My Country ‘Tis of Thee

brotherword-lost-liberty

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing; Land where my forefathers and brothers continue to die, land where it seems okay to kill a black man and still no answer to why, Yelling from the mountaintops, when will justice ring?

As yet another name, #TerenceCrutcher, has been added to the list of black males slaughtered at he hands of police officers, I cannot help but be enraged. When is enough enough!

We have seen terroristic attacks across American soil, as recent as a few days ago in Manhattan, and those suspects be treated more humanely than African-Americans. We have all seen the video of the Anglo man physically attacking the officers, disobeying their commands, verbally abusive, and yet he was still able to live. When did we revert back to yesteryear when black men were thought of as less than human, 3/5 human, or have I been fooling myself?

No matter the rhetoric, justification, or any suggested rationale, the fact remains, these people are dead! As Crutcher’s twin sister profoundly stated, using the depiction the helicopter officer foolishly uttered, “that bad dude was someone’s brother, someone’s son, someone’s uncle, he loved God…”

We have lost a sense of humanity and the divide between the “law” and the people widens by the second. America, if you, we, claim to be the greatest country, it is beyond time to start looking in the mirror. We have become a distorted, pathetic joke of everything we try to push on others and claim to stand for and trust me when I tell you the rest of the world is laughing at us in disgust. As I recently traveled abroad, I was put in a position to defend a country, my country, that thinks of me less than human, as I was asked question after question about the ignorance, disparity, cruel treatment, and malicious, deplorable inequalities and injustice that is so obvious to even those outside of the U.S.A.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! And yet people continue to question why some have chosen not to stand during the national anthem? Many have not read Francis Scott Key’s original poem. It is only the first stanza that is used for the Star-Spangled Banner, but it is the last stanza that we need to remember.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

This is applicable to every man, woman, and child, so do not be shocked when its words become life and the “freemen” stand (or kneel) and take upon themselves the motto, “… then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, [and ONLY] in God our trust.”  Even the meekest and mildest of man has a breaking point and America, you are pushing us to a point of no return.

Motivational Mondays

brotherword-know-thy-self

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.  Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. ~ Tao Te Ching

There are things in this world that once obtained, can never be taken away – knowledge, purpose, and love to name a few.

Knowledge like power is harnessed by a desire to grow, expand, to live beyond circumstances and situations, and once you get a taste of it, it is invigorating and empowering.  Knowledge helps us not only on an intellectual plain, but also in our spiritual realm.  The more self aware you become, the more you learn about the psyche of others, and the more verse you become on multiple topics, the quicker and better you are at adapting and adjusting to the many twists of life.

Knowledge is the sibling of purpose, because as you begin to learn, you begin to discover and it is on this journey that purpose is revealed and realized!  Knowledge breeds passion and passion equates to purpose and purpose births love.  Love is the byproduct of purpose as it stems from those things we are most passionate about.

Love is the result of pursuing purpose and can never be taken away.  The misconception is that love fails or diminishes, but the truth of the matter is that love is an energy that shifts as we do.  Love is not necessarily for the recipient but all about the giver as it is a manifestation of an inward impulse.  It is spontaneous, unpredictable, consuming, liberating, and fulfilling and once given, it does the exact same for those that receive it!  Love is the end result we all desire no matter the pursuit.

There are also things in this world that cannot be taken back once squandered – time and words.

Time is one commodity that cannot be bought or sold, you cannot get a return on it or recycle it, and once gone, you will never see again.  Use the time you have to maximize the desires of your heart.  Time wasted is an opportunity unfulfilled, but time used properly is a bottomless well of gratitude and thankfulness.

In the same breath (pun intended), choose your words carefully.  Words can either build or destroy and it is a wise person who not only knows the difference, but also practices the principles.  Our words are sharp double-edged swords that can cut, defend, free, or keep in bondage ourselves and others.  A harsh word may be forgiven, but will surely not be forgotten.  A kind word will not be forgotten, but will also break down walls and free people from captivity.  It is a foolish man who uses words only to admonish, but it takes a wise man to let his words polish.

