If you don't believe in God or any religion, like Frank Ocean says, “you got to believe in something." I believe in myself; at times, I didn't. However, because of the people I have in my life, I always will. One of those people that I'll always honor is my soul brother, Eyon.
Eyon Tomlinson, from the first corny joke you cracked, I knew we were friends, but from the first fight we defended each other in, my spirit knew we were meant to be brothers. Maybe in a past life we had the same parents. But in 2007, this life, we adopted each other. The first two years of high school at Nazareth Regional High School (a Catholic school), out of all the groups and cliques a regular student body has, at the core of my own, I always had my brother. Though he physically left the earth about a year prior to this being posted, he left a legacy and a code of honor to me that I'll never compromise. The day I found out he passed onto the next life, I was speechless, broken, screaming, and felt like I had been thrown into a black hole. As I stood in the last building he and I visited, listening to the update about my friend through a phone conversation surrounded by other peers, I remembered his confidence and held all tears 'til I was alone.
Remembering good times can be a huge asset after a loved one has passed on, all the good they've done in their life, for you, their intentions, their heart. Not everyone is perfect, and Eyon made his mistakes, but his loyalty was never an issue. He would hold your back if it meant handcuffs and jail time, bruises and battered limbs. It didn't matter, he didn't care. That was nothing compared to his honor. The song "Till I Collapse" pretty much describes that maximum my brother would put in toward a goal.
All roads to a successful adulthood were in our sights as freshmen. All we had to do was walk. Walking can be a lot when your feet are being pulled every day, toe by toe, closer to the ground. Before you reach your growth spurt, skies are shooting blue bullets at Black feet just for being on the street. So yes, we could walk, until our feet gave out.
The journey on becoming a fully realized Black man in America can be a taunting, chaotic, disturbing process. Gang pressure is real, drug pressure is real, tragedy and suicidal feelings from a growing adolescent is also real. Just thank God we had each other to at least talk about it. Who we have around us as people, no matter what ethnicity, from childhood to adulthood, is the community of our lives. Brotherhood supports you to stand up and stand out; Sisterhood as well, but nothing can replace the true essence of what a brother means to another brother.
Just by turning on the television or radio, walking outside, or looking at advertisements, we're subjected and pressured to watch and imitate the stereotypical Black man in media. Within that pressure grows a certain kind of animosity toward ourselves and everyone else around us that seems to be against us. Not everyone has grown up with that mindset or the hardship that builds those feelings, but it's common among Black children.
You can have a great childhood, have family and friends, be a respected and dignified human being, and that'll mean nothing to the adult world. What does matter is your skin color, hair texture, name, the way you speak, and many things you are given to by birth, like everyone else. Why change yourself to be accepted? Why not feel good about yourself? Brotherhood is the rock. I can go to any one of my brothers, blood and spirit, with any issue, and they'll give me a real response while still supporting me and looking out for my best interest. If you do not have people in your corner, your circle, that can do that for you, you, my friend, need new friends.
(Eyon, our friend Jordayna and myself circa 2012)
Brothers without blood build bonds through trust. My brother Eyon had my life in his hands as I had his life in my words. See, I could talk my way into and out of anything, while if caught in a sticky situation, Eyon's reaction would physically get us out, or in more trouble. Imagine two brothers, one dark, one light, one long haired, one short, both Black, somewhat tall, slim/slender, with the world both in their grasps, and also farther away every day. Being a Black man in America is working a job even while we're sleeping. Eyon was there with me through the tough times in our adolescence. Understanding the world was ahead of us uncensored, unkind, and ruthless, it was clear that the young men we were at the time was only a prelude. So from 13 years old, we'd do our calisthenics, play sports, build up the hood networking connections, went to the West Indian Day Parade, etc. I was like the popular kids, without knowing I was one of them. I went about my high school career differently. No one was too strange or weird to be my friend. You never know who you may need to talk to, or who may help you.
Eyon was Jamaican to the bone; I have some Jamaican ancestors, so he took it upon himself to teach me about our shared culture. From learning how to dance, watching music videos, ideals of being a dancehall King among Queens, herbs, the food, the way to walk and talk, the way they dress in yard and even how to get women, it all became second nature to me because of him. I understood and took on the lifestyle and adapted to West Indian culture. To this day, it's a part of me, and I have a large admiration for my Caribbean brothers and sisters. Bless up and Praise be to Jah foreva.
We all deserve the right to be accepted or at least have someone to have in our corner. I learned that from my friends. I learned acceptance. Just like my late best friend, there's more to me than meets the eye. Black men aren't told about expressing all sides of their habits and life, and if they do, they're ridiculed. What about the Black boy who likes the listen to Slipknot, Breaking Benjamin, and Paramore? The young God who wants to watch anime and still says Ball is life? What if he/she wears black paint on their fingernails, are you going to judge them? Everyone needs someone, no one was born by themselves. So I dedicate this to the ones that have people to hold them down like paperweight, that won't give up on you no matter what, to the day one homies, the best friends for life, the brothers, sisters. Hold onto each other, we all we got.