I AM TROY DAVIS: 021 (Bearing Witness)

For the next 344 days, I will be writing entries under the title, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS.’  Moved to pick up the pen not merely by Troy Anthony Davis‘ death/execution, but more so by his life/evolution, I hope that there are those out there who can relate.  If so, we must connect.  We are already connected.  Axé.

A little while back, I wrote an entry entitled ‘Roses for the Living‘ after watching a video called ‘Roses‘ by Smiff N Wessun.  The entry was about how most of us generally wait to praise and/or appreciate the brilliance of a loved one until they transition to the next realm through what we know as ‘death.’  In the past year, we have witnessed the transition of Gil Scot Heron, Don Cornelius, Etta James, and most recently, Whitney Houston.

Due to Whitney Houston’s international status as a multi-platinum recording artist there will probably be a much greater hooplah in the media regarding her passing than there was for the aforementioned artists.  This doesn’t take anything at all away from Gil Scot’s poetic genius, or Etta James’ resounding vocal tones, but Whitney was a mainstream artist.  Whenever you swim in this current, the spotlight is brighter, the stakes are higher, and the scrutiny is painfully intense.  Almost no one makes it out unscathed.

We all read about Whitney Houston’s battle with substance abuse.  Many of us watched reports, reality T.V. shows, and interviews about the ups and downs of her relationship with singer Bobby Brown.  Some of us even made jokes about her struggles with drugs.  As much as we were empowered and inspired by her music throughout the years, we were also investing energy and time listening to stories of her downfall, making light of her struggles.

The same thing happened with Michael Jackson.  These great spirits came bearing incredible gifts of music and art, but when they were revealed to be human, we turned our backs on them.  Before her transition, despite all of her empowering music, Whitney was probably best known for her downfalls in life.  This is the hard truth I face again with her loss.  As with Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, and so many others, flowers are thrown for the dead.  But, what about the living?

Through writing today, I am simply reminding myself to stay away from the traps of corporate media that lead us towards judgment and ridicule.  We are human beings.  When artists like Dave Chapelle and Lauryn Hill take a step away from the mainstream, we question them for leaving the money and fame behind.  But, when the pressures of fame lead to an early death for artists like Whitney Houston, we want to throw our hands in the air and wonder why?

At the end of the day,  how you see and /or remember Whitney Houston is simply a reflection of what’s inside of you; it is not a definition of who she was, or what she accomplished with her life on this planet.

Just bearing witness today.

My name is Jonathan ‘Jbro Mpeanaji’ Mahone, and I am one-half of (RAS) Riders Against the Storm.  I AM TROY DAVIS.

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I AM TROY DAVIS: 020 (Travelers Know)

For the next 345 days, I will be writing entries under the title, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS.’  Moved to pick up the pen not merely by Troy Anthony Davis‘ death/execution, but more so by his life/evolution, I hope that there are those out there who can relate.  If so, we must connect.  We are already connected.  Axé.

written on 1/2/12

travelers know

the importance of an open door.

know the significance of the journey’s call.

know open roads,

but don’t know it all.

know how to rest

when the body’s sore.

travelers know the cold

and surrender to the warmth.

travelers respect and overstand

the universal laws;

unwritten, but spoken

from a universal source.

travelers know.

can’t sit still,

or you attract mosquitoes

like a stagnant pond.

travelers know

the flow.

weren’t afraid to come;

ain’t scared to leave.

travelers know how to receive –

gifts

and give more;

travelers,

sorcerers,

healers,

we are.

travelers

over sound.

travelers

at night.

travelers

not bound.

travelers with mics.

travelers who know

when it’s time to fight.

and when it’s time to speak

travelers might,

tell you a story

to enrich your life;

and listen to yours

to enrich their own;

and share with the next one

in another time zone.

air, land, or sea

travelers roam.

like gypsies,

anywhere they land is home.

through a universe born.

through a universe returned.

travelers know.

yes, travelers know.

it’s all about the road.

yes, travelers know.

My name is Jonathan ‘Jbro Mpeanaji’ Mahone, and I am one-half of (RAS) Riders Against the Storm.  I AM TROY DAVIS.

I AM TROY DAVIS: 019 (Heavenly Down/Uploads)

For the next 346 days, I will be writing entries under the title, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS.’  Moved to pick up the pen not merely by Troy Anthony Davis‘ death/execution, but more so by his life/evolution, I hope that there are those out there who can relate.  If so, we must connect.  We are already connected.  Axé.

