If I Die Before I Wake – A Reflection on the Regal Nature of Chadwick Boseman

I can’t stop thinking about Chadwick Boseman. He’s been on my mind so much that I caught myself shaking my head in the gym on the edge of tears. Now if you know me, you know that this isn’t characteristic of me. So, I had to examine why I was taking this so hard. Even before he died, I would find myself googling about his health. Like many people, I saw him getting thinner and would find myself concerned about him. I too hoped that the weight loss was due to him thinning up for a movie role. It had been announced, around the time that he started coming into public noticeably thinner, that he was going to play the first and only Black Samurai, Yasuke, who served under Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga in 16th century Japan. Once again, he was going to take on the role of one of the “First Blacks to…” just as he had with James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and Jackie Robinson. So I hoped that his gaunt appearance was going to reveal itself to be indicative of his passion for his craft and the calling on his life to bring powerful characters into the consciousness of people who for so long had very few symbols to hold on to.

Thank you for being a King in this life—for challenging our imaginations and giving us an aspirational symbol. I know many people will think that you were “just an actor”. But for those of us who never grew up with superheroes who looked like us and saw ourselves portrayed in a negative light, you made an indelible mark and shined eternally bright. #restinwakandaforever

My Instagram post August 30, 2020

I don’t say this much out loud. But I often feel lonely. Part of this loneliness comes from the fact that I don’t have many living role models before me who can relate to my background or life’s experiences. Everyday, I try, in my small way, to live up to an ideal that I have never actually witnessed being displayed up close. And I do it knowing that I live in a world that, whether people will admit it or not, is always waiting for me to fail. And not just me. If I extrapolate from the conversations I’ve had over my lifetime, almost everyone who is veiled in Black skin in this country carries this burden either consciously or unconsciously. Though many people are in denial about it, if you’re paying attention as a Black person, you know. And others know it too. If we fail, we take so many other people down with us. Because to be Black here is to be a symbol. And as a symbol, you always represent much more than yourself. Whereas, if some other people fail, they are simply seen as an individual–often deserving of second, third, fourth, and fifth chances.

When you are a symbol, society tries to make you an exception when you achieve in any capacity simply because the underlying belief is that most of us are incapable of meeting the illusory standards of this country. That’s why I think our ascendance, however small, is watched very closely. I believe that this is because, every step that any of us climbs, undoes the structure of the painfully comfortable false narrative that was built upon the foundation of our supposed inferiority. In other words, when Black people do well, especially in arenas where we are not always lauded, it tears at the fabric of this nation’s institutional myth about the capacities of American Blackness that almost everyone has bought into–even many Black folks. What if we were always this talented; this intelligent; this powerful? What does that say about how our ancestors were treated? What does it say about those of us who succumbed to the lies told about us? Does the past become even more tragic if we consider that we all had Wakandan like potential that was virtually strangled out of us for centuries? The questions are almost too much to contemplate.

By simply being who he was and living into his moment, Chadwick embodied that potential. His nature was regal. And in his person he carried the spirits of many of our ancestors. Perhaps that is why he was called here to embody them for us in the enduring form of film. He showed us our past and our future. He changed our world. And then he left.

In my work, I have seen many people die. I have watched as the light leaves their bodies and often wondered if they illumined every place they came here to shine in. I suspect that most haven’t. And that’s why there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about when my day will come. But I am not afraid of death. Ever since I became aware of the expectation that, as a Black Man in America, I would either die or spend some time in the criminal justice system by 18, I have contemplated my death. So no, I am not afraid of death at all. What gets to me is the idea that I will not do all that I can with this life because I will have allowed myself to be overly weighed down by the loneliness of being the first or the only. As they say, I don’t want to die with my music still in me. I want to truly live while I am here. And the truth is that I can’t say that I’ve done that yet. So perhaps that is part of why I can’t stop thinking about Chadwick Boseman.

Consider what he accomplished in the 4 years that he was diagnosed and being treated for colon cancer. Can you imagine? And consider that he did all of this while keeping his diagnosis to himself. Talk about lonely. But I don’t think he kept it to himself for himself. I think he did it for all us who know what it’s like to be the first or the only. In a consumer driven world where illness is seen as just another failure, he commanded his body and the world it inhabited to conform to his ideal. And in so doing, he tore that mythical fabric of Black inferiority that much more.

