Having Pride in Your Own Path

JEAN-PAUL DSC_0071 2

Age: 25

Education: Associates in Health Science

Occupation: Bartender / Personal Trainer / Entrepreneur

 

My name is Jean-Paul. I am the eldest son of two on my mother’s side and the middle child on my father’s side. I have the best brothers and parents a young man could be blessed with. Born and raised in the eclectic, historic, forever growing city of Washington DC. Capital of our nation. 25 years old with endless possibilities to be reached in my lifetime.

In the process of coming into your own, you face the undeniable struggle of finding your way. You are handed some form of family and habitat at birth. You immediately begin to process information from all your experiences. I am sure that you can agree that your own experiences are unique only to you. Even if you have an   identical sibling, you are your own person. You have come to be who you are and how you think based on what you have learned and interpreted in your life. Naturally, you are predestined to fall in line with the people similar to you and have come before you. However, the future you choose will be the future of your own creation. You directly influence the situations and trials you come to face. We are all dealt our own hand in life, its up to you to take those cards and go for the win.

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 12.20.25 AMEveryone has a dream; A vision of pure bliss. As far as I am aware of, we all daydream about that perfect moment when you eventually become the individual you always envisioned on those morning commutes. Sometimes those thoughts are repetitive, and then other days they are different. The underlining theme of these broad fantasies of the future is that you are more likely than not, happy as fuck. The goals that drive me, that engulf my thoughts and control my morals are derived from me wanting be happy.

I want to be remembered for helping to make a difference to the people closest me; have financial stability and the scheduling freedom to enjoy all that I am passionate about. What are the goals that drive you? You see, I am the ruler of my own reality, as you are the ruler of your own reality.  The way I plan to live my life, might not be how you want to live yours. Just allow all things in your life to synchronize, seamlessly. It took a long time, but I eventually found that synchronicity after having dealt with my own trials.

We as young black men have a huge weight of expectations on our shoulders from birth. No matter what comes your way, just adapt and flow. Follow whatever it is that’s true to you. Go experience all that captures your gaze and imagination. As long as you are doing what makes you happy, or doing what’s necessary to achieve happiness, fuck everyone else’s opinion of what their view of great is. Become great in your eyes and the eyes of the people that mean most to you. That pride is the source of your drive. Doubt will only corrupt you. You want something, get the fuck up, and get it.

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Second Chances

KOLAWOLE SOLOMON Instagram: execwalls

Age: 27
Occupation: Healthcare Administrator
Hometown: PG County, MD – by way of Nigeria

 

“I obsess over my own perfection, but is it possible that even in my imperfect form, I create the highest standard?” –K.S.F

 

It’s been told so often that I’m sure you’ve heard this story before. A group of young black males, late teens to mid-twenties, who aren’t used to having a lot – devise a quick plan in order to gain more. However, this plan, like so many others before it, forces these young men down the road to perdition – often called “the prison system.”

The year is 2005. After a string of armed robberies in Prince Georges County, Maryland – a group of young men conclude their night by robbing a Wendy’s fast food restaurant. This unfortunate event was witnessed by an undercover cop, which led to a high speed chase down a residential neighborhood. The young men are cornered by two squad cars on a one-way street.

After complying with instructions to turn off the engine of the car and toss the keys out of the window, via megaphone, the young men prepare themselves to surrender. Yet it seems that one of the two policemen still felt that deadly force was necessary in order to apprehend these young black men. The officer, by all accounts, proceeds to fire two shots directly at the vehicle, which prompted one of the young men to open fire at the officers in an attempt to save his own life by fleeing the scene.

 

That young man was Charles Vincent Cole, Inmate #336052 – a friend and a brother.

PROFILE PICTURE

Charles remained a fugitive for a few months, until officers were able to identify him with the help of statements given by his accomplices and other unrelated individuals seeking lesser jail time. He pled guilty to 3 of 32 charges and was sentenced to 25 years in a Maryland state prison.

I frequently reminisce on the events of that night, exploring how my own life could have easily traveled down the same road my brother’s had. I most likely would have been chilling with that group of men on that fateful evening had it not been for the fact that I had to work and was uninformed of the scheme until its aftermath. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was divine intervention – but whatever it was, it gave me a greater sense of purpose moving forward.

Within every human is a piece of ourselves.

