Slowing Down

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Mortal Man

Slowing Down

Dan Tres Omi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slowing Down

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

 

Keep up with Danny on social media...

instagram: @brothereromi

twitter: @DanTresOmi

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

medium: @DanTresOmi

 

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

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

facebook: Skates Out

email: ak@skatesout.com

website: skatesout.com

instagram: @skatesout

Connect For

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Mortal Man

CONNECT FOR

By: Alvin L. Dillapree Sr.

Alvin is from the Detroit area and wanted to share his story. The distance between us did not allow us to do a portrait session. I have included pictures from some of my previous visits to Detroit to accompany his words.
— Aaron Paschal
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Detroit is a city where you learn quickly how to deal with loss. Whether it’s your bike or a loved one, the emotions attached with loss are unpredictable. The acceptance or denial of these emotions come with reasoning and understanding. The flip side is that it can be conflicted by the mystery of the unknown.   

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The initial person’s death I consciously understood was a Barber. This is the man who administered my first haircut. I can still feel his voice like grip on my cranium as he orchestrated his symphony of craftsmanship. I think I was 6 years old when I was told he had been shot while in the barbershop during an attempted robbery. This changed how I viewed longevity. I no longer thought of grownups as immortal. Although I didn’t have a personal relationship with him, his death would prove to be profound in my life. His grip remained with me every time I received a haircut for many years. This was my first connection with reality.   

No one truly leaves you when they transition. It simply marks the beginning of a new journey you embark on with your team that you share a special connection with.  

I attended my first funeral at the age of 8. It was for a 10-year-old boy named LaDon. Our families were close. LaDon was struck by a drunk driver while at an ice-cream truck. Every time I see the (stop traffic sign) on an ice cream truck I think of him. I wondered where LaDon was after he departed this life form? Why was a young boy taken away from this world so soon? While riding in the funeral procession to the cemetery for LaDon, the route went directly pass my mother’s place of employment. Ironically she was off work waiting at the bus stop. My cousin and I were the only two people that saw my mom that day. My mother worked to provide for an only child all the luxuries of the wealthy on an economy based salary. She did well. I knew of no other lifestyle as a child. I seemed to be having the perfect life despite the outside world's perception. August 30th 1980, my connection with that exterior world would collide with the interior.

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Starting the 3rd grade can be intimidating. Add the fact that you come from a single parent home, you have very few positive male figures in your life and you live in an urban city during one of the most traumatic times involving drugs and violence. By the way, the only person you depend on - day in and day out, has just been killed at a bus stop waiting to go to her place of employment. I would delay the start of school for about a week. Crazy as it may sound, my biggest worry was that I wouldn’t be able to take the brunt of a mother jokes from other students. Once I got back into school I noticed some people who thought I needed sympathy at this time. I didn’t like this treatment. My mother was gone and the pain of that couldn’t be forgotten soon. But I didn’t want pity. I did, however, understand that now I was more special than before, my story had just changed a little, that’s all. The "knowing" that things always work out for me assisted with the transition to life without my physical mom. I now knew that she was present in a different form. I could feel her connection with me when things became challenging in my life.

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My mourning period would be brief. Less than a year later the man I knew "or didn’t know as my father," passed away. No funeral, obituary or grieving process for me in reference to my dad.  I was informed of the news one day after school and had to immediately move on with life. To my knowledge he had already been buried by the time I was informed. Despite our relationship being what it was - I did feel sad due to the lack of connection with my dad. My psyche changed after my father passed. I now somehow felt stronger mentally. I approached life with the purpose of molding my chaotic clay into a brilliant piece of artwork. The unknown memories of time spent with my dad were now the jet fuel that would propel me to ensuring my own families future happiness. Supreme inner strength and family members support helped me graduate Denby High School in 1990. I proudly served my country in the United States Navy for nearly a decade. 

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In 2008 great events took place in the world. We saw the country do something I never thought was possible; elect a black man into it's highest office. My written article was featured in the popular barber magazine - (Against the Grain) and my son; Alvin Jr.  officially became a member of planet earth. I can honestly say that the past nine years watching him grow have been phenomenal. I now know how the dots connect to some degree. I had to go through all the lessons of pain and loss along the way to arrive to this destination of great appreciation and fulfillment of life. I understand that death is a necessary tool that teaches "it’s not the ending that connects you, it’s the journey while happy that does." No one truly leaves you when they transition. It simply marks the beginning of a new journey you embark on with your team that you share a special connection with.  

 
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Alvin L. Dillapree Sr.

