I still remember that day so vividly. I was 11. It was raining. An unmarked car was parked, hidden in the bushes. Our father calmly ushered us in the house. It was just a regular rainy day…

And then the police broke down our door with dogs foaming at the mouth and guns trained, intent on arresting SOMEBODY that night. That night they destroyed the house, our house.

My name is Terrance McQueen and this is my Crystal Stair.

The next morning, after my father was arrested, my mother went to work and we went to school (or at least tried to) as nothing had happened. He was sentenced to 20 years, but only served 11, and through that time my parents remained married. I would be 31 years old when he was released. He’d miss both middle and high school, he’d miss puberty and “the conversation”, he’d miss my little brother. You see, along with the vases, doors, and peace of mind that were broken that night, a critical relationship was also broken.

Although he was intent on making up for the lost time and being in our lives — the dynamic was different. He’d gone from being a dad to being my father and a lot has changed since the moment he was taken from me. Dealing with the weight of physical absence was something that I was not prepared for.

There were a few factors that led to my father’s arrest – and it started long before that fateful night.  

One factor was religion – the Bible teaches and tells us of men who are the sole providers and breadwinners of the household and that a man who can’t provide, isn’t a man at all. My father did it all. We weren’t rich, but we were comfortable. He was a licensed barber and cosmetologist, and he did landscaping. But landscaping was seasonal so there would be periods of time with no work.

So he turned to dealing drugs.

I want to believe that he felt like he wasn’t enough, and necessity is the mother of invention — he was just trying to provide. If we were in his shoes, we surely would have been exploring other options too.

I also remember that day so vividly because that is the same day, I said I hated him. There my dad was, handcuffed, sitting on the couch—our house destroyed.

At 11, that was the only way I knew how to express the feeling of hopelessness and come to terms that I was about to lose my father. My family was no stranger to the penal system – I’d had cousins, uncles, and relatives all in prison so I knew I had to be different. I knew that this was not the path that I needed to follow. I knew that this was not the path that my parents raised me to follow.

Now, at the age of 23, I am thankful to be reunited with my father and taking the necessary steps to repair and restore our relationship.

On Black Men

When I think of the state of black men, we are in a strange place in society. We are succeeding while also failing. We are expected to do well [succeeding] yet still being told that we are not doing enough [failing]. There is a call to action that we must answer. A call to protect, love, and honor Black women, Black girls, Black boys, and other Black elders. We must tell other Black men that we love them and support young Black boys from a place that does not make them feel inferior or inadequate. There is also a call of transparency that we must answer. We must be honest. We must own our truth and live our truth. Honesty will get us farther than “flexing” will.

The perception of Black men in society is a fearful one. We are a target because we are powerful. I want to acknowledge that Black women and Black trans women experience the weight of oppression more heavily than Black men. While Black men are appreciated, we are still heavily scrutinized. Black men do what they can and somehow society tells us that it is not enough or we aren’t worthy. That is another conversation for a different day, but I would love to ask society “why are you so afraid of us?”

“Remember that guy that gave up? Neither does anybody else.” To the young Black men reading this, you cannot afford to allow your situation and life hardships to define you. Allow the pressures of life to contribute to your success — giving up is not an option. I would also remind the young Black men reading this to give yourself grace. You are human. Humans make mistakes, humans cry, humans don’t always feel the best — that is okay.  Take risks. Do not be afraid to try because that may be the moment that you find out that you can fly.