When I heard the news of Chadwick Boseman’s death on August 28, 2020, my thought was of disbelief, and it almost moved me into a place of grief. I saw the pain of it. I didn’t let it turn into emotions. I chose to let the thought go. I started to move in a quietness of not knowing instead of questioning why. It takes practice, but it is measurements of microseconds to choose between fear or love. I decided on love in the stillness.
I remember times past when I forgot about the stillness. Thoughts I wasn’t aware of that sent my emotions into fear, causing reactions and behaviors that had nothing to do with the presence of love. It was more about the worries of the day to day life situations that stemmed from maneuvering difficult life circumstances, such as the lack of basic human needs and the lack of knowledge on knowing the steps to move forward.
What this stillness looks like for me? I understood the moment. I knew the loss that the world was feeling. But I was aware of past behavior of using situations outside of myself that I have no control over to dive into pain. I felt the energy of his greatness. I couldn’t find words to express it without that fear in the back of my mind that I would be using his presence for my-little-self to feel significant. I’m still getting to know myself, and trusting myself, so sometimes I have to ask myself some tough questions and be honest with myself. That’s how I learn and move forward.
My-little-self to feel significant from outside of myself. This thing of when I didn’t know my worth, I mostly contribute to internalized oppression. In the past, I used my children, people in professional roles, people in leadership roles, and entertainers to ask people to hear, see or validate me.
Using my kids is the regret I have the most. I shared their accomplishments when I was in places where accolades seemed to matter, and I wanted people to see me. When I judged people’s circumstances as painful, I tried comforting them by sharing some misfortune about my children’s pain and suffering. I remember the moment that I noticed that this behavior was no longer working for me. I had read Awaken The Giant Within, Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection, and The Power of Now. I started doing the work of taking a look within. During a workshop, I took on trauma with Cathy Cave (bio) and Darby Penny (bio). Awareness rose quickly; what we call an “Aha moment!” It became clear to me what I was doing. I noticed it every time I would do it, and then I started seeing my thoughts before I did it, and then I got to the point where I don’t do that anymore. And once in a while, when old habits resurface, I noticed the situations around why it is happening. What fear has arisen? With that awareness, I can stop myself from repeating or staying stuck in the behavior.
Awareness and changing habits that no longer work for me is a slow process due to identification with the pain-body as who I am for way too long. But it is worth getting the work done. My children also asked me, “mom, could you not talk about me with people.” What this forced me to do is get to know myself and get to know who they are. Yes, my role is mom, and I get to call them “my children,” but they are souls having their own human experience, and respect is necessary.
People in professional roles, people in leadership roles, and entertainers. I remember the moment I looked back and realized I never thought about the people sitting across from me in therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist roles. I never thought about how sitting talking about who I met who was famous or rich affected them. I never thought about how they had children to feed, bills to pay, college tuition owed, and hopes and dreams of their own. They were playing therapist, and I was playing client. With awareness, I get to see us having a human to human experience on this journey together. I heard Ram Dass say, “…who needs to be a client all their life.” He also said, “we are all walking each other home.”
I admit fighting for myself was hard to do in moments of deep suffering because I didn’t know my worth. I needed to learn and get informed knowledge of what it takes to move forward. Imagine you’re in emotional distress and seek help, and the person in the professional role can’t see your worth either. In that case, they will further hinder your awakening process with the privilege of their positions. One part of fighting for myself looks like continuous learning. A good body of work to check out on this subject of power is Dr. Lucy Jonhstone’s lecture on The challenge to psychiatric diagnosis at the A Disorder for Everyone Global Online Festival and her book A Straight Talking Introduction to The Power Threat Meaning Framework: An Alternative to Psychiatric Diagnosis, co-authored with Professor Mary Boyle.
When the mind is full of thoughts of pain and suffering, the body could often feel exhausted—doing the little things even when you don’t feel like it is fighting. You will gain motivation and renewed energy when you find yourself completing them. Titles, fame, and fortune is the big picture that society throws at us while living in poverty, and we unconsciously learn as worth. I have experienced what happens. We often don’t see the person standing next to us as worthy. This judgment of value also hurts the person judging. We do not see ourselves as worthy either, because we believe what we learn consciously and unconsciously of what makes people worthy and deserving of respect.
