Chapter 4: “Portugal and Morocco”
For the next few months, February, March, and April, I still kept battling my OCD as well as trying to grieve over my mom. During April, my father, sister, and I, left the country for a vacation to Portugal and Morocco. The trip was amazing, good food, beautiful weather, and scenery, but I still had the same fear that I was cursed in the back of my mind, in which everything important to me would go wrong.
One day I was relaxing outside in the pool at the hotel in Morocco. While I was in the pool, I was thinking about how I didn’t know how long I could carry on and feeling like I wanted to give up and give into my anxiety. I remember looking up in the sky, pleading to God silently in my head. Then I looked over to my chair where I had my Bible and noticed the wind blowing the pages. The Bible was already open but the wind blew pages over. I was hungry for signs from God, so I was curious to see what page the wind had blown the Bible to. I got out of the pool and looked at the Bible and saw it was the book of James 1:1–4 and the passage was,
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows it’s true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do it’s work so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in anyway”
This was a contemporary bible that my brother had at home, called the Message by Eugene Peterson. The translation was more modern. It is a great reference and study Bible to understand the actual bible. Below is the cover, for those who are interested.
I immediately felt like this passage was “speaking” to me. What are the odds that the wind would blow the Bible to this particular page at a time when I was contemplating on giving up. It also gave me hope during my situation. Later on during the night as my father and sister, were sleeping, I went to the balcony of our hotel room and I looked towards the ground level. I was simply imagining myself leaping to my death and how peaceful it would be to be free from all the pain and OCD thoughts. This was not a suicide attempt. I did not go out to the balcony to commit suicide. It was simply “daydreaming”, thinking about how liberating it would be to be dead and not have to deal with my “mind”. I remember hearing about a professional skateboarder who committed suicide and his wife put up a picture of him smiling just days before, shedding light on how well was able to hide things. In my case, you can be riding a camel in Morocco and relaxing by the pool at a four seasons Hotel, yet still feel suicidal. I finally understood the saying, money can’t buy happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I rather be depressed in Portugal and Morocco, than depressed and having to get up for work, but you get what I am saying.
Nevertheless, the Bible passage from the pool still helped give me hope and sustain me for the next few months once my family got back home to D.C. Fast forward a little less than two months, to June 2017, I was getting ready for a music video for a song I recorded. It was about a response to police brutality. I’m not even going to lie, it was about killing police officers. Although it shouldn’t be a surprise as to why a black man in America would have this view, I will still explain. The Emmett Till documentary as well as other documentaries about lynchings, haunted me growing up. Once I got to be an adult, that emotion of fear transformed into anger. The initial idea came about around September 2016. But to be clear I was not angry towards all white people nor most,a good portion of my friends growing up were white, but was more angry towards the oppression black people in the inner city faced , institutional racism, as well as the killings of black Americans by police officers. Even still Now back to June 2017. By the time the day came to shoot the music video, I was starting to have doubts. Since February 2017, I had been reading the Bible every week and was developing a relationship with God . I knew God would not approve of the song/music video. I was also fearful of what would happen. Around this same time a black student from Bowie State, who was also a 2nd lieutenant in the army, was stabbed to death by a White Supremacist, at the University of Maryland
(The story is in the link below)
A Lynching on the University of Maryland Campus
Richard Collins III was about to graduate from Bowie State University on Tuesday. He was commissioned as a second…
Although I did feel like I would be protected by freedom of speech, I started to think about the possibility of harm being done to me by racists if I put the music video out.
The week went by and it got closer to the day of the music video shoot. The night before, my friend called me and was trying to convince me to come out to the bars on U street in DC. I really wanted to go but a part of me wanted me to stay in because I didn’t want to be tired and hungover for the music video. I also wanted to go to bible study the next morning. I was in a tug of war because I really wanted to go out that night. I made a decision to stay in. The person leading the Bible study, texted me asking me if I was still down for the next morning. I said yes, and felt relieved because it gave me a reason to make my decision to stay in official.
The next day I found out my friend who I was supposed to meet on U street, was in intensive care at the Hospital. She was stabbed (almost to death) and jumped after coming to the defense of her friend. I was speechless. That day was even more hectic because I still had to get prepared for the music video later on. My friends, the videographer and his friend, and I met up at Rock Creek Park. Due to traffic, the videographer got there late and we didn’t even get to film the video. We just filmed a few shots. The sun was going down so we made an agreement to take a few photos and would then finish the following week.
So there we were, in Rock Creek Park with fake guns. One of my friends acted as a “look out”, …. you know…just in case white people jogging in the park, reported that they saw a group of black males with an assault rifle and a hand gun.
The stabbing of my friend began to change my mind about the music video even more. Visiting her in the hospital that weekend and seeing her stab wounds , as well as the condition she was in, made me think “I never want to end up like this”. I felt if I put out this music video, there was a chance I would possibly end up like that. I talked it over with one of the people who led the Bible study and kept thinking about the decision. The next week I started to decide that I was not going to do the video.
Two things happened once I started to change my mind about the video. I spoke to the founder of the organization I worked at, about an idea I had. He gave me a raise and promotion. Then later that day, at a networking event I met somebody who used to work on the Obama administration and was an investor. I discussed a business idea I had and he said he liked it and wanted to help me get funding for the foundation that I wanted to start. I talked about these two series of events with my older sister and she told me that she also felt it was a sign that once I started to change my mind about the music video, these two good things happened to me. I definitely believed these were blessings from God.
It is worth nothing that about two months later, the Trump Administration came up with “The Black Identity Extremist Report.” This report would give the FBI permission to treat black citizens who criticize Law Enforcement, as terrorists. One black man who was outspoken on Facebook had his home raided in the middle of the night. What he said was nowhere near as what I said in my song, not to mention I was going to share the video all over the web. It is safe to say God allowed me to dodge a bullet, no pun intended.
Opinion | The F.B.I.’s Dangerous Crackdown on ‘Black Identity Extremists’
Op-Ed Contributors By Khaled A. Beydoun and Justin Hansford An F.B.I. report leaked in October and scrutinized during…
Black activist jailed for his Facebook posts speaks out about secret FBI surveillance
Exclusive: Rakem Balogun spoke out against police brutality. Now he is believed to be the first prosecuted under a…
For chapter 5, please click the link below.