mortality

Adrift

James (Adrift)

Mortal Man

Adrift

By: James Dickerson

Optimism is new to me. I stopped having expectations some time ago and have learned to let life be.
— James Dickerson

This year I found myself breaking up with and wanting to get over what I thought was the  traveling path of my life. I left behind someone I should’ve held tighter to. Had an emotional fling that I’m still sore about - my first time engaged in intense desire; so intense that I broke my own rules involving women with significant others. And financially, as a single father, I found myself struggling to live on the pedestal I placed the responsibility to my sons on. Sleepless nights wrote my story after so much happened in so little time. 

I would think: what is the point of a sunrise if all you see is darkness? Every day felt the same. I became distant at work. The idea of friendship is a struggle and my kids wonder if I’m okay. What it meant to be a photographer in a non-traditional way was lost because of inconsistency. Prior to full time employment I was able to split my time on the street as an urban documentarian with my time as a clerk at a library, making enough noise in both respects to keep everyone happy. Almost everyone. The dissolving of my relationship with the mother of my children forced me into a full time spot at work. And then things started to die.

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Part of the problem was giving too much of myself to sustaining troubled waters. I needed still waters. I sought still waters, but aimlessly. Living for the satisfaction of others is not mentally healthy when you avoid your own health in the process. The darker life became the more I contemplated the wrong things. I told myself that the “end” would be a loss for everyone. I thought about my kids and what that would mean for them to lose their father, and a thread tightens and yanks me back a few feet from the edge. Their sadness I’d never want to face even in death. 

My relationship with them is strong so I have to survive for them. I have to survive for them. Fatherhood is keeping me alive. 

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I’m not the type to enter into the year with resolutions but I think about them. With their succession, how does the future feel a year older? If I hit every one would I die a better man? From one year to the next they ranged from weight loss, financial responsibly, a healthier relationship, and a home to raise my boys in. All the things I wished for when I was with their mother are still the things I wish for after. 

There’s something to be said about existing on the same page. Our story could be told together, written without ending, but our conflicts with each other prevented any real growth after 12 years. I don’t regret the loss of time but I regret the lack of growth.

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I doubt that I’ve truly healed from the strains of this break up. My nuclear family had a meltdown. We both assumed blame but still lacked growth. I tried dating after her and while that had its strengths, I was definitely its weakness. I left her feeling as lost as I was. That made me a bad guy. 

The bigger question is if I feel what is in my soul is for me. I don’t want the crash and burns to define my life. Nor the hang ups of emotional flings. “I want more life.” She shared that with me when I was having a rough moment. A phrase from a play that slips my mind. I debate whether our relationship was karmic in nature; that we taught each other something in the process. I did learn that I don’t want to be alone. But the bigger part I learned was that I never want to be who another man feels will destroy his happiness. But am I allowed to make that mistake in the process of growth?

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I don’t know how to end the year within this essay because my life is still changing. I may have written the most cryptic piece for the Mortal Man series. At the same time someone may pick this out as a resonating segment among others. Optimism is new to me. I stopped having expectations some time ago and have learned to let life be. However, as my life wraps up, I have a small amount of hope that’s always existed. It’s pushed me forward when permanent sleep was all I dwelled on. 

Let me experience internal peace, God. Just once, even if we aren’t friends.

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James Dickerson

Adrift

Son | Father | Brother | Photographer | Author | Real Life Documentarian

I met James on instagram. I admired his photography and reached out to him when I knew I’d re rolling through his hometown of Toledo, Ohio. Though it was our first time meeting our conversation was deep, intense, personal… REAL.

You can keep up with James on instagram at:

@dirtykics

James’ street photography is also featured on Wassuprockers’ “The Room” and can be viewed online here.

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

Makings of a Man

Makings of a Man

Mortal Man

Makings of a Man

By: Al Harden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Makings of a Man

By: Al Harden

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

- Keep up with Al on facebook.

