Un(Adult)erated Black Boy Joy: Re-Socializing During COVID for the Grown Man

Stock photo by Nappy


Fellas, what’s up with your downtime?


Have your social lives fallen off since the start of the pandemic? Dealing with issues and no real place to kick it with the guys? Yeah, we get it. You’ve been, maybe, for the most part, stuck at home with mounting, overwhelming responsibilities and want to take a break. Or, you’ve been on the frontlines working non-stop since day one and the casual time you’ve craved with your boys hasn’t truly come — and Zoom can only do so much.


But during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s understandable to want to safely socialize –but  it’s been near impossible to come together like old times. However, with recreational activities and restaurants opening back up in the state, it’s time to dust off your outside gear and get it done (don’t forget your mask). Unsure though of where to go with your friends or what to do? Read on to get inspired by these metro Detroit men on what they’re doing (and have done) during the pandemic to bring back some normalcy in the art of kicking back.


Detroit native William McCray, 36, owner of Clawson-based Willpower Fitness Group (for the past four years) typically has fun hanging out with his friends at his gym. But it was hard last March through September when state-mandated shutdowns impacted his business and social life. But for the past few months he’s been back at it with his boys.

Will1. Detroit native William McCray, 36, owner of Clawson-based Willpower Fitness Group, socializes with his friends at the gym. Photo provided by William McCray 


“My number (one thing) is lifting weights. For me it’s therapy — just being with the guys and talking and working out and feeling good, looking good. That has always been my go-to activity since 12, 13 years old,” McCray said. “That is what I like to do. Just kind of powwow and just talk about life. All kinds of conversations come up when lifting weights.”


McCray added that all his friends come to his gym and hang out.


“(It’s) crazy when you think about the events that transpired last year and still continue — it’s crazy to think about everything we’ve gone through,” McCray said. “A part of what makes us human is the social aspect of our being. Our personalities, that touch all of that. And that was taken away for a year.”


McCray also said that the gym and bonding are important and when he was able to open back up it was exciting.


“Like the first day of school,” he said, adding that a lot of his friends and himself frequent cigar shops.


“I’m not a cigar smoker but I go just to hang out and relax and chop it up,” he said, adding that having a lot on one’s plate can wear one out. “If you don’t find a healthy way to deal with those stresses and get those feelings and talk about it it can kill you from the inside out. Talking with your peers, being with your peers who may be going through similar situations … it’s vital to your survival … even more for Black men who are kind of many times forgotten sector of the population.”


McCray’s friend Derrick Brooks, 50 of Grosse Pointe, makes it a point to unwind in his way — and wants others to join him. He is opening up in late May a home-operated business, PSSITA Cigar Company, an acronym for “put some smoke in the air.” McCray, who smokes casually, visits two to three cigar bars to unwind, including The Loft Cigar Lounge, La Casa, and another cigar spot near his home.

Brooks, who follows guidelines on socializing during COVID-19, said that the pandemic’s restrictions impacted how he gathered, too, with his friends.


“I don’t have a lot of family — no brothers and sisters. My parents passed away at a young age,” Brooks said, adding that he has his friends and fellow fraternity brothers. “A lot of times I am a loner, homebody. … if I ever do choose to hang out is when I’m traveling between seeing my kids and cigar spots — that is for me.”


Brooks said that even as Black men are powerful and strong, checking in with others socially and taking care of oneself is vital these days.

Derrick Brooks, 50 of Grosse Pointe, relaxes and socializes at the gym, cigar bars and with friends and his fraternity brothers. Photo provided by Derrick Brooks

“With this pandemic taking place it is more prevalent for us as Black men (that) we are taking care of our physical being,” he said.


Shannon Cason, 45 of Detroit, likes to hop in his whip and safely take leisurely rides to visit new sites and unwind, especially during the pandemic.


“I’ve been home a lot — but the one thing I do as an enjoyment for myself is drive,” Cason said, adding that over the past year, he rented a car and drove across the country (about 6,000 miles) visiting different areas including St. Louis, Dallas, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, and more. “The one highlight — I watched and looked at the Grand Canyon. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon and sat at the edge and just enjoyed that time. I did that amid COVID around my birthday time at the end of August.”


Cason still does that now but sticks closer to home and drives a few hours here and there listening to music, an audiobook, or work-related items.


“Just that relaxation of being alone with my favorite music in my car — it refreshes me,” he said, adding that he has started connecting with past friends, too. Cason said that he and his old friends had a ‘90s hip hop group in Detroit and he’s getting the band back together. They have weekly Zoom calls discussing the past and future.

“To be able to have that outlet to talk to friends that I don’t see all that often … we can all get together and start a conversation,” he said of his equally busy friends who are married with children that carve out space to talk.


He also occasionally goes to a bar, like Norma G’s where he will get dinner and have a drink, or visit a cigar bar.


“(I) gotta get outta the house sometimes and enjoy myself,” he said.


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