Black Masculinity Dissected (with Dante Stewart & Lorraine Avila) | Crooked Media
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March 16, 2023
Stuck with Damon Young
Black Masculinity Dissected (with Dante Stewart & Lorraine Avila)

In This Episode

Pastor and writer Dante Stewart and Damon discuss the changing face of black male masculinity.


Then author Lorraine Avila joins the podcast to tackle the question of how much one should allow astrology to guide their lives.


Send your questions, confessions and/or conundrums in for consideration to be responded to on the podcast at





Dante Stewart: I used to think that our self-image and our self talk about Black boys and Black men was similar to like, looking at a cracked mirror, right? So what is seen is seen but is distorted. But like the older I get bro, it’s not a broken mirror where our image is distorted, bro it’s a broken heart. [music plays]


Damon Young: Welcome back, everyone to Stuck with Damon Young, the show where it is official show policy to acknowledge that Angela Bassett got robbed. And so Creed III just had the highest opening weekend of any sports film ever. And much of the success can definitely be attributed to it’s stars Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors, who’ve been on a multi week press run. Where not only have they shown what appears to be a very genuine friendship, but a vulnerability and a tenderness that just isn’t associated with what the country expects from young Black men. So to talk about this and also get a bit deeper on what Black masculinity means, where we learned it, what it looks like, what we expect from it, and how it could both heal and harm. I speak to the homie Dante Stewart, ordained minister and author of Shoutin’ in the Fire: An American Epistle. And then I’m joined by brilliant young author Lorraine Avila. And we try to answer a question about the merits of astrology. All right y’all. Let’s get it. [music plays] Dante.


Dante Stewart: Yo, what’s up, bro, bro. What’s good, baby? 


Damon Young: [laughs] Hey dog, man how you been? 


Dante Stewart: I’m good. I’m good. I’m good. In this present moment, bro, I’m actually really good. Been having a good day emotionally. It’s beautiful outside, the sun is starting to shine. I got my tea and my favorite mug. Got my candle. 


Damon Young: I mean, you look good. I mean I can see you got the jacket with the alpaca collar going on right now man, you looking real good right now. Looking real sharp.


Dante Stewart: I appreciate it, you looking good too, bro. I’m trying. When they say I was coming on Stuck with Damon. I was like, bro, I got to look good, bro. I got. I got to pull out the new frames that I got. I got to pull out my new shirts. I went to Walmart, bought me a shirt, I got to pull out my favorite jacket. I got to rush home, gotta make sure my breath smell good.


Damon Young: Well I, you know, I appreciate you know what I mean. I appreciate that you went the extra mile for us. You know. 


Dante Stewart: One hunnid bro, one hunnid. 


Damon Young: So did you watch the Oscars? 


Dante Stewart: I did. I watched maybe because I used to go to bed around like 9:30, 9:45. So I made it past the supporting actress. I made it up past animation. I made it to, what’s the last thing I remember? I think the last one that I remember actually making it might have been Navalny. I didn’t make it all the way through. 


Damon Young: I watched probably about half of the show. I was watching it off and on with Last of Us. They had the season finale of that show. But I did happen to catch when, you know, the beginning would have the best supporting actor, best supporting actress, and particularly when Angela Bassett was up for her role in, you know, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and she lost, you know, Jamie Lee Curtis ended up winning for her role in Everything Everywhere All at Once. And Angela Bassett’s reaction, you know, you could tell that she was. You could tell that she was not happy. Now, how unhappy she might have been, that’s for people to speculate only she knows that. But one thing that happened later that night, Michael B. Jordan, Jonathan Majors came out to present an award, and before they went into her spiel, the first thing they did when he get on stage is they acknowledge Angela Bassett. They said. Auntie, we see you. And I feel like we talk a lot. You know, there are these cultural conversations about toxic masculinity, right? And particularly with Black men, with Black males and how, you know, we need more examples or we need to do better. And that’s all true. That’s all very, very, very true. And I think about just the relationship that has developed publicly between Jonathan Majors and Michael B. Jordan in the last month with the lead up for the promotion and the lead up of the release of Creed, where they are doing photoshoots together, they’re doing interviews together, they appear to have like a very tender relationship with each other and tenderness is not necessarily thing that I think that we associate with Black male hood. And I think that that moment, you know, where they acknowledged Angela Bassett’s hurt, they acknowledged that that even if Hollywood wasn’t seeing her, that they saw her, that we see her. Was beautiful. Right.


