Tim Hellman referred Marcus to this project after I had already spent some time with Marcus as he and Tim and I have been getting together to play some basketball. I met Tim through this process and I’m so grateful for our growing friendship. I’m also so grateful that he’s been willing to share his other friends with me as that camaraderie has contributed to this year’s positive start. It’s often the case that I don’t know much, if anything, about these folks before I interview them, so the dynamic changes a little bit when I do know them. It’s really fun to sit down and formalize a conversation with an acquaintance or a friend. My experiences with Marcus so far all have shown me his kindness and encouragement and what I would consider a strong tendency toward positivity. I’m happy to have made a new friend in Marcus and I’m delighted to introduce him to you here.
ACT: Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
ML: Who am I? Let me see. Son to Gale. Product of Grandma Ruby. Dad of two wonderful kids, Julian and Quinn. Husband to Erin. Brother to my sister, Acey. Pretty much encapsulates who I am. I'm basically a servant or, I don't know, just a part of their lives and hopefully I can help guide 'em. That's pretty much who I am in a nutshell, I guess.
ACT: What concerns you? When you think about the world and where things are at, what makes you sad? But then what motivates you to do something about it?
ML: That's a loaded one. That's a heavy one, dude. It's early.
What concerns me is that ultimately, I would love to see every person get their just due in the sense of whatever they want their life to be, they get the true satisfaction of whatever that is. I can't frame it for 'em. All I can do is just hope everybody gets that opportunity to have joy/happiness while they're here. But also at the same time, if they're living the life they wanna live, are they having fun doing it? That they're gonna be able to get to do... have that full, whatever they imagined that their life was gonna be like - that's what concerns me because as I'm getting older I'm starting to think about those things. I've had a fruitful life. Is it gonna continue to be fruitful? Is something else gonna happen? What's my journey? That concerns me.
But what scares me right now- truly scares me - is that a lot of people are gonna sacrifice their lives for nothing because somebody who's crazy is gonna do something insane and just mess up the democracy for everybody else. And I'm not picking at one person. I'm not trying to say it politically. That's not what I'm saying. It's just something in my heart fears something's gonna happen. And my kids aren't gonna get to have a long, fruitful life because somebody else made a decision for 'em. You know? That's what scares me. Because ultimately, all I want to be able to do is be able to hold my grandkids - that's my ultimate thing. If I can't get to that point, I think that's gonna hurt a lot. I think about those things sometimes.
ACT: What do we mean to each other - each person to each person - out in the world as we go about our lives?
ML: I think, basically, everybody has a story. And I think what we mean to one another is if you can get something positive from your interaction or learn something about yourself or even the other person, I think that's what me mean to each other. You have something endearing that I know I need and I have something you need. And hopefully if we can communicate and talk and be peaceful about it, we all can learn something. Sometimes it comes through hate. Sometimes it comes through selfishness. Sometimes it comes through many a things. I don't know. But ultimately, I think we have to intertwine with one another just to get a feel for what we want our society or our community to be.
ACT: What does it mean to you to be part of community and what does community mean to you?
ML: Man, community, to me, is everybody... we're all like little ants, I think, sometimes. I always think of it as an anthill where everybody's working to do their part. And that's what I think community is. And everything is illustrated in that manner. Everything builds or feeds off those things. I love that. Even for things around us - every element, molecule, whatever basically helps society be that much stronger. If it's from the birds or it's from worms or if it's from ants or if it's from just human beings or whatever - we're all part of the whole cycle of it.
Society means that we gotta work together to continue to make sure that that flourishes. And if we don't do that, I think we're doing ourselves a disservice. Ultimately I think this - for a society to be successful, everybody must be on the same page to a certain extent. They may not always agree with it, but they gotta know that they're contributing or feel that they are contributing. And also to be told sometimes, Hey, you know what, you're not holding your weight. And don't be offended when somebody says it. Just be understanding of why we're saying it. We're all pulling to the same direction.
ACT: Do you have any ideas on how to get people on that same page when it seems to me there's a bunch of people who aren't necessarily...?
ML: I think we can come together if everybody just has understanding that their obligation to the community is that they gotta help out. The way we can educate 'em, too, in our school systems. Our school systems need to change and I think in so many ways. Brick and mortar - yes, it's needed in some capacities. But I think experimental learning helps. Also homeschooling helps because you can educate from different perspectives. But, ultimately, our education system needs to change in the sense that people need to know what the common issues are within a society. If we all know what they are and we're trying to all find ways to help, then everybody wins.
Think about if you're educated, I'm educated, if the next person is educated on what's truly going on and not lie and be very transparent in what that is, then here's what happens. Everybody goes, Okay, I understand it because I was taught that. This is how this manages this. This works with that. You might not like how it works, but at least you know how the systems work. And then if everybody knows how those systems work they can make one of two decisions: I'm gonna help it or I'm not. There's no really in between. You can't go back and forth. You figure out I'm gonna help or I'm not gonna help. And then you make decisions based on that.
I think there's a lot of ways we can do it. We need to really, in a sense, organize how we distribute information. Lot of times, I think we just kinda throw out what we think is best for the com[munity] and we forget about the people and the individuals who are actually looking for that information. Sometimes I think we don't talk to everyone to get their opinion. I'm not saying it's needed sometimes, but sometimes... why would you want to write a story about this unless you really got all the information necessary? You know?
