man

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 begin to 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 I 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 Black 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

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. 

Identity Crisis

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Mortal Man

Identity Crisis

By: Milton A. Wilkes

I grew up in Toledo, OH - my mother was a drug addict, or should I say is a drug addict. For at least the last 32 years she’s been on drugs. That’s all that I have ever known her to be, I’ve never known her to be sober. I was raised by my grandmothers’ sister who had four sons of her own before I came along.

Even though I was raised by my family I still had abandonment issues. Although she raised me from an infant, a child naturally desires to be taken care of by its mother. It’s just like an animal – if you take them out of their natural habitat and you put them somewhere else with the same type of animals they are still going to feel like they don’t fit in or belong there because it is not where they are from. 

There have been a lot of events that have happened in my life that has served as an incubator for my abandonment issues. When I was three, my sister “who is three years older than me” and I went to spend some time with my mother and she disappeared for the whole weekend. My sister was worried and didn’t know what to do. My clothes were all dirty and messed up so my sister put me in one of her dresses and we walked up and down one of the main streets of Toledo looking for my mother. That right there hurt. Even though I don’t remember that as vividly as my sister does; to hear how that effected both of us... it does something to you.

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“There are times
In all of our lives
When we feel as though
No one truly knows us.”

A big hurdle to get over is being okay with someone that does not want to take responsibility for their actions. You have to be okay without receiving an apology, without getting the closure that you want and need. But you can’t hold on to that and say that you need those things to happen so that you can move on with life because life is going to move on without you if you don’t let go.

When I talked to my mother I’d often find myself drifting into a childlike mentality. Fantasizing like, “okay mommy, things are going to change and you’re going to get your life together.” It took me realizing that drug abuse is actually a disease for me to understand why I couldn’t get closure and why I may never get that “I’m sorry” from her. She was actually looking out for my siblings’ and I best interest by giving us up to other family members to raise. My sister and my brother were raised by my grandmother and our younger brother was adopted outside of the family. Even though I was raised along with other kids I still didn’t have the connectivity I could have had with my own siblings. As a child I could not understand why things were the way they were, in the long run it caused me to fall into some extremely risky circumstances.

I became promiscuous, I had issues with low self-esteem and was suicidal. Trying to find yourself and your identity is hard when you don’t know how to look at yourself in the mirror. The reason that I say that is because my father had a whole other family on the side. For the most part my dad was in my life but I never knew any of my siblings. I did not meet them siblings until I was 21. When I met them they knew nothing about me either - that hurt. My response was “wow! I wasn’t worthy enough for you to tell my siblings that I existed?” That caused me to resent my father. However my father has been great about having dialogue and attempting to get closure. He’s given his point of view on that period of our lives, not trying to defend himself or say that what he did was right but just having those conversations so that we can move forward.

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I have two kids of my own, (four and eight years old) and I vowed that I would never put them through any of the things that I have gone through in life because it wasn’t fair and caused me much pain. Therapy helped me with recovering from various events in my life. I don’t think that you ever really get over events as traumatic as what I’ve gone through – you just learn how to deal with them and how to manage them better.

The things that I’ve been through have also empowered me to try to help other people. I’m back in school studying to be a mental therapist and I’m also in the midst of becoming licensed as a chemical dependency counselor. They say most chemical dependency counselors have either been on drugs or have been directly impacted by drug abuse. I’m also becoming certified as a life coach. I believe that it’s very important to have an outlet, someone to talk to “especially as black men” because we don’t feel comfortable enough to show those vulnerable places. We if you don’t have anyone or anywhere to go to; which causes us to have deviant behaviors such as drug abuse, gang activity, depravity and promiscuity. Those things aren’t normal so we have to find what the root cause is in order to figure things out and progress.

I believe I struggled with loving myself because my family was not one of those families that openly exhibited love. We didn’t hear “I love you” or show much affection to one another on a regular basis. So in relationships it’s been hard for me to express love in the traditional sense that most people expect or are used to. I try to show love but there are times where I feel like I didn’t know how to. I didn’t have my mother around to nurture and display that motherly love so there’s no example for me to go by. I try to overcompensate that when it comes to my kids because I want them to feel and know that they are loved. 

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Having high expectations of people can leave you very disappointed because most of those expectations go unfulfilled. I mentioned earlier that I was raised in a house with four other boys who were my cousins. Being that we were all raised together under the same roof I viewed them as brothers. So to hear them say “you’re not my brother” stung really bad. It’s like “wait a minute, we’ve been through so many things together, you know everything that I’m going through so for you to say that… how dare you”- it hurt really bad.  

Coming together with all of my siblings from both my mother’s and my father’s side gives me a sense of wholeness. In my opinion I had a non-ideal childhood but I intentionally forge a bond with my siblings. I have gained a relationship with my siblings where I feel free to talk to them about anything. I feel like that’s what most people want, an opportunity to talk without being ostracized, but feeling unconditional love.  

I teach my kids to stand up for one each other. If someone comes after one of you they’re coming after both of you. I want them to have that connection. I want them to have what I didn’t have in my childhood. That’s important to me.

It doesn’t feel good but I think about if I had stayed with my mother, I probably would have lived under far worse conditions with a whole boatload of other issues versus going and staying with my aunt, who sent me great schools, instilled life lessons and showed me how to take care of business. But, growing up with unresolved of issues that I was unaware of until later in life created issues that later were harder to deal with. Which one would I have chosen if it was up to me? That’s a hard question but in my heart I know that staying with my aunt was best for me.

My faith has played a huge part in being able to move forward. As a kid I was in church all of the time. That’s where I’ve always found peace. I’ve also been able to find my inner solace through music. I sing. I write music. Music has been my outlet- my way of gaining freedom from all of my inner feelings. 

Music takes me away – it heals me.

Thank you,

Milton A Wilkes

 

 
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Milton A. Wilkes

Identity Crisis

Image Consultant + Music Head

instagram: @mr_airyon

 

facebook: Milton AirYón

A Name I'll Never Forget

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Mortal Man

A Name I'll Never Forget

By: Jason Doherty

It was the summer of 1996 and me and two of my buddies decided to head out to Brookville Lake to go to a party on another friend's houseboat. When we got there, we had to take a shuttle boat over to the houseboat. Once we got onboard and got situated, we drank a few beers and did a little swimming. We were having a good time. My friend that was hosting the party decided to invite one of his friends that lived out on the lake over and he came along with two of his friends.

They got on the boat and we all introduced ourselves and partied a little bit more. I don't know how much they had to drink before they got onboard the houseboat, but after two hours or so went by me and one of my buddies decided to go around to the back of the boat to hangout with them. We got to the back of the boat and saw one of the guys joking around with a girl and then asked her "are you going to get in?".  I didn't really hear her clear enough to make out what she said, but the guy kept joking around and then he pushed her in the lake. 

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We were all laughing but after about 30 seconds and she still hadn't came up.  My buddy and I looked at each other and I thought "that's weird". I thought that maybe she swam around to the front or to the other side of the boat. We walked around all sides of the boat and couldn't spot her anywhere. That's when I thought "oh-uh, this isn't good!" I was scared out of my mind and so I jumped in the lake to try to find her. I swam underneath the boat but didn't find her there. My buddy and I dove in close to where she was pushed in. We dove in so deep that we would lose our breath and have to come back up to grasp for air. We did this numerous times trying to find her but the lake was 27 feet deep and the water was so dark that we just couldn't see anything. We were exhausted, so we got back on the boat and heard one of our other friends on the CB radio saying "we have someone overboard!"