Dante Stewart: Like, even at that moment, bro, like there was something so, like, loving and affirming about it being the first thing they did. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dante Stewart: Now, mind you, bro, this is a gigantic moment for both of them. Like my movie kind of Oscar kind of knowledge is very minimal, but as it is with basketball, so it is with, like, our lives. There is something beautiful and sacred. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dante Stewart: And if they had. Praise God. But if it was their first time ever, being on a big stage like that is even more meaningful, that they would take that moment and say like, yo, all right, we got to order business to do. But there’s like a Black order of business, you know [laughter] we got to do is like church, right? It’s like church. We better come up. Okay. I’m the announcer at church, I’m the emcee at church. Somebody is in the church that is important that came here today. So we’re going to send we got our thing our order of business that we got to do. But all right I we got to acknowledge this person because they’re an important person and they deserve to be acknowledged in front of everybody no matter what is happening, no matter what has gone down, they deserve that acknowledgment, affirmation and like that meant so much to me personally, because I know there are so many ways, even beyond that moment where we see the camera pan on her face when Jamie Lee Curtis is announced to be the winner, that that that even before that moment, there are so many ways Black people are robbed of affirmation, are robbed of acknowledgement, are just robbed of the celebration that our gift and our endurance deserves. It ain’t like she been in the game for a long time. You know, she has been in a game for a long time, have bodied a multitude of roles have in some sense, you know, has expanded the idea of what acting can become and very serious ways for Black women and for young Black girls. And I’m so grateful for my Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors that they thought enough of her to say that like, yo, even if they don’t celebrate us or love us, we can still love us and head nod one another, because that’s a really Black moment, bro. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dante Stewart: That was like a nod. Like that was like hey, hey, I see. If we come into the same building and like you here and I’m here and we see one another, like I’m probably going to be like hey I’m probably gonna give you like that aight what’s up my dog? 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Dante Stewart: Like hey I see you dog. We in a room full of white people [laughter] but at least we here. And that’s only one side of it, bro. That’s one side of it. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Dante Stewart: But then another side of it is like, forget y’all as well. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dante Stewart: Because y’all don’t see what we see. And we going to make sure y’all see what we see even if y’all don’t acknowledge it. 


Damon Young: It was a subtle moment too. Like it was one of the moments where if you blinked, you could have missed it. And, you know, I’m glad you mentioned like you’re in some corporate setting or an unfamiliar setting. It could just be an airport, it could be a Starbucks or whatever. And you see another one of us and you make eye contact, you know, don’t have to be an extended 12 step pound or nothing like that but just a real subtle head nod, a real subtle acknowledgment that I see you. I see you. And I’m going to wait for this confirmation that you see me, because that confirmation is proof of being seen, because that doesn’t always happen. 


Dante Stewart: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: One of the reasons why I think that just that moment and also, again, a relationship that seems to be developing between those two is just so beautiful is because I think that you have these two extremely muscular, handsome, young, you know, almost like this hyper hetero ideal in terms of, you know, how they are built, their status, you know, all of that. They’re both famous actors, but they are also, you know, not necessarily making space, but just being themselves. Right. And showing that, you know what, you could be this person. You could be built like this, you could look like this, whatever, but you could still have some quote unquote, “softness” in you. You could be tender, you could be soft, you could be an artist, you could be quirky, you could be all these things. And again, I think that. Okay. There is this idea that, you know, these images are not that popular, that we don’t see them enough and we do. You know, I mean, they’re not the first they won’t be the last. But I think that the more images like that, the more people we can point to who are doing stuff like that, the better. You know I mean because again, I think that is just a really very beautiful public thing to be able to see. 


Dante Stewart: Oh, yeah facts, bro. Actually, what’s interesting, bro, is I actually just finished a piece on that image. But one of the things, man, I wanted to write about in that piece and I love that you talking about this image because for me I am of the belief that even when something is silent, it can still speak tremendously. 


Damon Young: Mmm. 


Dante Stewart: So like every morning when I wake up and go into my office, I stare at an image of a Black boy. You can’t see it right now, but I’m gonna try and describe it as best I can. It is a painting of a Black boy. Backdrop is red. He’s dark skinned, his eyes are closed, his head is tilted up, his hair looks like mine. And on the side of his face, his whole side of his face is covered in flowers. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Dante Stewart: Pink flowers, white flowers, blue flowers, orange flowers, brown flowers. It’s like his whole face is covered and his whole from the neck, from face all the way down he’s uncovered. So there’s a sort of type nakedness that he holds in this image, but a sort of type of solemness that is in this image, but it’s also a kind of joyful like contemplation and resting. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dante Stewart: And everyday I know that there are so many ways when I wake up in the morning and sit down to work that I am not him. There are so many ways that I know that every time I sit down to read or to prepare or to whatever, that I am not this brother, but every time I sit down, I’m reminded of what I can become and what can be an inheritance for me. And I believe that, you know, silence can be divine. And that even watching an image or a movie or listening to a song can do as much to change how we think or how we feel or how we work, or how we relate to one another as even arguing about like, how terrible we are or how violent we could become or how little we feel. Because a lot of times, even in this moment when this image came out into the world, so much of it was about the argument. But like the most thing that I think is powerful about this thing that we do is the experience, bro, is the contemplation, it’s the thinking, it’ the watching, it’s the talking about it—


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dante Stewart: —that becomes the argument either of what we are not or what we can become. And so, like, I’m glad that in this moment where we have so many images of the ways Black boys die and harm one another, harm themselves and harm other people because they are not Black boy or straight or whatever, or masculine or muscular or successful or whatever moniker we used to like marginalize  somebody else. Then in a time where there are so many images and those images function with such power that we have such an image of like intimacy. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dante Stewart: And vulnerability and freedom, I believe can alter, as Baldwin said, even for a little bit the ways we have come to learn the unhealthy ways of being together, bro. And like for so long, bro, I used to think that our self-image and our self talk about Black boys and Black men was similar to like looking at a cracked mirror, right? So what is seen is seen but is distorted. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dante Stewart: And every piece of glass is like holding a different iteration of what’s being looked at in the mirror or what not. But like the older I get, bro it’s not a broken mirror where our image is distorted. Bro. It’s a broken heart, dog. It’s a broken heart. Our self image and self-talk is about our heart being broken and us aiding the breaking in a myriad of ways. And I personally think that like if that image has been had for so many decades or centuries or whatever or millennia in some regard, then there also is the possibility that a new image can be had as well. And I think that they are least allowing for the possibility of it, even if they’re not like arguing about it, because a lot of people are asking Jonathan Majors about it, and if we’re paying attention to his interviews, he’s like, I’m just doing my thing. Y’all can argue about it. I’m just going to do my thing and be who I am and continue to love my dog like he’s my dog. 


