love yourself enough to leave

To quote Nas on NY State of Mind, “I don’t know how to start this shit.”
Last year was traumatizing and turbulent and did I mention traumatizing?
In January and February I was (almost singlehandedly) leading a team of 15 people aged 17-54 in Egypt and Cyprus. That experience caused tremendous burnout. When COVID hit the states I was in Germany and I flew back on the first flight I could before the travel ban took effect- actually, the day of. I went back to Madison and was staying in the housing of an organization I used to work with there. While there, around May, was when I got intimately accustomed to burnout- and accepting that I’d been going too hard for too long. And then! Ahmaud Arbery was killed. And then George Floyd was killed. And then Breonna Taylor. And then Jacob Blake in our Wisconsin background of Kenosha. I’m not a talker (despite being a poet) I’m a doer. And so I was in the streets, protesting, as well as writing and self publishing a book about my first hand experiences on the frontlines. I was also protesting within the organization I worked for- a “christian” missions organization. I laid out to them how systemically they too, were practicing racism. My reward? They evicted me from their housing. They held base wide meetings where they smeared and blasphemed my character. They gaslit me whenever I came to them. And they told everyone that they weren’t complacent when it came to anti-racism work- DESPITE me going to them 2-3 years prior and telling the base leader that the org needed anti racist training. The leader’s nonchalant response was, “Well, what you’ve got to understand is we’re a group of midwestern white people- we don’t know much about race.”- functionally- using the very problem as a justification for their lack of response, and implying that if only I understood the social situation I wouldn’t have any qualms with it. I reject that.
I spent 4 years with that org- a “christian” org- and thought I made friends and even developed familial ties with some of them. But when things got real- and I refused to be silent- they evicted me. In the middle of a global pandemic.
As Kendrick Lamar asks in Mortal Man, “when shit hits the fan is you still a fan?”
I found the answer was an overwhelming “no.”
Most of the people I thought I could rely on abandoned me and sided with the institution. Going into the late summer/early fall I was lead actor in a film called Trace The Line (but I signed an NDA so I can’t talk too much about that…hopefully y’all will see it one day, tho) and during those couple months my mental health declined significantly. I was still suffering from the encumbering burnout of my early 2020 excursion to Egypt and Cyprus- and jumping into the summer I still hadn’t healed from the months prior- and now I had spiritual abuse wounds and also wounds from activism- like being teargassed and maced (one night during the summer teargas wafted into our house- that’s how proximate my living conditions were to the protests of the summer). I was in survival mode. Just tryna do the things I had to. But I was in a BAD place. Most nights I’d take a full glass of whiskey to my room. The wounds were compiling and I had no space to process and/or heal them. And then, I got married October 24th. And moved to Yukon, Canada on October 27th. I died there. Not literally- but, for the first time all year I had space just to break down. To weep. To be hurt. And I was hurting, excruciatingly. I still am hurting. And that’s okay. It has to be. I haven’t posted on here for a long time because I didn’t know how to say anything. Like, I still don’t want to hurt that organization. Which is obviously a double standard cause they clearly didn’t give a flying fuck about me.
I remember I was in a meeting with their leadership team post-eviction and one of the leaders said, “Matthew, you know we love you, right?”
And I immediately retorted, “But you can see how evicting me for speaking out against racism in the middle of a global pandemic doesn’t communicate that you love me, right?”
And he shrugged.
If that is love then I don’t want to be loved by anyone ever!
During the winter I broke down like a car out of gas. Contemplating suicide. Wondering if I needed to be checked in to a psych ward. Damn near apostatizing. Cause if their god is the god I’d been serving for the past 4 years as I worked in that org then I didn’t want anything to do with God.

Part of what I realized is that by being in the org I betrayed myself. From the 2nd month of working in that org in 2016 I knew it was racist. But, even then I was in survival mode. I didn’t graduate High School. I didn’t want to be flipping burgers for minimum wage. I didn’t have a good job history. Where else could I go? So, I stayed. And endured a whole lot that I never should have allowed myself to go through.
One “fun” story is a dude who asked me why I was listening to “nigger music” when I was listening to Kendrick Lamar.

I wrote a poem that I published in You Can Not Burn The Sun (my book) called ” white love has not been enough” and in it I write,
“to truly care
requires love
or policy in the absence of love

and i need some policy
because white love has not been enough”

I’m coming to terms with how I put myself in a situation wherein I needed to be protected, and wasn’t. I relied on a broken and debased love when I should’ve demanded policy. I would literally avoid going to the main base of the org because I anticipated experiencing racism in the form of micro and macro aggressions.
I stayed. For 4 long years. And I betrayed myself in doing so. And the day when I decided to stop betraying myself- they painted me as the bad guy.
But do you want to know the funny thing? I knew that would happen. The night before I went to the organization I was at a true friend’s house and I told them that if I spoke up I’d be villianized. I anticipated assassination of character and I still went. Granted, I didn’t anticipate getting evicted. That one really sucked. But, more than my own self betrayal, the fact of the matter is I was betrayed by an org that exploited my labor for 4 years. By an org that wanted me to be a good little nigger, (lets call a spade a spade, ok?) obedient, and docile. By an org that named eviction as love.

I write this because I gotta tell my truth. I write this because I realized I have no desire to continue suffering woundings that come from self-betrayal. I write this cause fuck racism. I write this because it is liberating to know and tell our stories.
And so, my dear reader, I hope and pray that you can learn from my mistakes. Don’t betray yourself like I did. And don’t work for people who will betray you. If you see red flags call that shit out. If you see red flags and you call that shit out and they stay complacent- LEAVE. You owe them nothing. Love yourself enough to leave.
I’ll say it again, love yourself enough to leave.

Author: matthew charles

A transracially adopted black man, matthew’s life has been both black and white but he knows that life is not black and white. An Activist, Artist, and Mystic, matthew pursues a life centered on the learning of LOVE as justice and mercy. Well traveled, his perspective is larger than it is limited- he has traveled and taught internationally in countries such as South Africa, Tanzania, and Germany. In the US matthew has taught poetry in schools, competed in the National Poetry Slam, and self published his debut poetry collection titled “You Can Not Burn The Sun”. A budding voice in the Baltimore poetry scene if you’re interested in booking him to speak/teach/perform email

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