Before you know you wake up one day, and it's like, Damn, I really always thought that I was paying attention in this way. But then it's like you had this aha moment. And it's like now I've been kind of unconscious right there. I didn't even pay attention to how much I was like following some sort of script.
This is Meaning to Share, the podcast where we explore the amazing gifts of seemingly average individuals, proving that everyone has a meaningful skill or talent or string that is unique only to them, and which they are destined to share with others during this lifetime. I'm your host, Meredith McCreight. I spent decades painfully trying to fold myself into the boxes that other people, the media and society created for me, until I realized there's only one authentic version of me. And that is more than enough. In fact, it's divine. I want to show my guests and you the listeners that each of us is meant for greatness, it's already in you just have to choose to see it and embody it. Now my guest doesn't know ahead of time which gift if theirs we'll be discussing, so please enjoy this unscripted, honest, delicious conversation with one of my favorite people. This is Meaning to Share.
I'm so excited about my guest today. I know many of the listeners are members of the Prolyfyck Run Creww and you've requested this guest since the beginning. It took some time, but it finally happened. And this is the episode you've all been waiting for. William "Will" Jones III is a native of Atlantic City, New Jersey, who also considers the neighboring city of Pleasantville as home. A barber for many years, his career and now if Yolonda brought him to Charlottesville in the mid 2000s. When will opened his own shop, he no longer found himself spending time in the historically black neighborhoods of Charlottesville and he wanted a way to connect with his people. He began running the streets of downtown Cville and those casual runs with friends evolved into what is now the Prolyfyck Run Creww, a cultural movement that works for the empowerment of historically marginalized communities encourages every human to look deep within to find their gifts and tap into their passions, and does all of this work together in a spirit of unity and love. Will and Yolonda are the proud parents of four incredible young people. They also have three family dogs and often host other dogs who are training with will to be the goodest boys and girls. Aside from loving on his wife and kids, Will finds purpose in discovering ways to leave this world better than he found it.
Today Will and I are talking about his incredible gift of leading with love, whether that's leading in the run creww, parenting, or simply setting an example for others. As is the case with many of my other guests, I met Will through Prolyfyck and I will say he's consistently had a presence that's difficult to ignore. It's humble and strong, gentle and firm, serious and silly. He somehow is all of the things and with so much grace. There are so many golden nuggets of wisdom in this episode but what I loved most about this conversation was getting to hear all of the ways that Will's ability to lead with love has been influenced by his very own wife and children. Let's get to it, shall we? Please join me in welcoming my friend, Will Jones.
Well, hi Will. Thank you for joining me on the show. I know you have been a very highly requested guest by our run creww, so I'm so honored to have you.
Thank you. I'm pleased to be here. Thank you for welcoming me.
Of course. Well, Will, tell us about you. Where are you from? What's your cultural background and upbringing?
I am from a place called Atlantic City, Pleasantville, New Jersey. I like to say both places because I actually grew up in both places and it's it's a thing you know, like like to say you from Richmond but you didn't grow up in Richmond is a thing. So I like to say like, I'm from Atlantic City, and Pleasantville, New Jersey. I was born in Atlantic City and raised there til I was like 10. And then we were pretty much in Pleasantville, New Jersey, from then on for schooling, and everything. But it's a lot like Charlottesville, Pleasantville was more like Charlottesville. Imagine Charlottesville, with Richmond five miles away from it instead of being 60 miles away from it. And so Atlantic City would be like Richmond with Pleasantville was Charlottesville right next door to it. Again Pleasantville felt a lot like Charlottesville, but the ability to connect with Richmond was so easy that it was a lot more busy and more lively in certain ways. But it's a small town, mostly black. I didn't know that growing up, but when I came to Charlottesville I was so kind of like shell shocked at how much I didn't really how much I didn't spend so much time with white people before. And then I looked at like our statistics back in Pleasantville, New Jersey, and it was like 60%, black. My school situations was a little different than here where it's like, you know, like my wife, Yolonda was maybe one of three black children in the really intelligent classrooms here in the county. In New Jersey, white people in Pleasantville white people would have been, you know, two or three in my classroom, and the majority was black or Latino. So it was a very different experience than Charlottesville in that way. It was a little shell shocked to come here and be so out number in a way like, I had to actually consider how I did business and everything a lot different when I moved here because I just didn't cut white straight hair back in Jersey as my profession really. And so when I moved here, I had to step my game up a little bit and take on that challenge of straight hair. But again, I didn't realize it until I moved here was I Oh, it gets different. Pleasantville was dope. Again, a lot like Charlottesville, we grew up rode bikes everywhere, road buses everywhere. To get to school, we had to walk or ride a city bus. Like, um like public transportation. So my school experience was a little different than other than people here. Like we have buses that took us to school and dropped us off and all that type of stuff. So we had to learn a little bit more, we had to be a little bit more independent in that way. Yeah, New Jersey is home is pretty lively, pretty tough. The streets back at home right now are really tough. So it's a lot different than Charlottesville, in a lot of ways but there's so many similarities in a way that is set up that Charlottesville felt familiar to me in a lot of ways. And I think that's what allowed me to come here.
When did you come to Charlottesville and what brought you here?
