Just Keeping It Real

Love Is The Answer 

We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world against spiritual wickedness in high places. I memorized that scripture many years ago just before I walked into the first prison I preached in. It was a reminder that I was not fighting against the inmates but against those entities that controlled the inmates. For some reason, today as I did my morning walk/prayer it all came back to me. My heart was very low as my eyes can now see what is coming ahead. Recent events are only a trickle of the events about to happen in our lives.

Love appears to be dieing a very slow death. But it is not dead. Even while those who claim to have all the answers become more and more pumped up. Their hate speech permeates the airwaves, the internet and in private conversation. Their lust for hatreds blood has them steam rolling towards their perceived just cause while the emotional bodies of their victims lie helpless on the road of ideological destruction. Lies, distortions, bigotry, hate and political castration are the tools they use to humiliate, indoctrinate and proselytize their tarnished view of the world. Where there is no love, there is only hate. They have succumbed to the love of hate. They are drunk on the power of hate!

Just as I once walked the halls of prisons all over California bringing the good news about love. They now walk the cyber halls of face book, twitter, myspace and many thousands of other places spewing their hateful messages with venomous delight. They even use God’s church as a crutch to uphold and confirm that their hate speech is the truth of the Almighty God. But the love of God is not in them. Only the love of the hatred they have embraced as being the only truth is in them.

So, I have decided to stand up against them with love as my only defense. Love is the truth that cannot be shattered by the lies of hate. Many who fight on both sides have allowed themselves to become pawns and accomplices of the destruction of love. I will not become one of them. I will not retaliate with hate speech of my own. I will not become so blinded by the battle against them that I become one of them. I have seen it happen to so many of my friends. They march in the army of hate while they where a fake breastplate of righteousness. Two sides marching forward towards the battle while being controlled by the same principalities in high places. They no longer know love. They only know the thrill of battle and the lust for ideological blood.

Love is all powerful. Love is forgiving. Love is peaceful, considerate, kind, respectful, accommodating and willing to negotiate mutual concerns with civility, clarity and an eye towards unified acceptance of the results. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. I have no fight against you. But I will fight against your hatred with love. I don’t fear you. I have walked through the gates of hell many times and have been blessed to see the captives set free. I have walked amongst some of the most dangerous people on earth and have seen the power of love slaying them and making them whole again. You don’t scare me. Love cannot be defeated. So there it is. You know who you are just as those who live with love in their hearts know who they are. Despite all the lies you have been told, I am not your enemy. I Love YOU!

Morality VS Artistry 

Recently I was flabbergasted when someone sent me a nasty note about a song I wrote and produced called “Double Bubble Booty Bay”. I was told that I should be ashamed of myself for writing music like that. She was very upset because she had always loved the way I put important messages of hope, faith and inspiration in most of the music I create. But, she wanted to know how I could possibly stoop so low as to write a song like that.

Well, it took me a long time to answer her because I wanted to ponder the question even further. After all, it is true that I am a retired minister (prison chaplain) and have written many songs of inspiration and faith in my day. But, I have also always been a rebel. You know? The guy that wrote gospel music that sounded more like R&B/Pop/Hip-Hop. Or, the guy who refused to pastor a church because he didn’t want to be involved in organized religion. I was the one who refused to be a part of the collection plate brigade. So, it stands to reason that my music would always be, uh, well, different!

Also, I never liked being put into a box or category. I always liked many different styles of music and that shows in my catalog of over 900 songs. Back in the day I toured with all kinds of bands including Jazz, Reggae, Funk, Rock, Metal, Gospel, Acapella, Pop and even one short stint with a Country band. I have written music in 12 genres and have won awards in 9. So, the rebel in me is in full effect when it comes to my music. I write what I feel and I feel what I write. At the time that I wrote Bubble I was feeling a bit humorous as I had been to a club with some friends and saw these girls dancing that had amazing ass cheeks. I mean they were bouncing independently and moving in ways that I never thought possible. Even my wife said she had never seen anything like it. So, the songwriter in me came out and I wrote about the Double bubble booty girls I had seen at the club. Although the subject matter is a bit crass, I didn’t think it would cause anybody to be upset about it. I mean, these talented girls are in all kinds of dance videos.

So, I wonder what your thoughts may be on this matter. Do you think a songwriter or artist should be bound by some moral code or creed? What about being a role model for children? I just don’t believe that artists, celebrities, athletes etc. should be role models for children. I believe that parents should be role models for their children. What about being held to a genre code? Do you think it is wrong for artists like me to write and produce in a variety of genres? Should we be held to one style? Does being musically explorative make me impure as an artist?

I just wonder if anyone else has written any songs that got people upset? If so, how did you handle it? I must admit that after reading this woman’s words I felt ashamed for a few minutes. Then, I remembered that I am the rebel and have always been different. I don’t wear my morality on my shirt or in my music. I live my morality in my daily life by the way I treat people. As a songwriter I must be free! Free to express myself musically. Sometimes that means that I may write something that will have absolutely no moral or socially redeeming value. Sometimes its humor and other times its just meant to be good old fashioned entertainment. In my mind its just a song. I feel that ass cheeks that can move like that should be written about. I mean, it is an athletic achievement that most women will never be able to accomplish! Kind of Unique? Okay, I’m just fun’n with ya on that one. But on the real tip……………

What do you think? Should I take “Double Bubble Booty Baby” down from all of my websites ?



