Read an Excerpt
I remember walking to work at MTV Networks from the train station. I heard a big booming voice asking, “What are you doing?”
It startled me at first because I had heard the voice before. Spirit was speaking, and it was serious because it was a booming voice, not subtle as I had perceived it before. I replied to Spirit, “What do you mean, what am I doing?” At this point, tears started to flood my eyes. I knew I had been running from what Spirit was guiding me to do. That was in the year 2000.
I am used to the voice of Spirit because I had been hearing it since I was a child. I remember Spirit speaking to me when my aunt took me to church every Sunday. It was there that I had found my solitude and time to talk directly with God about what was happening and going on in my life. I had learned how to be still, to listen and be obedient to the voice of Spirit.
I went away to college in Nashville, because I wanted to get away from my family. I wanted to escape my past of pain, hurt, anger, and bitterness. After graduation from college, I just ran, ran, and ran. I got so far from home that I had little to no contact with anyone from my family. I did this on purpose because I was angry with my family—I literally despised my mother.
My mother was a heroin addict. She used drugs heavily. Everyone in the family knew of her addiction, yet no one stepped in to help her seek professional help. We just learned to deal with it. My mother’s heavy drug use resulted in her becoming a prostitute to support her drug habit.
Imagine being a young boy growing up seeing your mother being dropped off by various men in different cars. Imagine watching your mother going into the bathroom and not coming out for two or three hours, obviously high on some drug. Imagine being in a car with your friends and driving out of the way to avoid certain neighborhoods and streets because you were afraid they would see your mother on the corner picking up “johns” for a trick.
I was so upset and angry that I was not born to what I considered a “normal” family. I was bitter because all my friends appeared to have normal families, with mothers who took them to the park, took them out to dinner, or attended their high school or college graduations.
I went to college because I swore I would not let my life end up like so many others I had known. I definitely did not want to end up like my mother. I fought like hell to buck the system to work in my favor. I worked hard in school and, just when I thought all was well, I got the call that my mother was sick. She had developed the AIDS virus from sharing drug needles.
When I got this call, I was shocked and startled. It had such a grip on me. I knew I was going to lose my mother. As it was close to Christmas break from school, I decided to go home immediately once the break started.
I went home and spent many days with my mother. We talked so much that it was actually refreshing to let my guard of anger and bitterness down. As the trip came to an end, I packed my bags and began preparations for my return to school.
As I was leaving and walking out the door, my mother called to me. I stopped at the door, turned to hear her voice and, for the first time in my life, my mother gently said, “I love you.” I replied back, “I love you, too,” and walked out the door, crying uncontrollably. I knew it would be the last time I would see her alive.
I was able to return to school and graduate because I knew that was what my mother would have wanted. After graduation I got an internship with CNN in Washington, D.C.; I did not want to return home to Detroit because I was still angry with my family for not helping my mother and constantly shuffling my sister and brothers, who were younger, from family to family.
As I continued to run from my family to avoid my pain and hurt, I got yet another call. My two younger brothers had also developed the AIDS virus, which eventually would claim their lives as well. My youngest brother, Jevonte, who had been infected with the disease while still in my mother’s womb, died two years after my mother’s death. He was three years old. My other brother, George, who was infected while he was molested in a group home for young boys, was nineteen years old when he died.
My life seemed to have turned upside down. I couldn’t deal with any more death and pain, so I continued to delve into work and traveled as frequently as possible. I had to keep moving and doing something to keep my mind active, so I wouldn’t think of what was happening in my family.
Then, in the year 2000, I heard the voice of Spirit, asking if I was ready to stop running and start healing. Spirit said, “I have work for you to do, and you need some healing.”
I had no other choice but to be obedient to Spirit. For the first time, I sat alone and cried. I cried for all the pain I had endured. I cried for all the years I had lost with my family. I cried because I had lost my mother and two brothers. I cried because I was tired of running, and I needed rest.
Spirit immediately went to work, and I began the healing. I began my spiritual work with mentors and healers, who literally showed up when I surrendered and helped me access my power and rebuild my spiritual muscle. I needed to be strong for the work I was about to embark upon.
I am glad I was able to surrender and let love move in. I am glad I was able to forgive everyone around me. Even more important, I’m glad I was able to forgive myself.
Once Spirit started working, I created the organization Men’s Empowerment, Inc. I knew there were other men dealing with situations and conditions similar to my own. I wanted to create a place where men could come and share their pains, joys, and difficulties, a place where they could tell their stories.
In creating Men’s Empowerment, I had no idea it would grow as rapidly as it did. Within four years, the organization has grown from 20 to more than 250 men of color, all of whom responded in the affirmative that they were looking for an outlet to express their emotions and a place where they could go for healing. It is a great feeling to walk into a room with brothers from various backgrounds coming together for one common cause: to nurture their spirits for healing.
The product of my surrendering and healing is this book, which I share with other men who are seeking to surrender and heal their lives. I have learned so much that I know it is time to share with my fellow brothers. It’s now time that we let one another know it’s okay to cry and let down our guards. It’s okay to feel pain and surrender to love when it shows up. It’s okay to talk with another brother about what’s going on in your life. We need this dialogue more than ever in our lives.