- instagram @al_harden

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

Urban Diary

Christian

Mortal Man

Urban diary

By: Christian Richardson

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

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

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

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Urban Diary

By: Christian Richardson

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

You can keep up with Christian at:

instagram: @ c_rich123

twitter: @c_rich123

twitter: @underdogacademy

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

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

The Lamb is the Lion

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Mortal Man

The Lamb is the Lion

by: amaha sellassie

I am beginning to ponder life and how much of it I could possibly have left.  While some may find this to be morbid or unhealthy, for me it is becoming liberating because it is propelling me past my fears and internal obstructions into walking in my medicine on the road we call life.

I find myself understanding my role in the human body, which is giving me the courage to say no to great things that don’t line up with my highest self. It is giving me boldness knowing that the lamb is the lion because the Sheppard is Supreme.

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Pondering my mortality has given me patience.  What is five years of intense focus if in the end I can utilize a PHD for 50 years towards emerging equity and collective hope on the earth as we emerge the heart of humanity?

It is said when an elder dies a library is lost.  How do I share now so when I am gone all those who have freely poured into me live on in future generations? Dr Twe always teaches us to leave the earth better than we found it, I pray for the power to do that.

I want my daughter to inherit a world where as Stevie puts it “hate is a dream and Love forever stands”.

To birth Love we must give Love, therefore by grace I give my life to be Loves domain that humanity can know and make Love Supreme.

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As we walk in the Way, we make the way known. The older I get the more I realize the power of action, walking out vision and re-imaging a world that honors the dignity and worth of every human being. The power of being the invitation thru occupying grace and acknowledging my interrelated interdependence with all things in the single garment of destiny. Ubuntu, for the supremacy of Love is the underlying assumption.

By grace I am a conductor on the above ground railroad, walking with humanity as we press towards higher ground, cooperation and mutual understanding. 

The conductors of today are building an ecosystem of equity that structuralizes the dignity every human being posses in order to release their potential for the benefit of all. I am learning to forgive in this exodus into One Love.

I am because we are.

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The Lamb is the Lion

amaha sellassie

Practitioner Scholar, Social Healer, Health Equity Seeker, Public Sociologist, Community Based Participatory Researcher, Roots Doctor, Lover of Music & Comics and Friend of Humanity


Thankful participant in West Dayton Strong and Gem City Market

You can connect and build with Amaha on:

Instagram: @international_morality

Twitter: @intl_morality

Facebook: amaha sellassie

My Jewelry

M. Carter cover

Mortal Man

My Jewelry

By: Michael Carter

“Your hearing loss is more noticeable than your hearing aids will be.” My audiologist said those words to me as I sat in her office for my consultation about my hearing loss. Much to my wife’s frustration, I put off going to a hearing specialist for a very long time, and now I was afraid what the test results would reveal. For years, I tried to compensate for my hearing loss, by turning my head when in quiet conversation, to get people to speak into my right ear, which could pick up voices a little easier than my left one. My wife often said the TV volume and the radio in the car were too loud, and I frequently had trouble understanding what my grandkids were saying.

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In the small soundproof booth designed to expose my auditory failings, I concentrated and strained to hear every tiny beep, and buzz. When the test was over, I was informed that I would not need one hearing aid, but two due to moderate hearing loss.

 I tried to recall the cause of my predicament. Was it the Hong Kong Flu that I suffered when I was 7 years old? Was it being hit on the chin by a baseball bat at age 12? Being the music lover that I am, was it listening to Earth, Wind and Fire, The Police, and Heatwave with my headphones, volume on high? Was this a side effect of some medication I had taken at some point?

Ultimately, does knowing the cause really matter at this point?

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Several days later, I picked up my hearing aids with much anticipation, wondering how my life might change. After a brief tutorial, I placed one in one ear, then the other. The difference was dramatic and immediate. I could hear the air conditioning unit pushing out cold air; I heard my sleeve being rustled by my hand. I scratched my forehead, and not only did I feel it, I HEARD it as well, Wow!

