Dannie, Are You With Me? Pushing Me, Pushing Me, Pushing Me …!

whilwindA force pressing against my back

Yet leading from my front as well

A whirlwind of spiritual urgency

Like an alarm clock as a church bell

 

Waking me up early most every morning

Keeping me awake late many nights

Setting aside other preoccupations

For the priorities that are in my sights

 

Holy Man Dannie

My eldest brother Dannie McBrayer

Dannie, are you with me?

Pushing me, pushing me, pushing me …!

Dannie, are you with me?

Pushing me, pushing me, pushing me …!

 

My eldest brother’s earthly life was ended

Suddenly, violently with tragic woe

Snatched from the vault of my favorite familiars

Leaving my soul pummeled from the blow

 

Kwabena as Dannie

Me looking like Dannie

I … miss … him

My other part, my uncertain twin

The sameness of our facial feature

Compared nothing to our unity within

 

Dannie, are you with me?

Pushing me, pushing me, pushing me …!

Dannie, are you with me?

Pushing me, pushing me, pushing me …!

 

Sadness and mourning still does haunt me

Lurking around corners, thug in an alley

I am not yet safe from pain in my heart

And the deep loneliness that I still carry

 

oar in the riverAll the while though, there is something good

Something so steady and sure

When I feel ravaged in the river of life

I find at my center a steady, familiar oar

 

Dannie, are you with me?

Pushing me, pushing me, pushing me …!

Dannie, are you with me?

Pushing me, pushing me, pushing me …!

 

I’ve known his prescient presence all my life

Schooling me on what challenges will come

My rites of passage was a one man show

Adding to my growth until adulthood was the sum

 

Dannie @ peace

Dannie is his adopted city of Dallas TX

Now waging the deciding battles of my time

Determining what shall be, will be, or not

This sibling of supreme allegiance and love

Is still fighting by my side after his war is fought

 

Dannie, are you with me?

Pushing me, pushing me, pushing me …!

Dannie, are you with me?

Pushing me, pushing me, pushing me …!

 

Always having been a protector in my youth

Whether by force or wisdom to me distilled

I was forever watched over, steadily guarded

And I do believe Dannie fights for me still

 

opportunity knockerI feel him lifting and shoving barriers out of my way

Or bringing opportunities knocking to the door

He is both brute of strength and essence of honey

His legendary wit and charm lasts with most evermore

 

Dannie, are you with me?

Pushing me, pushing me, pushing me …!

Dannie, are you with me?

Pushing me, pushing me, pushing me …!

 

If you wonder why I cannot, will not stop

These words are to unravel the riddle

It is not me alone that is riding this magic carpet

I have a co-pilot steering things right from the middle

 

risk aheadLike many good brothers turned father before him

Dannie taught me how to drive an automobile

“Focus on the center, rather than threats on the side”

Lessons of steering through life taught behind a wheel

The Storm is Passing Over: Making it Through a Tough Time

“O courage, my soul, and let us journey on, For tho’ the night is dark, it won’t be very long. O thanks be to God, the morning light appears, And the storm is passing over, Hallelujah!”

Kwesi close up 2012Among other things, I am an entrepreneur. I chose some years ago to start an enterprise of my own rather than work for someone or something else. It was just a choice, on the surface no better or worse than anyones else’s. However, this decision did have consequences and many risks. One result is that my income over these years has been extremely unstable and frequently Issata close upnonexistence for extended periods of time. The perils have been great, with personal sacrifices including both material creature comforts and life necessities as well as unintended tragedies like loss of contact with two of my children due to conflicts with my ex-wife over child support and visitation. While I am no stranger to lack and even poverty at times coming from a working class family, the disconnect from my daughter Issata and son Kwesi has been a cost brutal and severe for me (and I’m sure them) to bear.

