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My Journey: The Album

Well, folks, it’s here.  After all these years I have finally completed my first Hip Hope CD.  How did I get here?  Three years ago while sitting in marriage counseling, my wife and I were challenged to ask each other if we were living our dream.

Wifey: Absolutely.  You allow me to stay home and homeschool our daughter.  I get to instill our values and spiritual Christian faith in her upbringing.  Absolutely.  What about you?

Me:  I don’t have dreams.  They died.  All I care about is taking care of you and our daughter.

Wifey:  That’s sad, do whatever you have to do to fix it!  I got you!

I tried everything, Primerica (which I still believe in), focusing on school, photography, and spent money on things (besides bills) that I thought would complete that missing link but it wasn’t until I stepped into the studio with my man Double G in 2016 that a fire was lit.  I’ve put my heart, soul, bank account and savings into this project entitled, My Journey, named after my beloved daughter.

All I can say is that I believe in this project and its work.  I’m under the banner of Christian rap and I’m sure some flack will come with that.  It’s either too Jesusy or not Jesusy enough.  I have shared my life.  I have shared my heart.  I have shared my Lord in the only way that really and truly moves me, and that’s Hip Hop/Hip Hope.  It releases on iTunes for pre-order now, and fully available on most digital outlets, including Spotify, on 9/24/2018, a preview is available now with a song entitled “Back To…”.  CD Release & Conversation Party (discussing the album).  I guarantee this album with touch souls and hearts.  Help me go double platinum :-). Seriously, I hope it blesses you and asking for your support Chicago, America, the World.  Enjoy The Endurer’s contribution to Hip Hop, to cultural, to Christianity, and to the forgotten who have yet dared to DREAM!

If you’re in Chicago and would like to come to the listening party you can view the event and how to get tickets on the Facebook Event page by clicking The Endurer Listening Party.

Pre-order: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/my-journey/1434222248

For those that have the hard copy please let a comment below.

Moments with Desiree: Mid-year check-in

If there isn’t a friend in your life to challenge your progress and/or stagnation then you should question what friendship means to you and redefine your allegiances.  If there is no one to confront you on your fears, call you on your BS, and help you to align and center your life goals and desires, again, you should question what friendship means to you.  I’ve learned a lot from Desiree in the 31 years I’ve known her.  She continues to champion, cheer, support, and call me on my BS.  I thought I’d be a little candid and respond to her mid-year check-in questions.  After all, accountability is everything!

Moments with Des!

  • What did you say you were going to accomplish at the beginning of the year?
    • Weight loss ~ incomplete
    • Finish Hip Hope(hop) Album ~ Complete
  •  What do you want to complete over the next 6 months?
    • 15 lbs lighter
    • Publish a book of poetry, quotes, and writings
    • Build a full spoken word curriculum to launch in Fall of 2019
  • What did you do that worked? Why did it work?
    • Finished album.  I sacrificed time, effort, money, and didn’t settle for anything less than excellence.
  • What did you do that didn’t work? Why didn’t it work?
    • Depended on the support of others.  The support is always there.  However, I didn’t provide a clear vision on the details of the type of support I needed, what I needed, why I needed it, and most importantly, I didn’t follow through on the ask.
  • Where did you have the most impact?
    • I believe my home.  Taking less time on the job and spending more time with them has been incredible.  In the past 9 months, we’ve had two planned family vacations.  For me, that was huge and it resonates in my relationship with my wife and my daughter.
  • What did you give up on too easily? What did you learn from that?
    • Focusing on school.  Quitters regress and don’t progress.  I’m on the progression path.  This last leg before the race is complete has been met with stagnation and thoughts of, “is it even worth it.”
  • Have you been apologizing for taking up space? How? Why?
    • Hmm, may have to sit on this one for a while.
  • What steps do you need to take to have more joy in your life during the rest of the year?
    • Be optimistic, think optimistic, live optimistically, and laugh a heckawholelot!
  • What is one positive change you want to actualize with your work before January 2019?
    • Center in on self-esteem/confidence and believe that I am a living possibility every day.  Being a man of faith vs. living as a man of faith is a distinction I can no longer afford to separate.  Knowing I am great, I am winning, I am blessed, I am strong, and that I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me.  Actualizing that faith into tangible fruit through music, spoken word, and the arts is how I plan to attain this actualization.