When the diver and police got there the diver wasn't suited up.  It took him about a minute or so to get prepped to dive in. He asked us where was the last place that we saw anything and we pointed in the direction of the last place that we saw bubbles come up from in the water. He dropped a line and dove in. The diver went in and found her immediately. He brought her up and laid her on the back of the boat. The policeman told me, my buddy and the guy that pushed her into the lake to go to one side of the boat and kept us separated from everyone else that was on the boat. I looked across the boat and saw that the girl was completely gray and that they were trying to revive her. The police told us to stop looking that way and to move to the front of the boat. 

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I always wonder what she would have became in life had she not died that night...

At the time, I was relieved that they found her but I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know if she was alive or not. They put us on the shuttle boat and as we went around the houseboat, I saw that they were putting her in a body bag. I knew right then that... my heart it just went straight to my gut. They couldn't revive her. She was dead.

She passed away and it was probably the worst nightmare I could have ever experienced. Her name was Jessica - I'll never forget her name. I always wonder what she would have became in life had she not died that night... maybe she would have became a doctor, a loving mother and wife. I always wonder about that.

We all had to go to the police station and give reports. We sat in the police station for eight to nine hours before we were even eligible to get bailed out. We had to got to court and that's when I learned that Jessica didn't know how to swim. That was really scary to me; learning that she didn't know how to swim but still went out drinking on a boat. I was held in jail for underage drinking. I called my mom and told her what happened and she said, "that's horrible." I told her my charges and she said, "you're 18 now, bail yourself out." It just so happened that another friend of ours had drove out to Brookville to party with us. He came as everything was going down, so he never made it to the houseboat. His dad bailed me out that night, otherwise I would have sat in jail until the arraignment. I was put on unmonitored probation.

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The guy that pushed Jessica in the lake was charged with involuntary manslaughter and spent some time in jail. He didn't know that she couldn't swim and he tried all that he could to help us find her in the lake that night. There was no parental supervision at all that night, so the family that owned the houseboat was sued. We were just a few kids out trying to have a good time. I was 18 years old when this happened and later I learned that Jessica was only 17. 

I turned to drugs pretty hard to help me cope and one day I woke up and said, "I can't do this anymore." I had to get my shit together. Jessica's death was a life lesson for me. I only knew Jessica for two hours before she was gone forever. It's crazy how things can be all good one minute and then... 

It's something that I'll never forget, even though I think about it all of the time. I've never talked about it. I'm glad that I have this opportunity, this outlet to share it. I definitely feel a little better now that I've talked about it.

I still talk to my buddy that dove into the lake with me but we never talk about what happened that night. Every time I've tried talking about it with him, he shuts me down and tells me that he can't do it. I have no idea how it weighs on him, how he's dealing with it or if he's dealing with it at all.

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I will always remember Jessica's name. Twenty years after that night it's still embedded in my brain. Even though I didn't push her in the lake I still feel guilty. I always wish I would have been able to find her - been able to save her. 

I still have nightmares about what happened that night. When they found her , I felt a sense of relief.  Then I saw her and saw how gray she was, it was almost like death was staring right at me. That right there is when I knew that if I don't swim "in life", I'm going to sink. I've been swimming every since. 

It took me almost 18 years to get back on a boat. Even though, I know how to swim I still wore a life jacket. To this day I still don't really like being out on boats a whole lot.

 
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Jason Doherty

A Name I'll Never Forget

Husband + Son + Drummer

facebook: Jason Doherty

Gild The Lilly Band Page

LORE

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Mortal Man

Lore

by: Ty Greenwood

Currently, my work centers on toxic Black Masculinity and the negative representation of Black Men in media, television & film and other visual rhetorics. I argue that Black Males are voiceless and invisible, groomed not to ever show their emotions, groomed into a vision of hyper-masculinity heightened by the media, but even more so by their own environment. Therefore, it is time for an INTERVENTION and BLACK REVOLUTION that showcases positive portrayals of Black men that are not damaging to their identity, existence and Black bodies. The associations built around masculinity include: white, powerful, heterosexual, college educated, upper class, strong, tough, aggressive, sexually dominant, ripped body and the list goes on and on. This concept has shaped and molded the way Black men are viewed and the unrealistic standards conjured by white people.

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The Black male experience today has become one inflicted with fear imposed by the seemingly never ending police killings of Black men. Black men are at risk. The same qualities and values that white people have placed on Black masculinity are the same ones killing them today. Black men can’t breathe, walk down the street, go into a convenience store without being feared, followed and or killed. Black bodies are adding up. The qualities of being aggressive, thugs, criminals, ghetto, uneducated, drug dealers, sexual assaulters, professional athletes, sex symbols, the Black muscular body,  deadbeat fathers and unprofessional, are just few of the commonly publicized descriptions in today’s media and various other forms of rhetoric. Thus, when it comes to the Black performance it is nothing more than a minstrel puppet show that is being composed by white people and sold to white audiences who buy into a false sense of what being a Black man really is. It is time for this to end. How many more Black bodies have to be sacrificed for it to really mean something?

Black men can no longer be a sacrifice and killed off senselessly and carelessly. Who will protect the innocent Black boy who is walking down the street to the candy store? Who will protect the innocent Black boy who goes to college and must deal with all the white faces that don’t understand him? Who will protect the innocent Black men when the white cops who are suppose to protect them murder them in cold blood and leave their bodies on the street for all to see? WHO WILL PROTECT OUR BLACK MEN? 

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An excerpt from my short play, “LORE”:

 

DAD:  So, what color is Sasha’s dress?

JR.: It’s an African print dress. 

DAD:  African print? She ain’t African, hell she barely black!

JR.:  Dad!

DAD:  What?

Jr.: turns his back to his dad and approaches the clerk’s desk

CLERK:  Hi, can I help you?

JR.:  Yes.  A pick up for Jeffrey Cole Jr. 

The clerk goes to the back. He comes back with a long dashiki in a gourmet bag. 

 DAD:  What the hell is that?

JR.:  It’s called a dashiki, dad.

DAD:  A what? That’s a damn dress!

CLERK:  The dashiki is a colorful garment for men widely worn in West Africaand other parts of Africa as well.

DAD:  Sir, I know what a dashiki is, I grew up in the 70’s but this is a damn dress! I’m not paying for that shit! Jr. you’re suppose to wear a suit to prom. A tailored, fitted suit.

JR.:  Dad it’s not a dress. Just think of it as a long t-shirt. And look it even comes with pants.

DAD:  A long t-shirt? This is prom not a sleepover. And if that’s what you’re planning I can tell you right now Sasha ain’t gonna give up nothing with you in that shit.  Uh-Uh. Excuse me, sir? Where are your suits?

CLERK:  We have suits over to your left, but we wouldn’t be able to have it tailored in time for your son’s prom. I’m sorry sir.

JR.:  Dad would you stop embarrassing me?

DAD:  Embarrassing you? Jr. you’re embarrassing me! Picking out a damn costume to wear to prom. What the hell is wrong with you?

JR.:  It’s not a costume, dad, it goes with Sasha's African dress.

DAD:  Why the hell are you two even wearing this African shit? Ain’t neither of you African. Let me guess, you saw it on tv.

JR.:  Dad this is in style! They wore these back in your day!

DAD:  Back in my day men wore suits to proms and formal, son. Hell a tux even. But this shit here, NO!

JR.:  What is the big deal?

