HONORING OUR JOURNEYS
MAAFA REDEMPTION PROJECT A ConTextos Magazine
MAAFA 3 Edition Volume 1, Issue 1 April 2022
The ConTextos Authors Circle was developed in collaboration with young people at-risk of, victims of, or perpetrators of violence in El Salvador. In 2017, this innovative program expanded into Chicago to create tangible, high quality opportunities that nourish the minds, expand the voices and share personal truths of individuals who have long been underserved and underestimated. Through the healing process of drafting, revising, and publishing memoirs, participants develop self-reflection, critical thinking, camaraderie and positive self-projection to author new life narratives. With support from Chicago CRED, ConTextos works with New Mount Pilgrim MB Church’s MAAFA Redemption Project. MAAFA’s mission is to significantly improve the quality of life for young men of color and their families in West Garfield Park providing dormitory-style residential support, workforce training, personal/spiritual-development, and a host of wrap-around social services. The embedded ConTextos Authors Circle provides a synergistic space of reflection, connection and healing growth as Authors continue to forge new life chapters. The powerful memoirs from the 2021-2022 MAAFA Authors Circle complicate myopic, monolithic narratives and include an array of Sankofa Stories, transformative experiences and vibrant insights of young men on the West Side of Chicago.
In collaboration with
Table of Contents Introduction - 1 Damien Garcia - 4 Kenneth Towner - 8 Luis Rivera - 12 Solomon Revollar -16 Carl Simmons - 18 Daishaun Burns - 22 Jakie Ridley -26 Amonte Lewis - 30 Delshaun Whitmore -34 Santies Howard - 38 Mike Dowdy - 42 Nakia Hughes - 44 Winston Johnson - 48 Willie McCollum -54 Jireh Kelsey -58 Robert Solomon -62 Terrell Gray, Jr. -64 Troy Johnson -68
Introduction Do you know how it feels to grow up as a young man on Chicago’s West Side in 2022? Do you know what it feels like to be labeled a statistic based solely on your environment? Do you know how it feels to question certain decisions? To feel like your options are limited because of the difficulties of everyday life? We challenge you to reflect and imagine this is your reality. May this compilation inspire questions and new perspectives. In the MAAFA Authors Circle we come together to do what human beings have done for thousands of years. We gather to unveil our truths, feelings, questions, pains and inspirations. To share powerful and often uncomfortable stories. Ultimately vulnerability transitions into building trust, understanding and a deeper sense of value amongst one another. We co-create a space of healing and hope, strong enough to hold all of who we are and what we carry. It takes courage to be seen and heard in our full humanity. It takes the power of authentic community--deep roots and strong wings--to continue to make sense of life, the world and our own unique purpose. The MAAFA Author Circle journey has been remarkable: each author navigating and reflecting upon their own dynamic paths with celebrations and heartbreaks, setbacks and breakthroughs, lessons and growth. MAAFA authors prove you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.
MAAFA Men: Jerome Dowdy, Malcolm Davis, Deacon Robert Ervin, Facilitator Isaiah Manning, Dwayne McClain, Quentin Harris
This compilation is a series of emotional risk-taking stories that authors were brave enough to share during hard and troubling times. The compilation also celebrates former authors who may not have made it through the whole journey, yet their experiences and stories hold the same value. This book matters because it reflects candid sharing and honest writing from our circle. Presenting truths for the world to see, families to be proud of and authors to behold in new ways. Each human being is divinely appointed and needed in this world at this very time. In Authors Circle the men of MAAFA reached deep into their own selves to share with each other, and now the world, transformative experiences, insights and dreams. The process of drafting, revising and publishing aspects of one’s life is a way to strengthen and uplift one's own perspective and influence the world near and far. This extraordinary journey could not be possible without the steadfast leadership, support and love of every star in the constellation. The entire MAAFA team of life coaches have shown their divine commitment every step of the way. We are grateful for all of your support in encouraging Authors and forging new chapters! As for you, dear reader, we hope this collection feeds your spirit, encourages reflections and inspires new days. Peace and Love, Zay and Lisa ConTextos Facilitators
Life Coaches and Memoir
DAMIEN GARCIA 4
Where I'm From I am from poverty From Whales and Jacks I am from the worst part of out West Dangerous, fun, but overall a warzone I am from weeds and dirt in the backyard It might not be much, but it’s home. I’m from noodles and bologna sandwiches From Pavellette and Emmaunel I’m from the strong and smart. From “everybody ain’t your friend” and “Don’t trust what you can’t see.” I’m from Chicago, born and raised Still got roots from the Island to Texas to Pennsylvania All the way to Africa, Thanks to the Garcia and Gordons. From Mexican rice, chicken and beans, and cornbread From the family where hope is lost, But we still find a way. No matter how hopeless we was, Uncle Ricky made a way.