The New Forum For Hatred: INTERNET COMMENTS 

I grew up in the civil rights era of the 60’s & 70’s. I witnessed one of the most powerful movements of non-violent protest and reform ever recorded in the USA and possibly even the world. I saw the emergence of a new breed of freedom fighters who fought hatred with non-violent civil disobedience. As the era of live television news coverage began I saw all the images of MLK and thousands of others who willingly allowed themselves to be beaten, bitten by dogs and jailed in order to make the point that the racist Jim Crow policies of segregation, discrimination and overt racial hatred could not be tolerated by a so called “free” nation any longer.

The effects of the uprising of both Black and White people against the latent remnants of slavery were powerful and long reaching. Because of the sacrifices of these great people who embraced the moral cause of equality for all Americans, I saw many changes take place. The in your face “Racist dogma” was no longer tolerable by the mainstream and the ugliness of racism was exposed for what it truly is. I saw many changes taking place as African Americans began to gain an electoral voice. Suddenly, the inequities of the past became fashionably “just” causes for White politicians and celebrities. It was a long battle and struggle that still continues even to this day. Even now that we have a bi-racial president (notice I didn’t say Black) we still have a constant stream of racist rhetoric being cast upon the masses through radio, TV and the newest medium: the internet. There have been many celebrity and political careers that have been destroyed by having their inert racist beliefs exposed to the public. Many comedians, actors, columnists, sports figures and other public entities have been caught making racist statements and have been punished by being ostracized by their professions and the public.

The result of this has caused the minions of hatred to retreat to more anonymous modes of hate speech. The single most frequent form of racist jargon has become the internet. In particular, racists have found a wealth of opportunity for hate speech through the comment sections on internet articles. This cowardly approach has become widespread due to the expansive nature of the internet as well as the ability to assign ones self an anonymous identity. They then scour the internet looking for any article about people of color and they leave their nasty racist comments for the world to see. I call these folks present day “bathroom stall ranters”. You know? The folks who use to write stuff on the bathroom stalls like “If Black is beautiful I just shi##ed a masterpiece”. They did their business and left their crap in the crapper knowing that some unsuspecting Black person would be forced to read it for a few brief moments. Now, these cowards have found a forum that guarantees they will get the exposure they crave for hatred. They look for any article about any Black, Hispanic, Asian or Arabic person and they write their little racist comments in the comment section. You can find this stuff on almost any web outlet including Yahoo, MSN, AOL and even on BET. A favorite place for racist banter has become sports web outlets. If there is an article about a Black athlete you are sure to find some racist comments beneath the article.

What bothers me most about these comments is the fact that most of these web outlets have clearly written rules about inappropriate posts. Yet, very few of them actually police and delete the racist crap. They will go on record as being non compliant to racist or religious bigotry but they actually have a “do nothing” policy when it comes to their comment pages. It is startling to see how many people of hate there are out there. They are the cyberspace KKK whose sheets are actually an anonymous I. D. If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself. Go to any article on the internet about a person of color and you will find them there writing and spreading what they consider to be witty negative comments that are laced with overt racism. No one and nothing is sacred or shielded from these rants. They spread out right lies about public figures and do it knowing that their anonymous identity shields them from facing any adverse penalties for the despicable things they write. These cyber cowards have found a place to vent without having any repercussions.

So who are these people and why are there so many of them? I suspect that they are the racially frustrated folks in every community in America. They are the under mass that has always felt the things that they write but have been scared off by public civility and the possibility of getting their asses kicked if they said their beliefs to a Black mans face. They are the people you see every day in our stores, parks, churches, legislature, social service centers and practically any where you go. In some cases they are the your next door neighbors. They smile at you but are secrety calling you the “N” word under their breath. They are racist cyber bully’s who get immense pleasure by insulting any one who looks or believes anything different from how they look or believe. The internet “sheets” are covering their actions and their identities. The internet has become the new forum for hatred.

So, what can be done about it? Well, all anyone can do that may be effective in stopping them is to complain to the host site about it. Sometimes they will delete these racist rants and ban them from posting on their site. By adding their individual I.S.P.s to the ban they can prevent them from creating a new I.D. and starting all over again. The one thing we should not do is respond to them with a counter post. They love that! It gives them more ammunition and targets to literally attack. Reporting them and ignoring their rants will take away the power they have to incite and intimidate. We must force the web outlets to diligently police themselves. If they fail to do that then we must boycott the articles they write. When they see that their articles are no longer receiving the attention (hits) they have previously received, they will begin to enforce the written policies they have in place.

Unfortunately, there is not much we can do about the hatred that exists within the hearts of some people. Racial hatred has been around for many, many generations. It seems that it is human nature for people to look down on other folks just because they look or believe something different. It’s called ignorance. I believe that the only way we will ever be able to get rid of racial hatred is to breed it out over the course of many generations. When the entire world becomes mixed, there will be no one left to hate because we will all be the same. Of course I could be wrong, I have been before. But that’s how I see it.

Your comments are welcome here, but be aware that I screen them all. Shouldn’t everyone?

The Stroke! How I Overcame It 

The Stroke:
You know every day we make conscious choices and decisions about our lives. Some prove to be wise and others turn out horribly. Well, in the summer of 2002 I was laid off from a management job in the Silicon Valley (California Bay Area) and after being unable to find another management job due to the economic slump, I decided to take a low paying high physical labor job at the Oakland Airport. I worked for an airline freight carrier as a grave yard shift freight handler. Now, I had never been a stranger to hard work because I had started at the bottom rung of the work force and over the course of 30 years had worked my way up the ladder and eventually became a manager of 4 departments and about 75 people. It hadn’t occurred to me that being in management had made me soft nor did I consider the fact that I was now 30 years older. I figured I could do this job for a while until I found another management position. There I was, lifting 80 pound packages all night long with a bunch 18 year old “first jobbers“.