DAD:  The big deal is that you don’t understand the purpose of tradition. You leave out of the house everyday wearing pants off your ass and clothes too big for even me but tonight of all nights you’re supposed to look like you have some sense. We have family coming over and I am supposed to sit there and just smile while you come down stairs looking like the Prince of Zamunda? I’m not paying for that. I trusted you to come to the store, pick out something sensible, didn’t even give you a price limit because this is your day…

JR.:  If it’s my day then why are you trying to control everything?

DAD:  Jr., listen to me, you are going to wear a suit to this prom. We can pick out a dress shirt to go with your black suit at home. And we can find a nice tie.

JR.:  Dad that’s not want Sasha wants. She wanted us to wear/

DAD:  I don’t give a damn what she wanted. It’s not happening!

JR.:  But Dad/

DAD:  I’m not paying for you to wear some dress to look like a little bitch Jr. If you want it, you pay for it.

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This is the third and final entry in Ty’s three part series. The others can be read by clicking on the following links:
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Ty Greenwood

I Danced With Death

Writer, Poet, Actor, Director, Teacher, Student… MULTIFACETED

twitter: @ty_greenwood

instagram: greenwood26

facebook: Ty Greenwood

email: greenwoodet26@gmail.com

"please be sure to comment below to continue the conversation, offer words of encouragement or to share your story."

Turning Points

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Mortal Man

Turning Points

Kameron Davis

Lately I've been trying to understand my purpose and how I would define my life up to this point, wondering "what type of man am I?" When I see the Mortal Man series it helps me realize that men are vulnerable, that I am vulnerable. At this point in my life I pretty much know who I am and who I want to be but at the same time there is that "unknown." There's some things about that that scares me and some things about that that excites me. In some ways I don't want to know everything about myself and what I'm capable of and in some ways I do.

I think about the generations in my family, especially the elders. Bing Davis is my uncle and he is pretty much the alpha male in our family of many men. He has a lot of wisdom to offer. He is an artist an educator and a strong christian man. Many of us in the younger generations look up to him and use him as our measuring stick. Lately I've been wondering about how vulnerable he feels. We all look at him as this strong individual but I'm sure that he's been through his own share of bullshit in his life and has thought about his own mortality. I wonder what things happened in his life to help mold him... "when did he reach his turning point?"

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Looking back I realize that I had a naive childhood. I was raised by my mother along with my two older brothers. My father left when I was about two and was out of my life until I reached eight. He got back in our lives then because he wanted us to get to know our sisters. I was the baby brother in our house so I was very close to my mother. My brothers were older so I learned a lot from them, both good and bad - but I wasn't anything like them. I grew up playing video games. I didn't play sports or even think about dating girls until about my senior year of high school. I didn't really blossom or come of age until I got to college. Up until then all of my friends were gamers so I was definitely behind the eight ball. In this phase of my life I didn't know much about love, challenges or life in general.

One of my brothers told me that I was a late bloomer. That things always take off for me in life but they happen late. He said "you learn all these things super late but you progress in ways that I've never seen. When you hit your stride you hit it HARD."  And when I look back at all of the progressive periods in my life I realize that he is absolutely right.

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There was a time in my life where I feel like I lost myself. It was five or six years ago and that's when I reached my turning point. I was dating my first college girlfriend - we were together for nearly four years and everything between us seemed to be going great. I felt like I had finally found someone that accepted me for who I was, PokeMon and all! Right when I was about to graduate I found out that she was cheating on me and I didn't know how to process or accept that. I was devastated. My foolish pride caused me to take her back only for her to cheat on me again. This time I became depressed. We tried working things out but never got things back on track. She started dating another guy and I hit a breaking point. One night she went to her new boyfriend's house and for some foolish reason I had to see things for myself. I was outside of his house for a couple of hours. I didn't know what I was going to do but I couldn't make myself leave. I had to get inside so I broke into his house. I wanted to see what was going on with my own eyes so I could stop denying it but I also wanted her to see me so she could see the pain and misery she was causing me. I wanted her to meet her demon.

They escorted me out of the house. Her boyfriend didn't press charges but I did have a civil order against me which stated that I could not come into contact with her. I realized that I needed help so I saw a therapist. I never told anyone about what was going on with me or that I was depressed. My mother and stepfather found my court documents that I failed to get rid of and confronted me about what happened like; "what were you doing stalking your ex-girlfriend?" That was embarrassing but talking to my stepfather about it helped me. He shared an experience that he had gone through that was somewhat similar so he understood what I was going through. Even though I love my father I love my stepfather as well. I have a connection with my stepfather that I really appreciate. It's almost as if we can communicate and understand how the other is feeling without even speaking a word. He's been there for me and has helped me understand who I am.

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I realize now that I rarely expressed myself, what I was thinking or what I was going through and that sometimes there are events in your life that change that for you in an instant. I felt as though the men in my family were invincible, but now I am traveling through the discourses that shaped them into the alpha men that they are today.

Now I choose to do what makes me happy despite what others may think of me. I decided to own my own faults and flaws and to accept who I am as a person. I've had brushes with death and too many chances to take the wrong path in life and into the devil's work.

I love being an artists and having the ability to conceptualize and understand things.
— Kameron Davis
 
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Kameron Davis

Turning Points

Person, Cinematographer, Photographer, Editor, Gamer, Creator of the Reflex Series

website: junebugg.space

reflex series: reflex

instagram: junebugg.free

facebook: Kameron Davis

"Look alive kid!"

A Dream

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Mortal Man

A Dream

by: Ty Greenwood

I dreamed a dream lately

That they really see me,

That they really feel me,

That they won’t forget me

That they won’t kill me

Can you even hear me?

I dreamed a dream lately

That I truly matter

My Black life matters

That they don’t hate me, the Black rooted in me

That they learn to like me and appreciate me

(Yeah)

I can’t see what they see, but I know it’s not me

I gotta get this degree and be all that I can be

See, I can’t look back and say “what if”, FUCK THAT

I can’t look back and be stiff, FUCK THAT

Their conspiracy, I am the victim of subjectivity

It’s clearer lately, they’ll try to break me

Then turn around and praise me

I hope they really see me and that they don’t forget me

Please don’t kill me

I dreamed this dream lately

(Yeah)

I dreamed this dream lately

Ty Greenwood

I wrote this with one of my best friends, Passion, during our final semester of undergrad. I just heard the beat and then I started thinking about what I wanted to say. “I dreamed this dream lately,” came to mind. At the time I was directing my own original play, “This Kind of HATE,” which centered on issues of police brutality, race, interracial relationships, politics and media. It seemed like almost every other day there was something on the news about a young Black person being killed or beaten by the police. Part of this is where my inspiration came from to write my verse on the track. I began to think about all the dreams those Black people must have had and how they would never get a chance to see them come true. How the world never really got to see who they were. I feel in ways this was a cry out of anger, pain and hope.

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Passion and I would often sit in the studio and reflect on the fact that we were two young Black kids from “the hood” that were about to graduate from college...something that statistically tells us that we wouldn’t. Talking about how far we had come never got old. All of the late nights and early mornings were worth that moment when our name was read and we walked across that stage to be handed our degree. Lord knows it wasn’t an easy road by any means. My first year, I wanted to transfer from Washington & Jefferson College (W&J), but two mentors of mine, Auntie Ketwana Schoos and Devan Carrington convinced me to stay and promised to have my back over the next three years. If it wasn’t for them I’m not sure I would’ve stayed. I can say I’m glad I did. My four years at W&J were definitely some of the best years of my life. I accomplished more than I could have ever imagined I would. Knowing I left a mark, a legacy and an impact on the campus reassured me that I had something to give to the world.

