25 years of life. I have been alive for a freakin’ quarter of a century. For as long as I can remember, my biggest fear hasn’t been heights, clowns, or dentists. My greatest fear has been getting old – and it’s finally coming true 😥 . But you can’t fight fate or evade nature. I haven’t a choice but to embrace the fact that I’m getting old.
But I look back at my life life with some sort of pride in the sort of man that I have turned or rather evolved into. There are many individuals, men and women (some I’ve never & probably will never meet), that have shaped and molded my life into what it is and what it can be. It’s no secret that my only goal in life is to remove the negative stigma around black men. Seeing as this is my 25th birthday, I’m writing about the 25 black men I look up to and intend to achieve success similar to theirs.
No. 25. JOMO SONO/KAIZER MOTAUNG :- These footballing legends have not only carved their names in stone with their mesmerizing footballing ability, but with their ability to successfully transform two township football clubs into well-respected and easily recognizable brands that expand beyond the football pitch. All this during South Africa’s most difficult time – apartheid.
No. 24. TYLER PERRY :- One of the most versatile actors/comedians. Growing up poor and sexually abused did not stop him from becoming one of the wealthiest film-makers in the world.
No. 23. NELSON MANDELA :- Need I explain why..? The name alone speaks deafening volumes.
No. 22. EARVIN “MAGIC” JOHNSON :- Talent accompanied by brains is an impenetrable shield against failure. Magic Johnson possessed this shield. He went from a magician in the basketball court to a magician in the boardroom. From playing for the LA Lakers, to owning the LA Lakers. After selling his Lakers shares, he now owns part of the LA Dodgers (MLB baseball team). He’s ballin’… in more ways than one.
No. 21. ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU :- A man not afraid to speak his mind. He was at the forefront in rallying to have Mandela released during apartheid, and publicly admonished President Zuma for refusing The Dalai Lama enterance into South Africa. I hope to meet him some day.
No. 20. STEVE HARVEY :- An “Original King of Comedy”. He is a daytime talk-show host, has two radio talk-shows, has a New York Times best-selling book, and he has his own range of formal ties… HUSTLER!
No. 19. AKON :- Born in Senegal but grew up in America. After making millions from his successful music career, Akon didn’t forget where he came from, and built solar panels that will provide 600 million Africans (that’s half the continent) with electricity.
No. 18. DR. DRE :- The first rapper to make a billion dollars. All this began by him and his group rapping about the struggles of young black men in the ghetto. But what I admire most about him is that his greatness is defined by the number of rappers he made successful. 50 Cent, Eminem, The Game, Kendrick Lamar, & Snoop Dogg.
No. 17. MZILIKAZI WA AFRIKA :- A fearless freedom fighter and extraordinary investigative journalist who stood firm for what he believed was in the public interest. And also excelled in music. Author of “Nothing Left To Steal”. A superb wordsmith.
No. 16. HAILE SELASSIE :- Leader of Ethiopia and a great symbol of African independence against colonialism. An outstanding leader during World War II, resisting to the invasion of the Italians.
No. 15. KOFI ANNAN :- The first African to be named United Nations Secretary General (served tow terms). His skills of great patience and diplomacy are things I admire about him. Even after retiring from the UN, he is still a pursuer of peace and security with his non-profit organization “Kofi Annan Foundation.”
No. 14. JOHN SINGLETON/SPIKE LEE :- Probably the first movie directors to portray the true happenings of the ghetto in movies. Great film-makers who showed that everyone, from whatever background, has a story to tell.
No. 13. MICHAEL JACKSON :- A pioneer of music, dance and music videos. Michael Jackson has been relevant for the past 50 years with his music. Though he may have died heavily in debt, his relevance for half a century is a feat that I don’t think will ever be achieved again.
No. 12. OLIVER TAMBO :- He led the fight against apartheid outside the South African borders while in exile. The educated millions outside South Africa about apartheid and influenced them to fight for what’s just, right & moral.
No. 11. TIGER WOODS :- A black man who broke boundaries with his brilliance in a sport dominated by whites. Though controversy followed him, he was man enough to admit his mistakes and apologize for them. Then made an incredible comeback to the top of the world golf rankings. His perseverance is thought-provoking.
No. 10. PELE :- Coming from deep poverty to being regarded as the greatest and finest footballer of all time. He had the utmost dedication and love for football. He’s now an advocate for overcoming poverty.
No. 9. AGGREY KLAASTE :- Successfully pushed the “nation building” concept as the editor of Sowetan during the struggle years. The first black South African journalist to achieve legendary status.
No. 8. CHINUA ACHEBE :- The best-selling, greatest and widely read African novelist, poet and writer. I want to achieve similar status as this legendary writer. He has great praise that is borderline godly.
No. 7. JOHN KANI :- A brilliant stage actor and playwright. He has received countless international accolades and appeared in many international productions. He even has a theatre named after him. Not forgetting his incredible wisdom.
No. 6. BOB MARLEY :- He showed it was okay to be different. He put Rastafarianism on the map. He was also a social commentator for the emancipation of black people from slave mentality.
No. 5. NKOSI JOHNSON :- He may have died at aged 11, but he was more of a man than most men in today’s world. Probably the first relevant HIV/AIDS activist. Made billions around the world understand what AIDS truly is.
No. 4. THABO MBEKI :- Mandela’s chosen successor. He personified the word intelligence. A true believer in African Renaissance and quiet diplomacy. One of the very few dignified African leaders.
No. 3. MOHAMMED ALI :- The only boxer to ever defeat his opponents before setting a foot in the ring. He showed all you need to conquer your enemies is to defeat their minds.
No. 2. JOHNNY KLAAS (My Father) :- A man that would rather starve than see his child have nothing to eat. A man who’d rather go shirtless that see his child wear rags. The kindest man I’ve known. Also a man I’ve never seen back down from a fight. I smile with pride everytime I hear someone say “You look exactly like your dad.”
No. 1. KHANYILE KLAAS (My Brother) :- From ward councilor (driving a Mazda 3), to being unemployed (& no car), to then being the deputy mayor (& driving a Mercedes Benz). He proves that once you fall from great heights, get up and climb to greater heights than before… And HUSTLE NIGGA HUSTLE!
I plan to emulate these great black gentleman and hope to inspire the same sort of greatness in others like they have inspired me. Laziness is the hindrance of potential, and complacency the hindrance of an intelligent mind. So I plan to never waste my potential and never be complacent and rest on my laurels should I achieve my desired goals. I suggest you follow my lead.
‘Till Next Time Peeps, BHA-BHAYINI!