dayton

Makings of a Man

Makings of a Man

Mortal Man

Makings of a Man

By: Al Harden

I wrote a book for my sons called SONSCAPE “available here on amazon.” Within the book there’s a (Legacy) page in which I wrote “I love you and I'm sure my father loves me and his father loved him. I left a particular Legacy for you I'm not proud of. It wasn't intentional but it was something I could not stop. The role I played in this endeavor was part of the harassed, denounced and deprived.  Unfortunately you may continue to encounter these issues. I wish I could stop this maltreatment but I do not know how. So I attempt to teach you how to survive in this climate exactly how I have been able to survive, and my father, and his father.”

Reflecting on that passage there are many people who have given me wisdom and advice and people that I look up to like my father Joe Harden where I learned discipline and unconditional love. My step father Charles Hooper where I learned patience and the value of trying new things in order to challenge myself. However in order to truly understand where I am today I’ll have to tell you about my grandfather Charles Woods whom I affectionately called (Papap). He set the foundation for me to build my life and to raise my family.

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Papap taught by example. He worked in a foundry every weekday and would work on the farm when he got off of work as well as on weekends. He taught me the importance of having a strong work ethic as well as making time to do things that I enjoyed. We would work around the house together and also pick grapes and doing other jobs around the orchard. Papap and I would get into just about everything!

My grandfather and I would drive around in his old truck going here and there. We would often stop and do things for people he knew as well as for strangers. Papap would also take me around to go visit with his friends.  We would do “drive-bys.” Papap would drive by poking his head out of the truck’s window to say ”hey, how are you doing?” That was his way of checking in on people.

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When I started working at the age of 14 Papap would drive me to work “ensuring that I got there in plenty enough time.” Papap was my second business partner, my first was my brother Charles Harden. We walked around peddling little nuts that fell off the trees. My brothers and I had no takers and never sold anything, however we were able to make a jar full of pennies worth about $19 when we found a missing cat.

I had a hobby of raising rabbits, “at one point I had probably close to 60 of them.” Papap and I would always stop and get rabbit food and other supplies during our adventures. One day he asked me to bring him five rabbits, “he didn't tell me why but it didn't matter - as a dutiful grandson I carried out his wishes.” Then he told me to get him a short 2x4. Once I complied he proceeded to butcher the rabbits/pets and I was shocked - my eyes filled with tears. There was one rabbit left alive which was one of my favorites so I asked if I could take that one back and go get another one. Papap agreed so I took a stroll down death row to see who was next.  It felt as though I took forever but I returned with another rabbit. He then instructed me to get a pot with water, then a little later to get some salt. My next order was to go get some plastic bags and get in the truck. 

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There was complete silence while I was riding in the truck with these five butchered and dressed pets. We pulled up to his friends house and they exchanged pleasantries while I sat on the passenger side in complete silence. Papap handed his friend the rabbits and his friend gave him $20 which my grandfather passed along to me. My eyes opened wide and a smile even invaded my face. That was the official start of my new rabbit farming business!

Papap loved his wife “my grandmother” who unfortunately passed before I was born. My grandmother did however have the opportunity to give me my name before she passed. Papap was no nonsense. He fiercely defended his family, John Wick II comes to mind but Papap’s dogs would bite! “thats another story.”

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When I joined the Marine Corps Papap was the first person to tell me how proud he was of me. When I came back home he was definitely proud and happy to see me. We hopped right back in his truck and started making our rounds visiting family and friends.

As a man you learn to take little bits and pieces from everyone in your life and use them to help weave your way through life. Even to this day I’m comprehending lessons that Papap and others taught me years ago that I wasn’t able to grasp when I was younger.

 
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Makings of a Man

By: Al Harden

Son | Father | Husband | Artist | Fine Art Photographer | Veteran | Fire Specialist

- Keep up with Al on facebook.

- instagram @al_harden

- Al’s book: SONSCAPE is available on amazon.

Urban Diary

Christian

Mortal Man

Urban diary

By: Christian Richardson

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“Home,
is where the Hurt is...
A post circumstance perspective.
A perpetual predisposition
in a climate
too warm for winter,
too cold for love,
but just humid enough
to Hate ourselves...
The Heart of the city...
Leaving holes,
Where it kept beating,
our children
to the punch.
Our residents parked
permanently in gated
communities,
a rat race
Among boys.
trying to see who
can get nowhere
the fastest...
trying to see
how many burdens
they can carry in each casket.
The Gem city.
So much weight
on our shoulders
on the West side.
We always wanted to be
the closest thing
athlete.
The closest thing Dunbar.
A hometown hero,
A Colonel White parallel
between five oaks
and witch trials.
Where there is only enough rope
to hang on by a thread.
but just enough tree,
to be a raisin in the sun...”

 
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“These bones...
are the Storm.
Surrounded on all sides,
imploding at all times.
and they just want to tell the Truth;
that the Silence
is just a calm
In a storm that will never settle...
That this Body of water.
will always remain 60% fluid identity.
That I will only ever know myself;
in waves.”

 
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“It's dark here.
And
It always smells like yesterday
No matter how much
I thrift, throw, and tear
I am still very much a sheep
trapped in wolves clothing
attempting not
to swallow myself whole.
Meanwhile,
Holes
as big as my reflection.
Empty yet still full of shadows
tongue heavy
speaking a language
only winter could understand.
breathes deep...
In hell,
Or some other location
To be determined,
to be damned,
Or
to be diagnosed...
Exhale.
Escape....”

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Urban Diary

By: Christian Richardson

Son | Brother | Artist | Member of Underdog Academy | Nobody Important

You can keep up with Christian at:

instagram: @ c_rich123

twitter: @c_rich123

twitter: @underdogacademy

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Christian and all of the members of Underdog Academy have participated in the Mortal Man series. On June 29, 2019 they will be hosting: Underdog Academy presents Broken English 101: “Stories Within the Margin” at thePNC Arts Annex - Theatre in Dayton, OH.In this installment of the Broken English series, UA dives into the vantage of the young black male in order to provide perspective on the culture, dialogue, and climate. With a UA only roster, come get to know the minds and the men behind Broken English. Get your tickets early and enjoy a full service bar with table service available! Seating is limited! Tickets available here.

Brotherhood

Frederick L. Cox

Mortal Man

Brotherhood

By: Frederick Leon Cox

FIRST of all, SERVANTS of all, we shall TRANSCEND all.
— Alpha Phi Alpha

I have always felt a sense of loneliness. For many who know me, they wouldn’t believe that. I was raised with multiple siblings, two older (by 5 and 7 years) and three younger (6-10 years), seemingly a big family but I always felt alone. When I heard J Cole’s Middle Child lyric, “Dead in the middle of two generations. I’m little bro and big bro all at once”, I felt that in my spirit. In my family, I always wished I had a roll dog. Someone close to my age that I would ride for and they would return the loyalty. With so many people around, I felt awkward, it caused me to isolate myself. 

As I transitioned throughout grade school, my personality made me one of the most social people in the room. While it was natural for me to be extroverted, there are multiple memories of feeling like the most awkward person in the room. I attended an Arts high school where I majored in theatre. From a very early space, I learned to be comfortable being laughed at, and to shake it off as if I wasn’t bothered. Graduating high school I received the superlative Mr. Stivers High School, an individual that exemplified the most high school spirit. It was proof that I knew how to wear the mask well. 

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I then matriculated to the University of Dayton, at that point the institution was no more than 3% black and so the feeling of isolation met me at the front door. It didn’t take me long to realize that I may need to leave the institution. I had two friends that felt similar and instantly we began discussing Greek Life. As I considered which organization would best suit me, I realized that I identified with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., more than any other. Not only was I inspired by the history, but the intellectual brothers that helped shaped black ideology confirmed that I would be in good company. The lack of black students at the university made the idea of joining a Historically black fraternity seem like the answer to all my challenges at the time. Not only would I have the opportunity to bond with over 200,000 Black men all over the world, but I would be able to travel to other universities to make my college experience larger than what I was currently being offered. In short, those feelings of isolation would end. 

On March 7th, 2009, I joined the best fraternity in the entire world. It didn’t take long for me to become a recognizable Alpha in the area. I soon ran for statewide, regional, and national positions within the fraternity. I tried to get to know every Alpha I could and I traveled to support brothers as much as possible. Striving to be the best Alpha made me feel like I was truly living the mission of our fraternity. I met some of the strongest, forward thinking, family centered men that I had ever known. Needless to say, I had no regrets. Years after college, I not only remained active but as exuberant as I was the day in which I became a member. Two months ago I celebrated 10 years within the fold and as I look back at my experience, I realize that I have returned back to that space of isolation. But how? My dream came true, I was a member of a leading Black Male organization with tons of connections.

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I began therapy to look more into this. As I explained my circumstance, I was guided to understand that isolation was centered in my genuine friendships with other Black men. I thought about how my entire life I was able to create strong and affirming relationships with black women but was missing that with my black male peers. Examining my relationships with the black males in my family, it became clear that they weren’t as strong either (four brothers not close to me in age and a father that I had yet to build an authentic relationship with). Specifically in the context of Alpha, I pledged with the hopes of building relationships, but I spent the majority of my time working to serve the organization rather than sitting back and building relationships with my brothers inside. Therapy helped me realize that in my friendships with men, I compete. Rather than sharing and supporting, I fight for leadership roles and often isolate myself from the general experience.

That was tough pill to swallow.

Alpha Man

As I approach my 30s, I realize that I don’t just need to passively be part of a brotherhood and directly invested in the business. I realized that I am complicit in my own isolation. I was so focused on leading the brotherhood that I hadn’t taken the time to focus on what I truly needed with the group. This even allowed me to think about the ways I was complicit in my surface relationships with men within my family. I joined Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated to be part of brotherhood of back men. Black men bonded by their vulnerabilities, not just their professional acumen. If that was what I wanted, I would need to focus on being more vulnerable and judging the actions of others less. Most importantly, I realize that my contributions to the fold isn’t solely based on leadership roles but my ability to truly be my brother’s keeper.


I shared this story because what I gained from this fraternity was reality that brotherhood is an exchange and not just shared space. As I continue on my journey to build healthy relationships with black male peers, I’m able to consider the roles I play. These next few years will be filled with apologies, listening, sharing, asking questions and taking on intentional leadership roles that feed my needs. Brotherhood is no longer something I long for, it’s something that I am an active agent in creating. 

Frederick Leon Cox
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. develops leaders, promotes brotherhood and academic excellence, while providing service and advocacy for our communities.
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Brotherhood

By: Frederick Leon Cox

Son | Brother | Uncle | Godfather | Alpha

Be sure to keep up with Fred on social media:

Instagram: @coxfredl

Facebook: Frederick Leon Cox

The Game of Life

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Mortal Man

The Game of Life

By: Cleavon (Proph3ssorX) Matthews Jr.

Mortal: 1.) That must die at sometime 2.) Of man as a being who must die 3.) Causing death of the body and or soul 4.) Lasting until death  5.) Very great; Extreme

Man: Noun- 1) An adult, male human being 2) Any human being; Person 3) The human race 4) Human Servant 5) A husband 6) Any piece used in a game. Verb- 1) to supply with people for work, defense ect. 2) To take one’s place at on, or in 3) To make oneself stronger or braver  Suffix- 1) A person of a certain country 2) A person doing a certain work 3) A person who uses or works some device.

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When we are young we wish to be old. When we become old we seek our youth; however, it is when we mature that we learn to appreciate each moment that makes up this thing called life. Any and every human being will encounter struggles, even without them the scales of life are not the easiest to balance. Yet, there is only one fact that remains no matter who you are or what you do; there must come a time where all living things must die. So what will you do with the time you have here? Do you get consumed in your ego and drown? Have you allowed defeat to get the last laugh? Or did you overcome that in which seemed impossible?  Did you hide in shame of guilt or did you share your story so that one day when met with the same challenges as you someone else can know that they too can make it? Or did you just share in order to boast?

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With that being said.

What are you willing to die for?

