News Staff Report
Atmore native Max Parker has written a sequel to his autobiography, The Real Education of Sweet Papa T, published in 2017. A book signing will be held in April in Atmore for his new work, The Mask Wearing Journey of Sweet Papa T: Why African American Men Hide Their Feelings.
The book signing will be held Friday, April 29, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the PCRC building, 206 Park Drive, Atmore.
Parker said he realized, in hindsight, he had more to tell about his life experiences growing up and struggling to survive in the Jim Crow South. Many of his early life memories took place in Atmore and subsequently as a young adult in Tuscaloosa where he attended Stillman College.
Parker was taken with the idea of wearing masks (to hide his true feelings) long before the current pandemic emphases on mask-wearing. According to the author, many times, his masks were self-protective and a matter of survival in a hostile, racist environment (e.g., at the potato grader and at a strange dinner table). Sometimes it was a matter of maintaining respect among his friends or in applying for a job. He notes, in all circumstances, his life “was guided by messages from home, church, school and the community.”
Children like Parker were told, “to succeed in life you must be quiet, humble, patient, and obedient.” Such actions meant wearing masks (hiding how they really felt). He was expected to smile, even when he was angry, and to pretend he was happy although he was sad and lonely.
One might ask, “What is the emotional cost of pretending or hiding one’s true feelings?” This book addresses painful memories and provides Parker an opportunity to reflect upon his true feelings in richly descriptive circumstances. The reader gets to relive the critical incidents in his life journey and share in his sorrows and joys.
Parker said the reader may laugh, cry, and remember with him as he tells the stories which made his life unique to him and other African Americans of his time. In his humble manner, he goes on an impactful journey from mask-wearing (subordination) to a desired destination of unmasking (freedom and self-expression).
It is not often that an autobiography details the life of an African American man who grew up in the South and continues to live in the South.
Parker resides in Gainesville, Florida.