Of course, it is sad that he was not able to share his struggles with the world and receive the wellspring of compassion that he would have likely received and perhaps lived longer. But he was Black before he was The Black Panther. So I can imagine that he didn’t think he would get a second chance. So he did everything he could with the chance he got knowing that just like when one of us goes down we inadvertently take others with us, when we ascend, we take others with us as well. And that’s why I can say unequivocally that though this man had no earthly crown, he was and always will be a king. And at least for me, his being brings about a sense of conviction that before I die, I must make contact with my own regality and do everything I can to encourage it in others.

A Poem Fit for a King (In Memory of Chadwick Boseman)
I’ll see you on the Other Side
But I still can see you now
In the ways you changed the atmosphere
And by your essence you showed us how

We can’t believe that you are gone
And yet you’re here now more than ever
Giving form to a future and a past
We salute you now and forever

Now that your form is no longer with us
We see the burden that was in your eyes
You held the Space just long enough
To show that One who is Living never dies

Someday we all will meet you
In the azure canopied ancestral plains
Where everyone is a queen and king
In the Place where Spirit reigns.

© Copyright 2020 Pedro S. Silva II

Miss You While You’re Here

Lately I’ve been thinking about
All the moments that we missed
When we’re younger we think we have plenty of time
And don’t think about stuff like this

We put so much off until later
But what if later never comes?
All tomorrows repeats of yesterdays
The future setting like the sun

I’m not ready yet to miss you
When I know that you’re right here
There’s so much I wanted to give you
Before my chances disappeared

Now it hurts that we talk almost everyday
And yet we never talk at all
Or that I battle with all these tempting thoughts
Not to answer when you call

Of course I want to be here for you
But it seems this is always where we’ve been
You telling me about how hard it is
While I listen on the other end

I look back and feel like a failure
I wish I could’ve spared you from some pain
But the best I can do is be a witness
And pray for something else to change

I still have hope that you’ll get better
That perfect love will cast out fear
But for now I’ll be grateful for what we have
Because I don’t want to miss you while you’re here
© Copyright 2020 Pedro S. Silva II

I wrote this poem as I started to think about how many conversations I have with my mom are about how to make it from month to month. We talk everyday. Sometimes multiple times a day. But rarely are our conversations about thing that I would like us to talk about. Because of all of the stress over the past few years, there has been a strain on the relationship. I’ll be honest and say that often I am acting like I am her parent rather than the other way around. I want her to be safe and make decisions for her well-being. I know how hard she tried to be whatever and whoever she felt she needed to be to make sure we survived growing up. That took a toll on her. And I know that she had huge dreams–most of which never got fulfilled. This is a wound in her heart.

She always told me that she wanted to leave my brothers and I with a legacy. What she meant was money. That hasn’t happened and it saddens her. She apologizes for not being in a better financial situation and asks me to believe in her that she can still pull it off. I want to believe, but… And now that I am witnessing her forgetting so much and yet still holding out hope for a miracle or for her “ship to come in” as she says, I feel a twinge of regret.  I ask myself, “If I knew we were going to end up here anyway, what would I have done differently?”

At first, I told myself I would’ve stayed in the military so that I would have my retirement right now and I could be working another job to provide for her. But then I look at my wife and kids and know that I had to take the course I did.  I then think that I should’ve chosen a more lucrative profession than being a pastor. But then, I was having a conversation with a guest at the church who is experiencing homelessness at the church and watching members of the congregation–to include children serving food and sitting with our homeless neighbors and I thought, “I am glad to be in this moment.” And then I thought, well maybe I was called to be a pastor for a season, but now that my mom needs me, I need to move on and do something else because my responsibilities demand it. And then I prayed and I felt the spirit moving me to be honest about how hard this is and to tell my friends. And so I did. And they stepped in and blessed my family and gave me room to breathe so I could figure out how to make the next best move for my mom. They showed me the truth of the teaching that says, “[God’s] strength is made perfect in our weakness.”