CNA logoThis week the firm I lead was successful in renewing relatively large contracts with two of our primary clients, the Atlanta Housing Authority and The Food Commons. These arrangements will provide steady employment for me and my Partners over the next six months or so, perhaps even longer depending on certain factors. Despite all the real agony and pain it took to arrive at this plateau, it is truly an amazing feeling to create ones own job. I have never been really good at working for others. Inevitably, I would tire of doing things in ways that didn’t seem effective or efficient to me. My nature most often leaned toward improving systems and challenging the status quo. Of AFC Fertile Crescent logo - FINAL croppedcourse, this characteristic of mine has not usually made for long term or staple occupations. Over the years I had learned to live with this handicap of sorts, switching frequently from one livelihood to the next with an seemingly unending stream of “Catch Me If You Can” type incarnations: waiter, grocery clerk, courier, officer manager, carpet salesman, public insurance adjuster, cosmetologist, truck driver, non-profit professional, urban farmer, etc. The list goes on.

AF2 logo - EditedEven as I worked in the past to make a living, I never seemed to thrive in any enduring way. In contrast, since I have set myself on this course as a consultant with Atlanta Food & Farm LLC (AF2) there has been no turning back. I have found my purpose and oh what a marvelous and powerful thing! Every day all day, my mission is to help communities and institutions be more successful with any goals they have related to the local food movement and urban agriculture. It is both a narrow specialization as well as an inexhaustible labyrinth of opportunities and possibilities. I happily lose myself in a rabbit hole of revelation, doggedly pursuing the maze of options to answer one simple question, “What ails thee, brother?”. My resulting quest for the Holy Grail of food justice and sovereignty for my community and beyond has set me on an incredible journey of discovery and personal development. It has not been as lucrative an endeavor as my debts and obligations need my occupation to be, but it has certainly been lavishly liberating for me.

Dolores & meOne of the most difficult aspects of these past months rolling into years has been the strain and stress on other family ties and friendships, both personal and professional. There were times when it was not clear to me if I had lost all normal human feeling or fidelity as my focus on birthing this baby of business seemed to consume me to the exclusion of too much else. On one hand, my dear sweet mother was increasing lost to me and my extended family in the claustrophobic cloud of Alzheimer’s disease during this period. The needs of her care have spiked, but I have been unable to respond financially while in my mission midwifery position of building AF2. The burden has fallen unfairly to my more able siblings, though it is no easy weight to bear for most of them either. Another side has been debts to colleagues or friends that I have not been able to honor despite my best efforts. It is a painful thing to fail at responding when payments are owed to those you know and love, particularly when the value has already been given. I am extremely anxious to run from this dark place back into the light of greater integrity and trust again, hopefully agreed.

AF2 team members with coach Cornelia ShipleyGreatest among all this desired redemption and resolution is reconciliation with my eldest children. I tremble at the thought of what may have been lost over these many months since we have been together. My psyche plays mind games of comparing the period to the deployment of a soldier away on a tour of duty, not seeing their loved ones for sometimes a year or so. Could I tell them daddy has been busy fighting for them and it not be a lie, which is why they have not seen me? Or should honesty prevail with my confession that I was just not capable enough to do two huge things at once. The gamble I have taken with my soul in this regard is fearful. But for this year I have made it through the storm of my own making to the light of also my own creation. When Issata and Kwesi are older, I will tell them the story of what it took to make sure they could go to college or have an inheritance to build homes for themselves and their own families. Grace be to God, I pray for their forbearance and forgiveness.

