Xavier Elder-Henson and Roy Williams Jr. have a bond born of their chaotic childhoods and an altruistic, therapeutic desire to end familial cycles of abuse.
Together, Williams and Elder-Henson are traveling a cathartic path and have transformed their childhood trauma and personal substance-abuse issues into an inspirational “Family Unit” clothing line.
“With ‘The Family Unit,’ we knew we wanted to give back,” the duo said.
In this Zenger Q&A, the duo describes their sojourn from calamity to serenity and how their musical backgrounds served to quiet Elder-Henson’s inner demons, ease Williams’ depression and forge a noble union.
Zenger: What is the origin of “The Family Unit” concept?
Elder-Henson: I have thrown a few things at the wall, but The Family Unit is the one that stuck. The story of two black fathers trying to build a legacy for their children while also trying to overcome their own pasts is very compelling, powerful, useful and inspiring.
When we decided to take the leap with The Family Unit, we knew we wanted to give back. So we made a commitment to find organizations in the DMV (D.C., Maryland and Virginia area) and donate a percentage of our monthly profits to them.
There is also a section of our website that spotlights these great organizations. We have direct links to them if you prefer to donate directly, and we also encourage people to donate their time toward being at the forefront of uplifting their communities.
Williams: Xavier and I had always been in touch here and there, but it was always with music, which is a complement to something else that was greater. Xavier challenged me on it and we both agreed that it was family. I kept bringing up the family unit, and he said, ‘Yeah.’ The broken homes we came from were a big factor.
Xavier and I decided together that we can break the curse by creating something great. We want to inspire and keep families together, prevent division, divorces, domestic abuse and encourage people to raise their children the way they’re supposed to be raised. It’s the moral and Biblical way, and that’s why we came up with ‘The Family Unit.’
Zenger: What different types of clothing do you offer, how can you be contacted, and how does one go about ordering?
Elder-Henson: Visit us at the www.thefamilyunit.shop shop to place an order. Our ‘Box Logo’ T-shirts are our go-to item, coming in a variety of colors for adults, youth, toddlers and babies. Our brand is geared towards family, so when you wear our clothing, we hope you feel a sense of transformation.
We hold and attend events, and you can sign up to our mailing list on the website, message and follow us on Instagram (@thefamilyunitbrand), or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also encourage you to send us pictures of you and your family in your gear, so we can show your love for family to the world.
Zenger: How were your childhoods?
Elder-Henson: My parents divorced when I was a toddler. I grew up in two different worlds. There was a small period of time that my mom and I were staying in a shelter and time when I watched my mother work hard trying to raise three children.
One day I remember waking up in the backseat of a taxi with my dad heading from Maryland down to North Carolina. It was a weird ride to the train station. I remember feeling numb, unsure whether to cry or jump for joy. I was in the third grade.
It was a hard pill to swallow. My dad was strict, remarried, and I had a sister I hadn’t met. Before I set foot in their home, I harbored resentment toward him, my mother and my stepmother. Part of it was me wondering if it was my fault this all happened; the other part felt like I didn’t get to make the decision on where I wanted to live.
Looking back, I wish I gave my new situation more of a chance. I spent the majority of my childhood in North Carolina, where I graduated from high school. I jumped into the workforce, bouncing around and into a few different lines of work. Right now, I’m a stay-at-home dad. Eventually I came to a point where I wanted to start my entrepreneurial journey.
Williams: My childhood was rough. My dad was on drugs. I experienced seeing him smoking crack. But I also experienced him turning himself over to God as a minister who was really involved in the church. I went to church with him and my mom. Those were the best times I had with him.
But when he went to drugs, it all went downhill. I experienced my dad abusing my mom. Abuse among family members was cousins fighting cousins, cousins fighting aunts. When my mom remarried, my stepfather was very emotional, took it out on us and beat on us.
Karate was one thing I was good at and was my way of coping. My grandmother put me into karate, but my mom took me out of it. I was very upset with that, and ever since then, all of my life, I would start something and not finish.
When it came to the family foundation, everything was all bad, and I had nowhere to learn anything good from. I didn’t learn how to deal with adversity because I wasn’t taught by my parents how to. I turned to drugs.
I went into the military to get away from my stepfather. I later realized making an emotional choice like that isn’t always the best thing to do. I was 18 or 19 years old in Japan, not knowing how to deal with life, depressed and homesick.
I ended up being kicked out of the military due to drugs, came back home and hit rock bottom about four times in my life. The turning point was in my mid-30s, when I stopped smoking weed for the time since I was 14.
Zenger: How have you processed healing from childhood trauma?
Elder-Henson: I tried weed and alcohol as a coping mechanism. I knew right away that that was not me. Ultimately, church, family and music were my ways of working through. It’s still an ongoing process, and as a father myself, I realized that the good and bad are what have molded me into the man I am today.
But I made a lot of bad decisions by projecting my anger and hurt at people who didn’t deserve it. Over time, I realized that all my parents wanted was the best for me. I am still looking back and remembering the lessons that I was taught by all three of them, and I am truly grateful for their continued presence in my life.
Williams: I grew up in southeast Washington D.C., up to the third grade, then moved to Fort Washington, Maryland. I graduated from high school, went into the military, then studied to be an electrician and doing odd jobs after that. For five years, I was a stay-at-home father. I had gained everything back as far as my job and everything.
But I had to get my soul back, because I had left my identity behind. I wanted to go back to school, but then COVID hit; I decided to go all out trying to be an entrepreneur. I also went to TESST College of Technology for computer networking and also got a few certificates from Google in 2020.
Zenger: Didn’t the two of you meet as musicians?
Elder-Henson: Music was a way for me to deal with my inner demons, and it became an instrument for healing and personal growth. As far as ‘The Family Unit,’ Roy and I crossed paths while performing at a show. It was a small event in Waldorf, Maryland.
My plan was to talk to at least one person before I left. I’m a bit of an introvert, so I had to psych myself up to tap Roy on the shoulder. We clicked right away, became really good friends and kicked off our relationship as entrepreneurs.
Williams: I work full-time as an armed protective officer at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. I wrote my first song when I was 8 years old, was a part of a music group in 1998, started producing music in 2001 and engineering in 2015.
I did a few talent shows, including one at the Smithsonian Museum. Music was a way for me to cope with depression, and during my venture, Xavier and I crossed paths, and the rest is history.
Edited by Stan Chrapowicki and Matthew B. Hall
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