Some thoughts on The NBA Finals and Racism

I am not thinking about the NBA Finals. Game 1 starts tonight between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. Third year in a row and the biggest names in professional basketball on the brightest stage.

It promises to be epic.

And I feel the need to talk about racism.

About a day or so ago, Lebron James’ Los Angeles home was vandalized. They sprayed the word NIGGER on his property. I was going to say the N-word; however, I believe we need to feel it. We need to stop shying away from the realities in front of us.

Only through acceptance can we reshape our reality into what we want.

Lebron james is arguably the most recognizable athlete in the United States, if not on this whole fuckin’ planet. He is friends with presidents, CEOs, celebrities, etc. Royalty make special trips to see this man play basketball. Lebron is a budding philanthropist and businessman that is in the process of building an empire of which I am not sure anyone has seen before. He is known as the King; he is hailed as the savior of, not only the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the city as a whole.

No one is exempt.

Lebron James is not exempt.

His family is not exempt.

They have been victimized by the ills that have plagued this country since its inception. I said I wanted to talk about racism but I don’t think that’s our problem — I used to.

The problem is hate.

Here is the thing about hate: Hate doesn’t care what color your skin is. Hate doesn’t care how much money you make, who you know, or where you came from. Hate will always find something about you to hate. Fuck reason and logic. It doesn’t have to make sense; it will do what it does.

Hate is good at being hate.

…and so the saga continues.

The conversations ensue. Some are angry and some aren’t angry enough. And no one understands. Sure we understand our own perspectives but the other side (we still think there is an other side) remains obscure.
So I am done talking. I want to communicate. Talking is about me; communicating is about us — it is about WE.

Can we communicate our respective agony with one another in a way we understand each other? Can I hear the dialect of your heart over the words of your speech?

Racism is real; race is an illusion. They both are inventions of hate. And the only way we win is through Love, Compassion, and Forgiveness. We will never win as long as it’s us against them — as long as it’s us against them, we have already lost.

To The King:

Thank you, sir.

Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you allowing yourself to be the catalyst by which we can continue to have healthy conversation. It cannot be easy to be in that position. The possibility of your family being in danger of becoming victims of this hate.

I pray wholeness, light and balance on you and your family. I pray outrageous blessings and unconditional love on you and yours.

Good luck tonight and for the rest of the Finals. I am going for the Warriors but I never have been perfect. It is what it is, right?

Love you, Brother.

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The Voices

Today I envisioned myself performing on a stage.

It was a stadium, sold out, packed with screaming people. The people were screaming for me — not just me; they were screaming for my art. They were screaming for the pieces of music and poetry that I wrote. They were lost in the pure ecstasy of experiencing my words — live.

It was glorious. I wanted that. I still want that.

And then the voices began.

They never scream; they always whisper. I suspect it is because they know it would be too easy reject. Sudden movements and loud noises cause our fight or flight reflexes to engage. The voices are intelligent enough to know that I have to believe they are my friends in order for me to listen to them.

So they whisper sweet nothings into my soul. Sweet nothings that are meant to bind my wings. They make me believe that flying is impossible when I was made for the sky.

“Impossible.”

“You are too old.”

You are too ugly.”

“You aren’t talented enough.”

“There are other who are better than you.”

“Who will pay to see you.”

The voices say this; they ask me that.

Anything can be used to disqualify me from relishing in the idea of what I want to be — what I could be. It is all under the guise of being realistic. The voices are trying to protect me.

And the voices bring feelings.

You know the feelings you get in your stomach the moment you visualize yourself doing something amazing?

The vision begins to feel scary; it begins to feel too big for me. Then I ask myself am I worthy of this dream? I do not know. I do not know if I am willing to do what it takes to discover the answer. And where I am now feels better than where I want to be because where i am now is secure.

I am protected.

But there is a blurry line between protection and hinderance. In protecting myself, I could be stifling myself from blossoming into my full potential.

I can either be great or I can be safe; I am not sure I can have both.

A couple months back I posted a video on Facebook. It was J.Cole performing. It was an amazing moment because he stopped rapping his lyrics and the audience performed his whole song. They were performing for him.

It was inspiring.

I captioned it by saying, “I can’t even imagine how this feels.”

And a friend of mine commented, “Yes, you can.”

She was right.

I can imagine my greatness but I don’t believe it’s possible — I don’t believe in myself.

And it’s time for that to change.