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This is part two of Ty’s three part story. Click the link below to read the others.
 
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Ty Greenwood

I Danced With Death

Writer, Poet, Actor, Director, Teacher, Student… MULTIFACETED

twitter: @ty_greenwood

instagram: greenwood26

facebook: Ty Greenwood

email: greenwoodet26@gmail.com

"please be sure to comment below to continue the conversation, offer words of encouragement or to share your story."

I Danced With Death

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Mortal Man

I Danced With Death

by: Ty Greenwood

Ty’s story will be shared in three parts with I Danced With Death being the first.

I Danced with Death:

 I Danced with Death

I Danced with Death for four days and nights

But we went our separate ways

See, I had thangs to do

And Death didn’t understand that it wasn’t my time yet

What I thought was only four hours, turned into four days

And baby that was too long

There were people counting on me

I had to get back

Death and I got into a fight

Needless to say

I came out alive

But something tells me

Death and I haven’t had our last dance

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I guess it is not everyday that a healthy, fit, 21-year-old college athlete is told, “Ty, it appears that you have stage-4 critical chronic kidney disease, and your kidneys are functioning at about 10 percent. You will need a kidney transplant to save your life.”

I mean, here I was weeks away from finishing my sophomore year at Washington & Jefferson College. I had just finished performing the lead role in our spring play, Eye of God, and celebrated my 21st birthday. Two weeks later I suffered a seizure caused by extremely high blood pressure and was taken by helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, where I would spend four days unconscious in the ICU on a ventilator before waking up to my family surrounding the bed. For 10 days, I stayed in the hospital while many tests were performed to analyze my kidney function. However, through everything, I remained positive and determined to live my life… and I did.

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After being released from the hospital, I picked up where I left off with my life. I had applied to a program called Breakthrough Teaching in San Francisco, California to teach 7th, 8th and 9th grade English and writing. I was chosen as one of the 23 Teaching Fellows to attend the program. It was always one of my dreams to visit California, and this was going to be the perfect opportunity. As if that was not exciting enough, an even bigger dream of mine had always been to travel to London to study theatre arts. During my sophomore year, I applied to study abroad at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, England, and I was accepted! I was going to London for a whole semester! Yes, I had just been diagnosed with stage-4 kidney disease, and yes, my kidney function was at 10 percent and falling, but I was not worried. I told my doctors, “I’m going to live my life and if I die, I’m going to die LIVING.”

My summer was gearing up to be very busy, as I also had an eight-week apprenticeship at KDKA (CBS) TV-News studios in Pittsburgh to complete. I worked hard for each of my opportunities, and I had come too far not to take advantage. Four days after finishing at the news station, it was off to London for my semester abroad. London was life changing! I went to see over ten theatre productions and I loved every second of my classes. One class I took was screenwriting and it was during this class that my love for writing and wanting to create stories really began to blossom. I wrote a ten-minute short film script that was made and entered into the British Film Festival. I was able to learn about new ways to approach writing, the process of pitching story ideas, constructing a creative pack and editing my work.

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Two weeks before I was supposed to return home from London that I began became very sick. I was not able to keep food down, and I had gained weight due to water retention. Sadly, I left London early. I returned home a few days before Christmas, and soon after, checked in with my kidney doctor to have blood work done. I was extremely tired over the course of the next week through Christmas. I was so exhausted; I ignored a number of calls, including my doctor’s office trying to get ahold of me to tell me that my hemoglobin (blood count) was very low. I had to go to the hospital to receive a blood transfusion immediately. Over the next eight days, I was told that my levels were so bad that I was breaking records—and not in a good way. I had to begin dialysis immediately to clean out the toxins in my body. The beginning of treatment was rough to say the least.

About a week later, my older brother Lance came into my room and told me that he found out he was a blood match and could give me one of his kidneys. The amazing part about this is that I am adopted, and my blood type is O-positive, which means that I could only accept a kidney from someone who is O-positive. Lance and I are not blood brothers, but as far as the transplant was concerned, we were. I was filled with an abundance of emotions and relief. The surgery was confirmed to take place on Thursday, February 18, 2016. It was a success and after two weeks (a normal recovery time is six weeks), I returned to college and attended classes and rehearsals for the upcoming spring play in April.

 
This is the first essay in a three part series by Ty. Please click the links below to read the others:
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Ty Greenwood

I Danced With Death

Writer, Poet, Actor, Director, Teacher, Student… MULTIFACETED

twitter: @ty_greenwood

instagram: greenwood26

facebook: Ty Greenwood

email: greenwoodet26@gmail.com

"please be sure to comment below to continue the conversation, offer words of encouragement or to share your story."

 

Higher Calling

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Mortal Man

Higher Calling

By: Ricardo Navas

I don’t go through life worrying about getting sick or something happening to me because I know that my life is in God’s hands.

When I first learned that my father had cancer I wasn’t really that worried. I felt like he was going to be fine. I felt like he was going to be beat cancer and that he was going to be alright. Even after he had surgery – I felt like he was going to recover and be ok. It was really hard for me to know exactly how he was feeling because when I was around him he would act as though he was doing fine but in reality he was in a lot of pain. I realize now that my dad was doing this to keep me, our family and everyone else from being sad. He didn’t want us to feel sorry for him or to get depressed. I think as a father, as a leader, as the man of the house he felt like that’s what he had to do. Even in his last moments my dad was hopeful and did not want us to be sad.

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When my father passed away it really hit me that I was closer to him than I was to my mother. With my dad it was like we were friends, he was my father but we were really close. We talked a lot and we were open about everything. So his death hit me really hard. It made me realize that this could happen to me so I need to be prepared. I have to take care of my family, make sure I have life insurance and my affairs in order.  I also thought about what my family’s life would be like if I was no longer here. So you become more vulnerable when you realize that this can happen to you too. At the same time I know that God is in control. When he says that it is my time it is “my time.”  So I don’t go through life worrying about getting sick or something happening to me because I know that my life is in God’s hands.

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A few years ago I was involved in a fatal car accident. I was hurt really bad and I nearly died but it wasn’t my time.  God said “it wasn’t my time yet.” I believe that I’m here because I still have work that God wants me to do. God isn’t finished with me. My purpose is here right now. We have to learn to take each and every day as a gift and not worry so much about “what could happen” because fear robs you of your happiness.

Art has always been important to me, creating art is important to me.  I used to be a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter. That helped me realize that martial arts are just a physical way of expressing yourself and creating art. As a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter I was using my body to create art. The injuries I suffered in the car accident prevent me from competing and I missed that feeling. I missed creating art.

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When I do something I do it with passion. I take my time learning the art. I don’t just do it because I “like it.” When I do something I put my heart into it. I felt like I had all these years doing Jiu Jitsu and now I can’t compete anymore, I can no longer use my body to create art. I didn’t know how to paint or how to draw, so I thought “maybe I‘ll be good at taking pictures.”  That’s when I got into photography. That’s when I realized that photography was going to be a new way for me to create art and express myself. Now when people ask me what I do for a living I tell them that I am a photographer. Even though I am an entrepreneur that’s running a successful business I identify myself more as a photographer. My business is a way for me to provide for my family but in my heart photography is my passion.

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Losing my father and being in that car accident has made me “tougher.” One of the last times I cried was when my dad died. Experiencing my father’s fight with cancer and nearly losing my own life just made me realize that those things can and will happen. Now when I see or experience something emotional it’s almost like I’m immune to it.

