men

Closure

Steven C. Anderson

Mortal Man

Closure

By: Steven C. Anderson

Can you ever truly get closure?

July 6, 1974 - 6 years before I was born, my uncle Cedric was murdered. The details of his death, almost 40 years ago are still unclear. All I recall being told is where he was found. His body was found in Allen Park near the old Veterans Administration Hospital. He was shot in the head and left to die. At the time, the news reported it as a John Doe. The fact that his name was never mentioned always bothered my mother. Even today, when a death is reported as unidentified or “John Doe” it strikes a nerve because as she puts it; “that’s someone’s son, daughter, mother, or father.” Growing up we were always told, “someone needs to know where you’re at.” Back then, it seemed extreme but as an adult it makes all the sense in the world. How do you not have a little PTSD after losing your brother? A brother that was a few months away from fatherhood being taken away so violently before his baby girl was born. A daughter who would now grow up never knowing her father. Living this experience through stories and a few photos has always been “different” but it’s especially close to my heart because his name “Cedric” is my middle name. Most people don’t use their middle name often, but I’ve always made it a point to use mine as a connection.    

Late March 1997, I lost another uncle. This time it wasn’t violence but lung cancer. My uncle Sonny was one of the coolest dudes around. Everyone in the neighborhood loved and admired him. He loved sports, loved people, but above all, loved his family. He was a big baseball fan and would always take us down to the old Tiger Stadium to sit in the bleachers. He was diagnosed with lung cancer around 1994 or 1995. This was a shock to everyone because he wasn’t a smoker. He went through a few rounds of chemo therapy but seemed to be coming out on the other side of it.

I was only 16 at the time and I knew something was going on with his health but didn’t really know it was cancer. I knew it was serious when he showed up with a bald head. He always had fairly long dreadlocks so that was a reality shock to everyone. His brother (my uncle) decided to shave his head in support… “more on him later.”  Back in ’97, we didn’t have google so I kind of had to piece the seriousness of his illness together on my own. In early ’97 his health started to fade, he was hospitalized a lot. I had just got my full driver’s license and the first time my parents allowed me to drive a car alone without an adult was to visit him in the hospital. Although I knew he was sick seeing him in a hospital bed withering away made it real. But through it all he always wanted to talk about sports and particularly how I was doing in baseball. His first question to me was always “have you been wearing those ankle weights on your wrists?” And “are you playing in your glasses?” I didn’t even think my glasses did anything for me back then but looking back I really couldn’t see. Who knows how much better I’d have been if I did wear those glasses. 

Easter was approaching and he was still fighting. Our high school baseball team was scheduled to travel to Florida for Spring Training over Easter vacation. It was a trip I’d really been looking forward to taking. We were going for training but there was a lot of fun planned too. We were staying and playing at the Disney Wide World of Sports. It wasn’t even open yet, we were going to be a part of the inaugural training season. About three weeks before we were set to leave my uncle was placed in hospice. I learned this from overhearing adult conversation. Again, 1997 - no smart phone, no google, I had no idea what hospice was but I knew it couldn’t be good because he was leaving the hospital. Why would someone so sick leave the hospital? He still fought until he couldn’t. Two days before we were set to travel he passed. I was hurt. I really looked forward to talking to him about playing at Disney in the Atlanta Braves spring training stadium. The next few days were a fog so I don’t even remember when or how the decision was made that I would go to Florida and miss the funeral. I remember my parents sitting me down and explaining that the funeral would be during the time I would be gone. I did travel with the team and for the most part had a really good time. This was pre-social media and back when long distance calls were expensive so I didn’t have a lot of contact with anyone back home. I did call home from a pay phone at Disney the day of the funeral. Everyone seemed to be doing fine but it was strange not being there with my family. Looking back I don’t regret not being at the funeral. He was so sick for so long that I had time to say my goodbyes and reflect on our relationship. It’s just one of those things… when we think of a loved one that has passed away typically the memories of the funeral come to mind. Again, it was “different” not having that memory.