 

G.O. Conference 2014 Day One: From Atlanta to Amelia

G.O. conference logoFor the past several years, the preeminent annual professional development event in the local area of my chosen industry has approached without an expectation on my part of attending. For one reason or another, the resources for registration or travel and lodging in the case of this year just weren’t available in the necessary time frame. However, each time a proverbial “ram in the bush” has appeared in the nick of time as if my presence at the Georgia Organics conference was a divinely ordained necessity. This year’s sacrifice was made by my friend and neighbor named Shawn Walton of WeCycle HABESHA IncAtlanta, who declined a registration scholarship he had and transferred it to me (many thanks Big Brah!). Additionally, transportation to the atypical venue of Jekyll Island GA from Atlanta where I reside was graciously offered by Baba Cashawn Meyers of HABESHA Inc (give thanks!). Being from the area close to Jekyll, Cashawn also opened his family’s home to the group of us he adopted for this sojourn of agricultural education. Altogether, grace of a particularly well designed and intentional sort has made things possible for those of us who needed a way.

HW-Slider-20132There are twelve total on this trip together in a rented thirteen passenger van, some of us acquaintances or close friends already while others only known to each other by reputation or not at all. We are now bonded together by a fellowship born out of both desire and necessity. Our shared passions for food justice or “abundance” has motivated us to undertake this pilgrimage, while limited resources invented the requirement that we find a communal way to make attendance at the the vanconference happen for the group. As the sweet succor of fabricated family descended upon us within our van of vindication, I savored my reflections on how wonderful it was that we were together in this way. Sons and daughters of those enslaved or sharecropped in this most southern state of the South have chosen to both reclaim and remake our collective heritage and inheritance as people of soil’s toils. The circle has not only been unbroken, it is also being enlarged and transformed.

Cashaen walking in front of his childhood home

Cashaen walking in front of his childhood home

Cashawn’s family is based in a small town called Woodbine, close to the coastal area of Georgia’s sea islands. After a more than pleasant road trip across the Peach state from its capitol, we rolled into the Meyers compound in wonder of what we would experience and find together. Our first step out of the vehicle was met by the soft welcome of Georgia’s finest earth, producing a bounty of food in an impressive backyard market garden cultivated by the family’s neighbor. We were clearly in the right place. The heads of collard greens were full and flush with the chlorophyll of life, their leaves wrapped in spirals of vigorous Meyers neighbor garden 2nutritiousness. I instinctively reached down to feel and then taste the tender leaves of mustards, craving the peppery and pungent flavor that I favor among the greens family. Having been traumatized as urban farmers by the hostile and hazardous recent winter weather in Atlanta, many of us were caught in a temporary trance of sorts by the contrast of this rural horticultural sanctuary. What a difference 300 miles can make.

Meyers backyard 2We then had the pleasure of meeting Cashawn’s grandparents and learning a bit about the origins of our Brother-Soldier in Chief. Revelations from him about childhood experiences and nicknames led to a round robin disclosure from us all who carried alternative monikers of one type or another. Each one was interesting, some were funny, others were poignant. In all, the spontaneous group sharing morning yoga 3brought us immediately closer together in one of those unplanned but perfectly purposeful ways. My sharing was that the family called me “Bolo” for a time when I was a toddler and young child, as my early years were accompanied by “baby fat”. However, while typing this reflection I remember that it was my eldest and recently deceased brother Dannie who dubbed me with this nickname and mostly used it. I press on with this sharing, allowing the still persistence grief and loss to pass over me prickly once again (I miss you Dannie).

chillin @ Tina houseLast on the itinerary for the day was a evening meal hosted by Cashawn’s cousin Tina Meyers who also lives not too far away on Amelia Island FL. Her residence was equally or perhaps exceedingly cultivated in home garden abundance just as the first site we met. There were numerous beds of buoyant vegetables plots in the front as well as a full blown fruit orchard in her backyard. At this point, most in our entourage were questioning the choice to reside in a landlocked city of mere mortal food production chillin @ Tina house 2capacity. But we all have our ancestral assignments. Tina had blessed her pots with a seemingly endless flow of brilliantly flavorful vegetarian fare and we broke bread together as family should, touched by both wine and wisdom from conversations intoxicated with spirits of all kinds. I feel almost guilty divulging all this, knowing how much envy it may stir in those who would also enjoy an excursion of this nature. Truly, what happens in Amelia should stay in Amelia. But still …

morning yoga

Morning yoga, led by Baba Charles Greenlea

I am writing this blog the next morning as our crew arises from night’s slumber and are busy preparing themselves for the day’s activities with our ostensible purpose for being here, the Georgia Organics conference. However, I can’t help but feel that the conference may now be the side show and the real center of this trip is the fellowship of the brothers and sisters I am blessed to share. Whatever may await us in the plenary sessions and workshops of this event, it is likely to pale in comparison to what we have learned about ourselves already. Ase’?

