- Don't Jump
DISCLAIMER: This entry is talking about the topic of suicide. Please read at your own discretion. If you or someone you know is struggling please seek professional help immediately. If you are in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255. I know life can be hard, but it gets better, give it time.
Suicide is a tragedy. I was not going to talk about this but its been weighing on my heart since the news first broke. My alma mater has had the misfortune of navigating several student suicides; to the point where they have made national headlines. I really do not want to focus on the institution because I think that takes the spotlight away from those who are really suffering. Allegedly one young man jumped from a five-story parking garage. What would cause someone to do that?
I was so heartbroken because I know suicide and depression all too well. I used to be a frequent visitor to the abyss. There have been several times where the thought of doing harm to myself or taking my own life has been two bad decisions/thought processes away from a reality. I’ve even jumped before. No, I was not in the right state of mind when I took flight, and thankfully I was not too hurt, but I remember thinking to myself immediately after thrusting my body out of a two story window “why did I do that?”. I wonder if that young man thought that as his feet left the ground, “why did I do that?”.
That’s the first thought of most people who jump. Jumping sucks because a person has time to think about their actions before hitting the ground. I felt for that young man, and everyone else who took their life this semester. I cried for them all weekend, thinking about their family and friends. I cried for them thinking about how it was just too soon. They are not going to have a chance to see what the other side is like. Those individuals will never know what its like to not be in a frequent visitor to the abyss. I call depression the abyss because that’s what it’s like for me, an engulfment of darkness.
When someone is there it can feel so real, so much like the truth: “I’m useless”, “I’m a burden”, “things would be better if I weren’t here”, “my family would be happier if I weren’t here”, “I’m sorry that I cause so much trouble”. Sometimes just the idea of death can be so palatable. I’ve had the blade to my wrist and to my throat, I’ve asked the question: who would care? I was so heart broken for those individuals because I was once them. I was saved, and they could have been too.
Suicide is not a display of weakness for those who fall victim to it. We as human beings instinctually want to live. It takes a lot for an individual to forgo that natural human instinct. Suicide in most cases, does not come from a place of selfishness. Victims of suicide are rather selfless in their thought process as it relates to the impact their not being here would have on someone else.
I wish those individuals had the resources that they needed, because more likely than not at one point they did probably try to seek help. November 28th 2019, was the three year anniversary of my rebaptism. After surviving my jump I decided to rededicate my life to Jesus. I’m not pushing anything on anyone, but my point here is that there is more.
I mourned the loss of those individuals as if I knew them. Our young people in general are checking out too early, but from my experience, there are not enough people showing or telling us that this life thing is worth sticking around for. On a real level, none of us really know why we are here. We are all trying to figure that out by taking solace in whatever we choose to allow to ease our minds. And however that is, it’s the job of those who’ve experienced “more” to instill the hope into young people that there is more.
Therapists are great and necessary, but they do not have a monopoly on hope. Inspirational speakers and spiritual leaders are great and necessary, but they do not have a monopoly on hope either. Everyday authentic people who are good at doing everyday authentic things, like asking how someone’s day is going and meaning it, or smiling and saying hello can impart hope just as well if not better in some cases than the aforementioned. Suicide is a tragedy; don’t jump, there is more, there is hope.
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- Black Excellence
This is a topic that I wanted to touch on since the inception of My Black Perspective. To be honest I have not talked about black culture specifically that much on this blog. Other than the self titled blog entry and “Jay Z and the NFL – The Next Blueprint?”, there has not been a post on this blog directly targeted at the black community. That’s partially by design. One thing that I do not want to do with this blog is have it too one dimensional. I want to be able to talk about different things. I recognize that the blog’s title can be off putting in and of itself but that’s why I diversify my content as best as I can. Because yes, this blog is about the world seen through the perspective of a young black man living in America, but that young man (me) just like black culture, is multifaceted; and I would be doing myself and my culture a disservice if I pigeonholed this blog. That being said; that is not the case with this blog entry.
For some context, like I said, this was one of the first entries that I thought about writing for this blog. What brought upon the inspiration was all of the amazing things going on in the culture at the time. While this blog was still in its premature stages I was watching and reading news about Kamala Harris, the only black women in the senate, entering the 2020 presidential race and becoming a part of the short list of black women to ever run for president as a major party candidate. I saw stories about Beyoncé’s $60 Million Netflix deal, Tiger Woods’ Masters win (his first major win in over a decade), and Tyra Banks coming out of retirement, and making history by modeling for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition for the first time in over two decades.
Throughout this year stories like those continued to pop up: Jay Z became a billionaire and struck his deal with the NFL, Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 after being out for over two years prior to gaining popularity, Cardi B became the first female artist to win best rap album at the Grammy’s, and Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” became the longest running number one song in history (17 weeks). Russell Wilson became the highest paid NFL player Period, Steven A. Smith became the highest paid sports analyst on ESPN, and Billionaire Robert Smith, pledged to pay off the entire student loan debt for Morehouse’s graduating Class of 2019. Wendy Williams got her star on the Hollywood walk of fame, and Kanye West (claim him or not he’s black), made a Christian album that was the fastest album in Spotify history to hit number one. I know I’m missing a whole lot from this list, but the point is, black culture did some amazing things in 2019.