As we drove home, the radio played at half the volume I had previously had it on, and I heard the turn signal of my car for the first time in a long time. I began to realize more and more how much I had been impacted by hearing loss, and how selfish I have been all of this time because the loss had not only affected me, but those around me.

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As my wife and I went for a walk that evening, I heard sounds, which I had not heard with such gusto in a number of years, birds chirping and leaves crunching under our feet. I also heard a train in the distance. 

I discovered that wearing hearing aids has not made me feel old and incapable as I thought they would. In many ways, it has been liberating; allowing me to enjoy many things more richly. My wife calls my hearing aids “jewelry”, and like what happens when one buys a car and notices other cars of that model never noticed before, I began to notice other people wearing their “jewelry.”

My “jewelry” has enhanced the quality of my life by improving my interactions with people at work, my family and friends.

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According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 15% of American adults report some trouble hearing. Men are almost twice as likely as women to have hearing loss among adults aged 20-69; and One in eight people in the U.S. aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing examinations. Armed with this knowledge and “my jewelry” I am now an ambassador for the importance of good hearing.



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Michael Carter

My Jewelry

Husband, Father, Brother, Mentor

Chief Diversity Officer at Sinclair Community College

Hearing loss affects 48 million people in the United States. It is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults.

Some degree of hearing loss may be a normal part of aging. Age-related hearing loss occurs gradually and tends to affect each ear equally. It's often the result of changes in the inner ear. Because age-related hearing loss occurs over time, it can be difficult to recognize.

Signs and symptoms of hearing loss may include:

Muffling of speech and other sounds. Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd of people. Trouble hearing consonants. Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly.

My Marble

Mortal Man DKirkman

MORTAL MAN

MY MARBLE

BY: DAWAYNE KIRKMAN

This is a personal story of mine that I like to share with my friends. Maya Angelou said “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I hope in some small way, it can inspire hope. Dumbo said it best, “The very things that held you down are going to carry you up.” 

I grew up in Elkton, Kentucky (one hour north of Nashville). My dad had a drinking problem (that is probably the most polite term that I can use to describe his situation) and was forced to go to a detox center after many arrests. I was in third or fourth grade during this time. We would go visit my dad after church on Sundays at Western State in Hopkinsville, Kentucky during those weeks of his mandatory stay. When he arrived at the rehab facility, he had been given a marble which represented sobriety. No more drinking allowed if he wanted to keep it. He could keep it in his pocket as long as he did not ever drink alcohol again.

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My mother (my hero), my sister (three years older than me), and I all found those Sunday conversations to be initially awkward, as we were not used to talking to a sober Stanley. But each Sunday, he would be so excited to pull his marble out of his pocket. As the weeks passed, we also got excited to see his beautiful marble. He finished the program and we all went to Bonanza to eat and went to look at new trailers. It was a new beginning!

However, after being away from his siblings and other family for weeks, he naturally wanted to visit them. They loved the fun loving, drinking Stanley. We begged him not to go as we were afraid he would drink, but we were unsuccessful in our plea. Very shortly after arriving at his brother’s house, my dad started drinking beer and it just got worse from there on.

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I remember after he drank several beers he threw the marble across the field, cussing at it and laughing. It seemed like everyone was laughing at it. My mom, sister, and I were devastated though. The next day my dad, in a very hung-over condition, went to that field to look for that marble that he so easily let go of the day before. I could tell his heart was broken from literally throwing it all away. Even as a child, I knew he would not be able to find that marble in that big field, physically or mentally. But, I did find that marble. Maybe not literally, but I did find it and I have carried it for years. 