I moved here in 2006. I will say about home, though, home, Pleasantville New Jersey is where I'm from. I'm from a family almost consistently a one parent household. My mother was I feel like mostly alone through our life. My father and her divorced and separated by the time I was eight, nine years old. And then my sister's father was in our life, from the time that I was maybe 10 or 11 years old to 17. But he was in and out trouble with the streets or trouble with the law would take him away from us periodically. So it was mostly me and my sister, I have an older sister, like two years older than me, and their mom dukes. And it felt like it was mostly us three a lot of the time. And mostly me and my sister most of the time because my mom had to work so much. It wasn't a whole lot of family life, honestly. When we were in a house we were it was family, but my mom was gone so much workin' and we were gone so much at school that it wasn't the same sort of family experience that I'm having now with my children. And so in hindsight, I see a lot of the a lot of the ways that things were harder for me as a young person now that I'm grown and a lot of things make more sense to me now as well because of that. But yeah, that's that's pretty much home. Again '06 I moved here. Me and Yolonda met each other in 2004. Yolonda Coles, was her name, when we met each other 2004 down in the Hampton Roads area. By 2005, she moved to Philly on some work with Bank of America. And Philly was like a drive to Richmond from Charlottesville. She was in town for a specific week where we connected with each other, and I wanted to just spend some time with her. She was the sister, when we were in Hampton Roads, when we met each other in 2004, we had a small circle of friends, siblings, so to speak, in in the faith of Christianity. And Yolonda was like the one sister that was around us that we really respected and she really like knew her word, like she was really serious about God. So we really respected her in a real way. And so when she was in town in 2005 in Philly, I just wanted to like, you know, look out for sis, bring her to church, go and spend some time with her in Philly. That time that I spent with her then really opened my eyes up to like, you know how dope she really was. And that experience in Philly, when I was leaving there I messaged her, I think I texted her. And I was just telling her like, you know, this experience basically was really dope. And I see you a little different than I seen you before. And I wonder if you would consider starting a courtship so I can find out like if you are the good thing that I'm looking for I actually told her that she is the good thing that I believe God put into my life. And so I asked her if she will consider starting a courtship with me so that we can, you know, know for sure or not. And so we started a courtship in 2005, which was really, really intentional. really serious. Our plan was to get married. It wasn't like playing any games. It was like, nah we see each other, we respect each other. We both trust God, like, either we gonna plan to get married from here or is, you know, ain't no sense in playing around. And so we took our course shit really serious we did it long distance for the most part. Well, for the whole time but we were engaged within six months of our courtship in 2005. I came down and proposed to... I wrote her dad a letter and told him that I was interested in his daughter and I asked him where he be okay open to me starting a courtship with her and proposing to her engaging in marriage. And he was open to a man it was really dope. He was funny I don't even wanna tell that whole story. But that happened. And so I proposed to her on my birthday, February 2005. No, February 2006. No, man, I don't even know what year that was now. It must have been '06 though. And then we got married in July of '06. Yeah. So I proposed to a six months into our courtship. And then we basically got married six months after our engagement almost. So it was it was pretty intentional. And we just knew. And so that's what moved me here that I said all that to say Yolonda is what brought me to Charlottesville. I was a barber at the time, I was licensed. I had been cutting in Pleasantville for four or five years. And so I was pretty good and trusted my skill set. So it was just easier for me to relocate. And she was enrolled at UVA at the time, doing her undergrad. And so it was just easier for me to relocate and start over with my career and not have her mess up her school situation. So I came to Charlottesville.
That's beautiful. Did you, I'm so curious, did you, when you asked her to be in a courtship with you, are those the words that you used?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, we like I said, Well, I didn't say this. I was like, super duper Christian at a point in my life like 2001 I started well, we call it like walking with the Lord pretty hard. And so we were trying to be really intentional and, and really like, literal about a lot of this stuff in Word. And so you know, I called her my good thing. I'm, like the scripture talks about a man finds a wife finds a good thing. And we started a literal courtship. Like, we touch each other. Like we wasn't, we weren't like crossing those lines and stuff. We actually had our first kiss at the altar when we got married. So that was like, the first time my lips actually touched each other in that way. So it was like we really were intentional about how we started our relationship and and trying to adhere to how we understood interpret in the scripture at that time. And I like
Love that. Well, I'm sure I know you've listened to this before, so—to the show—so you know I'm going to ask you something. But I do like to ask all my guests just the first thing that comes to mind, what is something that you've been meaning to share?
I forgot to ask that question.
First thing that comes to my mind right now is to be yourself. And that is going to be hard to do. But it's the best thing you can do for yourself, honestly, yeah, don't let anybody tell you what you are, how you are supposed to be. Because that's not fair to you. And you got to do the best you can do about finding out like who you actually are, and just accepting who you are. At this very moment. Like, however fucked up you are however, like, really good you are. Now you got to accept all of that at this moment. Because that's the is literally the best thing you can do for yourself is to just be who you are. And understand that whatever you are, in this moment is is not completely your fault. You got to like, be able to like stand in that and, and lose the shame, lose the arrogance, lose all of the stuff that comes with whoever you think you are. And just like, honestly, be yourself, and that's gonna look very different man. And so it's not, I don't think it's wise to allow other people to tell you how they think you should be or allow their life to completely tell you what your life should be. Because that's not fair to yourself. Because we all came through a different situation. Society has shaped us all very different and the same in a lot of ways as well, but very differently. And so the way that I come to understand something is going to be very different than what Meredith comes to understanding it. Understanding that about yourself can save it has saved me or or not saved me because I struggled for a long time, but it has now allowed me to be free in a way that I wasn't able to be growing up and even in my early 20s late 20s early 30s, I still I struggled in ways that I didn't know I was struggling, I never was trying to be anything other than myself. But it's weird how you can just not be paying attention and be chasing something that is not realistic. It just isn't realistic. And so I think if we are able to accept it, accept exactly who we are, and be ourselves, it'll really open us up to be great. It'll allow us to be what we are trying to be like, just being yourself, like just opening up to who you actually are accepting who you actually are. And then finding what you can do with that it really trumps anything, no pun, uh, PAUSE.
I did that the other day. And I was like, Oh, I can't I don't want to use that word anymore.
Yeah. But it really does. Like, it's better than anything that you could do trying to be like something else, somebody else, whether it's your own parents, you know, some of us are trying to be like our parents, and it's like, they chew. While they are a lot like you, they still ain't you. And so you have to really figure out how to be yourself. I think that's really the most important thing we can do for ourselves. And believe, not even believe in yourself but know yourself, like really get to know yourself. Because there's a confidence that comes with knowing yourself, that makes you able to stand in a real way. But when you don't know yourself. And when you always look outside of yourself for something like I personally did, when I was a hardcore Christian, I needed stuff from outside of me to fulfill me, or to save me or to validate me. It hindered me from actually being who I am. So yeah, I will be I think the first thing that comes to my mind, be yourself.