Better yet, What are you living for?

The games life plays can you deal with it?

The constant repenting and sinning cause we all fall short

It's not the trip but how you recovered the slip

When times get rough did you just dip?

What work did you supply?

Whom did you serve?

What legacy did you leave?

What marks did you achieve?

If none then I respect you still

It can’t be an office without the real people in the field

So I salute you

Your value isn’t placed in a bank account and possessions

But the opportunities to learn lessons

Protect yourself at all times realize

Sometimes the tricks are only in your mind

Don’t forget to be kind
No matter what country you are in don’t miss the chance to meet a friend

share a bit of time to admire each others works

Growing stronger and braver together in order to take our rightful place.

Understanding we are apart of one race.

Clipping dying buds blooming bountiful blossoms of bliss

We are more than just husbands, sons, brothers, uncles, cousins, friends, we can not be bound to our professions and the ideals impressed upon us by society

We carry the seed of life

Molded by Mistakes

Made through Mishaps

Manifested outta Misery

Mounted on the shoulders of those who has come before us

Mortal men we are

Monuments to love

UnMeasured and Magnified

Mortal Men are We

 
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The Game of Life

Cleavon (Proph3ssorX) Matthews Jr.

Human | Artist | Writer | Teacher | Culture Critique

Cleavon is my friend that collaborated with me at my (The Way I See It) photography exhibit. Our conversations on life helped plant the seed for me to start the Mortal Man project.

You can keep up with him on social media at:

Instagram: @proph3ssorx

Twitter: @prophessorx

Persevere

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mortal man

Persevere

by: Alexander L.A. Huff

Persevere
per·se·vere | /ˌpərsəˈvir/
continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.

At the age of (22) I was diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL). It was something that just kind of happened out of the blue. It was January, 2017 and at the time I worked a full-time job and attended school at Central State University full-time taking (18) credit hours. My days consisted of going to school and on certain days I would leave class about (20) minutes early to make it to work on time. I worked at a group home for adults with special needs and I loved what I was doing because it tied in to special education which is what I’m studying in school. The reason I took the job is because I believed it would give me a clear picture of what life for my students would be like after the (K-12) educational setting. Many of them go to these adult homes and pretty much live in them forever. They go to dayhabs and work jobs that pay less than minimum wage. These are things that I had no idea or concept of so it’s a job that I’m grateful for. This was my routine for about a year. One night I was at work and felt a little stiffness in my lower back. I didn’t think much of it, I just thought it came from me doing too much.

When I got home I took some pain pills and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning the pain had kinda went away but not completely so I took some more pain medicine and headed off to class. This became a recurring routine for a week or so. Finally the pain got so bad that I couldn’t sleep and driving became difficult because it was too painful for me to sit upright. I went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with a really bad back sprain. I was prescribed pain medicine and sent home. The medicine helped with the pain for about a week but right after that the pain came back and it was so intense this time that I couldn’t attend class or make it into work.

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I went to urgent care and this time I was diagnosed with a really, really bad back sprain so they increased my pain medicine and the pain did seem to go away. It would come back in small spurts but not bad enough to warrant another trip to the ER or urgent care. A bit later I went to my doctor for a routine physical and follow up appointment. She ran tests on me and everything came back normal with the exception of my liver count and white blood cells being slightly elevated but not to a level that would cause any concern. Months went by and the pain returned so I underwent more testing. We did tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, leukemia, anemia, all types of things and everything test came back negative. After completing these test and not finding anything my primary doctor referred me to an oncologist.

The oncologist ran multiple tests and again everything came back negative. At this point, I also began having very bad night sweats. I would wake up and my sheets would be completely drenched. I thought”maybe I have the heat up too high” so I turned the heat down that worked for about two weeks before starting back again. I finally mentioned it to my oncologist and it’s so ironic that I did because in that same appointment she felt like the combination of my counts not being off by much along with all the tests coming back normal that she’d release me and see me in a few months. My oncologist told me she’d see me in six months and was about to head out of the door and I said “okay, and oh and by the way I’m having these night sweats and my whole bed is wet.” At the time the numbers from my test results weren’t in the range for Hodgkin’s or Non-Hodkin’s Lymphoma so there appeared no reason to test for them. However, the news of my night sweats changed the whole game and although my counts weren’t in range for Hodgkin’s or non-Hodkin’s lymphoma news of my night sweats prompted her to test me for it. 

It was May and I went home to Cleveland to spend Mother’s Day with my mom. My mother doesn’t like to go through my mail so I had a bunch of envelopes and mail to go through. I had bills from Kettering Medical Center, CompuNet and other places… all of these bills came up to about $12,000. Bills for every test that I had ran and from the emergency room and urgent care visits. I found out that all of these visits and tests were happening outside of our insurance’s network. That forced me to transfer all of my tests and healthcare needs to MetroHealth in Cleveland. The paperwork took some time and MetroHealth wanted to run their own tests on me so that was time consuming as well.

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There would be nights when I would feel so bad that I would question “is this what dying feels like?

In July of 2017, I was at an internship in Boston where I was  one of twenty five students chosen to participate in a program in which we did Mock GRE and Mock Graduate coursework all to help prepare us for grad school. I had to leave the internship early to return to MetroHealth for more tests. When I got to Cleveland they told me that my test results came back positive for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but that later changed because they really didn’t know if it was Hodgkin’s or non- Hodgkins Lymphoma. I was told that I could return to Boston for the last week and a half of my internship but that when I returned to Cleveland I would have to start chemotherapy. When I got back there was still some confusion about if I had Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkins Lymphoma but either way a bone marrow test would be required.

The bone marrow test caused the most pain that I have ever experienced in my life! They literally dig inside of your bone to get to the marrow and they’re tapping on it so that’s pretty painful. The test results came back in two days or so. It was determined that the lymphoma had spread into my bones which meant that I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. At this time, I was told by the doctors that it would be in my best interest to withdraw from school because they didn’t think I could handle the workload while going trough chemotherapy. I was already about a semester and a half behind in school so I told them that withdrawing from school was not an option. Sick or not ,I was determined to finish school on my schedule so I was committed to push through. The doctors reluctantly agreed to let me go back to school they just instructed me to reduce my credit hours “they didn’t know it but I still took a full load of classes.” 

I returned to Central State University that fall semester and thankfully all of my teachers and professors were willing to work with me. They were flexible and even allowed me complete most of my work online and attend classes when I felt strong enough. My insurance was still out of network which meant that I had to commute between CSU and Cleveland for my chemotherapy. I would leave CSU on Thursdays to have chemotherapy in Cleveland on Fridays. After chemo I would sleep the rest of the day on Fridays, all day on Saturdays and half of the day on Sundays. On Sunday evenings, I would drive back to CSU for class. Even though I wasn’t physically going to class I still needed to be there to turn in my work and to get any new assignments. It was also better for me mentally. I did this for a few months and my treatments were complete.

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I tried to get my life before cancer back as much as I could. It was very challenging for me mentally because there were times when I would wake up in the middle of the night and wouldn’t feel well at all. There would be nights when I would feel so bad that I would question “is this what dying feels like? Am I going to survive? How is it that this can happen to someone like me that has been fairly healthy? Am I going to make it through this?” All of these questions would cross my mind. In these hours I would have to dig deep and really call on my faith. I would remind myself that I haven’t been brought this far just to be dumped off here. I know that better things are coming. I just have to endure all of the sickness and emotions and then also not to forget my own purpose and why I was planted here. So holding onto that faith is what helped me get through because it was a very, very difficult time. I went back for MetroHealth for scans and there was some confusion about the results. Eventually they said that my cancer was in remission.

This past summer I went back for scans and they determined that they wanted to send me back through another round of tests. This time I was under an insurance plan that allowed me to have things done at The James “which is Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.” After undergoing all of the tests they found that the cancer had returned and began going over different treatment options. Since the first treatment method of (R-CHOP) chemotherapy didn’t work they decided that they would try the (RICE) regimen followed by a stem cell transplant.  This meant that they would take my own stem cells; cleanse them and then freeze them until it was time to replace them. Essentially they were taking out my old immune system and replacing it with a new one. This process required six consecutive days of around the clock chemotherapy and a hospital stay of (21) days in which I would be allowed to have visitors but they would be required to wear gowns and masks.

It seemed like a daunting task but my whole motto throughout all of this was “Do what you have to do to survive. Do what you have to do to make it to the next day.” I knew it wouldn’t feel good but if it’s going to improve my quality of life and if it’s going to improve how I live life I have to do what I have to do to make it to the next day. With all of this in mind I embarked on this journey again, this time with a different regimen all while still trying to make it through school. All of my classwork at Central State was done and I was at a point where it was just a matter of completing my student teaching. I had twelve weeks of student teaching that I needed to do so I asked the doctors “how can I make this happen with chemotherapy and student teaching?” The doctors weren’t sure if it was possible and tried to talk me out of it. My overachieving spirit wouldn’t accept that answer so I put a plan in place.

This time around my chemotherapy was a lot more intense than the first time so my bounce back wasn’t as strong as I thought it would be. After the first round of treatment I went back to school and felt pretty good. The second round of treatment was a lot more taxing and I had a hard time even making it into the house without throwing up. I’d go to sleep and wake up feeling like I hadn’t been to sleep at all. That’s what chemo does to you. It's a toxic treatment that drains you physically. I suffered a lot of pain, I lost a lot of weight as well as all of the hair on my body. It also effects you mentally. Most people are prepared for not physically feeling well but we often overlook the mental aspect. That’s something that took it’s toll on me. I saw myself healthy and vibrant and then all of a sudden I looked as though I had a foot in the grave - that does something to you mentally. To see yourself with hair and then with no hair at all anywhere; no eyebrows, no mustache, no beard… no hair anywhere on your body - that does something to you mentally. To see all of the weight loss where your clothes no longer fit you anymore and they all fall off of your body - that does something to you mentally. Going out in public wearing a mask and seeing people stare at you - that does something to you mentally.

There were times I felt as if I was fighting three battles at once. I was trying to maintain and make it through school. I was try to keep afloat mentally while fighting for my life, “it’s me or the disease. How do I fight this fight over something that I see wipe people out every day of the week?” I reached a point where I finally stopped going to school and I stopped working. I was living off of support from my family and the money that I had in my savings account. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders once the chemo was complete. I still had concerns though because I had been here before. You can end chemotherapy but that doesn’t mean that you’re healthy.

It was time for the stem cell transplant and that was very trying. There were times that I couldn’t eat because I still had sores in my mouth from chemotherapy. There were times where I would throw up on myself because I couldn’t make it to the restroom or to the barf bag. When I was going through all of this I was still trying to do my schoolwork so that I could still stay afloat in school. I got out of the hospital and still needed to complete my student teaching. My family and friends told me that I really needed to take it easy. I told them that I would but I needed to get back and for many reasons. I needed to finish school for my own mental well being and also I had ran out of financial aid and if I didn’t finish that would cause me to have to pay out of pocket along with a few other concerns.

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I was back in school three weeks after leaving the hospital so the turnaround time was quick but it was something that I had to do for myself. I just finished student teaching last Thursday and graduation is May 4th. I was able to maintain my honor role status and I finally feel like “I did it!” I know I didn’t do it alone. I definitely didn’t do it alone. God is definitely amazing and good. Without God, I wouldn’t have made it through cancer the first time let alone the second time. So here I am. My cancer is gone, it’s currently in remission. For the first time in two years, I feel like I know what my health looks like. I know what’s going on with me right now. I am optimistic that my future will be great and that my status of being a cancer survivor will be just that, a “survivor”. I will never again have to say that I am a cancer “patient” again. So much comes with that. People hear the word “cancer patient” and they immediately count you out. They look at you like you have an expiration date over you that is soon to run out. 

I aspire to be a beacon of hope for somebody to know that you have a disease but the disease doesn’t have you. You can still live a full life and have cancer. My mission is to show people that you can sill live life on your term. You can still be upbeat and positive about life when you're battling cancer. Overall, I feel blessed and fortunate. I will graduate from Central State University with a degree in Education. I didn’t shelve my goals and dreams. I hope that I have shown people that you can battle cancer with grace, that you can fight through any challenges that may present themselves.

