Monthly Archives: October 2011

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  Before college, I was a good student, and never had much of a problem following the outdated, conservative, industrialized, concept of education presented to me at the predominantly white, private schools that my parents chose to enroll me in.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.

I AM TROY DAVIS: 014 (My Prayer Today)

For the next 351 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.

Whatever I have been holding back shall be released.  I want to feel all of life in every moment.  I want my life to be music: a song sung from the depths of my belly.

Like a good laugh, I want my words to ripple into the stream of consciousness, further, until it connects with the all.  Words don’t stop.  Please, don’t stop.  Carry on into forever.  Live like dreams.  Emotional gravity, please leave me.  I want to fly – higher than the clouds – into the cosmos.

Are there limits?  Only those that I have defined.  Allow me to release them today.  In fact, make limits inconceivable today.  Make everything achievable.  Make every dream dreamable.

I am nothing.

I am everything.

Dreams once light and free, sometimes become shackles.

Free up my heart.  Free up my mind, body, and soul to the order: the all in all. I just want to live.  I just want to be me.  Thank you for allowing this to be so.  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: 013 (Love Unconditional)

For the next 352 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.

Real love has no conditions.  Real love is not proud, or boastful.  Real love does not claim territory.  Real love is limitless.  Real love is eternal.  Real love does not shut down when there is conflict, or disagreement.

If we are truly friends, than our love for each other should be greater than any perceived difference.  We do not have to think the exact same way, share the exact same experiences, worship/pray the same way, or engage in the same exact activities to be friends.

But, we do need love.

The love I seek has no conditions on it.  If you love me, then you can talk to me about where you feel I am falling short.  If you love me, then you will always reach out your hand to me, regardless of how I may have hurt you.  Love does not mean we will not hurt each other, or have different views on how to be.  Love is a choice.

When I say I love you, I mean it.  What do you mean when you say you love me?  Do you mean, I love you only when it is on your terms, or when I live up to your expectations of me?  I can only be me.  If what I do offends you, then if we are truly friends, we should be able to talk about the offense.  And, after that conversation, regardless of whether we agree or not, we should be able to embrace each other, and say, I LOVE YOU.

Otherwise, our love has conditions.  We are all guilty of making judgments in our relationships.  But, please be aware when you are making yours.  And, if those judgments affect your ability to hold my hand, or share thoughts freely, than we are not friends.  We are associates.  We are something else; but, not friends.

Love is unconditional.

We all deal with our emotions differently.  And, I respect that.  We are all learning, and growing.  I am currently re-learning that many peoples love has conditions attached to it.

‘I will love you, if you support this cause.  I will love you, if you think like me.  I will love you, if you don’t challenge me.  I will love you, if you pretend there are no issues between us.  I will love you, if you live on this side of town.  I will love you, if you come from this race, spiritual background, economic class, whatever.’

Love is unconditional.  If I am doing something ‘wrong’ in your eyes, than challenge me to be better.  But, please don’t ignore me, talk with everyone else except me about your issues with me.  And, really your issue is not even with all of me, it’s just about something I said or did.

Do you love me?  Than share with me.  Talk to me.  Come to my house.  Don’t text me.  Call me.  Tell me you care.  Tell me that you are disappointed.  Tell me you can’t stand what I am doing.  Tell me you love me.  Tell me something, anything.

But, don’t be silent.

Don’t sit there and judge.  Don’t let a human disagreement keep us apart.  If, of course, you choose to love me, that means we can get through anything together.

Love is a choice.

Love is unconditional.

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: 008-012 (The Flow…)

For the next 357 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.

This blog post contains five entries so that I may stay true to my commitment of 365 posts in 365 days.  Due to the natural flow of life, it’s definitely not going to be possible for me to write something everyday, but I will try.  Even with my best efforts, I still have two more entries to catch up on.  Thanks for reading and sharing!

