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UCLA African Men's Collective Confernce
Spring of 2005

Thank You. First and foremost, I want to thank the entire conference planning committee of the UCLA African Men’s collective. Without them, today’s event would not have been possible, so if they could please stand. Lets give them a round of applause.

I also wanted to make you all aware that the African Men’s Collective is not a nationalistic organization. Nationalism is one step short of world peace. We are not here to express hate or place blame on another racial group. Ultimately, hate hurts the hater more than the recipient. We are here to learn how to love ourselves and take responsibility for our actions. Nationalism, like religion, has a history of hate because it fails to realize that EVERY living being is of one; not just those with similar beliefs, origins, customs, or appearance. Today, we have chosen to begin with Black men because in this highly race-sensative society, our race and gender are the most natural bonds we have. Black men are perhaps the most fragmented and under the most distress. Being a Black man is merely one of many points of unity. As we begin to recognize our interconnectedness and significance to life, we will eventually develop the confidence to make cross-cultural bonds (like hyrdrogen, carbon, oxygen, and other chemical compounds) to form a united world community.

One day a man saw a butterfly shuddering on the sidewalk locked in a seemingly hopeless struggle to free itself from its now useless cocoon. Feeling pity, he took a pocket knife, carefully cut away the cocoon and set the butterfly free. To his dismay it lay on the sidewalk, convulsed weakly for a while, and died. A biologist later told him, “That’s the worst thing you could have done! A butterfly needs that struggle to develop the muscles to fly. By robbing him of the struggle, you made him too weak to live.” I repeat, “By robbing him of the struggle, you made him too weak to live.”

The beautiful struggle. What was Talib Kweli trying to communicate by naming his latest album the Beautiful Struggle? To most people it sounds like a contradictory phrase, but there are others who have grasped the true meaning of this statement. If Talib Kweli happens to be too new school for the older men in the room, the beautiful struggle is reminiscent of Maze and Frankie Beverly’s song, Joy and Pain. And the lyrics read:

Love can be bitter love can be sweet
Sometimes devotion and sometimes deceit
The ones that you care for give you so much pain
Oh but it's alright there both one in the same

Tupac Shakur, the face that graces the cover of our flyer, understood the concept when he wrote his book of poetry “The Rose that Grew from the Concrete”. This is the same understanding that Jesus had when he commanded us to love our enemies. In his book, Strength to Love, Martin Luther King writes “we love every man because God loves him…We love the person who does an evil deed, although we hate the deed that he does.” We must discard our romanticized television version of love and come to an understanding that love has the potential to be the most painful thing we will ever endure in life, but it also has the potential to be the most joyous feeling.

You see, in this two-word phrase, beautiful is merely the adjective. Struggle is the noun. Struggle is the constant because change is constant. Our mother’s struggled to bring us in this world, we have struggled to live in this world, and ultimately, many of us will struggle as we leave this world. Therefore, our challenge is not to get rid of struggle. We should not spend our time worrying about something we cannot change. Our challenge is to rethink how we define that struggle for ourselves. We must erase the dichotomy that life is either beautiful or it is a struggle. Life is guaranteed to have its up and downs or pleasure and pain. In his book “Maat, the 11 Laws of God”, Ra Un Nefer Amen writes that “Unhappiness is a life that flows from pleasure to pain, pain to pleasure. Happiness, on the hand, is going through life from pleasure to peace, pleasure to peace. Until one understands the concept of the beautiful struggle, life oscillates like a roller coaster ride instead of a boat sailing on a buoyant ocean of peace that always seems to keep the boat afloat.

Sometime over the last 40 years, the progress of Africans in America became regression. Somewhere along that period, we stopped struggling for positive change and we began struggling because of our own resistance to natural change. Struggle can be seen as a choice or struggle can be seen as uncontrollable condition. We can choose to struggle from a standpoint of weakness or we can choose to struggle from a position of strength. Gandhi once said “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. To forgive is not to forget. The merit lies in loving in spite of the vivid knowledge that the one that must be loved is not a friend.” I choose to accept the fact that struggle strengthens. Therefore, I choose to view life’s daily struggles as opportunities for growth. For those of you who have ever weight trained before, you know that in order to see physical development, you must struggle against gravity and counter resistance. In the same way that we work hard to develop our bodies, we must also struggle to expand and cultivate our minds. Like the butterfly, we must struggle to grow and gain strength so that we can eventually fly and be free.

Most scholars would argue that perhaps the greatest struggle facing African men in America today is our detachment from our original culture. But how can you lose something that is within you? Still today, Africans in America are among the worlds most poetic, most social, most open-minded, most forgiving, most family-oriented, most resilient, most ambitious, most creative, most physically inclined, most spiritually inclined, best dressed, best cooks, best musicians, best dancers, best artists, best physicians, best scientist, best engineers, best teachers, and best philosophers. Though our creativity has been commercialized, that just goes to show that the entire world recognizes our creative spirit. On top of that they imitate us and imitation is the highest form of flattery. If God is the creator and we are all created in his image, then each of is a creator as well. We are all individualized expressions of God, however, in a non-malicious effort to validate our own uniqueness, we divide ourselves.

As African men and people in general, we have been deceived to believe that our skin color is what binds. Moreso than anything, the greatest human adhesive is shared experience. Our experiences unite our spirits and when our spirits unite, we learn to have compassion, respect, and understanding for one another. In attendance today, there are fraternity members who can testify about the bond brought about by their rigorous pledge processes. There are athletes in the audience who have experienced Cinderella seasons together. There are also old friends who get nostalgic about their long days at the playground. One of the most unusual things about shared experiences is that the strongest bond usually occurs after the actual event when two or more people are able to relate to one another in the midst of others who were not involved. Today’s conference is about our shared experience as African men in America that goes deeper than our flesh and should naturally unite us as we seek to participate in a pre-dominantly white society. Today is to remind us of our shared experience and dispel the illusion that we are divided or against one another. This conference is about eliminating all of the erroneous and external divisions outlined in the infamous Willie Lynch Letter that we continue to allow divide us today.

When I look out into the audience, I see Africa before me. I see Algeria in the north, Eritrea in the east, Liberia in the west, and Angola in the south. Though we represent different countries, organizations, generations, social-classes, and professions, ultimately, we are one. Our destinies are intertwined. Mine to yours and yours to mine. Our collective vision is merely the sum of our individual visions. Therefore, it is in our best interest that each individual in this auditorium realize their full potential and place in the world. We each have a responsibility to resurrect ourselves and bear our own cross so that we can be an example to those around us.

In closing, I pray that the God within us all is unified by the unbreakable bond of love and that this day go forth as divinely planned. May good seeds be planted in the soil of your soul. May your ears be receptive to the truth. May we learn to love ourselves through the acquisition of wisdom so that we may in turn love one another. And so it is. Thank you.

1 Responses to Beautiful Struggle Speech

  1. David Says:
  2. i appreciated your prayer
    I will agree with you for God's blessing

     

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My purpose is to help as many people as possible reach their full potential by helping them making a living doing what they love and in the process of doing so achieve my own. I want to do this through writing, speaking, and creating offline and online spaces that facilitate conversations around purpose.

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