Cashaen walking in neighbor garden

 

Alsie & Khari

Alsei Parks and Khari Diop

collards up close

It is Time!

“The world needs you now, not when you are perfect!” – from the Facebook Wall of Hasina Ifra, my Friend and virtual spiritual guide that I’ve never met who lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. Thank you for inspiring this blog post! 

cinematic theologyOne of my favorite forms of preaching or spiritual discourse is cinematic theology, the critical study of films employing theological insights from faith traditions. A former pastor of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church’s Shrine of the Black Madonna #9 in Atlanta, Cardinal Sondai Nyerere, would often utilize this method is his sermons to expertly and powerfully drive home a message to the congregation (we still miss you, “Son of Thunder”). Given that movies are a dominant art form of our times, it makes perfect sense to me that insightful and relevant preachers would draw upon the life inspiration and moral lessons often embedded within quality films for ministry. Experiencing a good picture show can be an authentic spiritual experience, reminding us of eternal truths and uplifting our souls.

The-Lion-KingAs a father of young children, one of my favorite (practically required) viewings is The Lion King animated movie. Among other themes, a key message in this saga is about learning from the past and finding one’s place in life (I will proceed here with the assumption that you have seen the film). After Mufasa speaks to Simba from the ancestral realm, Rafiki teaches Simba that “the past can hurt, but the way I see it, you either run from it or learn from it” and Simba realizes that he must take his rightful place as king of the Pridelands. Doing so involved a dangerous and painful journey, but in the end Simba ultimately had to “remember” who he was. Once he does, Rafiki utters the poignant acknowledgement as the former prince but now king ascends to his place of destiny, “It is time”.

Do your danceWith the dawning of a new year upon us, I believe this is a useful reminder to ponder. While the narrative above relates a certain linear process of individual development and growth, in a broader sense it is always “time” for us to become who we really are. The Lion King  story takes place in a fictional kingdom of anthropomorphic animals in Africa but many of us are Simbas in human life, often ashamed and traumatized by our past thus avoiding being true to ourselves and our purpose. I can testify to having this experience, with many regrets in my life often leading me into places of self-exile and shame similar to Simba’s estrangement from Pride Rock (his rightful home). But every year I practice building the courage and do the inner work to reclaim my inheritance as a child of God, not only for myself but also for what the world needs from me.

Zen book 2010 editionYears ago, I chose a particular text to help me navigate my own journey of evolution and personal transformation. Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design by Laurence G. Boldt is a life-changing book first published in 1991 that helped revolutionize the career planning field by offering a new vision of work. For me though, this work has been much more than assistance with choosing the best way to make a living. Through my diligent and intentional application of the both ancient and contemporary truths within, it has become a personal scripture of sorts for me and release from a veil of ignorance about who I was as a human being. It has helped me “remember”. So at the end of each year and in preparation Zen reading 2013for the next, I have developed my own tradition of making use of the typical holiday downtime to turn inward for spiritual regeneration by rereading the text, but most importantly updating the enclosed written exercises I completed previously to determine what has changed and what has remained true for me since the last year. This has become a powerful method for me to observe my own growth as a man and self-correct or improve in a very methodical way. I highly recommend it for anyone wishing to be their best self.

