Mark Campbell: Are You Running Away from Something or Sprinting Towards Greatness?

Mark Campbell, (Educator, Entrepreneur, Speaker)  Photo of Mark Campbell

“Are You Running Away from Something or Sprinting Towards Greatness?”

Most of us would agree our existence was a surprise for our parents. Our births proved God does have a sense of humor. As our parents were planning their future God was placing us into creation. My mother, a West Indian raised me along with my stepfather a retired Marine. Similar to many modern families my relationship with my biological father was more out of convenience and not a necessity on his behalf.  My stepfather replaced the person who was pre-destined to raise me and became the man I called father.

With no instruction booklet, the plan for my life as a Black boy in America would have been no different had I been either rich, poor, from the hood or the outskirts. From rags to riches to one day attend college was more of a good idea oppose to a natural progression. I believe we all share a common blueprint for life as Black men after birth.  Our lives are immediately challenged and it is then up to us to change the disposition we are forced upon.  Unfortunately, our birth condition is unnatural and is a result stemming from disproportioned historical circumstances. By no means is this to overlook or replace Gods plan for our lives, “ Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” {Jeremiah 1:5}. Despite our uniqueness in creation as Black men, the stigmas of our journeys parallel one another.

Nothing living is ever aware of what it is until someone or something forces it to believe and behave in a conditioned manner.  Growing up my disposition mimicked those around me. In hindsight, my life was more of an illusion sheltered by an altered reality. What I appeared to be on the outside was not who I pictured I was on the inside.  I was aware of my blackness and always felt just as equal to my peers. I did not have to be twice as good I just needed to be good enough.  After moving from Brooklyn, New York to California the family and I first settled in a suburb called Spring Valley, centrally located in San Diego. I was six years old at the time. By the end of the sixth grade, we relocated to Jamul, California a remote countryside in San Diego. We were the first and only Black family that I knew of living in the town.  This move was life-changing because I was now being raised in a predominately White Conservative community and was now officially the “Black Kid”.  An outcast from those who resembled me and too far opposite from those I new friends.  It was this relocation that caused a delay in my search for identity, acceptance and truth. Only to result into me believing I would never fit in or be equal to my new peers. At an age of adolescence when we are the most confused with who we are, my blackness became more of a marking of the beast oppose to a gift.

It was not until High School where I began to experience what would later shape, sharpen and begin to define my perspectives on life. It was the end of my eleventh-grade year when ASB also known as Student Government elections were being held.  I was on the campaign trail for Vice-President. For one week we hung posters throughout our school and pleaded with our peers to vote for us. My posters were Looney Tune themed and were professionally drawn.  The second day after hanging my campaign posters the word Nigger was boldly graffitied on each one.  This was the first time in my life had I been publically shamed for what I am and not admired for who I was. My earlier accomplishments in school or my outstanding athletic performances did not matter; I was shamed by the color of my skin. Experiencing this became a turning point in my life and for the first time, my color became my reality both inside and out. Despite the hurt I felt internally, I did not want my peers who did this to find satisfaction in their wrongdoing. I could have easily quit but with two days left in the campaign, I replaced my vandalized posters with new ones.  My competition then, was against an individual who was from the Arabic culture. Since the beginning of the campaign, I had always felt he would win the popular vote. On the day of the election, a White student approached me and said, “There was no way a Sand Nigger was going to be voted in”.  At the time, I was ignorant to the reference Sand Nigger.  Obviously, it was derogatory but I was unaware that Arabic’s were called Niggers too.   For a short while knowing this left me confused.  Not only was I surprised but also shortly after I realized like it or not one of us was going to win regardless of what anyone referred to us as.

I won the election by a landslide in 1993 despite the upset and public embarrassment. The vandalism of my posters could have affected me in many ways. I could have turned bitter and lived the rest of my life hating others not like me or I could have adjusted my anger and frustration instead and used it for the betterment of others and myself.  I chose to embrace leadership oppose to defeat.

From the time we are born to the time we die as Black males we are either running away from something or towards something. Regardless of the matter, we must all learn to sprint towards greatness, shake off disruptions and bypass roadblocks. Over the course of my lifetime, I have learned to never chase success. Instead, choose to become a person of value in everything that you do.  Discover something that you can be great at. Once you make yourself valuable people will pay for your expertise.  This way, you can develop into a leader.  Build genuine friendships and never be the smartest one in your circle. Once you are the smartest, you will stop growing so learn to maintain friends who are smarter than you and can lift you up. Remember, no one can devalue you unless you allow him or her too. Never live someone else’s dream because their dreams belong to them and them alone.  Their road is just as bumpy as yours, if not bumpier. If God did not want you to be unique and to live in His favor, He would have not created you.   Finally, do not get lost in religion. Develop a relationship with our creator and when you hear that voice inside tell you, you can, believe it.

Mark Campbell, (Educator, Entrepreneur, Speak)

Last modified: Tuesday, December 11, 2018, 11:01 AM