 
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PERSEVERE

Alexander L.A. Huff

Educator | Vocalist | Advocate of Individuals with Special Needs | Fighter | Cancer Survivor

You can keep up with Alexander and offer words of encouragement by leaving comments on the website and by following him on instagram.

@thisisalexander_

Resilience

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Mortal Man

Resilience

By: Diecer Delfin

My family and I are originally from the Philippines. Growing up I dealt with domestic violence and my father use to do shaboo, (Filipino term for meth) and crack. His drug habit would make him paranoid and when that happened we all knew it, especially if he wasn’t home by a certain time of night. We knew that he would come home drunk or high and start wailing away on my mother. My two sisters and I couldn’t do anything to help her: we were too small. I remember my oldest sister hiding us to protect us from my father. There was one instance when my oldest sister confessed to us that my father and his friend were doing drugs at our house one day and his friend tried to rape her. So I wasn’t the only one that was traumatized in our house - it was my sisters as well (especially my oldest sister because her memories are more vivid.)

Going back to my childhood I realize that I learned what depression was at an early age. I can recall wanting to die so that I wouldn’t have to suffer through day to day life. This is at five or six years old. I can’t even imagine a child feeling that way. For me no day was safe. Not birthdays, not holidays - there were no safe days in my childhood. Something always happened. That’s affected me as a husband. I find myself expecting the worst. My wife always has my back and reminds me that I’m not my father.

As I look back at my adolescence I realize that I didn’t really have a mother or father figure. It was just me and my sisters. My sisters and I talk about our childhood a lot and how messed up it was.

When we were still living in the Philippines I remember my dad coming home with the intention of chopping my mother up with a machete. My mother grabbed my sisters and I and hid us in the bushes. She left us there and told us she was going to call for help. Later my aunt “my dad’s sister” came and got us. At this point we had no idea where our mother was. We didn’t now if she was still living or not. That day lives in the back of my mind.

I can vividly remember my father often waking me up early in the morning. High on drugs and coupled with his OCD kicking in. He gave me the choice of mopping the floor or being beaten. We lived in a rural area and he would tell us that he was going into the city to look for a job. Twenty-four hours would go by and the neighbors would notice that he was gone so they would call me in and tell me to eat with them. There would be days when my father would send me to the public market to beg for food. “Who does that as a father?” So yeah, I can’t help but be angry.

Our family immigrated to Chicago just before the attacks on September 11th with hopes of living a better life. My parents sold their land so we could have money to survive on when we got here. When we got to Chicago we thought that we turned a new page and that things would get better but as the years went by things continued to happen that would tear our family apart. Though my sisters and I remain close we are currently all living in different parts of the country. Even in Chicago my father continued to do drugs. The beatings didn't stop.

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My mother was the provider of our family but provided very little “if any” emotional support. She handled her “responsibilities” as a mother but she was never present as the “nurturing” mother. As I grew up I started questioning things. A lot of doubt crept into my mind on top of all of the anxiety that I experienced every night. The nights continue to be hard for me. When 9:00pm hits I always feel like something is gonna pop off.

I go through depression to the point that I’m seeing somebody to help me deal with it but you can only talk so much. I to try to make sense of things. The physical effects are always there no matter how much I try to alleviate it. I use medication and photography to help me cope but the things that I have experienced will never leave my body and I have come to terms with the fact that there’s no escaping that. I have to find a way to make peace with things.

I’ve had some really bad lows in my life and I have thought about suicide a lot. Just being so fed up - replaying the same thing every day; even when I don’t want to - it just invades my mind. Some days I don’t even want to go outside and deal with people because I feel like they can sense everything that I’ve been through.

I know one day I’m going to have a child of my own and they are going to want to know about my childhood; “what am I going to say?”

To this very day I try to make sense of the things my dad did. The way my mother would talk down to me out of anger. She would call me worthless. That’s part of the reason that I enlisted in the army. She was at the table eating dinner and I came home and laid the contract on the table. I told her “I’m gonna be out of here.” The army was my way out. Living in Chicago and looking back everyone is still doing the same things now that they were doing at an early age. I knew that I had to get out of Chicago in order to establish myself.

I can’t help but get angry when I think about my past. I do know that I need to talk about it because if I don’t it builds up. With that all being said and despite the unfortunate things that I had to see and experience I learned at a young age what not to do. I learned resilience early in life.

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My father never asked for help, I wish that he knew he needed it. To this day it’s hard for him to take accountability for his actions. When I talk to him now I don’t see him as my father. He helped give me life but that’s it. I completely shut myself off from him. I’ve already discussed with my wife and sisters that I don’t think I will want him around my kids once my wife and I decide to have them. We’ve given him so many chances and things always end the same.

My dad is manipulative. I can remember him giving me a camera and I loved it! I told him he was the best dad ever. Then we got into a disagreement and he took it away. That was his thing - he’d buy us things only to use them against us and eventually take them away. That messes with you.

He would take me on “joy rides” around the city. He’d come to a sudden stop and tell me to wait in the car. I would see a woman open the door. At that age I was so naive that I didn’t realize what was going on. Now looking back I’m able to put the pieces together and I’m like man. Me and my sisters are ashamed and embarrassed that we are linked to him because we are nothing like him. I guess I still need to learn what “real” forgiveness is.

 
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Resilience

By: Diecer Delfin

Husband + Friend + Photographer + Storyteller

instagram: @_diecer

The Highest Human Act Is To Inspire

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Mortal Man

The Highest Human Act Is To Inspire

By: Faheem Curtis-Khidr

Living in poverty does something to your psyche that I’m not sure how to fully quantify.
— Faheem Curtis-Khidr


My mother prays…a lot. In the Christian colloquial reference, she would be considered a, “prayer warrior.” I’m convinced the summation of her prayers and my behalf have a played a significant part in my survival and now current success. Growing up those prayers and God sent mentors were necessary life lines for my often reckless and wrongheaded behavior. Living in poverty does something to your psyche that I’m not sure how to fully quantify. It creates odd insecurities that are not noticeable to the human eye, but very much effect how you interact with the world around you. I made the chitlin circuit of poverty living in Dayton. I spent time in Olive Hill homes, Westwood (off Brooklyn Avenue), and Riverside. My mother worked two full time jobs and was in Nursing School. My father was present in my early life, but I would see him once or twice a month for much of my younger years. I resented him for that and am still working on my daddy issues as a father myself, although as a man I better understand why he made some of the decisions he made even though I do not agree with them. 

My older sisters/brothers/aunts/cousins were responsible for my care in my younger years (ages 1-10) while my mother was at work. They did their very best to shield me from the pitfalls of poverty and inequitable living. I love them for that. I was surrounded by love and affection. Even with their best efforts there are certain environmental staples that you can’t avoid. I remember eating cold hotdogs, having cold cut sandwiches several days straight. I didn’t know it was because the heat was off, or we couldn’t afford much else besides deli meat. It didn’t matter to me. In fact, I didn’t even know I was poor until my mother made the choice to send me to a parochial school, St. Peter’s in Huber Heights. I was one of eight black students in the entire school at the time. It was a very uncomfortable experience for me. The teacher did not have a culturally sensitive or responsive pedagogy and was not able to communicate with me effectively. My experience from preschool through kindergarten had been with black educators who were in tune with how to communicate and ingratiate minority babies into activities etc. As a result of this culture shock my behavior was less than ideal. When I was living in Riverside (which is right next to Huber Heights) I became cognoscente of the reputation of the area for being poor. I would often lie to my peers in school and say I lived in Huber Heights. Huber Heights did not have the stigma of poverty that Riverside did, and I resented how I would be approached when that came up. That resentment often spilled out in outward aggression. I would fight without much room for recourse for other solutions. I began to get a reputation for being hostile. My reputation provided a safe-haven to protect myself from the jeers of being associated with poverty and the racialized tension of being black in majority white bigoted school. It did result in my temporary placement in a juvenile facility and later military school. I remember the sheriff coming to our duplex to pick me up. It was surreal. 

As my difficulties at St. Peter continued, the teachers and administration told my mother that they thought I had a learning disability. Anything but take accountability for the toxic learning environment I was in. She refused to accept that thankfully. I took what was then a standard national assessment called the California Achievement Test. I tested well…really, really, well. My scores were at the top of my class and near the top of national scores. The discussions changed quickly. Even to the point where they began to pinpoint other students’ behavior as being the catalyst to provoking some of my violent outburst. It was weird to see the about face. My mother grew frustrated with St. Peters and took me out of the school. She took me to Mama Renee Mclendon seeking a fresh start and perspective on the learning experience for me. Mamma Renee had a learning institute located off W. Third Street. It was exactly what I needed. The trauma of the St. Peter’s experience left me jilted and distant. Mamma Renee wrapped her arms around me literally and figuratively and helped restore my confidence, and love of learning. There is not enough ink available to express to her my gratitude for what she did. Her mentorship was healing and transformative. Inshallah I can reach my students the way she reached me. 

We soon moved again, this time to Harrison Township. My mother enrolled me at St. Rita Catholic school. It was not ideal for me, but it was less than a 5 minutes’ drive to our new home. My initial time there was rough. The teachers I had were very similar to St. Peters’. I was fortunate to have other minority students and parents who readily identified with minority exclusion who became lifelong friends. Desiree Alexander, Logan Allen, Nick Dean, Andy Smith thank you for your friendship. Those persons parents understood some of the institutional difficulties for minority children of putting your child in a position to receive a quality education. Mr. Allen and Mr. Alexander always went out of their way to make sure I was doing ok and give me words of encouragement or scold me when I was wrong if that’s what was needed. I’m thankful for the extra love. Most of my teachers struggled to manage me in the classroom, finally they moved me to Ms. Maloney’s 8th grade classroom when I was in 5th grade. She had a reputation of being a stern disciplinarian. She involved me in classroom activities, challenged me to do the work, and be accountable for my behavior. It went well. I preferred being in her room compared to other teachers and even got in trouble on purpose when I was agitated with the 5th, 6th and 7th grade teachers to be sent there. She was an amazing history and government teacher. Her passion and authenticity made it easy for me to be fully engaged in my learning experience. 

Football has always been an outlet for me. I love the game, and still do. It was one of the few things I could have a legitimate conversation with my dad about that wasn’t awkward or lead to an argument. He played collegiately and then professionally for several years. From all accounts he was good. One of my dear friends’ father who went to college with him even mentioned he should be in the college athletics Hall of Fame. That’s high praise. I wore 78 (his Highschool, college and pro number) from grade school through college to honor him. I never told him that maybe I will one day soon. I relished the full speed collisions and imposing my will on my opponent for 3-5 seconds at a time 40-60 times a game. It offered me an opportunity to be violent and hostile and get rewarded for it. It was encouraged. 

My high school coach Jim Place is a great man. My grades at Chaminade Julienne were horrid 3/4ths of the year. The spring semester I would turn into a 3.5 student to be eligible and then go back to be a bad student during the season. I drove Coach Place nuts. A week before I was to be moved up to varsity my freshman year, I tore ligaments in my right ankle. It was the first time I had ever gotten hurt in any meaningful way. My surgery and rehab went well but I was depressed and angry at my circumstance. My grades were poorer than usual that year and my Spring grade rally wasn’t enough to make me eligible for the first half of the season the next year. I was heartbroken, but I put myself in that spot. Coach Place sat down with my parents and told them I had the ability to play high level collegiate football if…I took school seriously. My sophomore year I practiced with varsity all year despite being unable to play in games. It kept me focused and attached to the team. My teammates Brandon McKinney, Tim Crouch and Michael Thompson kept me encouraged and pushed me in practice. I was able to start the first playoff game against Eaton. I’ll never forget the feeling of walking out onto the field again, feeling vindicated that I didn’t fold or quit. I went off that game. The next week in practice I reagitated my right ankle and sat out the rest of the playoffs. As college coaches began to more frequently ask about me Coach Place recommended, I step up my academic performance to help with my qualifying score for the SAT. He would have me over to his house to work with tutors on study techniques etc. I took it for granted at that time, but he was investing in me not only as a player but a person. I scored a 1250 on my SAT. But my core gpa was 1.9. I remember Coach Place calling me down to his office my senior year after the season was over. With tears in his eyes he went through a list he had and on big whiteboard. They were D-1 colleges who called or came by the office and wanted to offer me. Big names. But because of my gpa they didn’t think I would qualify. 