Too Good to Be the Truth
Before I met my manager and talked to him, I was just playing with my music. I didn’t know if I was really good or not. I only showed people close to me and I thought they were lying cause we was close. My manager and I had a conversation that showed me that I can do it. I felt more determined, because before I had always doubted myself and my music. My mother told me I was having a brother, so I knew I was gonna be the star now I know I am. It’s sad that I didn’t fully realize it until somebody else told me, cause everyone around was already telling me.
Where I'm Going
I am going to visit every state once, Just to see what it’s like and how other people live. I always wanted to see the scenery in Puerto Rico, Where one side of my family is from. I always wanted to go to Greece or the Bahamas. I look forward to being successful And starting my own family with my girl. I set a goal to put myself in a position To provide for my family and others in need. To build myself as a person To be a better man And to have a good effect on earth. I would change the killings of minorities, And make more working together. That’s the only way we will survive here, Or make it better. The change will be more unity in every community. My legacy will be my business, my kids, Whatever I do will be left for my kids, For them to take over. My legacy will be my business, What I spend my time on. Equally my kids, Though they will be great.
Kate M. Smith, Chicago, 2021
KENNETH TOWNER #
Blessed and Cursed Childhood Man, what can I say right now. Man, my mind spinning just thinking about the moments and memories with my friends. I remember when I first transferred to Plato Learning Academy, at the half of my second grade year. I was furious at first to say the least because I was going to school with my cousins. So, I didn’t know what to look forward to, but I had no choice. My first day, I was very cautious. I walked into the principal's office, introduced myself. I got to know a little bit about most of the staff. Then, it was time to go to my class. I believed the classroom number was either 201 or 207, but all that I can remember is that I walked in, the class was loud and chaotic. But once I came in the room, everyone stop talking. My teacher, Ms. Nippons, introduced me to the class and I sat down in my seat. Some dude came up to me without even knowing me and said, “Wassup bro. My name Lashawn.” I told him my name and from that moment we instantly clicked. This was my first homie at this new school and I haven’t even been in this class for 20 minutes. Then I found out I was in the wrong class. In the class that I was originally supposed to be in, I met more people named Keenan and Amonta. These was my homies and we had that bond that couldn’t break, but with Amonta we always bumped heads. We argued about anything, but then we would be right back cool like nothing ever happened and it has been that way since forever still to this day. These was my guys; everyday we was together. We lived far from each other's house, but we walked everywhere together. It didn’t matter the length; long as it was us, we was ok. These was some of the best days I had in my life. Typical kid-teenager behavior. Once we made 7th grade, our lives began to change. I can say we were teenagers who didn’t care about nothing and did what we wanted to do--not caring what nobody says to us. When we graduated 8th grade, I can say our worlds turned into something we knew could happen...but like I said, how our mindsets was, we didn’t. So, let me tell you how my life turned for the worst. End of 8th grade, going into high schooI, I was already in the streets. The shit I experienced when I was little just made me think the way I did. And at the time, I felt that the streets was something I looked forward to. It was fun for a short period of time. But going into my Junior year is what changed my life. My cousin died shortly after I started back. Seeing him often, after not seeing him for a year. That shook me because at the time that’s my first time ever feeling the heart of death, someone that was close to me. I couldn’t wrap my head around that. After that, one of my childhood friends got killed. When this happened, I was so unstable and confused. I never felt that pain of losing a homie. I never would have thought that it could be one of mine. From that day forward, I knew the streets was not a game.
Arrival of the Princess
When my niece was born, it was one of the best days in my life. When we finally brought her home, it felt like a new start. Her energy was just strong. I never wanted to be away from her, but she started crying. I didn’t know why she was crying, so I dropped a couple of tears. She broke my heart because I thought that I was hurting her. I wasn't, she was a baby and babies cry. At the time I was only twelve and I was watching her by myself for the first time. It was overwhelming at first.
My Heart, Mind and Soul Son son, you don’t know how excited I am to meet you. You been on my mind heavy and you don’t know who I am yet. Daddy is ready for you. You changed my perspective and my way of thinking with everything. I can only really think about you. I just want to be able to hold you, look in your eyes and really know you are mines–a little human that I have created. Son, son the countdown is real. I’m patiently waiting on the arrival, son son. I am eager to see your face, your ears, your smile, and I can’t wait for the first skin to skin son. You have been what has been changing the way I think with everything. You have to be checked in any situation. You're always my main option, or answer to anything. If you are not brought up, I don’t want to know or be entertained with that. I’ve never been so eager or so happy with anything else ever in my life. You my everything son. You don’t understand what kind of feeling you give me, but I promise you will see when we finally meet each other. I’m glad your mother and I made you because you’re something I never thought that I needed and wanted so much. You’re my everything. My heart, my mind, my soul, I will never let anyone take that away from me. So please hurry up, son, we have time that we have to spend together. You taking too long. Your Mom is anxious for you to come. Son, you and her bring sunshine to life. You bring her up through her toughest times. I see that already, and you are not even here yet. Hurry up, son son.
