Category Archives: Life Skills

The Life Skills category establishes an understanding about the “sandbox of life”. Everyone is in the box, young men of color have to understand how to conduct themselves in it.

Go off the grid, disconnect, get a little lost to find yourself.

I’m in the Bahamas.

Wait, I’m skipping ahead.

Last year I was told that there was a “Liveaboard” trip…meaning you go on a yacht, (mine is the Aqua Cat), for a while you live, eat, play and most importantly… DIVE. So, last year I committed to do this for my birthweek. During the trip I would not really have access to wifi and the internet so I also decided to disconnect and go off the grid for this trip. I booked an AirBnB off Collins Ave in Nassau for two days before the trip. I flew down yesterday and had a layover in Miami for about 7 hours.

During that time checking in my flight, I found out that my cousin Kim just moved down there from Norristown, PA, one day ago. She just planned and moved. I am so proud of her. I asked her, “How you going to just roll out?!” She said, “I have to make a change and this is it. I have to do what’s best for me and my son.” She starts her job on Tuesday.  I was like, “Kim…do it” Yesterday she picked me up from the airport and went to get a cheap breakfast and talk. I always felt Kim was a positive person and I felt she was bigger than her shell. To find out she had just moved to Miami 2 days prior, I had to make sure she was cool. She is and will be amazing…if she focuses!!!  (That’s to her..sorry.) Well I landed in Bahamas and “Evie” picked me up with the lighted sign out of baggage claim with my name on it, “Welcome Robert S.” WHAT?!?!  I ALWAYS WANTED THAT!  It’s the little things. Anyway, I planned to go to see the movie, “Alien Covenant” with her and her boyfriend but I found my “Second Wife” Janis and hung with her and her sister Jennifer for my special day. I’m not married but a story behind that. I’ll get pictures later.

I feel handicapped, I can’t Uber, Google, WhatsApp, Facebook, Amazon…nothing. How am I blogging?!? Well for $1.00 a minute at Bahamas Business Solutions on Collins, I logged in with the help of Yolanda, “no relations to Adams” she said. I wanted to reach out, my apologies for the grammatical errors but it’s $1.00 a minute and I’m rushing. LOL.

I think it’s important to travel, I’ve always say that. I think it’s good for people to push their boundaries. Being without my phone has been hard, but to go out and meet people is nothing new. For some of you, this may be a huge challenge. To disconnect and actually ask for directions, find places to eat, being polite or nice to a stranger for no gain…just be nice. It’s humbling, maybe allows you to focus on more important things.

With the aid of technology, being independent is something we find easy, but to actually talk to people, engage and initiate conversations is a lost art, to begin new friendships and relationships is a necessity of life. There’s some things you may find pleasing; making a stranger laugh, accompanying new friends to a movie, being welcomed into someone’s home for a few days. I don’t know maybe that’s just me but I know if feels better to engage people than to stare at a four inch screen in the palm of my hand. The interpersonal skills transfer in the workplace and other relationships. Gives you something to talk about, maybe makes you a little more interesting…maybe makes other people or places more interesting.

It’s crazy but this is what pushing your boundaries is about. I always thing of that quote, “Leaders put themselves situations, followers won’t.”

Anyway, let me go, I get on this boat tomorrow and I have to arrange transfer.

A few helpful hints when exploring:

  • When heading somewhere new, pay attention to landmarks to recognize your way back.
  • It’s important to learn to identify when someone is inquiring to help you or take advantage of you.
  • If you’re staying in a AirBnB, be open to help of fix things around the house.
  • Bring a gift from the “states” for people you may visit.

MPM

middlepassagementor@gmail.com

 

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Movie Review: “Chasing Trane”

I can’t type fast enough.

Out of respect, there are no “spoilers” in this blog. For those of you that knew or know about John Coltrane, I apologize for my ignorance. For those of you curious about jazz or neophytes like myself, please go see this movie.

At least once a month I try to pay respect to art in some way…take myself out of the occupation of life to remember the quality of life. I’ve been challenging my definition of things lately.

I just viewed the 10:50am show of “Chasing Trane” at E Street cinema. The movies there are usually independent and not main stream. When I leave this theater, I’m usually positively provoked or transformed in some way and today was no different…today was exceptional.

“Chasing Trane” is a documentary about John Coltrane. This is what a movie, about musicians… especially jazz musicians, is supposed to be. The backdrop of racial disharmony, drugs, spirituality, love and the evolution of the artistic merits, influences and then finally perseverance.

