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The true measure of a man lies in his heart and in his soul.

"The Soul Of A Man" by Joe Thomas
Joe Thomas, jazz musician, composer, arranger and humanitarian reveals his heart and soul in his story, The Soul of a Man.

"Letters To And From Caged Kings On Lockdown" by Jihad
What up Nephew,
Right now, you’re walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Not many come up out of the Valley, but a real soldier finds a way to rise. And if I don’t know anything else, I know my nephew is a soldier--a no-limit, by any means necessary, non-compromising soldier. I say this because look at all the mess you’ve had to face your whole life by yourself, and just you keep rising. How many headz you left seven plus years ago when you first went down, and how many of those headz were still in the same place as they was when you first left the streets. Marinate on how you came up, how fast you did it. Now I ain’t talking about how you grew, cause everybody know a rose can’t grow out of concrete, but a weed can find a way to rise, and that’s what you were, a weed, but now nephew, you a rose. You rose from the concrete jungle cause the savages of the streets listened to you, not cause you had the best game, the best dope, or was the baddest, but they listened to you because of your character. Young-bloods from Baltimore projects to Haulville revered you, because everyone who knew you, knew that you say what you mean and mean what you say. They respect you. And RESPECT is the most powerful thing you can ever have. You can’t buy that. I know you messed up, and ain’t nothing I can do to stop the pain you feel, but I can show you that you ain’t alone, been there done that, and YOU GOT ME. I thank God as I write this letter that I have you for a nephew.

"No Regrets" by William Fredrick Cooper
"Simultaneously, I ask your forgiveness for this sudden, and I’m certain, unexpected intrusion into your life after quite some time and now turn my focus on the reason for this letter. If you’re wondering why the memory of you resurfaces on occasion, the answer lies in the response to a question recently posed.

When asked to contribute a story to The Soul Of A Man Anthology, I thought of a defining period of my life that forged resiliency, resolve, and character-building fortitude. In spite of all the drama, emotional catastrophes, and tragic events transpiring throughout the world; despite joyful and wondrous events like watching my daughter grow and where my present endeavors reside, my mind kept wandering back to you.

Why, you ask? It’s because your entrance into my world on February 6, 1987 had such a profound impact on me that continues to affect me to the very day. Don’t worry though, I bear no ill feelings, have no regrets, harbor no resentment, nor do I still feel pangs of unrequited love. My friend and first love, you assisted greatly in transforming me into the man I am today, a man I’m very proud to be.

"What Lies In The Souls Of Men?" by Alvin C. Romer
So here I am ready to solve a piece of a puzzle that is missing coherence and clarity to some to shed light on this dark passage - understanding men!

My good friend and editor of the book you're reading approached me with the query, "what is in the soul of men?" If you think nobody gives a hoot what Black men are thinking, think again. I often wonder myself!

Nonetheless, some people would rather open us up and see why we do what we do, especially when there are those that fear us, and would do anything to keep us second class. We are a force - I know this because I'm aware that the corporate world loves us because they can coerce us to buy their products. Politicians have exploited us for years with promises and more promises. Banks coddle us because they want the deposits that fuel their institutional worth. The media, including TV, radio, and now the internet, want you to redefine what role models they want you to emulate.they want you to pay attention to more stereotypical crap. The point is, all of them want something from us. And when someone has a demand, and it's us that they are after, we got power over them. Yes we, do! Anytime a collective group of people can earn more than 400 million dollars a year - that's clout, baby! As a man of color, there are a plethora of things I'm always thinking about that have the propensity to make the grade for reflective thought. The depth of my soul is like a bottomless pit that cannot define volume. I've thought long and hard on how to answer this question and have come up with a few caveats that I'd like to share.

"Bottomed Out" by Marc Lacy
"Oh no, baby!" screamed Fancy.

As the opposing player dashed to the basket for an easy layup, JR trailed right behind him in an effort to foul or strip the ball. He took a swipe at the ball, missed, and ended up sliding face first on the slick floor. As the coach marveled at the good hustle, the entire gym erupted in laughter as the friction from JR's dive, not only pulled his shorts down; but also his boxers underneath were stripped as well. When JR finally stopped sliding, while lying on his stomach, he looked back. JR panned slowly to see everything. He looked up and saw that the player had actually made the layup. "Dang man!" iterated a disgusted JR. Then he glanced to the back left and right and saw people covering their mouths. Lastly, he peered straight back over his shoulder and noticed the source of everyone's laughter...that JR McDonald was shooting a moon to the entire gymnasium.

