As of late mental health has become a hot topic of discussion in the African American community. What was once labeled too taboo to discuss has become a very candid conversation. It seems the focus on mental health and coping mechanisms favors that of women. At the same time, I am not sure if this is because women are more inclined to seek professional help or if this is another failure to see and treat black men with the care and respect they deserve. I chatted with the co-owner of Urban Hydration, Vontoba Terry, in order to shed light on the mental state of black men like him.
Jaymi: How do you define success?
Vontoba: Success is being able to feel love, joy, and peace in life and being able to bring love, joy, and peace to others.
Jaymi: How do you deal with failure?
Vontoba: Failure is tough for me to handle. I have learned that failure is an opportunity to learn up and grow from the experience. I choose to focus on the path forward rather than dwelling on the past, because I like to win.
Jaymi: What does it mean for you to be mentally healthy?
Vontoba: I am mentally healthy when I am able to make clear decisions that benefit my family and the community around me. It also means having the energy and will to handle my obligations and also have fun.
Jaymi: How do you identify your imbalances?
Vontoba: I can tell when I am out of balance when I feel hurried or rushed. There are times when work piles up, and it seems like I am unable to get ahead of it. That is when I have to identify what is causing the imbalance and come up with a solution.
Jaymi: Outside of your home, what are some tools or ways you get back in alignment?
Vontoba: I’ve learned that taking daily walks or jogging, journaling, and getting extra sleep are great ways to realign with a balanced life. I also have some hobbies that I do in order to have fun or relax. I joined the Texas Archery Club in 2021 and have been working on a novel in my spare time.
Jaymi: Have you tried therapy? When did you know you might need an extra dose of advice?
Vontoba: I visit with a Christian counselor 1-2 times per year, and he mostly just sits there listening to me talk and asks me questions to keep me talking about what’s happening in my life. I know I do not have all the answers, and when the tough ones come up, I need advice.
Jaymi: What is your suggestion to men who find it difficult to ask for help?
Vontoba: I would encourage men to think about things in the sense of sports or automobiles if they have difficulty asking for help by asking questions. If you had an issue with your pipes, wouldn’t you call a plumber? If there was a problem with your engine, wouldn’t you call a mechanic? If you wanted to run track in the Olympics, wouldn’t you hire the best coaches and trainers? If your life is out of balance, trained experts can help with that.
Jaymi: What qualities does your wife possess that qualified her to be your lifelong partner?
Vontoba: My wife is a virtuous woman who loves God and honors her vows to our marriage. That makes her an amazing lifelong partner for me. We have shared values, and we spend time together regularly. When we do have conflicts, we do our best to work them out before we go to bed.
Jaymi: What qualities did you have that prepared you to be a husband?
Vontoba: I think that my patience and understanding helped me be a better husband. I also realized that I wasn’t perfect, and over time, I became humble. That was a process, however. I needed to be humbled.
Jaymi: How do you two overcome differences in opinions or beliefs?
Vontoba: We live in a society today where everybody has an opinion and an outlet, social media, to voice that opinion or belief. Psyche and I pray together for clarity or go to the Holy Bible to overcome differences in opinion, and we usually find common ground there.
Jaymi: What are some ways you balance business and home?
Vontoba: We enjoy what we do and our family at home. We balance by taking a day off every week. We do not do any work on Urban Hydration on Sundays at all.
Jaymi: What would be in your starter kit if you could design a blueprint for black men becoming successful entrepreneurs?
- Character Checklist: Confidence, Integrity, Quality, Service First
- Capital: Small Savings Account, List of Resources (Banks, Credit Unions, Financiers, Advisers)
- Commitment Card: Learning, Being Willing to Pivot, Persevering, Giving Back
- Challenges: Pay Yourself, Get Your Worth, Earn a Profit, Hire a Team
Jaymi: Can you identify disadvantages black men face, aside from inherent racism?
Vontoba: Black men face stereotypes that are perpetuated by media, music and television that drive some people to treat us differently than men of other races, either by avoiding us and our businesses or starting with some level of mistrust or caution.
Jaymi: What do you want black women to understand about the plight of the black man?
Vontoba: Black men have seen themselves beaten, choked, belittled, and made a joke of on television and in the streets, and we have to deal with the reality of how people perceive us on sight before a word even comes out of our mouths. Black men want to simply provide for themselves and their families and give back to the communities we live in and come from, without fear of unfair treatment, and to have the same opportunities as other men.
Jaymi: Fill this in: If more black people would…
Vontoba: Just turn their focus back to Godly living; we could transform our communities drastically and positively.
Jaymi: How do you want to be remembered?
Vontoba: I want to be remembered as someone who cared deeply about his family and his community and put words into action by promoting healthy families/marriages, financial literacy, and mental wellness.
Interview Done by: Jaymi Le | Jaymi Le is currently living a Bichie lifestyle in the streets of Brooklyn. She writes, produces, and talks her ish effortlessly. Follow all things me @talktomslee_. Remember to keep it cute, I might be talking about you on Talktomslee.com.