Well, there’s my mid-year wrap up folks; I hope yours is going well.  Thank you, Desiree, for always inspiring.

Desiree Adaway is the President and CEO of  The Adaway Group.  She conducts professional and personal development seminars throughout the United States. She’s also a business strategist assisting corporations with aligning their organizational goals.  Information on how to contact The Adaway Group can be found here.

 

God’s Gift: A Spoken Word Journey with Double G

While his name is Michael, he’s known on the Chicago poetry scene as Double G (G2 for God’s Gift).  He’s been blazing open mics for well over 20 years in Chicago.  Southside, north side, west side, east side, it doesn’t matter.  He is a legend of poetic expression and authorship.  On Saturday, July 21, he will release his upcoming debut album His & Hers, a blend of Hip-Hop and poetic creativity that will bless the mic and the people who will be in the building. I sat down with one of the Kings of Poetry, Double G, as I plan to do with many Chicago artist in the next year, to talk about his journey and what it means for him.

  • How long have you been doing poetry?
    • I started writing when I was 12. I have been performing for going on 20 years. I don’t remember the exact date but the first venue I ever performed at was Giovanni’s on 147th.
  • What has been your experience on the poetry scene in Chicago?
    • I have met some phenomenal artists on my journey! In a culture that is ever evolving, Chicago poetry is the one thing that has remained consistent. Over the years I’ve seen many new faces but all have left an unforgettable impression. Chicago poetry is one big family. Sure there are distant cousins, and sibling rivalry is commonplace. But at the end of the day, our legacy and the culture we’ve established are undeniable.
  • Who is your greatest Spoken Word influence?
    • First and foremost I am just a vessel. This gift is exactly what God allowed it to be. As much as speaking is implied in my gift it is also the ability to absorb, digest, process, and elaborate on all that I experience. When I started performing my writing style changed drastically. The structure became so much more complex. I pulled inspiration from everywhere. I wanted the stage presence of Frank Pete, I wanted to be able to paint a picture with wordplay like Just Lillie. Soulful like M’reld, gritty like Red Storm, I wanted to have Yadhna’s courage! Like Moe Mentum wanted to teach people exactly just how valuable they really are! They all showed me what this art could be. But it was Lemon (from NYC) that showed me the importance of being true to yourself and the impact it has on your work. After that, being a lyricist, I became obsessed with being as dope of a lyricist as I could possibly become. I drew influence from hip-hop artists like Mos Def, Pharaoh Monch, Talib Kweli, but through the years it was Common and Lupe Fiasco that helped my polish the craft. They taught me how to mix the art of storytelling with the lyricism and how to make complexity and cadence coexist.
  • So, your album is dropping in this week. What’s the title and where can people find it?
    • The album officially drops officially on July 21st. The Title is called His & Hers.  Put simply, you can find it everywhere! I initially pressed up 200 copies of a physical album. So much production and the efforts of all involved made my dream of putting a physical product in someone’s hand a reality. The wonderful folks at Team At Ease encouraged me to get digital distribution for the album. It is available on 20+ outlets, either sales or streaming sites. The most common of the two is either CD Baby, iTunes, GooglPlayay, and Amazon for purchase. Your best streaming alternative is most likely either Spotify, Tidal, iHeart Radio, and Pandora.
  • What is your vision for this project and what’s next for Double G?
    • I wanted His & Hers to embody what I picture the perfect relationship to be. It is a marriage in which husband and wife place God above all else, even each other, while simultaneously serving each other. (His) ~ The pieces which I glorify my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (Hers) ~ is the journey I have taken to meet my future wife in addition to love letters to her!
    • Getting in the booth at Studio 11 lit a fire in me bruh! Coming very soon I have two projects slated to be released in the next year and a half Lord willing. The first album will be called Jeremiah. It is inspired by Jeremiah 1: 1-10. The second project will be called Goliath: A giants submission. I will be working on both albums simultaneously. I also have a play called “A Day In The Life” I have yet to bring out. I am also currently writing another called the “Ninety9”. I am also going to work my first book in there somewhere.
  • Do you think there will be a true poetic collaboration CD in Chicago?
    • I honestly believe that the era of poetic collaboration has been ushered in with the release of His & Hers. Tracks like Ambassador and #Freedom are just the beginning. Hopefully, under the umbrella of The Movement, we will begin to see that change. I think that the right causes have brought us together. It is a tragedy that loss of life due to gang violence and police brutality and corruption are the spark to our creativity but is an opportunity to take ourselves and our ego’s out of the equation. The poetic collaboration will happen in the City of Chicago. It will spark a call to arms for the rest of the nation. We are called to the Kingdom for a time such as this!