Every morning I would come home and just collapse from the exhaustive work. On the morning of November 22, 2003 I came home from work and noticed that I felt exceptionally tired. I thought, oh well a few hours of sleep will revive me. So, after eating the breakfast my wife had made for me I laid down in the bed to go to sleep. Suddenly, I began to hear a very loud noise in my left ear. I thought, what the hell is that? Why is it only in one ear. I began to worry as it got louder and louder until it became unbearable. I told my wife that something was wrong with me. It sounded like I was in a factory where there were big machines making lots of noise. Then, I started getting shortness of breath. Immediately I got out of bed and sat down in a chair. That’s when I noticed that there was something wrong with my left leg. At first it was jumping around like it had a mind of it’s own and then I noticed that I could no longer feel anything there. Then my left arm became numb and I had no feeling in it either.

My wife dialed 911 as the noise in my left ear spread to my right ear. I couldn’t breathe and I had a terrible headache. I began to wonder if I was dieing. So, I started to pray. I said Lord, if this is it, if this is my time to come home, please stay with me. You promised you would be with me always and I am counting on you to take me to the other side. To be there for me and comfort me all the way. During my prayer I felt a sense of calm taking over.

As I came out of my prayer I realized that there were paramedics in my bedroom and they were telling me that I was having a stroke but not to worry because they were going to help me. Before long I was on a gurney and in the ambulance on my way to the hospital. Once there the doctors confirmed that I had had a stroke but I was stable. They transferred me over to the Veterans hospital where I have guaranteed coverage due to my being a war vet.

Recovery:
I woke up and began to look around my hospital room and I noticed that I had a room mate. I reached down to feel my left leg to see if I had regained feeling in it. I was relieved when I realized that I could feel myself touching my leg. I also noticed that I could move it. Plus, I had movement and feeling in my left arm. I was encouraged by that. But, I could feel my heart fluttering. It felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. That scared the shit out of me. I had to urinate so I raised up and pressed the nurse button. When she came she asked me if I wanted to try to get up and go. I said yes and then she helped me to get to my feet and she put my IV hook up on a roller. But my left leg began to give in at first. Still, I struggled with it and stood on it as best I could. Under my breath I said “Thank You Jesus” and dragged my left leg along as I made my way to the bathroom.

Later after I had slept for several hours I got up again , grabbed my IV roller and dragged my left leg out of the room and into the hallway. I saw a sign that said “Stroke Ward” and I realized that everyone there had suffered a stroke. I saw patients who could not speak and many who were totally paralyzed. Some had faces that had been contorted and others seemed to be oblivious to their surroundings as if their brains had totally shut down. I knew that I had been blessed because I was already able to walk. I knew who I was and the face in the mirror looked normal. I took a few more steps and with each step I said “Thank You Jesus” I walked all over the hospital mumbling those words everywhere I went.

I stayed in the hospital for almost two weeks. Every night I would get up and drag my left leg down the hallway as I chanted “Thank You Jesus” with every step I took. I was saying thank you because I could walk and I believed that God had blessed me with an opportunity to recover and overcome the effects of the stroke. I knew that some of the nurses were convinced that I was crazy and depressed because I walked the hallways for hours murmuring “Thank You Jesus” all the time. They even put in a request for a psych consult for me. But they didn’t know that I had already decided that I was going to start my recovery right away. I refused to allow myself to be bed ridden. I knew that if I wanted to regain the full use of my body I would have to work at it. So, there we were. Me and Jesus. With each step and thank you to Jesus I got stronger and more determined.

Back Home:
By the time I was allowed to go home I was walking with a slight limp. I had lots of left side pain but the doctors told me that I should consider that a good thing. It meant that the left side of my body was alive and had feeling which meant that there was no major paralysis left over from the stroke. They said that I would never be able to work again and that my physical abilities would never be what they were before the stroke, but that I was lucky to be alive. They said that the immediate medical attention I had received had minimized the effects of the stroke on my body. They warned me that my life style would have to change and that I should avoid stress of all types from now on.

So I laid around the house for a few days and then decided to try get up and walk. I walked down to the end of the block and with each step I said “Thank You Jesus”. The next day I walked two blocks and then the third day three blocks. Within six months I was walking 3 miles a day and today I walk 4 ½ miles every morning in less than 50 minutes. Yeah that’s right! I go really, really fast now and I don’t even have a limp. Even today with each step of my left leg I say “Thank You Jesus”.

Of course I have many lingering effects of the stroke including weakness on the left side of my body, chronic (daily) headaches, left side pain, low stamina, a permanent hum in my left ear, impaired vision, severely impaired memory and an assortment of miscellaneous ailments. But I am alive, walking and still able to write and play my music. As a matter of fact, I went back to college and earned credentials in both Recording Engineering and Music Industry Studies. I even graduated with a 4.0 GPA. That’s not too shabby for a stroke ridden old guy like me.