Hold tightly and guard those things that can never be taken away as they become roots of our tree that bear good fruit.  And likewise, consciously remain aware of not forfeiting what can never be regained, as they too reflect who we are and will become and the fruit we shall bear.

 

Motivational Monday

BrotherWord - Wall

Back against the wall and the walls are closing in. Do you coward in the corner or brace yourself, ready to defend?  Champ or chump, choice is up to you.  The only way to find out is come out swinging and make it do what it do.  But the victor is not based solely on the one who wins, but victory comes in having the courage to pick yourself up, push yourself off the wall, and fight to the very end. ~ BrotherWord

There are tests in life that will have you teetering on the verge of complete collapse.  Whether physical, mental, or emotional, everyone has a breaking point which they feel they can no longer go any further.  How many of you have been at that point?  How many have been at the bottom with no hope of ever rising again?  How many have thrown in the towel and gave up?

This thing called life is not for the meek or faint of heart and as I am often reminded, those that have and are living in their purpose, the attacks are more frequent and twice as brutal!  Isn’t that how a typical boxing match works though?  There are two fighters in the ring, well trained, willing to throw punches, and ready to defend.  But how quickly it changes when one boxer is taking a barrage of punches, pushed up against the ropes, and all the training in the world does not seem to matter.

No different in life.  Ethnicity, social class, education, financial status, none of it makes us impervious to the punches of life.  What separates champions is what they do in times of adversity.  What will you do when you take a punch, get knocked down, find yourself with your back against the wall?  Fight!  There is not other answer.  Fight!  Sometimes the fight may mean swing and punch your way out.  Sometimes it may mean ducking and avoiding the blows.  Other times it may mean being strategic and cerebral.  Could also mean taking an emotional and spiritual account of matters and reassessing your inner person.  Either way, fight with every weapon you have and do not stop fighting until you find  yourself victorious.  You may find your back against the wall, but that does not mean that is where you have to stay.

Never give up or give in.  It is at the bleakest times we shine brightest and when we discover there is no limit to how far we can go.  At the edge of despair and defeat, God will either catch you when you fall or teach you how to fly.

Motivational Monday

BrotherWord - Tough Times

There will be times in life when you literally wonder, “Can I go on?”  With every triumph, there will seem to be a more imposing obstacle and with every victory, there will appear some random act meant to snatch joy from your life.  Life simply isn’t fair and tough times are inevitable, but what do you do when the tough times happen?

Giving up and folding in is never the solution.  Overcoming… that is the challenge.  In life you can take the route of the potato, egg, or coffee bean.  Which one are you?

The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it.  Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.” ~ Epicetus

 

#NoMoreTears

BrotherWord - Change Is Gonna Come

Jay-Z penned a heartfelt ode entitled “Song Cry” (circa 2002) that depicted an array of emotions that no longer manifested physically, so instead, he had to make the “song cry.”  As I write this opus to mankind, all I can think to do is make the pen cry.

Unless you are oblivious to the world and live in an underground bunker with no outside contact, every single person is aware of the atrocities involving the murders of #AltonSterling and #PhilandoCastile.  Outrage, anger, heartache, sadness, bewilderment, do not even begin to scratch the surface of emotions I feel.  Anyone with a conscious and half a thought can clearly see there is a physical, mental, and spiritual attack against African-American men and a clear disregard for our lives and/or well being.  Sadly, we as black men are an endangered species being systematically slaughtered, persecuted, and one-by-one eradicated as if we are less than, irrelevant, and disposable.  America is hurting and her people are suffering and the stoic appearance you see in me is because I have #NoMoreTears, so I let my pen depict my pain and watch it cry. (more…)

Feel Good Fridays

BrotherWord - Feel Good Fridays

It’s #FGF – Feel Good Friday – and this is the #GraduationEdition!  #BrotherWord is giving you a double dose of the feel good.  Each year hundreds of high school seniors prepare to walk the stage, receive their diplomas, and embark on a new phase of life.  And as common as graduation ceremonies may seem, it is the bright futures and amazing individuals who we will continue to applaud and celebrate.