PART 2 – Soul to Soul, Chadwick Boseman, and James Brown:
What was I doing in the stillness? Besides the Marvel movies, The Black Panther and 21 Bridges, and reading an article where Chadwick Boseman said he was conscious of roles he accepted, I never watched him in any interviews. I did want to remember this moment on the social media timeline that I use most often, just in case I was over-analyzing myself and would regret it later.
I wanted to share what I was feeling in this moment, that the world had lost a great one. I searched the page of people walking in their purpose and could express fully what Chadwick Boseman’s loss means to us in 2020. I chose the Iyanla Vanzant page on Facebook. She wrote,
“WAKANDA FOREVER! God Bless and Rest you, my Beloved Brother Chadwick. I shall forever be proud of the excellence and mastery you brought to your craft and the sweetness of your heart. Rest In Peace! Rest In Love! Rest with Honor!”
There it was, well said, and it validated what I would have liked to say but taking nothing from it for myself. Chadwick’s purpose was his, and he did a superior job of giving back. Knowing one’s worth, you could celebrate others without needing anything back.
Still in the stillness! I then checked out his Facebook page. I saw his post with Kamala Harris, 2020 Vice President-Elect of the United States of America. His post said,
“YES, Kamala Harris! #WhenWeAllVote #Vote2020
I learned more of this soul that visited Earth for almost forty-four cycles around the sun. I scrolled down to his New Year’s 2020 photos. The caption said,
He had been battling cancer since 2016 and knew where he was on the journey. He faced it with dignity, respect, grace, love, giving back, support and peace. When I started taking a second look at death, I realized that living in peace means dying in peace. To live in love is to die in love and so on. I remember getting to fully understand a person’s human rights is getting the opportunity to choose.
Arising out of the stillness! I read an article published by The Good Men Project called “Yibambe America!” Black Panther Star Chadwick Boseman Dies at 43: In the wake of Chadwick Boseman’s passing, Alex Yarde acknowledges his roles mirrored progressive policies and a commitment toward dismantling systemic racism.
I found a motivational commencement speech on YouTube call Find Purpose. He knew the struggle and the cost he paid to live an exceptional life. I saw that he lived his life speaking up and making choices that benefited others and not just himself. He shared his craft magnificently and used his voice to bring awareness and fought for change in the world. A quote from the 2018 commencement speech that Chadwick gave at his alma mater Howard University, he said,
“…Look down on what you have conquered and what God has brought you through…many of you will enter systems and institutions of discrimination…may question yourself, am I blackballed?… Sometimes you need to feel the pain and the sting of defeat to activate the real passion and purpose that God predestined inside of you…”
I wanted to know and remember him fully, and so I watched some of his past interviews he did on late night and day time television. I saw him cry when he spoke of the children who had cancer, and he felt their pain. I saw the love of his cast members and people who would meet and greeted him. I thought, all is well with this soul who had this human experience called Chadwick Boseman.
Awareness rising! I was feeling compelled to learn more. I decided to spend the next few days watching him in action. I watched The Black Panther and 21 Bridges again. I looked at his IMDb page and realized that I hadn’t seen half of his movies. Links to 42, Jackie Robinson story, Marshall, Thurgood Marshall story and Get On Up, James Brown story came up.
It’s a journey; trust the process! At the time of the release of the movies 42, Marshall, and Get On Up in theaters, I hadn’t fully embraced the practice of forgiveness. Part of the work I do is taking a second look at how we come to know what we know and see how oppression and language shaped the way we judge people as worthy or unworthy.
I remember seeing the advertisement for 42 when it came out and thought, I didn’t have to watch Jackie Robinson’s story because history in school shove it down my throat. The good and respectable black man was the message I received. I didn’t get the story of what actually happened to him.
I didn’t feel I could watch Marshall when it came out because I have felt the sting of classism. I noticed most people who claim the term black-and-educated place people like Thurgood Marshall in an untouchable category that you don’t belong to if you live in poverty and receive little to no education. The people I grew up with, in poverty, looking for the best way to survive through multilayers of oppression, the teenage mothers like myself, kids murdered in the streets like my brother, cousin, and friends, we didn’t often think of weddings and long-term generational wealth. The government’s purpose is for the people and the general public’s protection, and we live in a climate of fear. I just witnessed Kim Kardashian and many others support a man who they said the prison system reformed. She pleaded every day for the pardon of Brandon Bernard, but it went on deaf ears. What’s happening right now in our society is such callousness that they would chose to murder him on what they named Human Rights Day.
