by Malik Washington
The stereotypes are persistent and consistent: Young Black males are dangerous, we are thugs, we are gangsters, we are “superpredators.” This language creates a picture in one’s mind and with it come expectations. I am proud to say that there are young Black men and women here in our community who are smashing these false stereotypes and narratives, taking ownership of their destiny in order to craft their own narrative rather than allow those who haven’t walked one day in our shoes to tell the world who we are.
I myself can bear witness to the debilitating nature of the false narratives fed to the public which influence how I am treated and welcomed into the world every day. Recently, I met a likeminded brother named Damien Posey, whom many in Bayview Hunters Point know affectionately as Uncle Damien.
I entitled this article “Uncle Damien in action!” because every time I look up or check our Instagram account, I see Damien Posey serving our community. Getting guns off the street, mentoring our youth, feeding the homeless or less fortunate – that is just a small glimpse of his amazing work in our community.
Damien Posey served 120 months in federal prison. For some, that would have been the end of the story. However, for the man we know as Uncle Damien, time in prison only served to stoke his passion to transform himself into a servant of the people.
I got the chance to interview Damien, and he revealed many intimate details about his life as a young man growing up here in Bayview Hunters Point. During our conversation, Damien said: “I didn’t grow up with a positive role model in the house, so I took to the streets. I tried to learn things from people who were emotionally broken and filled with trauma themselves. That brokenness and trauma was transferred on to me.”
He continued, “I did things in the community that I was not proud of, things that I now fight diligently against.”
Damien’s time in prison was a time of self-discovery and rebirth. When we spoke, he explained a little about how “the change” began and what event served as the key catalyst for his transformation.
“During my time in prison, I learned about myself and my people. I was able to really get in tune with my abilities and capabilities as well as the gifts that God has given me, like speaking and being able to positively influence other people.”
Inspired by Uncle Damien, young teens are in the Tenderloin passing out warm blankets and food to people less fortunate.
Damien admits that everything he is involved in, from food giveaways to mediating disputes between rival gang members, all started right here in Bayview Hunters Point, where he continues to do his work. I have nicknamed Uncle Damien “Action Jackson” because as I said before: Every time I look up, he is in the community doing something phenomenal.
As our interview continued, Damien provided more and more details that helped me understand the events in his life which shaped and molded him into the man he is today. Damien said: “I often say that I was raised in the streets, but the reality is that I was raised by ‘the system,’ and we know that the system is broken. During my childhood and youth, I was in and out of juvenile detention centers.
“My mom was only 16 when she had me, and she had my sister when she was 18. Our housing situation was unstable. I’ve lived in Valencia Gardens, Fillmore and Potrero Hill as well as Bayview Hunters Point-Double Rock. I went to Roosevelt Middle School and attended McAteer High School. I rep Bayview-Double Rock but I have lived all over, and I give respect and get respect everywhere I go.”
During our interview, Damien explained that the Nation of Islam and videos he watched of the Honorable Louis Farrakhan while he was incarcerated had a positive impact on him. Although he is no longer part of “the Nation,” Damien has retained some of the discipline and structure he learned as a member. Love and respect for the people is one of the key lessons Damien retained from his days in the Nation of Islam.
Since his release from prison, Damien has founded his own organization named US 4 US. As I mentioned earlier, Damien is extremely active in the community. Most times, you may see Damien surrounded by young people, usually the teenagers he employs. I saw one video recently that really touched me, where young teens are in the Tenderloin passing out warm blankets and food to people less fortunate.
There are other men and women who do this type of work in our community, but few do it with the flare and charisma exhibited by Uncle Damien. I asked Damien about the moniker “Uncle Damien” and this is what he had to say:
“When I was coming up, I was known as ‘Ace’ and I had a partner named ‘Ace-deuce.’ Some people called me ‘Paradice,’ because I was always shootin’ dice. However, the best name that I could be called now is ‘Uncle Damien’ because that name reflects what I am doing now. I am a big brother, friend and mentor to those who don’t have that. I am trying to give them something that I didn’t have.”
I asked Damien if he could name the defining moment in his life, when he finally said to himself, “My life is going in the wrong direction and I need to change.” He described a time when he was informed he was a father and he received a photo of his daughter. Damien said that he just paused and stared into the eyes of his daughter, and during that moment he knew that his life would no longer be the same. He knew that he had a purpose in this world, and that being a positive role model for his little girl was a huge part of that.
By default, Damien is now a positive role model for so many people. I admire and respect this brother, and that is why I took time to introduce him and some of the work he does to all of you reading our one-of-a-kind national Black newspaper. It is time that we capture our own narrative and start to tell our own truths and our own stories.
Us4Us is a nonprofit that serves our community by providing violence prevention, mentorship, community cleanups, community action, as well as supporting our seniors. They are also involved in education and career support. This is just a limited list of the programs promoted by Us4Us. If you are interested in joining Uncle Damien and getting involved, you can reach Us4Us via Instagram @us4us.bayarea or send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I leave you with a final quote from Damien that stuck with me. Damien said: “There is a saying that I like to use. and it comes from the great Rudy Corpus of United Playaz. Rudy says: ‘It’s not how you start the race; it’s how you finish the race.’”
Damien plans on finishing “the race” strong. I plan on running a strong race with him – how about you?
Dare to struggle, dare to win! All Power to the People!
Bay View Editor Malik Washington can be reached at Malik@sfbayview.com. Contact him whenever you see news happening. Please visit our website, sfbayview.com, and share the knowledge, wisdom and understanding and Black culture contained in our one-of-a-kind national Black newspaper.