The last time I saw my dad alive, he was in jail on Christmas in 1995. My dad took his life in 1996 when I was twenty years old and a junior at Berea College. I always promised to carry that marble for my dad. Sometimes we have to carry things for our family who are unable to do so. He was an alcoholic, yet I have never had a beer or been drunk or done illegal drugs. He did not graduate from high school, yet I am finishing up my dissertation at the University of Dayton. He did not work, yet I have been working at Sinclair Community College for almost 16 years. He did not go to church; I have been a Sunday School teacher for more than 18 years.

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I am NOT a better man than my father; I have just been a blessed man. And, it has been an honor to have had the opportunity to carry a marble for a man that I will forever owe for getting me to this earth—even though I hardly knew him. When I get to my heaven, I will hug his neck and say “no apologies needed, Dad” and grab his hand and give him his marble back and declare we made it. 

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I share this story as often as I can to encourage people—to know that they may have to carry the marble for a person that they love.
— Dawayne Kirkman
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The Perfect Father: Lessons Learned from a Fatherless Childhood

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Mortal Man

The Perfect Father

Lessons Learned From a Fatherless Childhood

By: Frank "Buddy" Pitts Jr.

 

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Untraced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Community Gardens

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

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

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

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

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

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Activated Lenses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wildflowers 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jump!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Frank "Buddy" Pitts Jr.

The Perfect Father

Lessons Learned From a Fatherless Childhood

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

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Identity Crisis

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Mortal Man

Identity Crisis

By: Milton A. Wilkes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music takes me away – it heals me.

Thank you,

Milton A Wilkes

 

 
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Milton A. Wilkes

Identity Crisis

Image Consultant + Music Head

instagram: @mr_airyon

 

facebook: Milton AirYón

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!"

The Prodigal Son

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Mortal Man

The Prodigal Son

by: Darryll Rice

The most difficult thing that I have ever had to deal with is my father's death. He was my inspiration, my go-to guy; I won't say he was my God on earth but he was who I looked to for everything. When I lost him in 2002 I was somewhat lost and misguided. To cope I turned to smoking weed, drinking, going out all the time and I really wasn't taking care of myself. I was under a lot of stress and nobody really knew what I was going through because I put on a fake smile and pretended that everything was honky-dory. In reality I was miserable, I was depressed and I was unhappy so I was at my lowest point after my father's death because I had no direction. 

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Church Hurt

I use to tell people all of the time that I gave "God a shot twice." In my early childhood I began going to church with a neighbor and enjoyed it until I found out that the pastor was a "money guy." That turned me off and I stopped going to that church. From there I had a family member that started a church, my dad was a Deacon there and I was a Junior Deacon. A year or two went by and I overheard a conversation between my parents and my family member who was also the pastor of the church in which my parents were told that we were no longer welcomed and was being put out of the church. At the time I was 15 years old so that really rocked me. I wasn't supposed to hear that conversation but I did and when my dad talked to me about it I was hurt and confused. I thought that God welcomed everybody so how could they put us out?

Later on my mother started attending another church and I went along with her. At the time I had cornrows, earrings, wore baggy jeans and Air Force Ones to church. The pastor went to my mother "without saying a word to me" and told her; "don't let your son come in here again with those braids in his hair, earrings in his ears, those jeans on and gym shoes on his feet. So I got kicked out of that church as well. 

[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
— Romans 8:1

So "Church Hurt" goes deep with me. I meet people all of the time that have experienced some form of Church Hurt of their own. I think too many people put the emphasis on the pastor and the people at the church that they forget that the reason that you go to church is to get closer to God.  Some people tend to look at the pastor as a God and I've never been that way. So with my experience with Church Hurt there was always something in the back of my mind that made me wonder; "is this how God views his people?" I was looking at the pastors like "they know the bible and this is how they think so it must be how God looks at people."

Years passed and I dove into a lifestyle that is a complete contrast to the one that I'm living right now. It was a lifestyle of women, fast money, drinking, smoking and partying just about every week. I was living what the bible calls riotous living - kind of like the Prodigal Son. There was a void in my life and I didn't know how to fill it. I was so unhappy during that time in my life. I didn't know what to do what my life. I wasn't to the point that I was suicidal but I didn't care if I died so I was living each day as if it was my last.