I attended two different junior colleges. My first stop North Iowa Area Community College was eye opening. It was a rural location. The college was outside a small town called Mason City Iowa. It was known as the crystal meth capital of the world. Quite the distinction. While there I struggled to adjust. There were literal corn fields in between campus buildings. The coaching staff who recruited me and gave me a full scholarship (which was unheard of for JUCO at the time) left before the season started. We later found out it was over control of the athletic department. I no longer had the support system I was accustomed to in Dayton and it showed. I only received 3 out of 15 credits that Fall Semester. The three credits I received were for being on the football team. That Spring Semester I was shot hanging out a friend’s off campus home. The shooters were looking for someone who happened to look like me. I remember the burning feeling of metal spiraling through my flesh and laying on my back on a wooden porch before I lost consciousness, thinking this is the way and place I’m going to die - in Mason City Iowa.

I transferred the following year to a JUCO in Minnesota. My good friend Ishmael Wright from Dayton (between Ish and my guy Diamond they were the best cover corners I played with high school or college) was there already, and the coaching staff recruited me during high school. The familiarity helped a great deal. Minnesota is a different type of cold. 5 inches of snow in six hours means nothing to them. After being there for a year I transferred to a four-year college, North Carolina A&T. Coach Patterson recruited me, but my credits were an issue. I was blessed to have two friends Jesse Junius and Robert Palmer who were already students at A&T and working in the admissions office. They had a good repour with the Dean of Admissions at the time Mr. Lee Young. Initially after viewing my transcript the university told me I was not likely to get in. I began to look at other options from schools who had offered primarily HBCU’s like Southern, Texas Southern, Lane and Arkansas Pine-Bluff. My friends lobbied hard with Mr. Young. Although my academic performance was trending upwards my off the field behavior was erratic, and I was attached to sectors of society that were not idyllic for a college athlete. My friends wanted to keep me close. I’m thankful they cared that much about me. Eventually the admissions office in conjunction with the NCAA granted me a letter of acceptance stating I was academically compliant and could enroll in the summer. I came into A&T under strict academic guide lines. Mr. Young played a pivotal role in my life, eventually my football career faded, and I was struggling to find my balance without being an athlete. His mentorship was critical in my development as a man. Injuries took me away from the game and I struggled to find my identity outside of being a football player-- it is after all why I was even able to go to college. Although I did not recognize it at the time Allah had already placed a cohort around me to push into the next phase of my life. With Mr. Young the standard was the standard and the expectations were for me to meet it. I feel short multiple times, but he never gave up on me and I’m thankful for that. I had several great professors who helped to mold me as a historian and academic at A&T. I lived in Gibbs Hall, in Bluford Library (Club Bluford during finals week) and my professors offices. Dr. Millicent Brown, Dr. Quaye, Dr. Roberto and others challenged me academically and pushed me to levels cognitively that I did not know I could reach. I’m thankful for them, even though when I was writing multiple 20-page papers for them I was not their biggest fan. 

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Being from Dayton and teaching in higher ed locally adds a certain level of anxiety for me. I understand what my students who are from the town are up against and the hurdles they must clear just to come to class regularly, let alone graduate. I understand the value of visual cues to validify your existence in the classroom and to have representation in the larger institution. There is a sense of urgency I have for my students because time is not always guaranteed to be on your side. I think back to my own educational experiences and how wildly they varied, and the settings that promoted my own academic success. When I thrived, it was because someone saw me, and not a statistic or derivative from an Affirmative Action compliancy initiative. Inshallah I can have the same influence on some of my students that Mamma Renee, Mrs. Maloney, Dr. Brown and Dr. Young had on me. Allah knows I’m trying. 

 
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THE HIGHEST HUMAN ACT IS TO INSPIRE

Faheem Curtis-Khidr

Muslim, Historian, Professor, Data Guru, A&T Alumni

instagram: @histprof1911

Permission to Cry

mortal man

permission to cry

by: tripp fontane

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Permission to cry, mama?

I know you say big boys aren't supposed to

What about when I don’t feel so big

When I feel as small as singular salt stain on cheek

I’m hurt

Watching you hurt

Forcing your body well past 40 hours

Working your fingers to arthritis

Struggling to interlock your fingers

Planting prayers under your pillow

Crying over them nightly

At least let me cry with you

Maybe they’ll grow faster

 

Permission to cry, babe?

I know it makes me weaker

A little less man with every tear

But I'm tired

Exasperated

From keeping it all in

My arms aren't big enough to hold us both together at once

I'd rather let it out than let you go

Are my tears safe with you?

Can I trust you enough to lay down my burdens

And them not being weaponized and held against me?

Can I be imperfect?

More man than super

Must my masculinity be my kryptonite here too?

 

Permission to cry, my nigga?

I mean I was there when it happened

I know it's against the code

But I don't wanna be a G right now

I just wanna grieve

My eyelids ain’t got much strength no way

Closing my eyes couldn’t stop closed casket

Couldn’t stop me from seeing just how cruel fate can be

I can’t continue on congested

Heavy

No Paul could bear the weight

Eyelids weary from playing dam to an overdue river of truth

My eyelids not strong enough to stop me seeing

 

Permission to cry, dad?

I know it’s not how you raised me

But, I’ve fallen

Too many times to ignore pain

I’ve been in pain too long to continue neglecting the healing process

‘Cuz I don’t wanna be the man your actions taught me to be

Cold

Bitter as tears that never fell

Oppressive weight you were too “strong” to let go

You taught me emotionally immature

You taught me to trap myself behind walls of bravado

To call them protection

Call them manhood

Do you even remember how to cry out for help?

 

Permission to cry?

‘Cuz I’m broken

From contorting spirit into stereotypes called masculinity

From trying so hard to pull the pieces together

They’re never all they cracked up to be

Permission to be

Okay

Or

Not okay

And express is

Permission to express

To evict negative energy without fear of judgment

Permission to breath

To sigh in the name of relief

Permission to baptize

To be cleansed in a collection of my own tears

Permission to...… to...… to...


Tripp Fontane

Rapper | Poet | Educator | Author

Tripp Fontane is a Dayton native - rapper, poet, educator, author of the book (All Is Fair - A Collection of Poems and Thoughts on Love) and founding member of the spoken word group of Underdog Academy.

instagram: @trippfontane and @underdogacademy

facebook: Tripp Fontane

twitter: @TrippFontane

website: uapoetry.com

booking inquiries: trippfontane@gmail.com

order Tripp’s (All Is Fair) book: All Is Fair

Meet Dr. Cleavon Matthews Sr.

One of the perks about being a photographer is the wide range of people that I get to meet and establish relationships with. In this series I feature a few people that I have met and photographed recently that I think you should know.
— Aaron Paschal
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Dr. Cleavon Matthew Sr.

Minister, Leader, Author, Orator, Counselor and a Guiding Light

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This past summer I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing Dr. Cleavon Matthews Sr. at Bold Believers Church of Christ. As a photographer it’s important to me to tap into people’s personalities and what stood out to me about Dr. Matthews was his passion, commitment and positive spirit.

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Dr. Cleavon Matthews Sr. is also a prolific leader, orator, communicator, and author. He is highly sought after and accomplished as a person of influence locally, nationally, and internationally. He serves as Chairman of the Midwest Conference of Churches of Christ. He is academically accomplished having obtained the Doctor of Ministry degree from Amridge University. He is also a Registered Nurse and a Licensed Professional Counselor. Through his ministries he continues do extensive work in church consulting and premarital counseling. He has written several publications including two books: Get In The God Zone and Unmasking The Satanic Attack Against Masculinity. He ministers to the Bold Believers Church of Christ in Dayton, OH.

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If you are looking for a church to visit or a new church home I encourage you to visit Bold Believers Church of Christ located at 1306 Salem Avenue in Dayton, OH.

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You can learn more about Dr. Matthews and the Bold Believers Church of Christ on their website https://www.nthwcoc.com/ or by following their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/boldbelieverscoc/

Church grows out of its space, finds a new place to call home

By Beth Anspach | Dayton Daily News

Over the years, churches have transformed themselves. Congregations of believers meet in private homes, in open fields, in tents or in expansive sanctuary buildings. But the one thing they have in common is each group comes together to worship and share their shared beliefs.

Dr. Clevon Matthews moved to Dayton from Orlando, Fla., 15 years ago because he saw an opportunity to lead a church he believed would be a better fit for him and his family. What was then known as the Northwest Church of Christ on Broadway Street in Trot wood had been a gas station when the small congregation bought the building in 1981.

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“As the church grew, they ran out of space, but it served us well,” Matthews said. “The building sat on four acres, so we investigated the possibility of building on the property.”

Matthews said a new church building was cost prohibitive for the small congregation of 300. But about two years ago, he was introduced to the Solomon Foundation, an organization headquartered in Colorado and devoted to helping churches reach their ministry and growth goals by providing low-interest mortgage and construction loans.

“They (Solomon) specialize in taking older properties and remodeling them for churches,” Matthews said. “After we applied and were approved, we started looking around for existing properties.”

In 2014, Matthews happened to be driving a guest minister around Dayton to show him the area and was explaining about their efforts to expand the church. As they were driving, they noticed a vacant property on Salem Avenue, formerly the home of the Beth Abraham Synagogue.

“I remember thinking at the time that this would be a great place for our church,” Matthews said. “But I put it out of my mind.”

Three years later, a member of Matthews’ congregation, a real estate agent, took him to see the same property, which had been a conference center for a Baptist Church, but had since been vacant again for the past four years.

“I could see it as soon as she brought me in,” Matthews said. “The building has very good bones. Of course, it needed TLC and renovation, but it had a good layout and infrastructure.”

Matthews knew that to grow his congregation, he would need more visibility. The former gas station in Trotwood was difficult for people to find.

“Being right on Salem Avenue gives us the visibility we need to have greater impact,” Matthews said. “The church was on board with the move and we had the resources to do it, so we took the bold step and closed on the property in January of 2017.”

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The entire congregation worked together on the renovations beginning that spring and the new church was completed the last week of June this year. Now christened the “Bold Believers Church of Christ,” the congregation has room to grow in 45,000 square feet, up significantly from the 7,000-square-foot building in Trotwood.

“We removed old seating in the sanctuary, did cleaning and landscaping, got rid of flooring and moved furniture, put in a new HVAC system that is more efficient and put in new plumbing,” Matthews said. “We also put on a new roof and had new parking lot paving done and painted inside and out. We have a new sound system and sanctuary seating and it’s amazing!” Matthews said his personal vision for the new building is outreach and he wants it to be not just a place to have church on Sundays but also a community center as well.

“We want it to be used every day of the week,” Matthews said. “One component is to have a counseling center. My wife is a licensed counselor, as am I and one other member, so we want to have a space for that. We also want to offer a pre-K program in the future and have another space for banquets and community events.” Matthews said he sees the church not as a building, but as its people, so he wants it to be a beacon of life and hope with his focus is on the counseling center and the needs of the Dayton community at large.

“I’m talking about suicide prevention, crisis response, partnering with Montgomery County Juvenile Court and looking at how we can help families and parents in meaningful and practical ways,” Matthews said. “We want to address violence and poverty in significant and meaningful ways.”

 
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Dr. Cleavon Matthew Sr.