Damon Young: And I’m glad. You know, you brought up the point of how these things we learn, right? We learn what is masculine or was considered masculine. We learn how to be a man. And a lot of who we are today is modeled after these lessons, right? This curriculum that is an ongoing living and breathing sort of thing. And, you know, I’m curious, I guess, from your own experience with that, like not necessarily how did you learn how to be a man, but what lessons? Like, who were your teachers or what lesson did you learn? And these don’t necessarily have to be good lessons— 


Dante Stewart: Oh, yeah.


Damon Young: —positive lessons. But things that you like internalized and, you know, either had to lean into or learn to subvert. But where’d you get it from? 


Dante Stewart: Yeah, bro. Whew, man, I was actually, I love this question because I was actually talking to Jason Reynolds the other day about this when we were talking in the context of parenting. He was talking about his boy and how like his one of his dogs, you know, he didn’t really grow up in a familial structure that was like loving and affirming. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dante Stewart: And he was saying, like, for so many so say like, for example, so many immigrants, they’re like first generation. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dante Stewart: The first generation to experience this new thing to to to go after the whatever ideal of the American dream that we have in our mind, the first person to go to this particular university or whatever, whatever, whatever. And his boy was like, yo, I’m a first generation lover. I’m a first gen dude who’s trying to instill a loving, compassionate, tender type of reality for me and my children. And as we sit there and talk like it made me kind of go back into my own life because I too am a first generation lover. I come from a family, you know, I ain’t gonna try to say nothing that’s going to get me in trouble because I don’t know my pops or my brother [laughter] listen to this thing. But I’m trying to be honest as possible while not throwing them under the bus, you know. So my pops and and my older brothers, you know, my daddy come from a generation of Black men that took a lot of punches on the chin. And those punches hurt more than a chin. And he never really talked about how much those punches hurt. And they, in some sense punched themselves and punched one another’s without talking about how violent those punching actually was. So my dad is a man who never really like showed deep emotion. 


Dante Stewart: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Maybe in a way to like, protect himself or things like that or even like, you know, my dad and my country home in Swansea, South Carolina. My dad had this, like, shed that he built. So like, before I ever knew what a man cave was like, my daddy had the shed with, like, the computers. Like, like all like everything. 


Damon Young: Uh huh.


Dante Stewart: Computers, games, books. Like, it was just like a whole thing that this old country shed that you walk into. Like, my pops would come home from work. And before you ever come in the house, my dad would go into the shed and things like that. And he would spend, you know, hours on end. What he was doing. It probably was for him, it probably was to get a breather. It probably was to like, you know, just take care of himself, etc., etc., etc.. But at the end of the day, that stuff still affected me and us. And so, like I would describe my ways of showing affection, of being a man and trying to figure it out on my own while being in the context of men who are present but absent. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dante Stewart: Men who are around, but who are avoidant. Men who are talking or whatnot, but who also traumatized and things like that. And so my older brothers, they grew up in a generation of Black men that kind of got the spillage immediately, like spillage, the fallout of the atomic bomb, of unhealed Black men’s heart spattering out onto their families and onto their friendships. So that turned my oldest brother into like so my brother was a hard nigga. [laughter] An so, like, that’s that’s kind of the way I grew up was like, I’m approximating to standards where on the one hand, you know, I’m lonely, but on the other hand, like I’m hurt because, like—


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dante Stewart: —like whatever happened to my brother, a lot of times that spilled out over into me, then, you know, I played football. [laughter] You know, so then I’m playing at the highest level of college football. And like, it’s just a like environment where you breathe the oxygen of like Black nigga machismo, like, straight up [laughter] like it is what it is, dog. 


Damon Young: No I feel you. 


Dante Stewart: But that was like the environment, the context that like that I kind of came to understand myself as a Black man. It was like I came up in a context where on the one hand I was lonely. Then on on the other hand, I was hurt. And then in the context of like, sports, I’m always performing a sort of type of masculinity that I could never approximate to. But then that brings me like, rewards and benefits that actually feel good to me and to other people, but then also destroy parts of us that we don’t really realize. And for me, learning how to become a man was not necessarily like learning how to re-imagine masculinity as much as as it was like normal bro, because it was just it wasn’t like an aha moment, bro. It was like, okay, I’m a broken dude. I’m really, like, messing up as an individual. You know, whether it was, you know, as a, as a spouse or as a father. And it was just like, bro, I’m a sensitive dude. So, like, I have a propensity to want to be better. And like, I take, I feel, I’m empath, too. So if somebody don’t like me, I kind of feel that energy if somebody is not like like if they don’t vibe with a part of me, I kind of feel that energy. And if it’s the people that’s closest to me like, and they feel like I’m like, not doing well, then like the demand of love for me is to become better. And so, like, for me, a lot of my ideas of masculinity came from my own inward journey to try and give the young boy or the athlete or the husband, father things that were stolen from him that he caused or that others caused in him, and just trying to kind of continue to know how to do it again and again and again. 