Having seeing “Miles Ahead”, the biographical movie about Miles Davis, my expectations were low. This is not a denunciation of  Don Cheadle’s work, but the movies are just not artistically, factually or spiritually in the same category. Yes, they’re both biographical movies, but I’m so glad that I viewed “Miles Ahead” first. “Miles Ahead” can easier be compared to “Purple Rain” or  “Thriller” than it should even be mentioned in the same sentence as “Chasing Trane”.  Whether it be educational or entertainment, I love them all for what they represent, but “Chasing Trane” was a journey. I was excited about what I was seeing, like an “Unsung” episode, without the tragic ending. This movie resets a standard for me and I want to see it again.

I don’t allow influences like Rotten Tomatoe ratings or critics tell me what I’m supposed to like. Like everyone…things just taste different. Similar to jazz musicians, you probably won’t understand their walk or their challenges, but you can appreciate those adversities transformed into art.

Throughout watching this movie, if you didn’t grasp what was happening to you, the testimonies of Bill Clinton, Wynton Marsalis, Common, Sonny Rollins, Common, Benny Golson and especially Ben Ratliff and Lewis Porter tethered the viewer to the experience. Carlos Santana is not only a guide in this movie, throughout the journey, the “shaman” helps your spirit through the organic process. Director, John Scheinfeld, fashioned this musical documentary without allowing the narrative to be dominated by one component. The word “documentary” itself is not a good enough label to capture what this movie did to me personally. It was holistic, not because of the facts but the artistic, visual, and photographic montage was almost overwhelming.

There were times when you witnessed fatherhood where I was definitely emotional. His loss at the age of twelve, then to his addiction and evolution as a musician even how he loved. It was a remarkable voyage. There was a scene where you could see something emanating from the band…like an aura…it was really a spiritual thing to witness.

How this is relevant material for my audience?

This movie, hands down, speaks to young black men in every facet of life, but it doesn’t just focus on drugs or love or spirituality or music…it focuses on LIFE. Jazz, like many art forms, is birthed out of adversity and it is a conduit of creativity. Jazz is reverent to me because it’s origins are African-American or black and ancestral to me.  Dr. Cornell West’s words and testimony to the human condition, in this movie, aligns to the black man’s reality in this country. His statements reverberated in my core. The trajectory of a black man’s life can be easily altered by decisions we don’t get to make over. This movie, hands down, speaks about John Coltrane, a black man, who rose out of the ashes to make mistakes, ignite and burn new ashes for himself, and then rise out of those self-inflicted ashes. John ascends to levels of brilliance that challenged the constructs of the very genre he rose to dominate. There’s a comparison to intelligence and Albert Einstein…yes it’s in there. (Ok…one small spoiler) This forward thinking only comes from being courageous enough to embark.

I don’t even have a category for this blog.

People sometimes pose the question:

“Who would you want to meet in history?”

I honestly never had a good answer or not an answer that I felt I believed, but yeah, now I do. Not to ask him questions or converse, but just to hear him, in person, play. Like in the movie, “The Matix”, they say you don’t know a person until you fight them.

Like my singing bowl, I want to feel it travel through my body.

In this case, I just want to hear Mr. Coltrane play and feel it in my soul.

MPM

 

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ALPHA BOULE GIRARD MENTORING PROGRAM CAREER PANEL

Maria Chaney invited me and I agreed to be a part of the panel for the 1st Annual Girard Alumni Career Event as part of the mentoring program tonight. 

The meeting is at my most dearest alma mater, Girard College. I love Girard. I graduated from GC in 1988, afterwards I graduated from Peirce Junior College, Morgan State and American Intercontinental but my heart is with Girard. I don’t got to Peirce, Morgan or AIU events but I support Girard every chance I get. I was honored to be invited to come and talk to the students at my first home away from home. 
Maria mentioned the panelists will have roughly 5-8 minutes to talk. I’m so excited, I hope I can help the students see the world as I see it but what do I tell them?
The topic for the alumni panel will be; (Life after graduating Girard College High School; schools attended if any, and the careers you have now.  Were there any significant changes to your career choice since your first position outside of school?  Were there obstacles you had to overcome?  How did your experience at Girard College help you in your career choice?)
Girard prepared me for diversity and adversity. My experience at GC helped me become a man and responsible a lot faster than if I was in public school. My classmates were my strongest supporters and motivators both directly and indirectly. As Lydell’s roommate, I watched how hard he worked, he wasn’t the smartest in our class but he was the hardest worker and our valedictorian.
Girard was previously all male, “Iron sharpens Iron“.
Being in an all male environment taught me to stand by my actions, move with integrity, and also somehow taught me to be innately driven. In my college life, I was never the smartest person but I was always watching the smart people. Taking the best examples from the best examples and applying those examples to my life.
In my career, I did the same thing. I always made the most of my position in life. I was always trying to make the best out of my situation by watching the people that were already in that situation. I didn’t and don’t let people convince me that I couldn’t or shouldn’t do something. I live to no ones limits…but that’s me. What would I tell a 17 year old me?! At 17, if you told me I would be an Advanced Scuba Diver or Vice President to a national organization and a business owner I would look at you like you’re crazy.
I really look forward to the question session, I hope to get some really hard questions, even some personal questions.
I’m struggling  though, how do I prepare them for this flat world?! What I mean is…25 years ago the United States was my world, but now the U.S. is placed against the backdrop of the world stage. Meaning… our youth are competing against the youth of the world, where foreign students are multilingual and have a diverse understanding of economies and politics. I feel like our youth have unfortunately placed emphasis on sports and entertainment, we’re still the consumers and not the owners and decision makers. Minority college graduation rates are still significantly behind whites.
So I don’t know… I just hope I can reach them and stress how important and great their lives can be. I just want to kids to understand the importance of your decisions and how the can shape your life for better or worst.
MPM
“Being gifted or talented is great but it’s just a waste without the courage to use your gifts.”
 