New moon wishGetting to consciously know or reconnecting with your life purpose is far more meaningful than making a traditional New Year’s resolution. While pledges to lose weight or stop smoking may go by the wayside come February 1st, a deep experience of the bliss involved with realizing your reason for being alive will not easily leave you. Certainly, we should clean out our closets or improve our diets and such. However, there is no substitute for the inner work of self-actualization. Like Simba, our true destiny is awaiting all of us should we only find the courage or will to move beyond our past and claim it. You healer, you teacher, you farmer, you preacher. You father, you mother, you friend, you leader. It is time!

Mwalimu Kwabena Osei Nkromo, Chief Evangelist and CEO of the House of Amen Southern Region.

the-house-of-amen-flier-front2

Kim Thoughts: Social Media as Anti-Social Behavior (guest blog)

(Re-published here from the original Facebook posting on Kimberly Ballard’s wall)

Facebook profile pic

Kimberly Ballard

Just wondering… What’s going on with our new skool psyche where we are often more present trying to tune in to this virtual world than our own realities? It has become a part of our ‘normal’ visual landscape to be anywhere in our worlds and see many people’s heads bent over checking our phones. Has anybody tried to holla at us in the last 3 minutes?? No. Maybe. But either way, what did we ever used to do with our minds, I often wonder? And where will this mental trend and electronically connected/yet real world disconnected dynamic all lead?

Just wondering, as we all get somewhat caught up. Were these the same mental or emotional voids that led us to indulge in other escapes before social media came along? TV, clubs, shopping, talking on the phone for hours…do we hardly read books anymore? No indictments, or removing myself from the mix…just wondering.

social-media2Are these the same voids, just managed a different way? Or has all the technology created new mechanisms and dependencies in our psyche to now need even more stimulation? …to the point where we have to have multiple “conversations” going on at the same time?…on Facebook, on the phone, emailing and tweetin and sending twerkin type photos at the same time (do they call those selfies?)…and then we still need more.

marvin-gaye-1971-whats-going-on-aJust wondering…as Marvin once asked “What’s (really) going on?”…in a day when we can wake up and immediately roll over to the gadgets to connect to the virtual world before maybe even turning to the one beside us, or in the same space. All the funny ironies in the pictures of people at a social events, or maybe even at dinner together, but everyone is on their phone. Funny sometimes, but sad in a way, and very true. And we’re all pretty much “guilty” in one way or the other. We’ve gone from it being disrespectful to leave your hat on when you enter a home, to it being acceptable to leave our whole head someplace else when we come to commune with another real human being.

Your body is here with me ...I get it and relate that we all have natural yearnings for mental stimulation and emotional connections that our immediate surroundings, access, and the “real” people in our worlds don’t always quite fulfill. But when do we stop and attempt to balance our reality? Check in with what’s really in our world, the room, the real people around us. Or was the songwriter more on point than they knew years ago?…”Your body’s here with me, but your mind is on the other side of town” (or even on the other side of the world, these days). And now we have the technological means to really roll with that thought…to no end…creating another modern relational dysfunction for our day.

social-media-loveIn ways I clearly see many of the upsides of all of the new worlds, possibilities, connections and outlets that social media and the Internet in general have created. Look at all of the people who felt isolated before who can come together and be inspired, commune and support each other so easily now. Even connecting with old friends. That can be a beautiful thing. I’m just stepping back for a moment wondering (and even looking at myself as my neck is bent into this phone)… Is this new school train running away off the tracks at times? Is it creating an incessant need for attention and stimulation, beyond the balance and fulfillment that we wholistically naturally seek? Are new narcissists even being born from it, or simply finding a fit? And even for the old/new friends that we connect with electronically, when we get together in person, are we still halfway checked out, still seeking something else.

stop & smell the rosesBut whatever the truth is (I’m sure there’s many)…Can we stop or pause regularly and make a point to check in with the real world for a while? Smell the coffee, stir the beans (and even stop burning pots and bumping into stuff cause we so checked out-and in to something else). Balance is simply what’s occurring to me, as I’m continually seeking more of that for myself. We always heard “too much of anything” ain’t good.