I love that and you hit something on the head there with like, what sometimes you don't even realize that you're in this, like autopilot of trying to please or fit into this box or be validated or, you know, like, you just sort of it becomes automatic and I wonder how much of that is the stuff that was ingrained in us as we were growing up that, you know, our society and our caregivers and our teachers and friends kind of like put these narratives into our head, and we just autoplay them until we actually realize it and we have to go back in there and like rewire it, which is hard.
Yeah. It's stuff you didn't ask for. It's like, I don't need to believe in that sort of thing. Like, where did that come from? And it's just, it's from the examples. And that don't make them bad. Because for me, they did the best they could with the understanding that they had, but also like this society in a way that is just set up has so much to it, that causes us to, to miss and to be unconscious. And so before you know it, you wake up one day, and it's like, Damn, I really always thought that I was paying attention in this way. But then it's like, you had this aha moment. And it's like, nah I've been kind of unconscious right there. I didn't even pay attention to how much I was like following some sort of script.
Yeah. It's an awareness that I don't think people are capable of until there's some sort of moment in their life that like wakes them up a little bit in mind did not happen till I was in my 30s.
Mine, too. Yeah, it was 30s. It was the 30s before I realized, like, yeah, you can mess something up like, and you have, and like, it was it wasn't until 30s, where I finally got to see myself in that way. And it was like, ah man, you got some stuff to work on.
Yeah. Yeah, you mentioned too like, letting go of the shame and, and dropping the ego and stuff. And that's really hard to do, too. But I think something that's helped me the past couple years that I've been working on is rather than, like, trying to stop it from coming up is like, just kind of seeing it, acknowledging it, and like, integrating it into that me that I'm accepting and being like, I have some shame around that. I'm not gonna, like, you know, bring me down. But that seems much more natural and doable for me. And it's kinder to yourself, right? To stop resisting it.
Because I don't think you should hate any part of yourself. Because again, you didn't ask to become that way. That was like the programming, that was the that was the bad parenting and that was the, you know, bad societal structure. That wasn't your fault. I'll be damned if I'm gonna feel bad about myself in that way when I was unconsciously shaped that way. So I don't have to feel shame for having bad habits and that way, now I can take some ownership and I can decide to change it and understand that even that is going to take time and that allows me to be kind and gentle with myself. And so I think my work with with animals working with dogs has allowed me to better understand that more here in the last several years, like an anxious dog is an anxious dog and you beatin' them is only gonna make them more anxious, or you rushing them is only gonna make them more anxious, or you keepin' them from whatever they are afraid of, doesn't allow them to change. And so it's the exposure is the calm, it's the accepting exactly what is and sitting in it, that allows you to better understand it and find out like, I don't have to be that way. And then the calm allows you to like think through it, breathe through it and change it. And with practice, you change it like I understand that now, you know, it don't happen the first time you challenged with the thing again, it takes several challenges to like, incrementally do a little better. Like every time you get challenged, you face it, and you do just a little better, or you do worse sometimes, but you still you learn from it, instead of like being mad at yourself, like cuz some people, some people don't even recognize their bullshit and that way. So I'm just what comes to my mind is somebody cut you off on the road, and you lose it, and you get upset. And you don't even see that this is your fault. Yeah, they cut you off on the road. But you're upset right now, because you decided to get upset. Yeah, the next time it happens, you might through the programming that's unconsciously, just get upset. But you can like remember how you felt last time you can remember how how you thought about it last time, it was all on you, you didn't take a moment of breath. And so you can remember last time, you can do a little bit better this time. And every time that it happens, you just you take a breath, and you figure it out. But my point is when the challenges come, we're not just going to be better, but it's practicing it over and over again, that allows us to intentionally like change that programming. And as you change the programming it changes and before you know you wake up one day you realize like, man, I don't even get mad when I drive no more. It doesn't bother me when people are acting like assholes on the road. And mainly what has changed for me is I understand that they don't understand what's actually going on right now. They are in their programming. They aren't personally trying to piss Will off. They don't even know me. Like what am I taking this personal for? Something is wrong with them right now. And it's better for me to be patient with them than to be upset with them. Because if I'm upset with them, then I'm just returning that energy. And then it just never ever changes. Like we never change the energy if we just give back what came to us. And so I think taking a pause, taking a breath. And just trying to do a little bit better every every time that we are challenged gets us a long way. And over time we, it's different is no longer something that we just fly off the handle about.
Yeah, the new behavior becomes automatic.
Yeah. Love that. Well, I was thinking about what I wanted to talk with you about today about your gifts. And so many things come to mind. I think about your family and how you treat Yolonda like the Queen that she is and how you love your kids and parent them so well. And they're just so incredibly smart and independent and confident and thoughtful kids, young adults really, and I think about you mentioned the dog training, I think about how well you work with your dogs and other people's dogs and just how you can acknowledge that that animal has needs not just as a human's pet, but like it's an animal, like you said, if it's nervous, you notice that and you try to soothe that instead of just, you know, correcting a behavior. I think about the barbershop business that you ran for so long, and how that's a skill of you cutting hair. And like you said you even had to adapt that when you moved to Charlottesville. And not surprisingly, I think about Prolyfyck. So you started this run crew back when it was Run These Streets. And I think about how it evolved into what it is today, which I think I've heard you mention before, you didn't really expect it to become what it is and that instead of resisting the urge to force it to be what you originally intended, you've sort of leaned into the evolution of it. And it seems that you've asked yourself, Well, if this is what we're working with, then how can we use this to still have the impact that motivated the creation of the group in the first place, and I can only describe this with my words and how I see it. So I hope that you'll correct me if I get anything wrong here. But I think that you've created a place that's safe for black men, black women, they and other people of color, it's safe for indigenous people, and really for any non white identifying people. And inadvertently, it's also a welcoming place for white people, as long as there are people who share a common goal of effecting change in our community and our country where we can agree that systemic oppression is real and needs to change. And I say all that to say that you have every right not to allow people like me, a white privileged person to, to come into your sacred running space, you have every right not to encourage me up that last hill on eighth Street, you could just ignore me. And you have every right to lead the people that you want to lead in the way that you want to lead. And you choose to lead with love. Every decision you make, whether that manifests in you, you know, letting your rage out in the parking lot or pasting in circles or being quiet or hugging people or anything that you know, tears, anger, however it comes out, I feel that there is love in the way that you handle that and let it come through. And I feel like you see love in other people. And I feel that from you. And so I wanted to talk about today how you lead with love and what that means to you. How do you feel about that?