Another thing I want to talk about is how often things in America is taken for granted. I realize that I have opportunities that other people don’t. I grew up in Venezuela. When I was in second grade I used to walk a mile or more to school by myself. I would see so many disturbing things. I would walk pass dead animals, dead people, I got robbed. It was rough but all of those things made me stronger. When I moved to America I felt like people expected less of me because I was foreign. Even as owning my own business isn’t enough. I don’t look like the typical business owner so... that motivates me to be better, motivates me to prove people wrong.

In Venezuela grew up in without a lot of things so I had a chip on my shoulder. People expected little of me, even my own family. Some of them say, “I’m surprised that you have your own business, that you’re able to capture such good pictures – that you’re doing so well in life.” I felt like people thought I wouldn’t accomplish anything in life so that pushed me.

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I believe Venezuela has the second worst “documented” crime rate in the world. When I grew up it wasn’t like that there. It was known for our oil, gold and diamonds. Venezuela also has the most Miss Universe winners. So we were known for having beautiful things and beautiful people. So when I talk to people that have moved here from back home I talk to them and I challenge them to do their best. I remind them that when we move to other countries it to better ourselves, not to be the same type of people that we would have been if we had stayed in Venezuela.

There is so much opportunity here. And I think that’s what makes America so beautiful. Even though there’s racism and a lot of people that hate, you have opportunities. If you put that noise aside you have a chance to be great. I guess you have that chance in any country but especially here. If you study and work hard there’s no reason that you cannot get what you want in life.

 

Ricardo Navas

Higher Calling

Family Man + Venezuelan + Latino

Entrepreneur + Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Fighter

Photographer

instagram: @navasphotos

website: navasphotos.com

“Arte Suave”

Smooth Art

Slowing Down

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Mortal Man

Slowing Down

By: Dan Tres Omi

Trees bright and green turn yellow brown
Autumn called ‘em, see all them leaves must fall down, growing old
— Outkast - Growing Old

There was a time when I would drive three hours to another city, train Capoeira for a few hours and then play for another hour, get a bite to eat, and then drive another three hours to come home and get ready for work the next day. My body did not need any time to recover. All I needed was a good night's sleep and Monday was not a thing. What is Capoeira? It is an African Brazilian Martial Art that incorporates music, acrobatics, and fighting or “luta.” Capoeira forces the practitioner to use muscles he or she has never used before. One class is a full body workout. Keeping track of all of the movements and sequences boggles the mind.

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We have a saying in Capoeira: “if you get kicked it is your fault.”  So on top of just trying to keep up with class, one must be weary of a stray kick or two. It is definitely a young person's game. When I attend a breakdancing workshop or a Capoeira class, I am usually the oldest person in the room. One would think that at 44 and not yet a grandfather, this would not be the case. Most of the other participants are still in high school or old enough to be juniors in college. During a workshop, one does not have time to share your everyday struggle. Most of us paid good money to learn new moves or new approaches to movement and time is money. I surprise myself most of the time. I can keep up with my younger counterparts. I am not winded at the end of class. While my stretches aren't as deep and it might take me longer to get something down, I can make it to the end of class as easily as someone twice as young as me. However, when I get home and I don't take that epsolm salt bath, the rest of my week will be full of aches and pains. Twenty years ago, I never thought of soaking in a hot bath to soothe my body. Self-care was not even a thought.

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I remember Crazy Legs, “one of the most famous b-boys on the planet,” stating that the kids these days who enter the breaking cipher have “rockets up their asses.” When he initially said it, I chalked it up as an old fogey that was washed up. This is no slight to the mighty Crazy Legs. In his fifties, he is still as spry and fast as when he appeared in the movie “Wild Style” back in the early eighties. It was not until several years later when I battled a younger comrade, B-boy Squirt “I shouldn't call it a battle - he easily plastered me.”

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They say that many boxers who are in their prime and lose their first fight, go downhill after that. It is not a physical thing. They are at their peak. Boxing experts say it is a mental thing. Once they lose that first fight, their perception of themselves begins to diminish. Physically, they can accomplish all the things they need to in their field, but emotionally they start to see their shortcomings more vividly. Looking back to that battle with Squirt, I wondered if I was doing the same thing those boxers were. Maybe it is all relative. To the average person, a boxer is at his or her peak physical condition. They can still move faster and hit harder. They can run for miles on end. They can take way more pain then the average person. To another boxer, they can be slowing down. Another trained professional can sense when someone is beginning to fear that they are losing their touch. When one is younger, they feel invulnerable.

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As a young man, the dangers I might have faced were never even a thought. When I visit NYC to see family, I am reminded of all the dangerous things I did as a child. I ran across train tracks. I rode in the back of buses and jumped off when it was time for me to get off. I climbed fences and abandoned buildings to paint my name on the walls. I fought and ran. I traveled to dangerous places to party. Back then, I did not see the real dangers that I might have faced that many have and did not survive. Some of these things, I am afraid to tell my children and my students for fear that they might try it. A word we still haven't explored when it comes to aging is (doubt.) Is it the fear a result of doubt? Does it creep in and plant itself in one's brain? Should we ask is this how a dream is deferred? Is this what Langston Hughes was referring to?

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This is Part Two of Dan Tres Omi’s story. Click the links below to read the others.
 
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Dan Tres Omi

Slowing Down

Son, Husband, Father, Teacher, Afro Latino B-Boy, Author, Capoeirista, T-shirt Model, Pro-Feminist, Hip Hop Diplomat

Keep up with Danny on social media...

instagram: @brothereromi

twitter: @DanTresOmi

podcast: Where My Killa Tape At soundcloud.com/dantresomi

medium: @DanTresOmi

Leave comments here to keep the conversation going, to offer words of encouragement or to share your story.

Lessons on Mortality

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Mortal Man

Lessons on Mortality

by: Antwawne Kelly

I’ve always believed that I could be something in this life. Even as a young “ghetto child” the world labeled me - I knew I would be something. This life I’ve lived; this is who I am!
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Lesson One

1997/1998 – (a young me) gets an emergency call at work. It’s my mother telling me the doctor said her breast cancer was aggressively eating away at her body. That there is nothing that can be done. To prepare for the worst, that nature will take it's course. What 18 year old wants to hear that about their mother? The first lady of your life, the woman that gives you life! I tried to be strong, tried to concentrate, but the realization of mortality would soon walk through the door.

This is me; Antwawne Kelly - born and raised in Dayton, Ohio by Debra Kelly and Father “unknown” but that’s another story. At the age of 19 I had a child of my own, I was trying to figure out this thing called life and take care of my mother who was dying of breast cancer. Trying to meet all demands in my life at that time had me numb. I tried to figure out ways to save my mother. I did all I could to save her but time was running out and I came to understand that there was nothing I could do but savor each and every day with my mother. I learned the HARD way about balancing time “precious time” to be exact. Losing your mother does something to you that forces you to think about and question nearly everything.

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Life was tough after losing my mother. We had to move out the house we we’re living. Life’s stresses and pressure were mounting at this moment of my life. I found myself alone with nowhere to go; sleeping in my car because I did not want to be a burden to anyone. Calling my then girlfriend “Natasha” asking her if I could come and lay my head down at her house because it was too cold to sleep in my car on some nights. At the time she was living with her mother and grandmother so I would park my car a block or two over late at night after they had gone to bed and sneak in the basement window and stay the night.

Things were bad until my sisters got their own place and made sure it was a three bedroom house. I asked to live with them and they took me in; “they are my angels for taking the stress of being homeless off of me.” Through all of this I was still attending ITT Technical College working towards earning an associates degree in drafting. I found myself concentrating on a war with morality while still trying to be the man I always strived to be.

