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

I Have Learned to Love

I have learned to Love you
In a way that you can see
That gives to you what you think you need
Without betraying me

I have chosen the Cross of Compassion
But I don’t see it as a burden
It is a gift to give what I receive
When I am the one who’s hurting

Even though you still don’t know me
I no longer imagine that you should
I see that we see the way we see
And that in every way there’s good.

Isn’t it strange that it’s so perfect
That we will never get it “right”
But in the spaces between your side and mine
There is an emergence of the Light

Now I’m no longer who I used to be
Once I accepted that we can’t change
This frees us all to be ourselves
In the space of gift exchange

Now I love you like no other
Because now there is no other one
Born again as who I’ve always been
From the moment being had begun

©️ Copyright 2019 Pedro S. Silva II

The Wages of Skin

I’m sorry I apologized
When I was just being me
I was just a slave
Who falsely thought I was free

But now that I’m seeing more clearly
This is what I meant to say
Kiss my grits
And get the H-E double hockey stick out my way

I think you get my point
Without me going to extremes
I could say it a little harder
But it wouldn’t change an ounce of what it means

Besides if my dead grandmother were here
And heard me talk to you like that
She’d slap the taste right out my mouth
And give all my apologies back

See, the worst things in life are often inherited
Taught to fear in the name of survival
Illusions of superiority
Cloaked in the excuse that we’re all tribal

We say those before us committed the crimes
But we choose to pay the price
So when we accept the earnings of an unjust cause
The effect is our souls being sacrificed


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.

Power Brokers

The power you have, we gave you

Now you fear we’ll take it back

That’s why when we ask you to represent

You take it as attack

In questioning your motives

We just want to make this clear

Ignoring those you don’t want to see

Will not make us disappear

For there’s nowhere we are not

Eternally we reside

We trusted you to steward life

Because we know that you can’t hide

Some people call it karma

When we reap everything we sow

We call it “Everything is One.”

As above and so below

So the gift of service we gave you

Comes from power we have loaned

Abuse it and the only power you will break

Will be the power that was your own

© Copyright 2018 Pedro S. Silva II

Maker in the Middle

In the center of all things

Is the One Who is All

From the infinitely large

To the infinitely small

Nowhere not the center

Even that which you call edge

Split the atom and there is fullness

There’s no space that you can hedge

There is no private matter

As far as matter is concerned

In fact matter doesn’t matter

Once it’s spiritually discerned

Reality is Oneness

This thought called two has never been

It’s the illusion of separation

Denying the truth of what’s within

We live, move, and have our being

In the One Place all things Be

Once we receive the “I” that sees this

There’s nothing ever more to see

© Copyright 2018 Pedro S. Silva II

 

The Visitation – Being a Healing Presence

In our spiritual community at First Congregational Church Boulder, UCC some of our members are reading a small book called, The Art of Being a Healing Presence. Those of us reading it, are part of a small group of people who are choosing to heed the call to embody a healing presence with community members who are open to our invitation. Over the months that we’ve been meeting, my heart has increasingly found joy in our time together encouraging each other as we discover the gift of Visitation together. I wrote the following poem to/for them to both express appreciation for their gifting of themselves and to remind them that when we are being present, every moment counts.

The Visitation
It was only for a moment
It was here and it was gone
But when they think of the Visitation
The Presence lingers on

Breaking into Time-space
Eternity in half an hour
When two or more gather here
We’ve invited in the Power

Never underestimate,
What a moment can unfold
A single earthly encounter
A lasting balm for the soul

You were called to bring the Presence.
Being is what you do.
Giving form to the Love,
That preceded me and you

© Copyright 2018 Pedro S. Silva II

Matthew 18:20
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Into Your Hands

Into Your hands I commit my spirit
Because I won’t endure this lie
This prison system cannot be True
Built on the illusion that we must die

Death’s nothing more or less than a doorway
Or when a movie changes scenes
Different characters embody roles
But there’s just One Dreamer of these dreams

Yet somehow we’ve conceived to deny this
Even though it makes no sense
In the beginning there was always One
And there only has been ever since.

I struggle everyday to express this
To live wholly in Your call
Knowing that I’m denying One
If I can’t see You in All

This is the fruit of religious life
Bonding body and mind to soul
Forsaking the separate self that never was
And abandoning false control

This is when the journey ends
We’ve found the only thing worth finding
And teaching each other is no longer done
We simply trust in Your reminding

This is what I live this Life for
Every other way must be undone
My spirit in the hands of the All in All
Completes what never had begun

© Copyright 2017 Pedro S. Silva II

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