There was a point in my life when the path I had traveled was a source of shame for me, reminders of a hurtful past that I wished I could just move beyond. Then there were moments where because of how far I had come, my journey served as a source of pride. Over the years I’ve sat on occasion and retraced my steps with close friends and loved ones, and each time I did I felt a bit more liberated. I also remembered one of the seven principles of the Nguzo Saba that I learned about in college. The principle of Kujichagulia, Self-Determination, says that we should define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. It was with those thoughts that I even entertained the idea of telling my story. Once the idea became a final decision, there were a few causes that fueled my motivation:
Most often we learn of African-American men making the news after committing a crime and becoming a part of the criminal justice system, resulting in a representation in the media as criminals and convicts.Accurate depictions of how they ended up before a judge in handcuffs are rarely discussed.
As consumers of mainstream media, we hardly ever hear, see, or read about individuals who part company with the criminal justice system and actually go on to make something of their lives, negate the statistics of recidivism, or better still, contribute to society in meaningful ways.
Thousands of children are placed in group homes, foster homes, and other institutions every day. Their stories, whether of doom and failure, or resilience and achievement, are non-existent.
For those of us who have triumphed over the adversity of the foster care and criminal justice systems, we have put ourselves in an elite class. I don’t use the word elite because we are better than those who fail or struggle. I use the word elite because it takes a special person to rise in the midst of being weighed down by so many forces that we often had no control over. This will be a sharing of my pain, my joy, my deepest inner thoughts, and the plan that God had for me long before I knew who He was. Throughout each chapter, God’s grace, mercy, and countless blessings will be put on display and hopefully reaffirm for some and confirm for others that He is indeed in control.
As I type, and as you read, there is a child who has just been placed in a foster home, or just witnessed one of his parents being taken to jail. There is also the young man who is explaining his innocence to a public defender, or a parent who just smoked crack cocaine instead of providing food and clothes for their child. I feel an obligation to all four and then some, including my own children, and I’ve been able to realize a certain level of success that makes it imperative for me to share my story. I do not seek exaltation in relaying my story, but I hope to lift others up and eventually liberate them from their own struggles.
Standing on the shoulders of countless unnamed and unknown men and women who fought and died for what they believed in gets a little unstable when the wind blows, but the fear of losing my balance never stopped me from standing. A long time ago, I committed to facing the wind and rising no matter the trial, no matter the weight. Because I’m not the first person to rise, I knew that it could be done and because I’m still rising, I know how it feels. So whether the words within this book reach one person, a few people, or a few thousand, I believe that I’ve done one of the many things God has placed me here to do in writing this book and doing so with passion and purpose.
Simply put, I hope the pages of this book help to demonstrate that it is not what you go through, but how you come through that matters the most. Failure only becomes a reality once it is accepted.
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The numbers of this verse happen to be my birthday, and I’m telling you God never makes mistakes. My experience constantly teaches me that God doesn’t make mistakes no matter how painful it may be in the beginning.
If you have ever been in prison, group homes, foster homes, hurt by loved ones, felt a sense of abandonment by loved ones, been unable to forgive, struggled with addiction, or just need some motivation to press forward in life, then this book is for you.
So I've started to create LionHearts all the across the world. Each one of you that reads this book will see a characteristic of yourself as a LionHeart, which embodies traits like ambition, perseverance, fortitude, resilience, and faith. The time is now. Not tomorrow, not next week, not next month, it is time right now to Rise & Roar!