Uncle serves as mentor to his niece & nephew
Q: How did you become a ‘father figure’ to your niblings?
A: It’s like this because I didn’t have that when I grew up. My niece’s father is currently incarcerated, so I have to take on that role. With my nephew Desire Sullivan, 11, his father is not active so it naturally becomes my responsibility. And that is how the cycle of life works. So now I get a chance to do (for) somebody what no one did for me. I see it too as the opportunity to be a father before I become a father.
Q: What was your relationship like with your father?
A: I grew up without a father. Really, I raised myself while I was incarcerated for all those years. (Sullivan spent the ages of 17 to 34 in prison.) I didn’t meet him until age 34 when I was released. I believe that was provided by the universe; I don’t believe accidents just happen. He’s been living in Atlanta for the past 26 years but happened to be in Syracuse. My uncle saw him and knew the situation, so I did get to meet him. But we are not in touch. He has a deep alcohol problem and his life has veered off. It takes two to make something work, but because his addiction has distanced himself from even knowing what he wants of his life, it would be hard for us to truly connect at this time. There’s no stability there, so that’s another reason that I know it is not the proper time for us to connect. I’m not upset or angry about it. I understand that life teaches in ways that are unique to you.
Q: Tell me about your niece and nephew?
A: Desire is very charismatic. He’s the ladies’ man, and he’s a great dancer. Even at this young age, he has a unique way of intuitively understanding life. He’s also artistic. Then what I see in my niece, Kadnec Kearse, is her character is going to be really flexible. Her hidden talent is her flexibility, but it’s also there on the inside. She has a natural ability to be flexible with her body and is a contortionist. And I tell her that while flexibility is her physical gift it’s in her character too. What’s within you is also without you. I let her know that she’s going to be flexible in life.
Q: What advice do you give them?
A: Kadnec answers: He tells me that I’m going to attend college and become a star. Rashawn goes on: My focus with them is to teach the importance of earning an education. Right now they can see me in school and know that is their next step after graduating high school.
Q: How do you balance your job, school and life with also making the time to spend quality time with them?
A: I just write out my schedule. My schedule starts at 5 a.m. with prayer, followed by reading and meditation, then by 6:10 a.m. I get my nephew up. I walk him to his bus stop by 7 a.m. and then I’m off to school. I schedule it all into my OCC notebook. I follow and write in that schedule every day.
Q: What advice can you offer to others on how to serve as a role model?
A: The person first has to work on themselves. Once you help yourself, then you’re going to naturally want to do that for others. Educate yourself first and see the good in it — that good feeling that you get from that — will then make you want to pass that on to other people. .
Q: Final thoughts?
A: To every man out there, I want you to be a man in your own household. Meaning, take on the responsibility of raising. Don’t take penitentiary chances where you’ll be out of your kids’ lives.
— Interview by Ashley Kang, The Stand Director