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Labor Day 2007 was approaching and no one had heard from my uncle Carlton. That was strange because he always popped up on holidays. He would always swing by and drop off a gift or a dish. We were kind of worried but figured maybe he went on vacation. After a few days without contact a missing persons report was filed. We were in contact with the police department and they didn’t suspect any foul play. On Labor Day evening a detective came over and told us that they found a body but couldn’t make a positive ID. They needed my family to come down to the medical examiner to see if an ID could be made. My mom, uncle and aunts went but couldn’t make a decision. It wasn’t like on TV, where they pull a sheet back and you say “yes” or “no.”  They put you in a room with a small crappy black and white monitor. Out of five people none could definitively say that was him. The next day the detectives were able to make appositive ID using his clothes and a tattoo that could still be made out. He had been stabbed multiple times and found dead in a vacant field. The temperature was so hot that his body had started to decompose. 

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There were no leads, no suspects and no motive. Even now, 12 years later we are no closer to getting justice. He had no enemies, no beefs, and no ill will toward anyone. His car was found a block away from the crime with his blood in it. He was in the area because he had purchased a home and was in the process of renovating it. He wasn’t robbed, just stabbed in his car and left to die. To us this was the definition of senseless. He was the type of person that would give you the clothes off of his back. He was honorably discharged from the US Marines, lived in San Diego for a few years, but ultimately returned home to be closer to his family. He had started a career at Chrysler and kept a low profile. He took pride in his home and neighborhood. He was the type of person that would cut his neighbors grass if he saw that it needed to be done. This was the same uncle that shaved his head in support of his brother Cedric that was going through chemo. The circumstances of his death caused us to have a closed casket funeral. At the time I didn’t think anything of that, but as I look back - that along with the losses of my other uncles has had an effect on me. 

Looking back, losing three uncles, “all brothers” left me with a ton of “what ifs” and questions. I always felt as though I didn’t get true closure in one way or another with any of the three deaths. As I grow older my outlook on that has changed. We often use birthdays as a way to celebrate the beginning and we use funerals to celebrate at the end. I’m learning to celebrate the journey. I’m determined to live my life to the fullest while I’m here because memories truly last a lifetime.

 

Closure

By Steven C. Anderson

Son | Husband | Brother | Photographer | Owner of Upscale Photography

You can keep up with Steve on social media.

instagram: @stevencanderson

twitter: @stevencanderson

facebook: Steven C. Anderson

visit his website: upscalephotos.net

Brotherhood

Frederick L. Cox

Mortal Man

Brotherhood

By: Frederick Leon Cox

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was tough pill to swallow.

Alpha Man

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


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

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

By: Frederick Leon Cox

Son | Brother | Uncle | Godfather | Alpha

Be sure to keep up with Fred on social media:

Instagram: @coxfredl

Facebook: Frederick Leon Cox

The Game of Life

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Mortal Man

The Game of Life

By: Cleavon (Proph3ssorX) Matthews Jr.

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

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

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

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With that being said.

What are you willing to die for?

Better yet, What are you living for?

The games life plays can you deal with it?

The constant repenting and sinning cause we all fall short

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

When times get rough did you just dip?

What work did you supply?

Whom did you serve?

What legacy did you leave?

What marks did you achieve?

If none then I respect you still

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

So I salute you

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

But the opportunities to learn lessons

Protect yourself at all times realize

Sometimes the tricks are only in your mind

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

share a bit of time to admire each others works

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

Understanding we are apart of one race.

Clipping dying buds blooming bountiful blossoms of bliss

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

We carry the seed of life

Molded by Mistakes

Made through Mishaps

Manifested outta Misery

Mounted on the shoulders of those who has come before us

Mortal men we are

Monuments to love

UnMeasured and Magnified

Mortal Men are We

 
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The Game of Life

Cleavon (Proph3ssorX) Matthews Jr.