It was great chopping it up with Double G.  His & Hers CD release is a ticket-only event that will take place July 21, 2018, at Xquisite Premier, located 5939 W. Madison, Chicago, IL 60644.

Longevity in the Workplace

I was sharing with a colleague the amount of turnover my team has experienced in a 13 month period. Of course, I internalized these things because no one desires to see their team members disappearing.  I explained the training and knowledge transfer is costly, and honestly draining.  She gave me a lashing on taking it personally and directed me to take a step back and view this situation from a leadership perspective.

  1. What are the opportunities for growth on your team?
  2. Have you received any feedback on your leadership style?
  3. What development strategies are in place for them to learn?
  4. Have you done a market survey to compare roles and responsibilities an aligned their salaries accordingly?
  5. Do you find joy in the work you are doing and the team you are leading?

After running down these points and questions, I made a statement, and she responded, “That explains it all.”  At age 46 years old, I shared with her that I’ve only had four jobs in my life.  She was floored.  She paused…for a long time, and said, “How fortunate you are to have that type of longevity.”  She’s right, I’ve always been a loyalist.  Maybe blindly but I love people, but a love of people doesn’t keep people on your team. Ironically, money doesn’t either.  In meeting with a senior executive recruiter and retention specialist, she came in to overview the entire layout of my team structure.  We whiteboarded for a full hour on different concepts and ideas.  She was floored by my ingrained knowledge and intentionality.  “Tony, this (company name withheld) is the perfect training ground, but your expectation in an IT support role is unrealistic. You have two years max for people in a support role.  Anyone that extends beyond that is primarily due to three reasons.”

  1. They have a life issue, and it’s convenient for them to stay
  2. They have room for growth and will take advantage of what they are learning
  3. They haven’t put in the work and have no transferable skills, and they are merely stuck
  4. They like what they do

Learning this gave perspective; employment attrition is cyclical.  Everyone isn’t fortunate enough, desires to, or is designed to remain at specific jobs for long and if you’re dealing with millennials, they are thirsty for knowledge, and they often move at the speed of light through various employers until they find what’s right for them.  I guess I pose all this to clear my thoughts, get your thoughts, and gather your experience as leaders, as millennials, as employment seekers.  What makes you stay?

“I’ve always been an opportunist over money.  Money grants access, opportunity grants expansion.” ~ ALB

Kells the Artist: An Epic Journey

Kells the Artist is beyond Spoken Word.  He’s a wordsmith and a Hip-Hop artist who is destined to make waves in Chicago.  I first saw this young man at Dr. Finney’s church on the South Side of Chicago and learned then he’s a member of the group Team At Ease.  Since then, he has remained a part of that spoken word group and has started his own team called EPIC. I sat down to chop it up with him about life and his upcoming project.

How long have you been writing?

  • I’ve been writing since I was about 7. I started taking it seriously when I found out I was actually kinda good at putting sentences together.

What was it like growing up for you in Chicago?

  • It was difficult at first because I grew up in the projects of the Southside
  • I spent a majority of my life as a follower. Doing what appeared to be cool. Chicago has a certain swag I felt I had to keep up with until I started thinking for myself.

Do you have a mentor?  If so, who is it and why?

  • Yes, I do have a mentor. My mentor is Jesus.  I say Jesus, because he’s the perfect example of the person I intend to be like.

What does EPIC stand for and what are your goals for the organization? 