LUIS RIVERA 12
He was the best thing in my life and our life. He was funny, always telling Nicc stories about him. He liked drawing, doing good things. He passed away 3 years ago. I want my kids and nephews to know the beautiful things he taught us. We going to keep all the good things. Cause at the end, he’d want us to know what he went through in his life.
My Mother's Memory Mother! I always thought I was real in this world… Every time I try to do things on my own, things go sideways or wrong… But, what I want is real and right. I’ll be okay, always with a smile on my face, feeling free when I do with positive thoughts. Thanks mom, for all the right choices you put in my life. Mother! She never taught me nothing wrong, she always wanted the best for all of us. Always said that reading is good for your health. Keep an open mind and you learn from yourself and feed it to your mind. My soul always feels good, giving positive things. I always thank God for her love.
SOLOMON REVOLLAR 16
God’s Strongest Soldier's Battle A long time ago, when I was with 19 of the guys and I was drinking, a car passed by, and let one go and it hit me in the head. I woke up in the hospital. My life changed forever. ***** Now, I wake up to my babies. I cook for them, play with them and take them out to Six Flags. And my bro, I tell them not to be out in the street and to be better.
CARL SIMMONS 18
Sucka Free World
Only thing I think about is staying sucka free. I have to remind myself to pay attention when someone is really talking to you. Cause if you talk to someone long enough, in a lot of words, they will tell you their heart. I have to stay sucka free in this world. Cause you can’t trust a soul. I refuse to fail. I’m going to win in everything I put my mind to. I’m going to continue to get out my own way and work on my mind, body and my money.
Dark Times: The Rising Of A King
A dark time in my life is when I got locked up my first time. I had never been locked up for too long, and I was gone 14 months. It was a depressing time, but when they released me I got better because I was lost in jail. Over thinking, worried about my kids, but I moved past that time. Now, I’m better and I can look back like, “I needed to go through that to get to the next level.” My ride back from prison, when I got out 6-28-21, it was like an hour drive. My Little cousin and friend picked me up. Driving back with them was different this time. It was different because this time, I was getting off papers. No cases, no nothing, complete freedom is back. That’s all I can think of. Also the opportunity I have to do whatever I want to do whenever I want. So this ride changed me cause it also humbled me. I can look back on some of the times in jail and say it made me better, but it also hurt me. Now, I feel more alone even though I have people who care for me. It made me an angry person. At times when I get angry, I feel unpredictable. I don’t know what I will do, so I try to stay in a good mood. I feel everyone be against me at times. When I think about being in a cell, I think about being alone, forgotten. I don’t even like closing my room door, if it’s only me in the home. I feel like we in a cell; I be having to open the door. Jail helped me as far as reading people and noticing the signs when someone has another agenda. I play dumb sometimes and try to act like the old me, that’s when I notice a lot of things and the way people act around me.
DAISHAUN BURNS 22
Changed My Life A time that changed my life was when I moved out of town and went to a private school. I was doing good, getting good grades and playing sports I never played before, like baseball and track. I thought I was going to live there for a long time, but I was mistaken because little did I know my time was coming very soon. So, shortly after that I got into an altercation with a guy about a girl. It was his girlfriend, but I didn’t know at the time, so he wanted to fight me about her because he seen her kiss me. I didn’t know she had a man cause she didn’t let me know anything. But anyway, we had a little scuffle, and I won. We ended up being cool after that because he seen how real I was. I wasn’t no phony person, but it changed me because now I see not to get into it over no female. In the end, it’s not worth it. In the end, we became best friends.
Second Chance I got a second chance when I got out of jail to become a better person and get my life together. While I was in there, I had nothing but time to think about my next move. I promised myself when I got out of there, that I’d never come back, ever in my life. I really wanted to focus on staying out the streets and getting a job to do that. I feel like I’ve been doing good so far, but I'm not fully there yet. It’s just going to take a little more time first, but this is my second chance. This time I’m going to take advantage of it cause I feel like this my last one. I’ve been doing good so far. I found a little job to go to so I can stay out the streets. So, now it’s just time to get to it and stay focused so I won’t fall off my square. I hope this really work out for me cause it’s making me become a peaceful man and I love the person I’m becoming. That goes to show you, you know no matter what you do, whether it’s bad in life, it’s always a good side to the bad side. So to all the people who feel like life is just all bad, it’s not. It actually has some good ups and downs to it. So never give up.
