Shaquille Megget, a 23 years old Harlem resident, describes the male millennial as thus: “I think he’s strong-minded, goal-oriented, and does the absolute most to avoid making life-changing mistakes.” Megget has lived in Harlem since he was 6 months old, now residing on the corner of 137th Street and 8th Avenue. “I’ve lived in Harlem for my entire life, so I know the area well.”
My main essential apps are Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, just to let people know I’m alive.
Shaquille Megget presents himself as the kind of person that sets the beat to his own drum. With over 35,000 followers on his Instagram account, Shaq –as he is known online, is widely considered a Harlem influencer. “My main essential apps are Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, just to let people know I’m alive,” he says. Other Harlem millennials have flocked to the social networks, not only to boost their own following, but in some cases because a growing number of millennial influencers were able to profit off of their accounts and pages.
Shaquille isn’t going that route. “I really see myself being a TV personality, photographer or in overall communications.” And he is on his way to making this dream a reality, having recently completed his bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations at Harlem’s own City College of New York.
Although this Harlemite is finished with school, he isn’t quite yet the grown-up. “I wouldn’t call myself independent, since I still live with my mother.” Shaquille wants to pursue his career by, plainly put, getting a job. “I just want to invest in myself and invest in equipment and make it happen.”
I think homosexuality is accepted in Harlem, because everything is more open.
He does not consider himself to be what some people might expect a Harlem man to be. As a group, black men feel greater social and cultural pressures to play the role of provider, to be the dominant figure in the household. But not all black men want to be perceived in such a manner. On his Instagram profile, Shaquille identifies himself as “unapologetically homo.”
“I think [homosexuality] is accepted in Harlem, because everything is more open. There are always people who don’t agree, but I believe in changing your mind.”
Self-care for a Harlem millennial is a tad different from what it often is for the everyday young person. “Our style is just different. It’s really Manhattan, but it’s more open-minded,” says Shaquille. Harlem males tend to include more color in their wardrobe, a notable departure from the average New Yorker’s penchant for black or gray clothes or straight neutrals. It is not uncommon either to see young men around Harlem in the occasional jogger sweatpants. They are also showing a great fondness for the fashion and style of the 1990s, Run DMC gear and all. But in the end, says Shaquille, fashion remains a personal thing. “My outfit really depends on my mood, I try to color coordinate my clothes and stuff like that.”
Dating in the Area
There’s a lot of hookup and honestly no app is better than the next.
Dating for a young Harlem man is no easier for them than for any other young New Yorker. Social media has grown to become the landscape of dating for the 21st-century male. “There’s a lot of hookup and honestly no app is better than the next,” Shaquille claims. If a young person really wants to have a relationship off of the internet, then dedication is the key according to Shaquille. “It all depends on the amount of time you invest in the person. Dedication matters.”
Harlem is Home
While Harlem male millennials are concerned about self-care and social media like other young people, they’re even more concerned about family and community. More than ever, they’re getting involved in addressing rampant gentrification and other issues in the fast-changing neighborhood. “It’s scary,” says Shaquille, “everything is changing. When you’re younger, you don’t really notice it as much, but now that I’m much older, it’s shocking to see.” Shaquille Megget says he’s not too worried about the kinds of people who are moving in, but he’s more shaken up about Harlem’s history being forgotten.
I don’t care what other people think. We live for ourselves. That’s just Harlem.
And so he volunteers for community programs during Harlem Week, the popular cultural festival begun in the 1970s, during which he helps to host events and block parties. “That’s something I really want to go back to, because [the festival] invests in Harlem.”
Asked what part of the neighborhood still feels like Harlem, Megget says nowhere else feels more like Harlem than the area between 125th and 145th Streets. “Harlem, again, is different,” he says. “I don’t care what other people think. We live for ourselves. That’s just Harlem.”
RELATED ARTICLE: Harlem Millennials: A Female Portrait