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YOU have to kick start the “race”.

Inauguration Day is here: It’s time to wake up. Our “race” needs to get started…again.

Election night changed me…it made me realize what’s important. That empty pit in my stomach that night and the next morning told me I must refocus on what’s important and it starts with me and it ends with my people. Besides me initiating plans to move abroad, I immediately considered how I need to change my focus. Those of you that are under the age of 20, you have your whole life ahead of you. Your dreams and directions are still valid. Nothing has changed for you, except maybe you have motivation to do something about our race.

Wait let me be clear, I’m speaking to the next leaders of my race. I’m speaking to the kids that are doing well in school or at least trying. I’m speaking to the kids that attend class, the kids that care about doing what’s right. I’m speaking to the kids that stay out of trouble that want something better for themselves. I’m not speaking to kids that don’t value education. I’m not speaking to the wanna be thugs. I’m not speaking to kids that want to be cool over wanting to be intelligent.  I’m not speaking to kids that don’t have a dream. This is not the blog for you, I’ve heard and seen enough from you. Go to another site cause today, these words ain’t for you. Don’t waste your time here, not today. I’m speaking to the scholars, the scientist, the mathematicians, the oratory contest winners, spelling be participants, kids in class that raise their hand, the nerdy awkward kids and the loners. I’m speaking the next leaders among you.

Young people of color, time and time again, people of color that came before you and faced the harshest of circumstances, have done more to put you in this position of opportunity than you have done for yourself…and they’ve done it with less. What’s your excuse for not being excellent? Decades ago, young black kids that had one book and determination, had more than you with “Google” and an excuse.   What are you waiting for? What are you afraid of? Not being cool? Being smart? Having a job? What is it?!…because I want to know! I’ve lived half my life and I did ok but I want something…I need something to believe in today. I need you. Comment on my page, help me out here.

We now know we are not living in a post-racial America, so what are you going to do about it. The opposition has played his hand there are no new surprises.  Don’t wait for somebody to make something “great again”. Get up off your butt and do something. What’s your plan, I’ll help! You don’t need to watch any more political antics, it’s nothing new. You don’t need to rant on Facebook, the “Likes” are not important. Time for blaming is over. No more hoping, we have to start doing. We have to be better towards one another and it begins with us. We have to patronize minority owned business, we have to give to those that are not yet where we are…do it privately. Stop looking for someone to thank you or the recognition just do what’s right.

We have to support each other. We know no one else is going to do it for us and we can’t take any shortcuts. The next generation has all the metrics and data to understand what’s at stake and what’s been proven to work or not work.

We all know the shortcuts don’t last, don’t work and they don’t pay.

We all know what works and what doesn’t. We have to go back to the “Black and Proud” days where we protected and respected our women. Where we respected each other, where we cared about each other, when we spoke to each other. We can no longer blame anyone else. We know all we need to know about this wonderful country, and if you don’t know by now, you won’t ever know. Racist people don’t care about us but it’s not them that’s killing us…it’s us.

We have to throw out the excuses, throw out the ignorance, the violence, the killing and hate. We’ve been deliberately kept in the dark and lost for too long. We are not even being kept in the dark, some of use just like to keep our eyes shut. We’ve been convinced that we need to compete with each other and hate each other. We have to lift each other up.

The leaders have to stop following and the followers must stop misrepresenting us. If you can’t be positive for something, just shut up. You are not saying anything we haven’t heard before. Just take your excuses, negativity, ignorance, and victim mentality…just pick it all up and get out of the way.

I think we have veered too far off the path of what’s right. We’ve forgotten what’s important, we’ve become selfish and that’s NOT who we are…we’ve been convinced that that’s who we are but they’re wrong.

Quite simply…we have to focus on us because no one else will. You, the younger generation have to mobilize and make the positives happen. My generation is looking for the next leaders, tag…you’re it.

MPM

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

Muhammad Ali

 

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