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Lesson Two

Congratulations - life starts to get better. Three months after my mother passed away Natasha and I moved into our new apartment. I went back to school earned my engineering degree, “there were only 28 people in my class (I was the only african-american).” Living on our own and going to school every day and taking care of a kid was a challenge. At this point in my life my pride as a man had been tested, I had overcome a lot yet there was more to come.

My buddy Jose needed help moving so I told him to let me know when he needed me. I asked him who else was going to help us move he replied, "Sherman and Chris." Sherman was my best friend. The day it was time to help Jose move Sherman was nowhere to be found. We called him several times that day and got no answer. Later that evening my brother Rick came by my house and said, “man something happened down the street at the Jiffy Lube that was by my house." I stayed up that night to watch the news. (Breaking news - man shot and killed at Jiffy Lube) my head was spinning. I saw a glimpse of what seemed to be a familiar car. The whole night I felt some type of way. In my head I was saying “that looks like Sherman’s girlfriend’s car.” I woke up the next morning and my phone had a ton of missed calls. While watching the news that morning I learned that my best friend Sherman had been murdered. Sherman had became a victim of the environment. Sherman Lightfoot was gone due to gun violence. How does a person process this abundance of mortality?

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Lesson Three

Six months after losing my mother I had my first son and followed that up by losing my best friend Sherman to the streets. Mortality set completely in on me. I had to find something to help keep my life on track so I would skate just to release my mind from my wounded thoughts. This period in my life would be one of the hardest tests of time in my life, “or so I thought.”

October 2, 2008 was just another "normal" day in Woodstock, Georgia. I just finished working at Barack Obama’s campaign office. I went to the Police Station/Courthouse to pay a simple fine. I had no idea that I would not make it back that Thursday evening. The first lady that I encountered instantly made me realize that I was being targeted. She was rude and seemed to ignore everything that I was saying. As she was talking I noticed that I was surrounded by three officers. I was never rude, disrespectful or loud. That’s when the reality of where I was and what I was dealing with set in, “remember I said I worked at Barack Obama’s Campaign office in Woodstock Ga.” That is a straight up republican/conservative area and I was trying persuade people to vote for Barack Obama "a black man" through a phone campaign. Every time I worked I noticed that a Woodstock police officer would come in and talk to one specific person and walk around looking at me, “the only African-American.” Things started to seem funny to me so I began to question if my connection with Obama’a campaign played a role in my harassment/mistreatment."

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The female officer at the front counter came out screaming at me. “This is wrong, your file does not state that you owe $25! You owe $75!” I told her I paid $50 towards the fine two weeks ago. She yelled; “NO! NO!” very loudly. I just stood there as she fast walked pass me in the direction of the courthouse. She came back out screaming; “NO! You owe $75 on this fine!” I showed her my receipt stating that I made a payment of $50 but that still did not meet her satisfaction. Another police officer approached and aggressively told me to calm down. I tried to explain to her that it was not me causing the issue but the female officer stationed at the counter. When another officer interrupted and said that it was me yelling and causing a problem I grew weary and made a conscience decision to stand in clear view of their lobby camera. I did not trust them and tried to remain calm. I reminded myself that I was there simply to pay a fine and go home.

I felt as if they were trying to set me up by getting me to respond in a negative way so I silenced myself and tuned out their ignorance, never uttering another word. I believe that upset them. Two male police officers arrived - standing to my left and looking at me at me as if they were ready to wage war. One of the male officers got in my face, standing nose to nose and said to me; “SHUT UP!” I turned my head away from him and said, “get out my face.” From there he turned me around and pushed me violently across the lobby towards a door.

Another off duty officer and his small son was walking through the door. The officer was still pushing me towards the door and almost caused me to bump into the kid. I dropped my shoulders and the officer tried to push me but he missed and stumbled into the wall. The off duty officer and his son came in the door and as I was calmly walking away I was grabbed by the back of my neck and choke-slammed onto the concrete floor of the police station. Four police officers attacked me, I fought the urge to resist. One of the officers had one of my legs, two officers had my arms and the other officer had me by the neck. He was choking me so hard that I was unable to  scream out for help. I just remember seeing a black lady and her daughter hiding behind the building, wishing I could yell out for them to help me. Something told me to stop moving all together, to place everything in God’s hands!

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I was chocked until I passed out. When I woke up my mouth and hands were bleeding. My eyes were swollen and blinking uncontrollably. I was sitting on the ground handcuffed next to two officers that were looking down at me. I told them I needed to go to the hospital and they replied; “No! You are going to jail.”  I was incarcerated from 6:30 Thursday night until 3:00 Friday afternoon when my wife bailed me out. She didn’t look at me until we walked out the police station and I screamed, “LOOK AT ME!” She broke down crying repeating; “what have they done to you?” We went straight to the police station to file a report.

When I arrived at the hospital they said, “you’re lucky you’re here, you suffered a serve sub-conjunctival hemorrhage to the brain.” Meaning that blood stop circulating between my heart and brain stopped flowing. My wife and I went through all assure that the officers responsible for my treatment would be held accountable for their actions. We won the fight against the officers but there was still another fight I had to win – forgiveness. Forgiving those officers and letting go of the anger inside of me was one of the hardest things I ever do in my life. With my wife and family by my side I was able to CONQUORE that war!

 

I’ve faced my fears and stood strong in my battles of life and death situations. But the war continues...
 
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Antwawne Kelly

Lessons In Mortality

facebook: Skates Out

email: ak@skatesout.com

website: skatesout.com

instagram: @skatesout

Never Thought...

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Mortal Man


Never Thought...


By: Mike Cooley

When you can’t find nobody else to speak to you can speak through the music. Help other people feel your pain, your struggle, your passion. You know, what you live and die for, your values in life
You know what I mean?
— Busta Rhymes (Music for Life) off of Hi-Tek's Hi Technology II album
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I've been making beats since 17 or 18 years old. That's when I got my first drum machine and started expressing myself through beats. It's my main passion and probably how I best express myself. I started making because I rapped and over time I grew tired of rapping over my favorite rapper's and producer's instrumentals so I got a drum machine and got into making my own.


A few weeks ago a Jesse, who was a rapper and a close friend to my brother was killed. It was senseless violence. I was upset and I was hurt. I felt like I had to do something with this pain so I made a beat so that I along with my brother who is a rapper as well could make a tribute song for Jesse. Near the end of the song there's a synth that comes in and that particular part is where I envision Jesse's voice coming in laying his verse. That's my way of paying homage to him.

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I was sitting in the house for days just pissed off, Jesse had just turned 21, he has a baby on the way, he just got married so it hurt, I was hurt. I knew sitting around the house drinking or smoking wasn't going to do anything so I decided to make that beat and I did feel a lot better after releasing my pain, using my music as an outlet. 

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All of this took place right around the same time that the Mortal Man project was released so I was like "this timing is right on point, like this project was made with me in mind!"


A lot of times when I'm dealing with situations like this I don't talk about it. I feel like talking about it is just going to make me think about it and feel worse about it so I try to avoid those feelings. Bringing up issues that you are trying to push down is tough but sometimes I do feel better after talking about them... dealing with and releasing that pain does help.

Never Thought
— Mike Cooley
I made it for my little brothers who had just lost a great friend to senseless violence. His name was Jesse. The plan is they’ll rap on the 2 empty verses and then when the beat switches and the instrumental starts going crazy that’s like Jesse’s verse. They all used to cipher together at parties. Since he’s not here to rap I put the synth lead in there to represent him.
— Never Thought...
 