Oh, shoot. I feel like Derrick might have said this, too. It's just weird to hear people like talk about you just talk about my life, like you saying the things that you just said about my life. Sounds weird still, because I don't pay attention to it in that way. Man. Love is love is. Yeah, I feel like you pretty accurate in everything that you have said. My children really changed a lot for me and experiencing them, bringing them into this world with Yolonda, Yolonda bringing them into this world with me, has caused me to really view life different. Seeing my children has helped me to see me, seeing my children has helped me to see the children in other people. And I think that has largely impacted how I hold space for human beings. Like yeah, I think it's really, really important that I identify with my skin and identify with my maleness and all of that stuff. Because that is how I exist in this world. And so I hold space for those things. And I hold space for black people, because of the all of what we have been through and what we need to recover from. But it is seeing human beings that allows me to be able to cheer for you up that hill and be able to see little Meredith in there and not see, like, even if you were a racist person, I still, it's harder for me now, not to see little Meredith, who was not racist, who was forced to be racist. And so just that little bit of hope that's in there for me, allows me to like want to treat everybody with some respect and some dignity. And with the understanding that none of us are who, like, there are a lot of people really right now who still don't have control over their life. They can be leading our community, and they don't have control over themselves. They have not designed themselves, they have been on autopilot all their life. I understand that. It's really not wise of me to hold people to standards that they can't actually uphold. That just I think materializes into what Prolyfyck Run Creww is like, how could you not hold space for everybody? Yeah, we want black people to run and take care of themselves and to feel safe and to be vulnerable and to grow? Yes, that's absolutely what we want. But that's not what our city actually looks like. Our city is not just black, and the population of black people is really low, if we want to change the city, and if we want to, like make this world better than when we found it, which is really important to me, then we can't just hold the space and not accept people who have open hearts. If you don't have the heart than you not welcome. But if you really want to, like make this world better, man it's foolish not to work together, not to help each other. And then, you know, understanding about myself, not just because I think so but I think that my life in a way that I have lived is something that people can learn a lot from. That's why I share my life in a way that I do. Like I don't really like social media, but it feels unwise not to share what we do as a family on social media to show people something different as a possibility. And so that's the same thing with the Run Creww, like, I don't really like to be out there and be in that space in that way with the attention on me, but I understand that some of the ways that I think some of the ways that I actually perform in my life is something that people can learn from, it makes sense for me to keep it open for more people to learn from all of us than it to be just and— Imagine if it was just 50 black people. Yeah, that would be powerful. But if it's, if it's 50 black people and 100 white people, then I feel like there's more possibility of learning that can happen from us, to us to them, them to us, like there's much more learning that is cyclical there, that is more beneficial to society, to this city, individually, to this nation. And so I don't really know how to be full of hate, in that way where I would just close it off, like love is, love is what you do to me, you love people, even if you have to be, even if you had to be violent with somebody is because of it should be because of love. Whether it's because you love yourself, whether it's because you love your children, and they're trying to do something to them, but it should always be love. And so I don't really want to have that sort of energy, that would not be accepting of people who are trying to walk in love as well. It just don't make sense to me.
For anyone listening, can you walk through, like how this crew started? And then like maybe I don't even know if you had a vision for it in the beginning, or if it just sort of came about, but like, maybe how that when it started to shift like how that happened and how you felt about it?
Yeah, no vision. At first, it was no vision, I could see playing out in people's mind sometimes where they like, wonder if like the route was done so that attention can be brought to something or man, I literally started running that route. Because I really wanted to see my people. I felt like I was cutting hair on cherry Avenue in 2008. And when I opened my own shop in 2009, it moved me out on to 29. And so I wasn't in the hood, no more. Like I didn't see the little kids just walking down the street. I didn't see, I didn't experience the people that grew up like I did, because I was out on 29. I was like man, the only way that I can probably do this because I didn't really want to go hang out in the hood went I don't really, I didn't have this sort of connection to Charlottesville hoods that allowed me to genuinely be there. I wasn't going like force myself there. I could go and people respected me, but I couldn't at that point in my life, just hang out. I couldn't just be sitting on the corner. Like it wasn't gonna work for me. Running those communities, running through those neighborhoods felt like the next best thing. And so that was the reason that I constructed the route the way that I did was to see my people and to be seen by them. Running wasn't a thing for me except for like to challenge myself. I didn't grow up doing it, I always appreciated like martial arts and boxing. And so that's kind of what pulled me into running a little bit but unconsciously there was this image of my grandfather running back at home that I never really paid attention to. But it was there. And so now I understand like running had everything to do with my family like my grandfather ran across the bridge that connected Pleasantville to Atlantic City. And we would be riding over the bridge and our car and see my PopPop running down the street. That's there, but I just didn't pay attention to it. And once I started running that route, I would take out some homeboys with me that I would be trained and doing MMA stuff with or something like that. And we just would do it. And then one day, I invited Wes to do it. And by that time, I was doing it by myself, I think, but I will, I invited Wes. He was like, Man, this route is crazy, man. And I was like, man, I think we should get some people to do this. Like, we should just like start inviting people out to come and run this. And so I just used the barbershop to start inviting people out. And I would just tell people that I'm gonna go run tonight when I get off. And you know, a