Shut up and listen: Grooming Black boys to be kings

Second of a four-part series 

Sheletta Brundidge has made a living talking — from TV, radio and as a standup comedian — you name it, she’s done it. But after being blown away by Black Panther, Brundidge decided to enlist other voices in the community to unpack the power and reach of the blockbuster film — hence, she must shut up and listen!

King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Queen Mother (Angela Bassett) in Black Panther Marvel/Disney

For the second part of her four-part series, Brundidge chats with Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter, mother of St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, III to gain insight into how to raise boys to be “kings.”

It has been a rough week for me as a momma. I’ve been called to the principal’s office twice for my 11-year-old son Andrew’s antics. Whether it’s a joke he tried to tell that went horribly wrong or a rubber band rocket that hit an unintended target, the boy was causing me grief. And this is my oldest child — the one who is supposed to be setting the standard for my three younger children.

I have high hopes for Andrew. I mean he’s been to the Capitol to advocate for police officers to be better trained to deal with people with autism (a condition that all his younger siblings have been diagnosed with). He’s a member of the anti-bullying committee at his school. And he works as a crossing guard to make sure the other students get back and forth safely to school.

But here lately, all those hopes of Andrew being the next King T’Challa of Wakanda have been dashed by his misbehavior and disobedience. You can’t be king when you’re serving a week of detention. I’m over here raising Erik Killmonger (the antagonist/villain in the movie) instead.

So I called someone who has raised a king so I could get Andrew back on track, and get some advice on how to be a better mother and guiding force in his life.

You see, Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter is the proud mother of the first African American mayor of St. Paul, Melvin Carter, III.

I knew she had the recipe for success for how to groom my son to be a king since her son was now sitting on the throne. So I’m gon’ shut up and listen to her advice. Below is an excerpt from my conversation with Commissioner Toni Carter (TC).

Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter looks on as son St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter III shares a congratulatory kiss with wife Sakeena on election night. Chris Juhn/MSR News

SB: A quote from Black Panther made me think of you and Melvin and I knew I had to do an interview with you. Queen Mother, portrayed by Angela Basset, told her son T’Challa played by Chadwick Boseman, “My son, it is your time…”

TC: I am so thrilled to be a part of your series. I relate to what you just said. But listen, it was not intentional. It was just doing the best we could do to raise a strong young man to be a community owner.

SB: What is a community owner?

TC: Well, it just means that you care for things when you recognize you are a steward and you have a responsibility. You want to make certain your family and your wealth are protected and guarded. You will try to improve the world around you.

It makes a difference in your life and the lives of those you love. So my husband and I have always felt we needed to grow into stewardship and ownership and learn to care for things. Care for our family, and most important than us, care for our community and the people who live around us. Really try to make things better for all of them and all of us. That’s been our commitment to living in connection to our neighborhood, our city, and our state.

SB: I remember growing up, all my parents expected of me was that I graduate from high school and not get pregnant. But I have set the bar much higher for Andrew. What did you expect from Melvin when he was growing up?

TC: I always expected that Melvin would graduate from high school and go to college and become something far more than I had ever been. Even before that though, Sheletta, I had expectations of him as a child. As we talk to our children about what they could be, we have the opportunity to talk to them about the special gifts and talents that we see in them.

SB: I believe God puts in each of our children a gift that is unique to just them. What gift did you see in Melvin at an early age?

TC: I saw his eagerness. He was the kind of young man at a young age [who] was always moving and wanting to do something. He always wanted to create. He would use sticks to build go-carts with his uncle from sticks. He and his sister would play together. And Anika [Melvin’s sister] was great because she would teach him and he was so eager to be a student and to learn.

SB: Girl, I get chills when I think about Melvin standing there with his hand on that Bible taking that oath to become the first African American mayor of the city of St. Paul.  What was going through your mind?

TC: I wish my parents and my husband’s parents who had sacrificed so much for us and to help us raise our children had been there to see it. It was just such a gratifying moment that our work for our children was being honored and we were there to see it.

I was so thankful. I was nervous, to tell the truth, because this was a very huge responsibility. Even so, seeing the community there surrounding him in the way they did, it felt to me that we are safe and it’s going to be good. You know, he’s got the opportunity to do so much good for so many people with their help.

Next week’s story: One brother talks about his struggle to live his life like King T’Challa with his inner Killmonger always lurking…


Sheletta Brundidge welcomes reader responses to

Related content:

African Americans and Africans dialogue inspired by Black Panther

Shut up and listen: How the women of Black Panther empower young girls

Shut up and listen: T’Challa vs. Killmonger