CJ PENNY : NORMALIZED
By Latasha S. Davis, LCSW
It's another great day at
Black Vybez Magazine!
Seated at the table is one splendid Black man. A seemingly limitless storyteller as the host and creator of the “Normalized” podcast, filmmaker, scholar, father, and transportation executive, he’s CJ Penny and he has agreed to sit and chat with us.
CJ is quickly becoming the voice of the “normal” Black man and mental health. With “Normalized”, he presents a rigid and realistic view of how he, as a Black man in America, has experienced interactions with the police, multiple women, addiction, and of course, mental illness. CJ is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and struggles with related symptoms which include addiction. Let’s talk about it.
BVM: So, tell me a little bit about your journey and where it is now.
CJP: I effectively live two lives.
The man lives in two cities: Chicago and Baltimore. CJ is a renaissance type of man. He fathers two young daughters who he so adoringly describes as the “greatest girls in the world”. His degrees in Political Science and Mass Communication alone depict a man of a certain intellect and one who is knowledgeable. Then, there’s the career that keeps him intertwined with his community as he takes on planning initiatives for his city. And he hosts the “Normalized” podcast.
CJP: It started off as a podcast back in 2017. The podcast came because I was in a drunk driving accident. It was bad. I probably should have died. I ended up with my engine on my lap.
No one was injured and he is truly grateful. As a result, CJ was forced to begin therapy. There, he admits that his therapist, a Caucasian male, admired his ability to “articulate”. The same therapist suggested that CJ start a podcast. The first show was called, “You Sound White”. Perfect! It was about his journey to becoming a Black man in America. His goal was to show vulnerability and empathy to an underserved population, Black men.
CJP: I realized that when you’re vulnerable with yourself, people can empathize with you. Podcasts usually talk about social, pop culture, and maybe politics. We never really talk about ourselves, our roles, or our responsibilities. I want to provide a space where people can be empathetic towards others. I want to be able to talk about legitimate and hard conversations.
CJ has a personal responsibility stance when it comes to negative situations. Asking the questions, how did I help create the negative situation? What was my role in that negative situation? “Normalized” opens the conversation for others to express their thoughts and feelings with CJ providing the needed understanding and relatability. His shows are about abortion, the “me too” movement, sexual aggression, and addiction to name a few. He admits to sort of learning things along the way, modestly affirming that he is not an expert. Yet, somehow, he shows Black men how to do this, and to expand the lesson, “Normalized” is now a film.