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blog post -black in America

Growing up, I vividly remember having a big heart for life and for people. I wanted to connect with people and get along with others.

I was a different kind of kid. I didn’t really get along or connect too well with most of the kids I went to school with. I didn’t really enjoy all too much the music they enjoyed. I didn’t watch the same stuff on TV. I was not into sports at all.

I was a book reading, story writing, comic book collecting, cartoon drawing, science obsessed, TV news watching boy with an imagination that was more active than a volcano.

I could imagine that if I had not spent half of my boyhood daydreaming and drawing cartoons or writing I would’ve lost my mind from all of the bullying and the experiences of being a social outcast.

From elementary to college, I was often accused of “acting white” and my racial identity was constantly being challenged because of what was considered the social norm for a black male.

It was the beginning of war on my heart and mind.

When Bullying Mutates To Hate

On the surface, I didn’t think I had an issue with race, or even with my identity as a black man in America, that is until things started coming up in my 20s.

I thought I had the issue of race straight in my life. I didn’t have an issue with white people, but, I did have an issue with my own people.

I always felt completely unaccepted by people from my own community. Often ostracized and humiliated before my peers, I came to the conclusion early on in life that when it came to being yourself, you couldn’t be you and be black at the same time.

To be black did not mean being Kendall Lyons. It meant being something other than.

For a long time, and most people don’t know this about me, I held a kind of disdain and hatred for my own people and for myself. The years of bullying mutated my view of race and black America into something ugly, bitter and void of compassion.

The kind of self-hatred I struggled with also turned into classism.

I saw myself better than people who were “ghetto.” They were the loud, obnoxious “cool” crowd who thought they could get whatever they wanted through displays of blissful-like ignorance and prideful arrogance. This was the best classification for the people who treated me terribly.

Ironically, I gained more acceptance from people who didn’t look like me. I was considered unique, charming, different and someone that was good! They wanted exactly what I wanted, to be accepted and to accept others and treat them as the way they desired to be treated.

The Cause

I wouldn’t confront the issue of racism and prejudice and classism until a little after college. I was working for a major bank at the time and it was there I met an older black man.

We quickly became friends and he later would be a mentor. I thank God for placing him in my life. He actually paid attention to what I was saying and sharing about my life. He was genuinely interested in who I was as a person.

He asked about my love for cartoons and comics. He asked about my Faith in the Lord. He shared his relationship with God and Christ Jesus with me.

He actually cared about me and I was not judged.

Then, he encouraged me to consider the plight and the pain and the poor treatment of black Americans.

Yes, the black kids who did bully and talk about me throughout school, as my mentor and friend said, might have been kids who just didn’t understand. In fact, they might have been kids who have never been exposed to the things that I was exposed too…music, culture, art and the list could go on.

Because they’ve never seen someone like me before, I was a prime target for teasing and taunting.

But why did I not acknowledge those facts so quickly? What made me so reluctant about accepting that?

Because it felt like the bullies won if I chose to do so!

I didn’t want to be a perpetual loser of a war that was still going on inside of me. It felt like…since I couldn’t fight them on the playground of boyhood, I could win on the battleground of manhood.

Looking back, that was foolish. I would’ve merely destroyed myself.

I thought like that because I was hurting. I was angry.

I still struggled with self-esteem and self-confidence from those days. I struggled for a while to forgive and move on.

The Cure

A few years after college, a few issues had come up to the surface in my life that I knew couldn’t be ignored any longer.

I met a Christian counselor in Dallas, Texas to talk about my identity and to talk about the issues I dealt with. He was a black man who not only understood where I was coming from but also got to know my story just like my mentor and friend did.

As time went on, I got a better understanding about the condition of black America and the systemic racism and prejudice that placed us in less than decent conditions throughout multiple American institutions.

During the time I was praying and asking the Lord to walk me through this issue, to heal the broken places in my heart regarding the issue of race and identity. Mainly because I would find myself getting angry and frustrated with the obvious racism and prejudice that I observed. And yet, wanted to believe that there were surely other explanations to the moments that I saw unfold whether it was on TV or even in person.

The Lord said to me, “I couldn’t claim to love God and hate my brother.”

It was the beginning of conviction, but, it was also the beginning of healing. The Lord knew that a lot of unjust and cruel things were done to me and towards me. Jesus wanted access to that part of my heart, but, I also had a responsibility as a believer.

I had to want to change. I had to repent and never, ever return to that dark space in life.

Because of the change in my life,

I’ve also stopped telling people that bullies will someday get theirs. The truth is, though, they might not.

I wanted to believe that those who bullied were going to receive some kind of major punishment in life. They would get pay back for the things they did.

It was my own little piece of solace to remind me that somewhere, somehow, there was justice for me in my time of trouble and need.

But, I learned that my real victory over bullying came from Jesus…to live and love like Him regardless of what people say and think. The real victory in Christ over bullying and other issues took the place of what was originally my hope for the bullies and enemies in my life to get their punishment.