Kim in reflectionLike I said, just wondering…as I clearly use this social outlet to get my writing/mental rocks off at times as well. But “all things in moderation” I always heard.
Working on it. And just wondering out loud (in my phone:-/ Or maybe even spiritually inspired by my godmother (the way old folks used to pinch you to get your attention without anyone noticing). But I reflect now on how I went to visit my godmother not long before she passed several years ago. I was a dutiful “daughter,” yet always too caught up on “doing,” even if doing a good helpful thing…the imbalance was in not being fully present. I felt my value was more in the “doing” for others. But my godmother simply said, patting at a spot on the bed beside her, “just sit down and talk to me ‘Kimley’.” (You know how old folks do your name their way.) I recall buzzing around the room trying to make sure all her physical needs were met, and then sitting down for just a moment…offering a little chit Kim familychat. I wasn’t into any social media back then, but my head was still someplace else, thinking about the next thing to “do,” naively thinking that was helping her. But now I know that it wasn’t. Maybe it’s too uncomfortable to connect with the realities of what’s for real in front of us. In that case it was death, and the guilt that I couldn’t do more to change her reality or make it more comfortable. But whatever it may be, we eventually need to deal with it…and live in our real world as much as we do this virtual one. We all want to be heard and to feel a connection. We all want somebody to (really) “listen” and “see” us. Can we stop and do that and be that for each other? Then the social (media) connection can become more our real lives.
Just wondering…
…as I need to go check in on my real people now.

Kim & children

Kim and her four children (From Left to right: Malik, Elyse, Myla, Elona)

An Elegy for the Man: Who Will Cry for Little Dan?

Dannie the name

Dannie means “God is my judge” in Hebrew

In literature, an elegy is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive poem, especially a funeral song or a lament for the dead. Although a speech at a funeral is a eulogy, it can be customary to later compose an elegy to someone you have loved and lost to the grave. The purpose of this kind of writing is to express feelings rather than tell a story. The noun elegy was borrowed in the 16th century from Middle French élégie, from Latin elegīa, from Greek elegeia, from elegos “mournful poem or lament.” This elegy is a lament of my heart on behalf of my family for our dearest brother, husband, father, and uncle Dannie.

Dan the Landscaper

Dan during his landscaping career

In the shock of the immediate loss of Dannie, my emotions and thoughts were a mixture of acute pain along with an urgent need to remember who he was as a full person. Perhaps I felt a call to protect his life legacy from being truncated by the one act of a tragic death. However, my journey to deeper pondering and search for understanding came through phone conversations with my brother just older than me Marvin McBrayer. He took the time to call me during these recent days of grieving to check in on how I was handling things, so I in turn did the same for him. It just happened that way.

Marvin & DannieMarvin and I talked about our brother Dannie. Covering many areas, we kept trying to perceive together what might have been the root of the despair that could lead our life-loving brother to take his own life. After thinking it over again and again we could come to no absolutely conclusive answer of course, as matters like these are often left unknowable in a complete sense. But there was a general theme that reoccurred as a very likely source of the calamitous clouds that ultimately proved to be more than Dannie’s beams of beautiful sunlight could shine through anymore.

who-will-cry1

little AntwoneThis poignant poem was written by the author of a book that turned into a feature length movie that many may have seen. The film explores themes of abandonment, child abuse, race, psychiatry, and general healing. I have been deeply moved each time I’ve seen Antwone Fisher. It seemed to honor the profound human reality that we seldom truly move beyond deep trauma in our collective or personal lives until these is an equally deep experience of authentic healing. This could be said for a group like Black people who strive to survive the “Maafa” or African Holocaust which includes the Arab and Atlantic slave trades, and continued through imperialism, colonialism, and other forms of oppression to the present day. Or it could be the vulnerable little boy still wounded inside of a grown man, but never healed.