Ideas are heavenly downloads.  Prayers are heavenly uploads.  Whatever we think (upload) though our prayers/daily walk, comes back to us as ideas (downloads) that we can utilize to manifest our thoughts into reality.  Our bodies are the machines/vessels through which actions are made: after the download has been received.

Some downloads have viruses, or are corrupted, because we weren’t focused/attentive enough when we initially uploaded our intentions towards the heavens.  Other downloads contain the wrong software for the application needed.  Be careful of what you upload into your computer’s mainframe.  Try to keep it clean through meditation, daily exercise and stillness.

Constant activity (over-thinking) slows down your ability to process necessary downloads.  Ideas don’t come through thinking hard/processing information.  On the contrary, your best ideas usually come when you’re doing something totally mundane:  driving your car, sitting on the toilet, waiting for the bus, etc.

More on this later.  I just wanted to begin sharing my ideas/downloads more quickly, since I have been slow with the action of writing them down digitally.  My daily words and actions are my prayers.  My readers bear witness.  Amen.

My name is Jonathan ‘Jbro Mpeanaji’ Mahone, and I am one-half of (RAS) Riders Against the Storm.  I AM TROY DAVIS.

I AM TROY DAVIS: 018 (Let’s Pretend…)

For the next 347 days, I will be writing entries under the title, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS.’  Moved to pick up the pen not merely by Troy Anthony Davis‘ death/execution, but more so by his life/evolution, I hope that there are those out there who can relate.  If so, we must connect.  We are already connected.  Axé.

A few weeks back, Tiger and I facilitated a group discussion with our friend, TK.  The discussion was centered on the Occupy Austin (OA) movement, and the participation (or lack thereof) of People of Color (POC).  TK, Tiger, and I wanted to create a POC-only space so that we could (more) freely discuss our feelings/issues about OA, or anything else.

We made sure the 60+ people that  showed up were given room to organize conversations around whatever topics they wanted to discuss.  Some in the room were upset that white people were excluded from the meeting; some wanted to speak about an upcoming action/march to pull money out of Bank of America and Wells Fargo; some just wanted to talk about making OA more of an inclusive space for POC.  The breakout groups were as diverse as one could imagine.  Our goal was to ensure that everyone felt their voice was heard and included in the conversation.

Before those small-group conversations even took place, however, TK walked the larger group through a brief visualization exercise during which participants were asked to close their eyes and imagine the world they would like to see for themselves.  This was supposed to be an entirely personal vision, detailing the exact people, foods, environment, colors, shapes, sounds, housing, etc. that each person would describe as their dream.  After the visualization, folks were asked to draw what they saw (with crayons), and share their drawings/visions with the person next to them.

The feedback that followed was a bit surprising.  One individual said he felt tension in his body when he was asked to create his personal ideal/vision.  Another woman said that she had nothing come to her initially besides frustration.  Others nodded, affirming their own struggles with the visioning process.

I think most people in the room that night would say that they want to see ‘change,’ a ‘better world,’ or ‘reform.’  But, it was interesting to find that more than just a handful of these same people were frustrated by the process of pretending, or imagining what their personal ‘better world’ might actually look like in reality.

Why do we as adults have so many problems dreaming/visioning/pretending?  The seed of change begins with a dream/vision, right?

Imagine there were no obstacles keeping you from manifesting your personal dream world.  What would your world look like?  Can you draw it?  Do you have a job in this world?  Do you live in a city, a forest, on a beach?  Do you eat food from a supermarket?  Watch TV?  Hang from trees all day?

Whatever your dream/vision is, write it down.  Draw it out.  Nothing will happen if you can’t see it clearly in your mind’s eye.

Let’s pretend.

My name is Jonathan ‘Jbro Mpeanaji’ Mahone, and I am one-half of (RAS) Riders Against the Storm.  I AM TROY DAVIS.

I AM TROY DAVIS: 017 (It’s Heavy…D)

For the next 348 days, I will be writing entries under the title, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS.’  Moved to pick up the pen not merely by Troy Anthony Davis‘ death/execution, but more so by his life/evolution, I hope that there are those out there who can relate.  If so, we must connect.  We are already connected.  Axé.

It’s heavy how quickly things change.  Or, maybe, it’s just heavy when you actually sit and realize how much things have changed.  I don’t want to be overly-sentimental because I feel that this energy is very much related to becoming ‘old.’  And, even though I don’t consider myself old, I am starting to realize how much of a musical blessing my childhood really represented when compared to the current generation.

