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Arts & Culture

Black San Antonio Men Explain What It's Like 'Living In My Skin'

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courtesy Living In My Skin
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Seymour Battle

San Antonio’s PBS station KLRN has produced a new documentary project called "Living In My Skin" that will premiere on Feb. 2. The two-part project includes interviews with more than 30 Black men and boys in San Antonio.

The premise of "Living in My Skin" came from a conversation between its co-executive producers Seymour Battle, Lionel Sosa and Brandon Logan. Sosa quotes Logan as having said: “Let me tell you about the daily battles of living in my skin.”

Those words really stuck with Sosa, a lifelong San Antonian who ran his own marketing firm, has been on the board of PBS and now selects marketing projects he’s interested in.

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courtesy Living In My Skin
Lionel Sosa

Battle said their conversation went on a while, and took some deep turns.

“Lionel asked some very genuine questions that led to a dialog, really in depth dialog about racial conditions that are in the city,” Battle said.

That conversation was the spawning grounds for "Living in My Skin." The project’s style is pretty basic: Black men talking about their experiences living in San Antonio. Things that white people don’t even consider. Here’s one from Paul Foster:

“He said, 'My wife reminded me that because you’re Black and I’m white, you don’t have the privilege of firing me,'” Foster said.

The two half-hour documentaries are primarily these men’s faces over a black background with angular lighting. Since there’s little but their faces to see, your attention becomes laser focused on what they’re saying. Here’s Clarence “Reggie” Williams on a conclusion he’s come to over the years:

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courtesy Living In My Skin
Brandon Logan

“If somebody has a problem with my skin, it’s their problem. It’s not mine,” Williams said.

Seymour Battle says putting a microphone in front of Black men caused him to see things he never expected to, and expanded the breadth of the project.

“Completely unexpected, I would say. And the project has taken off and gone places to a level that we didn't expect,” Battle said.

But then by contrast, in person after person those Black experiences had some universal elements. Eliot Paulk pointed one out.

“There’s about 50 masks we have to wear daily. If you talk to any Black person they’ll tell you,” he said with a voice full of emotion.

Battle said he thinks our divisions don’t just keep us physically separate. Our perspectives hardly even overlap.

“A lot of what we see that happens today is people have a hard time being empathetic and understanding because we all live in our own respective life bubbles and we operate in those,” he said.

Of all the stories told, the ones that really got to Battle are from the young people, like this thought from Robert Melvin, Jr.

“You’re not living a good life if what other people say affects how you act, and how you feel,” he said.

Battle said hearing from young people speak about experiences he had 20 years ago when he was young was daunting.

“Those are really heart-wrenching to me and speak to speak to the issues we still have today that we have to work on,” Battle said.

You can hear the first of the two-part series Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 8 p.m. on KLRN. Part two will air Feb. 9 at 8 p.m.

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