few of my younger clients that guys that was like, younger than me, that looked up to me would be like, man, I try it, you know, maybe they were trying to figure out how to like, mature in ways that I was mature. And so they was like, man, let me hang out with Will. I don't really know what it was, but we started getting like five and 10 people to come out. But I was cutting so much hair, I went to Littlez, and I was like, Man, this, this run thing might be a thing, bro, like, we might really be able to do something with this, you should probably like see how much more energy you can put in this. Because I didn't feel like I could put no more energy into it with the barbershop and homeschooling and all of this stuff. And he was like, man, I'll help you, like he didn't want to take it like I could see like he didn't want to try to take it. And he wasn't sure how he could invest more time into it as well. But he was down to like, be a part of it. And so we just were patient with it. And then when COVID happened, and George Floyd happened, we had this thing was like man, we got to start running again, we need to get we need to get out and start running and route again, because we hadn't been doing it over the winter, and COVID. So it was like, man, let's get a run, let's start doing something. And then it was like, the light bulb went off in my head like you'd need running right now. Like I needed it, I started to pay attention to run more. And then I started paying attention to barefoot running. And then it became this spiritual journey for me. And then the run crew made even more sense like man like this is we can like heal like this I we can really like we can do something special. Once we started running again, with COVID I made this like personal commitment to like, if run would allow me I would like use it to go as far as I can with it. And then I started committing to barefoot running, and I just started studying about run more and I started focusing on breathing more. And all of this stuff started happening man like really, like I just decided to run, like, you can't cut hair right now. You can't earn no money right now all the ways I couldn't even I couldn't even do the dog work because the lease that I was living in, told me they the agreement excluded me from bringing a business into my house or bringing other dogs into my house. And so legally, I was like not able to work. And so I just I just grabbed the hold of run as like something that I could put my energy into. And before I knew it, the run crew started making a lot of sense. Me and Ben and a brother named Shadee, we had already started working on his brand called Prolyfyck. We wanted to be special we wanted to allow people's talents to be seen and we wanted it to be this space where people were protected and artistic people were able to flourish. We didn't know how we were going to do it but we want it we know that we wanted to use clothes as some sort of vehicle if you will to like get it started. But then we just we didn't have the energy and the time and finances to put in straight into the clothes and stuff. So we just left it alone as the run crew just started to look different. And we started to have like these all at one point we had like a Instagram group for Prolyfyck Run Creww that was just the black people that were in the crew. And this was before white people really started coming into it. And we were like man, this space right here feels like what I want Prolyfyck to be this just feels Prolyfyck. This feels like a way to inspire after a while as bin and D if they would mind me naming the run crew Prolyfyck and I still hesitated with it because they weren't involved in it, and because they weren't involved it was like I don't want it to be like I'm taking Prolyfyck over here as a name to do something just different with it. But this is really what I feel like Prolyfyck is like just what we were starting to do. It felt like we were doing meaningful work. It felt like we were being vulnerable. It felt like we were inspiring people. And so it was like, This feels like what Prolyfyck is like, maybe this run crew should represent what we try to make Prolyfyck. And so I named it that. And it was still a struggle for me for a while because Ben and D weren't involved in it. And I didn't want it to feel like I didn't want them to feel like I was trying to take it. And then after a while, Ben finally like, decided I need to do something with myself. And he somehow the Barefoot stuff that I was doing made a little bit more sense to him to try because Ben was walking hardcore with his dogs and stuff a lot. But he could not run. And then Ben started the barefoot stuff and started trying to run and before I knew it, the run crew was and run in particular as well was starting to mean as much to him as it was meaning to me, and Prolyfyck the run crew being named Prolyfyck, started to make even more sensitively, it started to grow from there and and Ben got all the way on board with the run crew and a lot more ways. And it just felt right. It really felt like the name fits. And the work that we doing is the work that we always wanted Prolyfyck to do as a brand specifically. And so No, there was no plan, I guess is my point in saying all of that, like we tried to start one way. And then some other things happen in my life, and then evolved into this. And I just went with the flow like water, honestly. And that's kind of what I was saying in the Brooks thing. When I said, like, all I did was start running. Yeah, we did a lot of other stuff. But once I started running, stuff started making sense to me. And then all of this stuff started unfolding. And all of the work that I was personally doing in my life and in my family's life started to be able to also happen in the run crew, it felt like, how we were personally challenging ourselves was also a way that was being lived out in the run crew, where you and I were able to feel vulnerable with each other in ways that didn't feel normal to like normal engagement. I never felt as freely able to be vulnerable with people before the run crew, but somehow run and the condition of society, during COVID really allowed us to all kind of feel safe enough, I think, to be vulnerable and trust each other enough to like try something different, I think Prolyfyck kind of defined itself at that point, it started to decide for itself, what Prolyfyck was supposed to look like. And we just let it happen, I think.
It kind of brings me back to something you said earlier, which was that this really felt like a way to heal that we could heal together. And that probably timing wise, totally aligned with the pandemic, and all of the stuff that was happening in the world in the news that just really felt like very divisive. And then yeah, to have these people with open hearts who wanted to find a way to come together and heal. It does seem like what kind of brought everyone probably to that vulnerable place where it made sense to come together in that way.
Was there someone in your life maybe growing up or maybe later part in your life that modeled this sort of leading with love for you? Or is that just something that just came with age and life experience?