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Mike Cooley

Never Thought...

DJ + Rapper + Beat Maker + Music LOVER

Maschinist. Trunk Bound Regime extremist

instagram: @atrunkboundcooley

tumblr: liquorandbeats

email: trunkboundregime@gmail.com

be sure to leave comments below to keep the conversation going, offer words of encouragement or to share your story.

Acceptance

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Mortal Man

Acceptance

by: Randle B. Moore III

The stigma surrounding being a black, gay, male in America has changed drastically over the last ten years, yet we still have a very long way to go. Unfortunately in 2017 young, black, gay men are STILL faced with stigma from their families, friends, church members, co-workers and others (society in general) that they interact with on a daily basis.

People who identify as LBGT+ are commonly disowned by family members and friends, treated as outcasts or black sheep which can lead to depression and a sense of "mental" solitary confinement, both of which contributes to a higher suicide rate in the LGBT+ community.

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Individuals who are NOT among the LGBTQ+ community often ostracize, demean, condemn and criticize individuals just for wanting to be comfortable in their own skin. I wanted to engage in this photo essay to let more people know how stigma contributes to death. Death of a whole community of people who want nothing more than any other human, which is to just want to be happy... "like all of you!" 

 

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If there are any questions on how SPECIFICALLY stigma and silence on this particular matter equals DEATH for our marginalized  community, please feel free to reach me at: randlemoore@equitashealth.com 

 

 
 
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Randle B. Moore III

Acceptance

I’ll be happy to share more personal and intimate situations and circumstances that have a negative impact on society at large!

Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to be a voice on behalf of a whole community of people who are still afraid to even exit the closet because they don’t want your SHIT!

facebook: Randle B Moore III

email: randlemoore@equitashealth.com

Survivor's Guilt

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Mortal Man

Survivor's Guilt

Dan Tres Omi

Maybe cause I’m dreamer and sleep is the cousin of death Really stuck in the scheme of, wondering when I’mma rest.
— Kendrick Lamar on "Sing About Me" on his "Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City" album

We called him “Conejo” which means “rabbit” in Spanish. He was dark skinned and lean. His muscles only came out when he sprung into action. He was fast and could jump high. I recall watching him touch the top of the rim at the basketball courts at P.S. 100 in the Soundview section of the Bronx. He was nice with the hands. Conejo was way better at everything than we all were. He could run fast, play football, baseball, swim fast, outbox anyone, and slick talk his way out of everything.

If one of us got into a fight, he would coach us through it and we would win. Today, when I watch a youtube video of how to do a particular acrobatic move for Capoeira or Breakdancing, I imagine Conejo doing this in 2017. Back in the late eighties, he was that guy. If you needed tips on how to jump higher or lift more weights, you went to Conejo. He was very encouraging. You wanted Conejo in your corner when you were down. He had the right words to tell you. When I would strike out at baseball, he would not berate me. Conejo would tell me what I needed to work on and even offered to help me out.

When I learned of his suicide my entire world was shaken. It took me several weeks to get over the shock. Each morning I woke up, I expected to see him doing calisthenics outside like he did every morning. How could a brother who we all looked up to take his own life? At thirteen - it was the first time I came to grips with my mortality. He was too young to have children or to have a bigger impact on our community. I felt that it was all a waste. So after the shock, I felt betrayed. It was selfish but I was just a teenager and I still had much to learn.

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Fast forward to my enlistment in the U.S. Navy. I came home on liberty one weekend and ran into a long time homie, Running Man Johnny. "He was always running to and from somewhere, hence the name." That day was no exception. When I jumped out of the gypsy cab with my sea bag and a hug box of presents Running Man Johnny offered to help out. I did not want to waste his time because I knew that if he helped me up my mother would have forced him to stay and eat. I hugged him and thanked him. I told him we could link up the next day and catch up. He agreed and ran off. I never saw him again. He was murdered a few hours later. As my brother and I dj'ed the night away in his bedroom Running Man Johnny was shot several floors below our window. We heard the gunshots. Running Man Johnny was killed by someone who he fought and beat the night before. While his name was given to him for always running to his destinations, he never ran from a fight. He was survived by a daughter who never got to know his long hugs. When I was a fresh faced teenager who wanted to just get his dance on and meet girls in other projects Running Man Johnny was my wing man who made sure none of the hardrocks jumped me. He saved my life in so many ways. All of my memories of him were good ones. Oftentimes when I pour libations, his name passes through my lips.

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I wonder if at times, I am a pretender when so many who were stronger than me in so many ways are no longer here.

This year an elder I knew was murdered. At 44, I never imagined that I would still lose loved ones to gun violence. I thought that once we pushed through the pain of the Crack Cocaine era in NYC that we would not lose loved ones to gun beefs or drive bys gone bad. TC Islam lived in my building when we lived in the projects in the Bronx. He was lively and always dropping jewels on us. If there was anyone that was about peace and embodied the principles of the mighty Universal Zulu Nation (UZN), it was TC Islam. He was the last person I thought would be murdered. I thought that at a certain age we old heads would grow up to brag about our children and wait for the arrival of our grandchildren. I assumed that many of us would make it to elderhood and be called OG's by the youngbloods.

When I hear a young person call me OG it stings on so many levels. I think that I don't deserve these stripes. Clearly, Conejo, Running Man Johnny, and TC Islam would be OG's. We learned so much from them. I would be a liar if I didn't say that their lessons helped shaped me. The jewels they dropped helped me navigate through life as I got older. My life would have been vastly different if I never met them. I will go so far as to say I might not have survived to be this old if it wasn't for them and others like them who are no longer here.

I cry so much. I don't think I have the strength to cry anymore for losing so many loved ones in such a senseless manner. I wonder if at times, I am a pretender when so many who were stronger than me in so many ways are no longer here. So when I hear the term “OG,” it stings.

This is Part One of Dan Tres Omi’s story. Click the links below to read the others.
 
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Dan Tres Omi

Survivor's Guilt

Son, Husband, Father, Teacher, Afro Latino B-Boy, Author, Capoeirista, T-shirt Model, Pro-Feminist, Hip Hop Diplomat

 

Keep up with Danny on social media...

instagram: @brothereromi

twitter: @DanTresOmi

podcast: Where My Killa Tape At soundcloud.com/dantresomi

medium: @DanTresOmi

 

Leave comments here to keep the conversation going, to offer words of encouragement or to share your story.

Footnotes On Loving a Broken Man

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Mortal Man

Footnotes On loving a Broken Man

by: Atlas

On days, I rebuke my reflection Times, where I begin to wallow in self-doubt and pity.

Eventually, succumbing to my past failures On those nights, when I come home defeated And I feel I can’t live up to my name.

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(Please.)

Wrap your heavenly wings around my physique. Compress your flesh upon mine. And (hold on.) Cling to me like memories of the fallen remind me what an functioning heart beat feel likes,

(Be silent.)

Wipe tears that escape my pride Off my cheek bones

(And as I resist, in showing you emotion.)

While my ego attempts to engulf Whatever’s left of me in order to save face. Remembering, what the absence of my father taught me. What the absence of my grandfather taught me. Remembering what my mother taught me. That there is no safe haven for men; boys whose hair is coarse and skin sun kissed.

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That being frail is not an option, being tender is not an option. That black men; boys cannot be broken. when those words prove false. And my own esteem shatters across our living room floor When these eyelids overflow And streams of disdain pour down your back. (Squeeze me tighter.) Remind me that I’m not the sins of my father. That I am not incompetent or a failure. Or colored from the same brush Everybody will eventually paint me. Remind me, that (I too deserve love) I too am worthy of peace, vulnerability, of feeling safe.


