Monday, March 29, 2010

Fly… Blackbird Fly

Fly… Blackbird Fly

I have a disease that although I’ve never been diagnosed for, I know exists in the very depths of my DNA. It’s as much a part of my genetic code as the tiniest chromosomes that make me the living, breathing, walking, talking mess of a human being that I am.

And unlike most patients, I can actually pinpoint the exact moment my symptoms began to display themselves to me, since it was the first time I held my oldest daughter, Heaven, in my arms. With the births of my daughters Starr and Anesa some years later, each symptom only became stronger and more acute.

I don’t believe there is any clinical terminology for this disease… But it’s basically one that causes my softest side to reveal itself to the world every time I look in the eyes of a young girl…

I see my daughters in all of them, I immediately want to protect them, shelter them from harm, educate them about loving themselves, believing in themselves and respecting themselves…

In other words, I want to be their fathers, especially to those who don’t have one… or have a poor excuse for one.

If I had to put a name on this disease, I’d call it fatheriticus complexitus. And the definition would read: “A complex disease in which a father wants to save the daughters of the world, even if they’re not biologically his.”

Not the worst disease in the world to have, but a draining one to say the least.

And even though I’m told about twice a week that I’m an inspiration to someone, many probably don’t understand that even the inspiring have to find inspiration where they can to make it through their most difficult days.

The funny thing is you just never know where that inspiration is going to come from. And I had no way of knowing how much I’d find at the Blackbird Fly Conference in Staten Island, New York, this past weekend, organized by community activists NYOIL and Artina Sharpton.

After speaking to the girls bluntly about my own teenage history with domestic abuse, why I was a batterer, why I hurt the young girls I was supposed to love and how I feel about my behavior today as a man, I stayed to listen to NYOIL speak to the young women.

I was immediately called out when NY said, “I’m not here to play nice with you and tell you that you can be anything you want to be…”

Damn, did NY just call me out?

After all, I had just told them they could become whatever they wanted to be, if they worked harder than the person to the left and right of them…

He went on to passionately explain his position when he told the young ladies that many of them would fail in life, that many would get caught up in bad relationships with bad guys, that some would even be murdered out there running around on the streets.

NYOIL was speaking sincerely and straight from the heart when he spoke about how many of them felt like the adults owed it to them to give them whatever it was they wanted in life. As if everything should just be handed to them.

Damn, NYOIL has a bad case of fatheriticus complexitus. Perhaps an even worse case than me…

I could tell he was trying to be brutally honest with these young females who are living in a world where brutal honesty rears itself on a daily basis in their neighborhoods and I truly appreciated his frankness.

He went into a story about how he and his wife had invested so much of their personal money into buying these same teenagers sneakers for the track team, and dresses for dances, that they literally ended up in court fighting to keep their house.

He spoke about the heartbreak of putting his families financial needs second, only to see the kids quit the track team after getting their free sneakers… after being put first in a world that almost never puts them in that order.

And I thought all this time I was the only one spending rent money to help someone seemingly more in need than myself.

His message was an inspirational bullet that stuck me so hard in the head I almost allowed the tears to roll down my face. He talked to them about the fact that they were stealing the next person’s opportunity every time they took advantage of someone’s sincere love and kindness… and I thought everything about the event was genius and timely.

If even one rapper on Jay Z’s, Eminem’s or 50 Cent’s level understood the truest definition of real… I believe they’d all have a case of fatheriticus complexitus. I understand Jay Z doesn’t have children, but what excuse do the other two have?

NYOIL defined “REAL” for those young ladies in attendance in a way that very few men ever will. And I pray that his message was heard in that room because it was certainly one of the most powerful I’d ever heard. It gave me the energy to continue my own mission to alter the mind states of these young adults in need of our help. It gave me a belief that there are people out here who still care. And it came a time when I was contemplating the eradication of “youth advocate” from my resume.

NY and Artina Sharpton managed a grassroots effort to bring in speakers, artists and professionals over several days to show these girls that there are people who still care.

My good friend Lynx Garcia ran a workshop with another good friend Patricia “Lady Picasso” Perez who came from Chicago. The workshop titled, “Be Your Vision,” was a hit in helping the girls discover who they want to be and how to get there.

On Sunday, the girls dressed in the most beautiful dresses and became real life princesses and queens for a night – complete with crowns – as they attended a beautiful gala dinner to introduce them to their inner royalty.

I truly respect what was done in Staten Island this past weekend and I ask you all to use this as an example of what a few concerned residents of a community can do to make this world a better place for our future mothers.

There is a saying by Friedrich Nietzsche that states, “He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”

If we don’t teach our young how to fly right into their dreams… how are they ever going to make it?

Fly… Blackbird Fly!

Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.