Minister, Leader, Author, Orator, Counselor and a Guiding Light

BOLD BELIEVERS CHURCH of CHRIST

1306 Salem Avenue, Dayton, OH 45406

937-985-9320

boldbelieverscoc.com

Redemption Song of an O.G.

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MORTAL MAN

REDEMPTION SONG OF AN O.G.

BY: SAMUEL E. GOODE

My path in life got fucked up early in life when my mother married my stepfather. When they got together I felt like I pretty much became an outsider. Things got so bad that I left there and went to live with my grandfather. I think I was six or seven when this all happened. My grandfather had remarried and his second wife was abusive towards me. She was an abuser and I caught a lot of hell and took a lot of unnecessary beatings from her. That part of my life hardened me and shaped me for the streets. When I left my grandfather’s house I went straight from the country to the city. The beatings that I took as a kid toughened me up physically and damaged me mentally. All and all I think I handled things pretty well because it didn’t fuck me up. I know other people that have been abused that simply couldn’t deal with life.

During one of the darkest times in my life I felt like it was pretty much “kill or be killed.” I was just out there. At the time me and three of my best friends were running a crack house and things were running smooth. We did all of our dope in the basement of a house that we had taken over and we would rent the other rooms out, “we had the girls working” and money was flowing. We shut everything down to take a break and chill down in Florida. As we were about to leave a rival that we didn’t even know about moved on us and all hell broke out. They came up to the car shooting at us, glass was flying everywhere. All three of my best friends at the time lost their lives that day. I suffered a bullet wound. Somehow my face was covered in blood so they thought I was dead too. They checked the car for our drugs and our money but it wasn’t there. What really saved my life was an ambulance that was going down the highway. The guys thought it was coming down the street that we were on so they stopped going through the car and sped off.

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I feel guilty for surviving that day and what I went through still haunts me to this day. When you see people that close to you get murdered like that it does something to you. When you’re in the streets it conditions you to seek your own justice. When you add that up with all of the abuse that I took as a kid it primed me for a life of violence and that’s something that I was good at it. When I got out of that car and saw what happened to my friends I went on a rampage. I did things that still hurt me to this day. I did things that I want to talk about and that I need to talk about but whenever I try there’s always something that holds me back. Also I’ve done certain things don’t come with a statute of limitations and I don’t want to share or say things that may lead to me going back to jail.

When I moved to Atlanta it was like I entered a completely different world. This was during the crack era when there were all kinds of drugs hitting the streets so there was a lot of money changing hands. Crack and dope was so heavy in Atlanta that you could take $100 and flip it so fast that it would turn into $100,000 in no time and the faster it came the faster it went. I lived on the west side of Atlanta and at the time I was pretty big and muscular. I mean I grew up on a farm so I was a big, strong kid but I didn’t know shit about the streets. Well as things unfolded I pretty much got tricked into becoming a pimp at this hotel I was working at. I thought I was just working security but the next thing I knew I had about six girls working the streets for me. This was a quick phase in my life that lasted for about two years. I’m an old fashion guy so I didn’t really like exploiting women. At that time in my life I felt like pimping was the only way that I could survive so I did what I felt I had to do to survive. During this whole stretch I had been looking for my brother and as soon as I found him I left all that stuff behind me that same day and never looked back.

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My brother and I were tight so we were glad to be back together but we both worked two or three jobs and felt like we weren’t getting anywhere. One of my jobs was at the Lennox Mall and I met this rich white guy named “John” that wanted to play gangsta’. Meeting him took me down a whole different path in life and most of it wasn’t good. During this time in my life I saw a lot of shit and I did a lot of shit that I still struggle to come to terms with. The people that “John” introduced me to were looking for people that were ruthless and that didn’t ask any questions; that fit me well. When I lived in North Carolina I did a little time here and there for petty crimes that I committed but things I was doing in Atlanta was on a whole different level.

Everybody that “John” introduced me to was rich. There wasn’t a single low-level dude and once I got to that level I hated it. I loved the life but it came with a cost. I’m lucky to be alive today because when you’re in the game there’s only a couple of ways out… prison and more than likely death. When I left Atlanta I was on the run. I stole a truck from a guy that I did yard work for and went back to North Carolina.

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In North Carolina me and my partners went on a robbing spree. We hit gas stations, convenient stores, broke into houses; just taking stuff and selling it. There was a 38 special that I stole from a gas station that I really liked so I kept it. One night I was down at a juke joint; I was drunk and shooting the gun off. Just wilding out and shit. My grandfather was a deputy sheriff so one of my cousins that was at the juke joint called my grandfather and told him to come and get me and try to calm me down. When my grandfather got there he pulled up beside me and told me to give him the gun. I just threw it in the trunk and he shut the door and drove off. Shit caught up with me about the robbing the gas station that I stole the gun. My finger prints were all over everything so I couldn’t deny it. They asked about the gun and I told them I didn’t know shit about it. They asked my grandfather if he’d ever seen me with a gun and he told them about the night at the juke joint when he took the gun from me. My grandfather lost his job and had to do a year in prison. My mother, grandmother and my aunts never talk about it but I still feel like they have animosity towards me about that. We all get along now so I guess that’s all that matters. My grandfather was mad about the shit I did to get the gun but he knew the shit that went down after that was more about the people that didn’t like him getting him out of the way more than anything. This was a town in the south with a black deputy sheriff so they tried to tie him into my shit but were unable to. They charged him with some bogus conspiracy charge but that was it.

When I got out I left North Carolina again and got caught up in some more shit. I was on the run again and went back to North Carolina. I was there for about a week before I got caught. I did about two years and went to my grandfather’s house when I got out. One day my grandfather and I sat and talked out on the porch for about four hours. I remember him telling me that he wanted me to get to know the other side of my family. Two days after that conversation my grandfather passed away. Right after his funeral I packed up and moved to Dayton and I’ve been here ever since. This is exactly where I need to be because this family means everything to me. Thugging, street life - all of that stuff takes a backseat to my family. I want the generations behind me to see me in a better light. I know I could easily go back to Atlanta or wherever and get right back into the life I lived before. I’ve put that so far behind me that I don’t even have that urge. I just like to sit at home and enjoy my family.

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I’ve lost best friends, seen people killed that I knew right in front of my face and it ain’t shit that I can do about it. Nothing. I feel so lucky to be here in Dayton. I feel like if I hadn’t moved back to my grandfather’s house after I got out of the joint that I would be dead or somewhere rotting in prison. The people I have surrounding me now look at me without fear in their eyes. They love me unconditionally. When I was young I didn’t have this type of love. I love my family and I don’t want to disappoint them. This family gave me a brand new start and they are the reason that I’m the man that I am today. It wasn’t an easy transition and early on I got into a little trouble here but nothing compared to the things I did in Atlanta or North Carolina.

Now even with that being said I have no problem going to jail or to hell for defending my family. I wouldn’t even bat an eyebrow. But I try tell them to handle their business the right way so that they don’t feel like they have to go to the streets. One thing is that I know them and I know that they wouldn’t be able to handle the streets. I’m proud that I’ve played a role in keeping my family away from the streets. That’s my purpose now. It’s nothing cool about being in the streets. Jail is not a place you want to be. It’s nothing but concrete and steel. I tell them if they have a problem “come see me, I’ll take care of it.” If you feel that you’re getting upset or that you need to get violent, call me. I can talk them down or get them out of the situation without even going to that next level BUT if we have to “let me handle it.” At this time in my life I’m here for them. No matter how early or late it is, if they need me they can call me. That gives me the strength to keep pushing on and to stay planted. I’m so proud of where I am right now because I know where I could be. I’m at peace. Before I came here and surrounded myself with family I couldn’t even sleep without knowing I had somebody around me that had my back. I wouldn’t trade the peace of mind that I have right now for anything else in the world.

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When it was just me and I felt like I was alone in the world I would do things without even thinking about the consequences. Now I know that if I do things my family will suffer and I don’t want to put them through that. I don’t want to disappoint them. Having people that love and depend on me makes me think two or three times before jumping into action. I never thought I’d be in this role but I love it. Man life is short so get out there and enjoy yourself, leave your mark and live the best life.

I still have nightmares about the things that I’ve seen, done and been through. I’ve done things that I’ll take with me to the grave. I’ve seen shit that’s been burnt into my brain. You can’t unsee the shit that I’ve seen and like I said that shit does something to you. I’ve seen things that people that have been in wars haven’t even seen. I can’t undo the things that I’ve done so I’ve come to terms with them and I let the following generations know that this street life ain’t nothing to fuck with. 

Meet Emerald Sparks

One of the perks about being a photographer is the wide range of people that I get to meet and establish relationships with. In this coming series I will feature a few people that I have met and photographed recently that I think you should know.

Emerald Sparks

Financial Strategist, Public Speaker, Author, and a Spark of energy!

I originally met Emerald at a cover shoot that I did for Ambition Magazine. As a photographer I pick up on people’s energy right away and I noticed that not only did Emerald have a lot of positive energy but that it was contagious! When she contacted me to schedule her session I was excited to work with her and to create and capture images that would accurately represent her and her brand, “which are really one and the same!”

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About Emerald

I solve Misconceptions about money

Emerald has helped everyday people, just like you, become extraordinary money masters by maximize their income to make it do what they wanted it to do. Collectively, she has helped her clients pay off $100,000+ of debt, invest in real estate properties, and purchase $65,000 dream cars.

She got her start at Fortune 500 companies such as Deloitte & Touche’, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Fifth Third Bank, and Northwestern Mutual. She has seen it all in her 12 years in the financial service industry and now helps people live financially healthier lives through personalized curated budgeting and debt repayment strategies.

She’s helped her clients increase their money mindset and start living the life they want to live financially, while eliminating creditor harassing phone calls, sleepless nights, and underwhelming bank accounts. She created her business to help people live financially healthier lives and maximize their income, while living in balance.

Emerald is also an Author!

  • Create Sparks: A Bossed Up Financial Planner to Maximize Your Income
  • Vision. Future. Reality: How to Budget Like a Boss

session notes...

sessions with AP2 are stressful...

During Emerald’s session we talked about our respective businesses, goals, places she’s been and future travel plans and we may have laughed a few times! 

 

Emerald has used the images from her session on her website and social media accounts to create printed and digital promotional material for speaking engagements and media releases.

    engage with emerald!

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    Emerald Sparks

    learn more about Emerald by visiting her online @ emeraldsparks.com

    Connect with Emerald on social media!

    facebook: esparks10

    instagram: @ShzAGem

    twitter: @EmeraldSparksES

    linkedin: Emerald Sparks

    The Perfect Father: Lessons Learned from a Fatherless Childhood

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    Mortal Man

    The Perfect Father

    Lessons Learned From a Fatherless Childhood

    By: Frank "Buddy" Pitts Jr.

     

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    Untraced

    My childhood consisted of experiences in a lot of different neighborhoods in Dayton, Ohio, from Westwood to Harrison Township to Dayton View…one thing that they all had in common is that my dad wasn’t with me in any of them. Growing up I never realized that he even should’ve been there, I wasn’t naive or oblivious to it, it just wasn’t something that was a big deal. Most of my friends and pretty much all of my cousins grew up without their pops around so it wasn’t the most disheartening thing for me to grow up without having him there. Now every once and a while there would be a moments when I would think like “damn, I wish my dad was here” but i never really made my home in those thoughts, nor was I real emotional about it because I grew up around very, very strong women that took on the workload.

    I never heard my mother say anything bad about my dad. I didn’t get to see my father often and when I did it would only be two or three times out of the year and there were some years that I didn’t see him at all. Those times he may have been in and out of jail or wherever. Even with all of the time gaps in our relationship I thought very highly of my father. I didn’t know a lot about my dad during that time other than he was going through a lot of transitions. There were times in his life where he was a drug dealer and a drug abuser and so of course he went through a phase where he lost his ranks from being at the top of the game to then falling right back down because of the whole crack epidemic that happened in the 80’s. He went through a downward spiral where a lot of things effected his notions on life in general, he was doing crazy things, spending time in and out of jail - he was unpredictable during this time in his life. 