Seeing all of this take place I have never been more proud to be black than this year. Depending on who you ask in my circles, I was and to some extent still am whitewashed to a degree. Those comments stem from how I navigate my world, but I can never renounce my melanin. But, that sentiment plays perfectly into this topic and the following question: what makes black excellent?
I was talking to my dad two days ago and he said to me “Ken, when are you going to get a career”. My dad is old fashioned and thinks I should be on my way to being well settled by now. I do not knock him because that was his lived experience, but I responded to his question by saying I do not want to punch someone else’s clock for the rest of my life. He responded by saying that’s why I should have kept practicing music when I was younger, or I should look into being a preacher. Being older I can appreciate my dad more because we can have more robust conversations. So I ask him, why is it that for a black person in America, their only way out is through entertainment or the church, why cant we be the CEO, the scholar, the writer, the entrepreneur so on and so forth? And his response to me was “That’s just the way it is”.
As off putting as that response may appear from the outside looking in, there is a whole lot of truth behind it. There are some doors that are flung wide open for black people most of which are in some type of sport/entertainment, other doors can be opened we just have to find the key – of which no one wants to help us find – thusly, some doors we have to bust down, and some doors no matter how hard we try need a miracle to be opened otherwise it’s not happening. There is not a shadow of doubt in my mind that this type of inequity is a form of modern-day slavery (personal theory not concrete fact), but it is here within this societal structure where I would suggest that our excellence is best depicted.
Back in high school I was a part of a young men’s youth group called “Young Men of Excellence”. The group was compiled of young black men who did not necessarily align with the stigma of black men in my high school at the time. Yes, some of us were athletes, but none of us dressed sloppily, spoke in improper sentences, or were delinquent in nature. Looking back on that group the one thing that it gave me and hopefully everyone who was a part of it was, the notion that one, we are a community, and two, we can beat our odds. Fact of the matter is we were not the norm. I think that’s what black excellence is especially as it relates black people in America.
We are excellent because of our ability to beat the odds. So yes, my dad was right, success inequality is a fact of life for black people, but what also is a fact is that within that inequality there is this unique opportunity to defy the odds, to inspire whole generations, and instill hope by being the first to [insert achievement here]. I believe that above all else, it’s that level of influence that makes being black excellent.
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- Thanksgiving Weekend
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and enjoyed time with family and friends. This year was definitely one of if not the best Thanksgiving of the whole decade for me. To be honest, I looked at it from the lens of it’s a four-day weekend. Like the food and family was nice, but you want to know what was nicer, not having to go to work!
The day of Thanksgiving I celebrated with my extended family; I Got to see all my cousins, my aunts and uncle. We celebrated at my grandmother’s home and it was nice to have all of the family under one roof. Unfortunately, that was a tradition that kind of fell by the waste side as we all got older and life progressed. I had showed up relatively early so I wanted to see if there was any way I could help, and I ended up making the mashed potatoes, which came out slammin’ if I do say so myself. Once dinner time arrived, I had to prepare a piece of fish for myself because that side of the family is not pescatarian friendly, and that was especially so on Thanksgiving. I prepared a beautiful piece of yellowtail tuna steak. I salted and peppered it and seared it in a pan for all of 30 seconds on each side and it was delicious.
I was also given the honor of blessing the food. The older I get the more I see the role that I get to play in unifying the family and being an example for my little cousins who by the way are hot messes! I have four high school aged boy cousins and they are just a riot. I used to help raise them growing up so now I’m like an older brother/ role model to them so it’s awesome to watch their progression into young men.
I brought the wine for the evening which was a bit of a challenge. It was a challenge because that side of the family are not drinkers, but they think they are. Like they think the good stuff is nasty and that the nasty stuff is good. So, I went on the safer side and brought a Robert Mondavi 2017 Cab. I thought it was a decent pick but of course not everyone liked it; Cannot please everyone, but I try, at least when it comes to alcohol hahaha.
On Black Friday I got to celebrate Thanksgiving round two with my immediate family. My dad and all of my siblings had to work on the day of, so we had to accommodate. The day started out with me picking up my dad (we did dinner at my sister’s) and him taking me out for breakfast in the morning and black Friday shopping in the afternoon, which I was happy for; I was in desperate need of some new work clothes. We had an early dinner which was nice and this time around there was fish! My sister made stuffed baked salmon. It was a whole lot of fun and merriment from start to finish.
After dinner I dropped my dad off home, and I made my way to the club! My best friend Chris made a surprise trip to visit me, so we went out and partied. I come alive every time that I am in a bar or a club, and since getting older I’ve only gotten better at being a professional partyer, so I try to make sure I always show my guests a good time when we socialize together. This was also only the third time I had seen Chris this year, which is a bit of an abnormality for us, but it made the time together that much better.