As much as we say we don't have segregation, everything's very segregated. And we don't disseminate information correctly to all facets. Think about it. I'm African American or black - whatever you want to call it - but I might not be able to relate to Indian, Hispanic, Anglo-Saxon, whatever you want to say. We are all gonna communicate and we're different because we're raised in different regions and we think differently. But all those people need to be in the decision-making process.
- Hey, here's your community. We're all the same bigger community, but you're in pockets. Here's what we're talking about at City Council. What do you guys think?
- We didn't like it. We don't like this because it hurts us here, here, and here.
- Hey, wow, thank you. We appreciate the information. Hey, African Americans, what are you guys doing?
- This is the issues we've been having in our community. Here's what we're trying to build. We don't feel that this legislation is gonna help us.
Alright, cool. But at least we all came together and harmoniously did it. But that's not how it's made. Everything's all factioned off. You get the information - everything's rationed. Trickle-down doesn't work because everybody's not gonna disseminate information because people feel threatened. All we have to do is take a step back and look and say, Hey, if we're gonna make an action or create something, how about asking somebody in that community how they feel about it before we just willy-nilly just let stuff roll off?
ACT: Do you feel represented well or respected?
ML: Represented and respected are two different things in my mind. I think I'm represented in the sense that I was taught a long time ago to know how to represent myself and my culture. Be strong about it. Understand what it means to our community. And continue to keep fighting the good fight for it. I’m respected because I don't hide behind who I'm not. I know I'm a black man. I know that. Hey, it's not gonna change. However, I'm still a person. And I'm gonna be respected as a person just like you wanna be respected as a person.
Yes, I see color. I'm not gonna sit here and say I don't. But guess what - I don't think of you as a color; I think of you as a human being. And if I get a vibe from you that you are not coming across as a good human being, guess what - we have a[n] issue. Bottom line. That's it. I could care less what you do in the privacy of your home, but when we're together and we're communicating and trying to get things solved, guess what - my voice is just as strong as yours. And I'm not asking for anything else. Okay? That's all I care about. Being respected is basically you gotta make people understand - Hey, you know what - I hear you. I respect what you're saying. But here's my opinion. Now, in terms of a responsibility behind all that, I can't be a hypocrite and try to say this is what I want. I gotta continue to stand fast for who I am and what I've been raised to do.
ACT: Do you have a sense of purpose or you could say a compulsion to live with intention?
ML: Yes. Oh, every day. Because I know the sacrifices I have to make helps my two kids be that much better in this world. I represent my family. I feel I have to. I want family's name to continue forever. You know, because that's how most people remember you. Historically, what did your family do? What was their legacy? What happened? What did they contribute to this society? And that's how everybody remembers you. That's my purpose - make sure the family name is respected, like you asked. But at the same time, I have a sense of purpose for, like I said, my two kids, my wife, my sister, my mom, people in general. I will help you - if you want the help. But only thing I'm trying to give you is just information. I've dealt with stuff. I'm not trying to make you think a different way. I'm just telling you through my experience, here's what I saw. You can take it. My purpose is to help people just try to be better. You know? Whatever that is in their mind. I'm serious. Every day I wake up and I'm thinking, What can I help with? What can I do to make things better? I have to.
ACT: Do you want to ask me anything?
ML: So, through this journey or whatever you want to call it - however you want to label it - what's the most gratifying part of doing all this?
ACT: That's a nice question. The most gratifying part is showing up at whatever location it is to meet with whoever it's gonna be and sitting down across from somebody and feeling a sense of equality with that person. It doesn't matter if they're the former CEO of Bend Research or whatever it is that they do. Whatever levels of success in their life just don't matter. I get to set across from somebody - like this - and just have a human to human experience. I think that's the greatest reward is just that I get to do this. I get to meet people and I get to ask them questions that you don't get asked grabbing a cup of coffee or going out to lunch.
It's a process of my building a case for human decency. And every time I meet with somebody, I feel more confirmation that we've got more going for us than we have going against us. It's easy for me to get distracted by the news or by the state of the world or by the violence, but it's so nice to just sit across from somebody, look them in the eye, and have that personal conversation. That's the most gratifying.
ML: I don't think we do that enough anymore. I think sometimes when I look at older movies and stuff, the one thing that made 'em great was the dialogue - the conversations, just everyday repartee, back and forth, whatever you want to call it. People don't do that anymore. That's the thing, sometimes that's how we get ideas and you'll be able to cultivate other things that can happen. And I think as we learn to do that again... as much as I love technology, I hate it to a certain extent because I think we get away from traditions that a lot of people take for granted nowadays. I'm always amazed when I talk to my students that they don't know about certain pieces of information because stuff isn't disseminated the way it was disseminated in our generation. That's why I say I wake up with a purpose - I gotta get that information out there. Some basic things still need to be told and said.
ACT: You have anything you want to say in closing?
ML: I'm glad you're doing this because people make this country or this society better. The more people realize who they have around them and are all on kinda the same page, doing the same thing or fighting the good fight every single day, it makes me feel good knowing I think my kids are gonna be alright. You know? Because there is some humanity out there and I think sometimes we overlook it. But I feel good about it, though, like I said. I really do.