And so then in that space, I asked God what I could do differently for my mom. And in my soul’s language I heard, “Don’t miss her while she is still here. Because that’s what you’ve been doing. If you want to have different conversations with her, change the subject. Talk about the things that you wish you could talk to her about. If she misses it and repeats something else she just said, tell her you love her. Tell her your dreams and maybe she’ll get joy in knowing that she is a part of them. Have an unreasonable belief in miracles because you never know what might happen. And don’t forget, you are not in this alone.”

So if you are reading this, what my soul spoke into my life, I speak into yours. There are so many things in life that can distract us from the moments we are in–something to tempt us to forget that there is always the possibility of great beauty around the corner. In my weakness, I found strength in hitting my limits and reaching out. My hope is that in sharing what I am learning, it is blessing you all too.

With true love,

Pedro

The New Me

In a Roofless Church blog post, I wrote about how I sometimes hold myself back from shining my light. The excuse that I was using was that by holding myself back in some areas, I was somehow protecting the people who would otherwise try to hold me back. I’d hold myself back before they could try to. Yeah. That sounds pretty silly writing. But I made it make sense. Fortunately, I didn’t hold myself back completely. I made sure to write whether it was blogs, poems, articles, letters, etc. Doing this was like leaving myself clues back to me. And writing that post admitting to myself what I was doing was just the push I needed to stop holding myself back in one area that I’ve held back in for decades–my music.

The image above is the cover for my new single. Over a year after I wrote the song, I finally got to a place where I could put it out there and open the door to some new possibilities of creative expression. In so doing, I am admitting to myself that I have no excuse for holding back. Spiritually, speaking, I never had an excuse anyway as I express in some of my lyrics:

They can’t kill me
Holla if you feel me
Who I am was never born
So they’re never getting near me

Many of us are trapped in the habits of old patterns and behaviors that we want more than anything to break free from so that we can be the people we know we are capable of being–better parents, partners, etc. There are unfulfilled dreams that hang over us like shadows and darken our self-perception limiting how we show up in situations. This song is an anthem for those of us who refuse to leave this world without shining that light that we are. We will shine! To be the new us, we will kill the old us. The old us lives fearing the illusion of death. The new us lives life as fully as we possibly can.

Primarily, I wrote this song and am putting it out into the world for myself–to eradicate any excuse I might make to not shine the light that Creator put in me. Secondly, I wrote it for my wife and kids because if there is anything that they want to do, I want them to at least try. Even if they fail, they can hold their head up knowing that they put themselves out there. And I can’t teach them that if I don’t live that. Thirdly, I did it for everybody who needs a reminder that as long as they have breath in their lungs, it is never too late to be who you might’ve been.

To be the new me
I had to kill the old me
To wake up from this lie bruh,
This is what they told me

Wake up from the dream
Death ain’t nothing but a bee sting
Hallelujah’s what we sing
From the moment we see that real thing

To hear my new single click here.

Live Facing the Sun (For Bob Murtha)

In the life of each and every one of us,
There are many worlds unseen.
Perhaps motivations no one knows about
Or the push to fulfill dreams

Some have nightmares no one speaks of,
That if we knew, we’d have compassion
When they show up in ways we can’t understand
Or do things that are out of fashion

Some of us came to this place
Knowing exactly what to do
While others love the mystery
Of trying to fathom what is true

Some are neither here nor there
And can’t seem to call this home
Even when in a crowded room
They can’t help but feel alone

But then there’s those who are here and there
In them all these worlds are One
Being led they also lead
Ever facing toward the Sun

They have found the pricey pearl
Through the gift of truly giving
Leaving all worlds better places
Through the Presence of their Living

© Copyright 2019 Pedro S. Silva II

I wrote this poem in honor of a church member, Bob Murtha, who embodied a spirit of quiet grace combined with strong presence. My life has taken to a lot of places I didn’t ever expect. But the places I appreciate more than anything are the hearts of people who I never could’ve conceived knowing. I am enriched by it and grateful that God’s idea of the human family is bigger than what I can imagine.