Human | Artist | Writer | Teacher | Culture Critique

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

You can keep up with him on social media at:

Instagram: @proph3ssorx

Twitter: @prophessorx

Winter in America: a journey in education

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Mortal man

Winter in America:

a journey in education

by: Christopher James

A journey in education is a look at the path that is all too common to the everyday walk of young black males.  Through various interactions and experiences, the feelings of inadequacy and the lack of confidence are easier to embrace than the motivation to try.  For any growing child the embrace of love is what’s wanted, but often youth do not know how to seek that love.  The love that an educator gives can inspire a student or shield a student from challenges that can instigate self-assurance.  

All throughout my educational experience, I was told that I could be anything I put my mind to. If I just get good grades the rest will work out, I will get a good job, good money, and be able to buy the car of my dreams.  This all sounded good but even in the fourth grade, I knew that this was not all that I needed.  Every day I saw my parents working hard, father preaching to the masses, and my mother teaching youth my own age at the time.  

In the early 90’s when Starter jackets were the greatest symbol for being fresh, my brother headed off to walk to his middle school with his friends as he did every day.  He was excited because he had on one of the most sought-after Starter jackets, the infamous Georgetown Hoyas with an embroidered bulldog logo on the front and back.  As he turned off of his home street, he heard a car come to a screeching stop beside him.  My brother stopped with a friend who were both curious to the abrupt stop when a guy in a black hoodie jumped out wielding a Smith and Wesson.  I remember the explanation of the gun because that was the first time I heard of Smith and Wesson as a gun manufacturer, I only heard the name in reference to rap duo Smif – N- Wessun, now known as Cocoa Brovas.  

Thankfully, my brother survived the incident without physical harm, but the toll was greater on my mother and father who felt helpless.  Here they are working to provide the best for their children for an incident to occur down the street from where we laid our heads.  

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That incident sparked my parents to sacrifice more and send my brother and I to prestigious private schools.  My brother went to a private high school while I was sent to a Christian elementary school to start fourth grade.  My experience was anything but Christian.  I was forced to repeatedly apologize in the front of the class for proclaiming my innocence and not taking accountability, which in the fourth grade I didn’t know what it meant.  I was threatened with suspension because of a design in my haircut due to the school being against gang activity.  An experience that my parents reminded me of that I must have purposefully forgotten was when my class went on a school field trip and one of the school workers who was tasked to take me, and three other minority students back to school decided to drop us off at a near gas station because she didn’t want us in her car.  

After all of these incidents, my parents called a meeting that they insisted I be a part of with school administration.  Here I am, a child whose chest was barely at table level while sitting.  I remember vividly the discussion at the meeting.  I never saw my father mad aside from when I would break something, but today he carried a wave of calculated anger that appeared calm but deliberate. 

My father asked the teacher and the acting principal, “You asked my son to apologize for incidents he was not a part of? You’ve held him back from activities, and tried to suspend him for a squiggly-line in his hair? Will you apologize to us and him for our inconvenience?”  The principal jumped in “That’s a reasonable request and on behalf of the school I do apologize”, my father stopped the principal.   “Thank you, but I am asking the teacher.”  The teacher played with her keys and without making eye contact said, “You know, I do not have the courage to apologize right now.”  

As a child sitting at the table, I was hoping that the teacher would stop playing with the keys, I knew what my mother would do to me had I been playing like that.  I also immediately thought about that word “accountability”.  I had been hounded to write that word and what it meant for pages and pages and my teacher could not put that word into action.

Needless to say, that summer we moved from the urban-city environment to the suburbs.  In retrospect, these years planted a question in my mind as to why my environment was so different from this new community.  This new community was building new stores, homes, and in the process of building a new high school.  Years later, the urban neighborhood I grew up in looked the same as it did the morning my brother was robbed.   

