Friday, August 19, 2016

The Inner City of Atlanta from A Different Vantage Point

My commitment to L.E.A.D. Ambassadors is to lead them out of ignorance so they don’t end up as anecdotes for others. I fulfill my commitment through mentoring, coaching, teaching, and role modeling. The only way I can be effective is to understand as much as I can about what it is to be a young black male growing up in the inner city of Atlanta today and who loves the game of baseball. I measure up in so many ways but still have work to do.

I wasn’t a drug dealer or trouble maker growing up but I did live in a crime ridden inner city Atlanta community similar to those communities where L.E.A.D. Ambassadors live. I know that youth from inner city Atlanta zip codes 30310, 30315 and 30318 grow up to represent 80% of the Georgia prison population with Georgia ranking number one in the U.S. in incarceration and the U.S. ranking number one in the world. It is my calling to make sure that I’ve done everything humanly possible to empower L.E.A.D. Ambassadors so they don’t become such a statistic.

Up until last year my understanding of inner city Atlanta was somewhat one-sided. I had focused on the community through the eyes of L.E.A.D. Ambassadors. That changed when I was invited on my first APD Ride Along last year. It was so impactful to my understanding of community interactions within the inner city, that I vowed to make an APD Ride Along a bi-annual occurrence.

My APD Ride Along this year took place on Saturday, August 13, 2016 from 4pm to Midnight. Following is my experience this year and why I’m happy that I participated.

Why did I do the ride along?

The experience of an APD Ride Along provides me with an understanding through police officers’ eyes that positively impacts how I relate to L.E.A.D. Ambassadors when faced with questions about law enforcement.

For instance, I accompanied Investigator J.T. Somers and Investigator Ralph Woolfolk. J.T. is a white male, born and raised in New Jersey. He was a former pitcher at Georgia Southern College. Ralph is a black male also from Atlanta. He was a standout multi-sport athlete at Our Lady of Mercy in Fairburn, GA. I have come to know both officers as good men. They are passionate and skilled at what they do. They demonstrate love for people and commitment to justice. I’ve seen their passion, witnessed their skills in action and their compassion for the people they serve. My positive experience naturally transfers to those I serve.

Additionally, and as we all know too well, the rhetoric over the last couple years in America speaks to a war between police officers and young black males. I chose to go on the police ride along because I want to feel what the officers feel when they are in the public eye. I want to see what they see and how they see it. The only way to achieve that is to participate in a ride along.

What did I see and experience while on the Ride Along?

I arrived at police headquarters with excitement at 3:58pm. The rotation was expected to start at 4pm. I was immediately escorted into the parking garage that housed the police squad cars, vans and SUV's. I'm thinking, “Wow! This is real!”.

At exactly 4:00pm sharp, Investigator J.T. Somers briefed me on a shooting case that we were investigating along with Investigator Ralph Woolfolk. J.T., Ralph and a few select others make up the newly appointed task force by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed called Operation Whiplash which was created to jolt crime down. Here’s an 11Alive news segment about the Mayor’s Operation Whiplash.

About 5:00pm or so, after we finished up the necessary internet research and a deep conversation, we were in the squad car headed to the gentrified portion of Edgewood to investigate a shooting. I thought “Are you kidding me? I just heard the radio say shots fired and we are going to the crime scene?”

Left to right: Investigator Ralph Woolfolk and Investigator J.T. Somers and I headed to the scene of a shooting

We arrived at the scene of the shooting. I'm calm only because J.T. and Ralph are calm. The crime scene has now been identified. It is outside in front of a convenience store. We know this from viewing the surveillance tape inside the store. I'm standing there thinking, “Two guys actually had the nerve and total disregard for authority to get out of the car in the middle of the day with guns out, approach this kid and shoot him.” The gunmen just got back in the car after shooting the kid and drove off. The reality is that it happens every day somewhere in Atlanta. I learned that violent crime is up by 25% here.

The street was quickly blocked off so that the crime scene could be investigated. While several officers and I searched for the bullet shell case, along comes a K-9 Unit officer and his German Shepherd. I asked Ralph why the dog was here and he explained that it would find the shell case. I'm thinking “Hmmm Ok” and am anxious to see it happen. I mean “Really? Come on. That shell case is so small and could have been run over by car. It could be anywhere.” Well . . . guess what? It was right over next to the fence and hidden by some leaves. The dog found it within 5 minutes. Geez!

We made a quick stop at Smoothie King - my treat - and headed back to headquarters to continue putting the pieces together on another investigation.

The conversation between me and my Ride Along officers was so awesome. They both have baseball backgrounds and I couldn't help but ask how baseball helped prepare them to become the meticulous, disciplined and patient investigators that they are. There answer was in the question that I asked. You can't be successful in baseball without being meticulous, disciplined and patient.

At that moment, I began to realize that if any L.E.A.D. Ambassador chose to become an Atlanta police officer when the time came he would be well prepared because he went through L.E.A.D.’s methodology. Interesting fact, Atlanta Police Chief George Turner was born and raised in the inner city of Atlanta. He went to Atlanta Public Schools, and he learned how to play the game of baseball.

I can tell you the night flew by. Before I knew it, the clock read 12:00A.M. Our shift was over and we were back at headquarters. Shortly after midnight, we were on our way home to our families.

C.J. Stewart with Investigator J.T. Somers at midnight

How did I feel?