My Creator

You are the Love of my Life
And the Life in my love.
Every love poem I write to You
Has been plagiarized from Your Heart.
Though words cannot contain You or express You,
You have endless names
So that anyone who will
Can know the satisfaction of calling on You.
But Named or not,
We cannot beckon You to come where You’ve never left.
You are always here.
The places we go where we cannot find You do not exist.
As the Psalmist wrote,
“When I awake, I am still with You.”
Am I still with You?
I must be.
Or I would not be writing words that only Love can speak.
Am I awake?
I must be.
Or I am dreaming the only thing worth dreaming—
That You are the Love of my Life
And the Life in my love.


Me

Emerging from Nowhere
Participating in everything
Desiring Nothing
I walk Alone
With everyone

Unfathomable Love

If you knew how much I love you
This world would not exist
Yes, there’d be a world and you’d be there
But it would not look like this

Where you now see separation
Everything you’d see is One
All would shine as they are meant to shine
So there’d be no need for sun

War will have never been
Every tragedy has been abated
You encounter someone who’s not like you
And that fact is celebrated

There will be no calls for justice
Or the concept of “what is fair”
Since we’d all create what it is we love
And no one else would care

Family’s only meaning
Would be loving as you love you
And lies would have no place to be
Since every spoken word is true

The most beauty you’d ever witness
Will be wherever you choose to gaze
Songs of joy would never cease
Along with never ending praise

But you choose not to know I love you
Because you’ve chosen one concern
To decide who else I’m supposed to love
Based on what you think they earned

So instead of the world I gave you
You’ve created a distortion
Invented lack in abundant life
And tried to break it up in portions

Because I love you I haven’t stopped you
I trust eventually you’ll get it
Because you’re in time and I am not
I can see where this is headed

I am Love that knows no bounds
Wherever you hide I will be Present
For the world you’ve made where I don’t exist
I have hidden it in Heaven!

© Copyright 2019 Pedro S. Silva II

For Your Consideration

How can we choose God who we cannot see and reject our brothers and sisters who we can see?
This is the choice before us.
To love who we can accept or love who God loves.
Nothing can prepare us for the full revelation of God’s love.
It is an undoing love that sets souls free.
God, undo us. Remove the chains that bind us to the false self,so that our true self can emerge.
Nothing can prepare us for the awareness that God fully loves all—even those we would not choose to love.
Choosing God is choosing all of God’s children.
It is choosing ourselves. May we choose wisely. Amen.

Fighting Over Crumbs

All things to All things
Nothing is denied
But we’re fighting over bread crumbs
Because someone believed a lie

So now we kill each other
In our constant pursuit of more
We believe we are “consumers”
Because we don’t know what we’re for

Infinite Creation
Nothing more or less
But instead destruction follows us
When we put us to the test

Addicted to the thought of conquering
Sixty steps till we unlearn
That the truth of life is obvious
When we’re not looking for our turn

In the mean time there’s confusion
We’re told we have to choose a side
Contests between “us” and “them”
Where the winner doesn’t die

But what if someone told you
That everything is yours
And everything is everyone’s
And no one’s keeping score

The House is not divided
Upon the Rock is where it stands
Never to be shaken
By unreasonable demands

But because it can’t be broken
It won’t resist what it is we do
We can lie all the hell we want to
Because all of it’s untrue

Though we deny the Absolute
It simply continues as it is
Fully realized. No need to strive.
For it’s the life that we all Live

It’s the Bread that’s not devoured
Though we eat it to our fill
Diminishing every sense of loss
Like nothing ever will

 

Twisted

People,

In the wake of all that is going on with the violence, fear, hurt, and anger in this world, I challenge all of us who are seeking to transcend status quo to read this poem and take it into your heart. If you get something out of it share it. It’s autobiographical, but in the end, it isn’t about me. It’s about taking responsibility for the world that we are all creating. It’s time to wake up or die in our sleep.