This new community was great because I didn’t grow up worrying if I too would be robbed for my Air Force 1's, or my Sean John jacket.  This was a new frontier and a different type of challenge to conquer.  As a black student I was accepted, I was told that I served a purpose and that purpose was sports.  Sports was often said to be my only access to college.  The biggest thing with this experience for myself and other black youth, I received love due to my physical abilities and was not taken seriously in any other facets of the school. 

Prior to the beginning of my senior year as a family, we moved out of state so my father could take advantage of a new position/promotion within the church.  This was a complete culture shock for me.  I had been in class with white students before, had white teachers, black women teachers, but never a black male teacher.  This standard did not change as I entered this new school for my senior year.  Instead, I was faced with the reality that I would be a member of a group that represented only 5% of the students in the entire school.  This new normal meant that I would be the only black student in the class, and when questions of race, slavery, or affirmative action came up, teachers would use me to confirm that the country was in a good place, even to my objections.

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The experiences in grade school prepared me for the perceived utopian society that college is and the real world stipulations involved.  In an environment where students are eagerly finding themselves and searching for representations of who they wish to become it was especially difficult to find myself in this space.  As an American male who is black, I did not have a black male teacher or professor until my final year in college.   

The effects of limited representation continued into college as I dealt with finding myself in an environment that was not conducive to young black men.  The college experience is tough as it is, being away from home, student responsibility, and the yearning to make a difference in a world unknown.  I was taught many lessons in college while trying to find myself in all of these mentioned roles.  I was faced with professors who allowed their implicit bias to calculate my grades, a professor kicked me out of class because she thought I wasn’t human.  I like to refer to her as Mrs. Turnpin, a fictional character from a book we read in that course of a lady who thought she was righteous by upholding standards even though those standards were rooted in racism and bigotry.  Lastly, the staple in a black youth’s life, the rite of passage of being harassed, mocked, arrested, and falsely charged by the finest in blue.  This was a journey of discovery to move from a black youth to a black man fighting for distinction.   

To bring this full circle, I have always wanted to be a representation for my community but mostly for youth that are searching for an authentic person that can represent and support them.  With this motivation driving my passion I jumped to the opportunity to be an administrator in a K-8 elementary school in Cleveland, Ohio.  In this role, I was the quasi-assistant principal tasked with ensuring school engagement in the community and finding ways to support students and staff needs.  As I began to find my way in this new role I was rocked with a tragedy that would gain national attention.  A student that took a liking to me and began a relationship with was gunned down in a “good shoot” police encounter.  The school student body looked to me to help navigate them through this traumatic experience with the killing of their classmate, Tamir Rice.  As Dean of this school, I attempted to seek out any and all organizations and supports to help students with trauma until my efforts were hindered by leadership that wanted to operate this traumatic event as a normal occurrence.  Missing the point that this decision would reinforce the stigma that urban youth do not matter. 

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This brief scope into my educational experience is not out of the norm for students who share my skin tone. The importance of representation goes beyond just seeing someone who looks like you in a position of success or power.  Representation is about having individuals of different experiences and insights that will have a say and seat at the table where the variety of experiences, cultures, and philosophies will add value and sensitivity to decision making.  My inspiration for helping youth in education, community, and life is driven from a motto I learned when I decided to enter the teaching field, “your job is to get at least one student to listen.”  

At the time, I thought this idea was right.  I no longer feel that way because I found out early that the students who listened to me were often the cast-offs or troublemakers.  This revealed to me that all students can be great if they’re taken seriously, given unbiased time and attention, and know that someone cares.  Instead, we choose to forget them.  Just like the forest beneath the highway never given a chance to grow, and now it’s Winter in America (Gil Scott Heron). 