Entry 008 – Direction(s)

I know it has been a minute since I last sat down at this computer to type my thoughts, but trust and believe I/we have been busy.  There are a lot of things in motion that will be revealed later.  With this in mind, we must always remember to honor the process of revelation.  –> READ MORE…

Entry 009: A Call to Rod Starz (of Rebel Diaz)

On Monday night, I was pacing around our house, trying to process this whole Occupy Wall Street movement.  After hours of reading posts, watching videos, and viewing photos online, I felt the need to reach out to some of my peoples in NYC.  –> READ MORE…

Entry 010: The meeting

Basically, on Wednesday, October 5th, I just wanted to bring Black and Brown folks together to talk about Occupy Wall Street.  An Occupy Austin was planned for the following day, and I wanted to know what other people were thinking/feeling.  There really aren’t many public spaces to have this type of discussion, so I just created one real quick.  –> READ MORE…

Entry 011: Jbro Mpeanaji

So, I noticed the other day that most of my favorite rappers/mcs have either last names, or two names:  Tupac Shakur, Mos Def, André 3000, Tiger Lily, Talib Kweli, Lupé Fiasco, Wise Intelligent, the list goes on.  This was a very interesting fact that led me to a revelation: I need a last/second name.  Jbro Mahone doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.  –> READ MORE…

Entry 012: Decolonize Everything

What do you think of this image?  Can you relate?  Yesterday, I walked around all day with this poster attached to a long pole at Occupy Austin.  For some folks (Black, or otherwise), it provoked nods of approval, for others it brought confused stares. –> READ MORE…


I AM TROY DAVIS: 008 (Directions)

I know it has been a minute since I last sat down at this computer to type my thoughts, but trust and believe I/we have been busy.  There are a lot of things in motion that will be revealed later.  With this in mind, we must always remember to honor the process of revelation.

At one point during this past week, I was frustrated because I just couldn’t find the rhythm that would allow me to keep up with my commitment of one entry/post per day.  When I was home, I didn’t have the chi/energy to put my thoughts into written language.  Still, there was this strong need to make it happen because I ardently believe in keeping my commitments.

My Libra energy/astrology requires balance, so I am always super-conscious – at times to a fault – of my personal responsibilities/duties (as a husband, artist, writer, brother, son, etc.).  If I said I was going to do it, it’s got to get done.  Period.

Overall, this can be a good thing.  But, it can also be a burden.  Especially, if whatever you are doing is externally motivated.  The drive to get things done has to emerge from inside (internally).  If not, we often feel that we have to force the issue.  When energy is forced, things tend to fall apart, or crumble due to the extreme pressure we put into our action(s).

There is no real failure.  We don’t fail.  Goals just aren’t accomplished.  When this happens, you have to examine the why of what happened, not dwell in a perceived loss.  Whatever you think you may have lost occurred to make you a stronger person.  You never know what you really had until it’s gone, right?

No matter how much encouragement and positive feedback I get from people who read this, I don’t write for anyone but me.  I know that my thoughts will resonate with others because I am no different than anyone else.  There are a lot of people that feel like I do.  They may not write their thoughts down, or create art, but they feel like me.  I know this because we speak everyday: on the street, on the bus, at the party, at the meetings, etc.  Those that need/want to hear what I think will gravitate towards it.  Those that don’t, won’t.  Bottom-line: like Stephen Biko, ‘I Write What I Like.’

Liberation means living your life how you want to live it.  It means saying what you want, and being what you want.  Assata Shakur said, ‘I know a whole lot more about what freedom isn’t, than what it is.’  This truthful statement lives in the heart of most of us because we don’t know how to be ourselves. We don’t know why we are here.  We want answers, but we don’t take, or fail to create, the time necessary to find them.  Again, our responsibilities can get in the way.

Liberation is a journey, not a destination.  Do you want it?  Then, you will have to fight.  And, the toughest fight ain’t with the government, ‘the system,’ ‘yo momma and them, or anybody else.  The toughest fight is with yourself.  You have to go in, if you want to get out (part of the hook for some new RAS music).

Gradually, over the last 34 years, I have learned to respect and honor my responsibility to others, while also honoring my responsibility to me.  If I put God first, and move according to my heart’s call, all of those ‘responsibilities’ are filled without thought or planning.  Life isn’t always about ‘doing’ something.

