I listened to a recent YouTube video of Dave Chappelle speaking at Allen University in Columbia, SC. I didn’t realize Dave Chappelle had roots from my home state but I was pleased to find out a little about his family history which is from a town I spent around five years of my life; learning, growing and becoming much of who I am today.
What I became fascinated by more than his story, was his speech. He spoke about how the things we do in one lifetime affect latter generations and how good vs bad somehow has been replaced by better or worse. But there was another phrase stood out. Dave said: “He [great grandfather] built, more importantly than a community, he built a way.” It was so eloquently put: he built a way.
That phrase has stuck with me and made me think about my life, how I live it and how what I am doing right now should be about building a way for me, my family and those who come after me. If you think about it, civil rights leaders/workers, slaves, abolitionist, entrepreneurs, our ancestors, our parents, etc, etc have done just that…built a way—physically and literally. It’s amazing to think about where my life would be if my mom hadn’t sacrificed for us to live in and me to grow up in a good home. More than the physical property, she built a way of living that influences not only how I live but what I want to strive for going forward.
Building a way for me means forging a legacy that offers opportunities for future generations and being conscious enough to understand that to build a way is the only way to create a life of freedom…
It was a beautiful day—60+ degrees, the sun was shining and by mile 10 I was thinking to myself “why in the hell did I decide to run a 13.1 mile race?” At mile 11, I almost cried thinking about all the people who were rooting for me. Mile 12: I literally had tears welling in my eyes. I realized as soon as I started to sniffle, that I couldn’t cry because I would have hyper ventilated and if I lost control of my breathing, I would have stopped and there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to finish.
By the time I was approaching mile 13, I could barely run but it hurt to walk. So I “slow motion ran” (see below video) until I saw two familiar, beautiful faces…I smiled. It was an exhausted smile but it was real. The finish line was around the corner. I made it, crossed it and almost fell out.
It was the most grueling, challenging and tiring thing I had ever done—run my first half marathon. But on Jan 14, 2017, something I already knew was reaffirmed…I can do anything I set my mind to. It won’t be perfect, I may even cry but if I put in the work, I will be successful.
Those last three miles tested my strength, mentally and physically, but it also made me a more focused, driven person.
At 8:04am on Jan 14, I started the Charleston Shrimp and Grits half marathon. In 2 hours and 44 minutes, I finished. Today, I continue to run…
Love is a simple, tricky, complicated thing.
There are moments when the timing is right, the stars align and everything flows according to the wind — easy and free.
Other times, one is unavailable or prideful or unaware. A heart floats past the other — grazing, doing a dance, the vibrations intertwining slightly but just enough for the feeling to submerge spirits into an unbreakable oneness.
And yet there are times when patience doesn’t withstand, circumstances get in the way and the misses become much more than what feels like coincidence. They become life.
Yes love is that way — simple, tricky, complicated. But love never lies, never hurts and is absolutely worth it.
Today it’s called Gentrification…
Imagine for a moment that you are being forced from one space to another. Yet this other space is smaller. Tiny even. Most people there are struggling. Most are peeking at an outside world that is seemingly out of reach; foreign and inconceivable. Most have seen generations of strife and addiction. The air is scarce. The water is dirty. Resources are always low. Things are always hard to come by. It’s crime ridden. It’s suffocating. It’s a cycle. It’s systematic oppression. It’s suffocating. It’s reality. Nobody expects you to live long. The prophecy becomes reality. From the start, a set up for failure, destruction, demise. Systematic. Oppression. And there is nothing you can do to change it.
Today it’s called Gentrification…and this is what it looks like for the people who are displaced and moved from one “project” or low income community to the next. Yet gentrification looks completely different for those who move into the pricey condos and enjoy the cute neighborhoods being built.
There are two sides to every story. But for a moment, imagine this one…
Gentrification is a trend in urban neighborhoods, which results in increased property values and the displacing of lower-income families and small businesses.
I was completely thrown off when I went to NPR.com today to look for something totally unrelated and there it was, the headline: “Prince, Musician and Iconoclast, Had Died at Age 57.” I sat startled. Someone came over to my desk. They had heard too but had come over for something else. I was still startled. A literal icon had died. The man who captured me with lines and truth I’ll always love: “Dig if you will the picture of you and I engaged in a kiss…” or “ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with…” And he was only 57.
I grew up in the 80’s. At that time I may not have been aware of how big Prince was or how much of a legend he would become but I knew that I liked his music. The beat, words and sound made me move. Sing. Made me feel good inside. His music compelled me and so many others to dance, feel, be.
I’m not sure if the news of Prince’s passing was unbelievable because he was perceived to be an immortal man who would live forever? Or that this larger than life presence had more to give, more music to mesmerize us with as he aged? Or perhaps it’s just a sad, all-to-real reminder that living brings about one certainty; that is it ends with Death.
For me, it doesn’t matter why or how. Those factors either become the sole thing people remember or the tarnishing image someone chooses to point out. I’d prefer to use this moment to reflect on his music. To reminisce while watching Purple Rain. Or laugh at the Dave Chappelle sketches of Prince playing basketball and cooking [or eating] pancakes. Both still make me smile. Just as Prince’s music still makes me dance and sing and move and feel. And that’s what will make Prince immortal. Not that his body lasted forever but that his creative, beautiful, soulful, funky, eclectic, unique, profound collection of music will…
R.I.P. Prince Rogers Nelson
I am a thinker. I can spend hours thinking about my life, my family and friends lives, what’s happening in the world, how to be better, etc, etc. I am very intro- and retrospective. Conversations with most of my friends explore real sh*t (surface level conversations frustrate me–I’d have no part of them if I could). The friendships I’ve damaged, the relationships I’ve helped to fall apart and the people I’ve hurt, each are stored in a special place that I reflect on from time to time in hopes of learning the lessons I was supposed to receive and not reliving those mistakes again.
I am a thinker. And because of this, I think about you all the time.
writing is a magnificent way of communicating. of expressing how you feel in a way that causes verbal communication to lose value. and i’ve found that when i’m writing fiction i must be completely connected to the characters to bring them to life. there have been several stories in which i’ve abandoned or left unfinished because what captured my interest in the beginning was no longer there.
as i revisited a story i started months ago, i tried to figure out what happened. why did i loose focus and step away from it for so long? suddenly it clicked: i hadn’t experienced the circumstances personally and therefore my true connection to the piece was missing. now that i have identified what keeps me intrigued–the characters, setting and the one thing that truly makes me a part of this story [much deeper than just my thoughts]–i’ve found a way to finish.
last sermon is an example of a story i wrote quickly without the having to find my way because in many ways the characters felt as i did. my thoughts were able to manifest themselves in an authentic way and the energy i felt from the content was palpable.
staying connected to your writing can be tough. there’s nothing wrong with walking away from a story and returning to it with a fresh set of eyes and a renewed heart. my experience is that when the time is right the story will call your name and force you to discover the honesty within your words.
are you struggling to connect with your writing? what tips would you share to help others? connect with me @writerjns on twitter.