 
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WINTER IN AMERICA

A JOURNEY IN EDUCATION

Christopher James

Father, Educator, Nupe, Community Advocate, Freedom Fighter

Keep with Christopher on instagram at: @bionik_man_man

Resilience

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Mortal Man

Resilience

By: Diecer Delfin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Resilience

By: Diecer Delfin

Husband + Friend + Photographer + Storyteller

instagram: @_diecer

The Highest Human Act Is To Inspire

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Mortal Man

The Highest Human Act Is To Inspire

By: Faheem Curtis-Khidr

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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THE HIGHEST HUMAN ACT IS TO INSPIRE

Faheem Curtis-Khidr

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

instagram: @histprof1911

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

Hit Harder

Zack Cover

Mortal Man

Hit Harder

By: Zack Sliver

I was in Louisville, KY for my brother's bachelor party. We were at a bar and we split into two different groups. I was walking down the street and I noticed a woman being pulled and screamed at by two guys. Truthfully I knew if I kept walking away something bad would happen to this lady -  I also knew that if I intervened something bad was likely to happen to me, I still chose to intervene.

When I took up for the lady the guys started screaming and throwing punches at me. I know how to fight from being in the marines but I wasn't looking for a fight. I just wanted to help the the woman in distress. I pushed them off of me and said; "hey, I'm not trying to fight".  They started hitting me in the side of the head and I tried to protect myself and just get away.

Four more guys ran over and now there were six guys beating on me. The funny thing is that at first I thought they were going to help me. I  went down on the ground at one point and one of the guys picked me up and started choking me. Another guy was hitting me in the face. It was a benchmark moment in my life, my vision was going in and out. I was like, "Is this really how I die? What are people going to think about me when I'm gone? What are people going to say when they find out I died? Will they think I just died in a fight in Louisville? Will they know that I stood up for somebody and that I was trying to do the right thing in the face of evil?"

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I took off running - some random guy was chasing me. He was trying to help me but I wasn't sure so I pushed him away. I fell, got up and started crawling away but was  grabbed by the back of my hair and hit in the side of the head, caving my skull in. My equilibrium was gone. I didn't recognize that until I was running full speed down the street. I remember thinking, "why can't I keep my balance ?" I was covered in blood and fell down. The guy that tried to help me ran up to me but I wasn't sure who he was or what he was trying to do so I tried to fight him. He said, "no I'm trying to help you!" He grabbed my phone and the lady that I tried to help scooped up my glasses and handed them to me. I remember just lying there bleeding.

I called my brother and told him that I needed him. He came over and a police officer called an ambulance. I refused to take  an ambulance because of the price so my friends Josh Boone and Cory DD Miller got me to the hospital. They were in the waiting room while I had my cat scan and stayed and kept me company until I was transferred to the next hospital. The whole group met up at the University of Louisville Hospital to support me and make sure that I made it through surgery okay.

The nurses and doctors didn't believe what happened, they thought I was drunk because I was slurring my words. I told them, "No! I only had two beers in four hours, I'm not drunk. My skull is messed up!' They told me to go in the next room and take a nap. I told them that I was sweating, that I didn't feel right and that I didn't think that everything was going to be fine." They continued to tell me that I would be fine after a nap. It took me screaming at the top of my lungs for them to give me a cat scan - that's when they realized that my skull was caved in.

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I was leaking brain fluids and it was mixing with the air. They finally got the results and took me to the University of Louisville Hospital. I talked to my mom while I was being transported in the ambulance and told her everything. It was just - it was hard. I remember right before going into brain surgery; my brother and my best friend Brett were so jovial they made me feel like everything was going to be  alright. They were joking about one of the doctors working on a patient, (Dr. Potts working on Mr. Himp) they kept laughing about that which made me laugh even harder.

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Truthfully when I woke up, I felt like a different person. Not in a bad way, not like I didn't know who I was or who anyone else was. I just knew that I was completely going to have a different life than before. I made a choice to help somebody. I feel like if I went into that with adverse intentions, like "oh, I just wanted to look cool in front of this woman" that I wouldn't have made it out. The fact that I tried to do the right thing - and I did do the right thing helped me through.  

