Love Is

Essay published in “Souls of My Brothers” by Timothy Jones, 2003

I consider myself a good fair person. I did my best not to initiate ill feelings towards people, but I never wanted to be taken advantage of either. I would do my best not to carry hate in my heart because that would end up hurting me more than the person I held the hate for. I also had to realize that in some instances I wasn’t a very forgiving person. This was my sentiment towards my father. My father had been very inconsistent in my life and after a painful reunion with him and my brothers in 1991 I vowed that the next time I saw him he wouldn’t know I was there because he would be dead and I would be paying my respects. My mother just told to make sure that I was not harboring any hate towards him in my heart because that would be bad for my spirit. With this is mind I became numb to my father and lived as if he did not exist. I had other men in my life that were positive and embraced me as a son so I figured I was better off without him anyway.

Now let’s fast forward a few years to November 8, 1995. It is my dad’s birthday and I’m in my room writing poetry listening to “Stairway to Heaven” by the OJay’s. I began to think about my dad and the fact that it was his birthday and I couldn’t call him even if for some strange reason I wanted to because I didn’t have his number. For some odd reason in thinking about my dad on this day it brought on various emotions that hit me hard in an instant. I felt as the shell around my heart was being peeled back and I was seeing the vibrant pain that had been covered still was there. I began to think about the moments in my life that happened without my dad and I began to cry. I tried to stop the tears but that was useless. With the song playing in the background I rose from my table where I had been writing and began to talk out loud to God and my Dad because at this moment I was upset at both of them. I was upset at my Dad for doing this to me and God for doing this to me. Here’s how the conversation went:

I don’t understand why I feel this way. I can’t believe I’m crying thinking about someone who is not thinking about me. Dad why am I missing you? You don’t deserve to be missed, no not for a second do you deserve to be missed by me! You probably didn’t even think about me on my birthday and I’m sitting crying because I can’t wish you happy birthday on yours. Lord what is wrong with me? Why am caring for someone who has done me so wrong? I feel like a punk because I am playing myself by getting emotional about a man who I haven’t seen or heard from in years. What would he think if he could see my tears? WHAT WOULD HE THINK IF HE COULD SEE MY TEARS! Me crying for my father is like watering the ground without first planting a seed and expecting something to grow. There is no seed of love in my heart for my father so all I’m creating is mud. I am a man who has made it this far without him so lord please take this pain away so I can continue on without him. My heart says that I miss him, I want him, but that is crazy because he has done nothing for me so why in the world would I still want him. He doesn’t want me because he is living his life fine. It was me who came to see him in 1991 and got the cold shoulder so why lord, why are you doing this to me? Take away this pain from me and let this moment pass. LORD SET ME FREE FROM THE THOUGHTS OF MY FATHER and please let my love to flow to those that deserve it and who will give it back!

I stop speaking and focused on the song which was the part which says “step by step.” The song is talking about taking steps towards heaven and being with God.

In my silence God spoke to me:

Do you understand that you are asking me to take away love? You want me to take away the same type of love that I have for you and my people. For all of my people have fallen short of deserving my love and I give love them that is everlasting. When did you decide that you had a choice in deciding who and how you should love? Do you think that my love for you is merit based; my favor perhaps, but my love never! I stand with my hands stretched out to a people that I died for and yet I feel the winds of time across my palm because they refuse to hold on to me and if they came to me in this moment I would love them as if they never left me. How else will a people see my love unless they see it in those that they can see that profess my name? You loving your father is worshiping and bringing honor to my name. So do this in honor of me and I too shall honor you! Until you love your father and stretch out your hand to him neither one of you will ever be free. The walk of the righteous is not steps taken when earned they are steps taken in love and service. For one day when you have a child what example will you be if you can not love the one that you call father.

I felt that I was doing well no thanks to my father being around. I also felt that since I was grown he couldn’t hurt me anymore. My Mother has always been a rock in my life so I convinced myself that I really had no ill effects from the dysfunctional relationship that I had with my Dad. I was never more wrong about anything in my life. I never knew what a healthy relationship between a man and woman was because my dad wasn’t there to show me. I was blessed to have four older brothers but I had to pick pieces and come up with a definition of manhood from watching them grow up because my dad wasn’t there. I dealt with the pressure of having to prove manhood through the acquisition of women because my dad believed that I would be gay because I was so close to my mother. The worst part of this is that I never was able to talk to anyone while I was going through my late teens and twenties about this because I didn’t know what I know now about myself. If everyone tells you that you are o.k. after a while you believe it to the point where you hide your pain because no one gives you room to acknowledge it.

There I was a shamble of myself but still believing that I was the man because through all my up and downs I still had women around. Women were my security blanket and my self-esteem. Women filled voids that I believed didn’t exist and the voids were there part in parcel because of my lack of a relationship with my dad. My lowest point which lead to my emancipation came when my security blanket was taken away from me and I had to see myself by myself and I didn’t like what I saw. I was living as my father without even realizing it. I was carrying his unmarked baggage and actually put my clothes in it and labeled the baggage as my own.