Oh snap, I need to wakeup from this nightmare like yesterday! This can't be happenin', thought JR to himself.

With cheerleaders staring at JR feverishly, the referees blew their whistles as if to signify an injury time out. Immediately, without exposing himself too much, while still on the ground, JR slowly pulled his boxers up followed by his uniform shorts. As he felt an embarrassing tingle within his spine, JR got up, passed the ball inbounds to his teammate, and trotted down the court as if nothing happened. Meanwhile, Buford and Fancy took deep breaths, glanced at one another and continued watching the game.

"Verbal Vacancy" by Clarence "Baba Simba" Mollock
How well I remember that first thing Tuesday morning. Chawls and I had been out hunting the night before. We were up late skinning squirrels. Early that morning when Daelay went to the chicken house to get eggs he found a hole in the wire fence. Some of the chickens had gotten out. He told Chawls to mend the fence and wake up Sammy, Saundwo and I. We had to find and catch those chickens and put them back in the chicken yard before we went to school. By the time we did what we were told and got dressed for school the school bus was blowing it's horn. We grabbed our books and lunch boxes and ran down the lane to catch the bus. That was one heck of a morning. I barely got myself seated in the first group when he started.

Mr. Goslee must have decided to just pick on me! He talked about my red plaid shirt, my overalls, and my PF Flyers tennis shoes! I was not embarrassed, I WAS GETTING MAD! By the time he started talking about my hair and how it looked bushy my teeth were grinding, my eyes were squinting and my nose was flaring. He yelled at me while reaching for that leather strap and asked, "BOY! WHY DIDN'T YOU BRUSH YOUR HAIR BEFORE YOU CAME TO SCHOOL!?" I stood up abruptly and yelled back,"IWAZENAWUSSHH!!!"

There was dead quiet... He looked at me and said "Wh-h-hat?" I lowered my head and quietly repeated, "Iwazenawusshh." He got up and slowly walked over to me. I closed my eyes and was ready to flinch from the bite of that strap. I thought that I deserved that strap because I should not have yelled back at him. He leaned in close to me and said, "Boy, look at me." I opened one eye at a time looking for that strap. It was not in his hand? He told me to repeat, real slow, what I had just said. I slowly repeated, " I -waz- zen-ah- wusshh..." He stood straight up and said, "Boy, I didn't understand a word you said!" You know, the nicest thing he had ever done for me was to get me a Speech Therapist.

So, here I am, ten years old and learning how to talk. The speech therapist said that I had a lazy tongue - that I was tongue tied. She once asked Mommo why I talked the way I did and why so fast? Mommo simply said that I got it from her husband's side of the family. She said that as a child I would sit and listen to Daelay and his brother l'il Waller telling tales. They would be talking so fast back and forth to each other that she just walked away. She said that it got to the point that not only could nobody get a word in edgewise, but, they were the only ones who understood each other. It was very clear that I was in dire need of help.

"Manning Up With God" by Brian Ganges
"So off to college I went with all of those wonderful words of encouragement and a vote of confidence from all of my friends and family. My plan was to get away from home, have fun at college and one day I would become a rich lawyer. Well, I certainly got away from home, and I had a lot of fun at college; I had so much fun that I forgot about being a lawyer. During my sophomore and junior years of college is when everyone started to finish most of the electives and general classes, and started taking the major courses for graduation. I was still having a good time just hanging out, enjoying my freedom, and doing some homework every now and then. Life was just a joke to me, and I always had the sentiment that my current situation was always going to take care of itself. I was like a person that was high on "weed," walking around like a zombie with no cares, worries or adverse thoughts. I was the class clown since elementary school, and that escalated into being the party guy, getting drunk and sleeping around during my college years. My new found freedom was exciting to me: alcohol and having different women hanging around were my new drugs, and I was getting my "fix"

as often as I could. Besides, that's what all of my role model rappers were talking about all of the time.

My biggest concerns in life were having fun and not obeying any rules. In my mind, I was legally grown and my parents weren't around to hassle me.I called all the shots, and I was taking advantage of an opportunity of a lifetime: living in a college town, going to a historically black university where the ratio of women to men was approximately 15:1 and alcohol was flowing like water. I loved the attention that I was getting from the ladies, and I couldn't remember ever seeing that many beautiful women in one location: tall, short, brown-skinned, light-skinned, big breasts, big butts, pretty feet, sweet smells and everything else in between was there for the taking. I got so caught up in this aspect of my life that I began to forget the true objective of why I was in college. In my youthful ignorance, I didn't realize that rules and laws are not meant to enslave or control, but to produce order, structure, and discipline (something I didn't have).