 
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Some of my oldest memories of my childhood were me looking for affection and it was consistently met with resistance.

I wrote this because men aren’t allowed to be broken, especially me being a black man. I could go over the statistics and data of how we as black men are treated unfairly in society. However, no one really gives a fuck and at times it is extremely frustrating and infuriating.

I can only speak for me and I personally was always taught that I couldn't show ANY vulnerability or emotion. That was like a cardinal sin growing up. Some of my oldest memories of my childhood were me looking for affection and it was consistently met with resistance. When little girls fall and start crying because they scrape their knees, we stop everything to make sure they are ok. When a boy falls and start crying because they scrape their knees, we ignore him or tell him stop crying; we call him names sissy, punk, or a girl. We give negative reinforcements at an early stage that showing emotion is not a quality boys should have.

We as society promote hypermasculinity and stoicism, especially in the black community; then 15-20 years later after he's been conditioned to be a "savage" or lack empathy we complain about how he does not know how to say I love you and mean it or why he cannot properly express himself. We also chastise and vilify him for that same reason. Men are just forced “Man up,” especially when dealing with emotions.

This poem is me recognizing what has been instilled me and why it's problematic. That there are an abundance of broken men out there who want to show love and be loved, but that concept is so foreign to them. Lastly, masculinity will continue to be fragile until society is truly open with allowing it to be vulnerable.

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Atlas

Footnotes on Loving a Broken Man

Vet. Artist. Teacher. Student

Atlas is a spoken word artist and member of Underdog Academy.

Be sure to engage with him and follow his journey.

instagram: @atlasthepoet & @underdogacademy

twitter: @Da2KcoolJ

facebook: Kyle Flemings & Underdog Academy

and also at uapoetry.com

please comment on this page to keep the dialogue going.

 

Prank Caller

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mortal man

PRANK CALLER

By: Shon Houston

 

Over the span of leaving home

I attempted to remember you in poetic ways.

Like the way your fingers were a backyard off Gettysburg Ave.

And your eyes were a crystalized oak tree in the winter.

Beautiful and always melting.

 

You spent your afternoons doing oddly romantic things.

 

You would sit in your favorite blue chair

Turn on your stories 

And try ti forget that grandpa died in a hospital holding your hands

While not recognizing your face

Just your hands.

 

Your living room is the first funeral that I didn’t count on.

The smell of yesterday,

A cringed nose of lemon scented furniture polish and something

Passing away early one Saturday morning

Before the sun swallowed you whole 

Filled the hallway of that apartment building.

 

My uncle’s adult head lynched in the hammock of my tiny arms

Felt unbelievably strange.

 

Your door was open, I knew what I was going to see.

I saw you, soul slipping through the floor of that tiny room,

I felt like there could have been a pond in my throat.

 

There is no other way that I can tell you just how much I was drowning.

 

It would be years later,

That same uncle would have gripped my hand

For the last time in August.

 

I imagine him with you.

 

I still haven’t been able to quite catch my breath.

Only a month ago I couldn’t remember your phone number.

 

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Someone called from it once.

I thought it was a joke.

I didn’t laugh. Just kept crying because I couldn’t bring myself to answer.

Always wondering if it was you,

Telling me that you forgot something.

That you weren’t fully ready to go

You just missed your husband so much.

I imagine that loneliness

Being an anchor dragging along the ocean floor of your spine.

 

Secretly, I feel that if I am not asleep by 2 am

My ears will gather a minefield of nicknames that you would call me

They would gather like sunflowers

And unknowingly I would fold them in half

Tuck them into an envelope

And address them to your tiny apartment because they still belong to you.

 

As you cupped your children’s faces into your ribs

Cradled them like whispers

All as if they were not adults

And pulled yourself from their tangible existence.

 

I wanted to be mad at you

But that phone call

One Thursday evening out of nowhere

Changed everything.

It changed everything

And I didn’t even answer.

 

 
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Shon Houston

When I wrote that poem, I was struggling to find the purpose of committing people to memory, like memorizing a poem. I have trouble memorizing pieces, always have. But I can recount the details of people. I can always link them with things that appeal to my senses.

I remember two of the most important people to me in details like colors and scents. Shortly after my grandmother passed, I got a phone call from her previous number. Her apartment was now being leased to someone else, phone was of course in a different name, so when I got the call it was a feeling that came over me, like seeing a ghost. I had yet to bring myself to take her contact info out of my phone so her name came up and everything. I always wondered would that phone call be the closure I was looking for.

Keep up with Shon on:

instagram: @iamshoncurtis

facebook: Shon Curtis

website: shoncurtis.com

"and please comment here as well."

The Vulnerability of Man

Mortal Man: Rev. Lewis

Mortal Man

The Vulnerability of Man

by Rev. Lewis

 

Mortality and legacy, 

Go hand and hand. 

But it’s vulnerability that makes a mortal man. 

Taught to be stone,  

But enough pressure will turn stone to sand. 

Show a moment of weakness. 

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Told to suck it up, be a man. 

Keep those raging waters bottled behind that damn. 

Build your walls high enough, 

and eventually you’ll stop giving a damn. 

But these walls don’t come with bridges. 

These moats will wash you away. 

And I keep my archers at the ready. 

To keep love away. 

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I wonder what my absent father thinks of me. 

Continuing your legacy of solitude, 

Hurting those closest to me. 

Maybe one day I’ll put my pride away. 

And be forced to face my own mortality. 

 
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Rev. Lewis

 

THE VULNERABILITY OF MAN

Rev. Lewis expresses himself through music, poetry and deep conversations.

Be sure to keep up with his journey.

facebook: Dionte Lewis

instagram: @reverend_lewis

"and please comments here as well."

All In A Name

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MORTAL MAN

All In A Name

by: Aaron Paschal

I'll never forget the emotions, the memories, the stillness that I felt the first time I signed my last name after my father passed away. It was like time stood still as visions of my father flashed before me. Memories of my childhood and hearing him walk through the house quoting Muhammad Ali and scenes from Superfly followed by his goofy laugh. I could see him with a basketball in his hand calling himself the "Slama' from Bama" in our driveway followed by a hook shot that always seemed to go in no matter where he shot it from as my friends and I looked on annoyed and impressed all at the same time. 

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I wonder how long I stood there at the desk signing my last name?

Funny how something I've done countless times in my life could trigger such thoughts. I'd always taken my last name for granted and even had grown accustomed to simply writing my initials up until March 18, 2012. That's the date my father passed away and left me his only son to carry on his name, his lineage, his legacy.

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While I was there at that desk signing my name on that paper I could hear my father’s voice calling out to me to press my teenage foot on the brakes as we worked on my first car. I could hear him telling me how foolish my uptown haircut looked. I could hear him repeat some of the same corny jokes that he told me as a child to my kids. 

I wonder how long I stood there at that desk signing my last name?

I could hear the frustrations in my father's voice as he seemed to be in and out of the hospital the final year of his life. I can remember the strength and courage he displayed as he was diagnosed with stage four cancer. I never heard him complain or ask "Why me?" He just went about his life, enjoying time with his family, soaking in the love and what I imagine the pride that he had as he looked at the people he would soon be leaving behind.

Isn't it funny how something as simple as signing your last name can remind you where that name came from? How what you do with that name extends far beyond you?

I wonder how long I stood at that desk signing my last name?

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MORTAL MAN is dedicated to the memory and legacy of my father
— Willie Frank Paschal