  • Epic stands for Effectively Producing Immaculate Creativity. My goal is to cause people to believe in their own dreams enough that they actually to accomplish them.

Kells the Artist

You have a CD coming out this April 13,  what’s the title?

  • It’s called CloudTalk.

What is the motivation for the CD and what can people expect?

  • Today’s rap music is what motivated me to do it. I will not let real hip hop die, lol. People can expect a refreshing uplifting experience from start to finish, with motivating lyrics and great affirmations.

How do you stay motivated?

  • stay motivated by knowing that no matter what I can ALWAYS do better. I know where I came from and I’ll be damned if I go back!

What is something people have assumed about you that may be inaccurate?

  • Two things:  First, that I’m arrogant. I have a certain level of confidence that can be mistaken for arrogance.  Secondly, that I’m not shy! Since I’m a performer nobody believes I can be shy, lol.

After this CD, what’s next for you?

  • Book number two.  I will finally sit down and finish working on my second book.
  • Where can people find you in the social media world?
    • Facebook, Epic Fan PageSnapchat, G- Mail, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter all @Kellstheartist.

Join Kells The Artist Friday at 2239 South Michigan for his CD Release and Birthday Party at 7PM.

EPIC Poetry

The Land of Opportunity

There was a song that I vaguely remember from my childhood and School House Rock Days.  It is titled, The Great American Melting Pot.

This song, though missing a colorful representation of African Americans and Native Americans, was the premise of which American culture was shaped and formed in some sense. There were no immigration papers, and it was an open policy for all who could merely arrive here by boat. I used to unnerve my brother when I would awake every morning and sing the National Anthem (let’s leave out the historical context of the reason this song was written; I desire to stay in my euphoric state for this blog). On Friday, a colleague shared that he had officially become an American citizen. Considering the demographic I serve, as a technologist and corporate motivator, I asked his permission to share his photo and his story. So…enjoy my colleague Armando in our Q & A.

ME: Armando, on March 29, you became an American Citizen, this is a fantastic journey. How long have you been in the US? Where are you from originally?

A: I have been in the US for almost 25 years. I’m originally from Mexico City.

ME: When and why did you come to America?

A: I came in September 1993 as a child. My father died in 1990, and my mother did not have any formal education. During this time the government started privatizing many factories because of NAFTA’s new regulations. My mother lost her job in the same year, and she had no other option but to immigrate to the US.

ME: What opportunities do you have in the US that were not available in Mexico?

A: One of the opportunities I did not have in Mexico was an education. After losing her job, my mother was not able to keep paying for both my brother’s and my education.

ME: Not looking for a right or wrong viewpoint, but what do you see as major cultural differences in the US vs. your home of origin?

A: I want to say a major change was the language. For me, it took me a few years to start communicating and adapting to American culture. Other than language, I noticed that in the United States, Americans spend more time in their profession, so much so that in some cases, work is first and second is family. Children are often raised more independently and are encouraged to be independent of their family.

ME: Do you think you will take your skills to your country origin in the future?

A. I don’t see my future back in Mexico. I have my family here, and I don’t see my wife and kids moving to Mexico.

ME: Some people frown on immigrants who are not “legalized” citizens. With Congress being inactive or slow on DACA, what do you recommend for DACA recipients who are here of many ethnicities and countries, and they’re striving for US citizenship?

A: To all DACA recipients, I want to share my personal story. After graduating from high school, I did not have many options to continue my education since I was undocumented. My only options were work in a factory like the rest of my family or go back to Mexico and try to continue my education, but neither of these two options was an alternative for me.

I wanted to go to college and pursue a higher education. I decided to attend my community college, and while attending college, I worked in a restaurant to be able to pay for my education and help my family. After four years I earned two Associate’s Degrees: one in Computer Science and the second in Arts. It was not an easy accomplishment. In 2010 I was able to fix my immigration status and started working in my field.

ME: You are graduating from college with your degree in Information Technology and have become a US Citizen in the same year, what does this mean for you and your family?

A: After fixing my immigration status I was able to go back to finish my BA. During this long journey with many sacrifices, I never lost faith in my dreams. With the support of my wife and my community, in fall of 2018, I will be finishing my BA in Computer Network Security.

