We had three shoots scheduled for the end of September and it was a rough summer. All except for one attempt I made to make money was successful. My mother took an unexpected pay cut. Every reason to give up and wash my hands of the show flooded my mind. I wanted to open up and talk to someone besides my fellow Producers about it. But I felt that those that I even considered speaking to would never understand. So I kept my mouth shut. I kept things between my fellow Producers and God. I began to question why I was even putting myself through this kind of stress. Overwhelmed, one day I opened my bible to Matthew 27.
Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”
In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God,’” In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
Here Jesus was on the cross suffering physically. Then people began to insult Him and ridicule Him which caused him to suffer emotionally. On top of that they made it clear that they didn’t believe in Him which only added to the emotional hurt. On the outside looking in one might believe that it just would have been easier for Him to come down off the cross to put an end to His humiliation, His hurt and their doubt. He was fully capable of doing so. Yet He remained on the cross because He knew it was absolutely necessary. He was the ultimate sacrifice.
2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
If He didn’t sacrifice Himself we would be lost forever. He was motivated by love. His strength motivated me to surge forward. This was God’s plan for my life and I knew it would be successful. I’m happy to say that we taped the three shows and we are now halfway through the season. There will be times where it seems like it would be easier to just give up. When that happens ask yourself what motivates you. Remember if God made this kind of sacrifice and endured such suffering for you, there should be no reason why you shouldn’t do what He asks of you.
The time was upon us. We had three days to pitch our projects to 25 companies. When we touched down in Los Angeles, California we had a huge commute to get to our room. The pitch festival location was in Universal City and we had made arrangements to stay in Long Beach. Every day of the pitch festival we had to take a bus, two trains and a trolley to and from the location. The commute and the heat were a bit much to deal with but we managed. We did a really lousy job during our first pitch. The individual we were pitching to couldn’t have looked less interested. I wanted to walk out so many times during our presentation. But I told myself, “No you paid to be here so you’d better see this through.” When we finished my mother and I went outside to regroup. I called my Uncle who is also a Pastor and has great experience with public speaking. I told him what had happened. After I spoke with him I decided that it would be best to put the index cards down and try to have more of a casual conversation with the person that I’m pitching to. My Uncle asked to speak with my mother so I gave her the phone. She started tearing up as she spoke with my Uncle. I motioned to her to find out what was wrong. With her eyes filled with tears she muttered “Uncle Grandpa died this morning,” I gasped. We shed our tears. Pitching after that couldn’t have been more difficult. Soon the commute, the heat, the pitching and the death in our family overwhelmed us.
“For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them.”
We decided to step outside for a word of prayer. I immediately felt the presence of God. I knew He was there with us and somehow even with all that was going on around us, I knew that everything would be okay. He gave me a peace that surpassed my understanding. We pitched very well after that and with confidence we successfully made it through the 18th Hollywood Pitch Festival. Now it was time to travel back home. We had a connecting flight in Denver, Colorado. When we got on the plane there was an intoxicated gentleman sitting directly behind me. All throughout the flight he was pulling and kicking my seat. I told the flight attendant what was going on and asked if he could move my seat. But he said there weren’t anymore seats available. So I continued to put up with it. But then I started to smell cigarette smoke. Even though I smelled it I just couldn’t fathom that someone would be smoking on the plane, so I brushed it off. It wasn’t until my mother who was sitting across from me happened to turn around and saw the tip of the intoxicated passenger’s cigarette light up as he inhaled, that I received my confirmation. He was smoking on the plane! Onlookers frantically hit the call button for the flight attendant and several of them came trooping down the aisle to see what was wrong. All at once passengers started yelling out “He’s smoking on the plane! He has a cigarette!” Thankfully the flight attendant confiscated the cigarette and the lighter. We made it back to New York safe and sound. As for the intoxicated smoker, he ended up going to jail.
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would ever come before him!
After the script was written, I was eager for God to tell me what company my mother and I should pitch the script to and how. What I found in my research was that agents were expensive and that they only want to work with you if you have a name for yourself. I decided that the best course of action would be attending a pitch festival. The way I figured it, it would be the perfect opportunity for my mother to pitch the feature she had written and the perfect chance for me to pitch the sitcom. I made plans to attend the Hollywood Pitch Festival and purchased two books to help us prepare for the event. But whenever you do something for God, opposition from the devil is never that far behind. Sure enough, the first week of the month of May, our next door neighbor had a fire. It affected my mother and I because where we live, our homes are connected. It was about one ‘o’clock in the morning. I felt like I was getting the best sleep ever. It was one of the deepest sleeps I ever had. I vaguely heard my mother call my name. When I finally woke up my mother’s calling became more and more frantic. I jumped up and followed her voice to the kitchen. A huge cloud of black smoke flew through the window. Shocked, I continued to follow my mother’s voice down into the basement. “The house is on fire next door! Call 911!” But all I could think about was getting my mother and myself out of there. I grabbed my phone and grabbed my mother, ran out of the house and called 911. After I called 911 I found out that several other neighbors had already called. As I stood outside and watched the firefighters fight the flames, I looked up at the sky and asked God what He wanted me to get out of this situation. There was a lot of smoke damage and the firefighters knocked out a few windows and broke up a few of our things. The environment where I worked was pretty much completely destroyed. At that moment I felt that failure at the Hollywood Pitch Festival was not an option. In my eyes this event was our only way out. So despite the circumstances, my mother and I continued to prepare for that event. The following Sunday on our way to church we were in a car accident. The cab we were in ran into directly into the car in front of us. Thankfully we weren’t critically injured, but I was convinced that we were under the attack of the enemy.