Shaft DanI am fond of revelling in how much me and Dannie look and are alike in so many ways. He used to call me a bad carbon copy and other joking put downs that were part of our brotherly fun. An Adonis of a man physically and Imhotepian in his brilliance, it made me very proud growing up to be even considered a facsimile of the first born son in our family. As I lay in bed early this morning, comparisons between Dannie and me kept swirling through my mind as I struggled to understand what was different about us that would keep me from reaching the same conclusion that he did about life. The answer came to me in a clear vision that was both the fruit of discussions with my brother Marvin as well as a revelation of transfiguration.

Baby Dannie

Dannie as a baby

With all the problems that have been a part of my life, the core of my childhood is not one. I was blessed to experience a relatively secure upbringing, where needs were met and nurturing love abounded. These were as much the gifts of my doting older brothers and sisters as it was that of my parents, all seemingly in cahoots with an open conspiracy of affection and most notably protection. So in my moments of greatest despair through life, I always had this reservoir of self confidence and intrinsic value to pull from when existential emergencies of personal self worth required it. Along with divine Grace, I have often been able to make it back from the brink of self destruction with this internal tether of love.

Nerd Dan

Dannie in childhood

I am not here to say that Dannie did not have this. Nor am I offering some psychobabble explanation of the complexities involved with Dannie’s life. My point is mainly to lament for Dannie what some know to be too true. While every home can have its bad and good times, the McBrayer household Dannie grew up in held deep pathologies created or inherited by those within. This is the insight that Marvin shared with me as an older sibling in our talks, but then it became the awareness that I’ve come to know deep in my own heart. Dannie could not find healing as a man because like Antwone Fisher, he needed to discover healing for the little boy within himself first.

Antwone Fisher Viola Davis

Antwone’s character confronting his mother

In the movie, Antwone’s character acted out his childhood trauma by being temperamental and often behaving violently at inappropriate times. He struggles to find the balance in his life until a compassionate and insightful psychiatrist offers the right therapeutic response he needed (notably without medication), allowing him to begin a self guided journey to real healing. At the core of the healing process were confrontations with his childhood abusers and even his own mother who had abandoned him to that fate. For his own peace of mind, Antwone needed to express how he felt to those who had hurt the little boy inside of him now that he was man enough to stand up for himself. This cathartic exercise of psychic vindication not only freed him from the anger that blinded his ability to see contemporary life clearly, it also allowed Antwone to trust love for the first time with a woman that truly valued him for the man he was.

handsome DanIn my grief, I had been so focused on waxing nostalgic about all the wonderful things Dannie had done for others his whole life that it took Marvin to help me consider that maybe this was also a cover for the inability of Dannie to actually care for himself. Similar to Antwone’s violence, Dannie’s extraordinary benevolence may have obscurred something we all needed to see. Whatever the tragedy of his suicide is now, I believe it began many years ago with the trauma of an abused little boy who never learned to cry for himself. With the full mind of our mother gone from us due to Alzheimer’s disease, it is left to our father to offer some closure on this if he has the courage and will to do so. Often abusers have their own stories of abuse to tell.

Most importantly, we must decide going forward as a family to never again allow harm that can be prevented to visit upon the most vulnerable among us: our children. With all reasonable considerations, we must be unwavering in our determination to protect the right to a safe childhood for those who can’t defend themselves. The lives we save will be our own.

Dannie, Jerry, Kevin, & Marvin

Dannie on the left with brother Kevin, Jerry, and Marvin

Dannie, my brother forever

dannie-mcbrayerDannie McBrayer is my eldest brother and he joined the ancestors of my family line yesterday on November 17, 2013 as he transitioned from this mortal plane of existence. Dannie is the first born male of my parents, Dolores “Pauline” (Alston) McBrayer and Jerry Lee McBrayer, Sr. His other siblings include Karen, Belinda, Jerry Jr., Denise, Amanda, Kevin, Marvin, Lance, and Randall. Dannie has one beloved and treasured child, his daughter Danielle McBrayer through his first marriage to Dorra Blue. He current wife is Lita McBrayer of Dallas, Texas.