The year is now 2014 and my life somehow mirrors Charles’ own. I have used my background in business administration to invest in and operate a boutique home health agency serving seniors in the DC area. I also run a website dedicated to my creative endeavors: photography, literature, and illustrations – which I also plan to make a business of. I workout at least 4 days a week and eat a lot healthier meals.  My mind is open and my views are liberal.

CHARLESA lot has been accomplished in the 9 years Charles has served. He has gained his GED, scoring so high that he was made the instructor of the GED prep course. He’s held a steady job in the prison kitchen, which has allowed him to make a few dollars as well as build himself from 150lbs to 225lbs. With the extra weight comes fitness – Charles leads a small fitness club within the prison, sharing workout techniques with other inmates. He’s also maintained good behavior throughout his incarceration, so much so that he is now housed in the “Honor Tier,” a section that offers a greater level of freedom and privilege.

Every visit I make to see my brother, I’m instead greeted by a new person, an improved man. I mean, dude even taught himself how to play acoustic guitar – a feat he would have never attempted a decade ago. Although neither of us is particularly religious, we both believe in the power of positive thinking. So you’ll never hear Charles complain about his situation or his past. He’s one of the most optimistic, forward-facing human beings I’ve ever known.

Charles is a living example that personal redemption is attainable for every man, woman, and child who seeks it.

Perspective dictates all. Therefore, our constant pursuit of self-improvement, regardless of circumstance, propels us closer towards our own level of perfection. I never have to say, “Free Charles Cole,” because he is a man whose mind has been freed a long time ago.

 

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Life As A Black Male

CHRISTOPHER  suited

Age: 22
Occupation: Field Coordinator
Education: Studied Government and Politics at the University of Maryland- College Park
Hometown: Hempstead, NY

Life as a Black male in America is honestly the most confusing experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love being Black. I love my heritage, I love my history, and I love the strength that it gives me. You would think there wouldn’t be much confusion there with all of that. But for me, the confusion really comes from so many external factors. Some argue that a true love of oneself is all they need to be successful. However, the outside forces that work against black males in America can be so strong, it’s frightening at times.

A clear example of this is the treatment of the black male in society, through the media, social institutions, and law enforcement. To our communities, Black Males are an important pillar of what makes them thrive. We are encouraged to make our contribution to our communities through hard work, leadership, and passing down lessons learned to the next generation of young black men. The issue here is that there are so many things that are stacked against us from doing that.

It is hard for us to obtain a good education because schools, especially in inner city communities, are ill equipped. It is hard for some black men to obtain the finances need to pursue higher education. In entertainment and the media, I find that black men are portrayed in very one-dimensional capacities. I also feel that many of the historical profiles of black men, such as the Sambo and the Brute, have been reformed and modernized to fit changes in society. Our entertainment, music, films, and television, has not progressed to the point where black males can escape the stereotypes that are often put upon them through these mediums.

on thee micOur struggles with law enforcement are well documented. Black males are egregiously over policed and incarcerated at rates higher than any other race. Black males are given longer sentences for lesser crimes. Even one encounter with the justice system can ruin a black man’s life chances. Police Departments across America, on multiple occasions, have used over-excessive force on black males. Some have which have resulted in loss of black male life.

These problems are not anything new. These are issues that our parents, grandparents, and beyond them have had to deal with growing up in this country. I said before that being a black male is this country is a very confusing experience. We are pulled in two very different directions in life. Black males spend most of their lives either working to assimilate themselves into American culture, to remove the fear that others have of us. Or, we spend it rebelling against the nation which has left subject to this mistreatment, often resorting to violence and lives of crime in order to succeed, because legitimate means do prove to be as fruitful. I often contemplate what I should do, especially in times like these.

I am even more confused by the fact that even though we black males do try and abide by society’s rules, we are often met with opposition with trying to do the right thing. We are simultaneously spurred to do right and do wrong based on our external environments. I pray that one day it gets better for us. I pray that one day my skin color will no longer be a threat some. I pray that I will be able to complete daily mundane tasks, such as going to the store or traveling to visit family, without being in fear of my life. I pray that one day, the mere presence of law enforcement will no longer be something that I fear or dread. I pray for the day where we will no longer have to deal with another Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, Oscar Grant, and any other black life that were taken from us way too soon.

While I still remained confused about where we should go from here, I do know that we as black males must band together and remain extremely persistent as our forefathers have been. It may be the only way to obtain the results that we require.

 

Follow Christopher @brosephchillaxton2 on Instagram!