Grandma: Sankofa Story
The world should know my Grandma, Mrs. Odessa Butler. She was sweet as pie, but she could be mean like the devil if you made her mad enough, but that was rarely. Shit, she was so sweet to the point that I stopped bringing friends around because she would give me money, and tell me to split it with whoever I brung. I stopped bringing people with me when I wanted to ask for something cause I felt like they in the way. Cause that’s really taking from my pockets. But other than that, my grandma was as sweet as pie. One thing my grandma always told me was to stay in school and keep you some money. Now I see why she always told me that “it’s a cold world out there,” and “money makes the world go around.” Another thing she told me was that “them friends are not really your friends.” I really see what she was saying because a lot of my friends that she knew ain’t my friends anymore. Grandma, and elders, really know what they be talking about. So y’all should really listen, because if you don’t listen it might be too late. That’s the wisdom that I got from my grandma and elders.
JAKIE RIDLEY 26
I Am From I am from the Southside of Chicago. From non-glamorous and unfiltered. I am from the Blacktown house. Dangerous, Uninviting, Sense of the matter. I am from uncut grass and weeds, Magical urban jungle. I’m from Cookout and Stocky. From Alberta and Eddie. I’m from street fights and BBQ. From “beat him, or you’ll get a whooping too” and “stay true to yourself.” I’m from Islamic, hum to Allah. I’m from Holy Cross and down South. Collard Greens, Macaroni From play fighting with all my cousins. The late nights cooking with my Mother. Teaching my little brother to ride a bike, All at my mother’s house.
My Thoughts Good afternoon, to whomever may be reading. I love you and God bless your soul. I have had a very positive turnover in my life due to my surroundings which have recently displayed so much positive energy. Now, I’m empty of negativeness.
A meaningful conversation that is important in life is this. Things are set in place for a reason. Just go with the flow like a river.
An important experience that I had is most definitely knowing that the Great God Almighty has my back on the journey and I thank Him for that.
The trip I recently took to Washington D.C. was full of knowledge and was a learning experience. I also am grateful for ConTextos giving me the opportunity to further develop my writing. I gain more confidence the more I write.
AMONTE LEWIS 30
Risk Everyday, everybody takes a risk. Whether it’s crossing the street or drinking from a water fountain. I remember I took a big risk. Coming to the MAAFA was something way new to me forreal. It’s not in the best area, and they really hold you to a standard of bettering myself. That was a risk for me because I was doing something out of my element. There are good risks and bad risks; I believe I took a good one.
Blessings of a Young Childhood When you're a child, you're in a rush to grow up, but when you get older, you start to realize the blessings of young childhood. Almost all children used to say, “I can’t wait til I get grown.” I know I did. Since I’ve had my son, I’ve been noticing things. Like his innocence, mainly, also getting taken care of isn’t that bad. I just miss the little things about my childhood. His smile and the glitter in his eyes captivates me when I look at him. Man, having a little one running around you is a crazy feeling. Just looking at them can fill you with 20 emotions. I never really pictured me being a father, even though I wanted a lot of kids. Especially at 19, I wasn’t ready for that journey. Now, I’m starting to feel like that’s the best thing that ever happened to me. Forreal. On a serious note, he saved my life. 100. When I’m just in his presence, I feel better. He made me grow.
DELSHAUN WHITMORE 34
Time Waits Time waits for no man, so I will not let this time pass me by. I have missed so many opportunities, letting prosperity fall by the wayside, seeking encouragement on the outside, lacking motivation within. I struggle with insecurities and the truth escapes me. I will not tell a lie because what satisfaction would that bring? Only torment. I will not deceive because what sensation would I satisfy? I must be the change I wish to see in the world, otherwise what have I become? A hypocrite? God forbid. I will bless the Lord at the times, inward as well as outward. I will seek the face of God so that any purpose may be fulfilled through His will in the way that He sees fit. All things work together for good to them that know God, to them who are the called, according to His purpose. He will see me through.