Growing up, going to highly-competitive private schools in Pittsburgh, I learned to produce, and fill my time with activities.  Everything was about medals, honors, and certifications.  These things didn’t motivate me intrinsically, but they made other people (mainly my parents) happy, so I did them.  My father, who grew up economically impoverished (but, spiritually-rich), wanted his sons to have the education, opportunities, privileges, etc. that his generation couldn’t even dream of due to the racist structure of this country.

When I was accepted into some of the ‘top’ schools in this nation, he brimmed with joy.  But, overall, I wasn’t happy.  And, the funny thing was that I really didn’t even know it.  It took me years (and plenty of substance abuse) to realize I was living someone elses dream: I didn’t have my own.

So, after graduation, when I took my Ivy League degree, and went to work with youth in the South Side of Providence, my parents shrugged their shoulders.  When I turned down a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to study abroad, they frowned.  When I got arrested and profiled after months of organizing for community oversight of the Providence Police, they worried.

It felt like I was walking alone in the dark for many years; but I continued, because somewhere in the depth of my spirit, everything was calm and certain.

Follow your heart.  It sounds cliché, but it’s real.  I wasn’t following the direction that my heart was calling for, so I suffered.  Suffering is not necessary.  We can find peace in the middle of a battlefield if we want it.  Everything is about choices.

When you choose to move with your heart, the world becomes a totally different place.  Yes, it is the same imperialist, racist, maniacal world, but you are moving through it with different eyes that are searching for truth.  You no longer feel the need to sit and critique all of the ‘ways of the wicked’ because you would rather seek the alternative solution that already exists.  The solutions to all of this are already living inside of each of us.  It’s a crazy thought for many, but it’s true.

I know all my ‘Leftist-radical’ comrades are probably going crazy right now.  ‘You crazy hippie.  We gotta fight this system,’ they’re probably thinking.  But, my comrades need to understand that our vision/dream for a new world has to be about unconditional love.  We have to imagine a world without all of these ills before we can create it.  I don’t think Christ is coming back, but the Christ energy must.  This is the energy of transformation, hope, and true liberation.

Moving in this consciousness is what some may call grace, or harmony.  It feels good when you are walking with this energy, but it is not always easy, or possible to maintain.  Old habits/thoughts can often creep in, so you must learn to be patient with yourself.  As the Digable Planets said, ‘We’re just babies.  We’re just babies man.’

We are in the ‘FALL’ season (just a few weeks past the Autumnal Equinox) – which means it is time to look ahead again at the coming year.  In a very real sense, it is a ‘New Year,’ so that means it is time to go inside of ourselves.  It is time to be silent, and listen for direction.

What do you hear when you turn off the radio, the T.V., the internet?  What is really driving your steps?  Follow that.  Don’t be afraid if it means walking away from friends, your ‘community,’ or anything else.  Your spirit knows.  You must follow.

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

I AM TROY DAVIS: 010 (The Meeting)

For the next 355 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.

Basically, on Wednesday, October 5th, I just wanted to bring Black and Brown folks together to talk about Occupy Wall Street.  An Occupy Austin was planned for the following day, and I wanted to know what other people were thinking/feeling.  There really aren’t many public spaces to have this type of discussion, so I just created one real quick.

About 16 people showed up.  Half I knew.  Half I didn’t.  Everyone that came to the Orun Center of Cultural Arts that evening was thankful for the opportunity to have an informal group discussion.

Over the next few hours, we expressed frustrations and excitement about what most described as an important ‘moment’ to seize.  There were different ideas about next steps, but mainly we just enjoyed the moment of being together; laughing, eating some of Tiger’s famous Caribbean-inspired Tacos, and sharing thoughts about how to move forward collectively.

Before the end of the gathering, we made plans for a larger meeting on October 10th, and decided to meet again the next day at  Occupy Austin’s first General Assembly in front of City Hall.  I am thankful for all that came, and all that are coming.  Axé!

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