Final Thoughts:
I started out by saying we all make decisions everyday. Some good and some not so good. There is no doubt that my decision to take that job at my advanced age was admirable from a work ethic standpoint but stupid considering my age and physical limitations. I almost worked myself to “death”. Plus, there was the added stress from working a graveyard shift. I now know that there is a reason they call it the “graveyard shift”. However, my decision to get up out of that bed and walk was an excellent one. In that way my strong work ethic served me well. But the best decision I made was to be thankful. So many people die from strokes or never even walk again. I was blessed and I know it. So, everyday at 5:00 in the morning I rise, put on my clothes and can be seen walking down the street in Clayton Ca. very fast. If you get close enough to me to hear, you will hear me saying Thank You Jesus, Thank You Jesus, Thank You Jesus, Thank You Jesus, Thank You Jesus …………….

The Trophy From God 

When I was 3 1/2 years old my father and mother separated and my father took me and my brother from Las Vegas to California. We lived a short while in a town called Modesto and then later he took my brother and I to Los Angeles, dropped us off at a relatives house and said he would be back to get us in a couple of weeks after he had found a job. Unfortunately, he never returned and the relative who became our legal guardian was either insane or demon possessed. I say this because I can’t think of any other reason someone would physically and mentally torture two kids the way she tortured us. We had scars from head to toe from the daily beatings we endured. By age twelve my brother had gone and turned himself into Juvenile hall and refused to ever come back to the house of pain. I stayed as long as I could but after a while I could not take anymore and started running away and living out on the streets. But that’s another story that maybe I’ll share with you later.

We had no idea that our mother was looking for us. I couldn’t even remember what she looked like as I had been so young when we were separated. Back then nobody (including the courts) cared about two missing Black kids. She had no idea where we were as my father ceased all communication with her. Eventually we were reunited with her but that’s also another story I may share later. 8 years after he abandoned us and left us with the lunatic, we got word that he had been living in Portland Oregon and that he had confessed about us to his present wife on his death bed. Shortly afterwards he died. We then boarded a train and went to Portland for his funeral.

When we arrived I was angered to discover that my father had married another lady and had been raising her 7 kids that were not even related to him. I was also shocked to see them all crying and mourning this man that had abandoned me. I was so envious and jealous as they talked about how great a father he had been to them and how much he loved them. I was about 12 years old and my heart was filled with anger and hatred towards my dad for what he had done. I never shed a single tear at the funeral. I just sat there cursing his name which was actually my name as I was the junior. They lived in a beautiful home in a great neighborhood. Nothing like the ghetto South Central L.A. streets I called home. My anger continued to surge until I happened upon a room in the house they called the trophy room. In there I found what must have been hundreds of bowling trophies. They all had my fathers name on them. He had become a local bowling champion. Some of those trophies were bigger than me.

For some strange reason my attitude changed. For years my guardian had been saying that my mother and father were worthless no good people and that I was lower than dirt. She claimed that I was born and then tossed into a trash can. She said that was why my mother and father didn’t want me. I came from trash and would always be trash according to her. That was her reason for why my father had left us with her. He was supposedly so ashamed of us. But there in front of me was proof that my father may have been ashamed of us but he was not a worthless piece of trash. He was a champion! You have to understand that as a child who had always been told he came from trash and would never amount to anything, this was a major revelation. I stuck my chest out and paraded around the house with pride because I was the “Champions Son”. Because of that I was more than dirt! I was somebody for a change.

Before we left for home I asked my fathers widow if I could have one of those trophies. I felt I needed one of those to look at and remind myself that I too could grow up to be a champion at something some day. Unfortunately, her answer was a dry and unremorseful “No”. I cried all the way home to L.A. My brother thought that it had finally hit me that daddy was dead. But no, I was crying because I didn’t have one of those trophies. As a matter of fact we didn’t get anything that belonged to my dad. For many years after that I would cry when I thought about those trophies.

About 22 years later I was sitting at home in my new house that I had just bought. I was so thankful that God had blessed me with so much. By now God had become my sole inspiration I had become a prison chaplain that traveled all over the state to minister to inmates. This particular day the telephone rang and a voice on the other end informed me that she was my sister. I had no idea that she existed but apparently my dad had fathered two kids in Portland with a woman he had not married. I was so excited that I immediately got on a plane and flew out to meet her. It was a very emotional time as it turned out that she was the first person I had ever seen that looked just like me. We had a great time getting to know each other and vowed that we would always stay close. Today she is still one of the closest people in this world to me. As a matter of fact my sister Vecepia went on to become the first and so far only African American to win a million dollars and be crowned “Sole Survivor” on the popular TV show “Survivor“.

Anyway, I got on the return flight and was waiting for the plane to taxi towards a take off. Suddenly, there was an announcement on the PA. It said that there was a slight delay as there was someone that needed to see a passenger before they took off. I sat there in the aisle seat as the door to the plane was re-opened. Then, suddenly I saw a Black lady running towards me with tears in her eyes. She was almost hysterical as she came towards me. She literally fell into my lap in tears as she thrust a bag into my hands. She said she had heard that I was in town and didn’t want me to leave without getting what was in the bag. Then, she kissed me on the cheek and ran back towards the door to the plane and was gone just as fast as she had arrived. I opened the bag and looked inside. There I found two trophies and both of them had my fathers name on them.

So, for the second time in my life, I cried all the way home from Portland. I have never talked to her or seen her again since that day. Yes, it was my fathers widow. You know, a minister friend once told me that God wants to give us the desires of our hearts. He wants to make our dreams come true. He loves us so much that he gave his life for us. In return he expects us to live as his children and to love one and other as brothers and sisters. I believe, that for 22 years that lady was hounded by the spirit of God for not giving me that trophy when I first asked for it. I believe that that spirit hounded her so much that she could not miss her opportunity to right a wrong. She had to relieve her own conscience and make things right with God.