New Journey College, what a drag. You do everything to get there, make your family proud, just so the office of administration can lose my social security number… Twice… Ok cool, no problem. I’ll just get a regular job when I get home… Get home…There’s a letter on my door telling me I owe $16,000 to a college that claimed to have no confirmation of my social security number or my grades, but claimed I stayed on campus, in a dorm. How, Sway? Talk about a return on an investment, and I was supposed to have a scholarship, but hey that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’ll just suck it up, and do what I have to do. It’s been five years, and all I have to show for it is a car. I have to be better than this. I must be a better man for myself and those I may have to provide for. I must dig deeper into myself so that I may be a greater me than I knew I was capable of being. I must not accept fear. I am more than a conqueror through the Christ Jesus who strengthens me.
A Strong Faith It’s been a year, and I can’t explain the progress nor the regress. There is a constant toil mentally, reminding me that I have not done enough. Should I be more assertive, or is this the time for patience, and to be still? There is a constant internal battle, but I will not be double minded. I trust in God, and I believe he did raise Jesus from the ground! My faith will increase! My God will sustain me. I had dreams I have not forgotten, nor has my Father forgotten nor forsaken me. In the Lord will I put my trust.
SANTIES HOWARD 38
Road to College
I started college in 2015, shortly after graduating high school in 2014. I took one year off to raise myself some money to be comfortable by myself in another state. I worked for Kroger in Lexington, KY where I moved right after high school graduation with my sister and her five kids. When I departed for college, I was excited, but the year before, I experienced adulthood when I was 18/19 years of age. I was just about used to living with others, being as I had moved with my sister. I would later attend school for my first year of college in Fort Dodge, Iowa; a fairly quiet town. The area was also known for the students at the local community college, Iowa Central. I also had about 6 of my closest friends/teammates there with me that I already knew. My OG, sister and grandma dropped me off. They bought me a TV, clothes, food, and a lot of condoms, plus more. My roommates ended up not coming, so I had a room with two beds and two refrigerators. I was set. For the rest of the day, we just wandered around campus. The next day was my first day of class.
Now practicing was always fun, but it’s also always a challenge. I was an incoming freshman at the time. There was also a lot of guys that was already more experienced in the sport. Luckily in my position I was one of the top in my graduating class. I was selected to practice with game rosters. It was also tough, but my teammates were with me, helping me along the way. I got better, adding speed and power. Later in the semester, and half way through the football season, we were doing good but I was struggling with my school work. It was about the 3rd week of October when everything started to hit the fan. I started to fall off in class. I started to show up late to most classes, but everything on the football field was in order. So me being one of many Black players on the team, I took the advantage of talking to him. His name was Coach Hag, a cool, young, black successful man in everything he achieved. Plus he was an alumni of the school. Later after practice I pulled him to the side and I poured my heart out. He first thought I was trying to earn his trust by using sympathy, so after my basic chat most people call it a testimony. I was told to change into my street wear and return to his office to further discuss the situation. I came upon him and it was dinner time, and I was just about to leave thinking, “Hag forgot about me” but just as I was about to leave my name was called, “Howard, come in.”
As I entered I was instantly hit with a body shock because Jermaine, one of the campus “Top Flight” Security officers was also sitting there, and I’ll bet any money you have when you read this Jman, which he is preferred to be called, hated me. Let’s just say I was always the class clown everywhere; that’s just how my vibes be, ya know? But back to the story, Jman offered the chair next to him in front of the coaches desk as I sat. I was hit with a single mug from Jman, but lesson 405 for me, “Never judge a book by its cover,” as I sat down. Coach explained to me that he always talked to the Jman, and respectfully brought my situation to him. In the midst of our, what felt like, 4 hour conversation, I learned that Jman was from the same part of Chicago as me. I knew he was from there, but never expected him to know what I know about the hood. Chicago is big, but everyone has a story and his was much similar to mine. I was given the “I see a leader in you” acknowledgement, but yet I was not here for what many more people in the past told me. I wanted guidance; I wanted help choosing a path deeper in the conversation. I was surprised by what Coach and Jman was saying. They made it known this was real, and how I was going about it was wrong. It was sort of like a wake up call. I learnt that now I had to step up, but I was confident enough in these two, mostly because they had struggled too. I was ready to choose a new path.
MIKE DOWDY 42
Poem to Myself I’m from a place of fear, A place of discouragement, A place of when doing right is wrong, A place of being taken advantage of, A place of not being enough, A lifeless place, A place of sworn secrecy to myself.
NAKIA HUGHES 44
Not Overlooking Second Chances I remember when I got shot in the front window waiting on my ride. It blew me because at first I thought it was a setup, but I’m like naw them boyz really came to my house. So after that, I just started looking at things different. It changed me because I could of been dead and not here today. So, I just thank God every chance I get and what that did for me is make me want to be out the way and do what’s right. I really had to open my eyes to see this stuff not a game. I like how I’m changing as a young man because a lot of things I used to do, I don’t do no more. I like getting money and taking care of my family. All that other stuff will pass. The new me wants to be something in life and don’t be in the mix of nothing if it ain’t about money or family. I go to work and home. What I’m saying is that I look at things differently than how I used to.