I wrapped the weekend up yesterday and today by staying in! I had to run a few errands like going grocery shopping and going to the bank, but other than that, I was determined to enjoy my time the way I wanted. This was such a much-needed weekend, and I’m thankful for every moment of it.
December is here which is exciting! Things are beginning to shift not only in my life but in the atmosphere in general. For my readers who are a bit more spiritually inclined I would advise that you lean in this month, I believe some exciting things are coming down the pike and that this decade is going to go out with a bang!
Also, a quick heads up; I will be going on hiatus for a month and a half starting on December 15th. The blog will be back in full swing as of February 1st, but I want to take some time to explore and workshop new material. “My Black Perspective” is going into its Sixth month and the reception has been amazing. I want to continue to expand this medium, but I want to do it the right way; So I will be taking that time off to figure out what the right way is.
I still have a few more posts lined up before I check out so stay tuned for those and please follow/join the email list to stay up to date with the life of this blog. For those of you who already follow/check in regularly thank you, I see you, and it is much appreciated!
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- End of a Decade
Its the season of Thanksgiving! A time of reflecting over one’s year, celebrating life, and the expectation of what’s to come with the promise of a new year. And with the coming arrival of a new decade there is a lot to be reflexive over.
I had the opportunity to meet with a colleague over drinks last week, and we were talking about our perspective life stories. He asked me something to the effect of, what has been the narrative of my life thus far? Pretty deep especially after a long workday, but I’m a professional networker so I navigate the question appropriately. After taking a moment to ponder I share that over the course of my life up to this moment I have always taken on more than was required of me.
That notion manifested itself in my life in different ways but ultimately up until recently, my life has been a never-ending feedback loop. I overachieve in some aspect of my life, I get praised for doing such, I enjoy the feeling, I do it again, so on and so forth. On one hand that’s great because at the beginning of the decade I remember saying to myself that I want to be great and that I know there is more for my life than what I was currently experiencing. So my experience in this decade has been the product of a self-fulfilling prophecy. But on the other hand, what has that desire for greatness cost me? My “normalcy”, and my youth.
When I was younger all I wanted to do was be an adult, and now that I’m an adult all I want to do is remain young. I think that has become a quality of my personality. Over this decade I’ve adopted the idea of age as a concept. I remember speaking with a member of my cohort in graduate school and getting into a conversation about revolutions around the sun, and whether or not that constitutes age. In other words, what makes a person young/old: fragility in one’s body or fragility of mind/spirit? Long story short; this decade I can identify myself as having always been an eagle amongst peacocks.
When you look at a peacock, they have these beautiful feathers and they dance around trying to impress everyone around them, and they always get all the attention because of how much noise they make metaphoric or otherwise. Eagles on the other hand, are known for their ability to soar through the skies. Not the most majestic or beautiful bird aesthetically, but they can can soar to an altitude of over 10,000ft/3048m and fly at speeds of up to 100mph/160kph. Peacocks are not flightless, but they cannot put up those kinds of numbers.
That being said, as one could imagine it’s a lonely world for someone with an eagle mindset. Cause I mean lets face it, most of my peers were not of the same inclination as it related to life goals and aspirations. I shared that with my colleague and how its been difficult navigating my life from that perspective especially because that whole time I wanted to sustain whatever inkling of normalcy and youth I had in conjunction with my peers. Fact of the matter Is, I was definitely not normal and well above average.
Over the last 10 years i’ve climbed mountains both literally and metaphorically, and I have seen two of the seven wonders of the world. I’ve been to well over a dozen live concerts, and I’ve seen Beyoncé live five times alone which is no easy feat hahaha! I’ve been to three different continents, seven different countries, and have gone to the olympics games (see: Tales From Abroad Vol. 2). I’ve created a name for myself, and left a legacy for myself in the people I’ve had the opportunity to mentor. I’ve paved the way for others, got to impact policy at institutions, and have received more honors and accolades than I would dare to numerate. I earned my Master’s and have spoken in front of thousands. And just to put this all in perspective, I’m currently 4 months into being 24 years old. I’ve done more in the last decade than a lot of people get to do in their entire life.
When I look back over this decade and think about what its been like soaring, I cannot help but to be grateful. Not every moment has been awesome and there have been plenty of times where I decided to hang out with the peacocks and I end up damaging myself and those around me. There are things that happened over the last decade that I still beat my self up over. One of the things I want to commit to as this Thanksgiving season goes into full swing this week, is as we get closer to the new year, I want to focus less on the negatives of previous years. That is a challenge for me especially with my brand of overachievement. Self-deprecation historically has been my motivation; That’s not healthy and it has proven itself ineffective.
I do not want to continue to give the enemy a foot hold in my life when God has been so good to me. I mean I’m living in that truth right now. I currently have my own apartment, a wonderful network and community of people, a decent job, and this blog which I’m head over heals about. The next 10 years are going to be better than the former, and that’s because I’m going to be better.
Sometimes it takes a top down view to understand and grasp the things we experience. How has the last 10 years been for you? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!
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