I witness many blind spots on not looking at the whole picture of what has happened in society and the multilayered systems of oppression. It is sometimes hard to think of others when you are surviving and navigating injustices yourself. I accept my responsibility for judging myself as not worthy because of the inadequate education. That way, I allow myself to move forward and do something about it. I recognized in myself not feeling I had any connections to the fight for human rights and justice that Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall fought for, on behalf of everyone, not just some of us but for all of us. I hope we all gain awareness as we see that education doesn’t stop you from being pulled over or get appropriate healthcare services because of your skin color.
I am grateful because of Chadwick Boseman playing those roles. I was able to receive the stories. I saw the pain and how they weathered the storm. They experienced a monsoon upon them. I was able to see the wisdom, the grit, the cleverness, the dignity, and the grace that Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall endured, overcame, and gave hope back to the world.
I see classism, how people do use it to keep themselves up and another person down. Mostly it is the internalized oppression of classism that stops a person’s joy from rising from within them. A quote I use to ponder until I understood it by Eleanor Roosevelt says, “you have to give people permission to make you feel inferior,” therefore, I had to unlearn many things that we use to judge each other. It would seem that judgment is a double edge sword. For example, I’m thinking someone untouchable because of their accomplishments; I deter myself from succeeding goals I may want to pursue.
I am grateful that I got to know and understand more about Thurgood Marshall’s work. In the movie Marshall the person he defended, worked in Greenwich, Connecticut. The person was a chauffeur and domestic worker. For Thurgood, it wasn’t about the kind of work and status the person had. This person’s life was valuable to Thurgood, who cared passionately about the law and seeing that justice prevail.
Work sometimes is about making money to pay bills and get things we need. It’s not about a person’s worth. Occasionally work meets purpose and something you love doing, and you get paid for it, but you would do it even if you weren’t getting paid. We call that blessings, gifts, and an opportunity to use our creativity. I want to make a plug here for increasing the minimum wage. People work hard and cannot pay their bills, have decent housing, food, childcare, and are blamed for their emotional distress. If I could create, write, dance, sing, meditate, take walks, etc., whatever form of prayer, relaxation or meditation works for me, then the type of work I’m doing to pay my bills is not about my worth.
Here is where I had to humble myself. However, there is no need to let shame be the reason not to speak up. I had to humble myself that black and educated means black and informed. Black and never giving up. Black and support system. I’ve come to learn that support is crucial for survival. However, black or white educated doesn’t always mean awareness of yourself and others. Look at all the educated people in Congress that supported denying the 2020 election win to 2020 President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. A saw Dave Chapelle expressed the disgust with Candace Owens in his Netflix 8:46 show, “She’s the most articulate idiot I’ve ever seen in my…life, he said.” Another example in 2020 is Attorney General Daniel Cameron dropped the ball on the Breonna Taylor case. I bring awareness to this, not judgment. I accept the notion that there is no good or bad but conscious and unconscious, and the human collective is creating the pain, but we could turn it around and create more joy.
I’ve gained awareness to see that black and educated means you speak up when you see injustices, and you work through the fear. So, you march, and you shout, and you demand equal rights and justice. I see that now. I see where when I knew nothing, and I was afraid to learn to move forward, the fear crippled me. The oppressive system I reached out to for help further cut my legs from under me.
We ought to take a second look and reach back and help those who never had access but are seeking away forward. We ought not to leave anyone behind and judge people less than just for suffering in poverty, a structure built into the society. It is hell. The pain is devouring many of us in it. We all want our confidence to walk on this Earth, knowing our worth with dignity and respect. We sometimes buy into the fame fortune money equal respect. But time and time again, we are shown that it doesn’t work to complete us. When something happens to a person and connection is lost, the shame of it causes severe pain.
Sometimes people seek to comfort themselves with whatever vices work until they no longer work. Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, so many people reach the privilege of money and respect but no peace within to rest their heads at night to sleep. We all want this connection back to the light within us, and that created us. Most of the time, people need support to get it done.