Damon Young: Yeah. So a phrase that you use first generation lover. I never heard that before. I guess Jason Jason used that one of y’all— 


Dante Stewart: Yeah. Yeah. Shout out to Jason—


Damon Young: —conversation, it came up in the conversation y’all were having. I’ve never heard anybody say it that way before. And that is perfectly succinct, that makes perfect sense, you know, to describe a lot of us, you know? And the thing is, like, you know, just for my own education, that doesn’t describe me because my relationship with my dad was always tender, right? Was always loving. I never doubted whether or not my dad cared about me, loved me. He told me he would love me. He also was like my first coach, my drill instructor, my dietician, my jitney, my nigga. Like all of these things. 


Dante Stewart: Wow. 


Damon Young: Like my fucking artistic director. [laughs] You know what I mean?


Dante Stewart: Yo your daddy was that dude, bro. I ain’t gonna lie, your dad was fire dog. 


Damon Young: He did all of that. But, you know, we also came up in a circumstance where, you know, we were always financially insecure, always you know what I mean, and my dad had, you know, some employment issues that that, pretty much my entire life. Right. And so, like, my idea of like, okay, this is how to be a man. Like, I never. The tenderness part and a loving part was never a thing that I that I felt like I had to relearn somewhere else. But it was like you know what yeah, that’s. That goes without saying. I got that. But for me, I need to learn how to provide. Right. I need to. And I associated manhood, masculinity with the ability, with power and with status. Because power and status gives you a flexibility. It gives you a freedom to be able to provide, to be able to. You know what I mean? Have like some sort of abundance. To be able to have a motherfucking pantry. Like pantry was like the thing for me [laughter] you know what I mean—


Dante Stewart: Yeah, yeah, word, word, word. 


Damon Young: —that was, yeah pantry—


Dante Stewart: I feel you dog. I got a pantry now, I ain’t never had a pantry. So I got one now. 


Damon Young: Yeah a pantry, you know, that represented access, you know what I mean. So when I think of manhood, when I think of Black masculinity, that’s what comes to mind. And also, you know, I also hooped in college played basketball and I played basketball cause I loved it. I still love it, but I know a part of my love for it was connected in the external validation that being good at basketball provided me, you know what I mean, it gave you a status among men. It gave you a status, you know, among young women. You know, it gave you status among white people. You know, I live in Pittsburgh, predominately white city, in certain social circumstances I know that being a ballplayer, being known as a ballplayer, made navigation a bit smoother. Then then if I were just a regular nigga you more, a non ball playing nigga. 


Dante Stewart: Fact, facts. 


Damon Young: You know, and that’s just a reality. 


Dante Stewart: A regular nigga. We do, we got you— 


Damon Young: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. 


Dante Stewart: —we tracking bro. [laughter]


Damon Young: And, and, and so, you know, much of what is happening with me now is trying to because I feel like I have internalized that idea of okay, being a man means you make money, means you provide, means you’re able to do all these things for your family. But the part about being a present father, a present husband, a present friend. You know, because that just bleeds into my relationships with my friends too, that is somewhere where I’m lacking. 


Dante Stewart: Mm. 


Damon Young: You know, and and again, the all these messy ideas of, like, masculinity, what it means to be a man. And I’m 44 years old and I’m still learning, you know, I guess, or discovering what needs to be subverted, what needs to be leaned into, what needs to be embraced. And it’s it’s a trip, man. Because, you know, I think that when I was young and younger and I would see people who are the age I am now, I would just assume that they had it all together. 


Dante Stewart: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: That they had, you know stopped learning that they were settled, and in some you know, so, you know, they’re there’s not a correlation between having it all together and niggas to stop learning cause some people. You know, have stopped learning. [laughs] You know what I mean?


Dante Stewart: Facts. Facts.


Damon Young: Or stop growing, but they don’t necessarily have it all together. And I just felt like, you know what, people you know, once you’re like in your forties and oh, yeah, that means that you got it all figured out. You got it all settled, you’re grown for real. And I am not there. And, you know, and I could be swayed. I could be moved by seeing an image of, you know, Jonathan Majors and Michael B. Jordan hugged up on each other, you know, because I think of, you know, when I was that age when I was 30, would I’ve been you know, if I was, you know, fortunate enough, privileged enough to have a photo shoot like that with my boys, would I have done something like that or would I’ve adopted, like, you know, the peace sign, the middle finger, ice grill. You know what I mean, and I know the answer [laughter] I know the answer to that question. Would I have been free enough to do that. 


Dante Stewart: Facts. 


Damon Young: And so, yeah, and I just is it’s just like this ongoing education. And, you know, I feel like I’m just getting just lessons upon lessons. You know? I see my man, Ja Morant, the young boy that you just wrote about for, you know, to be great piece, you know, for MSN on Ja Morant and how, you know, he’s going through some shit right now much of it self-induced. 


Dante Stewart: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: And for people unfamiliar, Ja Morant is a star point guard for the Memphis Grizzlies, one of the young marquee players in the NBA. And he recently was flashing his piece while he was on IG Live in a Denver strip club. And this was one in a litany of instances recently where he has been carrying a weapon or been accused of carrying a weapon or accused of threatening somebody with a weapon. And then he was suspended by the Grizzlies for a couple of games. 


Dante Stewart: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: And then, you know, you have some people who got their pitchforks out and want to you know, they should cut him. They should he should be arrested and all that. And it’s like, yo. This young boy just needs I’m not going to say guidance because that’s patronizing. 


Dante Stewart: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Right. That feels condescending. 


Dante Stewart: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: But he needs to know. He needs to learn. He needs somewhere to be educated. That the things that are fulfilling him—


Dante Stewart: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: —the things that seem to be fulfilling him, the things that seem to be validating him, you know, publicly, at least, are just not healthy. 


