"Failures do not define you, they are meant to only refine your path in life," is a phrase which has guided me through the perils of life. As a youth born and raised in Jacksonville, FL, life wasn't always picture perfect. I was forced to learn some very difficult lessons about manhood on my own; whether by choice or through my inability to seek help. Blinded by the stereotypes of black males in America, I wouldn't be anything more than an uneducated, hoody-wearing, prison bound, father of many..."nobody". Surrounded by examples of what not to be like, I fed into these false realities. However, growing up with a strong single-mother whose faith in God carried her, I was awakened and inspired to be more.
Now that I am able to look back on my upbringing to appreciate each and every hardship, I can proudly say I am thankful. As a black man in his mid-twenties with a bachelor's degree, public speaker of social inequalities and career in marketing, it is safe to say, I beat the odds. Nothing has come easy nor free. Each and every accolade I've earned over the years came at the price of great sacrifice. I damaged many relationships by having tunnel vision to achieve and prove America wrong. That level of selfishness left me empty, lonely and lacking the purest gift of life...love.
My self-discovery freed my mind from negativity, opened my heart to give and allowed me to forgive those who hurt me, including the image in the mirror. At that point I became a man. A better man. A man who could be something of value to those whom he loved.
Through my experiences I want nothing more than to share my story in order to evoke change in the youth. I long to become a beacon of hope for a generation deemed lost by many media outlets, as they polarize the violence but negate to report the surplus of positive stories sweeping through black neighborhoods. My accomplishments have no meaning if I can not reach back and teach others how to do the same if not better.