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of Law Depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Writing a sitcom seemed so far off from what I was doing. But I had no doubt that God said it and I was determined to do just what He said. But then I got a direct message from a rap artist named Tally P and he was interested in an interview. Excited, I quickly sent him a message back and arranged an over the phone interview. So there I was writing an article and I assured God I would get to what he told me to do eventually. And I was genuinely confident that I would. But after I got through with that article, I got a phone call from my cousin. She told me that Wanda Armour, the mother of Mindless Behavior’s artist “Prodigy” was interested in an interview about her new book. Again, I assured God that I would get to writing that sitcom just as soon as I interviewed Armour and posted it to my website. And I had every intention to do just that. I shot her publicist an email, arranged an over the phone interview and wrote the article.
Never put off what God has instructed you to do.
God allowed me to post the article to my website but then after that boom! He shut my whole operation down. I got a virus on my laptop. Until I got the money to get it fixed, I was left with nothing but a pen and a notebook to write the sitcom that God wanted me to write in the first place.
Walk even when the way is not clear.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
At this time I was trying to get Ayana Productions on television. I was confident that if we got on television and got some more eyes on us, we would be sure to make a profit. So I drew up a proposal and made a reel. I sent it out to WKBT and NYC TV. But I hadn’t received any replies to my emails. At this point I didn’t know what else to do or where else I could turn. It was back to the drawing board again it seemed. I went to God in prayer and told God that it felt like I hit a brick wall. My worry and concern only grew when I didn’t hear from God or at least feel Him right away. As the days passed it was business as usual. My mother and I covered events like the Mental Health Association of NYC “Where there is Help, There is Hope Gala, the Live From T5 Goodie Mob concert, the Urban World Film Festival and the United Cerebral Palsy of NYC 4th annual Santa Project and Auction. While editing one of the shows I made a terrible goof with one of the kyrons and another one during the ins and outs. I decided to take a break and do some yard work. For some reason gardening relaxes me. And just as softly as the wind blew across my face, I heard God say “It’s time to change the direction of the company. I want you to write a sitcom.”
It seemed all throughout my career, my in between jobs seemed insignificant. Family and friends always had a way of making me feel that what I do is not important. Before I knew it that way of thinking trickled down into the way I felt about my purpose for God because I felt insignificant. Because I wasn’t making a certain amount of money, I felt insignificant. Because I hadn’t acquired a certain amount of materialistic things I felt insignificant. Before I knew it I stopped fellowshipping with God and was back to doing my own thing. I tried to take matters into my own hands by trying to acquire a job that the world considered significant but was nothing more than a mere whim of selfish ambition to God. I had been tricked by the enemy.
If you only knew how significant you are to God’s plan.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
I filed for unemployment some time ago. But I hadn’t heard from the Department of Labor regarding their decision about whether or not they approved my claim. I had been contemplating applying for a customer service position I saw on Craigslist at a digital printing company. But every time I tried to go through with applying, something on the inside of me told me not to. As the days passed, I got more and more anxious. Not hearing from the Department of Labor for so long was driving me crazy. The more I thought about applying for the job the more I heard God tell me not to. But according to my common sense I needed money and therefore I should apply. There was a war going on inside of me. Eventually my common sense got the best of me. I applied and got an email to come in for an interview. On the way to the interview, something said,
I disregarded it and went anyway. The interview went fairly well and I got the job. I discovered my unemployment insurance claim was approved on my start date. On my way there God warned me once more,
“Turn around and go back home.”
It troubled me but I brushed it off. My first few days were okay. My nerves were a little rattled because it was another office job and the one I was at before didn’t turn out too well. Fortunately for me there was another person in the office who worked with me and she answered any questions I had. Eventually I got the hang of things. But a few weeks later she resigned and the reason why God never wanted me to work there in the first place became more and more apparent. A small business, most times it was just the owner and myself there. There were times when I walked into the office and the owner undressed me with his eyes and as if that wasn’t enough he would sometimes say, “You’re looking sexy today.” It made working there so uncomfortable.
I thought about talking to him about it but with just me and him the office I felt that anything could happen. So I decided not to say anything. But one thing was for certain. I wish I would’ve listened to God. I regretted not doing what God asked me to do in the first place. Now here I was in another unfortunate situation, my unemployment gone all because I let my common sense undermine what God said.
I worked diligently to get my company off the ground, in order to get out of my current situation. While working there we had Actress Nhadya Salomon and Film Producer Rich McKweon on the show. But you better believe once my tax refund came I was out of there. I decided to live off of that until I figured out what my next move would be. We went on to cover the United Cerebral Palsy Women Who Care Luncheon and the Mental Health Association of New York City, Where there is Help, There is Hope Gala.