Dante Stewart: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Right now.


Dante Stewart: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: You know, and so I wonder where someone who is in that position at that young age with all those eyes on him gets that education from. 


Dante Stewart: Hmm. Man, that’s a hard one, because like first of all, let me I mean, you said so much that, like, I don’t want to, like, stop and isn’t like, yes, bro. Yes, bro. Yes, bro. And the main thing that I want to yes, bro, you to is that like, man, I’m proud of you, bro. Like on some real, on some real, real, real bro. Like, I mean, I don’t know you like that, you know? But, you know, I’m proud of you because to remain open and to be willing to grow and to be willing to learn and to be willing to evolve and to be willing to change like is a beautiful, beautiful thing. I’m a Christian, right? You, everybody know this, but not everybody. I’m Reverend Dante Stewart. Right. So as as as a as a Christian, I. Jesus is my dude. You know, preach him every week from the pulpit, you know, sinner, sinner, sinner. Everybody got to get to Jesus. I was reading in the Gospels not too long ago. And it’s a story that really, really blessed me, bro, it’s saying how when Jesus was a young kid, the Bible says that he grew in wisdom and stature—


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dante Stewart: —in the eyes of God and among other people. And what’s so interesting about that is that for Christian people, you know, we say that Jesus is divine, is sacred. And so every iteration of his story is divine and sacred. But when it comes to Jesus growing up and becoming better with wisdom, when it comes to him growing up and having to fail and have to grow and have an understanding, because the only way you grow up in wisdom, bro, is like, you got to go through some stuff, like you got to catch some ails in life, like in order for you to grow up, you just got to do it. And how come we can say that like that journey is sacred, but when other people have to go through the journey of growing in wisdom and stature among God and among people, that that’s somehow suspect. Like that’s sacred as well. For people to be willing to grow and to change and ask questions of themselves. So number one, bro, I’m extremely proud of you for being at your age and like, even if it’s just becoming a, yo, I’m only 31 bro so—


Damon Young: At my advanced age. [laughter] 


Dante Stewart: Hey bro, now you at that good age, you at that sweet spot age, dog. 


Damon Young: See, this old nigga still learning, props to this old nigga. 


Dante Stewart: Bro, na, and you got a shot. Dog. Na, na, you got a shot on, like, basketball, bro. Like, you still got it. [laughter] Like you still. Hey, hey, hey, hey. Don’t mess around now. Hey, you 44. But dog, the joint’s still wet—


Damon Young: I still get, I still get out there, you know don’t get it twisted— 


Dante Stewart: —you still got it, you still got it. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Dante Stewart: And that’s the thing dog. I think that’s the beautiful part as it is with basketball. So it is with, like, our lives. There is something beautiful and sacred about taking the shot again. There’s something beautiful and sacred about showing up to the court again. Like the thing that’s not beautiful and not sacred is when because of ourselves or because of other people, we believe that we don’t even belong on the court, or we believe that we can’t even take the shot or we don’t trust that, okay, if I make the shot in the past in one area, for example, if I grew in a relationship and learn from that religion or if like I was like a butthole to my dog, like me, like I walked away from football because I was immature. And I got into it with one of my teammates, which led me to West Carolina, which ultimately led me to quitting football altogether. If I can embrace and accept that and name it for what it is and grow from it and say, I didn’t like that, but at least learned from it like that’s sacred and beautiful. So, number one, I’m proud of you. That’s sacred. You’re my dog. I probably can’t beat you in basketball. I’m terrible at basketball, but I’m probably faster than you. So we good. [laughter] So, like, that’s the thing about Ja Morant bro. We got to be able to allow people to grow and like, on on another hand, on some real dog. Even though I may not be constantly with it and all the way with it, like we also got to allow someone to be who they are without saying that they owe us something in their like, politics or in their respectability or in their morals and ethics. But Ja Morant got to realize like hey bro, the context is different when you make it out of the places that we make it out, bro. Whether we like it or not, we have a responsibility to treat who we are and what we have as if it’s actually a gift. Do what you do, dog. Do your thing, bro. But at the end of the day, you also have to realize that, like, whatever you do, the stakes are much higher. Like my pastor, my pastor tells me this all the time bro. You have to protect yourself because you have an anointing on your life. And I know people don’t like to talk about that or whatever, because, you know, that just seems too spiritual. But I believe that, like I believe in the idea of calling and that the idea of calling means that, like, I have to treat my journey as if it’s important and that it’s okay if I can’t do or say the things other people say or do, because guess what? I do it when it comes to my craft as a writer, bro. I cannot not practice dog, like I cannot not read. I cannot not like work at this because at the end of the day, like, this is my thing. I got to work at it and like some other people may be able to do that, but like at the end of the day, bro, like the calling is the calling, the anointing is the anointing and I want to protect it because so few of us get an opportunity, bro. Your margin to be great at a thing is so little and your ability to lose it is so great and so in the between those things in our margin and our ability to lose it, then we should at least like think critically about it so that we don’t not destroy by it, if that makes sense. 


Damon Young: No, not, it made perfect sense. One thing, though, that I do have some real ambivalence about, right. Because I agree with you that we all have our own journey. You know what I mean? And and and people need grace when we fuck up, when we misstep, when we get off of our path or whatever. But I’m, the relationship between grace and accountability is one that I’m also that’s also messy sometimes, too, because it’s like we want to give niggas grace. Right? But. We also like and this is a thing that. We also need to hold each other accountable. And so. How does grace and accountability work? You know, in your opinion, with this, you know, idea of our journey? Because, you know, from an intuitive standpoint, they seem contradictory. 


