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.

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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New Years Resolution: Step out of my self and be better

The point of this blog is not to get you to have the perfect resolution. The purpose is for you to understand the path to getting better through your resolutions. You have to examine yourself and target what’s lacking and make it better. I want you to get moving towards your goals through a self assessment of who you are and who you want to be. I’m personally never content in one space when I know I can do better. I try to keep moving forward in my attitude, my position and my vision. Nothing worth attaining happens overnight, so start working towards that goal. Before I get into resolutions, let me first examine the purpose of resolutions so we all can understand how resolutions originated and what they should be.

There are several origins of new years resolutions;

The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.

The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. The Romans believed Janus could forgive them for the wrongdoings in the previous year. They would make promises, believing that Janus would see this and bless them in the years ahead.

In the Medieval era, the knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.

At watchnight services, many Christians prepare for the year ahead by praying and making these resolutions.

Thanks Wikipedia ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My interpretation of a resolution is some vow or commitment to better yourself. I’ve learned to make my resolutions realistic. For example, “Being a millionaire by the end of the year” is not a resolution, it may be a goal but how realistic is that really? Now if you resolve to “Save ten percent of your income by the end of the year”, that’s a good attainable resolution. Shoot maybe by the end of 10 years saving 10 percent, you may be a millionaire.

My point is that all resolutions aim at making yourself better, self-improving, and becoming a better person, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. As a young man, I had role models like; my uncle, grandfather and my mother’s boyfriend. As some sort of rite of passage, I always tried to think of a resolution that would make me better as a man or husband. I mean, they knew things about cars that I didn’t know so I would learn from them. My grandfather was a hard worker so I would try to work harder and not give up quick like I usually did. My mother would say, “Don’t half do it, do it until it’s complete”.

I’ve committed to several resolutions over the past 20 years or so. This is a list of resolutions as far as I can remember.

  • Clean up my room more
  • Take out the trash when asked the first time
  • Learn how to swim
  • Get my driving permit
  • Learn how to jump-start a car.
  • Learn how to drive
  • Get a passport
  • Pay off my Macy’s credit card
  • Get accepted to college
  • Study 4 times a week
  • Learn how to cut my own hair
  • Get a part-time job while in school
  • Learn how to drive a manual transmission
  • Don’t have any babies before I graduate college
  • Don’t smoke any weed
  • Graduate college
  • Purchase a home
  • Travel outside the country
  • Whenever I need to, pray
  • Volunteer/Mentor with an organization
  • Pay my taxes on time
  • Don’t get any speeding tickets
  • Start my own company
  • Join a church
  • Lose 10 lbs
  • Learn how to scuba dive
  • Tithe regularly
  • Eat red meat once a week
  • Join a dive club
  • Run for office of my volunteer chapter
  • Learn muay thai
  • Don’t send out emails without proofreading
  • Run for an office position of my national volunteer organization
  • Start a mentoring blog
  • Purchase a retirement home

All of the previous resolutions were goals at one time. I can honestly say most of them were successfully completed. The speeding ticket one…hmmm.

My more recent resolutions were:

  • Focus on my spirituality and less on religion
  • Read twice a week, put Netflix and Amazon prime on hold.
  • Learn Spanish…still going
  • Be positive, regardless of the situation be positive, make the situation better not worse
  • Pay off all my credit cards…I paid them off once, gotta do it again and again
  • Let me try this again…do not purchase any clothing!…Not even boxer briefs
  • Interview celebrities for my blog
  • Finish 3 screenplays…uuugh
  • Investigate 3 places I would live abroad…down to two (Capetown, Caribbean, or South America)
  • Maintain 15% body fat…up to 20% but I’m 184 so maybe that’s the good fat.
  • Focus on wealth building not money…always.
  • Be happy!…pretty easy for me.

Fortunately or unfortunately, some significant things occurred this year that shook my foundation. It tells me I can’t just do the same old “focus on you” thing. I’ll still work on the above goals but I feel it’s time to heal and help my people. Let me give you an example:

As I was walking in the Costco parking lot I saw this woman’s cart in front of my car. She was an older black woman, so I walked up and politely informed her that her cart was in my way and I was leaving. I thought I was polite when I approached her. She responded, “Ok”  

As my behind landed in the seat I noticed what I had just done. I had walked past an elderly black woman trying to put bottles and a package of plastic water bottles in her trunk. I felt like an idiots that don’t hold the door when you’re 3 steps behind them. Well…before my door closed, I immediately got back out, helped her sort the individual items in the cardboard box and picked up the package of water and placed it in her trunk and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking, I’ll take your cart for you.” I returned her cart to the cart area and returned to my car. She was appreciative and hurrying to get her keys and stuff together. I said, “Miss…please take your time.” She said, “Bless you…Thank you”. I was mad and ashamed that I had the attitude that she was in my way.

I just shook my head in the car and realized then…I must change.

The shame of my actions wasn’t obvious and that’s what bothered me. Regardless of what I felt election night I feel right back to worry about me, what I have, what I’m doing, where am going, what I need.  At that moment, I realized and reminded myself that I have to change. I think we have veered to 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 to believe who we are… but they’re wrong. I’m starting to creep out of my blog subject but you get what I mean. There’s more to discuss on this topic.

My resolution for 2016 is:

  • Be a better example, I think I’m ok, good even…but I want to be exceptional.
MPM
“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.”
Winston Churchill

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