While in ministry, I have given this testimony many times to inmates all over California. I always bring the trophy with me and when I hold it up for all to see, they always stand and applaud what God has done. If you would like to see it, there is a picture of it on my pictures page. That trophy is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received because it confirmed to me that even in my darkest hour when I thought no one cared, God was there listening. God was there smiling knowing that one day my pain would be changed to joy as I held my trophy up for all to see. He knew that the story would touch some of the hardest and most dangerous people in society. I have seen thousands of men, women and children come to the alter to accept God as their personal savior after seeing my trophy. It is more than a bowling trophy now. It is a trophy from God, Jah, Jehovah, Jesus or whatever you may call him. That’s why I call it “The Trophy

The First Time We Tried To Escape 

The First Time We Tried To Escape

There were many times that my brother and I tried to escape from our guardian. But I still remember the first time quite vividly. I remember that I was about 6 and my brother was 10. One thing that we both knew was that I was very allergic to milk. I was so allergic that every time I drank milk it made me sick and I got terrible rashes on my body. I had never been to the doctor about it but there was no doubting my allergy to milk. That allergy became my daily torture as our guardian would always make me drink it anyway. She said I was too skinny and that milk would fatten me up. She didn't want the social worker to think that she wasn't feeding us. So, one morning she poured a tall glass of milk and stood over me with the strap. She said drink that or I am going to whip your ass. So, I drank it. As soon as I drank it my stomach rejected it and I threw up the milk and all the food I had eaten all over the table.

Then, she got angry and started beating me and told me to eat all the vomit. So I tried to scoop it up and eat it but I kept gagging and throwing it back up. Every time I did this she beat me some more and made me eat up the vomit. Finally, she got so mad that she made me strip out of all my clothes and stand in the bath tub while she ran the shower over the fresh bloody sores on my body. Then she took her leather belt and laid it in the water so the leather would draw up and she began to beat me with the belt while the water ran over my body. I know this sounds pretty bad but it was actually a welcome relief from eating the vomit. Then , after about a half an hour of getting beat in the tub with the water running on my bloody sores she took me to the other room, grabbed a rope and tied my hands and legs to the foot of the bed on the brass bed post. She then put a saucer of milk on the floor by the bed and then grabbed my brother and they left. I struggled and struggled to get free from the knot she had tied but it was way too tight . So I sat there with nothing but the saucer of milk for what seemed like hours and hours. It was as if I was an animal or something. As I sat there tied up I began to cry and I kept asking some unseen entity why this was happening to me.

When they returned home she untied me and made me go to bed. She went into the other room and that's when my brother eased up to me and told me that we were going to leave that place. He was crying and he said Toney, tonight I am going to get you out of this place. My big bro. was and still is to this day my hero! So, we waited until she fell asleep. It was about 10:00 PM when we quietly crept out of the house and began to run. I remember my brother kept saying come on Toney (what he always called me because he couldn't say his S's) you can keep up!. Suddenly we were out on a main street called Vermont Ave. It was so cold out there but we hadn't thought to bring coats. All we wanted to do was escape!

As we walked down this huge street in Los Angeles I asked my brother where we were going. He told me that we were going to the social workers office. You see my brother was very smart., He had paid very close attention to where the social services building was located the last time we had been there. So he knew how to get there but I don't think he realized how far it was from our house. It was actually about 15 miles away.

I remember that it was so cold out there and the traffic in the streets was confusing. All I could see was the city lights everywhere. Its amazing that people were driving by two tiny little boys walking the dangerous streets of L.A. and didn't even stop to see why were out there. I guess nobody really cared. Anyway, we walked and walk and walked and walked for hours. I remember my brother holding my hand so tightly and saying "Don't worry Toney, I'll take care of you" as we walked. By the time we finally arrived at the office it was about 5:00 in the morning. We were both totally exhausted. The doors to the place were locked but Glenn kept banging on the door until finally a security guard showed up. He opened the door and looked at us with this puzzled look on his face. He asked us what we were doing out in the streets alone. My brother told him that we had come to see our social worker and told him her name. My brother also told him that we had escaped from our guardian and asked him to call our social worker. He got the social worker on the phone and she gave him the number to our guardian. Its obvious to me now that the social worker didn't care about us. After all, we were just a couple of little Black kids that didn't have parents.

Anyway, about a half an hour later our guardian showed up and put on this big act about how worried she had been. She took our hands and led us out of there as we protested that we didn't want to go. Once we were in the car, the beatings began all over again.

Although we paid a heavy and painful price for what we had done, we also gained some satisfaction in knowing that we had made her get up out of bed late at night and come down there to get us. The social worker never came to find out why we had run away. Like I said, she didn't care. Nobody really cared. The teachers at school all saw the fresh bloody sores on our bodies everyday but they didn't report it. The school nurse once saw all the bloody scars on my Penis and testicles but she didn't do anything either. Nobody cared about us and what we were going through. It was like a nightmare that would never end. However, running away that night gave us hope. We now knew that we could get away. We just didn't know where to get away to.

I often think about that night with a sense of pride. We were just two little kids but we walked 15 miles in the dark on the streets of one of the meanest cities in California. I know that God was watching over us all the way. I also know that God was preparing us for many great things to come in our lives. My brother is now a film director. He also works at a shelter for abused and abandoned children. God is so good isn't he? He takes hardship and turns it to victory. He takes people with the deepest of scars and turns them into people of faith and hope. He made me a man of compassion when I had every reason to turn into a monster like the monster that raised me. God made me, looked at me and said I was good. Now, everyday of my life I strive to bring hope to the hopeless, love to the loveless and peace to those who are at war with themselves.