Nah, I think that a lot of it came with age and observation, age observation, I will say some religious shaping is in there. I think Yolonda was an example of walking in love for me. She just had these she has these kind of intuitive qualities, I don't know some natural things about her allows her to operate in ways that I have to learn to just being exposed to her for so many years, I think just challenged me in ways that both good and bad. I mean, she challenged me to become more black and isolate myself from the world a little bit. And then she also challenged me to become more open and accepting of everybody. So it's really weird, but I think Yolonda had a lot of involvement in that. Otherwise, it just felt like the thing to do like walking in love feels more meaningful. I think reggae is a big part of my life. reggae artists are really big on love and the power of love. And again, I think love changes the community. I think my understanding now it's hard for me to even consider what it was before I understood love the way that I do now but man, you can't do anything. You can you can't do anything without caring man, like, it's impossible. One of my major goals is to make this world better than I found it. And as possibly just because of my children, I really want to make this world a better place for them. And I understand what I do is going to affect them. And what they do is going to affect their children. To me, it is the only option is to walk in love. Again, even if that means you got to stand and protect yourself and be, you know, a soldier, a warrior, it still needs to be because of love. I don't really know where I got that from. If it's not through, there was no man, I don't have a male example of how to do that, honestly, that I can think of. Not in this way. Not in this like public arena. I can't think of one, except for if I look at like pastors and stuff. But no, I don't I don't think so. Meredith, I don't really know how to answer that question, outside of my outside of Yolonda, and just me observing through work, the barber shop was a really good schoolmaster for me. I got to learn a lot of what not to do. And I had some decent examples to learn from as well. But I learned a lot from the barber shop. And Yolonda. Yolonda taught me a whole lot man that woman is special, for real for real. I've never even taken like some of the stuff that she offers. And I'll be thinking like, I wonder how much better I would be if I did take some of her stuff. Honestly, because I haven't done any of that. We just we talk a lot. But we had a really meaningful conversations. And I think I influence her just as much. I don't know who else I would say.
I haven't spent much time with Yolonda, but she's so lovely. And you had mentioned she has this sort of quality about her that is very loving and peaceful. And I definitely got that she's so disarming and welcoming. And so I just wanted to acknowledge that you mentioned earlier that becoming a father kind of allowed you to see the child in other people to see them as their younger selves, maybe before the programming kicked in, that they're not necessarily responsible for. Is there anything else you think that becoming a father has sort of taught you about being a leader?
Yeah, I think it kind of goes back to that being yourself thing, like, I can't change my children, and they're not mine in that way. I'm here to help them to like, if you would to like partner with them to help them come up, but they're not mine. And I think learning that for myself. There's the saying, especially in the black community, I brought you in this world, and I'll take you out. There's this certain level of ownership that people have over their children that I think is toxic. And that also happens in our, it happens out in the community that happens in our relationships with other people. We think we have this sort of right to other people's lives that we don't have. I think my children has helped me to understand that better that in dealing with people who aren't even my children, like you got to take off these expectations of people. You got to allow people to be as free as you want to be. But it was it was my children that really showed me that. Samari specifically came into the world, my second born, and she was so much different than my firstborn. My firstborn, Shiloh was really easy to like coexist with like, she would do what you asked, and she would stop crying. If you talk to her the right way. Like it was really easy to kind of, like nurture her when she was a baby. And then my second born came and she was a firecracker. completely different. And if you talk to her too sternly, she would buck like, she would actually get upset with you, What the hell, why is your little self so mean. And so she was just totally different from my first child. And it allowed me to see like, you have no control over this. Like this is not your first child wasn't good, because of us, so to speak. So just relax. And I think that has allowed me in dealing with people in the barbershop dealing with people who I cut hair with to better allow people to just be themselves and offer what you can offer, but not think that you have any right to people's lives like you don't have the right to expect people to conduct themselves the way that you do. And if you can learn that what your children because they are, they feel like the one responsibility that you have that you are absolutely responsible for like nobody else has any responsibility over this except for their other parent. And so if you can learn in that relationship that you don't have no rights to their life, if you can do it there that you should be able to do it with everybody else that you encounter, because you really didn't make those people. Like, this should be easier to try because you did not make them. But see, I made those little people. So to practice it with them is a much harder task, especially when you know how vulnerable they are, you know how much they have to learn. But to be able to take a step back and be patient and allow them space to learn is, is a valuable lesson. Yeah, it's a really valuable lesson. And then another thing that I would say I learned from them was they made me question God in a way that I hadn't before I used to be okay with the idea that God would punish us if we did something wrong. If I did something that I got that I knew God was not okay with, you know, if something bad happened to me because of that, yeah, God should have did that to me kind of thing. Like, feeling like you deserve something. I'm not going to be okay with something bad happening to you to teach you a lesson. So that just made me question God differently. Because I was always taught like, God, punish you guys do this, and God do that. I would never cut my baby off. I don't care if she was homosexual. What? I'm not going to disown my child. Because she is homosexual.
Because something told me like so this relationship with my children, opened up my mind to question what I had been taught, which opened up my mind, Meredith, I didn't used to cut gay people's hair. When I lived in Pleasantville, I was so such a hardcore Christian, that I really, I didn't want nothing to do with that stuff. And now, I mean, since I've been living in Charlottesville, that's been completely different for me. But it wasn't until I really started to take a look at Christianity and my children were born, that I was able to see humans outside of sin. And my children really helped me to do that, because of genuine love. Maybe I wasn't able to love people in that way before, unconditionally, before my children, like maybe I wasn't able to do that. But once they came, they showed me something that was like, oh, Nah, that's not how I can't believe that a father would conduct them. Like, as a father, if I did what people said, God the Father was doing. If I did that, to my children, I will be a bad dude. And so it just made me question how I was going to receive all these stories, which I think also turned into shaping how I lead and and how I am able to accept people for who they are, and not be holding people to standards that are just unrealistic.
My family is deeply religious. So I'm not. I I grew up that way. So I think I went through a lot of what you're going through, and I don't have children, so I didn't have that window to view things through. But yeah, there's a lot that I sort of had to reshape and look at differently in order to see how I could fit into this world and not hate myself for certain things or not be unkind to other people, which no longer felt right. So yeah, I can, I can totally relate to some of that. Well, I'm curious too, because, you know, you started the run crew to just run and to, you know, see your people out there and to show them you're there and to encourage them to maybe come out too, and now it's evolved into this whole new thing. And now you have all these people that are coming out to these weekday runs in they're looking to you for leadership on the course and in the parking lot huddle afterwards. And you know, there's like a core chunk of those people, myself included, who are now also kind of trusting you and the other leadership team to help get us across the finish line of an 8k or a half marathon or a full marathon, the first one for a lot of people. So I imagine that's both an honor and a fairly daunting amount of pressure.