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Full Circle

When I was a freshman in college I knew all I wanted todo was write. I had already decided that basketball wasn’t what I wanted and that writing was going to fulfill me. (That is another story for another day.)
I had an amazing english teacher who saw my passion for reading and writing. She took me under her wing; she gave me extra assignments and weekly meetings outside of our scheduled class times. The extra work didn’t feel like work; it felt like fun.
One day she said, “Ro, you are a great writer. What do you want to do in life?”
I responded with what I knew. “I want to be a writer.”
She said, “Well what are you going to get your degree in?”
I said, “Creative writing.”
Her response would break me.
She said, “Oh no! You can’t do that. You will never make any money with that degree.”
I don’t remember her name anymore and I barely even remember what she looks like. I know she meant me no harm, but if I knew then what I know now I would have never let that derail me.
I am a creative writer. I am in a place where I am embracing it. I am allowing myself to be comfortable knowing that this is what I love to do, whether anyone ever reads my work or not, I feel comfortable knowing this is my place — this is home for me.
But that moment derailed me. It took me away from my focus. I lost my way. My motivation for being in school was drained, and eventually, I stopped going.
I hadn’t learned how to trust myself. I was ignoring my own instincts; my internal compass was telling me where I needed to be. Life is beautiful in how it will bring you to where you are meant to be — where you want to be — even after you have ignored it before. 
There are different reasons as to why we ignore what we want. Sometimes we feel like they are unacceptable or maybe we think we can’t be successful or make money doing it. We can lie to ourselves and try and fill the hole with other things. But sooner or later, we have to be honest with ourselves about what it is that we truly love. And then we have a choice. Either we follow that love or we continue to pretend. 
Alexi Panos, motivational speaker and life coach, asks the question, “What is your highest excitement?” 
My highest excitement is, and for as long as I can remember, has been writing. And when we find that place, there aren’t many feelings that quite compare to it. 
But there is a cost. Following your highest excitement comes with a sacrifice. Sometimes it means that you have to reject societies idea if what you should be and begin creating your own vision for your life. It can be scary and uncertain, but what you gain from the process is priceless.
I can’t help but think if I had chosen earlier to commit to writing where I would. But I am grateful for the path I have taken and I am grateful for where I am now. I feel like I am coming full circle. 
As they say, “All roads lead home.”

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Empty

this heart of mine is filled with holes

who knew carrying so much

emptiness could be so heavy

so consuming

but the emptiness is here

i would show it to you

but the only ones who see

are the only ones who desire

and the only ones who desire

are the only ones who volunteer

they look when i ask them

they look when i don’t ask them

they choose

they choose love

they choose me

and here i am

still

riddled with love-shaped craters the size of galaxies

toting burdens the size of celestial bodies

striving to plug these holes with

anger

anxiety

envy

impatience

i wear these on my being like a modern day Atlas

suddenly i see

these replacements are empty as i am

products of false evidence appearing to be reality

but now the choice is mine

either i choose to see or  i remain blind

either i choose life or i choose to die

either i choose love or i choose to be afraid

but one thing for sure

in order to choose love for myself and others

i must choose me

because

I was never empty

after all

I am LOVE

***

loving others

is impossible

without first choosing

to love ourselves.

to love ourselves

is to love others;

to love others

is to love ourselves.

to love

is

to love

everything.

choose love.


 

 

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These Words

will they revere these words as relics?  

will they say God wrote them?

will they be recited, said to be unaltered?  

will they change my words to be what they want?  

will they use my words to control — to manipulate populations?

to enforce crooked morality?  religious devotion?  divine mandates?

will they violate my intentions and substitute their own?  

once these words leave my heart and bloom in your mind

they are no longer mine.  They are yours, too.

how you use them — for poison or elixir — is up to you.  

i am a man frail as feathers; blind as darkness.

i share my ideas.  My experiences. My thoughts.  

pieces to a mural; moments in Eternity.   

these words, unwhole and Holy; tainted and Pure.

do you see God in them? do you see Your Self in them?

do you hear Devils in the syllables? do you hear Sin in my verbs?

 

ro lamb

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Letter to The Chef

(Originally Posted On OCT 25, 2016) 

Steph,

You had two amazing seasons.  Both saw you named Most Valuable player of the NBA and crowned world champion along with your Golden State Warriors; and the other just MVP.

Early in the season there was talks that this could be the greatest season ever for an individual.  You won 73 out of your 82 games beating the record set by the 95-96 Chicago Bulls; you won the scoring title; you were named MVP again as I mentioned already.  The NBA was yours.