After my surgery I had a lot of complications with the V.A. Hospital. Eleven days went by and they still had not called me like they were supposed to. That's where the struggle came from. I got different doctors but still wasn't getting the treatment or medication that I needed. It's like, "This is not a football injury from ten years ago, I just had brain surgery. I need physical therapy, I need all these things and will you please help me?" They didn't for quite some time. 

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I had to teach myself how to walk again - my equilibrium wasn't coming back fast enough. I would walk the stairs at my parent's house, I would get up and just shake my head. I'd fall or feel like I was going to. The following four months I literally just watched the X-Files and other shows and slept. I was hospitalized a few times from getting fevers. It was just challenging.

What's really cool about the entire thing is anytime I've helped somebody I've done it out of the kindness of my heart. I'd never do big inspiring stuff, I'd never do turkey giveaways for anybody just for me to be like, "Oh, I hope if I ever get hurt somebody is going to help me." 

This girl Jessica Jones started a Gofundme account for me while I was in the hospital.  It raised almost six grand ($5,500) that took care of five months of my bills. I called her about two weeks into the Gofundme campaign, "it's supposed to last about a month" and asked her to stop it. She was like, "What? Why would you do that?" I told her I appreciated it but this is going to get me through four/five months and I feel like in that time I can recover from brain surgery.  At the same time people assume that I had brain surgery a year ago. When I tell them that it's only been roughly six months they're kind of bewildered that i'm not just lounging and trying to heal. 

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Going back to work was hard. Especially when it's loud. I wait tables and I'm still a little deaf in my left ear. People make a lot of jokes about it. They'll be like, "you're deaf in your left ear and you work in a bar? How can you hear?" They're jerks. I get dizzy often and they say I might get seizures. I still wouldn't trade it for anything. I can only imagine how bad I would feel if I didn't help that lady that night and she ended up hurt or dead while I was somewhere drunk in a bar.

When the lady handed me my glasses, she kept thanking me. She told me I was so nice and she couldn't believe what happened to me. I remember posting about this online telling people that I was healing. A guy that I was stationed with in Japan messaged me asking "What are you doing for justice?" Justice? I remember thinking; "can I learn how to walk first?" They are never going to find the guys, they're never going to. I’m alright with that. Louisville Police – I’m pretty sure they let them go that night. They almost arrested my friends for telling them to do their jobs. I don't think it's that's hard to do your job. I've had a badge and a gun before and I did my job. I left the detective a voicemail and sent him pictures of where everything took place. He didn't even call me back. 

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Even when I was in the ambulance I was thinking about how I was supposed to play a show that Sunday. I remember texting the guy and telling him that I didn't know if I was going to be able to play. I think that's so funny because I thought they were just gonna wrap my head, give me some Tylenol, and I would just gonna go home. All of the doctors and nurses - everyone at the University of Louisville Hospital were phenomenal, they were just amazing. I remember this doctor looking at me and telling me about how they were going to cut me. I was thinking, "Oh! This got serious." I was supposed to start the end of my junior year of college and also begin interning for a judge that Monday. So I was like; "you're telling me that I can't do these things? I can't do the things that make me feel like anything is possible? I can't continue my career? I can't continue these things?" That part of it was demoralizing.

Learning to walk again was pretty cool. The guy who woke me up in morning looked like Dana Carvey, it could've been the pain meds, but it could've been Dana Carvey. I don't know if he moonlights as a nurse or RN. I might've told him that, which could've made him laugh a bit.

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If I talked to the people that did this to me I would tell them that they didn't win. I might even thank them, not physically thank them but in a weird way I think it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I feel like it opened my eyes and gave me a new pair of glasses. I still experience pain from my injuries and I have trouble formulating sentences. Those things aren't going to hold me back from doing the things I need to and want to do. I would just tell them "you didn't win and next time HIT HARDER." Well... maybe I wouldn't tell them to hit harder, "that's a joke from the marine corps.