I Am From I am from Chicago where there is a lot of good and bad happening. Some people sell things, steal cars and clothes. Why I think they steal is because somebody might have some they don’t got, so they take it from people. It be a lot of shooting going on in the West side. It comes from people hating you or don’t like something about you. Carjacking happens cause you might have rims they want, but they can’t afford to get them. Some parts of the West side be clean and not nasty. The blocks get along with each other. There is a lot of good here, too. My daddy is a good father and do whatever for his kids and mother too. I feel like I got the best family sometimes. Without them I don’t know where I would be. I just love my family. They want me to be something in life. I love how they are coming for me just like how I’m coming for them. My family is cool, nice, fun and don’t play. What I mean by that is they gon make you stand on that business fasho. I would do whatever for them, and don’t want to lose them out of my life. I be on my baby sister a lot because I see she getting older and stuff, so I make sure she good. I stand on everything when it comes to her. I love my baby sister so much. I will hurt whoever over her. I keep her away from them little fast girls, and make sure she is on track with school. That’s why I do all the things I do. In the family I come from we stand on all business fasho. And I just love my people.
WINSTON JOHNSON 48
I Am From I am from 2 for 10’s From Hot Car City and switches and SRTs I am from the Raq Guns popping, bodies dropping, Everybody wanna make it with you, But can’t I am from the yellow dandelion, Where they are yellow in spring And white in the sun I’m from Loud and Hardworking From Wynter and Marion I’m from tough love and goofiness From “not going to be nothing” And “you will be something.” I’m from a family of soul food I’m from UIC Hospital Pizza, Hot wings Family forever.
Life Always Wins the Game I always looked at life like a big game that’s unbeatable. I always thought you can go around and use a cheat code, But it turns out you came to live for your purpose or purposes. Life is not a game cause you don’t get a chance to come back once you're gone. I now look at life as if you can go somewhere hot, you can come back cold. You can do something clean, but you can get dirty. You can do something new, but still feel old. Therefore, life tells me everything don’t come easy, And everything don’t come the same. Every decision you make has a consequence. If it's good, or bad, then change. It’s hard, it’s challenging, but I heard it’s worth it in the end. So changing for the better is what I’m aiming for again. Shot after shot is how we living in my city. We only come together for a funeral or to get litty.
Where I'm Going I always wanted to go skydiving. I think that’s where I should start as far as where I’m going. Where I’m going is beyond what one can see, Cause I always wanted to see the appearance of God. If I was allowed anywhere in the world, Area 51 is my first stop. Why not? I’m curious and wondering how far I could go chasing that thought. I look forward to becoming successful enough to see My kids become successful with generational wealth. I hope to have my own space before 21. One of many goals I got set for myself. Everybody should be able to come together. That’ll be a change in the world we need to see. Listen and understand me, Because my kids are what I’m leaving behind. Besides businesses, those little ones are my legacy.
Never Say Never I remember growing up I was taught never say never. See but me, I always thought never, and always said never. I always thought I would live through my 20s free and at will. By my junior year of high school I was gathering milk and quilts. My main thought was, is it a boy? Is it a girl? Whatever it maybe, it’s gon rock my world. Having a kid was not as bad as I thought. As long as it is a healthy child, that’s all that matters. I know I always wanted a daughter as my first child though. I felt like it’ll make me mature faster, and treat girls better. Only thing I did know was never say never, even if you're in a position to say it. On the days everyone was out and I was in, I was grateful for the moments to spend. Sometimes I take a spend or a puff, but when dealing with kids, it’s never enough. I’ll never forget this one time when I really noticed my daughter was a daddy’s girl. Her mother tried to feed her, and I took my first try. She would take the food bite and spit it out. If I gave it to her, she would take it and stuff her mouth. The best experience with my daughter as of now was at birth. I dropped my first tear of joy in life in a long time. She came out brighter than a leprechaun chest box. She didn’t come out crying, she had a big smile on her face. I was the first to hold her and the first to feed her. I just want her to know I got her, even if it’s not the first thing she need. Sleepy nights in the dark, sounds of crying and baby farts. My God I love her from sunshine above. I pray you watch over my daughter. My Lay lay, I love you. As I started to grow into parenthood I started looking at the streets different and women also. I started moving different. Sometimes I was reacting without thinking. I remember being in hot cars aka stolen vehicles, no gloves, no mask, just the equipment we needed. Same as with females. I remember being in they house, no protection, no thought just me and dude. Then I started looking at the streets as one big ball game of karma. Once I do something, something happens to me or what goes around comes around. With the ladies, I just looked at them like don’t mistreat them. Treat them how you would want your mother, sisters, and other loved ones treated. With all this said and done, living a fast life is not bad after all. Especially when having slow moments. I learned to cherish what I create and forgive to forget what I destroy. A chance at life and to add to the generations coming. To leave my legacy behind too, is more than why you should never say never.