All you needed was the championship.

But you lost.

We could argue that Draymond lost it for you because of his attitude.  You were up 3-1 with a chance to close LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers out for your second straight championship — but Draymond gets suspended.  Or we could talk about the injuries you may have had, which may have contributed to why you didn’t look like yourself throughout the playoffs including game 7 of the of the finals.

But I don’t want to talk about that because none of that matters.

Part of being great is being great when you have every reason not to be.

I am a fan.  I enjoy watching you and your team play.  But unlike some of your other fans I am not willing to make excuses for why you didn’t show up in game 7.  I am not willing to make excuses on how you blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.  Being great means when you have excuses for why you can’t do something, you find a way and pull off the impossible — the improbable.

So you get no excuses from me.  You choked.

But I still believe in you.  I am still a fan.  And that is why I won’t give you a pass.  If I say I believe in you I think it’s only right that I am honest about what I see.  Because we only get stronger when we accept our shortcomings and plan to improve.

I believe that you have an opportunity to show the world how you are built.  Your past two seasons have been sensational and some of us are wondering, “Can he get any better?” The answer to that question is “yes”.  That is the beauty in losing.  That is what failure does for us.  It highlights the areas where we get better.  It is humbling and can be embarrassing, especially for someone like yourself who has failed on such a public stage.

You are learning on a public stage.  You are getting better and growing in front of our eyes.

In my mind, your process to greatness begins now. And I am excited to see how you respond this season.  The world is still watching.  The question is:  what will we see?

I believe that you are primed to establish yourself, not only as one of the greatest shooters to ever play (Some of your haters think all you do is shoot.  And any who say that, don’t know basketball), but as one of the greatest basketball players to ever step foot on an NBA court.  I believe you can do it.  But only time will tell.

Blessings to you and your family,

Ro Lamb

P.S.  I will always regret seeing you in Oklahoma and not saying anything because you were talking to someone.  Next time I’m going to say something.

 

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Change of View

(Originally Posted on OCT 21, 2016)

I remember the day I knew I had to change how I viewed women.

It was sparked by a conversation on Twitter.  I came across a post that asked women to talk about how they were taught to protect themselves when in public places.  I was shocked to see hundreds of women responding. Not only responding, but responding with very similar answers.

I was horrified.  Partially, because for the first time, I realized the magnitude of violence that women are threatened with every time they leave their homes.

And I was also horrified because I have been privileged enough to not have noticed.  I didn’t understand and it made me uncomfortable.  I leaned in.  I needed to know.

I begin to study Feminism and Womanism.  I reached out to women and I asked questions.  Before then, I never considered myself to be sexist.  But how could I not be when the culture I live in is fundamentally so?  Sexism and misogyny have become staples in this society.

Not too long ago, I was riding in the car with a few high school aged guys.  I should have been prepared.  But I wasn’t prepared when they saw a girl crossing the street as we stopped at a light.  They put the window down to whistle and yell at her.  She ignored them.

After I told them to shut the window and leave her alone, I started to think about what had happened.  For the guys and the girl, it seemed like this was a normal occurrence.  Another girl for them yell at; another group of guys for her to ignore. The reality is that she should be able to walk through her community, or wherever, without being yelled at.  But instead, this act of emotional violence is passed off as harmless.

When I was younger I remember feeling out of place because I didn’t want to “holla” at random girls in the mall.  I wish I could say I was being noble – I was just scared.  I thought I was supposed to and because I didn’t, I felt like something was wrong with me.  So even though I wouldn’t consider myself to be sexist, I cannot deny that this culture has conditioned me to think about women in ways that enable the abuse and oppression of women.

The more I searched the more I could see it in every area of our culture.  But most devastating, I began to see it in myself.

When we are confronted with our own ugliness we have a choice. We can ignore it.  We can run away from it and pretend we never saw it.  But I knew for me, that wasn’t an option. I needed a new paradigm – a new way of seeing the women in my life.

Before you can build you have to destroy.

I had to destroy the idea of a woman that was given to me by culture.  My religion told me women are the weaker vessel.  My music told me that women are bitches and hoes.  The courts told me that we shouldn’t believe a woman that says she was abused unless she can prove it.  There are many voices and ideas about what a woman should be.  One way for these ideas to be uprooted is to allow the woman’s voice to be heard.  So I asked questions and I listened.  I wasn’t there to argue.  I was there to understand her and her experiences.