We (those of us raised in the 80s) were truly blessed to come from a generation that was influenced by the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 60s and 70s.  The records (yes, vinyl) that our parents played when their friends came over to hang out were Earth, Wind, and Fire, Parliament Funkadelic, James Brown, Grover Washington, Jr., Sly and the Family Stone, Anita Baker, Luther Vandross, Herbie Hancock, anything Motown, basically music with a heartbeat/soul to it.  It made you feel good.  It made you proud.  It gave you a place in the world.

Even though we were all on Michael Jackson, New Edition/Bobby Brown, Bell Biv Devoe (BBD), and more – deep down – we still had an appreciation for that ‘old stuff’ our parents played.  Being young (11 years old) in 1988, I was quick to move from artist to artist, as groups and songs got ‘played out,’ but I vividly remember being surrounded by an incredibly diverse spectrum of voices, each offering a different aspect of our Black experience. There weren’t a lot of outlets to hear these voices, so daily, we waited for BET’s Rap City, and magazines like Word Up, and The Source to find out about what was new and hot.

This is ‘back in the day’ when rap music wasn’t getting big Puff Daddy/Hype Williams budgets, or much respect as a genre at all.  RUN D.M.C. let corporations know that rap could profit, but the formulas weren’t in place for the creation of a rap mega/superstar.  M.C. Hammer came on the scene and changed all of that in ’88.   Dancing, and rapping hard, with an enormous stage show, Hammer took rap music to the charts in a major way.

Even though Hammer caught a lot of backlash for ‘crossing-over,’ his music was heavily dance-oriented like many hip hop groups in that day.  Watch the videos from that time, and you will see rappers, from Big Daddy Kane down to Digital Underground, dancing harder than a krump dancer on an electrified dance floor.  The party was part of the music; and our music reflected a vibrant, positive energy.

Enter the ‘Overweight Lover’ Heavy D.  He was a large (no pun intended) piece of this musical puzzle.  His songs were positive.  His lyrics were smooth.  His outfits were bright.  His music made you dance hard and feel good.  When his videos came on Yo! MTV Raps, or Rap City, there was absolutely no shame in getting up off the couch and jumping around in your socks like your feet were on fire.  That’s just what it made you feel like doing.  Your parents (if they were around) looked at you crazy as hell, but you didn’t care.

You just wanted to feel that energy.  There was something natural in the music that made you smile and pump your body.  There was no other way to go, but haaaaard.  Mama said knock you out!

I am thankful for this musical legacy because it left an imprint on my spirit.  It gave those of us that listened a chance to get free, and open, in a way that today’s music doesn’t.  The soul of Dwight Arrington Myers, otherwise known as Heavy D, shined through the darkness.  It wasn’t that times weren’t hard then.  It was just that Heavy, and a whole bunch of others, chose to rhyme through these  times with a little something to free us from our daily reality.  And this was cool.

Today, cool means you don’t smile.  Most of today’s pop-rappers are overly- obsessed with what designer they are wearing, how much weed they smoked, how much liquor they sipped, how many women they touched, and how much their chain sparkles.  Cool means you just don’t give a f##k.  And, we can’t blame the rappers either.  They learned to be ‘all about the benjamins’ in a world where ‘money ain’t a thing’ because ‘cash rules everything around me.’

Capitalism rules.  And today’s rap audience doesn’t hunger to party the same way we once did.  It’s heavy.  Things change.

It’s not that we didn’t want money or fame in Heavy’s day.  But, we also wanted more than that.  We wanted to be respected on our terms.  Respect today is dictated by numbers on youtube, record sales, and blog hype.  Artists come and go a lot faster.  And the music?  Well, it is what it is: a product to be consumed.

Thank you Heavy D.  Your positive energy and vibration lives on in us.  We remember that music is more than a hustle/game.  Life can be a hustle for sure, but it is also beautiful.  The music you made reminded us of our better selves, expressing a deeper love that is missing today.  Missing, but never forgotten. Axé.

My name is Jonathan ‘Jbro Mpeanaji’ Mahone, and I am one-half of (RAS) Riders Against the Storm.  I AM TROY DAVIS.

I AM TROY DAVIS: 016 (Growing Up)

For the next 349 days, I will be writing entries under the title, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS.’  Moved to pick up the pen not merely by Troy Anthony Davis‘ death/execution, but more so by his life/evolution, I hope that there are those out there who can relate.  If so, we must connect.  We are already connected.  Axé.