Connect For

Born February 17th 1972 in Detroit Michigan to Margie Dean Dillapree. Alvin Lee Dillapree Sr. has compiled a list of passions that include writing, photography and videography. A graduate of Denby High in Detroit. He went on to serve in the Navy and establish the foundation for the man he would become. Thought provoking and direct are a couple of adjectives that describe Al. Humbled to be the senior writer, managing editor for Against the Grain Magazine, he also had the honor to produce, write and host multiple online radio shows (Barber Sports Talk), (Politics Beauty), (Dream League Show). He was a judge at the 2012 Bigen Barber Competition in Detroit. He was the host of the Barbers Roundtable in Atlanta Ga. He introduced the Barber educational team: (D Elite). He studied Media Arts at Macomb College. The most rewarding of all activities is being with his family.

instagram: @aldillapreesr

facebook: Al Dillapree Sr.

Mortality.

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Mortal Man

Mortality. 

by: Matthew Vaughn

 

11/26/17

Sitting diagonal to a queen two moons past comfort, I try not to breathe too heavy. Afraid I may frighten her into forever, I speak softly, but with bass enough to be felt. I have never met this beauty, but she is fairly familiar with my face. I am told I resemble Her brother, my grandfather. I find this to be truth when a smile awakens to the mountains of Her cheekbones and a whisper is screamed into my spirit, “How are you doing?” I recite a half truth and tell Her I am well, feed Her hand into my own, and watch as Her wisdom dances still. We share a brief kiss of the eyes, mine, drifting above Her brow to the grey coils wrapping towards a crown.

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Tears of another elder cause a chaos in my chest. I witness the pain between two weeping rivers of remember when and a future without. A loss of hope engulfs the hearts of Her lineage, a gain of understanding sweeps them with purpose. Traveling word informs me, she is given the remainder of the week. Directly into the ear of my mother, and to the lip-reading eyes of my grandmother, “I'm ready to go,” is Her calling.

 

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I write this story without a drop of sorrow, not because I am strong, but because I was only awarded with a moment, and, fortunately, a living and mysteriously nostalgic one. Death often attacks without consideration for those outside of its grasp. It usually does not wave goodbye nor express its love one last time. But it is one last time that we get. Whether or not we know it is then is for the moment to reveal itself to passing truths. This year, a year of unexpectedness, my first year at a college and my first year losing a friend from college, a year which my father's mother volunteered mortality and was denied in her effort, a year which my mother's mother shivered at the mere mentioning of such… as we still await her results, I have learned how troubling the acceptance aspect can be. This is, however, a glorious reflection on the light we have casted in whatever amount of perceived time we are here. It is intentional in both the process of mourning we endure, in whatever way that may be, and the clarity and lessons learned following. Although mortality is on its way, we can still live with enough purpose to enjoy and be enjoyed in everlasting life. In the hearts of our homes. In the memory of many spirits. In the love we spread which lasts, without conditions, into eternal.

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Alexandria Austin 9/16/96—9/26/17

Shirley Williams 4/8/37—11/27/17
 
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Matthew Vaughn

Mortality.

Student + Spirit + Poet + Tree + Maroon Arts Group + Member of Underdog Academy

instagram: @MatthewVaughnUA & @underdogacademy

twitter: @MatthewVaughnUA & @underdogacademy  

inquiries: underdogacademy937@gmail.com

website: uapoetry.com

Be sure to keep up with Matthew on social media  and please leave comments on this page to offer words of encouragement, to share your story and to keep the dialogue going.

Never Thought...

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Mortal Man


Never Thought...


By: Mike Cooley

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


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

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

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


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

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

Never Thought...

DJ + Rapper + Beat Maker + Music LOVER

Maschinist. Trunk Bound Regime extremist

instagram: @atrunkboundcooley

tumblr: liquorandbeats

email: trunkboundregime@gmail.com

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

Acceptance

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Mortal Man

Acceptance

by: Randle B. Moore III

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

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

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

 

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

 

 
 
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Randle B. Moore III

Acceptance

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

 

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

facebook: Randle B Moore III

email: randlemoore@equitashealth.com

 

I Had a Life Taken Away From Me

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Mortal Man

I had a life taken away from me

By Leroy Bean

 

