Chapter 7 – You don’t understand me

“Beware when someone says they know you. They don’t know your potential or what you are capable of. We can’t allow anyone to set a limit on our potential.”

Reynolds

Ronnie Wilson aka Flaky C was different. He was my calm in the middle of the madness we were facing. He was around from the pioneering days of the UK Hip Hop movement. A chance meeting or divine appointment at Singers Wine bar led to a fantastic opportunity. We started working together, we made beats and rhymes. I was changing from an egotistical person into a young man of destiny. At times it felt that I was caught between two people, who I was and who I wanted to be. I had no control of the things that happened outside of me, all I could control was how I responded. I looked at my life and wondered about the things I had seen and lived through. I thought about the way I reacted in outbursts of anger. I was angry about racism, the lack of black role models in the public sector, the hidden agenda to suppress a generation. My life messages had been formed through my childhood. My experiences shaped my understanding. In 1975 I went with my father to pick up my sister from the children’s home she worked at. We arrived as a family was meeting a child, it was surreal. We would have to wait until the meeting had finished. I went into a play room and sat with a young boy who was alone. He looked upset, he said that no family had come to take him. He felt even though he was very young that something about him was unlovable. This impacted me deeply and stirred up the advocate in me. Another life shaping event I remember was a teacher saying to me before I left school that I wouldn’t amount to anything. I was that child that always had a question. I didn’t take what was said as fact and wanted to know more. His limiting belief in me stimulated my anger. The day after I appeared on ‘Top of the Pops’ I remembered his words. They said I talked to much and it was a negative, now it was a positive. I went back to school and took a signed copy of the record. Another life shaping experience happened around this time. I went to celebrate our success with friends at a wine bar in Notting Hill Gate. I arrived early and was approached by two men. They accused me of selling drugs and wanted to search me. I explained I had just arrived for a celebration. He grabbed me and started to forcefully search me. I asked for his Id number. He grabbed me and started punching me in the face as he frogmarched me into Notting Hill Gate police station opposite the wine bar. I was placed in a sell, after 30 minutes I was released. I was filled with rage, I told the policeman on the desk. I can’t wait for carnival. As a child growing up in the era of the Sus law I had already developed a mistrust of the police. The Sus law meant they could stop and search anyone they determined suspicious. Many officers thought West Indian heritage was suspicious and disproportionally stopped young black youths. These experiences left a mark on me, they had affected me at a heart level. Internally I was confused and angry, I had become so defensive. I needed to know that I belonged, I had something to offer. The National Front pushed their right-wing brand of hatred and they wanted to send all black people back to their countries of origin. I wanted and needed to know that I was valued, and I knew in my heart that I wasn’t here. I wanted to know that my voice counted, and it didn’t. I was at the tipping point. I had been reading about Malcolm X and was reminded of his journey. I began reading the Quran. I didn’t find any direction for my life within its pages or answers for my internal questions. I wanted something personal that would be real to me. I was reminded of the journey of the slaves. The horrors of the middle passage. The stripping away of their dignity, the lies created to justify it. The role of the church within the process.

“What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?
I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

Frederick Douglass

“What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?
I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

Frederick Douglass

I read about Buddha and the New Age movement and they all left me feeling empty. I needed something that would define me, that would speak to my soul. I needed my silent voice heard. I needed to know that I could be forgiven as I was finding it tough to forgive myself. I was angry that my family tree was severed due to slavery. I needed to know that I was loved without condition.

This world put so many conditions on me, how I should look, the way I should talk, and how I should be. I was ready for change and I was open for the truth. I had become so complex and by this point no one understood me, I didn’t understand myself. Flaky was born again and he never tried to persuade me or force me to be something. He wanted to see me free of the internal torment. He always encouraged me to ask God to reveal himself, I had to be open to receive the message. I had to tune in to the right frequency, for me it was my desperation for truth. I knew there was more to my existence than I had experienced so far. I refused to settle for the status quo, for anger, hatred and regret. I asked myself the questions that many were asking themselves at the time. My head was about to explode, who was I? Where was I going? What did I have to offer? I wanted to make a difference, but I first needed something to make a difference in me. I was caught in between following Jesus or carry on as I had been. It’s all about growing naturally but society doesn’t give us that option. All that Jesus did was love and bring positive vibes to the people. Everyone who followed what he said left feeling better about life.

Frederick Douglass

I read about Buddha and the New Age movement and they all left me feeling empty. I needed something that would define me, that would speak to my soul. I needed my silent voice heard. I needed to know that I could be forgiven as I was finding it tough to forgive myself. I was angry that my family tree was severed due to slavery. I needed to know that I was loved without condition.

