Sunday, June 15, 2014

Something's Gotta Give

After reaching the Western Conference finals of the NBA last season, the Memphis Grizzlies fired, then Had Coach, Lionel Collins. This season, upon losing their leader and father figure, they struggled and barely make the final spot in the western conference playoffs.
 After making the playoffs the past 2 seasons for the first time in over 10 yrs, the Golden State Warriors recently fired Head Coach Mark Jackson. Will they digress next season after losing their father figure?

So today is Father's Day. A day set aside to celebrate and Honor our Fathers and Father figures.
The scripture encourages us to “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2-3 NKJV)

We are all called to honor our father and mother with the promise to live long and be well. I'd like to use this particular scripture to focus on men, if I may.
Is it possible that the lifespan of our men are shortened because, for the most part, we only honor our mothers? Think about the black community, men are usually raised by our mothers, taught by our mothers, and guided by our mothers. As a result, we only celebrate and honor our mothers. The last 3 MVP's of the National Basketball Association gave heartfelt, compelling acceptance speeches. They acknowledged their fans, teammates, coaching staff, and those who supported them along their journey to this remarkable achievement. The common thread in all three speeches was the deep felt gratitude for their mothers. I don't recall any celebration or honoring of their fathers. And this is the case with most of our black entertainers. From sports, to music, to film/tv, the consistent statement of gratitude is "I wanna thank my mama."   

There's a small fraction of us celebrating our fathers in public because there's a small fraction of our fathers present in the privacy of our homes.....Something's Gotta Give.

Paul, the author of Ephesians lets us know that honoring both our father and mother is the first commandment with a promise. The promise is that your days will be long. Not only long, but fulfilled. I'm fully persuaded that a large percentage of black men are unfulfilled and experiencing premature death because of the alarming rate of absentee fathers in the household.  
As men of color, how are we supposed to honor our fathers, when most of us don't know what our father's look like? How do we honor someone we occasionally see on holidays? How do we honor a person we have little or no relationship with? Is it fair to honor who you don't know? 
I believe we've lost the promise of long life because we've lost the presence of fathers. 
Certainly the reasons for the absence of a father varies. Some fathers are simply dead beats; No involvement whatsoever. While some are wildly inconsistent with their co-parenting responsibility. This sometimes leaves the mother no choice but to painfully pull the plug on the relationship all together, because the father's inconsistent presence proves to be more painful than his departure. (Read Day 1 of "31 Days of Wisdom" by Dr. Jonathan Shaw.)

For this particular post, I'd like to illuminate mass incarceration as a reason for absentee fathers. We have entirely too many of our black and Latino men behind bars. 

According to the NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet, in 2008, US prisons were comprised of 58% African American & Hispanic males. How is that possible when we only make up approximately 25% of the US population?
 If this country invested more funds into mental health care than the penal system, I strenuously believe we'd have more of our men raising families than raising bail. The Fact Sheet states that about 70 billion dollars are spent on corrections yearly. Prisons and jails consume a growing portion of the nearly $200 billion we spend annually on public safety. From the way I look at it, a portion of these funds should be allocated toward mental health care for the sake of rehabilitation. What "offenders" need is rehabilitation. Prison has not been proven as a rehabilitation for behavior, as two-thirds of prisoners, history shows, will reoffend. 
HELLO US of A!!! Direct some of these funds toward mental health and quit expanding the prison system!

Mass incarceration reflects the old caste system of slavery. Yes we were oppressed and forced into free labor. But on a larger scale, this system separated Men from their families, which in turn, destroyed the family nucleus. From slavery, we transitioned into another caste called Jim Crow. Pay close attention to the correlation between Jim Crow and present day mass incarceration. Under Jim Crow, African Americans were denied the right to vote & participate in jury service, discriminated against in opportunities for education & employment, legally denied housing, food stamps, and other public benefits.
According to Michelle Alexander's  "The New Jim Crow", mass incarceration serves as a redesigned racial caste system that seems to be history repeating.
Once labeled a felon in present day United States, a criminal is subject to the same legalized discrimination as during Jim Crow. A felon is denied the right to vote & participate in jury service, discriminated against in opportunities for education & employment, legally denied housing, food stamps, and other public benefits.
From me personally knowing drug dealers, some who I call brothers, I can understand how some of them choose to remain involved  with illegal activity to provide for their families. Please understand that I am in no way shape or form advocating this lifestyle. What I am saying, unapologetically, is that if I was involved in drug trafficking and had a felony attached to my name, and was legally discriminated against in public benefits that affords me the opportunity to excel and provide for my family, I would stay right in the drug business and milk it for every dollar it's worth. The risk factor would be a possible return to prison.
This was the mindset behind the Reagan administrations "War on Drugs". I'm highlighting drugs among other forms of criminal activity because, since 1982 when Ronald Reagan officially announced the "Drug War", drug convictions have accounted for the majority of the increase of the US penal population. In less than 30 years the numbers grew from 300,000 to 2 million impacting from the drug war. 