When my brother was twelve he ran away to juvenile hall. He went there and turned himself in. He refused to ever come back to live in that house. They tried everything to make him come back but he would not. My hero became my inspiration for my many escapes later in life. He always came back to check on me though. Sometimes he would stay a while and then leave again. His freedom was always the one thing that kept me sane. I kept saying some day I'm going to get big and strong enough to run away and never come back. That day did come but I will save that story for another time. In the meantime, if you are so inclined, please buy my CD as the sales of my music keeps me able to continue on my journey and my work for God.

Love You All, Stoneman

The New Beginning 



The New Beginning!

( True Story)

When I was about 22 years old I had become very Christ curious. I remember coming home to Los Angeles from the Nam with a distinct memory of praying to God to make it back home. I remember so many short timers that got down to last few days only to be killed before they made it home. I kept asking myself was I praying just because everybody else was? Or, was I actually beginning to believe in God?

You see, I was raised by a woman who was severely anti-Christian. She took pleasure in ridiculing them and calling them hypocrites. Unfortunately, from all that I had seen in the neighborhood, it seemed that she was right about a lot of them. She never hesitated to tell someone at the door with religious materials to "get the F#$% off her porch. She was a devout Buddhist. She had an alter with a "Gohonzon" in it. Everyday, she forced me to get on my knees and chant "Nam Myo Ho Renge Qyo" to the Gonhonzon. So I did as I was told at first in order to avoid a beat down but later found that the more involved I became with the religion the less I had to deal with her. Plus, they had bands that performed all over the city. I joined the bands and became a youth leader in the religion. As a matter of fact, I was one of the youngest Honchos in the Los Angeles chapter. Yet, know one knew that I was also a leader of one of the most ruthless street gangs in L.A. It was kind of like a double life for me. But that was all the religion I had ever known.

Then, after the Nam I just couldn't believe in it any more. Something had changed inside of me. I felt that there had to be more to life than death and destruction and I was bound and determined to find it. So, I began to take long walks at night. I would start walking and be in a state of semi consciousness. Sometimes I would come to myself and realize that I had walked 20 miles and be too tired to walk all the way back home. While I would walk I would talk to this unknown entity that everyone kept telling me about. I had been all the way around the world and I had seen many things that had made me believe in something, but I wasn't quite sure what. Was it Jesus?

Anyway, I was shacking up with an old girl friend that I really hated. She was just not the one I wanted in life but our relationship was convenient. This one particular night we had had a big argument and I was so angry that I had come close to hurting her. But I backed away and to take a walk until the rage in me dissipated. I knew that feeling so well. I had been in so many battles in war and on the streets. While in the military I had been forced to go to "anger management" classes twice after I had beaten other soldiers up for what the military deemed as mild offenses. But for me, whenever I heard the "N" word, I was like a mad man possessed. I decided no matter what rank or file, the "N" word was the final insult and I would not take it. That got me locked up several times and I did two stays in the brig ( 3 days bread and water only) because of my temper. So, I knew what I was capable of and I knew I had to get out of that house.

So, I went on one of my walks. I was angry, pissed off and I looked up at the sky with total disgust. I began to curse at God. I started to taunt God with foul words of anger! I said he was a fake. He wasn't real! If he was real, then why had I been tortured and abused all my life? Why had the very person that was supposed to love and take care of me treated me like an animal and beat me relentlessly for so many years. Why? Why? Why? Then, I dared God! I said God if you're so &^%^^%%$ real, then get me off these ghetto streets. If you can get me off these ghetto streets I will believe in you. C'mon, I shouted loudly, open up the heavens and show me how real you are. I was tired of being denied jobs, tired of being pulled into conflict by the old crew, tired of living with a woman I hated, I was just plain tired and disgusted!

So, I walked and I cursed God for the life he had given me. I kept wondering why I hadn't died like so many of my homies in the streets or my friends in the Nam. What was he saving me for? I was a nothing, a nobody. I was everything that my tormenting former guardian had told me I would be all my life. She said I was the scum of the earth when I was 4 years old. She said I was Black and evil and would always be Black and evil. According to her my mother and father got rid of me because I was Black and evil. All this came from a light skinned Black woman. She had done a good job of making me believe the lie. She had made believe that I deserved to be beaten day in and day out because I was Black and evil. She had nearly driven me insane. I thought about that as I walked and cursed God.

That night I walked all the way to Hollywood and back. When I got home I crashed out on the couch. About 10 o'clock the next morning I was awaken by the sound of the mail coming through the mail slot and hitting the floor. I jumped to my feet with anticipation for action. I had been doing that for a long time when I came home from the Nam. I picked up the mail and saw one from the department of the defense. I opened it while saying to myself "hell no, I am not coming back". But to my surprise it was a check with a letter. It said that the Navy had searched their records and concluded that they owed me this money. I was like wow! What a trip. Then, the phone rang. It was my mom asking me to come up to the Bay area because there were lots of jobs and opportunities for veterans.

