my body is a receipt

“you picked the wrong time of year to perform. Did you forget my body is a receipt?”, I write as part of a caption for a picture on Instagram on June 22nd 2021

Photo Cred: Zebadiah Potler

“you picked the wrong time of year to perform. Did you forget my body is a receipt?”, I write as part of a caption for a picture on Instagram on June 22nd 2021. I @ an org in Madison I used to be affiliated with until last summer.
I @ them because there’s an active protest that started last summer wherein many past members of that org (BIPOC and white allies) revoked the org’s right to use our images in any way shape or form specifically because of the org’s treatment of Black people.
I @ them because last summer they wrongfully evicted me from their house on Langdon – (which I was staying in because I came back to the states from Germany because of the pandemic & I had nowhere else to go) and when I asked the leader why they were wrongfully evicting me in a county that had a hold on evictions because we’re in a f*cking pandemic, he looked me in the eyes and said, “because you’re staying in our housing and you’re speaking out against us.”

All I said was that they were institutionally racist.
I @ them because on Juneteenth 2021 they posted a performatively anti-racist Juneteenth square with a lil caption just as performative as those black squares last summer, as if their ig ain’t as white as it is because we are still actively protesting them.
I @ them because while they’re posting performative shit on Juneteenth 2021 I was performing shit I wrote on Juneteenth at the Juneteenth FC Madison game.

The poem reads,

a dear friend messaged me on Facebook
“i stand with you brother.”
black skeptic i am, i reply to her
“so you’re coming to the protest?”

my question: a test i knew the answer to.
“no.”
you stand with me in platitudes and know nothing of with-ness

you may be standing
but it certainly is not WITH me

and before you ask, yes, the poem is a real interaction I had with somebody that works within that org i @‘d in my caption on instagram on June 22nd 2021.

The caption sits under a photo of my freshly inked arm- a tattoo I got on June 8th 2020 of a poem (translated to english by Daniel Ladinsky) written by Hafiz
my then-all time favorite poem: The Sun Never Says

even after all this time
the sun never says to the earth

“you owe me”

look what happens with a love like that,
it lights the whole sky.

I got this poem tatted on me directly after leaving a meeting with the org I @‘d because I needed to remind myself to take the high road- even with racists. To not let myself be poisoned by the poisonous. Or caged by those who would imprison me like an animal in a zoo- calling me beautiful while simultaneously being the reason why I’m broken.
I say “broken” they say “tame” and that’s the difference between hearing it from the horse’s mouth and hearing it from their trainer’s.

Why Black pain so visible- so visceral- so very known of – and why white people still ain’t believe us enough to do anything about it?
I don’t want to be ‘appreciated’ if it’s prerequisite is me being palatable, tame, or safe. Those are just code words for “good nigger”.
And I been a “good nigger” too long.

Last summer I decided to try my hand at being the sun. why? because it lovingly sears and scalds and warms the earth and her waters- and you can not burn the sun.
Indeed- you can not burn the sun, but you can etch it’s ethos into your skin: an eternal receipt of the day your world changed.

A virtual roundtable wherein I was the featured guest
(+check out Raid.r podcast for an episode of “The Art Kid Speaks” ft. Me)

Madison | i am who You say i am

The Inner

The last month has been hectic. COVID. lead actor in a film. George Floyd. Protests. Wrote a poetry book. Self published my poetry book. Articles started to get written about my activism and my art.

One day I was out with a friend who happens to be a crew member of the film I’m in, and she introduced me to her friend by saying, “this is Matthew he just self published a poetry book and he’s the lead actor in the film I was telling you about.”

Alarms went off inside of me as if I was a bank that was being robbed. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
I wasn’t okay with being introduced like that.
Why? Well, one reason is that I didn’t want people to look at me differently.

