Ezzy (Everick M Eddings)
Man… where to begin with Ezzy. First, I just want to speak to Ezzy and his great character as a human being. True to his name, Ezzy is easy going. He’s quick to smile and show affection, dedicated and determined. His desire to be there for his family and those he loves makes him in one of so many ways a role model to aspire to.
Ezzy and I share a story that I believe really speaks to so much of what we’ve seen go on around us for so long, and because of that and how it connects I believe that this story and its meaning need to be shared. Because it happened to a black man and a white man, and what that means.
How did it feel reading just that? “Black man and white man”. Did you have a moment of tension? If so, why? Why are we so timid in this conversation? Why are we so apprehensive to bring it up? Sure. It’s sensitive and can quickly become a very deep conversation and even a very difficult one, but what change do we really expect to happen without some difficulty?
Let me first tell you about the experience that Ezzy and I had.
Ezzy and I are leaving late one evening to go home. He and I both parked our cars on the street next to one another. On our way out Ezzy says “Chris, you got time for a smoke?” “A quick one.” I tell him.
He unlocks his car and we both get in. I sit in the passenger side next to the curb. It’s 11:45 at night. As Ezzy starts to roll us one up, a police cruiser rolls by us on the driver’s side. We watch him drive on and go up over the hill, and we continue talking.
Just a few moments later we see headlights pull behind us. The blue lights aren’t on, but we can see that it’s the officer that had just rolled past moments before. Ezzy and I both step out of the car.
My inner monolog went something like this:
“Hmm, well, this isn’t good. Shit! No, it’s going to be fine. Wait… No! Fuck! Okay… that’s not helpful. Stay calm, Chris. Fuck! …Wait… I’m white. I look white. Like a standard white dude. What does that mean in this moment? What does this mean for Ezzy? Is this good for him? Is this bad for me? Okay Chris… Look at the cop. Say hello. Be friendly and normal.”
All of that happened in my head in about 2.5 seconds and I then was overwhelmed with what I can only describe as an intense sense of responsibility.
Prior to this moment, I feel that I had a pretty good and grounded understanding of what the true idea and meaning of “white privilege” was. It was understood in sympathy though and couldn’t yet be understood and felt from empathy. I didn’t have the context or experience for empathy in the matter yet.
What is the responsibility that I felt? Why was I responsible in that moment to be the source any positive resolve in this particular situation? I was a normal looking white guy with a beard, chinos and a Patagonia hat getting of a car that smelled like herb, and I knew that because of my physical appearance, even considering all other factors, that I could walk straight up to that cop and nothing would happen.
I remember the look of surprise on his face when he saw me get out of that passenger seat. He stood calmly behind the door of his cruiser and asked what we were doing. “We were just heading out and chatting.” we told him.
I walked straight up to the door of his cruiser and asked his name. He told me, we shook hands and I introduced myself as well. I smiled, was polite and charming, and did something that I hate doing… Small talk. I spoke with him about… nothing… for a couple of minutes as Ezzy hung back close to his car. The officer said goodnight, wished us safe and got in his cruiser and left. Ezzy and I decided to count our blessings and we quickly did the same.
I saw Ezzy a few days after. This situation had played over and over in my mind hundreds of times since it happened. I asked Ezzy, this easy-going, quick-to-smile, fantastic human, “What do you think would have happened if a normal-looking white dude hadn’t also gotten out of your car?”
He said, “Man… I thought about that but I had to just let it go cause I didn’t want to get mad.”
Here’s the reality of it all, guys… A cop drove down a side street late at night and looked in the driver window of a parked car and saw a black man sitting in it. That was all he needed to pull back around for a second look. Guaranteed, he didn’t see the white guy in the dark passenger seat across from him.
To the officer’s surprise, a white guy gets out of this car and WALKS STRAIGHT UP TO THE COP with zero hesitation.