Yes, yes. I'm listening.
Tell us about that.
I don't think you were finished yet.
No, that's my question is I I'm curious how that feels like how it's got to be an honor. But also like, Oh, god, this is a lot that I didn't really sign up for.
That is true. That is true. One. One way that I deal with that is I understand that I'm not the only leader out there. I'm just really one of many. And I've never looked at that any other way. I I'm just I don't need ownership of stuff in that way, I really believe that. So yeah, for leadership, I think Littlez and Ballhawk are some people that come to mind immediately. But you know, the work that Chris Cochran does that Ben does that, Mike, that I mean it's a lot of people that Courtney does, that Katt does like so there's a certain level of weight that I don't feel where it's like all on me. I don't feel that in that way. But there is a certain level of weight that I feel because of the climate that we live in. And because of the proximity to the heat that I am, my relationship with Wes, A12. What the run crew looks like, like all of that stuff makes it a little daunting because of what people can do in their minds what people can do with narratives. So that's been a little challenging honestly if I were to keep it 100. But it doesn't make me stop doesn't make me want to pump the brakes, because I see way more value and what we're doing, than I want to allow fear to stop me from doing it. You know, I mean, just to be frank, Prolyfyck Run Creww looks a lot like what the Black Panther Party probably always intended, always. But the narrative that is shaped by the Black Panther Party is far different in society's eyes, and it popular society's eyes than it actually was, I feel like Prolyfyck Run Crew has the same potential to be painted as something different than what it actually is. Because of its proximity to a person like Wes, who people just love to try to make look bad, that has been a little challenging for me. But even still, I've accepted it because I know what we doing and what we doing makes way too much impact on individual lives to allow a few people to stop it because of the possibility. And so we've accepted it for for all that's possible. But yes, that has been a thought, you know, as a part of me that had to sit and wrestle with what it evolved into. Because in a lot of ways, it's some of it feels out of your hands, it feels like you don't have the control that you feel like you should have when you start something, but also what you have, again, doesn't feel like you should stop, it doesn't feel like stopping is going to be any better. But it's tough, because we live in a climate that makes it hard, man, it makes it hard to even walk in love. Like, they'll make your love look bad. They'll paint it out to be something else that it's really not man. And that's all we have been doing is loving on people. But I just I know that there's a possibility that somebody would be like, yeah, Wes is over there, doing something and putting together some sort of militia or something stupid people could say, it's just dumb stuff that people could say and do, man. And as we really try to make this place better. And I think what a lot of I think that's what our ancestors were trying to do, our ancestors being the Black Panther Party, I think that's what they were trying to do. But when you love yourself, you just stop taking a certain level of bullshit from people. And then that makes them feel like they can paint the narrative different. So that's scary if I'm 100. Because now I'm putting my children in a position to have challenges in their personal life, because somebody could misunderstand something. So But again, it's still I think, Prolyfyck Run Creww is doing amazing work. So it's nothing that I would change about it.
Well, what is one thing that you would share with someone listening about how to better walk in love,
start with yourself goes back to set than where you are, I feel like once we are better able to see ourselves, then it's a lot easier to be patient with other people. Because you know what it takes for you to change if you bring something to somebody that's wrong, or if somebody is doing something that's wrong, you have to understand about them, if you understand about yourself, that this is a program. This has happened to them unconsciously, even if they have consciously decided to accept it. That has to be because they are ignorant to something I was listening to say guru a Why do ask them a question about the condition of the world. And it's the worst it's ever been and racism and all this stuff, and Sadhguru check them and was like, man, all my life I had been harassed and airport and made to get in this line and not going that line. And it's only because of the suit that I'm wearing. Like this body. Basically what I understood in the sand, the sand is like I'm the kindest person any of you people have ever met in your life. And I had no ill will No, I'm not bombing nothing. But I y'all know who I am. And I still get treated like this and airport. There's no reason for that, because I don't give off those sort of vibrations. So anybody that's doing that is being an asshole. And so the Latina sister that was on the podium went from said, doesn't that make you mad? He was like, for what? Like, for his ignorance, I give either compassion or pity. This person is showing me how immaturity you're honestly like how much they don't understand about this life that we're actually moving. Through this experience, if I give them anything but compassion or pity, I'm allowing them to control me in ways that I don't want to be control is love that you have to move in, in order to not move in anger, love causes you to be compassionate love causes you to have pity. And it causes you to see them in a way that doesn't allow you to be returning that energy. And so I think loving yourself brings you to that place, because you get to understand who you actually are, and how you operate. And then you have to then assume that human beings operate like this. And so it's going to take some time, some patience, and some calm, to change any situation that you find yourself in. It is beneficial to me as an individual to love a person as opposed to hate him, like that's going to weigh more for me as an individual, then it's going to do even for them, it's going to really do a lot for them also. But man, it's like we kind of have been trained to look at that turning the cheek as like a doormat, and I don't think that's what it is, I think it's possible for the that would be what it is. But if you if you love people and set boundaries, also, like if you, if you hold space for people and set boundaries, you won't get treated like a doormat. And then that allows space for you to be present in people's lives for them to change. Because you might be the only way that they change, you might be the only person that can show them something different that will make them be like, oh,
