I was having dinner recently with Cleo Manago in DC. It turned out to be just the shot in the arm that I needed to start writing again. Somewhere, somehow I’d grown tired and lost my passion. Life had become so stressful and so difficult that I just couldn’t seem to find my flow. In fact, it has been months since I’ve written anything at all. In our four hour conversation, I learned so much. And of all the inspirational and healing things he said to me, one thing resonated in my spirit. He said, “If you look at your life, how you were raised, who you’ve become, you are truly the exception to the rule.” WOW! Me? The exception to the rule? At that moment, if you asked me, I couldn’t name five things that made me special. When I got home that evening, I decided to meditate on what was planted in my spirit. Me? The exception to the rule? And then the Spirit spoke to me, “You are an exception.” And in my mind I ran down my life. I’m fortunate to have had a loving mother and father who raised me to fear God, respect myself and other people. I had grandparents who taught me to learn and be proud of my history. I had (and still have) a network of strong women who teach me how important it is for me as a man to not be afraid to give and receive love. I was blessed to grow up around the elders (who I affectionately call “senior saints”) who taught me the necessity of caring about community and being a man of honor. I’ve been fortunate to meet people who love me as I am, and not just for who I am. I am considered successful by many. I’ve accomplished a great deal in my short time on this earth. But surely, I can’t be the exception to the rule. And if I am, why? I shudder to think that in some way I’m abnormal. I mean, when I look around and see the many black and beautiful people like me, in all of our divine diversity, surely the multitude I’ve been blessed to see share the same experiences and upbringing that I did. I’m not so naïve as to think that there are no issues we must overcome. Certainly we all know some kind of pain and dysfunction. That’s just a part of life. It’s hard for me to accept that the numbers of black people who had the type of upbringing or experiences that I had are exceptions and not the norm. Sitting alone, listening to the Spirit and reflecting on some of the things Cleo told me he’s helped people overcome made me realize that maybe I am. I know the media in all forms does its part to confirm that all things negative are the norm for my people. Sooner or later, one starts to believe Black=Bad. When it was time for me to talk (I’ve learned to listen more that I talk when communing with The Almighty), I asked what can be done about this? What can I do (besides be thankful) to make the love, peace and stability I have experienced more the norm and not the exception? The answer: Be the exception. Be a man who will live honorably. Be brave enough to show others with how I live that it is possible to rise above any and all adversity, just like the ancestors did. Be strong enough to love and accept what makes me beautiful and unique. Be compassionate enough to love and accept the beauty and uniqueness in others. Be willing to be selfless. Be courageous enough to not compare myself or judge myself as better or worse than others, but as equal. Be determined enough to redefine what freedom is for myself. Be insightful enough to understand that the infinitely beautiful black men who look like me are not my enemies, but my brothers. Love myself enough to not be vicious and catty with my brothers, because we all are a part of each other. I can make the exception the norm by never being afraid to just be. So, to all who have the testicular fortitude to dare to try to make the change you want in this world, I encourage you to be the exception to the rule. The Creator has given us the power to create and make change in our realities. That’s part of what makes us “His image.” We can create whatever we can visualize. We can build strong families and communities. We can live and work with each other without tearing each other down. We can most definitely have long lasting, healthy relationships. We can live not being ashamed of how or who we love. Hell, we can make history, just like our ancestors did. If all of us worked together to be the exception to the rules that have been used to define and enslave us, we’d be surprised at how blessed we all really are to be who we are. We’d recognize how blessed we are to have each other.