Mr. Rob Williams.

Below is my family.

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As you can see, my mother couldn’t be more proud ha. She has the family that she has always dreamed of; one that is contrary to many social norms.  Aka she not only has a black son-in-law but also an unexpected (depending on who you ask) extra daughter-in-law. haha

I say that, because, since I was a child I have  been ‘forced’ or maybe better said ‘allowed’ to see what fighting for people’s equality really looks like. Yes, I will be the first to admit that most of the time, my mother, had to literally drag me out of our house to the numerous demonstration marches. However, now I realize how important those moments were. Just how important it was for me to see past my own incompetence as a ‘cool’ teenager and see some of the truths that many of us are not exposed to.

At that age, I never could have imagined, how powerful it would be for me to look back 18 years and say that I was apart of fighting for 5 young black men that were discriminated against in a local high school. Or why today, it would be so important to say I was a part of something that was bigger than myself.

That all lives matter.

My brother-in-law, my 2 beautiful nieces and nephew that are mixed, my wife, and so many more are the reasons are why this entry, why these powerful words, are important, and  why I hope you feel the same way after you finish reading this.

I hope that after this, you might be able to understand the truth about how we do not choose where we come from, who we come from, and what we are born into. Meaning that what we are passed on from our parents, whether that be to love everyone or to hate anyone that is different from us, we simply aren’t given that choice.

However, by CHOICE, we are all ALLOWED to find out what we believe in for ourselves.

So without further adieu, I am proud for you to see and meet my brother from another mother: Mr. Robert Williams and Rob, for what it’s worth, I hope you can also see just how proud I am to say that.

What you need to know:

I met Rob almost 10 years ago today.  I can still remember the moment when I walked up to him after one of my college soccer games. You see, at that time, all I really knew about Rob was that he was a Professional Indoor Arena football player and held the nick name ‘Black Super Man.’  Which actually still stands today in the weight room of the the University of UMass.

However what I have learned about Rob, over the years, has been humbling. Humbling in a way where I have seen a man not only be an incredible father, husband, but also a man of extraordinary work ethic and perseverance.

One that has allowed me to believe in hard work and faith through his own actions.

To him… its simple….YOU MUST EARN YOU RIGHT.

Rob grew up on the South side of Chicago, where most of his family still resides today. Now, to some of you that means nothing, but to those of you that live in Chicago or watch any News program, I wonder what your reaction just was?!

Head drop?

Head shaking?

A long sigh?!

You see, as of now, the south side of Chicago is in great turmoil. Not only the south side, but Chicago overall has their highest rates of shooting homicides in the country. I mean we are talking about a city population of 2.3 million people having more shootings than New York (8,5 million) and LA (3.4 million) combined.

(Below is the locations of shootings for 2016 – the clear circle in the lake – directly parallel to Broadview -is where downtown Chicago lies )

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Today there has already been, in 2016, more shootings than all of 2015. With over 2,588 shooting incidents, more than 3,173 people have been injured, and 543 confirmed dead. That is more than 50 percent higher than this time last year. (*Chicago Police Department Data)

I hope that helps you paint a picture.

A picture of where my brother-in-law spent most of his childhood. A childhood, where he will admit that he had more than most, but was still faced with the reality of having to navigate through the difficult times the the south side of Chicago has always been known for. Where his father always made sure that he had his pants up high and his hat on straight so he wouldn’t cause any attention to himself. Where he was taught, that even though he was allowed 4 people in his car, he knew that he should never pack the car because of the perception it could give a police officer. Or how, even today, he knows he will have to teach his son, my nephew, to make sure he is confident, his head tall, shoulders high, but not to be arrogant so people of authority don’t take it the wrong way. To teach him that he must always play two sides of the line.

Are you taken back?! Do you understand?!

Before this interview, I can honestly say,  I did not understand.

I mean I felt like I had grown up with the some of the same ‘disadvantages’ as Rob. Meaning I saw or experienced poverty. I had been involved with violence and discriminated against. I grew up fighting. Fighting to have what others were given and what I felt, in a way, owed.  I was almost upset with how he could not understand that. How could he tell me that  I don’t ‘understand’ when I grew up on food stamps (at points in time) and knew all too well about fighting for your right?!

But this is what I failed to comprehend until we had this hard, but much needed conversation, and all I needed to do was simply ask, “how can you help me understand?!”