NYAME NNWU NA MAWU

NYAME NNWU NA MAWU
“God never dies, therefore I cannot die”

Within traditional African philosophy, there is no distinction between the physical world and the spiritual world; the afterlife is regarded as simply a continuation of life on earth. Death is regarded as part of man’s destiny, a departure in which the physical body decays but the spirit moves on to another state of existence, As long as there is someone alive who can remember a deceased person, that person is considered as part of the “living dead.” After no living person remembers the name of the deceased, he or she becomes part of a collective, community immortality (New World Encyclopedia).

dannie-mcbrayer 2In the heritage of this very African concept, I wish to remember my brother here by sharing some of what I experienced and know about him. For me as a young boy, Dannie was one of my earliest and best examples of manhood. I grew up unabashedly admiring him for what he could do and who he was. It seemed to me that he was capable of incredible feats, fixing anything that needed repair and making all things possible. He was strong, a physically strapping product of my father’s formidable genetic inheritance for body build. Having played several sports in school, he was also a life long athlete with his favorite pastimes being basketball, football and tennis. Dannie was also a very handsome man with classically masculine features chiseled in his face and a confident, disarmingly warm smile. He was also very charming, possessing a personality that knew no stranger and generous with laughter or wit.

Kingdom HallMy brother Dannie was a deeply spiritual man. Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness as we all were in my family, he had an enduring love for the Bible and God that he fondly called “Jah”. Rooted in his faith, Dannie also had a profound sense of community and oneness with humanity. He was a true man of the people, making friends easily wherever he went and leaving behind an impression through his deeds of kindness or service. I use to marvel and perhaps envy a bit how naturally he could make connections with complete strangers or how varied his associations where in all walks of like. He had the gift of ministry and in his best days preached a gospel of universal love.

jack-of-all-trades-710x412A proverbial Jack of all trades and master of some, Dannie was skilled at many things. He was perhaps best known as an automobile mechanic, having chosen this trade very early in life. He had the mind of an engineer and loved to solve problems. A serial entrepreneur, he tried his hand at a number of businesses over the years. I was an under aged employee of his landscaping enterprise during my adolescent years in Dallas, Texas. The manner in which he worked me was certainly in violation of some labor laws, but I benefited from gaining early the value of industriousness and pride in craftsmanship. He was precise, reliable, and thorough. These are the elements of character and core values that I learned at the feet of my big brother.

family @ Danielles graduation

Our family at Dannie’s daughter Danielle’s graduation from college

Perhaps more than all else, Dannie is a head of our extended family clan. He loved his family and being family. With a strong sense of who we were and how we should be in the world, he modeled the values of fidelity to kin as a elder sibling. There were enough of us brothers and sisters for him to be a surrogate father to we younger ones and he fulfilled that needed capacity gladly. He continued a dedicated focus on young people in his roles as an uncle and member of congregations or other social networks. He taught me how to ride a bike, cut a manicured lawn, drive a car (manual shift), play chess, perform an oil change, put on a tie, shoot a jump shot, and swing a tennis racket. He showed me how to be a man.

ResignOne of Dannie’s greatest joys in life was chess. He had an all consuming affection and fascination with the game. It spoke to both his competitive spirit as well as Dannie’s formidable intellect. He was no casual player, investing himself in studying chess books and the Masters. At the same time, he was always willing to teach a novice the basics of the game as if he were its ambassador to the uninitiated. In chess, it is respectable for a player with no more reasonable moves available to resign in a gesture of dignity and pride by laying down his king piece on the board. For reasons too complex and unknowable for me to address here, Dannie gradually resigned from the game of life some time ago. We played our last chess match together online during my birthday last week on November 10th. Good game, my brother.

Dannie & Lita

Dannie and his wife Lita