First up is Boston Latin High School senior, Phillip Sossou.  Students are remembered for a myriad of reasons, some good, some bad, but there are certain students who carve out their own legacies, or in this case, draw them.  Sossou wanted to make sure that each of his classmates was remembered and at the beginning of the year he began memorializing all 411 in charcoal portraits!  His art teacher did not think it was possible but before the last day for the seniors, he displayed his beautiful portraits of all his classmates for the entire school to admire.  A school marred earlier in the year by racial tensions, Phillip Sossou used his talents to mend the fences, bring all together, and leave a lasting smile.  Watch the video to see more about this amazing #ClassOf2016 graduate.

Our next Feel Good Friday comes from senior Kevuntez King, a three-sport athlete who graduated with a 4.0 GPA and has already earned enough to pay for his entire college education!  The senior from Memphis, TN., spent the last five years waking up at 3:45am to sell newspapers.  His dedication proved more than fruitful as he has earned enough to pay for his entire college education.  Aside from graduating with honors, King epitomizes what it means when drive and dedication result in the manifestation of of our dreams coming true and that is the message he expressed to all his classmates, “Just chase your dreams.”  Already accepted into Tennessee State University, King is not resting on his laurels, but staying true to what got him to where he is now and beginning his college career this summer.

We applaud all the graduates of 2016.  Never stop chasing your dreams, keep striving for greatness, and no matter what, believe in the impossible!

 

#LiftOff

BrotherWord - Lift Off

Every person, whether still in school or not, should read this, print it out, and remind themselves as often as needed that they possess everything to #LiftOff.  

Lift Off

By: Donald Livingston (@DLive87)

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin,
Is a great equalizer of the conditions of men.” – Horace Mann, 1848.
At the time of his remarks I couldn’t read — couldn’t write.
Any attempt to do so, punishable by death.
For generations we have known of knowledge’s infinite power.
Yet somehow, we’ve never questioned the keeper of the keys —
The guardians of information.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen more dividing and conquering
In this order of operations — a heinous miscalculation of reality.
For some, the only difference between a classroom and a plantation is time.
How many times must we be made to feel like quotas —
Like tokens in coined phrases? —
“Diversity. Inclusion”
There are days I feel like one, like only —
A lonely blossom in a briar patch of broken promises.
But I’ve always been a thorn in the side of injustice.

Disruptive. Talkative. A distraction.
With a passion that transcends the confines of my consciousness —
Beyond your curriculum, beyond your standards.
I stand here, a manifestation of love and pain,
With veins pumping revolution.
I am the strange fruit that grew too ripe for the poplar tree.
I am a DREAM Act, Dream Deferred incarnate.
I am a movement – an amalgam of memories America would care to forget
My past, alone won’t allow me to sit still.
So my body, like the mind
Cannot be contained.

As educators, rather than raising your voices
Over the rustling of our chains,
Take them off. Un-cuff us.
Unencumbered by the lumbering weight
Of poverty and privilege,
Policy and ignorance.

I was in the 7th grade, when Ms. Parker told me,
“Donovan, we can put your excess energy to good use!”
And she introduced me to the sound of my own voice.
She gave me a stage. A platform.
She told me that our stories are ladders
That make it easier for us to touch the stars.
So climb and grab them.
Keep climbing. Grab them.
Spill your emotions in the big dipper and pour out your soul.
Light up the world with your luminous allure.

To educate requires Galileo-like patience.
Today, when I look my students in the eyes, all I see are constellations.
If you take the time to connect the dots,
You can plot the true shape of their genius —
Shining in their darkest hour.