With no where to turn and feeling like the prodigal son I went to my true father, Jesus Christ. I repented and pleaded for a plan for my life and the wisdom to be able to know that it was Jesus speaking and not myself fooling myself. I was at that point where I let go because I had nothing to hold on to and let Jesus become the center of my life. That is when love 101 began and I have been studying the course ever since. I no longer practice accounting I am a Director of a Teen Program for a community based organization in Washington, DC called Martha’s Table. The Lord took me from the high office downtown to the fields in the neighborhood to tend to his harvest. I have been doing his work now for almost seven years and he has lifted me to heights I didn’t see possible in my former life. Jesus is a love that can not be measured because it is as infinite as his power. When I think it can’t get any better it does; when I think that I am worthy, I repent because I am not or will ever be. This lesson has given me the strength to begin to love.

When I look at my life now all I can see if love. I see love in the struggle to show my teens God’s love through everything that I do. I see love when I get to enter into the Lord’s house to fellowship and to worship and give praise with my family. When I look at my family I see Jesus because as he pulled me out and dusted me off and began to teach me love he blessed with a family to grow with. My wife is someone whom I went to high school with and was in the same homeroom for four years and was more of a sister because here maiden name was Jones. When I went to my ten year reunion in hopes of continuing my quest for women, the Lord put Vanessa in my tracks and my life has never been the same. At the time I met Vanessa again at our ten year reunion she had a five year old daughter name Jasmine. We met August 23, 1996 and were married August 22, 1998.

The message the Lord spoke to me on that day while I was crying out to him about my father was brought to fruition on July 8, 1999. My birthday is July 8th and on this birthday morning my wife gave birth to my son, Isaiah Jeremiah Ezra Jones. After all that I had done to fall so short but yet God’s love and mercy was upon me and better yet his favor was upon me and my wife by blessing us with a son. I cried many times since the birth of Isaiah because when he was born my prayer was that he would bring my family back together. As a teenager without my father I always prayed for a son so that I could have the father-son relationship that I never had. I promised to love my son the way he was supposed to be loved. The problem was that without Jesus in my life I wasn’t ready to love myself let alone my son. But in God’s timing everything works to bring glory and honor to him.

I now proclaim my manhood as being defined by my walk for Jesus. Jesus is everything and he is my measurement and the word of God is my instruction book. I know what love is now and I am reunited with my Father. I have forgiven him because Jesus has forgiven me. I love my father because Jesus loves me. I now speak to my father and attempt to be a comfort for him because Jesus has comforted me.

Through the love of Jesus I can see that my father was a victim of his own circumstance and he had his own baggage that he hadn’t healed from. My dad is sixty-one years old and is raising his fifteen year old son. Jesus has given him the opportunity to get it right with his son the way Jesus has given me the same opportunity with mine. My dad calls me some time and because I work with teenagers, he will ask me for advice. I talk to him about my family and I know that he is happy to finally have a grandson. There’s no greater testimony than love, there’s no greater gift because that is what Jesus is. LOVE!

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:12

Timothy D. Jones

This piece is dedicated to Jesus my father and Isaiah my son!

Copyright 2002 beatoflife

Love, Lessons, Learning and Leadership

I look back fondly on my upbringing in the housing projects of East New York, Brooklyn. My environment then, along with hip-hop, included me in its blended family. The family values that I learned early on from hip-hop taught me unconditional love and helped me to be a father in my own blended family today.

I grew up in a family of five boys and I am the youngest. My father was in the house until I was about ten or eleven. During adolescence I was blessed to be fathered by men who guided me with wisdom and purpose throughout my life. Men such as Jeremiah Jones (who headed the youth center in my projects) and the brothers who, despite their life choices, knew right from wrong and steered me away from the mistakes that they made.

I also came to know the blessings of family life through the positive influence of hip-hop. The music and the culture served as a bond that formed many relationships. This new phenomenon called hip-hop served as the rationale to put differences and personal agendas to the side in an effort to be a part of something that was bigger than the individual. Hip-hop encouraged individuals to form the positive family bonds that previously were presented to inner city youth in the form of gangs. In fact, the most renowned MCs where parts of groups or crews: LL Cool J was partnered with DJs Bob Cat and Cut Creator; Rakim with Eric B; KRS-One with Scott LaRock and Boogie Down Productions; Queen Latifah with the Flavor Unit; Chuck D with Public Enemy; Scarface with the Geto Boys; Ice Cube with NWA; and Big Daddy Kane with Mr. Cee and the Juice Crew, just to name a few. Whether they intended to or not, all of these groups promoted the value of (and need for) strong family ties.