Victory in Christ removed the necessity for me to have vindication.

The Way I See It Now

It has been a long time since I believed and thought the way I used too. I am still in the growing and maturing process as it relates to my identity in Christ and as it relates to who I am as a person.

My Pastor preached on Romans 12:14-21, and verse 21 stuck out to me:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

In some ways, I can see how someone can be driven to a kind of hatred that it leads them to believe they are either justified or threatened.

And yet, whether you are Christian or not, there’s still no excuse.

Once we release our just or unjustified hatred towards one another and learn to love one another even to the depths of our imperfections can we really experience true freedom.

As for me, I’ll take the road less traveled, the narrow way, the freedom and victory that is in Jesus. It is far better for me to do that than to try and protect my heart on my own. And if I am called to suffer, at least I know its real love that’s in place for me to do so…genuinely.

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Joe “Crazy 8’s” and I did these sketches during one of our meetings at a coffee shop! 

When I first started drawing I was by myself for the most part. I would post some of my work online and I would create with hopes that I would get some kind of input or advice or compliment.

Sure, at one point I was a member on DeviantArt and then later I connected with others on social media like Twitter and Facebook. It helped quite a bit.

But, I wanted even more!

Then, Instagram came in to the mix and I was fortunate to team up with other cartoonists…one in person and one from Canada.

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On Instagram, I often connect with Joe, the creator of “Crazy 8s” and Dave from Canada, the creator of the Instagram comic called “Kid and Mouse.” 

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Joe and I have constantly meet up to discuss our passion for comic strips, discussing and analyzing the works of people like Charles Schulz (Peanuts) and Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) and names that some might not know and independent artists.

I’ve learned a LOT from both Joe and Dave. We’ve done crossovers and collaborations together and they have shared their own tricks of the trade in comic strip creation. But, this couldn’t be if it wasn’t for the idea of connecting, networking and building a community.

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Characters from my webcomic, “By and By,” Walter Ayo and Ace Fox meet Bill and Carl!

When times get rough and we get a little down, Joe, Dave and I often will connect via the web and chat and encourage one another! This is a HUGE investment!

Every bit of that moment and time matters!

Every artist needs a community in which to connect and learn from. It’s not recommended to go it alone in a field or area of interest no matter what it is you’re studying or practicing. You need others to come alongside you and help you. You need people in which to grow with and learn and share with.

I’m fortunate that Joe and Dave are a part of that with me! And, I’m grateful for the other great cartoonists that I’ve connected with both independent and syndicated. And I’m looking forward to connecting with many more artists.

 

 Those Days!

Today was one of those days! The deep desire to write today rose up and I just couldn’t help myself. I had to say something that would be meaningful! but what!?

Over the past few weeks, I have had intense highs and am dealing with some valley struggles. And yet, I know everything is going to be fine and okay.

It is like God has been whispering into my ear, telling me, “keep going” and “I’m with you” and “I put this in you…go forward.”

And yet, my circumstances sometimes seem to be just as loud as the conversation.

But, perhaps that’s the point. It is the decision to trust God…the decision to step forward…the decision at that break neck moment when the urge to write kicks in but the feeling of utter false failure and humiliation kicks in to try and keep you from being all that you are supposed to be.

Then again, it is the moment that you have the urge to do something that you really, truly enjoy and feel called too, and you make that decision right away to just do it. Why!? Because letting that moment pass my literally mean missing the opportunity to help and bless someone else!

I have people in my life who really trust me, love me and believe in me that helps make it worth while. The people that I am referring to have been my supporters and biggest fans from the beginning. It is all the more a good reason for me to not quite writing and blogging.

Now What!?

Lately, I have really been considering what I need to do to this blog site. The obvious answer is to keep writing. The other obvious answer is to keep writing about the things that I’m passionate about…and…share with all of you.

I think more than half of the reason I actually stopped writing for a period is because I actually forgot to share what was important:  My life and how much it has changed because of Faith…people….challenges….from childhood to adulthood.

With that, I am back and ready to put in the extra effort, and, even throw in a couple of sketches here and there.

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A few months ago, I did the Kickstarter thing and learned a lot.

I also failed in it. Sort of, actually.

Because of that experience, I actually managed to learn quite a bit about what I was missing and what to consider when it comes to marketing and reaching people. I also learned the hard truths about what it means to engage people…especially if they could care less.

But, the whole experience did something else…it grew my love for cartooning and writing even more! Before I knew it, I was drawing with a much larger motivation than just to get my Kickstarter funded. I was drawing because I was reminded of why I loved to do it in the first and second place.

Instead of being upset and depressed over it, I realized that this was just one of the many things I had to just take as a major learning experience. I’m 110% okay with that and I’m grateful for every person who was able to give and help me in some way, even if it was a few words of encouragement.

Now things are getting more interesting!