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The Exception

As an artist, there's nothing more gratifying than knowing my work is reaching the eyes and ears of people other than myself. Knowing, even on a menial scale, that I'm able to connect with another soul through my words. Enigmatic, the feeling I receive when I post a podcast or blog and within five minutes someone has already tuned in.

It's usually one or two, but that's one or two individuals expecting to hear my weekly thoughts and conversations with other fathers. I know that for some that might not be a lot, but to me, it's more than I could ever ask for. The mere fact that creativity sourced from my brain can attract another in a way that induces anticipation, is amazing.

Seems like I found my second act, expressing my inner self through pen and keystrokes. I get a lot of positive feedback pertaining to my For Fathers podcast, which makes me feel like I'm doing a service to the community. There's been numerous times, whether before recording or after the fact, where fathers convey the need for a platform for men like us to speak on.

There's a certain sentiment that goes along with being an entrepreneur, a pride that what's being built is mine. An idea sparked from a tumultuous situation and flipping it into a piece of art. Which has my stamp on it, my story. Countless stories of men wrongfully accused and becoming lawyers to help the less fortunate. Men like Bryan Stevenson who grew up surrounded in injustice and made up his mind to make a difference.

Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Harriet Tubman, are all names that took on the baggage of this journey called life and created a better future. Not always for themselves either, but for their people and the generations to come. They're forward thinkers with the fortitude to add beauty to ugly circumstances.

Looking deep within, I wonder what's the characteristic that distinguishes those who crumble under pressure and those who prevail. Just like Peter when he walked on water, there was an opportunity for all 12 disciples to take that step of faith. Reading the passage, when Peter asked Jesus if it was him to tell him to come out on the water, the response wasn't exclusive. Jesus simply said "come."

So why did only one person take heed to the command. What's even more appalling, is that the men who lacked the faith were righteous and have been walking hand in hand with the entity defying buoyancy. The other 11 had seen the same miracles, received the same speeches, and walked the same path as Peter. Yet, he was the only one.

Likewise, the aforementioned people and others alike were not the only ones who experienced the treatment they fought so hard to upend. Even further, being an athlete, we are constantly told how the odds are stacked against us concerning playing collegiate basketball. Only the one percenters make Division I and one percent of that play professionally. Accomplishing both feats and digging into my cerebrum, I excavated what I believe to be the answer.

I am the exception.

The unadulterated belief in oneself, in one's capabilities, the inextinguishable fire that wakes one up with a burning passion. A purpose that can't be thwarted by oppression or hate or fear. A desire to achieve a self appointed goal with the result of being bigger than self.

Think about it, Peter, a fishermen who heavily perused the seas understood the improbability that a man could stand on water. Gandhi and MLK chose the non-violent route laying down natural reactions in the face of turmoil. Mandela served time for his beliefs and Harriet Tubman purposefully put herself in harm's way to liberate the few. Each faced different obstacles, but it's safe to say they shared similar mentalities.

It's the same mindset that pushes teams to become champions. Against all odds, against the number one seeded team, the belief is that they are the exception. I've been in plenty locker rooms where the chant "Why not us" reverberated throughout, inciting extra energy to conquer the task at hand.

Why not you?

I truly believe that most look at others in high positions or with status and think that they are not exceptional enough to fill those shoes. Self-doubt is a motivation killer and renders the mind to fall for an inadequate thought process. Undoubtedly, the people often put on a pedestal had to circumvent impediments but they're not widely broadcasted like achievements. If more people understood the vagaries between failing and succeeding there would be more footsteps in the sand leading to the mound, pitching for greatness.

Former collegiate teammate, a close friend, and an avid reader of the blog expressed to me that he thought my words were captivating. As I said earlier it's a beautiful feeling knowing that there is someone out there gravitating towards the weekly detail of my life. For it to be someone so close who I know is speaking from a genuine place makes it all the better. I've had others say that my blog is like an inside scoop into my life, learning more than what I present at face value.

As my age increases, the veil of ignorance is being lifted off my eyes in regards to the intricate systems put in place to combat those who look like me. I remember as a kid, watching the news and asking myself why it seems like black people were so bad. It made me wonder if I was supposed to behave in such a manner cause of my skin color. Growing up in the city I wasn't privy to the lifestyles commonly associated with my community, which along with kids at school, made me question the validity in the melanin that permeated my skin.

Overcompensating with cursing, gang activity, and a hardened attitude I just wanted to be what my young mind thought represented a black man. I've now learned, that particular way of thinking is what keeps the cyclical system in affect. The division created amongst my people, the crab in a barrel mentality, and the constant hurt we cause each other are just the few ramifications of people that were stripped of culture and identity.

Being exposed to this ignited a want to learn more, I needed to understand why we're hated and more importantly how did we get so far behind. Reading the renowned "The New Jim Crow" put a lot of injustice and pieces of work into perspective. Realizing I have a duty to my people to do all I can to inform and implement change, on whatever scale I can manage.

Once knowledgeable, life opened up in a brand new way and I started to realize things that I never fully understood before. I once asked myself again, where are all the leaders in this movement. The information is readily available and it's spoken of a lot throughout our community but where is our next Martin, Newton, or Carmichael?

Well, they're dead. Fallen to the hands of the people who will stop at nothing to keep African-Americans under their thumb. Thumbing through history and our current state, I don't think that we're ignorant or lack the intelligence. I believe it's the fear of lost of life once a stand is taken against the bondage that holds us back.

Look at the Tulsa race massacre of 1921, Martin Luther King Jr's assassination in 1968, the dissolving of the Black Panther Party in 1982, and the bombing of the MOVE faction in Philadelphia in 1985. All directed to extinguish the passion to fight for equality. Along with the brazen police brutality, hangings, and citizens calling police in hopes of seeing an execution.

Honestly, it is a daunting thought to know that to fight for what most are born with could eventually lead to my demise. It's scary when I speak with other brothers and we share the same sentiment of being happy that we made it home. It's a shame that there is victory in making it home safe everyday. It's how I imagine fighting the war in Iraq is, walking down the street looking over my shoulder cause there's no telling if the stranger I'm passing is for me or against.

Things need to change. The more compliments I get on my writing and podcasting and knowing how amicable and personable I am makes me feel I'm the right person for the job. I've always been told that I should be a politician or car salesman or lawyer, it's easy for me to connect with others.

Why not me?

The journey will be long and hard fought. I may never see the results of my efforts, but I'm believing my children will, and their children. I'm thinking I found my third act. Just like collegiate sports, Peter, civil rights activist, and other public figures who sacrificed themselves to serve a bigger purpose.

I am, the exception.

Amelia and Amara, daddy loves you.

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