This year also gave me the chance to accomplish another dream–becoming a US Citizen finally. This means so much to me. Now I want to keep helping my community and many other dreamers.

______________________________________________________________

I want to thank Armando for allowing me to share his truly inspiriational story. It is one of many and we hope and pray, there are more to come.

Armando is a technologist for a major educational institution in Chicago, IL.

 

 

Frozen

It feels like months

Where have I traveled?

A place of mystery and uncertainty

I can’t believe I am here

In this place, at this moment

Thinking, relishing, questioning

My purpose, my call, my existence

Surrounded but alone

Clinging to hope yet untethered

Trapped in the crevices of thought

I’ve traveled here before

It’s uncomfortable, that face, the reflection

Its shadow reaching out to hug me

Whispers of I love you, you have a purpose

You exist for a reason

I don’t embrace it

I turn off the light

Tears run down the mirror

I’ve been here before, it hasn’t been days

It’s been hours

In front of an empty table

Food cold, coffee bland, water lukewarm

Depression says hello

 

End of the Year 2017…Time Flies

Well folks, it has been a year.  So many downs and so many more ups.  Yet, I thought I’d end the year on some greatness and what I have done so far.

    • I set out to lose 25 pounds; I lost 10.2.  That’s major yal! I lost half a size in my neck.  18.5 to 18.
    • Completed six songs on my album and looking forward to working with one of Tupac’s producers in 2018.
    • Spit an ill flow on my man Double G.’s album for the song “Ambassador”.
    • Conducted some of the greatest young adult conversations on Christian living at my church.
    • Another year with my CHAMPS mentees and POET family.
    • I was promoted to Director of Information Technology in May of this year.  Major career move.  Growing and still searching for a mentor.  Until then, The Lord is guiding as He see fits.  Not sure what’s next for me but hanging tough.
    • Had a very successful year at NIU.  The journey towards my bachelors degree continues.
    • Fell completely in love with https://beautybeyondbones.com/ blog.  She really is my drive for consistency and creativity as a blogger.  Keep me moving beautiful and thanks for sharing your heart and experiences.
    • I dropped my first single, Soul Restoration, and video with the fabulous Restore. A whopping 48 copies sold, yet, I don’t despise small beginnings.
    • I completed a pretty dope class on Fatherhood and it’s challenged me to be a more intentional parent, father, and husband.
    • I will be writing for rapremnant.com in 2018.

No resolutions for 2018.  I am learning to live, love, and laugh at 47 years of age.  I’m putting fear in front of me as a stepping stool to faith and trust in Yeshua. I’m realizing the Creator has no boundaries.  I’m fighting against depression with lots of Joy, Love, and Prayer and of course counseling because I’m unashamed.  I can’t hope the best for 2018, I have to be the best for my family, my church, my job, my ministry work, my community work, and the young people and young adults I mentor.  I look forward to this year. I look forward to the journey. I look forward to sharing it with you all.

Blessings and Happy New Year.

Yours truly,

Tony Briscoe

 

Online Success for Adult Learners

I was asked by my cousin (we actually met on Facebook) to give her keys to success as she continues her collegiate career in an online environment.  I was excited she decided to continue on to a Gradate program after completing her Bachelors’ within the same year.  She’s starting an online journey so I thought I’d share “best practices” that have lead to my success as an online student.

90 percent of my Associates’ Degree is from online classes.  Here are a few thoughts/practices I use as templates for success.  As working professionals, it’s very important for us to use judgement and wisdom when engaging in online classes.