This world put so many conditions on me, how I should look, the way I should talk, and how I should be. I was ready for change and I was open for the truth. I had become so complex and by this point no one understood me, I didn’t understand myself. Flaky was born again and he never tried to persuade me or force me to be something. He wanted to see me free of the internal torment. He always encouraged me to ask God to reveal himself, I had to be open to receive the message. I had to tune in to the right frequency, for me it was my desperation for truth. I knew there was more to my existence than I had experienced so far. I refused to settle for the status quo, for anger, hatred and regret. I asked myself the questions that many were asking themselves at the time. My head was about to explode, who was I? Where was I going? What did I have to offer? I wanted to make a difference, but I first needed something to make a difference in me. I was caught in between following Jesus or carry on as I had been. It’s all about growing naturally but society doesn’t give us that option. All that Jesus did was love and bring positive vibes to the people. Everyone who followed what he said left feeling better about life.

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.
Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.
Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.

Martin Luther King, Jr

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I was introduced to hatred as I innocently grew. Within all me searching it ended with the truth that God is love. That night I looked for my old school Bible, it was a Good news version. It was good news for me. I opened it and began to read “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD.” It’s like God was speaking to me, it freaked me out so much I closed the Bible. I thought wow, let me try again. I opened and read, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” it was like a light being switched on. God was speaking to me, all my time struggling with identity. The deep-rooted mistrust I felt after I witnessed racism. The slave trade and the impact on my psyche.

For the first time I prayed for real. “God if you are real show me, show me that I might understand?” I felt an overwhelming sensation followed by a feeling of peace. It felt like I was loved, I was worry free at that moment. I sat meditating and a sense of peace flowed over me, it was then I sensed that if I wanted to know more I had to read for myself. I didn’t want someone between me and God, now that I could access for myself it was just what I was going to do.

I prayed and consumed the bible. I was already in the habit of reading and studying. I had previously experienced this in my awakening. I read about slavery as my search identity intensified. I had consumed books around the world faiths and they led me to Jesus. As I consumed the word I felt an overwhelming sense of His presence. I phoned Ronnie and told him I wanted to be baptised. Ronnie’s friend Malcolm, we called him Mouse belonged to a church and they had baptism services that weekend. It was a spiritual experience for me, as I came out the water I spoke in a language I had never learned. I was buzzing, I knew what it felt to be high and this was better than any high I had previously experienced. That night I dreamed that young people were falling into the abyss. It was like a human waterfall. I tried to reach out to grab some, but they slipped through my grasp. I woke up with a sense of despair and failing. It was an overwhelming amount of people. It was then I sensed a quiet voice, it said “you must know me.” My call would not be dependent on what I do but it would be who I am. Jesus said his departure would be more beneficial to us, as he was leaving us his Spirit. God is in me, changing me from glory to glory. Out of who I am I will naturally do what he called me to do. Regardless of the limited beliefs I may stumble across, God is more than enough. I soon realised God had been showing me himself through my passion and desires. In my childhood, as a rapper, during my struggles with identity. He was their when racism reared its ugly head and He was their when I was filled with anger. He was present, and it was then I understood he was always present. At times people focus on the outcome but fail to celebrate the journey.

“Some people come into our lives, leave footprints in our hearts and minds and we are never the same again.”