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Higher Calling

Things changed when one of my friends invited me to church. I was hesitant at first because I wasn't willing to change how I dressed or how I looked so I feared being rejected again. My friend told me that his church wasn't like that so I went to one service and really enjoyed it. When I walked in there was a lot of people that knew me and knew how I was living at that time so they were like; "YOU go to church now?" That made me question if I was really that bad? So I was like "man, what's going on with my life?" I began to feel uncomfortable and I told my friend "I can't go to this church." He told me that it wasn't about what other people thought of me but about my relationship with God and not to give up. 

One Sunday the pastor delivered a message that I felt was tailor made for me. He spoke about Church Hurt, the feeling of betrayal and people turning their back on you when you need them the most. The People of the Church acting as People of the World and The People of the World treating you better than the People of the Church. That resonated with me. That day I gave my life to Christ. Even then I was going to church every Sunday but still going home drinking and smoking and not fully committed to Christ and the Word.

One night I was watching one of Roy Jones' last fight and I got a call from my friend to come to the studio. At the time I was a secular rapper so I went without giving it much thought at all. I didn't know it but I was being set-up "in a positive way." When I got to the studio I noticed about ten people that looked exactly like me hanging around and I knew something was up because they were all looking at me. I asked my friend what was going on and he told me "we set you up, it's time for you to REALLY give your life to Christ." Another guy came to me and told me "this is about to be the first day of the rest of your life." He hugged me and said, "I love you, but no one loves you like God does!" I looked into his eyes and saw that he meant it. I saw the passion, the fire, the commitment. I collapsed and began to cry out. I told them that if I was going to do it I would need them there by my side every step of the way. That if I messed up I would need them to correct me, to support me and not to turn their backs on me. We finished the night with a prayer and I gave my life to Christ "for real" that night.

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The Pressure to be perfect

This excited me. I was happy to be living. I felt a part of something, I had people that knew me supporting me. I began reading the word more, going to bible study every week and living the Word. We started a rap group called Jesus Or Bust, which means Jesus or die, and we lived by that; follow the word or die in your sins - that was our way of life. We put out an album in 2008 that was well received. It was an amazing experience. We put on one of the biggest concerts the city has seen in which we reached capacity and had to turn away 50-100 people at the door.

People began to identify me as one of "the Jesus or Bust" guys. I felt like I became somewhat of a local celebrity. Whenever I was out and someone saw and recognized me I felt like I had to put whatever I may have been going through on a personal level to the side and put the "honk-dory" smile on my face so I was like; "here we go again." The pressure to be "perfect" was becoming too much. People always expected to see me as "that perfect young man." 

As time went on I matured mentally and spiritually. Some of my friends were getting married., moving across the country or doing other things and some were drifting away from the Word so my relationships with the people that I was the closet to was changing and I found myself alone. I took this as God's was of getting my attention, telling me that he wanted some "Me time" with me. So he took everyone from me. It was just me and God by ourselves. I was attending church alone so I began helping out the pastor, helping out with the youth ministry and just being a servant. I wasn't dating anyone at the time or doing much outside of church, I was solely focussed getting closer to God. 

The pressure to be perfect was still there and I felt like people were watching me, waiting for me to fail and that hurt. I realize that I'm not perfect and so I didn't want people to shun me or turn their back on me when and if I was to make a mistake. I'm human so that's going to happen and that's when I need people's love, support and prayers. 

For as a man thinketh in his heart so is he.
— Proverbs 23:7

I focussed on becoming the man that God wanted me to be. With that when the time presented itself and the right person came along I would be ready to become someone's husband and not just their boyfriend. God blessed me with a woman that is perfect for me. I met a woman that studied the same thing in school that I did, that was trying to get closer to God. We both had things happen in our lives that could have soured us on love, trust and life in general but we had faith in God and were blessed to meet each other and fall in love. We both are flawed and are far from perfect but we accept each other's flaws and we are perfect for each other. We are in this together for life.