I've had people who didn't like me. I've been in fights before and if a person hit the ground, you don't hit them while they were down.  It took six grown men to beat up on one man that stood up for a woman. They kind of gave me a glimpse of what women have to deal with. I have two sisters and tragic things have happened to them. It makes me wonder what women have to deal with on the regular basis? Not just people saying stupid things to them as they walk down the street. To have a man grabbing a woman and nobody on the street says anything but me? I'm not the best man in the world, man of the year - or any of that but I know to not put my hands on a woman.

 

 

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Zack Sliver

Hit Harder

Marine Veteran + Student + Singer & Guitarist of Yuppie

instagram: @zack_sliver

facebook: Zack Sliver

website: theyuppiemusic.com

band instagram: @theyuppiemusic

Memories Live...

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Mortal Man

Memories Live

By: Dan Tres Omi

While I did not have a father, I had a diverse group of elders who made sure I stayed on the path I still continue to travel. They were stern and wise. They gave no quarter. They loved hard and disciplined harder. They were fathers and husbands. They were community leaders and they led by example. They were not perfect and it is their imperfection that made me realize that I could be better than them.

Upon their transition, I never imagined I would utter those words. However, they told me several times that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. That we are our ancestors wildest dreams: to be better than what they were on every conceivable level. That idea sounds far fetched. To some, this could even be sacrilege. How could we be better than those before us?

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Even as a child, I always wanted to be the parent that my Uncle Fe was. I never heard him yell at anyone. If one of us got in trouble, he would plead with us to do right. That always fascinated me. While other adults would yell, cuss, threaten, or provide corporal punishment, Uncle Fe would urge us to do right. Without any abuse, he made us feel guilty for screwing up. He was very encouraging and always explained to me how amazing I was and of my potential to do much better. I never wanted to dissappoint him. He showered all of his children with love and affection. I rarely saw that and was also amazed by him. He lost his battle with cancer and everyone was devastated by it. His standard as a parent has never been forgotten and while I have failed so many times, I shall always endeavor to meet it.

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Speaking through the voices of the spirits speaking to me, I think back in the day, I absorbed everything like a sponge. Took a plunge into my past to share with my son.
— Talib Kweli/Reflection Eternal - Memories Live "from the Train of Thought album"

I met Brother George when I moved to Norfolk, Virginia after being discharged from the Navy. He owned a book store on 35th Street. With a group of men around my age, we started a book/Black History club there. Many of us were members and leaders of local community groups. Brother George and I quickly developed a long relationship as mentor/mentee. My eldest son affectionately called his store “The Black Man's Store,” and always asked when we would return to it. Brother George was my plug for bean pies and he would call me as soon as he got a new shipment in. He knew me before I was married and watched my family grow. As he became older and began cancer treatments due to his exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam, he asked me to take over the store. I was honored but immediately refused. I knew that I could never fill his shoes. I knew that the work he did for our community was one that many hands had to do. When he passed away, a void was left in my heart. Our entire community was rocked by his passing. As a community activist, he made it clear that he was always willing to serve in whatever capacity he could. As community worker, I use his example as a mission statement.

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I met Baba Varner through my very good friend, Seko. The thing about the entire Varner clan was that they took me and my wife in as family even before we had children. Baba Varner was a life long activist and minister. Over the years, I have met several of his mentees, students, and congregants who he has had a positive impact on. Baba Varner was amazing. He had the best stories of growing up, going to college, and fighting for Civil Rights. He was strong in every way. In every aspect, I learned so much from him. I recall him telling me that he was upset that he did not marry my wife and I. I vowed to let him “marry” us on our 10th anniversary. He passed away before this happened.