Not knowing how I would pay my bills and not staying in the same place for too long was starting to wear on me. The jobs I found on Craigslist never lasted that long so I didn’t want to search for employment there anymore. I prayed and asked God to show me how I could make money through Ayana Productions. It wasn’t absolutely necessary for me to be rich, but I wanted to make enough money to at least sustain me. But with each passing day the weight of the bills increased on my shoulders. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and there I was looking for another job on Craigslist.
I landed a gig working for a non-profit organization raising funds to prevent companies from lobbying politicians in order to continue fracking. I worked outside. Which was fine except it was the dead of winter and it was unforgivably cold outside. Putting in an eight shift asking people for donations didn’t exactly make me enthusiastic. Most people didn’t want to stand outside and talk to me about the environment much less anything else and I know because I used to be one of them. I used to be one of the people too busy to stop and listen to what somebody had to say. Now I was on the other side of the fence. The people who I came in contact with either scurried inside to their offices or to a nearby café to get a nice warm drink. But it wasn’t all bad. I did get a few donations. Unfortunately it wasn’t up to company standard so…You guessed it. I got laid off. This time I was quite relieved because I didn’t have to stand out in the cold asking complete strangers for donations any longer. In the end what was facing me was the task God wanted me to complete a few months back and that was to finish typing the feature film script my mother wrote.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold for that which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
By now I had four shows under my belt. I felt pretty good about that considering the circumstances. But I couldn’t shake the anxiety that I felt every time I walked into that office. I told my friend about what I was going through and she talked me into working with her at her job. I thought to myself that anything would be better than what I was going through. Yet something in my gut told me working with her wasn’t a good idea. But I went to the job interview anyway and I got a position as a customer service representative. I put in my two weeks’ notice. However my anxiety attacks only increased when I started the other job. They were so bad that I couldn’t understand the work for the life of me. The pain in my stomach was so severe that I spent most of my time in the bathroom. I needed to get out and that’s exactly what I did. I left the job not sure about how I would pay my bills but the relief of not having to go back there ever again was so great none of the circumstances bothered me. I went home early and prayed for hours. I hadn’t prayed that way in a long time. My circumstances were so loud that I couldn’t hear God speak. The anxiety attacks, bills and concerns about my job consumed me so much so that I lost fellowship with God.
Never let your circumstances cause you to lose fellowship with God.
1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray without ceasing.
God gave me a peace even in the midst of my extenuating circumstances. He gave me strength to carry out the next episode. I had the pleasure of having Actor and Model Jarrel Cudjoe on the next episode of the show.
So here I was unemployed. In addition to my daily job search, I tried to get more coverage for Ayana Productions. I went back to my old routine and started praying first thing in the morning. Things were going pretty well but then my boredom got the best of me. Praying every day, looking for jobs and searching for media coverage somehow didn’t satisfy me especially since I still didn’t see a significant change in the websites’ traffic.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself.
Eventually my boredom led me right back to my selfish ambition. I was spending more and more time taking online courses to make my resume look more appealing in order to get a job that had nothing to do with what God wanted me to do. Again I was headed in a direction that God didn’t want me to go in. Then my selfish ambition got the best of me. My mother, who is now the Executive Director and Host of Ayana Productions, wrote a feature film script in two composition notebooks. I could feel God tug at my heart, telling me to type the script. Still not used to God’s voice, I brushed it off because we had an online news and entertainment show. In my mind, we had no business fooling up with a feature film when we couldn’t even get the show off the ground. So I put it off. I certainly wish I would’ve listened to God because what comes next, I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Eventually I got another job. But God has a way of chastising you when you’ve been disobedient. I landed a gig at an eCommerce company as a customer service representative. In retrospect, the job was pretty simple. All I had to do was assist customers with their orders via email. At this job we were allowed to wear our headphones and listen to music. But at a reasonable volume of course just in case one of the supervisors was trying to get our attention. Simple enough right? Not really. Because we were allowed to listen to music, the supervisors’ sitting in the front office would speak negatively about the staff. There were times I heard them speak negatively about me, which made for a very uncomfortable working condition. One day I guess I couldn’t suppress their comments any longer because I started gasping for air and my heart started racing. I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong. So I got up, went to the restroom, took a couple of deep breaths and tried to calm myself down. But the relief was only temporary. When I got back to my desk, it started up again. This feeling just wouldn’t let up. It was becoming increasingly worse with each passing day. I did some research on my symptoms and apparently I was suffering from anxiety attacks. To make matters’ worse I was beginning to have night terrors during my sleeping hours. The job was really wearing on me. I prayed and asked God to get me out of the situation. My desire became so great that I vehemently started working on Ayana Productions coverage. While I was employed there I covered the Queens Peace Keepers March, a Fathers Alive In The Hood event and the Dumbo Arts Festival. My mother also interviewed Ralph McDaniels (Uncle Ralph) and the Mis B’havin Misfits. Sometimes God allows trouble to come to get your attention and get you back in line. But take my advice; things are always easier when you listen to God the first time.