Chapter 4 – I need your strength

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”

Ernest Hemingway

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

Victor Frankl

Strength is something I have needed to stay on course. It has shown itself in many forms and sometimes in unexpected ways. Friends and family have always been reliable sources. Sometimes it has been the words of encouragement of a stranger, a fan who has been moved by my rhymes. The words from a parent whose teenager has taken on board the wisdom released on one of my tracks. Sometimes it was a crowd going crazy, almost living every word with you. The hugs of a loving mother who believed in me when it looked like it was a distant dream. Another source of strength was finally recognising my weaknesses and counteracting them. Mainly it was the shoulder to lean on when times were hard and the ways to succeed were clouded. We all have to navigate our way and even if it seems you’re stuck in the maze, don’t give up. Every time a door closed on me I looked for an open window. At times you have had to be like liquid, able to adapt to whatever life and the industry throws at you.

Dealing with chaos, it don’t make sense,
It’s like being caged in by an electric fence,
Sometimes you feel alone, with nowhere to turn,
Who knows your pain as your emotions burn?
We live and learn but are we learning as we live,
Questioning God cause of what someone did,
Our lives are best understood as you look back,
But each day we live them forwards and so many miss that.

Every journey is filled with both highs and low and the true test of your character is how you walk in both. I had a decision to make, would I keep writing with the hope of more shows or let it go. I had a second wind, but would I be relevant now. Things had changed and so did the perceived needs of the community. Ralph Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” The chaos we see now with youth culture is a result of the breakdown of the family. With the breakdown of the family and fatherless ness widespread in society, what we see is a generation that is fearless, without respect and dignity, and no sense of belonging. Young men are looking for role models outside the home as we see a lack of fathers stepping up to the plate and fulfilling their duty to their children. The result is we see young men trying to prove their manhood by their pursuit of the opposite sex and what they are willing to do if they feel disrespected. Young women struggle for identity without daddy in their life to continually reassure them of their beauty and importance. I need to step up my game and be what I can be for my children. I need to provide them a launch pad for their potential.

In the English language if a woman loses her husband she becomes a widow. If a man loses his wife, he becomes a widower. If a child loses their parents they become orphans but a parent that loses a child is given no name, the reason for this is our children were meant to outlive us. To those who have lost a child or cousin or friend you are in my prayers. Today we see young people dying for respect, their postcode or money. I want to bring your attention to the hyphen, or the power of the hyphen. The hyphen is the line between your birth date and your death date. What will yours represent, will you leave a legacy to inspire others or one to be forgotten, we have the power to choose. Where there is no vision we die, when we have no future hope we let our dreams fade. We don’t need to fulfil negative stereotypes and fit the profiles of death, it’s time we mark out an alternative destiny that embraces success and happiness.

When you see me on the road, it means I’m back again,
I’m skinning teeth, because I’m sweet with my whole life my friend,
By the grave of my mum, it was hell back then,
But I have hope so one day that we will ride again,
Memories will never fade, that’s how I’m managing,
I see my kids growing up and I’m imagining,
A better life inside my home, well it is happening,
A good wife is the key to never panicking,
I smile again, even in the tragedies,
I keep going. like I’m on batteries,
I’m looking out the window as I drive by,
Looking at the poverty and I’m always asking why,
I’m praying through so that I can break through,
It’s nothing new it’s what my brave ancestors do,
Seen it, done it, and doing it again,
Needing his strength so I can maintain.