I carried this perspective throughout my college years and it helped me form a family bond with a group of friends who I consider brothers to this day. We created our own standards of manhood and look out for each other constantly: we attend each other’s weddings, celebrate the birth of our children, and so on. In college, I was blessed to have another strong connection with a man who guided me into adulthood. He continues to be a strong father figure in my life today. Dr. Barron H. Harvey was the man who fathered me while, in my head, I was having conversations with my biological dad that now remind me of one of lyrics by Lupe fiasco: “I want you to be a father / I’m your little boy and you don’t even bother / like “brother” without the R.” my relationship with my dad had eventually became non-existent to the point where I would wonder: “You see what my problem is? That I don’t know where my poppa is.” Those were the thoughts in my head that laid heavy on my heart as I transitioned into adulthood, despite the father figures in my life.

As a young adult, with my personal and professional lives ahead of me, I met Mr. Mahmood “Billo” Harper. Mahmood invited me into his world and I saw in him a futuristic interpretation of myself as a “Hip-Hop Dad.” Mahmood showed me how to incorporate my love of hip-hop into my business and family life.

Within hip-hop culture, the crews evolved similar to how relationships develop in personal life. Rappers went from coming together to do shows and songs to coming together to establish businesses. This shift is exemplified in the emergence of Wu-Tang Clan in 1994. Wu-Tang redefined how to do business within hip-hop. The family structure of “the posse” was a new model. Hip-hop evolved from having crews on the street corner to having clans in the corner office . . . similar to how relationships can evolve from boyfriend/girlfriend status to a husband and wife union. As hip-hop continued to develop in this way, so did I. In 1998, I put aside my boyhood ways and got married. I became a husband and a father in the same moment because my wife, Vanessa, had a seven-year-old daughter.

Raising my daughter Jasmine (I never use the term “step”) called forth all the positive images and lessons that were presented to me by hip-hop and by the wise men in my life— both my elders and my peers. I was now initiated into a new sort of hip-hop crew. Within my new family, some of hip-hop’s basic values and practices applied: nothing should break down the unit, posses roll deep, and your word is your bond. And if someone in the crew presents an “outsider” (i.e., me, in this case) as being “down,” then the so-called outsider must receive the same love and support as every other member of the family . . . regardless of tenure. I joined Vanessa and Jasmine’s crew by making my wedding vows to both of them. I knew that the success of my marriage would be based on my ability to keep my promises to my wife and my new daughter. Without these rules to live by, I don’t think that I would have been psychologically or emotionally equipped to be a father to Jasmine.

By 1999, I was a happily married man in my thirties. I was still a hip-hop head and I began to notice a growing frustration within the hip-hop community—mostly centered on the issue of fatherhood. More and more, rappers began to address the pain caused by fathers’ dysfunctional relationships with their children. Though I had forgiven my father for his not being around, I could still relate to this pain. It motivated me to do my best for my daughter and for the young people that I worked with as director of the teen program at Martha’s Table (Martha’s Table is a prominent non-profit community-based organization in Washington, D.C.). Many of the teens in my program don’t have fathers or father figures in their lives. Through my work, I felt I was answering Quan’s hip-hop plea: “Can we please have a moment for children who got raped or murdered, or trapped in the system who never knew their father, never learned to dream but was guided by drug dealers, killers and crack fiends.” I have established long lasting bonds with most of the teens in my program over the past twelve years and I saw, once again, the value of the blended family.

Still and all, I longed to have a son. I believed a son would help heal any remaining wounds that were created by my biological father. In 1999, god answered my prayers and my son Isaiah Jeremiah Ezra Jones was born on my thirty-first birthday. He was named in honor of all the father figures who filled in the gaps for me and my wife. Since that day and moving forward, Isaiah will always know what life is like with his dad. His life challenges will not be based on the hard circumstances that come with growing up in a single parent home. Instead, he will benefit from my having broken a cycle of bitterness and my having learned how to love past pain. The father and the man that I become; and the man that I will raise my son to be, are deeply rooted in my belief, trust, confidence, and reliance on Jesus Christ for all things. As I continued to mature into manhood, I found comfort and joy in serving Jesus Christ in spirit and in truth, in my rewarding work, and in a faithful marriage. All these things helped me to be secure in my identity and purpose in life.

When teens ask why I am the way that I am and why I care as much as I do, I love that I get the chance to tell them that I love them because Jesus first loved me and that He gave me so many fathers to model after. I believe I must be a father for them too. I am also proud to tell them that hip-hop culture, contrary to popular belief, has been a guidepost for me to follow with regard to building a family unit—be that family in the household, in the projects, on the block, or at the local community center. The role that hip-hop has played in my life is based on an insight that was god-given. Hip-hop influences my ministry from the pulpit as a minister and I have been afforded a spiritual father who leads me as my Pastor, Bishop Larry H. Jordan, Sr. I am able to reflect on hip-hop culture in a way that many see as contradictory to how hip-hop has been defined by society. I know better. In the words of Inspector Deck I say, “Leave it up to me while I be living proof to kick the truth to the young black youth.” my life with hip-hop, family, mentors, and friends has consisted of the love, lessons, learning, and leadership necessary to mold me into what I am and all the things I will become.

By Optimus