The Success Files: Greatness

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Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.  Winston Churchill

 As a writer, sometimes you never know what will inspire a story. On the day I accompanied my friend Inohs Sivad to Belle Isle on a shoot for the music video she was producing for singer Joseph Loren, an artist I hadn’t met before, I didn’t really serve a purpose. I was merely taking up space in the creative process.
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Pictured L-R: Inohs Sivad, PLive (Back), Joseph Loren

During set up, Inohs engaged one of the players in the video, Isaiah Perkins, aka PLive. She asked  what he was into, and what he wanted to do in life.

“I wanna be great,” he said. “I’m a writer…

He mentioned a few other things on the subject, but for some reason, I got stuck on his first comment, “I wanna be great.”

I clearly remember thinking, who says that?

Isaiah, 31, is also a rapper, who contributed to Joseph’s track “Believe in the Dream,” the track for the video.

After I shook Isaiah’s words out of my head, and came back to earth, I watched the video in action, and I wondered why I was really there. Then Isaiah began to rap.

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Pictured: Lavell Williams, Inohs Sivad, Joseph Loren, PLive

Now, mind you, I’m not into rap, aside from one, what I think, really good project, “Renaissance,” by Q Tip, which my son gave me years ago. If I’m going to listen to rap, the voice delivering it has to be exceptional (not irritating), the music has to hit me in the same spot as jazz or house music, my favorite genres, and the words have to come across like poetry. Basically, the whole presentation has to take me somewhere, and make me want to listen, rather than cover my ears, running away screaming, which is what usually happens with rap and me.

And from Isaiah came “I’ve Moved Mountains,” and I listened.

I’ve moved mountains

Walked water

Sailed the cosmos

Floating upon stardust

I mind travel

The body a time capsule

I exit it

And the goers of physics

Get mind baffled

But I can extrapolate

From all things I encounter

Reality’s nothing more

Than your dreams projected outward

Now that’s power

But what are you doing with it

Most of us lose interest

And settle for loose visions

They say you snooze

The world will pass you by

In an instance

I tell them it’s fine

I love to press rewind

When I’m pensive

And play it back

With myself in the intervals

Planting seeds

To make world a utopia

hoping it will proceed

Cause it’d be a nightmare

To go from a height where

Believing is everything that you need

Cause you might fail

To get it perfect

you work it

There’s worth within everything

Now get those treasures

Up out the receptacle

Work ya dream.

(Words included with permission from the artist)

During one take, Isaiah began rapping as if before an audience, gesturing sincerely, and he wasn’t even on camera. I took my iPhone and snapped away, capturing each move with each line. And I realized, why I was there. That day’s story belonged to Isaiah. I knew then he would be the first subject of this blog series, The Success Files, which at that time, was only a glimmer on my idea list.

 

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A couple of days later for the interview, we met at Milliken Park, a place I selected, not knowing it was the location his family had scattered his late mother’s ashes from into the Detroit River. He was comfortable there.IMG_1277

 

 

 

 

The Greatness Interview

 

Talk about wanting to be great, and what you want to do with your writing and your talent, and your life.

When I say I wanna be great, what I mean is I don’t just wanna be remembered as one of those writers who partied and had fun. I want to leave a mark, a legacy. I don’t wanna be one of those guys who didn’t help and had the talent and the means to do something with it but just sat on it. There are a lot of people who waste talent and I don’t wanna be one of them.

How will you know when you’ve reached greatness? I don’t know if you see it when you’re 35 or 57 or 95, but when you see it, projecting forward what does it look and feel like to you?

It feels good. And from what I’ve experienced recently, I would actually say being great is, also being able to be a light in other people’s lives and show them something positive.

When I look at all the people I’ve helped along the way, just on a personal level… I just think helping people, I mean, that’s what it all boils down to.

So this might end the interview, but are you not already great?

Yes. I believe in my heart of hearts, I am great. And I just want to keep being great.

Who are three of your examples of great people? Who do you look to and say ‘He’s a great man”?

I’m a huge fan of Cheikh Anta Diop. He was one of the people who studied the history of Africans. This man was intelligent, and I admire just the time and energy he put into his work.