I want to share a word of encouragement when the system of oppression that supports the school to prison, and mental institutions pipeline, asks for excellent written and oral communication skills on job applications. And you know the superb work skills you have, but the inadequate grammar education used to judge your intelligence. Be encouraged with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “You don’t have to make your subject, and your verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.” Work and make a living the best you can. As I said before, I’ve learned it is not about a person’s worth. Be encouraged by the words of Viktor E. Frankl, who wrote Man’s Search For Meaning (Page 67), “It is the spiritual freedom – which cannot be taken away – that makes life meaningful and purposeful.”
Diana Nyad shared a story on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday How a Stranger Changed Her Life Forever. When I watched it, I was practicing recognizing how shame influenced my behaviors. I gained awareness that what happened to me was part of the pain and suffering, but the lack of support, people’s reaction, judgment, and the unconsciously learned messages of my worth and how I should react, caused the most shame, fear, and anger. I got to see that I could change my mind, get to know myself, and choose my reactions and behaviors when I look back at the adversities I experienced. My life now is just about taking risks, and sometimes it feels like ouch, but I get back up and keep going. The support that I receive and the support that I give back makes life feel purposeful.
PART 3 – Soul to Soul, Chadwick Boseman, and James Brown:
Why did I sit to write this piece? The answer is Forgiveness!
Get On Up was released in 2014. I was still working through the pain of abandonment, grief, and loss at the time. I was starting to ask questions and get some understanding. I had support that allowed me to take risks and grow. I remember seeing the commercials for Get On Up but had no desire to watch it. I became aware of James Brown from the media as a woman beater and drug user. I didn’t understand what he was saying in his lyrics, and besides Michael Jackson saying he learned to dance from James Brown, I took no interest to know about him.
Getting to know myself, I could tell you that my coping mechanism was to block out things I didn’t want to see or hear when avoiding hurt from the past. James Brown resembles my father’s features, and when the shame was killing me as I looked out from behind its veil, I couldn’t receive what he was offering. Many of us miss our blessings from sources because we haven’t let go of the past pain that other people caused, or we judge them not worthy, so we can’t see or hear them.
However, by 2015 I had forgiven my father for abandoning me and violating my body as a child. I started to practice forgiveness by showing up and being an example for my children. In this moment watching Get On Up, I became so grateful for Chadwick Boseman. I would not be watching this movie and learning if it wasn’t for him. Just absolutely wow, the soul to soul that is Chadwick Boseman and James Brown.
Chadwick has continued to give even after his human experience ended. I recently experienced his final performance in Ma’ Rainey’s Black Bottom, the play by August Wilson, screenplay by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, starring Viola Davis, and directed by George C. Wolfe. There is Oscar buzz for Chadwick’s performance in this role. Despite the physical restrictions that he was enduring, he gave it his all. Chadwick is an example of a great soul. He did the work assigned to him and, in the process, reached other hearts and minds.
My thoughts on watching Get On Up! There is only one name suitable for this soul who had this fascinating human experience as James Brown: The Godfather of Soul. Nothing else will do, in my opinion. You could call him an addict, a diseased mind, an illness, to convince yourself that you are equal or better than him as a human being, that we all have flaws and deserve second chances that we are not perfect. Mostly we do that to people who are entertainers. It is a coping mechanism to say that it is okay for me to struggle if that person experiences adversities too. Yes, that is true, but the problem comes when big corporations pushing drugs and labels that are not scientific on people experiencing pain and suffering.
Entertainers not forced to live in psychiatric facilities year-round or especially during a pandemic should learn more about what is happening before advocating “mental illness” to people. Not getting informed and using their platform to support the DSM and not know the Origins of the DSM shows how deep “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Putting a “diagnosis” on human pain and suffering allows some to prosper and others to die slowly. We all deserve to live up to our best human potential. Anything that gets in the way of that is not for the good of all. The pain and suffering alone that is not what makes us all equal. Joy from within is also accessible to us. We all get twenty-four hours under the sun. Who could argue that?
James Brown endured pains that is unfathomable for a small child who should have been getting nurtured. He used his music to touch the souls of people beyond the pain. Thinking of show business, you may say that was just acting. Getting to know his story, you could see he was releasing the pain of abandonment over and over again on that stage. Hundreds of millions of people received it because we all have pain and understand grief and loss.