I look each of my students in the eyes,
And see the same light that aligned Orion’s Belt
And the pyramids of Giza.
I see the same twinkle
That guided Harriet to freedom.
I see them. Beneath their masks and mischief,
Exists an authentic frustration;
An enslavement to your standardized assessments.

At the core, none of us were meant to be common.
We were born to be comets,
Darting across space and time —
Leaving our mark as we crash into everything.
A crater is a reminder that something amazing happened here —
An indelible impact that shook up the world.
Are we not astronomers — looking for the next shooting star?
I teach in hopes of turning content, into rocket ships —
Tribulations into telescopes,
So a child can see their potential from right where they stand.
An injustice is telling them they are stars
Without acknowledging night that surrounds them.
Injustice is telling them education is the key
While you continue to change the locks.

Education is no equalizer —
Rather, it is the sleep that precedes the American Dream.
So wake up — wake up! Lift your voices
Until you’ve patched every hole in a child’s broken sky.
Wake up every child so they know of their celestial potential.
I’ve been a Black hole in the classroom for far too long;
Absorbing everything, without allowing my light escape.
But those days are done. I belong among the stars.
And so do you. And so do they.
Together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness
For generations to come.
No, sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning.
Lift off.

The Sky Is Not the Limit

BrotherWord - Graduation 2016

It’s graduation season again and many are being promoted to their next elevation. Whether it is the kid who is now graduating from kindergarten and entering “big school” or the junior high student venturing off into the shark pool of high school, or even the high school graduate that is cutting the strings to become an independent college student or even those who have surpassed college and are now accepting post-graduate degrees, there is a commonality.  That commonality regardless of what phase the graduate may be in is where he or she goes next is heavily dependent on that individual and their willingness to work hard, be unrelenting and undeterred, and a passion and desire to chase their dreams no matter the challenges or obstacles that lie ahead.

And if you still are wondering what lies in store or how to get there, please take six minutes to be inspired!  Donald Livingston (@DLive87) prolifically sums up every students potential and lays out a map to navigate the roads ahead.  If you do not know where you are going or how to get there, it’s time to #LiftOff!

Breathe of Life

BrotherWord - Feel Good Fridays

Miracles happen around us everyday, but oftentimes we are blinded to them because our idea of what a miracle looks like is based on something only derived of on a hollywood movie set using a green screen and plenty of CGI.  But prayer is powerful and miracles still exist!

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” ~ C.S. Lewis

Tony Yally is living proof that miracles still happen and how a little faith can turn even apparent death around.  Pronounced dead after 50 minutes of no recordable vital signs, Yally’s son refused to accept his passing and began praying over his father’s body.  What resulted could only be deemed a miracle as doctors have no explanation.  Check out the video below about this astonishing story.

It’s #FGF and we are feeling good for the Yally family and also for knowing that no matter the situation or circumstances, it is only dead when we give up.  No, every story will not be as triumphant like the Yally’s, but what is universal is that life only ends when we stop living it!  #FeelGood knowing you too are a walking miracle!

Positive Vibes

BrotherWord - Positivity Is the Key

Our mind is our strongest tool and greatest asset and how we perceive life and the events that happen daily will shape the life we desire.  Everything may not be in order or as we wish, but a positive outlook can literally transform the impossible into the possible.

As a man thinketh, so is he!  Nothing can be more true and the endorphins released through positive thinking revitalizes and refreshes and like all energy, transfers and infects all around us.  Being positive is a mindset that is intentional and on purpose and must be routinely practiced.  A positive attitude awakens inner strength, energy, motivation and initiative.  Every situation may not be positive, but we can find a positive in just about every situation.

As you practice your positivity today, here is a jumpstart from the great people @PowerOfPositivity.  The video only lasts a minute, but the impact will last a lifetime.

“Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” ~ Groucho Marx

“The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.” Oprah Winfrey

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