Written by CHRISTOPHER HICKS-MARSHALL a.k.a. CHUMA
Five months after the launch of this magazine in October 2007, I discovered, after returning to college full-time and working full-time simultaneously, that I needed to make a choice: Totally focus on the grueling demands of taking four classes or continue cultivating this blog. Unfortunately, at thirty eight years old trying desperately to adjust to the matriculation environment all over again, I came to the realization that I couldn’t have both. So the no brainer, of course, was to choose school. I did not mean to forsake writing, but by way of auspiciousness and determination, I am back.
It has been since February that I’ve hunt-and-pecked onto this keyboard (I’m just kidding; I actually type ninety words per minute), and since then my life sort of took on an empirical practice. Seemingly, my pursuit for knowledge didn’t always come clearly through the reliance on institutional education or literature I sought to read. Almost everything that I have come to learn in that period of time deeply imbued my life through the simple manner of experience. Usually, most of my enlightenment came this way, but I guess upon returning to college I thought I would discover a different experience all together. Certainly, being enrolled in school I learned new insight and retained important and valuable information through erudition and diligence, but the biggest breakthrough for me was not what I learned in school; it was what I learned about myself—and it’s the same lesson I keep learning over and over again, which is…
I can do anything I put my mind to.
Two semesters, seven classes, and a 4.0 grade point average, all managed while working hard at a law firm as a resource center coordinator and juggling my professional life with my personal life, I realized that I was smarter than I thought, I wasn’t as fearful about returning to school as I thought, and that I could manifest anything that I wanted. Although math has always been my weakest subject, I brought forth two A’s in that subject, and developed an advanced confidence about my capabilities. It was a rewarding experience and self-inspiring at best. I’m truly looking forward to continuing my education.
Now if it wasn’t for my partner—the most supportive, gracious, and superlative man in the world—I don’t know how I would have survived the stress and lethargy imposed upon me. He, too, was in school full-time and working full-time as a teacher, but made every effort to pitch in to make my hectic life easier. He cooked, cleaned, did laundry, and still managed to creatively surprise me with various romantic benefits that come with being in a relationship with such a thoughtful man like him. As a person who is used to controlling and managing almost everything around me, I was forced to learn to let go of my own autonomous sense of management, and allow myself to receive instead of solely giving. I found it not only advantageous and pragmatic, but liberating as well. Cheers to him!
Then there was the African prophet who came to me as a messenger by way of driving down bustling Old National Highway on my way home from work. My car is embossed with a vanity plate showcasing my name. I noticed a black man with a hoary crown and a heavy set older woman in the passenger seat peering at me from the car in the lane next to me as I waited at the red light. She rolled down her window and beckoned me to do the same. He yelled to me, “What does your license plate mean?” I replied as loud as I could: “Iron strength.” He gave me an approving smile as the traffic light turned green and I drove off.
One block away from our initial encounter, he sped past me and then swerved into my lane and rode directly in front of me. When we reached the next intersection at the red light, he jumped out of his car and rushed to my window and conveyed his need to share something important with me. He asked could I follow him onto the next residential block and I agreed. While it may have seemed irresponsibly unsafe for me to agree to stop and talk with a stranger on a quiet street, despite the brevity of our meeting, I felt a sincere urging from his aura. For whatever reason, I felt reassured in my spirit that I would not only be safe, but that it was also some sort of calling.
We parked around the corner from the intersection. He came to my car and introduced himself. He told me he was Nigerian and he knew I was the real deal when I was able to properly tell him what Chuma meant. I told him it was my spiritual name and I explained why it was given to me. He then told me he was compelled to implore me to stop and speak with him because the gods instructed him to pass on a message to me. He told me I was pure and strong, and that I had a gift for nurturing others. However, because I was so caught up nurturing others, I wasn’t nurturing myself. He told me I was betraying myself by neglecting my needs and my ambitions, and he said that an aura of unhappiness was encroaching upon me. I was stunned, but not surprised, because I had been going through a struggle of trying to find balance in regards to tending to my family as well as myself. Needless to say, in gratitude I was a believer and I learned from that experience it was a must I nurture my talents and my goals, first and foremost, otherwise I would die inside.
Then there was the election. Obama! Obama! Obama! While I had all the confidence in the world that he would win the presidency, it's still sort of surreal and overwhelmingly emotional to think we now have an African American president after everything black people have endured at the treachery of racism.
If ever there was a political match inside of me waiting to be fired up, Barack Obama was certainly the one who struck it and fanned the flame that burned within me all year long in the name of politics. While in the past I kept myself moderately aware of the political climate in our world, never before was I so engrossed and encouraged to become so knowledgeable and highbrowed about the political infrastructure affecting our nation. I was so invigorated by the possibility of Obama becoming the President of the United States, I found myself eating and breathing this past election—both when Obama defeated Hillary Clinton and then when he triumphed over John McCain. It was a historical milestone and a testament to the progress black people have made since the days of slavery and segregation. As a black man, it meant everything to me when Obama accomplished such a feat, but the beneficially positive paradigm of his ethnicity was not the real reason I supported him. It was his message, his integrity, and his overall genuineness about unifying our nation and repairing the damage created by the Bush Administration that arrestingly drew me to champion for him. I believe in him and I feel something in my spirit that has assured me he is what America desperately needs; that he is someone unequivocally special—a bona fide conciliator.
Successfully I witnessed Obama inspire non-voters (young and old) to participate in the election while he also harmonized diversity in a classist nation still trying to convalesce from racism and, in many cases, still experiencing it. I observed him overcome the pessimistic attacks of pundits and the untruths hurled at him from every direction. He repeatedly reconciled and regained his footing no matter how vehemently others tried to tear him down. He conciliated over and over and over again until he prevailed into being voted into the presidency. That, to me, instilled and rekindled the fire in me to do my part to contribute to change; the same fire that was sort of extinguished when I gave up on our incapable, partisan government that was impervious to the valuable lives being lost in the senseless war that the incompetent, incumbent commander-in-chief sanctioned; the inept administration that has dilapidated our economy and disenfranchised the well being of many citizens. Thanks to Obama, I now believe again and it feels magnificent to be able to hope without doubt, however, still with great concern.
With all my concerns paramount and the election now over, I feel so moved to bring forth my voice and my resources in regards to a social change in our world. In spite of the lagging economy, the rising unemployment rates, and the problematic war in Iraq, I feel great possibility on the horizon and I realize now that it is a must I become a part of harmonizing, empowering, and illuminating what is to come. All I need to do is figure out exactly what specifically I should be doing.
So for now I’m back—writing, inspired, and exhilarated—and I learned during my hiatus there is no other way I should be.