    I remember him picking me up during my childhood and I also remember the days that he didn’t come when he was supposed to, that was our relationship. I didn’t realize it at the time but as I got older and looked back it was like man… “I think he may have been on crack,  shooting up or definitely dibble and dabbling in hard drugs.” At one point my dad would wear a big, fat gold chain and bracelets and have wads of money, “he would always give me money” and we would go places and do stuff and just talk and hangout. As things progressed I noticed that the gold chains and watches were gone, his physique was fading away - he was starting to get a gut, his hair wasn’t always cut. All of this stood out to me because my dad was one of those guys that was ALWAYS spiffy. It didn’t matter where he was going, he always dressed like he was going to church. He wasn’t a pimp “at least I don’t think so” but he always dressed nice and kept his hair on point. I remember being in my twenties and seeing this dude get out the shower and take a pound of regular hand lotion and rub it in his hair; with every stroke it was like a huge wave would form in his hair so by the end of about thirty strokes he’d have a head full of waves that any surfer would be proud of!

    When I was young I saw that clean cut, nice looking version of my father. I would see him in three piece suits and really nice jeans. One thing my dad used to do, that would drive me crazy and I would always laugh at him, is he would always press and crease his jeans. I’m sure they could’ve easily stood up on their own. I remember my dad being like that, that clean cut creased jeans and all but when I look back I recognize that there was a declining difference in him. The gold chains had been replaced with an urgency for things, an urgency to do stuff and fast talk and even though I noticed these changes in him at the time I didn’t really pick up on what was really going on with him. He started having sudden mood changes and a quick temper. He never went off on me but I would see him act this way. 

    My dad knew a lot of people and he had a lot of women so anytime I was with him it would kind of be like we were on an adventure. We would go over a bunch of people’s houses, I would meet a lot of other kids and people in general from these outings. I remember going over one lady’s house, she was FINE… and I remember my dad bragging about her in the car on the way to her house. When we got there it was not what I expected at all. The house was messy and there were roaches everywhere! I remember thinking “why are we over here with this lady with all of these roaches?” So yeah, like I said it was an adventure pretty much every time we spent time together. At that point I noticed the decline and that there was something different about my dad. Honestly with the huge gaps in time that I actually got to spend time with him I didn’t see the gradual changes… they were drastic. So when I would see him it would be like a three piece suit today, then jeans and a beater the next time. 

    Though my mother never talked bad or down about my dad or kept my sister and I away from him she would never let us go see him when he was in jail. We didn’t talk to him on the phone or anything like that when he was locked up so I never saw him in that environment. When I was older I saw pictures of him when he was in jail and as I grew old enough to talk to him on my own I would reach out to him however I could, he would also send letters and hand drawn cards that were nothing short of masterpieces. He was in and out of jail a lot, most of the time for petty things. 

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    Community Gardens

    Don’t get me wrong this is no where near meant to be a sad story, it just is what it what it is. I have a lot of friends that were in similar situations in terms of “insert reason here” their dad wasn’t there, so with it being such a common thing, it felt “normal.” I’m grateful that I was raised with a heavily spiritual background, with an active church family, a strong support system and definitely for having a really strong mother. I’m sure there were plenty of time where we went without but we didn’t know it – we didn’t realize it.  My childhood experience was actually quite amazing, especially looking back on it now. My mother remarried when I was in the third or fourth grade. Her husband, Jeff is an awesome dude. His teaching style was a bit hard and unorthodox but I learned a lot of things from him, he played one of the biggest roles in teaching me how to be a man. What’s interesting about it, and by the way I love Jeff to this day - he was a hard-nosed cat growing up, we never really “got along” that well but I learned so much from him and I still thank him to this day. It’s like “if you weren’t there I really don’t know how I would have turned out.” I think his presence helped me deal with my actual father a lot better than I otherwise would have. Jeff helped me mature and the lessons that I took from him have stuck with me to this day and though I would never call Jeff “dad” because I had too much respect for my pops, he definitely stepped in and stepped up in BIG way!

    I’m very grateful that I had a lot of great men around me. With the inclusion of my stepdad, I had a host of “real men” in my corner. By real men, I mean that old school type of man that was hard-nosed and work hard for every dollar. They made sure that I learned the basics of being a man as far as how to change a tire and check the oil on a car, basic things that most boys learn from simply being around their dads. Things like being a leader, being the voice of the household, knowing how to do certain things around the house… those are the type of men that I grew up around and I’m so thankful for that. At the church, Pastor Senior, his son  and the youth pastor were God gifted examples for me, along with some of my boys’ pops who would play basketball with us, cut our hair and let us wild out in the garage to MJ (Michael Jackson.) Growing up I played all type of sports and some of the coaches were very impactful on me so I was fortunate to have a culmination of really good men in my life. 

    I have my mom to thank for placing me in position to stay grounded and sustaining a solid foundation. We stayed at church, like literally I swear we lived there… ok just kidding no we didn’t but I’m not sure if there’s a difference. As I started to become more aware of the importance of having a spiritual foundation I believe God worked his hand at placing specific people in my life. My mentor at that time and for a long while after that was one of those people - his name was Dion, he was our youth pastor. Dion, following God’s lead and strong emphasis on study showed me a way of life that has proven to be impactful time and time again. He was the gateway to catapulting my spiritual maturation. He also was really influential in showing me what unconditional love looks like and the priority that we need to place around it. When I have children or even when I mentor kids, one of the things that I always think about is how to just genuinely show them love, no matter the circumstance, background, competency level, social status…etc… One thing that I believe men don’t realize, mostly because we are always trying to be so hardcore, is that we have a hard time having intimate conversations. I am for sure guilty of it and furthermore expressing the depth of my emotions. For a long time I would not let my nephew cry without getting on him about it. Now he rarely shows any emotions and with me being the most consistent man in his life you would think that he would be able to show me some type of love but he guards those emotions, that softer side and he’s weird about showing it. 

    All of the men that I had in my life have helped shape my viewpoint on how I see my dad and also why I say that I grew up with somewhat of a perfect fatherhood. Even with all of the challenges my mother endured she never claimed that she could replace a man. She just did what she had to do. One thing that she definitely preached was that God is all of our fathers and he will always be there for us. That’s something that’s had a huge impact on my life when it comes to my views on fatherhood and my father in specific. It allows me to accept him for who he is and to look at all of the positive things that he has done “along with his mistakes” as lessons. 

    I didn’t have my first drink of alcohol until I was 25. The primary reason that I avoided drinking is because my father dealt with alcoholism for as long as I knew him even up until the time of his death. My dad was a different type of character. I learned that he wasn’t the great guy that I pictured him to be when I was a child. I saw him do so many things when he was under the influence of alcohol. There’s one specific time that I remember so vividly. I was with him in Columbus where he lived and we were about to leave my grandmother’s house. He told me to go sit in the truck. He went back to the house and all of a sudden I heard a lot of arguing and commotion. My dad was arguing with his girlfriend. She wouldn’t give him the keys because she didn’t want him to drive while he was under the influence. I remember her telling him “you have your son with you!” This was the first time that I realized that something was going on with my dad and I remember thinking he was crazy. “My mother nor anyone else that I was around drank so I didn’t know what it was like to be around someone that was actually drunk.” My dad and his girlfriend argued for awhile and then I saw him come outside. Even though I was sitting in the truck I could still see and hear everything that was going on. My dad was banging on the door and demanding his keys. I could see the rage on his face. All of a sudden he ran around to the front of the house and came back with a knife and started stabbing at the door. I watched him and tried to process exactly what was happening. I didn’t realize how crazy all of this really was until I got older.

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    Activated Lenses

    When I was old enough to drive my mother would let me go see my dad. At that particular time in my life I was committed to not being anything like my dad. I remember saying “if I ever have kids I’m going to be in their lives. If I say that I’m a great man I’m going to be a great man and my actions will reflect that.” So I committed to Christ and started worshipping and praying - it was my whole life. So I was really trying to be the best person that I knew how to be. I stopped hanging out with the wrong people and avoided anything that I felt mirrored some of the bad things that I knew my dad did in his life.

    Some of my best friends at that time sold and smoked weed and did other things that I felt was wrong. Even though they were my boys I felt the need to distance myself from them. I was the guy that would tell them that those things weren’t for me and would challenge them to stop. Looking back I can see where my mindset could have been a little immature at the time. I never considered why they may have felt led to do some of the things that they were doing. One of my best friends had a really rough childhood and was pretty much on his own when he was 14 or 15 years old. I can’t imagine what I would have done if I had to try to figure out how to pay the rent, keep the lights on and keep food on the table at the age of 15. Those were thing that I just didn’t have to think about so I was probably a little hard on my friends at that time but I did stay away from the trouble that goes along with that type of lifestyle.

    There was a time where I started having a different perspective on what a father figure, dad, mentor, role model or coach should look like. I don’t know if I intentionally thought about it or not but it was something that was building in my sub-conscience and I knew at that point that I had to take ownership over my relationship with my father. I understood that for whatever reason he was unable to do it so I took on that responsibility. The spirituality that my mother instilled in me had a lot to do with that. I remember thinking that no matter what goes on in life “you only got one pops!” He’s the actual person that gave me life to be here so I was determined that I wasn’t going to leave this earth without getting to know who he was or at least trying to. That’s when my curiosity really hit and I began to question things like; “why do I act like this when certain things happen? Why do I look this way? Why does my hair always curl up when it grows a certain length?” I wanted to know everything about him.

    I wanted to know what my dad was like as a kid, what type of father was he to my older sister? “She’s seven years older than me so I thought that he was around more.” I learned that he wasn’t really a part of her life either. My mother along with the support system that I grew up around made me so strong. Now that I’m thinking about it there’s times that my father would tell me things that he said or did that hurt my mother and how easy it was for me to be like “oh, okay I forgive you.” Not that it was up to me to forgive him but to me it was things that happened in the past, nothing could be done to change his actions and more importantly it wasn’t for me to cast judgement. Obviously he did some things that effected me but I just dealt with them and moved on.

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    Late sophomore year going into my junior year of high school I struggled with trying to maintain my virginity. I had girlfriends and I talked to girls ALL of the time. I had all type of girls throughout high school so that sexual temptation was always there. I felt like I was “The Man” but deep inside I also felt like I was doing something wrong. I wanted to entertain all of these women and I embraced the challenge of getting them. I wasn’t trying to compete with other guys so it was more like if I want this girl I’m going to get her. If she seemed unapproachable or seemed like she was all of that - I wanted her. If she was quiet and pretty I wanted her. I was a trip! I got to this point where I was trying to be this Godly person and started realizing different things about myself and started to question why. “Is being this girl crazy and horny all of the time something that all boys go through or is it just me?” I struggled with that for a while.

    Every time I was with my dad he was always with a different woman. There was never a time that I can remember being with my dad where he did not stop to visit a woman. It wasn’t until I got in my early twenties that I saw him with the same woman for a long amount of time. Even then we stopped to see another women. So the whole womanizing thing is something that has always been a lingering wonder.

    One night I had this dream that was crazy. I fell asleep on the floor and in my dream I couldn’t wake up. I felt like I could control what was happening in the dream but I really couldn’t. In the dream I was lying on the floor and all of a sudden a silhouette of a bunch of rats started crawling all over my body, “I’ve always had a phobia about swarms of things, especially small things and I hate rodents!” so I was going crazy in the dream but I couldn’t wake up. A silhouette of a man in a long trench coat walked in and all of the rats scattered. This man exuded power, his coat was swinging back and forth as he walked and he had on a black brimmed hat. His presence changed the whole atmosphere. When I woke up I was just stuck. I’ve always been a deep thinker. I like to study and do research so I immediately looked up what swarms of rats in dreams meant, I tried to process all of the crazy things that took place in my dream and I equate them to all of the struggles that I was going through during that period of my life. Trying to maintain my virginity, trying to avoid making the same mistakes that my dad made and trying avoid becoming a womanizer. I realized that I was doing some of those very things. I felt like that dream was confirmation that yeah… “you are on your way to walking down that same path as your father.” I know that the man in my dream was my pops. That dream showed me that I have a lot of my father in me. 