maybe I don't have to do it that way. Like maybe I could feel safe enough to be honest about something. I think about like when somebody hit my homeboys cardia The day I had to say to him like it is very possible that they were so afraid that it was impossible for them to be honest about this, and they just drove off. Some people just they don't know how to be safe. Like they don't they don't feel that you could love them in a way of just understanding that that's possible. You don't have to assume that that's what it is. But you can love them enough to hold that possibility. And then ask them without being upset, because you already assumed that they did something malicious to you that you now have to take person, right. And so I think that's how love, love causes you like not to take things personally. And to actually like inquire to ask questions, and to pose space calmly, to find out what's really there. Unless you just want to be mad. Unless you just want to be like you know, then you got to check yourself. But I think you love people first love yourself and find out who you really are. That makes it possible. I could have never love Yolonda, I could never love Yolonda like I do now if I if I didn't like find some real love for myself. I could never be as gentle and kind with my children. If I didn't recognize the struggles that I have, in my own life. Liam showed me this one day he was upset. He was in a bad space. He's seven years old at this time, probably maybe eight. He was having a hard time listening to his mom, my militant kind of self, my, that old dad and me is like, man, put your shoes on, let's go outside, you're going for a walk with me in a dog. You're not gonna keep treating your mind like this. So I'm like, let's go. I send him into his room to go get his shoes. couple seconds later, I hear a thump in the room. And he's coming out of the room now. So I'm walking toward him. And I'm like, What happened? Whoa, Did I just hear a thump? He's upset. I'm like Moscow back in the room. We go into the room. And I'm like, What have you do you shoot me like, yeah. And so immediately I'm like, thinking to hell, you don't throw in your shoes in my house. That's my program. I don't say it to him. I'm like, Why did you tell your shoe He's like, because I'm upset. And I'm like, wow, that was really mature. So now I'm grounded. And I'm just listening to him. And so he's like, I'm, I'm upset that I wanted to wear those shoes, and they not fit in me. And so I had to get them off. And so I'm like, Damn, that actually makes sense. Like your little mind is making while you through your shoe. makes sense to me. Why I feel like parents and have old would have been like, they wouldn't have cared if it made sense. Don't throw nothing in my house. It don't even matter if it makes sense. Like, great day, can I actually be upset? No, you can't be upset, don't throw nothing in my house. And so having this moment with him, I asked him, I asked him about controlling himself. I said why are you upset? He said because somebody did something and I said something you do understand. This is something we would just He's talking about the other day, you are deciding to be upset because they did that. They are not making you upset. And he's like, yeah. And I said, so why are you letting him upset you? I asked him that a couple of times trying to get some understanding from him. And he just finally was like, because I don't know how to do it that, like, I don't know how to not get upset. And I was like, that makes perfect sense to. I'm 30, some years old, and I don't, I still don't know how to not get upset son. hearing him say that, though, was like, how are we holding these expectations? This boy is eight years old. You don't want him to express himself at all? Because it doesn't feel good to you. Right? Because it's a challenge to you. And, and seeing him and hearing him say that really helped me to be like, wow, like, of course you don't know how to control yourself yet? Of course, like, why am I even expecting this from you in a way that I'm expecting it from you, when I myself, have punched holes in walls at 30 something. It's like, seeing him say that no one about myself. How it's hard for me to hold myself to that standard made me be like, yeah, you can love yourself, hold space for yourself and your learning process. If you can do that, you got to hold space for your son and his learning process. Because he getting that shit from you.
Like you asked him to control something that he got from you, that he's he's eight years old, you 30 realistic space, you got to be calm, you got to breathe, you have to be an example to him of which you want him to do. And so all of that just goes back to in order to love people. You have to find some sort of love, patience, and calm for yourself. To me personally.
I feel like I have a million more questions for you. But I think we're out of time. So either another episode or we'll just have to chat off of the off the record. We can do both. Well, where can people find you? Well, if they want to connect with you online or follow your journey or come to Prolyfyck Are any of that stuff.
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Prolyfyck Run Creww links up about 550 anywhere between 550 and 610. We leave out to start out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I'm on Instagram, my handle is still way to Kane, k mg. Facebook. I'm William Jones. I think William Johnson third, maybe something like that. Otherwise, I don't really want to be found on display. But I don't have any other way to be found. But yeah, you know, we a little private, but still very open to people. So won't have any I don't have any other ways to be found. Other than that. I don't have any sites for my dog work yet. I don't have any any real stuff to share with people for that. I'm still growing that in a real way for myself. And so I'm just not sharing it with everybody yet. I'm taking on work, but I'm not really sharing and looking for clients in a way that most people do when they start businesses. So I don't really have anything to share with that yet. But if you know, you know, and if you know somebody that can recommend you to the work that I do, then I definitely will be down with considering working with you.
Thank you for that. Will, thank you so much. I appreciate you taking your time. I know you're super busy. And I have really enjoyed just getting to learn a little bit more about you today. And yeah, I just appreciate everything that you do for Prolyfyck and how that's come through in my life. I'm so appreciative. But I also just just appreciate sharing your voice today with you know, the handful of listeners that I have.
That's it. That's a that's a big handful. It's all good. I appreciate it. Honestly, I do. I don't care the size of the platform. I think that regular people being elevated in a way is helpful because I think too often we think that celebrity celebrities are unique and are like unicorns we think that celebrities are unicorns in a variety of people. And I think if we talked to each other more, we will see that we all are living with the same sort of understanding that some of these powerful people have some of these revere people have and we just don't talk to each other enough to find out. So I think it's a dope platform. I thank you for having me. Thank you for stepping out and being courageous. I remember you were taking your time making it happen, but it's good to see it happening.
Thanks! I appreciate that. So much.
What an amazing human. If you want to follow Will you can find him on Instagram as Illway_da_Kang (that's K - A - N - G). You can also visit prolyfyck.org that's P R O L YFYCK. And follow the Prolyfyck Run Creww on Instagram. If you want to come out and walk, jog or run with us. We meet at the Jefferson school every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning walkers start at 550 joggers at 6am and fast runners around 610 if you want to follow me Meredith McCreight You can find me on Instagram Pinterest and Facebook with the handle at create without bounds. You can visit the podcast page at meaning to share.com and check out more stuff from my brain at create without bounds calm. You can find all of Will's info at my info all the social links and more in the full show notes. If you loved this episode, please consider going over to Apple podcasts and leaving a five star review. This really helps us connect with more listeners who might find our show meaningful. Thanks for tuning into this episode. share something meaningful this week friends see you next time.