The Refined Image


          (Menelek(me at 17), Yoonek (older brother acting crazy), and my son Marcus)

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
-Henry David Thoreau

At 16 I was a reflection of my environment.  The young men I associated with were just as troubled as I was. The individuals I chose to be around were selling drugs, fighting for the hell of it,  into easy girls, partying etc… at 16 I couldn’t see beyond my choices.  My mother would say “when the phone rang at night I prayed before I answered, that someone wasn’t calling to tell me you were dead”.

My chief rival in high school was the Dean of students. At the beginning of April in my 3rd year of high school she was tired of me and I was tired of her targeting me. She told me in front of my classmates (in the middle of accounting class) if I returned to school the next school year she would make sure I would be arrested.  Ironically within a few days my high school girlfriend informed me she was pregnant.

These words “I’m pregnant” began to change me. You see the Dean of students was right, I was giving the police and school administrators all the reason in the world to place me behind bars.  I didn’t want that for myself in light of having a child on the way.  I wanted to be a man my child could be proud of and instinctively I knew what I was doing at the time was not going to bring the desired results.

I wish I could tell you, I got my head on straight and went back to school and got the best grades and became a model student. But my history wasn’t recorded that way. The environment I was in had such a strong gravitational pull on me that i felt it was impossible to change and grow into the person I envisioned I would be.

When I weighed my options and the vision I had for what I wanted to be, dropping out of high school became the only option for me. No matter how wrong everyone told me I was, I believed this decision offered the most benefit to my life because it would offer me breathing room from the weeds in my life at that time.

God answers the righteousness of your call, once you make a decision to step in the right direction,  it doesn’t matter how many individuals are against you, it doesn’t matter what happened to others who made the decision, I believe and I’m a witness that the universe will dispatch angels to aid you.

I was walking one day and one of my fathers friends Derrick Smith, who is a very positive man in the community stopped and asked me why I wasn’t in school.  I was too afraid to give him my answer in fear that he would tell my father. But I got in his car and when we arrived at the school I refused to get out of his car. Just seeing the school at the time seemed like death to me. No matter what he said or the threats he made I was not going into that school building. 

I told him I was going to get my G.E.D. and I was going to get in college.  He made a deal with me. He told me that I had to come to his office at Northern Illinois University every day and read during normal school hours until I recieved my G.E.D. , the deal was that if I didn’t he would come find me and handle me. That was a good enough deal for me.

When I began going to Northern Illinois University’s “Center for black studies” I seen a whole new world.  The books he made me read began to shape me into a new individual.  Being around college students every day was enough motivation for me to change and reflect that new environment because it seemed very fruitful and prosperous.

I received my G.E.D. within 3 months, by August of that year I enrolled at the local community college as a college student at the age of 17. Derrick Smith would take me to the middle schools and church groups and have me speak about the power of the people you associate with, the choices we make and the destiny they create.

When ever I made a choice that was centered on doing the right things there was an angel in different forms there waiting to guide me.

I encourage you today to let go of complacency.  The road you are walking right now is a reflection of the decisions that you made in your past. All you have to do now is make a new decision. Einstein says ” We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”.

Instead of asking yourself “why me”. Ask yourself “HOW”. How can I turn this lemon into lemonade,  How can I use this stumbling block as a stepping stone, How can I become what I hope to be? When you ask questions the universe begans to answer you. But its up to us to ask the right questions.

Today is Friday, I challenge you to take the courage today to become who you really are. Today decide you are not going to numb the pain with partying,alcohol and anything else that numbs the pain of an every day unfulfilled life.  Decide today you will be like David and face the Goliath in your life, and if you do, you will only need one stone “faith in God” to win the victory.

I’m not saying to you that it will be easy but I’m bearing witness to you that it will be worth it.

– Menelek Shah

“If You try to plant a rose in the conrete,
When it GROWS, and the rose petal has
scratches and marks, you not gon’ say, Damn, look at
all the scratches and marks on the rose that grew from concrete”
You gon’ be like, Damn! A rose grew from the concrete!
Same thing with me,  I grew out of all of this
Instead of sayin, “Damn, he did this, he did this,”
just be like, “DAMN! He grew out of that? He came out of that?”
That’s what they should say,
All the trouble to survive and make good out of the dirty, nasty
unbelievable lifestyle they gave me
I’m just tryin to make somethin out of all this..”
– Tupac Shakur

Menelek Shah @


1 Comment

  1. big jay


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