The pressure is their in our marriage as well because I feel like people are waiting on me to mess it up and make the rumor mill. To do something that's going to jeopardize me being a good husband to my wife and father to my daughter and I'm not going to let that happen. I know that I'm not the "perfect guy" but I also know that I'm not a heathen. I'm a man that's flawed but I'm also a man that loves God. I'm a man that's been through the ringer when it come to church and dealing with people in the church. So I just want people to realize that God is the only one that I have to prove anything to. I live a great life, I love my life and I refuse to ruin it by trying to live up to the expectations of others.

Lately some people have felt the need to challenge or be combative to nearly everything that I post on social media. I understand that we all see things a little differently but why get on their and waste time worrying about me? I don't understand how some people get more joy in watching or hoping for other people's demise than they do in watching them succeed. The saying "hurt people, hurt people" is so true and there's a lot of people hurting.

Some people tend to only keep record of the time that you tell them "no." You can tell them yes a million times but as soon as they hear "no" come out of your mouth one time here comes the slander, the back-biting, the "I told you so's." They forget about all of the other things that you've done for them and never consider what you may be going through and focus solely on the "no."

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Passion, Process, Purpose

When I accepted God's calling I honestly didn't know what I was getting myself into. I just knew that I was excited to be called. I've started a lot of things in my life that I haven't finished but when God called me... I have to finish this. Even though I wasn't prepared to be called I feel that God is preparing me as I go. God gives me foresight, he guides me along the way. I never thought that I would be able to break down scriptures and get revelations from them, I never thought I'd be able to pray over someone but with God's blessings I'm able to do those things.

There's  a Three (P) Principle that I live by: Passion, Process and Purpose. Everyone has a Passion; something that they love to do and a Purpose their reason for being here on earth. People have to realize that they can't go straight from their passion to their purpose, you have to develop and spend time on the Process. That's the hustle, the grind... the hard work. You have to learn how to embrace it and realize that that's where the reward is hidden. That's where faith comes in.

I have a passion for young people, to see them do well and exceed. My process is dealing with the challenges and frustrations that go along with that and my purpose is to eventually have a youth center or place for young people to hang out in a safe environment and nurture them. Provide a place where they can just be kids and enjoy life.

Everything that I've been through is about me embracing the process of life. God will take things away from you to get your attention and when that happens you can choose to get bitter or to get better. I'm happy with where I am in life right now and I realize that it is not by my doing. God has blessed me. I could not have painted this picture any better. When I was younger my dream was to be a big rap star. Had that happened I would have missed out on the best things/people in my life. I wouldn't have met my wife. I wouldn't have my daughter and there's no way any of that stuff could make me anywhere near as happy as they do. God called me, he told me he needed me to help young people; the fact that God trusts me to make an impact on the mindset of our youth brings me great joy.

I don't live for "now." Now is going to come regardless. What does six months look like? What does five years look like? I personally believe that you have to live according to your own standards and your own goals. I try to get the young people that I work with to focus on that by challenging to be great because there's greatness in everybody, it just has to be unlocked.  Life is beautiful and life is great but life is also short so you have to make every day count. Life should be lived to the fullest.

  

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Darryll Rice

The Prodigal Son

Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Rapper, Actor, Minister, Mentor, Student, Chef, Vacation Promoter, Business Man... Lover of God!

instagram: @kingtonyjob

facebook: Darryll Rice

website: Divine Catering and Events

 

 

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."

Neverland

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Mortal Man

Neverland

by: Nathan Tipton

That morning I couldn’t hear the tick tock of the timer clock resting in the crocodiles scaly stomach, as my ears were submerged underwater.

But I could see the band of pirates we were racing against to see who could touch the wall at the edge of the ocean first. I don’t wanna brag but I won that race.