Jared Leto

We were not just made. What I mean is, we are not a mistake, we didn’t come about by chance. We are not reactions but a response. We are a response of love. We are not just a part of this beautiful creation but it’s crowning glory. Creation has been abused and only now are we trying to treat it with the love and care we should have been. No, we are not just a part, but we are the best of it, the masterpiece. If you know anything about a masterpiece it’s not just thrown together but thought is put into it. Every detail is carefully thought through and is perfect in the creator’s eye, only this qualifies it to be a masterpiece. This masterpiece, you and I are then born into a broken world, broken community’s and for some a broken family. The reality is, when something is broken stuff may leak through the cracks. Pain, hurt, abuse, hatred, judgement, bullying, fear, jealousy and all that stuff that poisons. We then measure our self-worth with the wrong unit of measurement. We are made by design and the biggest limiting belief is that we are lacking something. This broken world has taken away, it has damaged us, but we can be restored. Now the battle is on, We the pride of creation, gifted to live a life of love and purpose. Made to function as human beings not human doings have our identity attacked again and again and again. We are forced fed what beauty must look like, on the screen and in print. We are force fed what success looks like, we are force fed what it takes to be accepted. All the while your true self is being attacked. These limiting beliefs get stronger as some may suffer abuse as their self-worth is limited. Some may suffer rejection due to their culture or social, economic standing. Like a frog in boiling water we become less of what we were created to be. It’s a trap we are not free to be, this broken world values the doers. They want our identity in what we do not who we are. I’m a teacher, a rapper, doctor or lawyer. The foundation is not stable, we are more than that. We buy into the limiting theology as we limit ourselves and others. Inside we have an aching, we know there’s something more. We know we are not satisfied but we are afraid to share our hearts desire because if that is limited we have nothing. We hide our dreams deep within and slog away day by day losing ourselves in the process. But I say identity is the launchpad for destiny. We need to remember who we are. A masterpiece the crown of creation. The things we are passionate about are a clue to our purpose. That dream is inside us, so we can find our way, it’s our internal Sat Nav towards our purpose and being. This broken world is always asking questions that limit us, but we are more. The world says your ugly and offers you Botox or some other product. In truth you are beautiful by design created to bring joy. We are more than we have been conditioned to feel, we are those who bring value to others and our community. Even though it’s broken we don’t need to buy into its brokenness but our being calling is to be who we are, ourselves. Bring value wherever you are, if this broken world has you twisted, don’t give up or give in. It’s in you, it’s in all of us. Our creator left a little bit of him in each of us. This light must shine, through our creative gifting. He gave us the gift of free will. We choose our attitude in every situation. There is a gap between stimulus and response. This is what makes our lives meaningful, it is this freedom that cannot be taken away. Our behaviour is a function of our decisions not our conditions. It is our responsibility to make things happen. Responsibility is the ability to choose your response. Our behaviour is our own conscious choice based on values, rather than our environment, which is based on feelings. We empower what controls us. Reactive people are influenced by their environment. Proactive people are value driven. Reactive people allow the weakness of others to control them. They build their emotional lives around the behaviour of others. Proactive people sift their impulses through their values. I am what I am by the choices I make. It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us. Reactive people focus on weaknesses, problems and circumstances outside their control. But today we understand who we are, and we are created to be dynamic, powerful, and beautiful. It’s a choice, it’s always a choice. I have a light inside and I was made to shine!

I am God’s works of art, a masterpiece, a thing of beauty. I wanted my life to represent this truth. I had been contaminated, I had allowed what I had been through to live in me. It put me out of the flow that I needed to thrive in. God knew me and touched where I was in pain. My silent cry that expressed itself in anger and aggression now felt a sense of peace. He knows the circumstances and situations we have experienced. He knows what we think about ourselves and it was up to me to take Him at His word! There is nothing more influential in shaping how we act than our self-image. If I see myself as weak, and unable, I’ll live it out. I never saw role models that looked like me apart from the ones that are vilified. I realised that black is beautiful and not something to be feared. A positive self-image will help me to develop the right sense of identity, I was able to find the balance. A journey that started in Hip Hop was now complete. If I believe it, I can be it. It helped me understand who I was in relation to my old frustrations. It freed me from the bondage of other people’s opinions. I can only be responsible for my actions and they speak louder than words. Our lives will be transformed if we grab a hold of this truth. I was now positioned to fulfil my potential in life and be the man I was destined to be. Michelangelo was once asked what he was doing as he chipped away at a shapeless rock. He replied, “I’m liberating an angel from this stone. Sometimes we need to be liberated from the things that have held us, we need the areas chipped away so we can be free to express the fullness of who we are. God knows what we are and what kind of beauty is within us.

I thought let the rhymes flow and I began to put pen to paper. I had no idea how it would come out, once again I was breaking new ground. I had no idea how things would turn out, but I was ready for all possibilities. I knew it didn’t mean anything now, but things were going to be okay. I was ready to face whatever came my way with a new-found strength. I wasn’t looking for a genie to tend to my every wish, my need was to be loved and accepted for who I was. I was sick of being and feeling judged, now I felt the weight of a love that was willing to love me despite the many times I messed up. It was redemptive, and it was my redemption song.

“I’m mentally ready, the mics on I’m mentally steady.
The bass line heavy my fingertips a little sweaty.
I’m thinking about the things my father told me.
Life it is a gift, take it slowly.
I watched him closely, I watched my mother too.
Who would have known years later, I’d be doing what they do?
Searching for meaning, an answer to the questions that I got.
I wanted fame, riches, ladies, I wanted the lot.
Black consciousness it came in like a flood.
Now you and I will be defined in relation to our blood.
I wanted more I had a thirst, so I’d ignore.
Every obstacle, opposition to the poor.
I would sit and pray God, are you real.
So many layers how many of them are being peeled.
Fragile roots, so I refuse the status quo.
Open the box God is bigger than you know”.