I’m inspired by people like Joel Augustus Rogers. He was an autodidact who taught himself African American history just by picking up books and taking time to read. And he was dedicated to pushing himself farther. People like that really inspire me.

I’m a huge fan of James Baldwin and his work, and his writing. I don’t agree with a lot of the opinions that he had, but yet and still I admire his courage.

So you’re a rapper. Why?

That’s where I feel most comfortable.

What got you started writing?

So, when I was a freshman in high school we were asked to write a play, and I came up with this great idea for something called ‘Christmas in the Ghetto.’ And it was a realistic viewpoint of how my Christmases were when I was growing up. We didn’t have much. We had Goodwill boxes and all that, and we got to see a lot of other kids who had more coming up and how they enjoyed their things, but yet we were still happy with what we got. (Isaiah is one of eight siblings.)

I was told that the play that I wrote might be offensive to some people. And here I am, this 14-year old kid, 9th grade student at Murray Wright High School, and I’m like ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. This is real. I just want to write and put on a play, and have a good show and have people go, ‘Wow!’

It was a rhythmic, hip-hop play that realistically portrayed what I experienced growing up. So needless to say, they didn’t put on my play, and ever since then I never stopped writing. I started listening to more music, I got into hip-hop around that time, and I just kept writing. I wrote poems, but rapping was it. So, I view myself as a writer first.

Getting back to the greatness aspect, what do you want to do with your greatness?

My end goal, when it’s all said and done I just want to be a philanthropist. I guess that’s when I’ll feel like I’ve done it all.

 

About the Success Files

Success is personal, and everybody has their own version of what it means to them. The Success Files is a monthly series that captures the versions of success, by everyday people.

 

© Andrea Daniel 2014

9 Comments
  1. Beautiful story truly inspiring. Very articulated young man, very intelligent and cultured. Thank you for sharing truly.

  2. Thanks for the inspiration this morning, Andi. I’m glad he didn’t allow his teachers’ comments to stifle his desire to write. And, that he wasn’t afraid to write what was true to his world.

    • Hi JoAnn. You’re so welcome. I’m so glad it was inspiring to you. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  3. What a wonderful idea. Promoting success. We need to read more uplifting and inspiring pieces. It is encouraging. Thank you.

    • Hi Diane,

      Yes. That’s the whole point… to promote success.I’m glad it worked for you. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  4. Just read it. Very good perspective. It’s always good to let someone else’s confidence inspire us instead of intimidating us. I really liked this piece

  5. A visionary from humbled beginnings — unforeseen, unfiltered and unafraid to pursue his dreams.

    Ms. Daniel, I wanted to thank you for conceiving such a beautiful initiative, and for seeing it through to completion such that all of us might share it with you.

    After rounding this morning, I sat quietly with your article in a hospital coffee shop, surprised to find myself enjoying much more than a long-awaited sip of caffeine. Impervious to the noise around me, I became engaged in a peaceful moment. I was inspired.

    The truth is, I had difficulty putting the piece down; for starters, because it was so wonderfully written (kudos to the author) but largely, because I believe in who and what it stands for. I have had the distinct privilege of getting to know this particular artist for some time now; and in a single interview, you succeeded in capturing his spirit and essence as beautifully and befittingly as I have ever known them to exist. It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? The “Success Chronicles” are designed to highlight different individuals’ versions of success, while the piece itself accomplishes just that. In my humble opinion, your blog exists as its own demonstration of triumph.

    I will continue to read your posts in the months to follow, with hopes that it inspires many souls, just as this first piece has touched mine. As for Isaiah, I believe the music industry is ready to receive and embrace the change he strives for. His talent is a true and necessary gift to this world. Should you both continue to create and inspire, I have no doubt that we readers and listeners will, too, find the courage and insight to embark on this journey with you.

    Warmest Regards,
    Stefanie

    • Hi Stefanie,

      Wow! What wonderful comments you made. I’m touched. It’s good to know the article achieved my intention for it: to show the spirit of a person and how his view of success can inspire. I had the story swirling around in my head since last summer… I wanted to do the subject (and the man) justice through my writing. For some reason, now seemed to be the right moment to write it. I’m so glad you liked it, and I appreciate your taking the time to read it and comment.

      Thanks,

      Andrea

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