Growing up, I had this war going on inside of me. When I was a little kid, I was aware of the surroundings I lived in and the injustice that people who looked like me suffered. I was extremely shy and quiet at the time but always wanted to fight for justice and to make a difference in the world. The war within me was that I wanted to act, but my shyness crippled me, and I couldn’t talk to my peers about it because I’d get ridiculed for it. Many saw my introversion as a weakness, almost a handicap. As a Black male, if I didn’t talk…something had to have been seriously wrong with me. It scared people.

I felt that as a kid, I had no true power, but I wanted to tell the truth to as many people as I could. I saw solitude as a blessing and turned to books and hip-hop so I could connect to other people who struggled as I struggled. Rappers like Tupac, Nas, Scarface, Common, and DMX illustrated what it meant to live as a young Black male who had to survive the oppression from the systemic racism and the violence in his own neighborhoods. As I got older, this sense of fighting for those without a voice became stronger. I was put into situations where I had to speak, though it tortured my soul. My ideal self started to win against my actual self. When the rapper KRS One told me at a lecture that conquering my fear would lead to my destiny, it changed my whole life.

Now, my life’s work as an activist, writer, mentor, leader, and servant is to fight for the right cause and to prove that one doesn’t have to be the “life of the party” to do so. What I saw as a weakness became my greatest strength. I listened and observed everyone, and through that, I became the very person I had envisioned many years ago.