All the while, I knew that God was calling me to repentance. Ever so gently, since my sophomore year of college, I knew that God was dealing with me about committing my life to Him.

" I Used To Love Her" by Jarold Imes
Calvin had been trying to forgive Maria for cheating on him but every time he tries, all he pictures is the night that he caught his wife and a deacon at another church rolling around in the bed… this very bed in which they conceived their second child and shared many a moment as husband and wife. But lately, those moments had become less and less as they struggled to get over the death of their son. This is the second child the couple lost as their first son died as a result of sudden infant death syndrome. Calvin and Maria longed to raise beautiful sons and daughters and their failure to deal with their children’s death was part of the problem which kept the black and Mexican couple from having true happiness. A child means the world to them and they’ve gone through any length to get one. Maria has been through a lot to give them a family; two infant deaths and two miscarriages but they keep trying. Calvin often wonders if this is the reason that Maria was cheating on him… so that she can have a baby by someone else, but he shakes the thought aside.

"The Choice" by K.L. Belvin
Marie, as you sleep I am writing you this letter trying to explain what has happened and will happen. Well baby here is the whole thing. Some time ago, an angel came to me in a dream and explained that something bad was going to happen to the girls. I asked why are you bringing this to me. The Angel said, I was told, because of the life Dan lead it was decided that a price must be paid. However, since I called upon the Lord often and serve him as best I can, I could change the outcome if I chose to. Baby, the angel told me, I could pick someone else to take the girls place. The angel even suggested I could choose Dan if I wanted to... I was offered a chance to remove him from the picture as payment for his sins. I couldn’t do it honey, I just couldn’t take another man’s life no matter what he did in the past. I know Dan is trying to make things right with the girls. After seeing him come to church, I know there is still a chance for him. So, you see love on this night I traded my life for our children. I couldn’t see myself randomly picking a person’s life to be taken. It didn’t seem fair or right. I felt I was being tested. It turns out I was, Darling. Marie after making my choice and deciding to lay down my life, I was given a reward. The reward the Lord granted me was one wish before I left this earth. I chose this trip! This wonderful evening we shared was that wish. I thought since we had been blessed with so much, even though it wasn’t that much in money or status, it was still a blessing. I wanted to give you the honeymoon night I couldn’t all those years ago because we couldn’t afford. I did this for you Marie.

"Like Father, Like Son" by Joey Pinkney
When I first met Mary, everything was cool between her and I. Andre made it obvious from the very beginning that he wanted his mother to have no parts of me. But what little man did? I wasn't offended. In fact, I gave a silent ovation to his desire to protect the only person that had protected him. I never felt provoked to challenge his bond to his mother. Simply put, I was a stranger invading his space.

I went from courting Mary to actually marrying Mary. I proposed to Mary after church one hot Sunday afternoon in July. All of her family and friends present in the parking lot praising the King of Kings and appraising the engagement ring. Six months later, we married with those same family and friends in that same sanctified church. Hands down, it was one of the best days of my life even though Andre practically ignored me. I remember hugging him and praying that God help him come to accept me as the man I was. In time, I wanted him to realize that I seriously loved his mother and had the same love for him. He showed no signs of appreciation. Instead, he pushed the buttons on his new Game Boy Pocket that he successfully begged Mary for.

I understood that position when he was a little boy. I gave him room to figure things out. He had to get used to having a father-figure after eight years of just having a mother. I took the lead and remained the adult. I didn't embarrass him in front of his friends, I never laid a hand on him that wasn't warranted and I never talked down to his mother during our disputes.

Over the years, the tension continued to build. At sixteen, Andre was where he was at day one: I was still a stranger invading his space. Despite all that resistance from Andre, I continued loving Mary like there was no turbulence, by the name of Andre, interrupting our relationship. I struggled against the strain of juggling life with an enamored wife and a egocentric son.

"Reaching Forward" by Thomas Ashburn, Jr.
Tears wailed up in Shawn's eyes. He knew if he was ever going to move forward in his life that he would have to eventually address his childhood pain. He couldn't hold it in any longer.

"When I was about four years old my Aunt Sarah molested me," Shawn said with tears running down his cheeks. "My Mom would be at work. She was supposed to be talking care of me instead she was abusing me. I told my Mom about five times and she didn't believe me. By the sixth time she finally confronted my aunt. Aunt Sarah got really mad, pack her things and left a couple days later. My Mom and I never talked about it since then. I was mad at my Mom for not being there for me. I was mad at my aunt for abusing me and I was mad at God for allowing it to happen.