In "The New Jim Crow" Michelle Alexander informs us that "The racial dimension of mass incarceration is it's most striking feature. No other country in the world imprisons so many of it's racial or ethnic minorities. The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of the apartheid. In Washington, D.C., our nations capitol, it is estimated that 3 out of 4 young black men (and nearly all those in the poorest neighborhoods) can expect to serve time in prison. Similar rates of incarceration can be found in black communities across America. 
These stark disparities cannot be explained by rates of drug crime. Studies show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkable similar rates. If there are significant differences in the surveys to be found, they frequently suggest that whites, particularly white youth, are more likely to engage in drug crime than people of color. That is not what one would guess, however, when entering our nations prisons and jails, which are overflowing with black and brown drug offenders. In some states, black men have been admitted to prison on drug charges at rates twenty to fifty times greater than those of white men. And in major cities wracked by the drug war, as many as 80 percent of young African American men now have criminal records and are this subject to legalized discrimination for the rest of their lives. These young men are part of a growing undercaste, permanently locked up and locked out if mainstream society."

With these alarming stats and historical facts in mind, Something's Gotta Give!
Our men need to be home raising FAMILIES, not raising hell in prison.
Mass incarceration keeps our homes imbalanced, which in turn, keeps us from the promise from Ephesians of a long life. If we want to see a generation of young men that will live with integrity and purpose, past the age of 21, there has to be a solution to keep our men in the homes, to lead and guide our young men on how to live Life on Purpose. 

I'm in total solidarity with the movement to #BringBackOurGirls. Today, I sound the alarm to #BringBackOurFathers

Monday, April 28, 2014

Internal Inferno


PASSION is that thing that drives you. It attracts and draws you to a targeted point. What I absolutely Love about PASSION is that it pushes you when you don't want to be pushed. As a result, it keeps you on your toes and ahead of the game.

But lately I've developed a hatred for PASSION. What I absolutely Hate about PASSION is when what you desire is in the wrong season, it can cause some internal damage. You start to make decisions based off your emotions rather than your instincts. It's frustrating to want something now, but can't have it till an unknown time in the future (God's time). 
It is the equivalent of having a fire that cannot be tamed. Fire that cannot be tamed is hazardous to anything in it's circumference. Because that fire, or PASSION that's burning within you does not have the  proper outlet to function, you'll enter a season of fighting an Internal Inferno.

It'll feel as if your PASSION is doing more harm than good. During this Internal Inferno, the essence of YOU is affected by the fire, and parts of your nature will experience burn out.
Your joy starts to burn out, your creativity burns out, your fortitude burns out, your tenacity burns out, your discipline burns out, your prayer life burns out, your focus burns out, your energy burns out...Even your love for people burns out....along with so many other traits that you identify with on a day to day basis.
Please note that it doesn't all burn out at once. You just look up one day ask God, "What happened to me? How did I become so depressed and frustrated with life, when I used to be the life of the party? When did I become so cynical?" 
And at this point, you become sensitive to things you usually dismiss. You used to just keep it moving when things or people bother you, but now you can't wait for someone to step on your toes so you can go OFF!!!....just so you can have an excuse to curse and get out of character. It's an Internal Inferno!!! 

You don't like who you've become in that season. It doesn't suit your nature, calling, and purpose.
That fire has caused a lot of internal damage. It's like going back into a house that was on fire. You would like to go back and save your most important belongings, but they were caught up in the fire before you got to it.
From this Internal Inferno, you try to save and reclaim the essence of who you are, but most of it was caught up in the fire. You want your joy back, but it was caught up in the want your tenacity back, but it was caught up in the want your fortitude an will power back, but it was caught up in the fire. 

Now, the focus is no longer building the vision that you're so PASSIONATE about. You're now focused on building stability. You've exerted so much energy trying to tame the fire that you just want to live, and function as a Man/Woman. 
When you rebuild a house that was on fire, you don't build using the parts that were build with new parts. 
After your Internal Inferno, you can't reconstruct yourself looking for the parts of you that were burned in the fire. You still need those parts, but they have to be new for you to function. And those new parts can only come supernaturally from God. He make all things new, and I know this to be true. (Read 2nd Corinthians 5:17)

Here's my question, as we wrap this up.
How do you function on a day to day bases with no outlet for your PASSION? Remember, you only tamed the fire called never put it out and quite frankly, you can't. You didn't light the fire, (God did. Only he can't put out what he lit.) 
Because it's not burning wild like it used to, doesn't mean the fire no longer exists. If you've ever walked into a house after a fire, you can still spot some flames in a little corner that's waiting to spread.