WILLIE MCCOLLUM 54
The Start of My Beginning First thing first, like have your head up. Thinking about the first time you had to give up everything you know and know what you was going to do next. I once breathed the best air. It was the day my daughter was born. The look in her eyes, the crying, the feeling of knowing all she had was me. From this day forward, I was the king, provider, the chef, the chief, the maker of something that was broke. Soon after my daughter was born, I knew something was wrong. The crying stopped for her. The doctor came to me and asked me to leave the room. I asked, “For what?” Then he explained to me that everything I wanted to know he could “Enlighten” me about after. So, I went to the hallways where I heard my wife yelling that she can’t breathe. As much as I wanted to go in and see what was going on with my baby, I could not. So, I went back in the hall, just waiting to get back in the room. I can hear my wife call my name, “Woo come in.” I yell, “I can’t. Just hold on. What they doing?” She says, “It’s not me. It’s War.” So I tried to open the door. So I twisted it and it was locked. At this point I knew it was bad. Growing up I was a little big head motherfucka who really didn’t care about much, even when it was about me. Still didn’t care, I used to stay out all night knowing when I got home it was gon get me in trouble with my OG. I was built like a linebacker. You heard Kahlil Mack, 5’7 with a strong left hand. She was about to slang my ear to the other ear, and I could still weave. Long story short I didn’t care about much growing up, but I always had family. The day I had my daughter. It was a long day, just to think about her. In 50 mins I went from a careless boy into being a careful young man. Later that day, well that night, I learned that being a father was the most careful thing I can be. Careless right, if that is even a word, the minute I went back in that room I learned that I had to be so careful with picking up my daughter. They had so much stuff hooked up to her. I stood there looking at her, trying to figure out is she more stronger than me, or if I was stronger than her. I knew that it was she who was stronger than me. I had to look the same way. So, I stood there watching with high feet on the ground. I fake could listen through the door to the doctor as he said the good. Then they say, “the little baby girl is off, but she going to have to stay with us for a while.” This is what they told me. “The doctors will just keep her until she gets better.” She said a month. This was my first one. The start of my beginning.
Where I'm Going I always wanted to be a football player I always wanted to see my whole family Dressed up nice and taking pictures If I could go anywhere, I’m going to Cuba I look forward to taking care of my family To the best of my abilities. A goal I set for myself Is to make everything better. I want to change my addictions, My legacy will be my character.
JIREH KELSEY 58
A Blessing In Disguise I got something to live for now. I’m glad I got a daughter. I was nervous the day my daughter was born. I was happy and nervous at the same time. Ever since she was born she changed my life around. Now I get to make sure my daughter have a good father in her life. My father was not in my life when I was a child. So I know how they feel. What’s on my mind right now is trying to do better for myself. So I can be able to be a good father to my daughter and try to make my people proud. I don’t want to go back to my past. I’m trying to focus on my future in life. That’s why I’m finna take my rap career to a whole different level. I remember when my daughter was born. I was nervous to come up to the doctor, but at the same time, I was happy about it. I feel like it’s a blessing. Everything changes when you have a child. I love my daughter from the bottom of my heart. Every time I see her she just makes me happy. Now, I know I got something to live for. It was a blessing that I had a child. I think I had a child for a reason, so I can know how to treat a female. I’m always going to ride for her. I love being her daddy. She is not going to play about me, and I’m not going to play about my daughter. I know when my daughter grows up, she is going to be a star, I can see it already cause she is smart already. I was so happy when she was born. That changed my life and how I move. Now I know.
Sankofa Story: My Grandma I remember when my Grandma was alive. She used to tell me to get up for school, and I didn’t. She would go get some water and throw it on me. I always wanted to make her proud by showing her that I’m doing better. I wish I can take everything back that I did when she was alive. Now that she gone, I wish she could see my daughter cause she is getting bigger everyday. And I’m being a good father to her My Grandma always got mad when we walk in the house with our shoes on, so we gotta take em off. My Grandma didn’t play when we miss a day of school. We used to always stand in the corner, sit still then she would tell us to get out of the corner. It was this one time when she chased me all around the block. But even though I gave her a hard time sometimes, my Grandma knew that I will always love her. I know my Grandma still lives inside of me. I’m still going to make her happy while she still watching over me.