Dante Stewart: Mm hmm. Yeah bro. Man. When I think about grace and accountability, I immediately go to my wife dog. Because, I mean, I’ve been married going on ten years now, and we’ve been partners for longer than that. And, you know, I know it’s in the context of a romantic relationship, but I also think that there is something wise that I’ve learned from my wife over the years that I’ve thought about, especially in the context of like grace and accountability. And it’s not as simple as this, but like, if I can break it down as best I can based on my experience from my wife and other people who have loved me like grace means that like I refuse to leave you. Accountability means that while I’m here, I refuse to allow you to remain the same. Now I will leave. Do know that, like I will leave you. If it comes to that point. But because I’m loyal to what you can become, I can allow myself to embrace every iteration of who you’re becoming. You know, and so, like, that means that like, yo, I just can’t, like, treat it as if it don’t matter and do whatever. You know? But that also means that for me and for other people, that means that like, you know, like for example, with my dogs, like I’m friends with a lot of my dogs from back home, that I’m from young ins on to this day, we friends like and have been friends for a while now. Like, what does grace and accountability mean for me and them, especially the ones that’s not like on my wave or whatnot. It means that like, okay, if I’m in a context, we in a barbershop getting our haircut and you start talking about, like, LGBTQ people sideways, that means Imma a challenge you every single time, very publicly. We gon bop, you know, we gon toe, we gon rumble and we gon tumble. You know, if you start talking about women sideways, we’re going to rumble. And we gon tumble. But at the end of the day, like in our rumbling and our tumbling, like you still my dog because we got history together and you, you my dog because like we got, we got love together and of course like I’m going to like, you know like bop with and things like that and be like hey bro, you, you out of pocket but I’m going to love you because I know that there are so many ways that we are unloved. And like, if I have been loved that way in, in ways that, you know, allow me to change, then I can offer that to one, another person. And like I got asked a question during an event one time boy, about Black men and accountability, bro. And one of my dogs was talking and he was, the context was in that was was in the conversation about accountability and accountability for Black men. When was the last time you held Black men accountable? He told the story of a man who was talking and we was just in a hard place in life. And we both like, you know, crying, you know, you know, like, you know, crying like bawling about like the situations that we have in our family, in our life. And we were just, like, being honest and vulnerable, you know, with one another. And then, you know, the person who’s asking the question after, it’s like, okay, I get it. But like, you know, but like, when did you really hold Black men accountable? Like, that’s one way to do it. And it hit me, bro, as he told that story like bro accountability ain’t just like beating people up. Like, sometimes accountability is crying together. Sometimes accountability is like challenging somebody’s thought. Sometimes accountability maybe, bro, letting you go your own way. Are you and you and you see where that take you and me do my own thing. So like for me, I don’t think I wanted to say I don’t think there’s one way that grace and accountability hold together. But like for me, especially with Ja and the way I wrote the piece is like I wanted to write it as if like, hey, that’s my dog, that’s my teammate. I’m going to talk about you in public and in private, and how would I want you to, like, walk away from this? On the one hand, bro, like I refuse to let you remain the same, but on the other hand, I refuse to stop believing that you had the possibility of changing and getting better from this moment. 


Damon Young: Yeah. And I and I hear what you’re saying, and I, you know, the way I look at it, you know, I think of grace as a longer rope. And accountability. It’s the recognition that that rope could be cut. 


Dante Stewart: I like that, too. I like [laughter] I really like that. That’s a really good analogy my dog. 


Damon Young: So Dante Stewart, where can people who are trying to look for you, trying to look for your work, trying to look for your words. Where can they find you? 


Dante Stewart: Man, they can find me online @stewartdantec, across my social media’s. Or they can go to my website But I would tell people like I’m a lazy dude when it comes to, like, doing things. So, like, just Google my name and you’ll get my latest work because my website [laughter] ain’t got all the updated oh, whatnot. So I’m working on that and some people kind of keeping me accountable in that area like hey bro, your rope, hey your rope really short bro [laughter] hey your rope short that thing getting short my dog, so you need to update your words. But that’s how people can get in touch with me, man. I would actually love to hear from people, you know, I like to connect with people and see where it go from there. 


Damon Young: It’s all right. All right. Great to talk to you, man. Great to see you. 


Dante Stewart: Man likewise, man. Shout out to every one of your listeners, to everybody who made this podcast possible. You know, none of this can happen without either of you. And from this guest to your ears, I want to say thank you and shout out to y’all. 


Damon Young: Up next, Damon hates. The section of the show where I talk about shit that I hate. Cause I hate a lot of shit. [music plays] All right. So I live pretty close to a coffee shop and I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. I’m a writer. That’s just what writers do. It’s a cliche thing, but whatever. And I’ve always hated coffee. And this isn’t a rant about hating coffee, because that’s something I feel like that’s also cliche. I feel like coffee tastes like the memory of a taste, right? It tastes like a palate cleanser, but not a palate cleanser. It feels like something that want’s you to forget how things taste, you drink coffee to forget, right? But again, this is not a rant about coffee. It’s more, you know. Okay, so I spend time at these coffee shops and I see people get their coffee orders, very intricate and involved orders. And I watched them take, like the first sip of this intricate coffee, and I see them react with like this orgasmic delight, body shivers, a disassociative look on their face. Eyes going blank, it is like you’re taking a hit of something illicit, of something pleasurable of something decadent. And I hate that I hate coffee because I want to experience what coffee drinkers seem to experience when they are inhaling this God awful shit. And I see this. I have FOMO about it. I’m there drinking my tea and I like tea, you know, I mean it’s chill. But I’ve always desired. To enjoy coffee. Just so I can experience what these coffee drinkers experience, I want to orgasm too. Not when you’re supposed to get them, but when I drink something in a coffee shop. The public [laughter] orgasms that coffee drinkers experience. I want that shit too. And I hate that I don’t have it. [music plays] So coming next, we got our advice segment. And we’ll be joined by brilliant author Lorraine Aviva. So Morgan the producer, I love that name for you. What do we get at this point? 


