Ever since the Honda video I've had this topic on my mind. It's always been a goal of mine to become a source of inspiration for people, whether it's through musical performance, giving advice, or just telling my story. Something that did not occur to me at the time, was how inevitable that outcome would be. It didn't really matter if I wanted to be an inspiration or not; the culture I was born into, plus the career choice, decided that for me. Being an African American, there's always this sense of, "I have to make it," or "I have to succeed," and the appearance of someone who did "make it" is seen as a really big deal, and unfortunately, also seen as a rare occurrence. Because of this, successful African Americans are almost immediately put up on this pedestal for others to gaze at and aspire to reach. This in itself is not bad, because we all had some sort of aspiration and idol, whether it came in the form of a person or not, but the thought that this is a rare occurrence is the problem.
I received friend requests, questions, rants, conversations and gifts from many people who saw that video, and at first it was overwhelming. I wanted to help as many as I could, I still do, and having a platform to do so was extremely helpful to me, both to experience this phenomenon comfortably, and to have the ability to effectively reach these people. But those actions are solely for the benefit of others, an act of service with no intention of personal gain, just like the people who inspired and shared their time and knowledge with me. Every chance I get, I tell people about my inspirations, influences, and people who I think they would benefit from seeing or hearing, because I am very much aware that I did not get here on my own: Jojo Mayer, all of my teachers, Les Twins, Star Wars, Avatar the Last Airbender, the list goes on. Being humble enough to share the spotlight let's people know that, you aren't this rarity, but that others have had similar success and that it can be achieved at many levels by anyone who works at it. There's no way that I can be the next Jojo Mayer, but I know several kids who have that potential, and it's my duty as a teacher and mentor to help them achieve that level if I can. It's not rare. It can happen quite often in fact.
I constantly look for more inspiration in any successful person who passionately speaks about their career. I watch YouTube religiously, read articles and interviews, ask friends who they are inspired by, etc., searching for even the most obscure sources of inspiration. Most recently, I attended an alumni jam session at the Chicago High School for the Arts. All of the students in that school have immense talent and that in itself is always encouraging to me, but two students walked in after an hour or so: Joshua and Joel Ross. I actually went to elementary school with these two twin brothers, and to say that they are talented is really an understatement. Such unique skills and creativity with their instruments, so much so that I really could not compare them to anyone else. To see these brothers perform and to witness their accomplishments within a short period of time since graduating high school is really an inspiration to me.
The funny thing is, there is a point where you meet someone like that; you are an inspiration to them and they are an inspiration to you. This too should not be seen as rare either. We will achieve certain things that others will aspire to, and vice versa, but again, having the humility to share this space with others is the key to having this happen. Had I been more prideful, I might've inadvertently shut the brothers out, or some other version of that. Thankfully, Josh, Joel and I can still converse as we did when we were younger, all trying to "make it" in different areas of music, and working to expand our knowledge and abilities. It's people like them that I am most grateful for everyday of my life, and I hope that I can have a similar influence and effect on people I come in contact with. I encourage you to take note of your own accomplishments in life, and know that your story, big or small, can help someone looking for a glimmer of hope in the upcoming year and years to come.