ROBERT SOLOMON 62
Sankofa Story: First Sunday I remember a time with my grandma when she used to take me to church on Sundays. Everytime we went to my grandma's house, we couldn’t leave without going to church. She used to tell us, "Come with me. Y’all know we're going to church.” I used to not want to go, but my grandma used to push me into going. We used to go to church with her every Sunday. She never wanted us to miss no Sunday, but I used to act like I had something to do instead of just going. I knew it was wrong, but I just didn’t feel like going sometimes. Ever since my grandma stopped walking, she stopped going to church. So I'd be at her house when I wanna get away. I once remember my grandma taking care of me when I was sick. When I was sick, my grandma made sure I was ok. She used to watch out for me as my mother went to work. I used to not want to go to school sometimes, but my grandma made sure I was going. I can say that she is someone you want to call your grandmother. She will give up anything, even if it’s just to get you through the day. I learned that she was in my corner no matter what the situation was. She will make sure you're out on top. I also learned from her to never give up, always make an effort of the situation you are in. Even if you have to stop what you are doing, know you can go and find out. Whatever it is you are going through, you can make it out. I didn’t really go through anything, but I know that my grandma would help anyone. I would say she is a good role model to young people, showing that there is positive people in the world. If there was anything I needed, I knew my grandma would take care of it. Until this day, I think she is the best grandmother anyone could have. She helped me become a good person as well as being there when needed. When she started getting sick, I wanted to be there helping her because she helped me. I wanted her to know I was strong, and growing all for her. It’s been long since my grandmother passed away, and I have been staying up so it won’t put me down. Also, I just wish I can go back and would change the way I react to certain people. Like showing anger for things that didn’t need to bother for. In the past, I wasn’t doing enough to get through, but now I do better, so that people can think good about me. She also taught me to “Stand alone, never let people get me into trouble. Always be yourself,” and I love her for that. Those were the times I spent with her that I can say was me doing something positive.
TERRELL GRAY JR. 64
Today Was Awesome I made sure I was fully honest, more like a string, anything from a thought to making an example out of more than the things that mainly occur, to building on more than liberty. I can be sure that one honest or wild moment can potentially last
My Life is Probably Unexplainable I feel unexplained for the most part. Looking up to groups and/or role models. I really don’t add in what’s missing I want to put it into detail, but that’s going to actually cause conflict within myself
Holding Back Holding back your kingdom of tears any temple defining transaction. Stay more abundant when due times are near, stay more open to mindful decisions. “Ask after your hand gets full.” Plenty with eternal favor and on guaranteed atmosphere.
TROY JOHNSON 68
Humble Beginnings I’m from traveling down south to see relatives I’m from a 2 parent home, They both worked and instilled discipline. I’m from my ancestors I’m from my every need fulfilled. I came from a lonely past. Growing up with no brothers and sisters. After my Dad left, It was me and my mom I’ve always had a closer relationship With my Dad than my Mother I would pick my attire to align With what she wanted me to wear. I always saw her as more strict and too judgmental.
Graces and Favors I’ve been to the shelter, church, rehab, jail, around all types of people. I’m no better than them. We all ended up at the same place, same time but for different reasons. I could easily be them, they could easily be me. ***** From good to bad, hero to zero. I’m 26 now and times have changed. The support that was there in the past is no longer there. I cannot play victim- most bridges I burned with my own torch. Turning away from God was the worst mistake. Tough times made me turn my back; Working for the devil, God showed me grace and favor. From sleeping in trap houses, abandoned buildings, and hallways. I used to hide my clothes on the side of my grandmother’s house, so no one saw me walking around homeless. I’m getting older and shoulders get colder. The Devil is connected to pride, the price of being hard headed. ***** One day I walked from Halsted to Campell and 63rd, in the rain. On my walk, I talk to God. I told Him that, if He wakes me up everyday, I will make something of myself. Let me get up with a purpose. I’m tired, I’ll do whatever you want. Yes, I’m disobedient, and this is the tough love he gave me.
Sankofa Story My Aunt always had my back. On my journey, I have detoured, and completely got off track. My journey includes the introduction to drugs such as weed, lean, and pills. From hanging out with the cool guys/criminals. I became a worker for the drug dealers. I used to work all night, and falling asleep in the trap (abandoned buildings). My Aunt looked out for me. She was the only one who would looked for me, and made sure I was okay. When no one else would, her door was always open. She spent over $1,000 on my birthday last year. By far, the best birthday ever. Her actions always matched up with her words. She told me stories about her journey, and it was identical to mine.
HONORING OUR JOURNEYS