“Looking at my phone with a blank stare

as it mirrors my sentiments 

With a blank note pad

Cursor 

Just blinking at me

Waiting for the right words to be thought

To be said

To be written down

But the music it plays

Drowned out in the background 

Echoing almost

Like my thoughts 

Not quite able to make them out

But I feel them

An idea

Growing outside the boundaries of my mind

Controlling me 

Forcing ocean storms from my eyes

Stone petrified for long moments at a time

But the scary thing is 

You can't hear someone else's thoughts

And society doesn't value expression enough

And the idea

Of suicide 

is solitary confinement 

Surrounded by walls of your demons

thoughts of escaping suffering 

An idea that can barely be expressed

Just a feeling

And we underestimate feeling too much 

With the strength it can give you

And the weakness it can infect you with

But with enough

Love 

And 

Compassion

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It can become the cure to someone's day 

Or lifetime

Their breath 

and existence 

We miss yours already

I remember your smile 

Your goofy laugh

Your innocence when we played as kids 

I wish 

my reach extended past the limits of time

To reclaim the memories 

To experience the feeling again

I just seen you

I had faith

Between our eye contact 

That space

There was a connection 

Your face 

It told me something 

I felt something

A glimpse of those memories again

The world of oblivion we lived in

Ignorant to the demons that could tear us down 

They were just monsters under the bed

Under our consciousness

 

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Some of us become aware the hard way

We get scared

Cornered by our fears

Distracted from people who love us 

Standing in the peripheral 

We are here for you

Speak to me 

It's okay 

Express yourself

Cry and flood away your trauma

Please continue to check in on the people you say you love and care for

Dive deep into introspective conversation 

Don't be afraid of the darkness in the abyss when you get there

You are life

And light

You are love 

And Mark 

I hope you still feel

That we love you.”

 

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This poem is about my first close encounter with DEATH since the beginning of the destruction of my masculinity control system.

I’ve always been the type of person to think a lot; always confined to my own mind. Being a male, I locked my emotions and fears and feelings and unhappiness all up there with me. It drove me crazy. At the age of 22, for the FIRST time in my life I had somewhat of a “heart to heart” with my dad about how our disfunctional relationship has been affecting my life and the life of his other two sons. The conversation wasn’t really equally open on both ends. I realized I couldn’t force my Dad to change his mindset, but I could fix mine. It’s been over a year since I started chipping away at this wall of masculinity. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to struggled with in my life so far. To realize that I had an unhealthy relationship with MYSELF and I had to start over. To realize that I had been living in a prison this entire time, but only I could let myself out. To realize that I had been crippling myself rather than making myself stronger. I was suffering...

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This poem is about my first close encounter with DEATH since the beginning of the destruction of my masculinity control system. He was a childhood friend of mine. Our Mom’s were friends, so we were really close. We had lost touch over the last few years; felt like forever. One random day a few months ago, I stopped in Third Perk Coffeehouse and I happened to see his dad across the street. He comes to talk, tells me how he has been, and that is son is on his way over. I was excited, I hadn’t seen him in years! When I saw him I was happy. I couldn’t wait to link back up when we had more time, to talk to him - and share what I’ve learned - and hear what he’s learned - and discuss music - and share my poetry with him - and find out what new talents he has developed! 

So many more things I wanted our friendship to experience, but I guess there was only time for that one. 

I gave him my number because my phone was dead at the time. I heard he had been through some things, so I really wanted him to hit me up. I’m big on sharing wisdom and communicating. Maybe some of my experiences could help him.

About a month goes by, I wake up to a phone call from my mom, telling me that he had committed suicide the night before. The disbelief that fell over me was overwhelming. All I could do was cry...and wonder why. 

Why couldn’t he express what he was going through to get help? What was holding him back?

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After hours of asking myself unhealthy questions, I decided to write this poem about how I genuinely felt. I had a week before the funeral to find a way to process these new emotions I now have the ability to, sadly, only recognize. I found that it was easy to distract myself and have fun and feel better. But there were these moments... between breaths, where the world seemed to slow down and the background noise was low and distorted... I would drift off into a montage of thought about him and memories that we shared, hopeing he really found something more peaceful, his family and realizing that, per usual, I can’t open my mouth and say any of this. Just stuck in my mind. The farthest I got was, “...I had a friend commit suicide.”

 Then remained silent long enough for the recipient of my awkward sorrow to feel uncomfortable and say “I’m sorry to hear that.” because I didn’t give them enough communication to adequately give me the response I needed. 

The day of the funeral arrived. I’m happy with the connections and impact he made while here in our reality. Stuck in my mind, not really able to speak much. His mother asked me to do a poem, luckily I had started writing this poem before she had even asked. I thought I would let that speak for itself and for me. Still, I was incomplete. Until the end of the funeral when I released everything haunting my body thru tears, in my mother’s arms, and comforted by my women. An intimate embrace that felt so healing. Something a lot of men have never experienced, including myself until now. Vulnerability seems to be more haunting than the thing that makes you feel vulnerable in the first place. 