Jesus died so I could live I wanted to live life to the fullest. Everything had changed for me now; I told Flaky I want to be real. I want to write and bring truth for all the heads that listen to Hip Hop. I want to let them know Jesus loves them without condition.” It’s not about what we can do, how articulate we are. It’s not about how well we know the bible or what church we go to. It’s only about what Jesus has done, it opens the door for us all. The choice is yours! “That’s the mission, to see as many saved as possible.” That’s the way we began to think, I had stopped writing as I had become disillusioned with the scene. I felt the major labels were trying to control the culture through money. Now I had purpose, I was ready to explode at this point. I realised the pain I had been through didn’t need to live in me. I gave myself over to something, and it was something bigger than me. I was invited into the bigger story, I excepted the invitation. Everything about me, my passion, desires and dreams fitted in perfectly within the bigger picture. I was part of a global canvas. It gave me focus and direction. If you aim at nothing you hit it every time. I wanted something real, something tangible, something I could relate to. I needed change on the inside that would work its way to the outside. Jesus made this real, He lived how I wanted to live, he maximised every encounter, every relationship, and he was real in every encounter. Everything He did was based on love. The type of love that would see a father give himself for his child. It is the type of love that moves beyond feelings and is encapsulated by actions. Sometimes you got to do what you can and only if necessary use words. Some actions speak louder than words, it reminds me of the man that stood in front of the tank at Tiananmen Square, and how he found a cause worth dying for. I had found a cause worth living for. For too long I had the attitude that I was ready to die; now I was ready to start living.

“I needed God he didn’t need a misfit like me.
I needed truth not religion for reality.
I sat in pews; I didn’t want to sit anymore.
Disillusioned with the way we treat the poor.
The in betweeners, standing between me and God.
Control the masses all the while defying the cross.
I needed freedom and Jesus came to set me free.
A morning service never really met my needs.
Relationship it describes the way I am with God.
Through Jesus Christ surrounded by his awesome Love.
More than a prayer a sinner has to pray or say.
It is a lifestyle that we should be living every day.
Don’t want to feel guilty and have to hide my face.
Manipulated, when all I need is His grace.
Fragile roots, so I refuse the status quo.
Open the box God is bigger than you know”.

I needed to maximise my existence. It was time for me to live.

“Backslidden or walking in the Spirit of God.
Raising a family, it is a toast of all our love.
Walking and praying, I’m praying for real as I walk.
No need for talking for some the life they live is talk.
Taking a verse regardless of the context.
Preaching a sermon so the people write cheques.
Feeling so vex, and even on a bigger stage.
Prepare the mood so the people feel amazed.
Who’s got the nicest building that’s what they wanna know.
Your church is growing a new building will help it grow.
Let’s raise a fund so pass the basket real slow.
Buy your blessing as truth goes out the window.
Fragile roots, so I refuse the status quo.
Open the box God is bigger than you know”.

Now I was starting on the front foot. Once I made the decision to follow Jesus I had a sense of peace that defied understanding. I was taking positive steps towards freedom, and as I did the weight lifted and life came into perspective. Now I was ready to walk. I felt as light as air and as strong as I’d ever felt. The choice I made affected my life so dramatically it was as dramatic as night and day, light and dark. I was now thirty-six years old and I loved Jesus. It’s about being free, a freedom worth living for. Today I walk as a believer in Jesus, living each day as best as I can. When you view life from the dancefloor, you see the immediate. You see those around you and you are limited as you can’t see beyond the heads around you. When you go upstairs and look over the balcony. You can see the whole dancefloor, you can see how it all fits together. No longer was I a random puzzle piece, I found the global canvas I was born to be a part off. No matter what happens we keep moving. Setbacks can be set ups for greater opportunities. The winner of the Olympic gold for 110 metres hurdles is the individual who deals with the obstacles most effectively. What happens to us does not have to live in us. Many great people have gone through some things, yet those who choose to remain in their grief very really achieve success, but those who refuse to remain in a wounded posture are those that are able to break new ground. Circumstances tried to take them out, but they refused to stay down. I won’t allow my situation to control my attitude. What I believe will define my focus. No matter what my situation says, God has good plans for my life as I seek the kingdom first. Our outcome is determined by our attitude and I can choose how I respond to life situations.

Jesus lived a life of love no matter where he was,
Touching lives on the road leaving a legacy of love,
True love it is the essence of the one divine presence,
When you know the truth for real it is a blessing,
No need for second guessing, now you really see,
The mission we are on is to see another freed,
So that they can be, all that they can be,
That’s why he birthed the church with the fire is key,
More than a building that is built bricks and mortar,
In the book of acts it was a people transformed by the father,
We need to return to the altar where we first saw his face,
When our motives were pure, do you remember that place.

In saving private Ryan the squad had debated if it made sense for eight men to risk their lives to save one. There was no logic for it. They had hoped that Private Ryan’s life was worth theirs. The final charge to Ryan was: ‘Earn it,’ that is, ‘live your life in such a way so that our lives were worth dying for you’. Captain Miller repeats the charge again before he dies. I wake up each morning with the desire to maximise my abilities and God given talents.

Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.

Saint Augustine