Desire gave me the strength to chase after my dream. Desire was most evident when I made up my mind to go for it one hundred percent, all of me working together to develop and articulate how I felt. It helped me make my dream known, from inside out. You see it first before you can be it. This is what rhyming meant and means to me. It enabled me to overcome obstacles, being booed off stage, not being signed by a major record label and helped me see my future positively. You can look at every situation and discover the nuggets you can grow from, but if you don’t learn from them and then apply what you learn, what’s the point. Hunger for success has an energy of its own, an energy that can be seen as you stay up all night seeing your future, as you put pen to paper. I knew if I got myself around people like that it would rub off on me. You can’t fake it. That’s precisely why some make it through even though the odds may have been stacked against them. It made me become transparent and it stripped away all the masks that I would wear and left what really was me. It forced me to be who I was for real, and not hide who I was becoming. Rather than taking a leap into my dream and immersing myself in it, at times I found myself hiding. By holding onto your dreams, you keep alive the potential to blow a fresh wind into them. Sometimes struggle against incredible obstacles. It can feel like they are impossible to overcome. Amazingly, we often end up finding that we have the strength to break through the barrier. I had to reach my goals in life despite the hardships and conflicts that I faced on the way. Has anyone ever told you that you could not do something? That you are incapable of accomplishing a goal you set out to complete? How did you feel? What did you do? By focusing and realizing our dreams, we give others the encouragement to pursue their own dreams. Observation is the first step to being able to identify what may be blocking your way. It’s impossible to move something or learn to find your way around it if you don’t know what you’re looking for or where it is. Sometimes we just need to look forward and walk towards the ideal.

There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.

Malcolm X

The fear of failure even after you succeed can be a crippler. Desire must outweigh the fears. Acronym of fear, F false E evidence A appearing R real. I need to apply the strength my father applied when he launched out from sunny Jamaica to help the motherland, or so they thought. Industries went to Jamaica to recruit and when they came here the streets were paved with hatred and mistrust. He overcame and so can I, he did it for me and I do it for mine. “Once in motion I am able to move a little quicker. Once the groove is laid, my rhyme is the trigger. If it’s down to me I’m going to leave you dancing. One direction and I’m advancing. A little hook from a crook that you mistook. Shaking yourself on the dance floor take a look. A young guy no not a juvenile. Served my time meanwhile my profile. Love my blackness a pacifist you wish. I’m too powerful for you to all dismiss.” I remember when I wrote that, it inspired my search.

Without a dream would MLK have walked the walk that he walked?
Talk what he talked, stayed on track when the road forked,
Even when the feds stalked, he stayed true to his hearts works,
What is our response to life even when life hurts?
My mum and dad both passed, still I’m not alone,
At times I feel I’m carried right into the end zone,
I’m heading home, and it feels like a major test,
Watch how I’ve grown and yeah I’m going to do my best,
Grief is a pain that one day we all will face,
I choose where I find my place, peace at a steady pace,
A source of strength that you never knew you had,
Need when times are bad, keeping calm when you’re really mad,
No times for fads, it’s reviving the aching heart,
Ripped apart, pain in the chest fired from a dart,
We must be smart, there’s no sitting on the fence,
I need your strength.

Sometimes people just get lucky. They are in the right place at the right time with the right mind-set. Most of the time, however, it isn’t luck that makes the difference; rather, it is the fact they will not throw the towel in, in spite of the odds, failures, criticism or past mistakes. Much of the success of those I admire today is based on their refusal to stay defeated or to give up. Thomas Edison failed more than 3,000 times in his attempts before successfully creating the electric light bulb. When asked why he persisted after so many failures, he replied that he hadn’t failed, rather he had “discovered 3,500 ways not to make a light bulb.” He used each failure as a learning experience and catalyst for the next attempt. To taste success, I had to continue to push forward, to strive to reach my goal. Discouragement, setbacks or losses are like weights trying to burden you. I had to keep faith with my purpose and stay on course.

To Critique is so much easier than being a creative, theirs is not the way of vulnerability. When have you ever seen a statue dedicated to a critic? The world is full of people who are more than willing to tell you all of the reasons why you can’t follow your dream or succeed at something others haven’t done. Vision is about creating something new, not in contempt for the past, but built upon the foundation of the past and the present, emerging with a reality that is better than that which is currently available. When fully enacted, vision brings us closer to our ideals. The key question we ask is, “What do they really know about what I’m capable of doing?” You will never know unless you step into the arena. It’s not enough to watch the game, it’s not enough to get dressed for the game, as it is when you enter the field of play. When your kit gets dirty and you have perspired and put the work in, you are able to speak of what it’s like in the arena.