It was touching the hearts of many people and especially the black people in America, who carried the pain of abandonment of the land where they were born, not by choice. Mothers and fathers continue to abandon their black children, sometimes not by choice, when looking at institutionalized systems such as prisons and psychiatric facilities. Sometimes emotionally, when you look at poverty.
So, little James Brown had no choice of his mother abandoning him or his father dropping him off at his aunts and leaving him to find a life in the military. In his music career, he had to work ten times as hard to get the number one spot because although his music was copied by many, his color caused people to discriminate against him. He used his brilliant mind and put his whole body into his work to find a way to be number one.
His first hit, Please, Please Please, didn’t need many words. He sang out the pain so that people felt it in their souls, and awakening happened within people fighting for civil rights, the power of the universal oneness of music. Soul has no color; it has no barrier. Human rights is a beautiful thing if you practice it, not if you just say it,” said James Brown. Who could argue that?
To judge him of only the actions behaviors that he did to learn to survive in a society not created for his success does not validate his whole being. People will take a look at what happened to him as a child and dismiss it or even further call it a label to use the privilege to turn a blind eye.
The producers, director, writers, and Chadwick Boseman depicted James Brown’s life story to show his spirit’s awakening. To suffer such dark-nights of the soul and arise and know where you came from is our spiritual journey. The film depicts that he got it done, makes him The Godfather of Soul for me.
Ten moments in the film that spoke to me about the circumstances that happen in life and the possibilities to overcome and move from fear to love after experiencing lacking, poverty, excess, abuse, abandonment, bullying, and poor education:
- Fear of abandonment looks like not being able to support others to elevate themselves. The scene where he couldn’t listen to his friend’s dream showed it was hard for him to trust anyone, and he feared abandonment. His friend had supported and loved him through the years.
- Poverty Violence and abandonment/ when the mother leaves him
- Pain and suffering turns to song, dance, and laughter. When he runs from his father and in the next scene, he is singing; I feel good—taking a look at why we seek out fame, fortune, and notoriety. One of my favorite comedy movies is Kevin Hart’s Laugh at My Pain. Laughter is good medicine. It is almost impossible to hold on to the thoughts of sorrow that the mind throws at you while you’re in the present moment with laughter.
- No validation of his being and more abandonment – when his mother was hanging out with soldiers and pretend not to know him. Further breaking his spirit.
- When you have fought so long on your own- how do you forgive and move forward? -The scene where his mother, played by Viola Davis, visits him in the green room at one of his shows. I wanted him to forgive her and get back to the connection. Knowing the place where they both have suffered and saw they were helpless before but are not helpless now. I was praying this prayer because I know how forgiveness helped my life. He didn’t let go at that moment. We all have our paths to take. He gave her money and continued to carry the burden.
- Money respect, passing on what you know – when he features the kids singing on his song, Say it Loud, I’m black, and I’m proud. He worked with politicians to speak up for the plight of black people. Watching the documentary Dynamite, I learned he became discouraged with politics. People said one thing or the other and didn’t follow through after they were elected.
- Sacrifice and absorbing the pain in the world– when he calmed the crowd at the concert in Boston after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination. This little black boy from South Carolina, another thing he has in common with Chadwick Boseman, had earned the respect of his people.
- Still running – when your parents dreams become your nightmare. His actions of not letting go of the past lead to a string of behaviors that lead him to spend time in prison, which is part of the multilayered system of oppression set up to capture him and use him one way or the other
- Remembering what brought you happiness – remembering connection. When James went to see Bobby Byrd to invite him to his concert.
- Remembering the journey – you’re not alone! The moment when he shut down singing for the thousands and sung for the one. His one heart to his friend Bobby Byrd’s one heart. He also knew all the shoulders he stood on and what made him great. He learned in the end what matters. What sets you free. The forgiveness, the connection, and he always had his creativity.
Everyone has a role to play. Get to know who you are. Transmute the pain from fear to love! Something that you could draw upon during those dark nights of the soul. You know, those moments when you may say, “I can’t live with myself like this anymore.” You get to ask those questions, what could I do so I could live with myself? What do I need to let go? What needs my attention? Get that soul work done. Lessons validated from the soul to soul of Chadwick Boseman and James Brown!
This content is brought to you by Corrine “Mitzy Sky” Taylor.