Fitting In – A Southern Souls Story; Black Lives Matter Edition

Bob, 26 – Musician

 Southern Souls is a story-telling series that offers a personal look into the lives of people around us, showing that all souls can relate to one another through our laughter and tears, successes and failures. In keeping theme with the Black Lives Matter movement, we’re temporarily shifting the focus of the series to highlight what some have perceived as racially motivated incidents that have had lasting impacts on black people living in Georgia. The goal is to discuss, educate and grow as a community, so that we can all come together and create a more inclusive environment for generations to come.

I only met Bob recently through mutual friends but I had heard of him long before. While recording Macon Music episodes at WMUB, his name would often come up among other guests in conversation. He goes by Bob Lennon, so in my mind, I made him into more like a John Lennon, meaning I thought he was a crazy talented white musician with so many crossover hits that the whole community loves him. So you could just about imagine my surprise when in walks a young, black man with so many dreads that I could hardly see his face.

Often times with the rock stars, it’s difficult to nail down a place and time for an interview; Bob was no different. But we finally were able to arrange a time to talk on the phone. This interview was a lot different for me. I didn’t know much about Bob at the time, but soon found out he is as complex as he is creative.

“Growing up, I saw everything that any kid would see in an urban neighborhood. I saw drugs, I saw crime, I saw murder, I saw domestic abuse,” he told me. Bob was born in the Pleasant Hill, but soon moved to live with his grandparents off of Shurlington, on Macon’s Eastside. “I didn’t really have any other kids in my neighborhood to play with because mostly everybody in my grandparents neighborhood was retired so TV was kind of like how I escaped.”

Bob’s grandparents were avid television watchers, too. “Every Sunday, not matter whatever sporting event was on CBS, that’s what they watched. Golf, football, basketball – we watched it,” he said. “I’ll never forget this, I was doing a science project with my grandma and Tiger Woods was playing in The Master’s and he was winning! Every highlight they were showing was Tiger. Every commercial that came on was Tiger. He was on a MasterCard commercial, a Nike commercial and I guess I just related to him because he [looked like me].”

It was then that Bob developed an immediate love for golf. “My grandfather,” he began saying, “he didn’t play golf but he had a golf club and a golf ball so I went outside and tried it hit it but I couldn’t. Then I hit it, but it didn’t get up in the air. I was like seven or eight, I was crying I can’t do this. My grandma said go back out there and keep trying.”

He did and Bob began to develop his game throughout his childhood at Bowden Golf Course. It’s worth noting that Bowden Golf Course has incredible historical reference to Macon. It was the first public facility in Macon to publicly integrate back in 1961. But even now, Bob said, “Bowden feels a lot more comfortable than most places. All my life they’ve let me come out there and play for nothing, just (out of love). It’s a municipal golf course. It’s, let’s be honest, a predominantly black golf course, so for me, golf was just a different part of the culture growing up.”

Spending so much time on the golf course ultimately paid off for Bob. He was awarded a golf scholarship to Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia. “I went to college and I started playing at country clubs. All my teammates were white and nothing against them, but I felt like an outsider,” Bob said. “Everyone had tried to tell me to go to a HBCU (historically black college/university) but I didn’t want (to do that). But when I got to [ABAC], it just didn’t feel like home.”

Bob went on to explain, “When I first got there, I was struggling. I knew I was as good as everybody else but I was uncomfortable because I was the only black kid on the team. I could tell that (my teammates) were acting a little differently toward me, but my coaches were cool.”

He was able to connect with one teammate though, a young man named Orlando. “He was like the only kid that really talked to me while we were playing or practicing. The other kids, I felt like I was always going out of my way to show them I’m not that black kid getting a charity scholarship. I never wanted them to feel that way with me. So I tried to show them that I was different but none of them really reciprocated my energy like I wanted them to. There was one practice though, and I’ll never forget, everybody on the team, even the coaches were all talking about going out to eat later that night together and nobody (invited me),” Bob said. “It made me feel like I was just put there for face. It just showed me that golf wasn’t what I thought it was, that life isn’t what I thought it was.”

Bob was beginning to have second thoughts on his outlook of life. “I come from the hood. I come from people who are tired of tired of life and tired of the circumstances. So for me, to be a kid playing golf and telling (these people) ‘I know all that bull happened back in the day but we’re equal now’ and they’re just looking back at me like ‘nah, that’s not what it is,’ and so for me to go (to college) and go into the world with (my vision) but come back with the same vision they had, it hurt me. I was like, I can’t be in that world. It made me understand that like, yeah, Tiger Woods is black but he didn’t come from the world that I come from. It just kind of discouraged me.”

It discouraged him so much that Bob quit the team, moved back home. “I knew this path was going to be the hardest thing I ever had to do because I knew that me saying I don’t want to do this would destroy so many people and it destroyed me because it went against everything I put myself through. I was on the golf course countless hours,” he said. “But I came home and told all my family, hey, I’m a rapper now. It was crazy because my parents were high school kids when they had me so for their son to say that I want to go to college and play golf, that was like a dream come true. For me to come back home, my hair is nappy and now I want to rap, they were like depressed, you feel me?”

At this point, we both had to laugh. As parents ourselves now, we can both only imagine how that must have sounded to a mom and dad. But in making that change, Bob found exactly what he was looking for in golf, in music.

He told me, “It’s different. I’m accepted by so many different people in Macon. They come to my shows and they don’t judge me by what I’m saying about the person that I am, they judge me by my music. That’s exactly what I wanted.”

For Bob, it’s all about acceptance. “I just want people to know not to judge people because you don’t know what they know. You don’t know what they’ve been through. I play golf better than most of the people out there and once they know that, they want to come play with me. But looking at me, they looking like how did this guy get invited here?” He went on to say, “But when people take the chance to sit down and talk to me, even just five seconds, they realize I’m not who they think I am.”

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