I grew up with two parents.  Both led me down a path towards academics and education.  My mother and father raised me very deliberately, from birth, to strive for ‘academic excellence.’  My father, second born to a Kentucky coal-mining family, was the first in his family to attain a college diploma.  My mother, daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, had a father and grandfather who had both attained Law degrees.  Although both saw the importance of education, their family history and life experience led them to slightly different perspectives regarding its importance to the individual seeking it out.

My father went for his education because he didn’t want to be poor.  Like many Blacks of his generation, he sought the diploma as a ticket to a more comfortable and secure life.  After graduating from college, he served in the United States Army, completing a tour in Vietnam.  He finished his LSAT exam while in the jungle, and became the first Black attorney hired at a major law firm in Pittsburgh.  Education was his key to individual survival and success.

My mother, was the second generation of an immigrant Puerto Rican family.  At home, Spanish was a second language; and education was a highly stressed expectation for all in her family.  Following in the footsteps of the family patriarch, my great-grandfather judge Felipe N. Torres, the majority of the Torres descendants became lawyers, doctors, and professionals.  She graduated from college with a degree in child psychology, and worked with toddlers at the nursery level.  Education was a means to help others for her.

Being a child of these two individuals, and the product of an urban environment, has led me towards the path of teacher.  Although education was emphasized in my house, my overstanding of its purpose was not uncovered until I entered college myself.  Before college, I was a good student, and never had much of a problem following the outdated, conservative, industrialized, concept of education presented to me at the predominantly white, private schools that my parents chose to enroll me in.

I was following a rationalized path, and my young mind became very familiar with the expectations that came rolling along with this mode of thought.  My education was routinized.  And, I was going fairly smoothly along with the flow, not asking a lot of questions, but on a much deeper level, feeling empty.

Frustrations bubbled to the surface, when I went home, hung out with friends in my neighborhood, and saw that their homework, if they had any at all, was totally different from mine.  While my peers were filling out ditto sheets from books they could not take home, I was writing research papers, and learning to think (somewhat) critically.  Over time, our lives went in totally different directions because keeping up with the workload at school became like a full-time job.

My education was about producing, not exploring.  If I did explore, production had to be a result.  Thus, I began to lose myself.  I became a competitor with my classmates, rather than a contributor/collaborator.  My goals were shaped by the status of achievement, not from an internal source.

I achieved, but what did it all mean?  In the end, it meant rewards that I did not desire.  It meant submitting my internal desires/dreams for some future career that would define me, and declare my value.

What does education mean to you?  And, how does this meaning play itself out in the institutions you send your children to?  Do you feel they are being empowered to change something, or just to exist within a system as a worker/producer? What are you teaching them to become?  Do you want them to have a job, freedom, clean air?  What is really important to you right now?   And, how has your education allowed you to achieve what is most important to you?

Just some questions.  I know that it took me several years to realize how much my education directly shaped my interaction with the world I wish to create.  Most of us don’t realize just how colonized our minds are.

Organizers, activists, teachers, and all of us, burn out so quickly because even in our approach to changing/reforming/destroying the system, lies the colonial mindset.  We haven’t stopped to witness this because we are in such a hurry to ‘resist.’   So, we run our behinds down to a demonstration to Occupy Austin, Wall Street, wherever, but we haven’t taken enough time to engage in the spiritual/internal work to un-occupy our spirits, or our minds.

I am not knocking anyone involved in these efforts.  Actually, I encourage those that are inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement to get out there and do whatever their heart tells them to do.  But, I am also praying that we open our hearts at the same time.  Acknowledge that our spirit is equally as important as our mind.  We must be fed on all three levels: mind, body, and spirit.

Otherwise, we are incomplete; and we simply recreate whatever we are so adamantly claiming to abhor/fight against.  Recognize the deepest levels of your colonized self.  Some things are easy to see.  Others are hidden in our daily interactions.  Our daily interactions, no matter how large, or seemingly insignificant, determine our future.

Just some thoughts for today.

My name is Jonathan ‘Jbro Mpeanaji’ Mahone, and I am one-half of (RAS) Riders Against the Storm.  I AM TROY DAVIS.

I AM TROY DAVIS: 015 (Losing ‘Control’ pt. 1)

For the next 350 days, I will be writing entries under the title, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS.’  Moved to pick up the pen not merely by Troy Anthony Davis‘ death/execution, but more so by his life/evolution, I hope that there are those out there who can relate.  If so, we must connect.  We are already connected.  Axé.

If we don’t want it, why do we hold on so tight?  The past is done, but it still lives on in our brains, spinning like a tire in the mud, until we consciously push it on out of there.  Removal from this muck is spiritual ‘dirty work’ that takes a serious amount of time and energy.

