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Free To Speak

March 17, 2017 — 3 Comments

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On a Friday morning I had a chance to go to the barbershop while I was out of town in Oklahoma City.

You know the experience especially if you’ve ever ventured into a predominantly black barbershop. Their’s that familiar sound of electric clippers humming in the background, boisterous conversations over the current affairs of the day and sometimes you get a hint of background noise from the TV or radio.

I normally don’t go to the barbershop, but this time, I had a chance to experience this very familiar moment once again. The discussion between the barbers and the people in the shop turned from who was the best quarterback in football to the president and the congress and finally to race and culture.

As I sat there, I quietly listened. It reminded me of the times I was a little boy. I would sit and listen to this adults go back and forth until they were blue in the face. But then it hit me…I am free to speak now! I actually have a voice! I am an adult with the privilege to share my views and analysis.

One gentlemen said a few things I both agreed and disagreed with. I listened intently to the man’s take on race, prejudice, life, women, politics and much more. My arms and legs were crossed and my eyes slowly wandered as to avoid staring.

As I was getting my haircut, I felt this deep, bottom of my stomach urge to speak up. I really, really, didn’t want too. Seriously, I didn’t!

I mean, what could I possibly contribute to this conversation? What would happen if I did say something? Who would care? Why would it matter? Who on earth needs to even hear it? I don’t have the background, experience or anything to back up what comes out?

The conversation was finally over! I realized I just about lost my opportunity to speak up. I felt like such a loser at that moment. A really deep part of me demanded to speak out and I kept silent.

But just as I was about to give up, the conversation started back up.

I added my two cents! A consensus was made with a very understandable group of men who heard what I had to say. In fact, they even demanded more depth from me, which I might add was pretty cool! Here I am, a young guy being asked to expand on my analysis in front of men who were several years older than me.

Deep down, this very real, masculine, powerful and vocal part of me wanted to speak out and I almost missed out.

Why!? Because we short change ourselves! We doubt if we really have what it takes. We doubt if we could make a difference. We sit back and allow things to unfold and cower in the back.

The experience at the barbershop moved me from being the boy who sat back and watched to a real man with real perspective and real insight.

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"Angelo Rules" by Team TO and Cake Entertainment

I had a nice chat with a co-worker the other day about the whole idea of truly “coming together.”

After the ugliness of the 2016 election and the nasty social media presence, people a little after the election and during the holidays have begun to say, “hey, let’s all come together and be one nation.”

Easier said than done!

But, my co-worker stated a question to me that he stated to his friend during a dinner conversation, “what are you doing to bring about this coming together.”

Stay with me here.

What are you REALLY doing!

All too often, we declare that we must be united…but we are quick to bash everyone we even remotely think we disagree with…the conservative, the liberal, the gay guy, the straight guy, the Christian, the Muslim, the Latino, gun owners, black lives matter and so forth and so on.

Saying “we should come together” sounds beautiful. It sounds sweet. It sounds amazing. It is an awesome idea.

I genuinely believe that most people desperately want that! Unfortunately, many of us want it on our own terms and in our own vision.

In other words…”yeah, let’s be united…but, you mind your business and I’ll mind mine. Oh, wait, what, you want to come to my school…work in my office building…live in my neighborhood…hmmm, no, no, I don’t think that’ll work. Try across town…in fact…try a county over.”

Yes…unity is an awesome idea…when you actually DO it.

For most of us…that’s all it is…an idea.

I could go into a deeper analysis of why that is so, but, it would require multiple blog posts. And I’m fine with that. I got all the time in the world till the Lord decides to call me home.

Unity is messy…very messy. It is also a LOT of work. It’s a LOT of listening. It’s also a LOT of putting down all of our phones, shredding those articles and getting ready of any and all vast assumptions we have made ourselves or have been given by our choice of media and literature. Unity also requires consideration. In other words, being willing not to win over an argument, but, to win over a heart.

What does that look like…it means saying, “I don’t get it all…but I’m trying…can we continue this conversation over coffee again! Why? Because I actually care.”

Or…could it be that you just want to imagine a world where we are united…only we are divided…more than ever.

I get it…you’re scared…you don’t know what could come next. You’re probably just trying to get through the day to day. But that’s just it. We Americans love to go it alone! We’re so about our “independence” that we forget that we can’t get past our struggles alone.

As I write this, I’m preaching to myself here! I hate having help sometimes…but truth is, it’s unhealthy to think that. It’s unrealistic. And to put it bluntly, it’s prideful!

You can blame others. You can blame the system. You can blame the media. You can blame all the culprits you want.

But, at the end of the day, the buck stops not with just people we appoint as leaders…but…on us. ALL of us! EVERYONE!

No more excuses…I would rather shake hands with someone I disagree with and have a coffee with them than yell and fuss and cuss and make excuses for the real reason I don’t want to try….fear and anger!

And our children and our children’s children will inherit the results of that labor…lacking or otherwise. I sincerely hope not, but we have to work for better.

This year, I dare you to do something…actually DO something…about “coming together” in America. Start at home with your family…with friends…with co-workers. Then expand…expand past your comfort zones

Because at the end of the day…you can’t legislate unity or morality. And you can’t wait on someone else to make the first move.

Let it be you first for a change.

Tribute to Dallas 1All day Friday, I did everything I could to hold back tears as they weld up. 5 police officers the night before were killed in Dallas during a peaceful protest against the shooting of black men by police officers.

I was sitting at home when it happened, expecting the watch a regular 9pm newscast on our local Fox station and then go on about my life and get things done before bed.

A 9pm broadcast turned into multiple hours of a surreal experience that was unfolding before me just 20 minutes away.

The journalist in me scrolled through multiple news sites and reporting agencies on my phone. While many reported the facts, others capitalized on the propaganda and on the fears of others who have opposing opinions about the news of the day…the shooting in Dallas…the shooting of black men by police officers…black lives matter…and injustice as a whole.

It was all too much!

Something continued to stir in me later that Friday as I listened to Gospel music and spent time in continual prayer.

I felt a tug at my heart to do something.

So, I began to draw.

The second that I was finished with my latest comic strip, and posted the strip online, I fell completely apart. I could no longer hold back.

I cried for lost lives…for the state of our country…for the fact that many of us as American citizens claim to get it, but show little or no empathy and are so blind, we refuse to step up and try to understand.

Once I was done…what was emotional turned into something inspirational…a deep call to action that went even further than cartooning.

It was a pull and tug that was hard to describe. It was like I knew what I had to do, knowing that it could cause me trouble, knowing it could generate disdain, knowing that even though my voice was one of many it was still a voice that had not yet cried out in the wilderness.

I had to speak up! I had to write!

It was time for me as a Christian, a writer, a cartoonist, a black man, a man, period, to stand up and speak life and peace into the chaos of our time.

I love writing fiction and I love writing the kind of literary works that get people to think, laugh, love and live. But now, the responsibility sinks in to do much more writing than I actually have.

Not everyone will understand. And that’s okay. I’ll pray for them. For those willing to try too, I applaud them and pray for them. And for those who don’t care, my prayers are for you too.

Silence is no longer an option. Silence hurts people, creates division and builds up a sense of empathy and carelessness because as long as it isn’t me and mine, I’m good with whatever happens.

Silence is the passive man’s voice.

Silence is an affront to those who stood before us and died for us. It is also an affront to the men and women of law enforcement who seek to do more good than harm. We must all choose to be a part of a much larger solution.

But first, before you jump in, you must acknowledge there’s a problem!