I hadn't known my mom long. We had been reunited about a year before I went over seas. I was so glad to have her back in my life but we had not achieved closeness yet. So after I got off the phone I sat down and began to think. On the one hand I could take the money and buy a pound of weed, break that up into quarters and 8ths and start selling drugs like all my friends were doing. On the other hand I could buy myself a plane ticket and go to the Bay Area. I sat there and I thought about it for quite a while. Then, I remembered my walk the night before. I remembered how I had dared God to change my life's condition. But this couldn't be one of those blessings from God that I heard folks talk about could it? Was God answering my dare? As I sat there thinking about it a warm peaceful feeling came into my heart. It was so foreign to my body that I started laughing. I was actually giddy. I asked out loud. Ok, is that you God? Are you tickling me? Then I began to cry. For the first time I realized that I already knew God was real. I could feel him in the room. He was all around me.

The following day I got on a plane and flew to San Jose. Within two days I had a job. No. it wasn't a good paying job. I was only making $1.65 an hour as a security guard. But I was so happy because it was a job! It was a new beginning for me and my life. In 20 years I went from $1.65 an hour as a security guard to making over $85,000.00 a year as a high tech manager. I also became a prison chaplain and professional musician. God was there for me every step of the way. I became the first person in my family since slavery time to buy a brand new home. I watched them build it from the ground to the roof.

So, to you my friends I must say, be careful how you dare God! He may pour you out a blessing to real to believe. Everyday I get up and I walk 4 miles on the Clayton trails. While I walk I sing songs to Jesus and I thank God. I have heard many people say "The Lord has brought me a mighty long way" I look around at the green hills and countryside of Clayton California. Then I think back to the concrete pavements and flying bullets of L.A. and I say to myself. "The Lord has surely brought me a mighty long way"

If you are a little lost today. If you feel like God doesn't exist in your heart any more, I would like to encourage you to seek the Lord. He is waiting for you. God is every where. Right now where you sit or stand, God is ready to accept your dare. I dare you to dare God. God truly is real. This old fart has seen so many miraculous things since that day I dared God. The most important thing is that I have seen my broken heart healed. My inner pain has turned to inner strength. Now I know the truth. Yes, I am Black. But I am not evil. I am a child of God. That makes me an heir to the holy kingdom. So are you, come home to Jesus right now today.

Say This:

Lord God I come to you today on a dare. I come to you because I am tired. I am ready to give my life to you. I ask forgiveness for my sins. I repent from my sins and ask that you will come into my heart and change me according your own will. I give you all the glory and praises! I worship you Lord. Let this day be the day that you accept my dare to change my life Lord. Thanks you so much for your loving kindness and blessed presence. In The Name Of Jesus, Amen

Love You All, Stoneman

The Day The Music Started 

The Day The Music Started

I can still remember that day over 45 years ago when it all started for me. My brother and I we’re in extreme distress as we tried to figure out a way to keep from getting beat that evening by our legal guardian. It had become a daily nightmare. She would come home from work and demand that we take off all of our clothes. Then, the beatings would begin. Most times she used an extension cord but there were those days that she use belts, sticks and switches from the tree. Now I wouldn’t dare try to say that my brother and I were angels or anything like that. We did things that normal 9 (him) and 5 (me) year old kids did. But most times we got beaten just because it was a part of her daily ritual. The beatings often lasted for what seemed like hours and she made sure that she aimed for our genitals as much as possible. Because of this I often peed blood and had welts all over my private parts.

This particular day my brother and I were desperate to find something to keep us from being beaten again. We had already run away many times but the authorities always found us and brought us back . They didn’t seem to care about the abuse we faced each day. They saw all the scars and just ignored them. So, my brother suggested that we write a song and create a dance routine to go with it. As we worked on the lyrics I began to hear music in my head. At first it was a very faint melody but then it got stronger and stronger and before I knew it I was humming the music I heard to my brother who matched the lyrics to the melody. The name of the song was “How Do You Feel MS. Willie Mae”. We worked out our dance routine and waited for her to come through the door. The song had a “Doo Wop” feel to it. I guess that’s because this was in the early 60’s and that was the current music of the day.

As soon as she got home we excitedly told her we had something to show her. Our strategy was to do our song before she grabbed the strap and started beating us. We immediately began to sing the song and do our dance routine. As we sang I noticed this strange look coming over her face. It was a look I had never seen from her before. She seemed to be really into our song and routine. When it was done she applauded us and gave us both a big hug. Most importantly though, she never went towards the whipping strap and for the first time in months we didn’t get beatings.

From then on I could hear the music in my head. It was like a radio had been turned on in my head and I couldn’t shut it off no matter what I tried. Most times I tried to ignore it but there were those days that I would just sit down and listen to the sounds I could hear in my head. I heard horns, strings, bass, drums and guitars. There was all kinds of music going on in my head. There was Jazz, Rock, Pop and Soul playing constantly on my own personal radio in my head. I was scared to tell people about it because I thought they would think I was crazy or weird. Sometimes I would sit down and write lyrics to the songs I heard and other times I would just find a quiet place like the floor of the clothes closet and just sit there in the dark  for hours listening to the music in my head. It became my refuge from the storm of constant violent and verbal abuse I faced each day. In the background of the music in my head I could faintly hear my guardian saying I was worthless and that nobody loved me including my parents. She used lots of profanity and to her my brother and I were just two worthless N-Words. I am convinced that the music kept me from going insane because I learned how to tune out the negatives of life. Even during beatings I could hear it and would get lost in it as the belts and and straps bloodied my body. The music in my head became my saving grace. It was my shield as after a while I seldom even felt the beatings. I just knew I was getting beat. It would infuriate her when I would just lay there taking it without crying. So, she would force me to beat my brother or my brother to beat me. That was the hardest part for us because we loved each other!  But she would stand over us and demand that we beat each other or face her wrath.  The abuse was constant but the music got louder.