In creating this book, I wanted to share with other men of color the joys, pains, frustrations, and love I have had the opportunity to be a part of. I have found that our sisters, mothers, aunts, and mates have created their own support systems and foundations to help nurture one another in spirit. They have created so many outlets to sustain their inner selves that it is only a natural progression for men to get it and catch up.
More of us are starting and creating our own support systems and groups. Even if we have only one buddy to share with, we are creating a space for ourselves to share and open up, to allow Spirit room to move and grow. As men, we generally don’t allow others to witness or experience this space within us.
This book was inspired by all the men with whom I have had the opportunity to share experiences both joyful and painful, experiences that have led me to an amazing journey with Spirit. In this journey, I have discovered some amazing things about myself. I have learned that I am fearless, worthy, valuable, and, more important, I am love. I choose love daily and in all my interactions. I choose love because love has chosen me.
While you are reading this book, be sure to perform the daily activities. They will be extremely helpful to your development throughout the month. Make sure to practice the day’s inspiration, and witness the results of your behavior. Use the exercise pages to write down your experiences, how you actually feel when you incorporate the inspirations into your life. I know that when I was able to write down what was happening in my life, it was much easier to work through, because I had gotten the information out of my head and put it down on paper in front of me. I was then able to see the dialogue going on in my head and the drama that was ruling my life.
It’s no accident that you have this book in your hands. You or someone you know has thought enough about you to get you started or help you remember your connection to Spirit. Know that everything is divinely created and that you are meant to be here, right now, at this time, to become aware of your greatness. I encourage you to read this book and be open to its message.
I share this book with all my fellow brothers, uncles, fathers, and grandfathers. I share this book with my ancestors, who came before me and created a path for me to be a voice and a beacon of light unto the world. I share this book with family, who so graciously loved and nurtured me. I share this book with my grandmother, mother, and brothers, who have passed on to become my spiritual guides. Finally, I share this book with all the sisters, aunts, mothers, and grandmothers who continue to love all men. RECLAIM YOUR POWER!
The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward.
—Adeyemi Bandele, executive director, Men on the Move
As we work to further our careers, deal with family, or hang with friends, we often seem to be talking, yelling, or screaming. As men, we want to appear as if we can take charge and command an audience. We are so caught up in having people hear us that we do not take the time to listen; and thus we often miss the message or lesson that is being taught.
God speaks to us ever so gently. Listening involves being quiet, being able to still yourself to hear the voice of Spirit. The message may come from a song, e-mail, book, friend, family member, or a co-worker. In order to hear, however, you will have to learn to listen.
Start today by agreeing to listen to Spirit. You can create a private “listening” space somewhere in your office or home. Close your office door for five minutes. Step outside the office building. Find solitude in your basement or your bedroom. Find a space where you can be alone. You will be amazed at the clarity you will have when you are able to allow Spirit to speak, while you simply listen. EXERCISE
Make a list of the times when Spirit was guiding you, but you avoided it by not listening. How will you incorporate listening into your life today?
There is a soul force in the universe, which, if we permit it, will flow through us and produce miraculous results.
We rush to get to the next thing—a meeting, the recording studio, or the office. We are always running, “being busy making moves.” Even when we are not required to be somewhere, we find something to keep us busy. As men, we seem to think that if we are not hustling and bustling, then we are missing out on something.
To be still simply requires us not to do anything. To stop: stop moving, stop running, and stop creating things to do when we feel bored.
Spirit may be trying to guide us one way, but we move in another. Spirit may want us to simply be and enjoy the moment. When we take the time to be still, we allow Spirit to move into our lives.
Today, before you run to your next meeting, dash to the studio, or start a new project, allow yourself to be still. Relax and settle yourself in a quiet place somewhere in your office or home.
Enjoy the moment and let yourself be led in the direction of love, peace, and harmony. EXERCISE
List the things that prevent you from being still. How can you start being still today?
Do not speak harshly to anyone; those who are spoken to will answer thee in the same way. Angry speech is painful: blows for blows will touch thee.
—Buddha, The Dhammapada (c. 300 b.c.)
We are sometimes called upon to work long hours, go the extra mile, or clean up the mess when everyone’s gone. But along the way, we tend to forget to show kindness to those around us, be they family, friends, co-workers, or especially strangers.
As men, we may feel that if we show kindness others will view us as weak or vulnerable. We expect people to excuse our rude or harsh behavior because we’re men.
To show kindness allows life to bring kindness to us. When we are able to be compassionate or to say thank you for a job well done, we are allowing Spirit to be free to express itself.
Today, show kindness to someone. Tell a co-worker what a great job he or she is doing. Tell the intern in your department that you appreciate his or her help. Let your friends know you appreciate them for taking your late-night calls when you need to talk. Compliment your mate, and let her know how much you appreciate her. Tell your kids how proud you are of them in spite of your expectations of them. Remember, your children are learning life just as you once did, so be patient and loving with them.
When you show kindness, the anger and bitterness inside of you subsides. Random acts of kindness will, in fact, allow you to be seen as a compassionate and strong man. EXERCISE
Make a list of people who can benefit from your kindness. To whom will you show kindness today?
From the Trade Paperback edition.