    From that point on I calmed down and controlled myself. I paid attention to the amount of girls that I talked to at one time. I got super picky about the girls that I talked to. I did eventually lose my virginity and it really became a struggle at that point. I didn’t want to be like my dad when it came to women. Any girl that I was intimate with was someone that I felt a connection with so it was never just a physical thing. One thing that I definitely admired about my pops was his swag! His normal everyday talk and his persona was something that most women seemed to flock to. It was natural for him so it wasn’t something that he was trying to do. It was just him being him. My wife says that I’m the same way even though I don't think I am nor do I try to. That time period taught me that even though I may be tempted to - womanizing isn’t something that was for me. 

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    Wildflowers 

    I wanted to take control over my relationship with my dad and it turned out to be a beautiful thing and one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I didn’t like everything that happened while we were building our relationship. My dad was a pill popper, still maintained a cocaine diet and was definitely an alcoholic. My dad drank all day every day. My dad would get drunk and he would talk about my mom. He would express his regrets and be really remorseful about the way things went between them. Saying things like, “man, I wish I could get your mom back, I wish we were all together as a family” and things like that. 

    My dad would get like superman when he drank. I was impressed at how functional he could be when he was under the influence of alcohol and all of the other substances he would indulge in. It hurt to see my pops like this but over time I grew somewhat numb to it. I would feel it but I wouldn’t deal with things as they happened. I would push these feelings to the side and deal with any emotional issues I had later. There would be times when we developed this routine of me calming him down like; “look pops, it’s okay… calm down.” After a while I would be hard on him and stop him from talking about his lifestyle and regrets. I would sternly tell him “no need to talk about this or that, let’s move on to something else.” I would literally be that strict and hard with him. I talked to my mentors about how I should handle things when he got like that and they helped me realize that I should just let him vent and get those issues off of his chest. That was a huge shift in our relationship because me allowing him to just talk his way through things and express himself allowed me to become an outlet for him. That did a lot for him and for our relationship. It was funny because it almost seemed like our roles reversed and I was the father and he was the son. That revealed some of the void that I have concerning a father/son relationship.

    I mentioned the men that I was around in the early stages of my life and how they showed me love. It still hurt that the man that I needed and wanted the most love from when I was growing up wasn’t there to give it to me on a consistent basis and that created a void. When we did get closer I was the one that had to give and show love as opposed to receiving it so that caused me to harden up and it’s difficult for me to show any emotions in sad or touching moments. I don’t know if that stems directly from the issues I have surrounding my father but I’m sure it’s relative.  

    A huge amount of understanding came through in these conversations with my dad. The biggest thing that I got was just genuine appreciation for having the opportunity to nurture our relationship going forward. I understood that there was no way to go back in time and change the first 18 years of my life but what I could do for as long as we both are here is to make the best of things. So I started appreciating our phone calls and time together more. We would just sit and talk for hours and hours. Even when he’d get drunk and start doing crazy things, “which is when he’d really start telling it all” I would just sit back and appreciate those times. He’d go on as if he was preaching a sermon, and I’m the say way now when I drink a little too much. I can preach, not like a pastor but I talk a lot and it will be in depth. The conversations may be spiritual, they may be emotional and I don’t know if it’s because of a trait passed down to me from my father but I definitely do it just as he would.

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    I think my dad wanted me to know that he realized that all of the things that he did that caused him to be absent in my life, along with the bad things that he did to my mother was a huge mistake. I don’t think my dad was looking for my forgiveness but I think it hurt him to realize that I turned out okay without him being around. I think he had those confessional type of conversations with me in an attempt to forgive himself. I also think that I was a constant reminder to him on what he missed out on. That I was his son and I was really right there in his presence talking to him. 

    Some of the things that he revealed to me were shocking. I wish that I would have taken time to really cherish those conversations because I remember sometimes thinking, “okay - he’s getting drunk and he’s about to go to sleep. I’m about to get out the house and go kick it!” I was young so I wasn’t mature enough to stay focused and cherish all of that time with him. I did enjoy spending time and talking to my pops but at the same time the conversations would get long winded and at that age I would want to go hoop or go talk to some girls, the typical things that teenagers would want to do. I look back and wish that I would have just cherished every second with him.

    I went to college at Urbana which was roughly 30 - 45 minutes or so away from my pop’s house in Columbus. I would go visit him quite a bit. My step-dad has this thing for finding and buying used cars. To this day I can go over my mom’s house and he’ll be there looking at cars on the computer. While I was in college he found me a car that was a beater but it was great on gas. One day I was at my dad’s house and he was like “let me get that car from you.”  I had been working and saving money so we went out and bought a Buick Roadmaster. I kept the Roadmaster and gave my dad the beater. One day I needed to drive the beater and my dad still needed to take care of the insurance and all of that stuff. Well my dad got in a wreck that same weekend and the Roadmaster got totaled. He didn’t file any type of claim or get any money back from it so the money that I spent on it was gone. I was pissed too because the car was nice! It was a green Buick Roadmaster that I called the Green Machine. It was clean, with all digital displays, nice interior and no dents or scratches. 

    I played football at Urbana so during the offseason me and some of my teammates were in Columbus pretty much all of the time. We would go out and kick it and no matter what time we hit my dad’s spot he would always cook us these big meals for us. I can remember coming in at 3 o’clock in the morning and he’d start cooking us steak and baked potatoes, all of these big meals. I’d tell him that he didn’t have to do all of that but that was just the way he was. That was his thing.

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    Jump!

    At this time I was intentional about going to Columbus to spend time and build my relationship with my dad. Outside of everything else that I would do once I got there spending time with my pops was my top priority. That continued even after I had left Urbana. I would go to Columbus quite a bit. I would spend a couple of days and up to a week there just hanging out with him. Sometimes I would take my nieces and nephews with me and through that he was able to spend time with his grandkids and also mend his relationship with my sister. At that time neither of my sisters were really talking to him and that made me upset. I encouraged them to get over it, nothing about the past could be changed. My oldest sister that I grew up with would make me mad to the point that I would cuss her out. I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t want him in her life. I have another sister “by a different mother” that’s the same age as me that had a lot of resentment towards my dad. My father would try to build a relationship with her and would often tell me how frustrated he would get by her rejections. I had to explain to him that he hadn’t been there for her when she felt she needed him and that he had to be patient and keep trying. I told him the only thing that he could do is tell her and show her that he loves her. It was rough on me to hear the frustrations from both my dad and my sisters.

    I prayed for God to allow me to have a good relationship with my dad. To provide a way for us to be able to continue to see each other. I wanted my dad to love me and to miss me if he went an extended amount of time without seeing or hearing from me. Our relationship wasn’t perfect but it was developing. That’s when he got sick and it was directly related to his habits. My dad was always a worker and never shied away from hard work. He had nerve damage in his back that required surgery. Before this happened he was starting to clean up his life and was cutting out some of his bad habits. The surgery slowed him but he still couldn’t sit still. He would take pain medication and go out and work and he was still drinking. He went back to the hospital and this time he almost died. He had so much in his system with the pain medications along with the drugs and alcohol. He was in a place where it was pretty much fight or flight. That was a crazy few weeks for me because while all of this was going on I was both working and going to school full-time. I had to juggle taking time off from work and making up assignments so that I could be there with my dad. It was a very trying time that happened right when things seemed to be trending up for my dad, he was spending time and developing a relationship with his grandkids, cleaning up his life and things were just going good.

    The year after all of this happened was different. He physically wasn’t able to do some of the things that were part of his normal everyday life. He would still try to do things and we would tell him to sit down and take care of himself. He went back to the hospital for the same thing almost a year later but this time he had more drugs in his system, hard drugs - not just the prescribed medication, “ he had been warned the year prior that if he continued to drink it could be fatal” this time he didn’t make it. Just like the first time it was a crazy time but it was less emotional on me this time. I took on a weird vibe that’s hard for me to describe. I felt like I had to handle everything. I became “the voice” on my dad’s side of the family. My dad left me as the beneficiary for everything, I was left to make all of the decisions and his brothers and sisters had a rough time accepting that. It was a time that I had to speak up and be a man. This time period made me thankful for all of the men that helped shape my life and for having a strong mother that guided me along the way.

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    Things that I deal with now as far as my dad no longer being here is missing the fact that I can’t continue building on the relationship that we started. Looking back at the years that we missed out on during my childhood and wishing things had been different. My dad was close to a lot of people so I have a goal to get in touch with as many of them as I can so that I can get to know more about my dad from their point of view.

    When I worked at De’Lish there was a guy that came in a few times looking for me. When we finally met he told me that he was one of my dad’s friends. He knew so much about my dad and told me some of the things that they used to do. That made me do my own research and I found out that he has more friends like that out there with similar stories. I also have a couple of cousins that grew up around my dad and actually got to spend more time with him than I did as a kid so it’s nice to hear them share their memories of my dad. It’s a fine line though and I have to place limits on it because sometimes it becomes overwhelming. I find myself getting emotional and teary-eyed about things that I didn’t before. Even talking about him now I can feel myself getting emotional.

    Two things that I deal with since my dad passed seven years ago is that other than my wife I don’t have that one person that I can go to and talk to about anything. I did have a cousin “Willie” that I looked up to like a big brother but he passed away not that long ago so two of the men that I was the closest to are gone. I have a wife now and it’s been rough not to have them to lean on when I have questions or need guidance. Even if they didn’t tell me the right things; just to have them there as a sounding board. That’s something that I deal with more often than I realize. The other thing is that I don’t know as much about my dad as I thought I did. I hear stories from my cousins and other people that spark my curiosities about him even more.

    I missed my dad and broke down when I graduated. We had talked about it so much. He was looking forward to it just as much as I was and would always say he was going to be there, so I felt it that day, it hurt. Then my wedding I was like “man neither my pops or Willie are here.” It sucks that my wife never got the opportunity to meet and know my dad, she would’ve loved him and he for sure would’ve loved her and probably even tried to steal her from me, even though that battle would’ve resulted in a lost! Ironically my wife’s dad has a lot of the same characteristics as mine minus the habits. We have a very natural relationship that doesn’t require any force, I’m thankful for that and I’m sure, the universe worked her hand at that. 

    There has never been a lack of fatherhood for me. Had things been different or I traveled a different path I would not have had the perfect experience with fatherhood as I did. The men that helped shaped me all played a role in my development and have enabled me to say that I had the perfect experience with Fatherhood. I live my life trying to be a good person. I may not always right but my intentions are always good.

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    Frank "Buddy" Pitts Jr.

    The Perfect Father

    Lessons Learned From a Fatherless Childhood

    Husband + Entrpreneur + Creative Director + Life Enthusiast + Brand Marketer + Educator + Beyond Superior + PSMD + Metaphorically Speaking + BR360 + Benjimen Syracuse

    Connect...

    instagram: @bensyracuse

    facebook: Frank Buddy Pitts Jr.

    Beyond Superior Graphics

    Metaphorically Speaking Dayton

    vision quest

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    it seems like every fall for the past few years i've made a point to kind of unplug from the world and get lost in my own personal hopes and dreams. to spend time on things in my personal and business life that i've put on the back burner in order to take care of everyone else.

    this past saturday morning i grabbed a couple of my cameras and headed out to get lost. somehow i ended up on a rooftop in downtown dayton where i took in the views, snapped a few pictures and more importantly had a long conversation with myself. i thought about where i am in life versus where i want/need to be. i thought about changes/enhancements that i want to make with my brand, relationships in my life that i need to either nurture or bring to an end. i visualized my photography book, came up with a deadline to bring all of the images together, planned personal projects that will both challenge and enhance my current skillset... like i said, "i had a long conversation with myself!"

    on the rooftop i gave my imagination freedom to roam without interruption or judgement. i enjoyed the morning breeze, i reconnected with myself. being alone on that rooftop provided me personal time and space that has eluded me for quite sometime. i'm rejuvenated and excited about where i'm headed in life. winter is coming... i plan on bringing the heat! 

    what is woman?

    mariah

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    woman is the ultimate creator.  she is the portal in which new life flows out of.  she is foundation and naturally the epitome of what is essential to world peace, love and compassion. her instinct bears nurturing tendencies while offering the perfect combination of love and discipline to a child.  to the unconditioned mind and society, woman is love, woman is perfect. i witness these attributes through my own mother and how she has chose to live her life.  whether it be unsolicited lectures, or chastisement of not fulfilling a certain responsibility around the house, she had created this balance of love, discipline, and education. 