After the victory, we made it back to the forest, I mean after the swim meet we made it back to my house… Sorry I had a big imagination as a kid.

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But, at a young age Peter and Tink, I mean mom and dad, taught us all we had to do is think lovely thoughts and we could fly.

And that’s all I would do, going on an adventures, exploring new lands, battling pirates, which is what I was doing after the swim that morning, until my brother and I heard a cry coming from the edge of the forest. It was Tink?

“Peter is hurt”, she screamed, “Please call an ambulance!!!”

We got the lost boys on our communication devices. Tootles, Nibs, Slightly, Curly and the twins sounded older than I thought, but they said they’d be over right away.

When we went to go see what was wrong, Dad wasn’t breathing so we had to give him...

I mean Peter was fine he just needed a sprinkle of pixie dust.

The lost boys rushed in to help and said they’d take it from there.

They made so much of a mess, I remember joking that we could have peter clean it up later.

I asked one of the lost boys what was wrong and the officer replied, “He went into cardiac arr…”

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I mean tootles said Captain hook caught an attack Peters chest when he wasn’t looking.

We rode behind the ambulance to the hos…

SORRY… I mean, I was have a hard time flying so the lost boys flew us to the Piccanny tribe, where Peter would be healed.

Son it’s fine, don’t forget the happy thoughts, all you need is happy thoughts

Please come here Son, don’t forget the happy thoughts, all you need is happy thoughts

You have to go say goodbye to your father, don’t forget the happy thoughts, all you need is happy thoughts.

When I walked in, I only remember seeing a beautifully painted picture with the color in the middle starting to bleed to the outside.

Dad don’t you color out. Dad don’t you bleed on out.

Stay in the lines.

Stay in the lines.

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In loving memory of my father. It is interesting to see how positively the growth from my father’s absence has affected me, and how it taught me (cliché alert) how short life really is. It taught me that there are so many points in life where one can deconstruct negativity and (hopefully) find a basis of gratitude. For instance, yea I am stuck in traffic, but when was the last time I was consciously thankful for my shoes, and whahahah I’m in a vehicle right now that can accelerate at inhuman speeds with the touch of my big toe!!!! WHAT THE F*** LIFE IS MAGIC!!! Granted it is also important to recognize that sometimes really real life can really real suck, and the emotions caused from that should not be invalidated. But recognizing how passively American culture has taught me to take my life for granted was very liberating to realize.  Trying to live in a space of constant communion with every relationship in my life (animate or inanimate, haha) makes it soooo much better. Whether that relationship is with my family, my friends, my strangers (yes, the strangers I interact with, not you haha), the mugs that holds my coffee in the morning, the seat I take on the bus, my car, my socks, the nature that I interact with, the sounds my ears hear (like even the sound propagating from my footsteps into my ears, then processing it through my brain is on some level infinitely complicated!!! AAAHH LIFE F***ING MAGIC!!!)...

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Anyways, for myself, this trauma offered an opportunity equal in magnitude to grow. I could not be more thankful in this moment for my father, for the lessons he taught me while alive, and for the lessons he taught me in his absence. Love you Dad!

 

 
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Nathan Tipton

Neverland

Student + Acoustician/Physicist + Poet + Musician/Composer

Author of the book Jokes and Therapyhttps://www.amazon.com/Jokes-Therapy-Nathan-Tipton/dp/1548657301

Sound Design/Composition:

Junior Astronaut: https://soundcloud.com/junior-astronaut

ReFlex Series: https://www.facebook.com/reflexseries/

You Changed Me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iz-m_ETjUMc&feature=youtu.be

Audiobook of The Love and Theory of Womanology by Leroy Bean

instagram/twitter: @juniorastronaut

snapchat: @blondrethegiant

inquiries: nathandatipton@gmail.com

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

 

Continue the conversation by leaving words of encouragement and support in the comments field below.

 

 

 

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

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