Rob’s answer, changed my whole perspective …

“I joke with my wife that your family could be a perfect south side family, minus  

             the whole colour thing. I don’t doubt  you are non sympathetic with it, what you have   

             experienced. The biggest thing, or biggest difference, or even your family    

             wouldn’t get, is just the way we were taught the “way we were thing”. The way 

             we were conditioned to think. 

             You might have been raised to question things, even be tuned in, but there is no 

             questioning, there is no beating around the rules for me, from where I come  

             from. Because if I do question, I feel that could be singled out of as an African  

             American. The rules are there for us to follow, rather right or wrong. We don’t 

             get the opportunity to ask those questions of why. 

             The research actually shows that there are more white Americans in   

             poverty than black Americans, but that doesn’t change how we are looked upon 

             differently.

             This set of rules – a reality – is something we (the public) don’t really talk 

            about. 

             That goes back to when my parents who were born in ’61. Things weren’t great then 

             but things were becoming less segregated. The way that they raised me was all that I knew. 

             My father never wanted me to take a chance that I would mouth of to the wrong person.

             They really raised me with a “don’t talk back, don’t mouth up” to people of authority. He

            raised me in a way that would allow me to understand the way the world really works. Do

            what I am told and don’t argue.  To conform was a way that they thought we would be the

            safest. 

           The main thing – we just had to do things slightly different. Make sure I do them 

           the right way and staying off the radar, even if I am doing it the right way.

            I will never use being African-American as a crutch, it’s just the truth with having 

           to grow up with a different ‘set of rules.’

           And lastly, unless something changes, it presents a very scary time to raise 

           children because there use to be a time where you felt as if  you kept your head 

           down, got an education, moved to the suburbs – did things the right way – that 

          would keep me safe, us safe. 

          But now, with all the attention that’s going on, who knows how an officer will 

          approach me – whether right or wrong – it is scary time bc you just don’t know 

          what people are thinking. Everyone is on edge. I don’t think a police officer needs 

         to be afraid to walk up to the car but now, you never know what they are thinking 

          or in their mind, what they are thinking. It could get better, but we have to 

          navigate now. It’s not easy. “

        You see what his words made me see, for the first time, is that every morning when I get in my car, I never think ‘what if.’ It has never crossed my mind, that one day, when I am driving my kids to school that an officer will look at me and pull me over just because of my skin colour or even because I am driving with my wife. Or that when I was 16 years old and driving all my friends around that I had anything to be cautious about because why would I?! I was following the rules, right?!

Our world, our world is one where we have not yet broken free from the hatred of the ones before us. You see no one is born racist, no one is born with a love for Jesus, or for Buddha, or for maybe no God at all. We are all taught. We are all taught and molded from the ones that brought us into this world. Meaning, we all have the power to change this! To finally being able to say, “no I do not understand what it’s like to walk in your shoes but I can start to try. Allow me to see and do everything I can to help.”

So how do we start the change, how do we start to understand?!

“We have to talk about it. We start to ask the hard questions and then humbly 

           accept the answers. We don’t try to change them, we have an open dialogue     

          about it and no matter how many conversations about it, unless you walk a mile in 

           someone else’s shoes – its hard to sympathize what they are going through. But    

          the bottom line is, if you haven’t walked in their shoes, you can understand it but          

          you are not me.” – Rob Williams.

      So, yes I know that I am not an African American, but I am still a minority.

I am a minority in the right that I have a wife and that I face discrimination almost everyday. Some of you may never understand that or even care to try but why?!

Why do we continue to allow our past to dictate our present?! How can we say we are changing when the truth of the matter is we still believe what our fore fathers taught us.

I mean, its like saying we all accept the flip phone instead of the iPhone 7.

You might laugh, but it is true.

We allow ourselves to be ruled by our history instead of the courage, mistakes, losses, and gains to who we have all become today.

And so, I leave you with this, from THE Maya Angelou

“I have had so many rainbows in my clouds. I have had a lot of clouds but I have had so                         many rainbows in my clouds and one of the things that i do when i stand on that stage, when i stand up to translate, when i go to teach my classes, when i go to direct a movie, i bring everyone who has ever been kind to me with me. Black, White, Asian, Spanish speaking, Native American, gay, straight, and everybody. I say come with me, Im going on the stage. Come with me I need you now. Long did, you see. So I don’t ever feel I have no help. I’ve had rainbows in the clouds and the thing to do it seems to me is to prepare yourself so that you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call god the same name you call god if they call god at all. You see I may not eat the same dishes prepared the way you do. I may not dance your dances or speak your language but be a blessing to somebody. Thats what i think.”

What would the world be like if we all thought this way?!

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