PASSION, I love you an hate you at the very same time.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Obey Your Thirst

I'd like to take this moment to get something off my chest.
I've tried my BEST not to use scriptures in this blog in order to keep a "universal" audience. I didn't want to "offend" anyone. But, quite frankly, it is impossible! As a man of faith, my foundation and growing knowledge is based off of the scriptures that I read, and I can't help but bless people with what blesses me. The revelations from these scriptures are too deep for me to conceal! If you have an open mind and have an appetite for food for thought, you might quit your job today lol.
Whew!!! What a relief! Lets begin, shall we? :-)

FYI, In case you haven't been there in a while, or you've never been there at all...I'm taking you to church today ;-)

(1 Kings 17:2-9 NIV)
Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.”

It's very uncomfortable being at a dry place. When things aren't flowing the way would like, we're likely to become frustrated and complain.
Elijah, in this passage, was on an assignment from God. He was supplied with what was necessary for him to fulfill the assignment. But when his assignment was complete the supply ran out, and now time for him to move on to the next. Verse 6 let's us know that he was supplied with food daily, and he drank water from the brook. But there came a time, in verse 7, were the brook dried up. His water supply was cut off because of the drought that was upon the land. Because of this drought, his needs could no longer be sustained at this location. Therefore, It was time for him to move on to the next assignment.
How many of us find ourselves in a place in our lives where our resources have dried up? Our source of income becomes dry, our relationships become dry, our self-fulfillment becomes dry, and even our way of thinking becomes dry.
The problem I have is when we remain in that dry place. God uses these dry places to shift or transition us into our new assignments, but so often, we will entertain stagnation and complain continuously about the state or condition that we're in.
I remember working at a pharmacy for UC-San Diego. I was earning a decent salary but was in a dry place in terms of fulfillment. I had a job but I was not working. According to Dr. Myles Munroe, "a job is what they pay you to do, but work is what you were born to do." I had not booked an acting gig in months, partly because of the 8 hour shifts I was working Monday through Friday, and the fact that San Diego is not a major market for acting. I was overwhelmed with frustration and would complain about how much I want to be a part of a production...wether it was for theater or film, I didn't care! JUST HAND ME A SCRIPT!!! I was THIRSTY to play another role.
I was afraid to leave my job at the pharmacy because it was my only source of income at the time...and a GOOD one. But I was lacking in fulfillment. My desire was to move to L.A for more opportunities to showcase my talent, but I would be disconnecting myself from a steady paycheck and free housing. "How will I make money? Where would I live?" These were the questions I asked myself when I came to this crossroad.
After some prayer and seeking wise counsel from my Pastor at the time, Dr. Adrian Ewings, I took a leap of faith and moved to LA.
The CRAZY thing is, I had no place to stay and no means income. I planned on lodging outside of the acting studio where I studied. The same night I got there, I attended a class at the studio and met some new people. As the class concluded, I met an Australian actor who asked "where do you stay mate?" I told him that I wasn't quite sure yet. Almost immediately, he said "if you need a place to crash for the night, you can crash on my couch mate. I'm sure my roommate wouldn't mind." I was so GRATEFUL!!! Words couldn't explain! I had a flashback of when I was still contemplating on wether or not I should go. I remember hearing the scripture that says "Walk by Faith, not by sight." I didn't see any opportunities for lodging with someone at the time, but faith already prepared this moment.
Because I made the decision to OBEY MY THIRST for acting, God gave me the provision to shift from the dry place of a "job" that was lacking fulfillment, and walk right into my purpose.
The amazing part about this testimony is, not only did I have a place to crash that first night, but every night after that for the 7 months I was in LA. Fellow actors from the studio offered their couches, friends I met at networking events opened their homes to me, and at one point, my 95 Lexus ES 300 took me in (we'll talk about that some other time).

Some of you reading this right now could testify and say that you're in a dry place. It's because you're thirsty for PURPOSE! You may say "I've yet to discover my purpose" or "I don't know what my purpose is." I'm here to tell you that it is the very thing or things that quench your THIRST! Whatever it is that fulfills you to the point where you would enjoy it, even if no one paid you to do it. You go to sleep thinking about it, you dream about it, you wake up thinking about it, and even day dream about it at times.
If you've exhausted all of your options and tapped out all of your resources from your current place or position, then I encourage you to be like Elijah and leave the dry place. Your time there is up. God is ready to elevate and promote you to the next level...he's waiting on YOU! It's time to move on to the next assignment. Every complete assignment, is another step closer to fulfilling your Purpose.