The Love,

Pedro S. Silva II

Twisted
Open up your ears and hear
The story that I’m telling you
When I was a little kid
I used to get dissed on the regular

I used to get picked on
Poked at and made fun of
Because I was a sensitive cat
Always talking about One Love

Other kids my age
Had multiple distractions
Where as I was more focused on
Putting words into action

So when I took it to the streets
I didn’t expect to get straight dissed
‘Cause my shoes had too many stripes for Adidas
But not enough for K-Swiss

My words were for nothing
I only evoked laughter
I tried to get them focused off my clothes
But it just didn’t matter

They called me church boy
They said I talked “white”
But they were living cartoon
While I was living real life

I wanted to show love
But all they knew was hating
Perpetually playing themselves
Because they were mentally masturbating

They believed the lie
It had been passed down from their mama
Generations infected by an attempt
To keep the black man in drama

So I took it to the adults
I thought they would understand
But they were too “whitewashed”
To see this burgeoning black man

So I took it to my history teacher
Then he said this to my face
“You’re a smart boy
And a credit to your race”

He thought it was a compliment
Only a white man could say that
If he understood anything about me
He’d have known I wouldn’t play that

But I knew he had good intentions
I could tell he didn’t know
He was caught up like everyone else
So I decided to let it go

I then took it to my Grandma
But what she said left me unsettled
She told me tell white people I was Portuguese
So that they would treat me better

What the hell was that?
Was this some conspiracy?
Everyone and their mama working together
To try to instill fear in me

They saw something I thought was impossible
While I saw something else
They were choosing to believe a lie
But I chose to believe in myself

I knew that God had made me
And I know He only makes the best
So I knew the fact that I was not white
In no way made me less

Someone had gotten it twisted
And I was going to find out who
There was no way I was letting these scared victims of society
Tell me what to do

So at first I examined the white man
Since everyone thought he was so smart
I discovered so many despicable deeds
It was as if he had no heart

Then I checked out the black man
I figured they were more like me
But I got pissed to find out some of them helped
When we were sold into slavery

My mind became consumed with anger
I had to let it out
So I decided to tell every black and white
What I was all about

Well both sides called me a racist
In that they agreed with each other
Whites said I was an uppity nigger
And blacks called me siddity brother

So I then turned to God
Well turned on Him is more accurate
Because I didn’t like the way He made this world
I told Him I wasn’t having it

I said “You better do something
Before I fix this world myself
If You are the One responsible for this
I might as well pray to someone else”

He responded, “While you’re sitting here pointing fingers
How about looking in the mirror
I am the One that made all you see
Call nothing I made inferior

Who are you to judge?
Are you the scale by which all things are measured?
Are all things imperfect as compared to you?
Did you put this world together?

There’s a point to all of this
Just listen to what I’m saying
Perhaps I created this entire world
Just to have you right here praying

In Me anything is possible
To all those who believe
This world is as beautiful or ugly as you see it
It depends on what you choose to perceive

I made this world out of perfection
But in your Ego you thought you could fix it
This world will change when you change your mind
You are the one that got it twisted

© Copyright 2004 Pedro S. Silva II

 

 

This Is Not a Poem

This is not a poem

Despite the rhyming and construction

This is what the critic says

Because it doesn’t follow the poem’s function

I have to show you the dilemma

You have to struggle to understand me

You have to encounter the limitations

Of what a “good poem” can and can’t be

Clever lines don’t make it poetry

Despite conveying my intention

Good poetry has to stick to the rules

And be the result of pure invention

Please don’t come with inspiration

Don’t express in your own style

Don’t emerge with your own cadence

March in step and single file

Try to sound like someone famous

Do not always write in rhyme

 

People cry for peace

Meanwhile they are dropping bombs

Dead men can’t start wars

 

I just dropped some haiku lines

 

But maybe that isn’t poetry

I’ll ask an expert. They will know.

Or maybe they just know what poems are not

“Iambic pentameter is the purest flow”

Truthfully it doesn’t matter

If it isn’t poetry, I’d still be writing

I’d just be calling it something else

And in its expression be delighting

Not simply because I wrote it

But because it’s emerging from Creation

Like a flower that offers fragrance

What I give’s my participation

Whether beautiful or ugly

Lyrically strong or suffering weakness

What I bring forth is what I’m called to give

From the Universe’s unlimited uniqueness

For if I don’t shine the light I’m given

I am a thief and what’s more a liar

And claiming that I am not received

Is no excuse for quenching fire

So call it what you will

I will do what I must do

My words may fail, but I won’t hold back

It might not be poetry, but it’s true

 

© Copyright 2015 Pedro S. Silva II