Recently, an article came out called, “5 emerging leaders in Madison” and I was 1 of the 5.
When I read that article I thought to myself, “wow, THAT guy sounds awesome.”
But…THAT guy didn’t feel like it was me. I said everything they said that I said, so how come I felt like an imposter? A fraud?
“I’m not THAT big of a deal”, I’d tell myself, “I’m not really an emerging leader.”

How come I not only don’t like when other people see me for who I am? But I also feed myself a narrative that breeds imposter syndrome? Can’t I accept my own success as valid, and real?
“You can’t be as bright as they say you are”, I tell myself. Even tho I know that since my youth I’ve rigorously pursued developing myself so that one day I could shine. This double consciousness- at once permissive and restrictive of my shine- wars within me.

Where I come from people aren’t encouraged to shine, it’s almost as if we believe there’s not enough sky for all of us to be stars. But, I want to be more than a star- I want to be a sun.
Why must we let fear rob us of our bravery?
Pillage us of the treasures inside- leaving most of us so barren we can’t even imagine thinking highly of ourselves?
Most people don’t have articles written about them saying that their “voice is one that everyone should be listening to.” and so, I, more than most people in my life am confronted with this reality of other’s estimation of me. And it seems to be quite lofty.
I know what they say, “don’t believe the hype.”
But, rejecting the truth about yourself isn’t humility. It’s insecurity.

In writing my book, You Can Not Burn The Sun, SHINE is something I wanted to encourage myself to do. The sun IS bright. It IS seen most days. In fact, without it, none of us would be alive.
I want to cultivate the kind of courage to allow myself to shine. To be able to say, and believe, “my contributions to this world are important.”

To that end, I’m learning to be like the sun. From now on, if people tell me I shine brightly, I’ll say, “i am who You say i am”
because who better to tell you of your brightness than one who is warmed by your light?

Photos

Egypt | Imagine

Egypt; a land who’s treasure is hidden like the hair of the many women with Hijabs.
Getting to Egypt was an instant culture shock for us. . .

The Poem

we walked thru metal detectors
before we were allowed to enter
church
who would’ve thought
our holy spaces would need defenses

like, isn’t God enough?
but how can a people forgo a response when the trigger
from their trauma comes?

why can’t we mortals be the animals in noah’s story arc of floods?
You who call us Loved- protect us!
You say no weapon

formed against us will will prosper but
they are being formed!
and we are being taught to fear for the lives you’ve asked us to offer up

as sacrifices

remind us that tho our body
and indeed this building
may be
defenseless
our spirits are being kept
like sheep by The Shepherd