All these men set several standards for me. One of their lessons was in their transition. They made me ask the question: "how do we honor the actions of those who came before us and are no longer here?" How can we do that when they have done so much? I remember both Baba Varner and Brother George telling me: make your community a better place than it was before you inherited it. That is and will always be our marching orders. In this manner, we will honor them and their memories.

Ase! 

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

Memories Live...

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: @DaTresOmi

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.

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

cover

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

Life (After Time)

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Mortal Man

Life (After Time)

by: Willie Childs

It's never a good time to go to jail but I went at a time that I was old enough to realize that being locked up wasn't the thing for me and still young enough to have time to straighten up my life and have a positive impact on this world once I got out. For whatever reason; people are drawn to me and I want to use this gift to help others.

Being on probation is no joke. I did everything the probate judge asked of me but the pressure to be "perfect" and avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time was beyond demanding. I wrote a letter to the judge requesting to have my probation time reduced. In the letter I documented everything that I accomplished - some were things that the judge/system put in place but most were things that happened just from me being me. While I was inside I helped people read and understand their mail. I also started a prayer group, this wasn’t something that I planned to do, it just happened from people seeing me and another guy pray before we ate.  With that people would come up to me and ask when we were going to pray again and I’d tell them there was no specific time but if you want to pray we can get that right now. A lot of the guys would tell me that they’ve been wanting to pray and make positive changes in their lives but never felt comfortable in church or other programs because they always felt like they were being judged on everything they did from the clothes they wore, the way they talked, etc. So again, another case of people relating to me and being able to make a positive impact on people’s lives. Just a lot of little things like that. These details were all in the letter that I wrote to the judge.

I detailed all the things that I had done while on probation. I was working, staying away from trouble and living by the letter of the law. The day of my hearing I had no idea if I would be the first or last person called from the judge’s docket. I was prepared to be there all day but my name was the first called that day. During my hearing the judge mentioned all of the challenges that he put before me during my original sentencing. He touched on my letter, called out all that I accomplished “and avoided,” the judge did all of this in front of a full courthouse so there were people in there who committed crimes and different walks of life. When the judge finished there was a loud applause for me, I was humbled and I also felt that the judge chose to call me up first to use me as an example, as a beacon of light that if you do your time, stay out of trouble and use that time to better yourself you can do it.

Coming home from jail is hard. It never goes away. It’s rough for a felon to come home and live a normal life after living behind bars. People look at you differently. There's times where I meet new people and everything is cool but once they learn of my past things go downhill from there. And finding a job? Most companies will pass on you with something like that on your record and the jobs that are available are usually low paying with no future or chance to advance. Every time I fill out an application I always wonder “are they going to bring this up? If they don't I wont. Is my past going to haunt me again?” 

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Before I caught my case I worked with kids and I LOVED it! I’m passionate about working with kids and people in general, “I miss it and I’m going to do whatever I have to do to get back to that.” Now that I’m living my life “after time” I’m committed to getting back into that lane. Using my people skills to help make a positive change in people’s lives whether kids, grownups, felons or anything in between. However many years God blesses me with - I believe that’s what I’ve been put here to do.

I think we as men let our pride get in the way of talking about certain things. We talk about girls, shoes and sports but miss out on the important conversations like being heartbroken by a girl we thought we loved, managing finances and mortality. There's usually no example for us. Especially if you grew up without that male role model in the house. Early in life I was never really into suits. In my hood men were only wearing suits because they thought they were pimps or they had to go to court and neither of those appealed to me. 

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Even with the challenges of my past I'm excited for my future. I have hopes and dreams just like everyone else and I'm pursuing them. I make a point to surround myself around people that are smarter than me, that are doing things that I want to do and that inspiring to me in any type of way. I'm still trying to figure things out but I like where I'm headed in my life (after time.)

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Willie Childs

Life After Time

Reach out and engage with Willie on the platforms listed below:

facebook: Willie D Childs

instagram: @da_black_fabio

contact & inquiries: dablackfabio@gmail.com

 

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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.