The music was there for me during my troubled youth. As time went on I became the violence I was use to receiving. I joined a street gang in South Central Los Angeles and I was good at being violent. I was a fighter and I loved dishing out beatings to others. It was my way of paying her back! I know that sounds twisted but I was a child and I thought that the violent world I had always known was the only way to live. But the music continued to play in my head and I couldn’t get rid of it no matter what I tried or where I was at. It was there during a tearful reunion with my mother, the music uplifted me as I saw all the lies I had been told all my life evaporate and become consumed by true parental love from my mom. It was playing in my head even on the delta in Viet Nam. As I got older the music got louder and more defined. I gained the musician skills needed to start interpreting these jam sessions in my head. I wrote song , after song, after song. I taught myself how to play instruments and sing. Although I couldn’t (still can’t) read music very well, I could play almost anything I heard. So, naturally, I wrote and played the music in my head.

Currently I have copyrights for over 800 songs of varied genres. I have won many high profile international songwriting contests and have released 5 solo CD’s. But it all started that day when my brother and I were desperately looking for a way to avoid another beating. The music was the first thing in my life that helped to change a negative to a positive. When I was ordained as a minister of the gospel I was assigned to the corrections department where I traveled to 36 prisons, juvenile halls and youth authority camps each year sharing my music and a message of hope. It was not a limelight ministry. My reward was seeing the faces of men, women and children as they accepted a notion that any negative can be changed to a positive. Plus it helped that many of them already knew about me from my former lifestyle. I had become a walking example of negative being changed to positive. As I prepare to release my sixth solo CD I look towards the hills with warm gratitude and thanks. Some would say that the music was simply a part of my destiny. Others would say that I am genetically inclined to be musical. But I say that when I was at my most innocent and desperate moment God intervened. He opened my ears so I could hear something soothing as I was being brutalized, something strengthening as I faced hardships and strife and something effective as I strove to reach out to help save someone else. Jazz, Hip-Hop, Gospel, Soul, Rock, Metal, Reggae, Pop! It’s all playing on my own personal station. Its still inspiring me to write, produce and perform the blessings in my ears.

Stoneman
www.stonemanavenue.com

What Is A True Friend 

What Is A True Friend?

I first started my email newsletter back in 1997 because I had so many friends that would ask me question after question about my music career when I would see them in person. I thought that publishing a newsletter would keep them informed and allow me to talk about other things when I saw them. However, since then, the newsletter has taken on several characteristics I hadn’t planned on. It has become a promotional tool, contact list, inspirational column, music educational guide and many other things.

However, the one thing that remains the same is the fact that I consider all of you my friends. I never liked the word “Fan” because it is a derivative of fanatic. Although I have a few friends that are questionable none of them are fanatics ( at least not about me). They are people that I care about and who care about me.

So, today I ask the question: What is a true friend? I tend to think that a true friend is someone that cares about you in spite of all your faults. They are the people that will call when you are sick to check if you alright. They come out to the important events of your life like birthdays, graduations, weddings and stuff like that. They are people that you can call when you need help. So many people claim to be your friend but you never really know for sure until you have to call on them for something other than just friendship. That’s when you start seeing who your true friends are. But in this sense I am speaking about my musical friends. Those people who heard my music and decided to join my email list.

When I released my first solo CD in 2004 I found out very quickly who my true friends were. They were the ones that bought my Cd’s, came to my release party and bought downloads of my music. They were referring other people to my newsletter and sending folks links to my website. They proved their friendship to me by using that good old word called “Action”. You see, a lot of people want to be your friend until they have to do something. When they are asked to do something they run or they hide from you.

I had one so-called friend that I asked to come help me at my CD release party. I asked him because I knew he had experience at running sound. But he didn’t answer my emails and didn’t even show up to the release party. I was so hurt by that. Why? Because I loved him like one of my best friends. You see, I had stuck my neck out for this friend many times. I got him jobs and helped him in time of need. If anyone was going to help me, I just knew it would be him. But he proved he was not really my friend.

Fortunately, I do have many true friends. They are the people that were there shouting and clapping their hands to my music. They prepared a place and food for the show and filled the club with so much love that I was totally overwhelmed. Yes, some music executive would have looked at the event and said: He has great fans! But to me, they were all my great friends. People I cared about and that cared about me.

As I head full steam towards the release of my next CD I am awed by all the new friends that have joined my newsletter. The list has swelled to proportions I never thought it would. But I can’t help but wonder how many of those that have signed up will prove to be true friends. Friends that will act if I need them. I’m heading into deep waters now. Several major labels will be watching me. I am entering contests that will require votes from my friends if I am to win. Whether I succeed or fail depends on one main thing. How many true friends do I have? How many will buy my CD and downloads? How many will forward my emails to their friends? Will they read this whole newsletter and send me a hearty reply? These are questions that will soon answer themselves.

I have one friend that has never ever let me down. He has been there for me no matter what. A long time ago, he even gave his life for me. I hope he is your friend to because when people let you down, he will be there for you. He is the ultimate example of a true friend. Let me know if you ever want to meet him. I’ll be glad to introduce you to my very best friend.

Be Blessed,

Stoneman 

PS.  Be sure to join my email list.....C'mon be like Nike.  Just do it.........................LOL





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