Morgan Moody: This question comes from somebody wanting to know a little bit more about their birth chart, I guess. Dear Damon, I’m a nonbeliever in astrology, but an astronomy buff and have a side interest in the early history of astrology. I’ve read articles where the writers describe it as a sort of meditation practice or useful and therapeutic setting, even if they don’t believe in it. So I ask, would you ever consult an astrologer before making a serious life decision? 


Damon Young: Lorraine Avila is the author of Malcriada & Other Stories, Celestial Summer and the upcoming The Making of Yolanda La Bruja. Lorraine, how are you doing? 


Lorraine Avila: I’m doing well. How are you? 


Damon Young: I’m doing good. I’m doing good. I’m doing even better now. I feel like, my Venus is in Mercury. [laughter] My Saturn is rising. [laughter] I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. 


Lorraine Avila: I’m like, Venus and Mercury. [laughter]


Damon Young: Yeah. So I guess you could say I’m kind of into astrology. It’s been a progressive thing. I mean, I have a natal chart tattooed on my left forearm. I don’t really know what that means, but, you know, I guess that just makes me committed but confused. [laughs] But are you into astrology? 


Lorraine Avila: I am very much into astrology, for sure. 


Damon Young: Okay. Since I mean, what was your introduction into that? 


Lorraine Avila: Well growing up my cousin Diana was like, older than a lot of us in my family, all of my cousins. And she basically, like told us our chart, like our basic chart from very early. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Lorraine Avila: And like we always as a group of cousins moved with that in my family. So I think it just came from like really young. And then as I grew up, I just like one more into it and then it blew up in the world. Like everyone cares about astrology now. And I’m like, great, we’re on the same page. [laughter]


Damon Young: Do you get chart readings and things of that nature? 


Lorraine Avila: I do. Yeah.


Damon Young: You do. Okay. Yeah. My experience has been a bit more. [laughs] There have been a bit more obstacles in the way. And the big obstacle that was in the way for I guess the first 35 years of my life was that I just thought it was some bullshit because it couldn’t be proven. 


Lorraine Avila: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: And it’s like, you know what, this isn’t science, this is just coincidence and a confirmation bias. 


Lorraine Avila: Hmm. 


Damon Young: Right. You saying that Capricorns act this way, and no, you are anticipating or no a Capricorn here is that know what I’m supposed to act this way because I’m a Cap and so you end up back in that way. Right? But in the last like ten or so years, I think I’ve just gotten more into the idea that I don’t know shit [laughter] about the universe and about how the universe works. And yeah, why wouldn’t there be a connection between how the planets were aligned when we were born—


Lorraine Avila: Right.


Damon Young: —and the type of person that we are? Why wouldn’t there be a connection between, you know, where the moon is and where the sun is and relationship with the earth? And our moods for that day, our attitudes for that day, for if all these things are connected on the same wavelength. 


Lorraine Avila: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: You know.


Lorraine Avila: For sure. I mean, I truly believe that it is science. I don’t know, again, like, I’m just like—


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Lorraine Avila: —it’s a literal picture of the day you were born of, like where the stars were, where everything was. And like if you continue to follow that route, I mean, it’s giving astronomy, so, like, why not? You know? So [laughter] I think like just taking into consideration all of the placements and how the sky is right now, comparing it to like when you were born, like, I don’t know why that doesn’t sound like science to some folks, but like, I hear a lot of this pushback. I’m not an astrologer. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Lorraine Avila: I go to folks who that’s their expertise, but like I do deeply believe in it, like I believe in a lot of other stuff. 


Damon Young: So would you. And I guess this is kind of connected to the question. And we’ll get to the question. [laughter] We’ll get back to the question eventually. 


Lorraine Avila: Yeah. 


Damon Young: But you know how people say that you’re, I guess, supposed to be equally yoked religious wise. You know, you can’t have the person who’s going to church every Sunday and their partner is someone who is like, fuck this, I’m atheist or whatever, you know. And I’m wondering if the same is true with, with astrology. Like if you could have like a long term partner, if it’s possible to have a long term partnership, you know, where you have one person who is getting chart readings and has their natal chart tattooed on their chest and then you have the other person who is like [laughter] na this is some bullshit. I don’t know what the fuck. Y’all are, just making this shit up, but everything else is cool. But you’re just not in line on this one thing. 


Lorraine Avila: I mean, I personally, I guess I’ve been in relationships like that where, like, folks are super skeptical about astrology and I’m just like, all right. And then I start, like, telling them stuff, or I’ll make them, like, download an app or something, and they’re just like, yo, how did this shit know my whole life and [laughter] having that like Channing Tatum moment when he got the pattern and like, the pattern, like he thought like the app was literally in his therapist’s office, like on while he was there because he was just freaking out like, what is going on? So I think you can navigate that. But also like if long term, the skepticism is going to continue to be there. It’s kind of like, you know. 