What do you think would have happened if Ezzy had been in the car alone? What do think would have happened if on a dark side-street a black man walked up to a police cruiser?
If you don’t understand what “White Privilege” is, it’s the fact that I can get out a car that smells like weed, walk straight up to a cop, bullshit with him for a few minutes and walk away. That’s white privilege.
There was nothing whatsoever that would lead me to believe that the officer was prejudice. My conversation with him was pleasant and I left feeling overall good that he was out there, but it doesn’t change the fact that the “if” of my being there or not is not a big one. It’s not a stretch of imagination to any degree to consider the alternative outcomes.
This is a personal story and I don’t share it lightly, and I even share with some hesitation, but I feel that it is very important for us to be real about these injustices that we all witness. My experience here turned my sympathy into empathy. Even still, I will never know fully what it’s like to walk in a black man’s shoes and it’s important for me to recognize that fact as well.
We need to be real here. We need to have the challenging conversations and be willing to consider the idea that we may be wrong about some things. It’s how me grow and learn as individuals and as a society. It’s not about not seeing difference. It’s sure as hell not about “tolerance”. It’s about acceptance and curiosity. It’s about finding the inevitable good that exists in most everyone and even just as a start letting that be our common ground.
When I asked Ezzy where he wanted to shoot his portraits for Project 104 he said “We’re going to go hang out in the hood.”
We went to see his two brothers. Men that I’ve heard him speak fondly of for as long as I’ve known him. I can’t tell you how much a really enjoyed getting to know them all and especially seeing the dynamic and the love that they share as brothers. “The Three Amigos” they endearingly call themselves.
Ezzy’s answers to the interview questions are very wrapped up in the lives of those he cares for on the deepest level. I have no doubt in my mind that he would do any and everything to ensure the well-being and protection of these people and that they, especially his brothers would do the same.
Ezzy, thank you for being you, my friend, and for taking the time to speak with me not only for Project 104 but for the greater conversation revolving around us all! You're a fantastic human!
Love Aimlessly, My Friends
What gets you out of bed every day?
The motivation and knowing that I gotta get up and get my kids together. Knowing that I gotta put something together because they’re going to need it. I can’t be sittin’ around and being lazy. Even on a day when I got a hang-over or whatever, I gotta get up. You feel me? That drives me every day to come into Rolf and just punish them dishes, cause I know I’m on the clock! If I know that I’m not making money any other kind of way I’m gonna be in that mother fucker! I ain’t miss not one day of work. Even on days that I’m not even supposed to be there just to do a favor for them. I got to, man.
Kids need more than money though. They need time. They need love. They need knowledge. I have to get up and learn more. I have to get up and do more so that I can show them! You feel me?
What is the greatest lesson that you’ve learned?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned is… I guess how to be a black man. Shit.
I don’t know. That’s hard. Let me think on this.
I guess I can say, and it’s crazy cause I think about this all then time… and I’m not ashamed of it.
When I was young, my grandad was a dish-washer at the hospital. I used to go sit with him sometimes. I’d sit right there in the dish pit with him and watch him.
It’s crazy that I’ve grown up and I’m washing dishes for a living, and I’m cold at it! I think just from watching him.
I won’t say that I grew up wanting to be a dish washer. There are other things that I have wanted to do but this is how I’m paying my bills and feeding my family. I saw my grandfather do that the same way.
Ultimately, what I’m saying is be proud of your work. It shows.
What is love?
Love… Love is someone that you put your all into. No matter right or wrong. You’ll forgive and forget. It goes deeper than that though. Cause I can love you but not like you. You can love on different levels. Sometimes you don’t want to show too much love because sometimes it could get you killed by somebody that you thought loved you but they don’t have the same love for you.
Love can be good and bad. I think that everybody loved everybody the world would be a better place, but who knows. How would it really be? If there was love, peace, and everybody was getting along, do you think the world would be better?
About Ezzy :
Lives in Nashville, TN
From Lebanon, TN