Don’t be putting up a fight, come into the light,
We be the ones that are shining bright,
Every thought will ignite, no hype to excite,
Creating insight, as I move in tonight,
If it’s tasty then bite, strong on the mic,
Day light is coming for the ones in the night,
Sight over sight let me soar like a kite,
When I say Jesus walks, I know that I’m right,
Still too many rules, treated like fools,
We gotta know His plan; he’s left us the tools,
The cross brings it home and it’s up to you,
Heaven’s hittin earth as God enters you,
Gotta go to church, wait, be church for real,
Led by the Spirit not emotional appeals,
His grace gives me room to love so much,
I need your strength and your tender touch.

I remember walking through a cemetery and while walking I began looking at the grave stones. The ages were so diverse, from babies and children to the elderly. I began to think how much potential is lost in this place. How many unfulfilled dreams are lost in here? How much potential is locked away in prison? How many dreams are lost in a cycle of drug addiction and alcohol? Our dreams are so precious that we should not let anything get in the way of seeing them realised. As I look back on the whole process for me to write it was the merging of many random thoughts that produced an idea that caused a line. Leaving a positive mark was always the foundation that I chose to build on.

Injustice is a passion of mine; I hated injustice and wanted to speak out against it every time I had an opportunity. I would be a voice for those whose voice is not loud enough or whose voice is ignored. I wanted to be an arm to those who lacked the strength to initiate change in their situation. I wanted to make a difference where it mattered. Today as I look out into society, too many young men are dying for a cause they feel is worth dying for but in years to come will be forgotten. They die over a post code and some are willing to kill over a post code they will probably change when they are older. It makes no sense as I look back. Life is lived forward, but it can only be understood as we look back.

For me it is essential, I got to fulfil potential.
Got to be what I believe, anything else for real I got to leave.
I’m never ever gonna quit,
I’m gonna work hard so you best believe it.

I never gave up trying to fulfil my potential. I chased after it like my life depended on it. You should do the same. The difference between winning and losing is the choice not to quit. No retreat and no surrender, throwing the towel in must never be an option.

Different times I can remember how I have been strengthened by close friends and family. At times when I felt no one understood and no one believed in me a gentle reminder from my friends and family supported my dream. They gave me energy to continue when I didn’t have any. When I was faced with disappointments it was their words that gave me that little bit extra to continue to fight. Their presence at some real hostile places, their support when things didn’t go as we planned, helped me to get through some difficult times. It’s not these times that could derail me, but how I respond to them.

As I glance over my shoulder I see the making of a man in the process of the making of a rhyme. I see the mind of a young man that trusted in the wrong things, becoming aware of the dangers of being naive. I see a young man step up to the plate to take his innings and drop verses for his generation.

“You call me the enemy, that’s blasphemy.
Due to my genes you got it in for me.
Its pestilence that leads to violence,
not self-defence boy that’s common sense.
Prejudice in other words cowardice,
the book of genesis is my emphasis.
Renewed reviewed getting hyper like we use to,
include conclude with a different prelude.
It’s been thought off paid for and done,
fool to kill that’s not the solution.
Justice that’s what my people need,
not Thatcher’s crap or Conservative greed.
Poll tax the intent was evil,
never give up your right to be equal.”

“With glamour my grammar slams you like a hammer,
positive intent I won’t stammer.
No go between its been overseen,
amongst all this hate I intervene.
Underground Hard to the core was the first,
Will rap die initiated the birth?
Who the hell said we couldn’t have fun,
Ah yeah and Gwen’s groove spun.
It promoted the devoted and I quoted,
I still stand firm with no short circuit.
Respect to the brothers who can’t be denied,
Who make us hold up our heads high with the utmost pride.
Like Mandela and Martin Luther King walk on,
Public enemy, hijack and KRS ONE.
John Barnes contest and I must confess,
Too be good and black it probably means the best.”

This was the last rhyme I wrote as a part of the London Rhyme Syndicate. The chorus flowed like this. “Get up stand up don’t give up the fight, get up stand up don’t give up your rights.” (1991)

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

Francis of Assisi

Being able to see beyond my current situation was key for me to move beyond my circumstances. Society told me I could only go so far, but I could see beyond what they saw for me. This is my dream, my passion, my gifting, all of them clues to the why of my existence. When I discover my passion, I discover my direction. I understand where I fit within the bigger picture. I understand my part in the bigger story. Something was stirring inside me, I need to allow it to come out. In the past I may have squashed it, but not this time.