The Story

Egypt; a land who’s treasure is hidden like the hair of the many women with Hijabs.
Getting to Egypt was an instant culture shock; the color of everything buildings, earth, and skin, different- all of it now a sandy tan. The 5x daily Call to Prayer blaring from loudspeakers in mosques nation wide, “Allahu Akbar”- vowels stretched beyond 1/4 notes making the Call almost songlike. When you heard the Call you could feel it in the air. It was like hypnosis-only, instead of our eyes being lulled to sleep it was the spirit of an entire nation. I’ve never felt anything like that before. None of my team had, either. How do you do ministry when legally, muslim converts to Christianity can and will be put to death- the very real tension of knowing that if we care about the life of the people we’re among it might be better for them if we don’t mention Jesus?
How do you do ministry when you have to operate in secret because if the government finds out what you’re doing you could get Blacklisted and kicked out of the country?
Or when Christians- and especially foreign Christians are not a welcomed sight? We were fortunate to spend most of our 2 Months in Egypt in a tourist hub called Hurghada on the eastern seaboard. Fortunate because it was far more tolerant of us than Cairo would have been. But still, we operated in secret. To the level that the Americans on our team were not permitted to tell people we were from the US because of a rising anti-american sentiment.
Our team felt repressed.
We had come to do ministry yet could not even speak the name of Jesus. This forced us to be more creative. We ran several week long kids camps and something I’ll never forget is that the 3rd camp we planned wasn’t able to happen. Why? Because the imam (head of a Mosque) of that area of the city didn’t permit the kids to come. We had run the camp in this area twice before and hadn’t run into this obstacle. The thing is, the community knew that our contact was Christian. At times parents would come to watch us. They would come not because they wanted to know more of Jesus- but because they wanted to be sure that we weren’t influencing their kids to convert. Under their watchful eye we never spoke the name of Jesus but we were able to teach Good things to the kids. Still, our camp was markedly, and unspokenly Christian. And as such, the community was forbid to come to it. That was hard for us! We had grown attached to these kids and thought that they as well had grown attached to us- groups would wait at the locked gate of the park we’d host the camp at and they would run to greet us when we arrived in our van.
We created a safe space for that group of kids. And safety was a key ingredient. Key, because many of these kids were being abused at home- many would come to the camp with bruises- marks of harsh home living. We came to see these camps as significant because at least we knew that when the kids were with us they were safe, and honored, and loved. So different was the culture that we created in the camps that it was like a dream to many of the kids. When you wake up from a dream you know it is not reality, no matter how beautiful and memorable the dream.
One day I was teaching on conflict resolution and I asked the kids, “when your friend makes you mad what do you do?”
Hands shot into the air, eager to answer my question.
I called on a boy named Mohammed, “I take a deep breath and count to 10”, he said, referring to a song that we had made and taught the kids. Surely, he had the right answer! And a good memory!
But, I looked at him and said, “I don’t want to hear the ‘right’ answer, or what you think I want to hear. I want to hear what you actually do”.
The kids laughed and whispered among themselves and Mohammed spoke again, “oh! Then we beat each other.”

Honestly, I don’t know what kind of lasting impact we had. All I know is that when the kids were with us we made them resolve conflict differently. We brought them into a different world. And sometimes different worlds are like languages- they seem inapplicable in places that aren’t fluent in that tongue. While we may have showed them the tongue of love, will they speak it outside of our Camp? I don’t know. But we showed them that there is more. And for kids, one of the greatest gifts you can give them is showing them that it is possible to imagine “more”. So, what did we accomplish in Egypt? We helped a group of kids learn to imagine. And that, is beautiful.

The Pictures

Madison | Snowflakes [Made to be Caught]

Lately, I’ve felt a call to be more. But I’ve been afraid. To which God graciously responded, “But don’t you know that snowflakes were made to be caught?”
I am that made-to-be-caught Snowflake, and so are you!
Read on to see more of what I’ve been learning!

 


“But don’t you know that snowflakes were made to be caught?

And we’re the only ones who’re afraid as we fall”

 

The Inner

I wrote this piece inspired by a speaker at a conference who said, “Good theology makes for good art”. And I began to ponder this and question if my art-by that definition- is good or bad?
I started asking myself, “Why is theology so important in art?”
Well, the answer is simple. Even in my pieces that aren’t as explicitly Christian as the one above, my study of God (theology) informs them. The way I tell stories, my commitment to excellence, my desire to connect with the listener, it’s all inspired by how I see God interacting with the world. Inspired by this revelation I wanted to create a piece of “good art”, and knowing that I needed to create one to present to Spark [art elective in the DTS which I co-lead], I thought about what I’d been seeing to be true of God lately. The truth of it is this: that He calls us higher than we can soar alone, our wings are weak in comparison to the winds that whip us into submission- He calls us deeper than we can reach without Him- He the breath in our oxygen tank that enables us to continually go deeper. What is a scuba diver capable of without breath?  He calls us to be stronger than we can imagine absent His influence on our lives, and so I wrote a piece about this. I spent 36 hours locked away in my room writing, feeling the pulse of the heart of God, how persistently He calls us, and how strongly His desire for us to answer this call.
“Come to me! I’ve come down to you that I might raise you up with me! Arise, mighty valiant warrior!”, He calls us just like He called Gideon.
This year I have been called to Radiance. To shine; a light among darkness, and moreso than ever before.
I am intimidated by this. Afraid.  But like the snowflake I speak of “We’re the only one’s who are afraid as we fall”. God, in His faithfulness is going to catch me. He- the oxygen in my tank, the strength in my wings, the courage behind my conviction.