It was important that I build my ideas of who she is, based on who she is and not on what anyone else thinks she should be.    

And as I listened to my sisters’ experiences, something special happened.  I was humbled by their stories.  Their stories of struggle and neglect.  I listened as they shared what it feels like to not be heard – the experience of being passed over and forgotten about.

I was, and I still am, humbled by their strength.  Because although they have been through so much, they are still here.    Beautiful.  Graceful.  Powerful.

They are still here.

So don’t think I am here to be their knight-in-shining armor.  They don’t need a savior. They are their own saviors.  I stand with them, beside them, or wherever they need me to.  Because in the end, we are all in this together.

They don’t need my voice because they have their own.

 

Go listen.

 

Blessings,

Ro Lamb

 

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What Is Reality?

(Originally Posted: Oct. 19, 2016)

How you answer this question determines your behavior.  The way you live is predicated on what you believe to be true — to be real — about yourself and the world around you.  The beauty of this life is that I do not have to subscribe to your reality.  I can choose to believe whatever I want.  Whether right or wrong — it is my choice.  One of humanity’s greatest qualities is our capacity to choose what truth we believe in.

People who impact the world don’t live in the reality that was given to them.  Steve Jobs was said to have a reality distortion field.  It was like he would mend reality to fit whatever he needed at the time.  He understood that in order to make a mark on the world he had to ignore the reality that was taught to him. Sometimes even to his detriment, he would ignore the rules that were placed before him.  As if he knew that this world would never be enough for him — he had to create his own.

Whether we know it or not we are creating the world we live in.  Our thoughts, our words, our deeds are always building…Something.

So what is reality?

Perception?  Is perception truly reality?  Is how we experience reality based on how we perceive people and events?

There is a popular verse in the Bible that speaks to this.  “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Substance; evidence; these are tangible.  Things hoped for; things not seen; these are things that only we can see.  Through faith, which is our ability to see, our words, and our deeds we manifest our reality for others around us to experience.  This process allows for the world to experience our inner reality.

We are always creating our reality.

In September, I participated in a walk to celebrate those who have the disease known as Sickle Cell Anemia.  I was there with my close friends, Tyreke and Shakeira Wesley, who have two beautiful children that were born with it.  They made my wife and me Godparents of their children, so it was an honor to be a support to them in that way.  The walk impacted me in ways that I did not expect.

There was a sense of celebration and it was beautiful to witness people encouraging one another in love and joy.  Building relationships and sharing their stories; they were united by a common hardship — a shared pain.  And through it all they ate, they danced, they laughed.  It was a party.  I saw a woman with a shirt that read, “FUCK SICKLE CELL”.  For me, it was a powerful statement.  There was no denial of Sickle Cell or pretending as if this is not something that people are living with.  It was a refusal to become Sickle Cell’s victim.

As a child, my dream was to play in professional basketball.  I knew very early on, if that was going to happen I needed to spend hours and hours on the court perfecting my craft.  So that’s what I did for the early part of my life — that’s all I did.  I have a lot of memories from those times and so many lessons about life that I use to this day.  My dad would take me to the gym at 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning, day in and day out.  Each day, the first part of the workout was ball-handling drills.  He would yell out, “You control the ball; don’t let the ball control you.”

What if we viewed reality in that way?  “You control reality; don’t let reality control you.”  The reason the people at the walk for Sickle Cell were able to celebrate is because somewhere along the way they decided that they were going to control Sickle Cell and not the other way around. On some level they realized that the only power Sickle Cell has the power they give it.

There are so many variables that we have no control over.  Storms rage and mountains loom over us.  Sometimes it can feel impossible to overcome all that stands in front of us.  It can feel hopeless.  And it will always feel that way as long as we focus on the obstacles.  In some ways we have made faith into a weapon that makes us immune to life.  As if we only have enough, our family members won’t get sick or die; the next plane we get on won’t explode in the air; and cancer won’t ever be able to touch us.  But faith doesn’t control reality.  Having faith has less to do with what is happening to you and more to do with how you are experiencing what is happening.  Having faith doesn’t move mountains — it moves you.

When we allow anything outside of ourselves to inform how we experience life, we give our power away.  We become victims.  It’s only when we accept our circumstances and see them as what they are, do we have the opportunity to control our perception, and therefore our reality.

It’s not what we see, it’s how we see it that determines our experience.

Blessings,

Ro Lamb

 

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