Oakland, CA (August 2008)
copyright: Aaron Douglas
My encounter with Menhuam seemed to be one of happenstance. Not to say that all of the men who have been so generous to stop and pose for one of my street portraits hasn’t left a unique impression in their own right. It’s just that I discovered an incredible wealth of wisdom to be gleaned from Menhuam, and I left this interaction with the sense that I gained a friend, perhaps even a brother.
I was walking down Broadway in downtown Oakland (California) when Menhuam seemed to pop up out of nowhere. He was carrying a large canvas bag full of books and he asked me if I would like to hear about the book he had written and self-published, I Can Do Anything I Put My Mind to Black People: A Manual for Renewal.
As an artist, there’s something to be said about those of us who take a grass roots approach to spread the word about our work. Of course, this gave me cause to want to stop and learn a little more about this intriguingly striking man with the innocent freckles and curly salt-and-pepper hair. Throughout the course of our 45-minute conversation I learned quite a bit about Menhuam’s thoughts on the correlation between the distribution of wealth in America and the current state of the African American community.
Not only did I learn his ideals and opinions on black culture, but I also found out some interesting things about his life. Menhuam is 31 years old and is bi-racial. His biological mother was white and his biological father was black. However, when he was four years old he was adopted into a family where the mother was black and the father was white. I found it interesting that a white father-figure could raise such a strong black-identified man.
When he’s not writing books or making waves as a leader in his community, Menhuam makes a living as a certified Journeyman carpenter and is also a student of environmental architecture. He resides in his native city of Oakland with his wife and their three children.
He told me his first name is pronounced “men-who-aim.” …fitting, isn’t it?