Damon Young: I actually don’t think it’s possible. Like, well, let me put it this way. I think it’s possible if one person is all in. And the other person is skeptical. 


Lorraine Avila: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Right, skepticism is healthy.


Lorraine Avila: Right, yeah. 


Damon Young: About anything. About religion, about astrology, whatever. But I think that if a person’s like, no, fuck this, this is bullshit. 


Lorraine Avila: Oh, no. 


Damon Young: You’re wasting your time with this. I don’t know why you’re into that. 


Lorraine Avila: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Then that’s the sort of thing where it probably speaks to a maybe a more distinct disconnect that isn’t just about astrology, but about just your general, like, worldview. 


Lorraine Avila: Yeah. I have never been in that situation, and I don’t think it would work. Yeah, it’s not that astrology is like my entire life, but I definitely like base a lot of my plans around. Like, okay, it’s kind of just like where are things gonna be like, should I be moving in this way? [laughter] But also like for folks who menstruate, it’s kind of the same thing. Like, am I going to be I know this is a side step, but like, what am I ovulating like or like when am I PMSign or like, it’s literally the same thing. Like we’re going off of like the moon and like what the moon is doing for us as folks who menstruate. And so like for me, that’s why it’s so not far removed and it’s so easy to like take on, to be honest. And so like if someone had a problem with me following my, like, moon cycle, I would have a question like, are you serious right now? [laughter]


Damon Young: So getting back to the question, finally. [laughter] All right. Would you make a major life decision based off of your chart, a surgery, an invasive procedure, someone’s going to go inside your body. Would you make that decision or schedule that decision based on what your chart is telling you to do? 


Lorraine Avila: Well, I don’t know what charts be saying about that, but I do know that [laughter] like, I won’t make big purchases or sign contracts during certain times. Like if, for example, like Mercury’s in retrograde, you know, I know a lot of people— 


Damon Young: Oh, okay. 


Lorraine Avila: —who think that’s like hell. I don’t necessarily always think it’s hell but like, you know, one of the biases that a lot of folks give is just like don’t make huge commitments during this time. And it’s just like sometimes it’s 6 to 8 weeks. Like you can wait 6 to 8 weeks. You know, it’s not that pressing. And even if I had the opportunity to, like, buy a house and Mercury was in retrograde and folks were like, wait. I would probably wait even if that came at a risk, at the risk of like losing it, I guess. 


Damon Young: Okay. All right. Yeah. [laughter] Yeah. I’m not there yet. 


Lorraine Avila: That’s okay. 


Damon Young: I’m not there yet. Like, if I have a surgery scheduled, then I’m just gonna see when I’m available. [laughter] On, my calendar. What day is good for me? I don’t know if I’ll be consulting [laughter] with the stars, even though maybe I should. Maybe I should consult with the stars. I mean, I got it tattooed on me, so, you know, right now, maybe I’m the fake. Maybe I’m the one who’s perpetrating. Maybe I’m the one who was fake. If I have this shit that does advertisement, but I’m not actually, you know, applying it to the real life decision making that can impact my life. 


Lorraine Avila: I mean, not really. It can be both and, you know. [laughter]


Damon Young: Okay. 


Lorraine Avila: I mean, I’m sure I’ve done stuff during like, those times where, like, in a perfect world, I wouldn’t have wanted to make those choices in that time. But yeah, I think, like, it’s just like something to, like, you know, have in the back of your brain, but like, it’s not like black and white in terms of like, I have to do it this way. Right. 


Damon Young: Okay. All right. So the next time, if, God forbid [laughter] I had to get another surgery, then, you know, I will consult you first. I’ll come back to you, I’ll hit you up. 


Lorraine Avila: Please do not. Because I am not an astrologer. [laughter]


Damon Young: Should I consult an astrologer before making this decision, so be prepared. Well, hopefully that day never comes [laughter] cause I’ve had surgery before and I don’t want to have to do it again. 


Lorraine Avila: Right. 


Damon Young: So, Lorraine, where can people find you who are looking for you, looking for your work? 


Lorraine Avila: Yeah, you can go to my website,, or on Instagram @lorraineavila_. That’s where most of my work is at. 


Damon Young: Okay. Thank you so much for joining us today, it was a lot of fun.


Lorraine Avila: Of course, thank you for having me. 


Damon Young: All right. [music plays] Again, I just want to thank my amazing guests Dante Stewart, Lorraine Avila, for coming through today. Tremendous conversations with both of them. Thank you all again for coming through. And remember, if you want to listen to Stuck with Damon Young, subscribe and listen for free only on Spotify. Also, if you have any questions about anything whatsoever, hit me up at All right y’all. See you next week. [music plays] Stuck with Damon Young is hosted by me, Damon Young. Our executive producers are Kendra James and Sandy Girard. Our producers are Ryan Wallerson and Morgan Moody. Mixing and mastering from Sara Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. Theme music by Taka Yasuzawa. And special thanks to Charlotte Landes. And from Gimlet and Spotify our executive producers are Krystal Hawes-Dressler, Matt Shilts, Lauren Silverman and Neil Drumming. Gimlet’s managing director is Nicole Beemsterboer. Also special thanks to Lesley Gwam. Follow and subscribe to Stuck on Spotify. Tap the follow button and hit the bell icon to be notified when a new episode drops.