It's time to leave behind that circus, and live "Life On Purpose"

Monday, February 11, 2013

Chain Game

I was listening to a song by Deon Kipping titled "Prisonor of Christ." And the lyrics to the chorus are "Chained to his will, bound to his word....He has my life, I'm a prisoner of Christ."

The song metaphorically illustrates the believers connection to Christ. After hearing the song several times, I began to ask myself who, as a people, are we chained or connected to...both physically and spiritually. What you're connected to can cause you to progress, stagnate, or regress. Where we desire to go in life is co-dependent on who and what we're connected to.
How deep is our connection to people? I'm convinced that most of us have failed to connect with purpose because of who and what we're connected to.

We are what we repeatedly do. We are a sum total of our experience. If you're from a certain area, you're almost doomed to never make it out. Talk less of actually being significant in any capacity. People usually evolve into their surroundings, or as we like to say, "a product of your environment." You're identified by your affiliation. The Jews, according to the Bible, refused to believe that Jesus was the messiah because of his affiliation. In John 6:42 they said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?" Because of his affiliation to a less than "royal" family, they refused to acknowledge His significance. Where He came from did not match His significance... Most of us can relate.
Most of us come from countries, cities, towns, neighborhoods, and areas where nothing good or great has ever emerged. If we could just take a second and think about where we came from, or grew up, we probably cannot count on one hand how many successful people came from that area....
There's an attachment we have to our environment that gears us towards failure. Those attachments include family (mom and or dad, older siblings, cousins, etc.), friends from the block or same housing projects, and the number one raiser of most of our children, school.
These attachments mold and shape us into who we are today.
Our environments play significant roles in the outcome of our future.
An atmosphere, if sustained long enough, becomes a climate...a climate, if sustained long enough, becomes a culture....and a culture, if sustained long enough, becomes a stronghold or a mindset.
The first atmosphere we were ever introduced to is a delicate word called family....but we'll get to that later. (I may need to write a part 2)
This may not be the case for some of you reading, but for most of us, we were raised in atmospheres that were so hostile that our theme song is Marvin Sapps "Never Would've Made It."
I was raised in a section of Queens, NY called Far Rockaway...better known as The 6th Borough." Like most rural areas, Rockaway is flooded with young men and women of color with limitless potential to be successful in ANY capacity. But because we're chained to discord, murder, and mayhem, we have a deluxe package membership at central bookings and our own suite at the hospital to deliver baby's...while we're still baby's ourselves.
Through the selection of people that we're connected to, we're chained to a lifestyle that has warped our perception of fulfillment. To my sisters, giving IT up to anybody who says "I love you" will never bring fulfillment. IT serves a specific purpose for a specific someone of significance. When you don't know the value of IT, you'll give IT to anybody.
To my brothers, we were never created to chase after paper. We were created to chase purpose. When we're in our purpose, paper will chase after us. Cultivating our gifts and talents will always have us in demand. There is a need for the gifts that we have.

Truth is, when no one has ever looked some of us square in the eye and told us how valuable we really are. It's nearly impossible for some of us to even fathom. My brothers and my sisters that are reading this, YOU ARE SIGNIFICANT!!!

I just need you to ask yourself these questions... Would you be willing to disconnect with some friends in order to connect with your destiny?
Are you willing to burn some relationships to spark the fire of your passion?
Are you willing to spend a year or two alone (single) in order to have a divine connection with purpose?
One of the reason why we can't get things done in our lives is because we're busy trying to get things done in others....our allowing others to get things done in ours.

I challenge every reader to start looking at your chains...whatever or whoever it is you're connected to. If they are not conducive for your purpose in life, think about disconnecting one link at a time.
There's a purpose for chains in our lives to be broken ONE link at a time. If we just break the entire chain, we're liable to forget about some of the links that created the chain.
But when we break one link at a time, we get flash backs on where and who we used to be. This allows us to recognize this issue that another brother or sister may be dealing with, and be able to relate from a familiar place.
Through the pains of your experience, you can now reach your hands and pull someone out from their pit. You know their thought process the best because you've been there!

Log on next week as we discuss the mindset we developed from the Genesis of our issues. The household environment called "Home."
I'm calling it "Chain Game 2...The Direction of pain"

As always, run out of the circus, and live #LifeOnPurpose