This year is going to be an exercise in abiding in the truth that I am made to be caught, and that He calls us to nothing wherein His presence is not. He is with me.
A couple Mondays ago I experienced a minor crisis, I was left alone to teach the first night of Spark. Due to poor weather the rest of my team was unable to come and I was stressed because it was a very sudden change that I was unprepared for.
In my franticity God told me to go outside in just my socks.
But it had been snowing all day! WHY WOULD YOU HAVE ME DO THAT?!?!
I didn’t understand why He asked me to do it, so I questioned Him and He told me that I wouldn’t understand until I did it. Fine. I submitted and went outside barefoot and stood in the snow.
You know how when you wash fruit you’re allegedly supposed to do it with cold water because cold water allegedly shocks the fruit or something? Yeah well I was fruit standing in the cold snow shocked clean of my worries as I so clearly heard His comforting voice say to me, “I am closer than the cold on your feet.”
I walked back in, eased and comforted into confidence and faith. He is with me.
Long story short, the night went fine and fluid. Less structured than what was planned, but from the lemons came lemonade. Yum. And amidst my fall, He caught me.

 

 

The Outer

  • The winter DTS is off to a booming start, I am co-leading Spark which is the art elective and I’m so excited to be involved with these students! 7 girls who are all excellent creatives and all learning to intertwine their faith with their creativity! It’s so delightful to watch their process of integration!!
  • I am living at the Phos House [YWAM Madison’s campus ministry house] and this year I am not staffing there, just living, which is nice as I feel more free to engage relationally with the students. But I am leading a friday morning Small Group! The year is off to a great start!
  • Last year I was a student in the BSN and this year I am staffing the BSN (Bible School for the Nations)!! Woo!!! Just got the news like 5 minutes ago, y’all, I’m so excited.

The Photos

PoemIAmMyFathersChild
This is a poem I wrote for a friend of mine and she turned it into this!
Matthew
Bobby Buckets aka Matthew Charles with the clean fade
HiroLeaving
Kimono goodbye pics are the sauciest
[Hiro and Mayumi departed from YWAM Madison back to Japan!]

 

ManuelHiroMatthewLastNightHiro’s last night in Madison. Pic ft Manuel, me, and Hiro @ The Decent Dane

 

Matthew&Wesley2017
My nephew Wes and I in Saint Louis

 

Becky&Matthew2017
My sister Rebecca and I in Saint Louis!

 

Timia&I
My good friend Timia who I met in South Africa during DTS outreach 2 years ago came to visit me in Madison! We had a great time catching up! Love you, friend!

 

Mike&MayaWedding
Mike and Maya’s [MFB] Wedding reception! I got to give a speech!!

The Prayers

  • I am looking to establish a creative presence online through instagram and facebook, sharing my poems, and in order to effectively do that I need an iphone 7 [For the excellent camera it boasts]. In the next couple of months I am hoping to be able to purchase or have somebody donate to me an iphone 7.
  • I have been very tired, and lacking energy lately. Please pray for endurance and a desire in me to see Christ’s strength revealed through my weakness.
  • Spark is off to a great start! You can pray for the students as each day they are being discipled, encouraged, strengthened, and reformed, that they would continue to press in fervently, receiving all that Father has in store for them!
  • I’ve got some creative projects I’m working on and need people to come alongside of me. Please pray that the right people partner with me and catch the vision and do so at a relatively low financial price to myself LOL.
  • Relationships in Phos House to continue to be strengthened and delve into new areas of intimacy, that we can truly be a Christ-like community.
  • Pray that God reveals Himself to me in powerful ways and I am faithful to continue to seek conviction and conformation to the image He made me to, as I am studying in prep for BSN

 

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