Shawn buried his face in his hands and sobbed deeply. Brother Jones got up, walked around his desk, sat beside Shawn, and rubbed his back.

"It's going to be alright Brother, just let it all out," Brother Jones said.

Shawn cried for almost an hour while Brother Jones sat quietly. He also told what happened in more detail. Shawn finally wiped his tears and took a deep breath.

"We need to have a lot more sessions," Brother Jones said. "I've dealt with sexually abused people before and it can be a long road to full deliverance but with the help of God you can overcome. Can we meet again next Saturday at the same time?"

"Sure," Shawn said. "Thanks for listening and allowing me to release what I've been carrying for so long."

"Anytime," Brother Jones said. "This is what God called me to do."
They ended with the usual prayer. Shawn walked out feeling like he just took a giant leap forward. He knew he needed to completely forgive his Mom and his aunt but he had taken the first step in the right direction. There was one thing he couldn't understand. Why would God allow this to happen in the first place?

"A Hoop And A Holler" by Tyrell DeVon Floyd
I feel genuinely lifted!

A jolt of energy, like none other, has rushed through my veins! A fiery feeling, meshed with a whirlwind of the most emotional love, has overtaken every sane bone in my body. I am a true representation of God's yearning desire to have a relationship with all his children. My hands are moist beyond belief and beads of sweat trickle down my forehead as I unleash a divine word from the Lord.

The degree of my intensity can be comparedto that of a professional athlete who's playing in the 4th quarter of a highly contested game. The only difference is I've replaced a football field or basketball court with a pulpit and podium. My beautiful hand crafted royal blue suit, complimented by silk pin stripes is flashy enough to compete with suits donned by Steve Harvey, but classy enough to be worn in any corporate boardroom meeting. Someone sure loves me for them to keep me looking as good as I do.

"Long Term" by Maurice M. Gray, Jr.
I hate hospitals. Almost every time I'm in one, somebody dies.

Three years ago, my mother went to the hospital for minor surgery and never came out. A few months later, a drunk driver who should've been off the road three crashes ago, broadsided my brother; he died instantly. We hadn't finished the food from his funeral when the doctor diagnosed my favorite aunt with pancreatic cancer. Auntie Shane was gone within three months of her diagnosis. Now I'm heading to the hospital again. The odds of me getting out without grieving another loss are slim and none- and Slim already left town.

A flash of red light brings me into a scary reality.

A cop car. Great.

I can stop and risk not getting there in time or keep going and risk having that cop force me over and legally change my name to Rodney King.

I'm stepping on it. If Officer Unfriendly wants to beat the crap out of me, he'll have to do it in front of the hospital. At least I'd be able to get medical care quickly. And, if by some miracle he- or she- doesn't wail on me, I can still get there in time to do what I have to.

Three minutes later, the ambulance and I pull up at the hospital. As soon as I stop, a voice loud enough to startle a deaf man booms from behind me


I'm out the car before he finishes the sentence. I keep my hands where he can see them so I won't wind up on the front page of tomorrow's News Journal.

"The Birthday Gift" by Eddrick Dejuan
"I know where this is going; don't even try it Staci. There is no way you are taking half. You know we made a vow to be with each other for richer or poor, sickness and health. I upheld my end of the bargain and you bailed out. Anyone with a pair of eyes will see that you abandoned life when it got too hard, making your kids and your husband pay the price and only want money now that it's here. I just need for you to sign the divorce papers when you get them. I'll talk to you later, you take care of yourself."

Allen said politely as he ended the call.

He wasn't bitter anymore at Staci for leaving him and girls, because, in all actuality, it might have been the best new start any of them could've wished for. He stared at all of the kids and parents out playing on the playground and wondered if he would ever find a woman to be a proper partner and parent to him and his daughters. If anything, they deserved that much. Taking out his phone, Allen sent Vanessa a text message asking her if she wanted to go to Disney World with him and the girls. When she replied, Allen glanced at the message and grinned.

"I'd be delighted to go." He read out loud.

Allen looked down at the phone and then back up at his daughters and sat there looking at them and thought, I may not be perfect, and I know this will take some time, but starting today, I will give full credit to God for every opportunity that I get in this lifetime and rely on him through thick and thin. And I vow that my soul will triumph over any obstacle thrown my way.



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