To My Brother Norris Frederick,
I woke up this morning feeling heavy. I'm sure you know the feeling. It's the same weight we felt as kids. It's a space somewhere in between anxiety and horror. Not quite distress. Not quite fear either. It's the weight and threat of poverty. The weight of panic. The weight of unconfessed sins. And the weight of leadership.
How much of this weight do we burden our people with? What's the appropriate pace to set so that they can keep up? And what to do with the dissidents & dissenters?
I feel all of that too.
I have since we were kids.
I haven't been able to watch King Richard yet. Not yet. I know you understand why. And because I'm sure you also lack the proper shoulder, I wanted to offer you these words this morning:
Some are born great. Some achieve greatness. Some have greatness thrust upon them.
And then there is YOU.
Someone who had to suffer through all three at once. All while climbing out of the sewer we came up in and having to sprint thru hell just to make it to the Start Line.
I remember telling you. Way back then. Way back when we were sharing a plate of fried chicken backs, powdered milk, powdered eggs and green beans that we were NOT poor. We didn't have money. But we were never poor. Our mother made sure of that. Our mother was different than the other mothers. On some level, she was aware of what she didn't know and surrounded us with the most brilliant people in the world. Think about it. Our mentors were Yale geniuses, chess masters, professional athletes, and businessmen. Mom finnessed King County Big Brothers, the Boys & Girls Club of America, Childhaven, the Seattle Boys Choir, AAU basketball, Upward Bound and the Lakeside Educational Enrichment Program all for her kids. For free. Nobody else from where we are from can say that. And our lives have benefited substantially from her accepting that fact and making those decisions.
I told you that night that we would change the world. I told you that we couldn't rely on anyone. ANYONE. That we had to save ourselves. That we had to be our own Supermans. I told you I was a little afraid. But that I was going to become the animal I needed to be to make sure we were always safe.
And we were ALWAYS safe.
Even when we were unsafe. We rallied a neighborhood and created a home for all the little Lost Boys and Lost Girls in our own little Neverland. Our little apartment, though shitty in almost every way, became a safe haven. A place where the vulnerable and downtrodden could come to recharge and regroup. I'm not sure how Mom made that work but it worked. Your father made it work.
Your father was my first hero. He adopted me as his son before you even existed. He taught me things. He taught all of us things. But he taught me different things. How to ride a bike. How to fix a bike. How to do business. Selling lemonade. Mowing lawns. He taught me how to shave. How to cook an omelette.
The most important lesson he taught me was how to be fearless. One night we were walking through Battery Park after a day of bike riding and he could tell I was nervous. He could tell I was worried. He told me to stop and take a deep breath. I did.
"Smell that? That's the smell of Hell. You and your brothers are just passing through. Y'all not supposed to be here. But never be afraid. You are strong and can handle anything!"
It's important for a kid to know that someone loves you. That someone has your back. And he was the entire original back up. I don't know if you remember crashing into Billy on that bike ride to Discovery Park but it was 100% your fault and he was about to knock us both out. Or at least try. When we got home, I knew there was going to be a fight and that we were probably going to lose. I told him and he asked if I was afraid because he was older. I said I was and he looked at me and said:
"Nobody can beat you boys as long as you're together. Nobody."
So all three of us rode our bikes over to the school prepared to fight him. He looked at all us and literally changed his mind. I'm not sure that we would have won. Even with us all there. But we were all there together and he reconsidered. When he told us to beat it, as we were getting on our bikes, I saw your dad standing on the corner next to Dorothy's house, quietly watching and sipping his beer. He smiled, and then walked back to the house.
That day I learned a valuable lesson that has stuck with me ever since. Those who have had the unfortunate experience of coming for this family have learned that there is nothing but destruction and scorched earth in that decision. At times I had to be merciless and brutal. But there was always love behind it. A deep love for my family and commitment to our safety. I had to send a message. I was a child trying to navigate an environment that CRUSHED the souls of men much older and stronger than I was. I wasn't go to let that happen to me. To us. I knew back then that we were going to change the world but that it was going to be a brawl to make it out.
All these years later, after having survived the worst shit life has to offer, here we are. Violence. Domestic violence. Drugs. Drug overdoses. Kidnappings. Murders. Attempted murders. Abuse. Foster care. And CPS. And this was all just a regular Tuesday. We've seen and survived it all. And not just survived. We've thrived. We have been a ray of hope for the world's we live in. Even back then. There is no one who has ever met you who doesn't remember the exact moment they met you and how it changed their life. You could walk into a room right now with your preschool teacher and she's going to remember your entire name and quite a bit about you.
That is hard for some people to understand. And because it's hard for them to understand, many find themselves in opposition to what they believe you represent.
This is what you represent to me:
Collectively, our family has raised over $3 million dollars for charities around the world. We've provided shoes, clothing, and school supplies in 17 major cities in the US and 5 countries abroad. You alone deserve a whole ass documentary.
23x Medalist, 11x All-American, 5x State Champion. Two degrees and a graduate degree.
And you did it all from the mud. You are unequivocally the most accomplished person 99% of the people you meet will ever meet.
It's easy to take you for granted. You make it look easy. And people love a winner until they don't anymore.
Right now you are transitioning. Going from a legend to something closer to a g-d. I know that's hard. Those growing pains. But nobody promised us easy brother. And it's never been easy. And I don't imagine it's going to get any easier as we continue on this journey. When I find myself in that space, I try to remember his words:
"Nobody can beat you boys as long as you're together. Nobody."
I still believe these words today. All of us are changing the world. All of us have done amazing things. But you are the ambassador for us. You've taken our blood all over the world and PROVED that even men of high birth are going to have to prove it first by beating us. Before you represented America on the international stage, you represented us. Your direct blood. But also all the Lost Boys and Lost Girls from Neverlands all over the world. That's why they love you everywhere you go. That's why you can walk into any hood in America and be both totally safe and at home. Because you represent all of us. You give us all hope. You make us all feel like we can do it. This is a Divine mission you are on. That we are on with you. And for representing us, we will always love you and scorch the fucking earth if anyone gets in the way of that.
My point is this:
In every generation there is a chosen one. One who stands differently than everyone else. One who will stand against the demons and the devils trying to extinguish the light.
You are the CHOSEN one.
G-d is resplendently reflected in the souls of those chosen. And these pure souls, these images of G-d on earth shine both brighter and differently. This light can be a lot of brightness for the uninitiated. Continue to be a candle in the dark. And never forget that those still in the dark love you and have your back.
Greatness has always been your destiny. We always knew it would be like this. We just didn't wait around for it to happen. We went out and made that shit happen.
Never forget that.
I'm going to broaden his statement a bit though before signing off. Our mother has done what no other mother from where we are from could. Over and over and over again.
Nobody can beat us as long as we are together. All five of us. Nobody.
So tonight after you hop your black ass out of that new Range Rover and sit your black ass down tonight in your private home movie theater, I want you to take a moment and take a deep breath. You smell that? That's what Heaven smells like. Your mother is healthy and provided for. Your brothers are good. You belong where you are.
Brick by brick sir. And fuck survivors guilt (sorry for cursing Mother). See the signs Gyspy Boy!
Never forget the Architect has CHOSEN you.
- Me (John Anthony)