investing time with these young black men. I believe it will make a world of difference in their lives. I am currently setting up a 101 to acting class for a group of 8th grade boys that I will teach once a week.
S: This is amazing! Best of luck with that, Jimmie. Thank you for being here.
Check out Jimmie's IMBD page here.
Copy Editor: Chloe Konnor