It wasn’t until a few days after the funeral where I sat down with my woman and fully expressed myself and talked about the descriptions of my emotions and thoughts 

with another human being. It felt freeing! After 23 years, it only took me a week and some change to express some serious mental trauma. I’m doing better but the effects of masculinity still has its holds on me. But we must acknowledge our fears and trauma and demons, in order to get passed them.

 
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Leroy Bean

I Had a Life Taken From Me

Leroy is a author, spoken word artist and member of Underdog Academy.

Author of The Love and Theory of Womanology, "book and CD available on amazon."

host of Underdog Academy's Broken English 101 podcast available at: soundcloud.com/be101ua

instagram: @hxc24_ & @underdogacademy

twitter: @HXC24

facebook: Leroy Da'Vaughn Bean & Underdog Academy

snapchat: @xCaptainPlanet

tumblr: hyerpoetry.tumblr.com

and also at uapoetry.com

A Man Is Not A Boy

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Mortal Man

A Man is Not a Boy

by George Webb

A man is not a boy he makes things happen. He understands that struggles are temporary even when he can not see the light at the end of the tunnel. Fun doesn't come before the bills being paid. A man puts his business before his wants - he knows winters coming. Too many men are in the clubs obsessed with looking rich with fifty cents in their pockets. When are we going to be responsible? Michael Jackson told us years ago how to fix the problem; "you start with the man in the mirror."

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A man doesn't point his finger at anyone, he stands on his own. Women love a responsible man, a God fearing man, a man that keeps a job more than eight months. A man that keeps a roof over his head. It's not the sex that counts - but the little things. Men lead by example. Spiritually we are the head of the household. Who is going to start leading today? Stop waiting until New Year's Eve parties to get it right. Who is going to make a change today? So men do yourself and the world a favor, do your families a favor and stop making excuses. A man is not a boy he makes things happen.

 

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I wrote this piece to encourage our men. Even though the world is war torn it doesn't give us the right to ignore our responsibilities. We have to carry ourselves the correct way, take care of our families. Be firm in our convictions. Don't just talk the talk, BE the talk. Everyone goes through hard times it's a part of life. I know what it feels like to take a step forward only to be knocked three steps back. It's not easy and was never meant to be. The world is trying to break us. We must take a stand and overcome every obstacle. That all starts with us. We can move mountains together if we work together. 

 
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George Webb

A Man Is Not A Boy

twitter: @georgeadamwebb

instagram: @corporategeorge

facebook: George A Webb & corporategeorge

snapchat: @followmymoves

 

Survivor's Guilt

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Mortal Man

Survivor's Guilt

Dan Tres Omi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Survivor's Guilt

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

 

Keep up with Danny on social media...

instagram: @brothereromi

twitter: @DanTresOmi

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

medium: @DanTresOmi

 

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

Footnotes On Loving a Broken Man

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Mortal Man

Footnotes On loving a Broken Man

by Atlas

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

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

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(Please.)

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

(Be silent.)

Wipe tears that escape my pride Off my cheek bones

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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Atlas

Footnotes on Loving a Broken Man

Vet. Artist. Teacher. Student

 

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

Be sure to engage with him and follow his journey.

instagram: @atlasthepoet & @underdogacademy

twitter: @Da2KcoolJ

facebook: Kyle Flemings & Underdog Academy

and also at uapoetry.com

 

please comment on this page to keep the dialogue going.

 

 

The Vulnerability of Man

Mortal Man: Rev. Lewis

Mortal Man

The Vulnerability of Man

by Rev. Lewis

 

Mortality and legacy, 

Go hand and hand. 

But it’s vulnerability that makes a mortal man. 

Taught to be stone,  

But enough pressure will turn stone to sand. 

Show a moment of weakness. 

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Told to suck it up, be a man. 

Keep those raging waters bottled behind that damn. 

Build your walls high enough, 

and eventually you’ll stop giving a damn. 

But these walls don’t come with bridges. 

These moats will wash you away. 

And I keep my archers at the ready. 

To keep love away. 

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I wonder what my absent father thinks of me. 

Continuing your legacy of solitude, 

Hurting those closest to me. 

Maybe one day I’ll put my pride away. 

And be forced to face my own mortality. 

 
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Rev. Lewis

 

THE VULNERABILITY OF MAN

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

Be sure to keep up with his journey.

facebook: Dionte Lewis

instagram: @reverend_lewis

"and please comments here as well."

All In A Name

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MORTAL MAN

All In A Name

by: Aaron Paschal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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