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    woman is hard and yet soft simultaneously. she has taken many blows from society’s manmade ego. her highly emotional and intuitive intelligence has been countered as weakness. it’s as though the woman’s greatest strength is what cripples her from being equal to man. but although she has survived through much oppression, her softness allows her to still love and support her oppressors. she is backbone and rib to the very thing that may drag her through mud. her tears and strength are the magical ingredients which brew her abilities to carry on and stay soft. this is a true testament to what i have personally experienced through both platonic and romantic relationships. because i feel so deeply and grounded to the forces of this universe, it makes for a very emotional spirit that can easily be looked upon as weak. i have internalized much of what this society says a woman should do, how she should look, and all around carry herself; thus subconsciously trying to align myself with these standards. just recently, about a few years ago, have i realized the true power of what it means to be woman. i think we’re pretty amazing when you strip away all the extra rules and regulations that have been put on our being. 

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    woman is truth. unfortunately sometimes woman will subconsciously internalize the truth of someone else’s desires, diverting the path of her destiny. woman is pure. she releases a spirit of calmness and light into any room. she is the major attraction everywhere she goes.  Woman can tame even the roughest of seas, breaking down barriers that seek to lock her, woman is persistent.

    what is woman?

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    darsheel

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    how can i express womanhood when my mother tongue was buried?

    my fluid and expansive nature

    violently torn into rigid, unrecognizable, colonial binaries of

    male or female/straight or gay/american or foreign/- you can only be one or the other

    these are not my categories. 

    this isn't my language.


    i come from sovereignty.

    the blood of spiritual warriors.

    lioness. princess.

    waheguru.


    spirits of mother earth and father sky.

    ancient wisdom carried through the wombs of our grandmothers
    that hip hop flow, creativity, swag

    remixin lands and waters, tongues and ways of knowing and being

    honoring those who came before, those here now, and those to come.


    my womb is connected to the moon

    and the waves, they move through

    let them flow, bout all i can do

    and i aint got nothin left to prove

    kaur is my gender identity

    who i am has more to it than that

    i carry all the peoples who have poured into me

    i belong to the earth, not any nationality

    i don't pray to other gods

    def not the constitution.

     

    do my best to
    always serve and love

    be part of the solution

    i wanna be known with my complexities, not put in a box

    so here it is, i share with you

    some of me and my thoughts.

     

    hip.hop.kaur.

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    what is woman...

    kali block-steele

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    woman is magnificent being wrapped in the arms of the cosmos.

    she is all rage and fury. all soft and secure.

    she is the being that can suffer with strength and

    heal with brutal truth.

     

    woman is wild — even when she cowers, cornered and afraid.

    woman is wild because even when she is fearful,

    she is calculated and calculating.

    she is planning her escape

    even as she trembles under the heat of your gaze.

     

    wild woman is fierce in her softness,

    formidable in her ability to love.

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    woman will love you freely and more fully than you have ever known

    because all women are wild.

    and under the heavy layers of expectation,

    all women love themselves, fiercely.

     

    because woman is resilient, can bear the harshest of brutalities,

    locking eyes with misfortune

    until it cowers in her gaze.

     

    because woman knows that despite it all

    she is magnificent,

    queenly,

    deserving of fruitful love.

     

    and when she knows, nothing will stop her from living her dreams,

    harvesting her fruits.

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    for woman is all love, all strength, all fury, all contradiction.

    all without apology.

     

    she knows she owes no sorries for her unboxable truth.

    The universe never apologizes for its show of beauty

    or its mysterious unleashing of might.

    and what is woman but star stuff?

     

    she glows like galaxies in the dark of night.

    she shines like gold in the amber sun of day.

     

    what is woman but magic made flesh.

    what is woman?

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    you cute for a fat girl...

    gwen

    “i just don't get it... why her? You can do so much prettier and finer, so much skinnier.” I think it was this time last year when i heard that exact comment being said about me to someone i cared about, from a “friend.”

    after getting out of a toxic relationship where i was made to feel I wasn’t beautiful by him and those around him, i was at my lowest last winter. i didn’t want to go out. i felt like nothing looked good on me. i didn’t even want to be around men because i felt like i knew what they were all thinking. it’s not something i chose. even though it’s something i can change. and i haven’t always been plus sized. i remember the first time my mom told me that i would need to look in the “plus sized” section for an outfit because it would fit better (in all reality I only needed an xl) and i started to cry. how crazy is that? but what i can say now, at 22 years old, is that after getting the love and support from the people i cherish the most and taking the needed amount of time to self care, i got back to that place that i was in at the beginning of 2016. it took me such a long time to realize that not being a size 2 isn’t something to be ashamed of. it took me all the way up until last year when i moved to hawaii to cherish and love myself the way i should. being in a place where full figured women were respected and worshiped
    the same as petite women was so refreshing.

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    but now, mid summer 2017, i’m happier than ever and i don’t think i will ever let another man or person for that matter make me feel less than for the way i look or body i have. i was SO nervous to do this and absolutely terrified to post these, but that’s what it’s all about. loving yourself. i did this photoshoot because here today, i want to start a body positivity campaign. plus size/fuller women/bodies that aren’t looked at as “sexy” in today’s society are slowly but surely getting more representation in the media/fashion industry. but i know especially here in dayton it’s not represented nearly enough. i won’t be this size forever, but it’s the body I have now. and i’ll be damned if i don’t love every
    single inch and curve!

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    connect with gwen:

    instagram: @_gwenola + twitter: @_gwenolabar + email: cgbrown95@icloud.com

    what is woman?

    leroy bean

    this guest blog is by leroy bean, author of the love and theory of womanology. 

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    a spoken word poet  from dayton, ohio starting my new artistic journey as leroy bean. after being apart of underdog academy for over 2 years, i have had the opportunity to perform at many colleges and universities such as ohio state university, ohio dominican university, university of cincinnati and more. i was the 2017 litfest poetry slam winner for the university of dayton and was chosen to be published in both their orpheus and writ literary magazines. i am the host of the underdog academy's expressions open mic and now i am finally releasing my second chapbook - the love and theory of womanology.

    this complete project includes a chapbook with 37 poems, including a 7 poem series, 16 haiku's, and a pantoum. also includes an audio book that isn't your traditional read along on tape. the audio book is all put together over instrumentals to provide a completely separate experience from the chapbook itself even though the poems have not changed. one gives you room to implement your own imagination and the other sits you in the center of my imagination and feel for the project as a whole and the individual poems.  i've always approached my poems from a different perspective; creating story's or satirical poems to get my point across.

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    in december 2016 I was inspired by music, conversation, and just consistent signs pointing me down this path to create a chapbook dedicated to woman. after reaching a new point on this journey for developing a better understanding for love and compassion for all life, i realized that i have been blinded by my male privilege. from the experience as a black male in america, i have witnessed oppression first hand and was able to transfer that comprehension to the relationship between man and woman. it was made clear to me how much of a habit sexism was alone and although i did not install this way of thinking on my own, it is still my responsibility to recognized my mistakes in order to grow as a human. this lead me to build a chapbook, metaphorically giving woman the power that was bestowed upon men, "in the beginning", with genesis by characterizing god as a woman that not just created but gave birth to the universe. also emphasizing on the characteristics that woman are deemed weak for, such as their love and support. also bringing important woman characters to the forefront such as mother nature, eve, and the roll of "the mother" in american society.

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    upon the ending of the books creation it dawned on me that if i really wanted to help influence as much of the community as possible then I would have to bring the book to life. this lead to the event, "what is woman?" where I teamed up with ap2 photography and ted's own big dave to help bring the vision to life; men using their platform to help bring shine to the woman's perspective and experience. although this is a release event for my new chapbook, the book is far from being the face of the event. this premium art experience showcases nothing but the strength and struggles of women. using the power of art and it's influence on people, we dedicated paintings and photo shoots to the diverse beauty of woman and counter the countless shaming that society puts on women that don't fall within it's standards. what is woman? showcases female vendors and performers to portray the wide-range of talent that women have. It will be held in a business owned by a woman to show their strength and intelligence. what is woman? will challenge the audience with that very title by having a panel discussion to assure that the voice of the woman is heard. even if it is only in front of 50 to 100 people, i know it will still be effective because at the end of the day, communication leads to solutions and  seeds will get planted to initiate a ripple of change in the minds of the future. 

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    what is woman will take place satuday, september 2 at third perk coffeehouse & wine bar in downtown dayton, ohio at 7:00pm. tickets are limited and are available to purchase on eventbrite, “includes the option to preorder the book as well.” 

    the anatomy of a project

    announcing: what is woman

    coming september 2, 2017

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    for the past couple of months I have been working on a project with leroy bean “formerly hyerxconscious” and long standing member of underdog academy and big dave scott of ted (the epitome of dope) called what is woman?

     the event takes place saturday, september 2, 2017 at third perk coffee house and wine bar in dayton, oh. and will have serve as a launching point for leroy’s debut chapbook: the love and theory of womanology. the chapbook is a collection of poems that explores the beauty, power and challenges that women face in every day life.

    when leroy approached me about the project and provided me with a copy of the book to review there was no doubt that I had to be a part of it. his writings resonated with me on so many levels, forced me to think about the impact that my mother, wife, daughters, aunts and various women have had on my life as well as the positive/negative impact I may have had on women throughout my life.

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    my role in the project was to do a series of portrait with women, “there will be a single image of each on display during the event.” during the sessions  i had open conversations with each of the women about various topics surrounding their personal struggles, triumphs and joys of womanhood ranging from body shaming, expectations, entrepreneurship,  motherhood and identity. these women and their stories will be featured on my blog/digital magazine ap2photography.com/blog on tdb and I highly recommend setting aside time to read them.

    please come out to our event: what is woman? on september 2. there will be female vendors on hand and the event will consist of guest performances by spoken word artists siri Imani and azizza love of the blvck seeds, the photography of your’s truly ap2 photography, the artwork of big dave scott, the poetry of leroy bean and a much needed panel discussion whichwill provide us an opportunity to openly discuss the love and theory of woman.

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    there are a limited number of tickets available which can be purchased here at: eventbrite.

    you will also have an opportunity to purchase a copy of leroy bean’s chapbook: the love and theory of woman.

    be sure to follow us at: for more details!

    what is woman?

    7:00pm - saturday, september 2, 2017

    third perk coffeehouse & wine bar

    cleavon by prophessorx

    merely a man

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    last night i had the honor and pleasure of attending my brother – cleavon’s (known to many as x or prophessorx) book release launch at third perk coffeehouse & wine bar in dayton, oh. to say that I’m proud of x would be an understatement. i’ve been fortunate enough to witness and observe a lot of growth and confidence in x as a man as well as in his poetry and writings.

    the chapbook is titled: cleavon by prophessorx and consists of 20 different poems/haikus that are captivating, powerful, unapologetic and emotional. x performed a selection of these writings in front of a crowd of family, friends and fans of his work leaving them inspired and eager for more.

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    If you are interested in purchasing a physical or ecopy of the book “which i highly recommend,” you can do so on his website proph3ssorx.com or by contacting him directly at proph3ssorx@icloud.com.

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    follow x on his website: proph3ssorx.com on instagram @proph3ssorx and on soundlcoud.

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    there’s a destiny that makes us brothers; no one goes their way alone. all that we send into the lives of others comes back onto our own.
    — brotherhood