We don’t want to work.

‘Can’t we just hire a mover to take care of it?  Do I have to lift this all by myself?’ we think to ourselves while sitting comfortably on our spiritual ‘love seat,’ sipping from a full glass of vintage denial.  It’s expensive, but after a few more glasses, we get drunk, and fall back asleep.

Some of our past ‘weight’ isn’t that heavy at all; swept quickly out of the mind’s temple without much effort.  But,  then there is that ‘heavy’ past that just sits in your consciousness like a two-ton gorilla with a demolition ball in his pocket.  We have fed this gorilla since our childhood, so he expects to get fed.  He doesn’t want to move.  He wants our undivided attention the longer we keep him around.  We know he’s crowding our mental space, but we’re afraid of redecorating, so we just ‘work around’ him.  We try to turn your backs, but the beast remains, waiting for its next feeding.

Letting go of the past is a difficult task indeed.  I think we can all admit this fact.  But, what about the present?  One of my life’s most difficult challenges deals with learning to let go of my own expectations in the present moment.

Whether applied to my personal relationships, artistic creations, or daily endeavors, I often hold a preconceived vision of the ideal outcome in my mind’s eye.  When things don’t play out according this vision, I will feel discouraged, overwhelmed, or disappointed.

We have to let go of expectations if we are going to be happy.  No matter what, nothing is predictable.  The key is to do your best.  If someone in your life comes up short, don’t let your expectations for them create disharmony.  You can be disappointed, but don’t hold on to it.  We all fall short.  Letting go of your disappointment allows you to move forward.

Putting expectations on people or situations is a subtle, passive-aggressive form of control.  You want to control what happens through your sheer will/vision, but you can’t.  No matter what, the unexpected always occurs.  Embrace and accept this fact harder than you are choosing to embrace the expectations you create in your mind.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with having some form of preconceived idea about future outcomes in your life.  But, we must always remember to carve them out of butter instead of stone or metal.  See, butter is more flexible.  If you can keep it cool, it won’t melt.  But, if the ‘heat’ of your desires get too high, the beautiful, picturesque, sculpture of your original intention/vision will melt completely.

But hey, at least you can drizzle that over some corn-on-the-cob, right?

Seriously though – lose the need to be ‘in control’ of outcomes in any situation.  Keep the vision, but lose the attachment to the specific outcomes on your terms and conditions.  You can want your next album to be downloaded by 15,000 people, but don’t be stuck on  the fact that it has to happen in the first week.

Be flexible.  When things don’t go the way you expect them to, don’t panic, or take frustrations out on your friends/family.  Just give thanks for whatever did happen (because it’s all a blessing anyway), and then analyze what could be adjusted to create more satisfactory outcomes moving forward.

Write your goals down, but don’t get totally stuck on specifics.  Specificity is important, but not pressure.  Pressure busts pipes, and definitely strains relationships/distorts reality.

One of my biggest issues is the subtle/passive way that I have tried to control situations, and/or people.  The reason I wasn’t able to recognize this until recently was because the negative attribute came from a positive place.  In the past, ‘helping’ people was my subtle way of being in control of them.  This definitely wasn’t always the case, but it surely played out often because I couldn’t see that my attempts to support others actually took away their power.

I would get so involved in ‘helping’ someone that I didn’t leave room for the person to figure things out for themselves.  My own expectations for what they should be doing with their lives interfered with where they were actually at developmentally.

This definitely played out in my relationship with my wife.  At times, I pushed way too hard (with what I considered love), but needed to lay back and play the Phil Jackson role from the sideline.  She needed to learn things on her own (without my input), but I wanted her to move at my pace, and my level of expectation.  This ultimately strongly affected how she felt about herself early on in our relationship.

So, whenever she brought up frustrations about the ways that she felt I was being ‘controlling,’ I pushed back with justifications.  I was coming from a loving place, but couldn’t see that this form of love is stifling.  The wounds from our early relationship scars are slowly beginning to heal as I realize the power that expectations can have as a form of control.  Subtle, or not, the power is real.

I will definitely be writing about this more over the next few weeks as truths are revealed.  Even with the best of intentions, and love in your heart, expectations can be a form of control.  Please lose the need to control people, situations, or the future.

Thank you, Ghislaine.  You are my reflection, and my greatest teacher.  Axé.

My name is Jonathan ‘Jbro Mpeanaji’ Mahone, and I am one-half of (RAS) Riders Against the Storm.  I AM TROY DAVIS.