  • Finding the right class.
    • Ensure your class is not a hybrid where there is a split portion between online and onsite requirement
    • Ensure the class(es) you take line up with your particular goals and degree.
    • Utilize your academic advisor.  I would have saved about 12 credit hours early on if I had done this.
    • Find out your professor in advance and do research on their teaching style.  I wouldn’t put a lot of stock into professor rating sites.   However, the particular link has not led me astray.
    • Find out what book you need but wait for a final word from your professor, which is why I recommend finding out your instructor and emailing them in advance.
      • Use Amazon to rent books.  Way more cost effective!
    • Download your syllabus and print it out immediately.
      • Cross off your assignment as they happen
      • Ensure you put all your deadlines on your calendar immediately and setup reminders
      • Syllabus’ can shift often so ensure you keep a tight look on your professors announcements
    • Balance your family, your job, and your education
      • Be intentional in your communication. Even though you are online and not in a classroom, your home is your classroom.
    • If you’re utilizing Blackboard at your Learning Management System (LMS), download the Mobile Learn App.
    • Subscribe to all discussions.  Email can be a bit cumbersome when people are updating but I find it valuable so I know when to respond to post
    • If your class has exams, ensure you find out if there is a webcam requirement.  If so, you’ll have to pay for the software monitoring system at your own cost, typically $54 – $75
    • Take what you can handle.  Adult Learning is a life journey not a quickie.  If you are working and have a family I don’t recommend taking more than 2 classes.  Ensure you adjust to the demands of your family, your job, and other responsibilities you may have.

You will either be your own best friend or own your worst enemy with online classes.  You have to be disciplined.  You are the professor, the teacher, the student, and the leader of your own success.  I’ve had great success and I am only stressed when I don’t follow 100% of the playbook I listed above.

These are a few tips I shared with my cousin.  Feel free to comment and add more.

The Journey to Godly Fathering

I am not a perfect dad.  If the cameras where rolling in my house last week, even while in a class led by a good friend on godly fathering, you may have even questioned my day to day life.  It was one of those moments when a father reacts in emotion and not under the guise of the Holy Spirit.  Yet, a few hours later I apologized to my wonderful, beautiful, and intelligent daughter.  12 year-olds know how to push buttons.
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Our final class was a couple of days later. “So brothers, how did it go last week?”  To which I confessed, “I blew it but I grew it”.  That translates to, I blew what I learned the previous week but grew in what I learned the previous week also.  One of the things we discussed on being Godly Father’s was owning our mistakes with our children.

Our theme scripture comes from Ephesians 6:4, which translates in The Message Bible, “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them.  Take them by the hand an lea them in the way of the Master”. In conjunction with the previous text, Proverbs 22:6 (train up a child) and I Timothy 3:4-5 where key scriptures in our development and training process.  The three goals of the class are as follows:

  1. Educate men on the distinction between a “good father” and a “godly father”
  2. Provide practical principles that define godly character and development
  3. Create an apparatus where men can commit to being a godly father
    1. Culminate this apparatus with a Commitment Letter to our families addressed to the wife and children of each represented household.

My cousin Arlene raised her two children along with my brother and me.  Years before she passed on to Glory we had a heart to heart and with tears in her eyes said, “I messed up with you all, especially you, and I’m sorry”.  (Had to pause after crying a little myself while typing this).  Ownership is so key on journey of becoming great parents.  So, we’ve begun an intentional journey together as fathers.  6 men with 15 children between us have vowed to share our trials, our successes, our failures, and our financial planning for their future, with several other strategic commitments with a focus on seven developmental areas.

7 Practical Principles: A Guide to Train and Point my Child in the Direction of the Lord

by Elder Marlon Medious

  • Imparting principles of life:  Forgiveness, apologizing, mercy, truth, and the living the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5)
  • Teaching godly habits
  • Protecting against moral dangers through appropriate discipline
  • Instilling daily prayer
  • Leading Bible Study at least once a month in the home
  • Engaging in interactive church participation
  • Explaining how decisions are made regarding their lives and choices

Proverbs 20:7 (AMP) reads, The righteous man who walks in integrity and lives life in accord with his [godly] beliefs–How blessed [happy and spiritually secure] are his children after him [who have his example to follow].”

As I close out this blog, I will share what we have in place now and will end with an image of the Commitment Letter to my wife and daughter.  If you would like a template to draft your own please email me.

We are not looking at this as consecutive weeks because we realize that life and family aligns with life and family situations.  However, we will be intentional in our sharing, our cause, our purpose, and our growth.

A major thanks to my brother Marlon Medious for pulling us together for this phenomenal training.  He is a true friend, confidant, and brother in the Gospel.

Blessings.

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