Tell us a little about yourself (who you are, background, etc.)
My name is Harold “Tre” Wallace III. I am a Los Angeles Native born and raised between the Inglewood, Compton, and Inland Empire area until later in my adolescence when I moved with my Father to Kansas City. Both places gave me two different perspectives both which I appreciate. Los Angeles taught me the hustle and the struggle, learning when and where to keep your guards up, and gave me a different persona than others I encountered later during my time in Kansas City. Kansas City taught me love and pain, gave me a less dangerous environment to grow in, but rough enough to make sure I do not lose a step. I work in Higher Education as a Director of an African American Cultural Center at a University located in Tennessee, while also being a public speaker on multiple topics from social justice, diversity, mentorship, and navigating predominately white universities while being a person of color.
What made you go after a career in higher education?
To be honest, it was one of those career choices that found me; I surely did not go looking for it. I saw a quote once that said, “Be the person you needed, when you were there” and it hit home for me. I noticed that during my time struggling financial and even sometimes academically I didn’t have any African American men that I could talk to, or who could help set me straight and keep me on the right path, I had to stumble my way through. The few I did see working as faculty or staff, then had the problem of relation, they could not relate to life in the hood, poverty stricken, and gang infested spaces. Therefore, I figured I would be there for those whom shared a similar upbringing and had the odds stacked against them.
What goals do you have for yourself as you continue to climb the ranks in higher education?
Great question, one major goal is to put myself in a position where being told “no” will no longer be an option. I work in academia, which also sometimes entails working with people who enjoy flexing their power by way of degrees, which comes with the environment. So my plan is to get this doctoral program rolling so I can walk in any door in my realm and hush the naysayers. Another goal is to remain student centered; Always making sure that any space I work in knows that the students matter most.
You once participated in a TEDx Talk, how was that experience and what advice would you give to anyone preparing for that event?
I really enjoyed my time working on my TEDx Talk. It helped me push myself in ways that I had not in quite a while. It also gave me an opportunity to talk about a story often lived, but rarely told. I believe in the platform because it allows a respectable environment for outside the box thinkers. It is also is confirmation that your way of thinking can be appreciated even by those whom never shared the same path of life. To anyone interested, know that your voice and your story is valuable, and let no one steer you away from that feeling. I touched on the everyday struggle of “Code Switching” how it takes energy to make others feel comfortable in my space simply because of my upbringing, stature, gender, but most importantly the color of my skin. Working your way up to get to a position where you can be the full you, all day, every day.
Changing gears, what was your fatherhood experience like growing up and how does it impact you as a father today?
Growing up in Los Angeles, you learn that it is normal for parental figures to be absent from the home often while providing for the family. Therefore, it left me often trying to fend for myself with the help of my older sister and brother. My father was there but he wasn’t at the same time. He worked with his cousins who were around the same age, so after work he often went to play pool or go to the bars with his cousins, so while my mother was working 2-3 jobs daily and absent because of doing so, my father was absent more often by choice. There was a trend of broken promises, and just simply not being there enough. Even to the point that at the age of 7 when my parents decided to split, I asked to live with him to hopefully get some time, only to notice that things would not change and I found myself alone more often.
It has truly molded my style of parenting, because I do not ever want my children to yearn for my attention, and I do my best to be as present as possible. I want to create memories for them that I wish I had myself, which is the goal or at least should be for everyone. To give their children a better life than they had themselves.
What is wrong with the narrative displayed about black fathers and what are things you are doing to help change that narrative?
The issue with the narrative is that it in itself is a narrative, a stereotype used to put all Black men in a box. The human mind is always in need of categorizing and labeling, and struggles with the concept that we by creating and spreading this narrative we could be helping to perpetuate its truth. I’m doing my part to break down that narrative to not only be the best father I can be, but openly showing the world that we are here, great Black fathers are here and I want the people to see.
NOT NAMING CLIFF HUXTABLE (Bill Cosby) – -Who is your top TV dad of all time and explain why?
We didn’t and still don’t have many options but I’d have to say Uncle Phil from Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Uncle Phil was awesome because he was successful, and lived in a great home in a great area, but often made it known that it was not always this way. He took in his nephew to get him out of a bad situation to help give him a better life while already having four children of his own. There were countless episodes of him teaching real life lessons that had nothing to do with money, but responsibilities of a man. He also touched on his struggles of being successful and Black and how society does not always like for both to coexist. Loving another person’s son and bringing him in as your own is commendable.
What advice would you give someone who’s new to fatherhood?
Be there. For the late nights, the early mornings, and everything in between. There will be moments when time stands still and moments when it will all zoom by you. You will be surprised at the connection you can build from talking to your children, they respond to your voice when you come in the room, they know your scent, they know your heartbeat and breathing patterns, and they are linked to you different than any other being on this earth. Embrace it all. Life changing to say the least, and you’ll find a whole new unexplored part of your heart that will open just for your children. Also, make sure to find a healthy balance of the need to provide and the need to give time, of course they have to eat and you must keep the lights on, but they would starve in the dark as long as it is with you. So be there.
If you could write a short letter to your father starting with “Dear Father,” what would you say?
Dear Father… I appreciate you teaching me so many lessons, even the ones you taught unintentionally and in an unorthodox fashion. You were gifted with a very analytical child that paid attention to more than you probably wanted. You had one of the greatest sense of humors around, and such a pleasant demeanor when people were around you, which is probably the reason they yearned for your time just as much as I. I’m thankful for the time we shared, I’m happy you were apologetic about your flaws over time, just in time for you to become a grandfather. You were meant to raise me, God had a plan to make me the strongest of the strong, so some of the burdens on my shoulders pushed me to have a stronger back, you were sometimes the one putting more weight on the bar, but only as much as God would allow. Your granddaughter may not remember you in person because she was almost 10 months when you passed, but she often says “My Papa is in the clouds watching over us, right?” and loves looking at the picture you have with her as a baby. I will make sure my Son will know the same. Thank you for it all, good, bad, and ugly. Rest In Peace Pops.
How can people get in contact with you?
Thank you for this platform and this therapeutic interview.