Although I was wearing a bullet proof vest the entire time, I felt safe with Somers and Woolfolk. I observed that they chose verbal communication over pulling out guns and handcuffs. I also noticed that they treated all people, including suspected criminals, as “innocent until proven guilty”. A little cliché, I know, but it's how I felt about how they were doing their job.

We had a real conversation about race along the ride as well. The bottom line is that several young black teen males in Atlanta don't trust cops, especially white cops, in fear that they will be profiled and disrespected. I appreciated Somers, as a white cop, not shunning that narrative for some and making it a reality for others. I became to understand that his life experiences have positioned him to have an empathetic perspective for the plight of young black males in Atlanta.

I also saw that Somers has several verbal pitches that he can draw upon and throw out in varying situations. He acknowledges that everyone is different - just like the hitters that he faced as a pitcher at Georgia Southern University.

Woolfolk was a star in a Nickelodeon sit-com called My Brother and Me in the mid 90's. Check it out. He was also a baseball client of mine as a teenager aspiring to become a baseball elite player. The stories he told of his experiences as an Atlanta cop with Operation Whiplash, street patrol and Special Victim's Unit were clear, easy to understand and follow along. Just like a movie.

When will I do it again?

My plan is to do a ride along at least twice per year just so that I can understand and maintain an unbiased perspective on what's really going on in the inner city of Atlanta.

Famous rapper and actor Ice Cube played Dough Boy in the 1991 Academy Award Winning Movie Boys n the Hood. My favorite line from the movie, and one that sums up why I would put my life on the line with the Atlanta Police Department is this:

"Either they don't know, don't show, or don't care about what's going on in the hood."

In the context of the movie, "they" was negative. The disconnected. The status quo. As a son of Atlanta and a trusted consequential leader in Atlanta, I am committed to being connected and not being known as "they".


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How to Ask the Right Questions in a Politically Correct Society

No doubt you’ve heard or read some strong statements surrounding the recent police shootings that have dominated the news, especially if you’re on social media. What you probably haven’t seen are people asking questions that might actually move the
Willie Stewart, Andy Menard (Tanner Tees), and C.J. Stewart
conversation forward.

I believe many of us run from asking questions to avoid getting a response we don’t like. If you follow me on social media, however, you’ve probably noticed that I like to ask questions. In fact, I crave being held accountable.

Asking the tough questions

I don’t just ask the easy questions, what I would consider Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Instead, I like to ask what I call Should Ask Questions (SAQs).

SAQs make you dig deeper, whereas FAQs maintain the status quo. SAQs make people uncomfortable. Sometimes SAQs make people cry, but that shouldn’t make you shy away from asking them. Remember, Jesus wept.

If you ask me, America needs to cry. You can’t be trite and shallow and solve an issue this big.

America can take a page from L.E.A.D.’s playbook on this. Here’s a look at the three-step process we engage with our Ambassadors to help them dig deeper when speaking with industry professionals, mentors and other adults with whom they come into contact.

1. Many times when we ask for advice, what we receive in return is a simplistic, trite statement. For example, one of our Ambassadors might ask an industry professional, “How does someone become successful?” and receive the answer, “Hard work pays off.”
What has our Ambassador learned from that statement? Particularly for these young men who haven’t had a job yet, what does it mean to engage in “hard work”? The answer doesn’t elevate the conversation, it completes it.

2. This is when we encourage our Ambassadors to challenge the statement – what I call “complicating” the conversation. What we want is for the answer to contain actionable advice. However, many times what we get next is a deeper answer, but not one that advances the conversation. So, perhaps the person replies, “Everyone that works hard isn’t successful.”
Fair enough, we all know people who have worked hard for years and never received any accolades, raises or other acknowledgments of their success. But again, our Ambassadors aren’t walking away with actionable advice.

3. What we want to do is ask those SAQs – specific questions that require specific answers. So, maybe now our Ambassadors ask, “What are some of the things a person can do in order to be a valuable employee?”
Now the Ambassadors get answers like “Arrive for work on time, have a positive attitude every day and engage with your boss in a manner that shows respect, meaning you don’t do things like curse during office conversation.” Finally, some actionable advice they can put to good use.

Don’t be afraid to go deep

The process of complicating things involves conversation. It's like tennis – sometimes there are long rallies. The most important thing to remember is that what is right is more important than who is right. And as much as our society is all about being politically correct and not upsetting anyone, there can be a right person in the conversation.

Decisions are made in this country every day, from “small” decisions like a husband and wife agreeing on the color of their new minivan to deciding who is going to represent our country in the Olympics. Once upon a time, someone decided to crown the Dallas Cowboys “America’s team.”

Now the time has come to decide how blacks fit into American society.

I want this blog to give Americans a framework on how to move from simplistic and trite statements to something simple and actionable – and permission to ask those SAQs and engage in difficult conversations. 

We’d be fools to think any progress can be made without conversation and conflict.

Safe At Home Game in Atlanta, GA Saturday, Aug. 20th at Georgia Tech


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Millennials Will Lead Us If We Let Them - A Conversation About Race

C.J. Stewart
It is my intention to be a catalyst for change and to work with people of all races, genders and economic backgrounds to move conversations about race from trite to solution.

As a man of deep faith, I have committed all glory to God. To that end, one of my goals over the next five years is to grow deeper in my faith. In addition, I want to gain the knowledge and experience necessary, so that I may be recognized as consequential leader with respect to racial issues, and, by doing so, make my intention a reality.

I found myself in a situation recently that proved to me that I was on the right track -a confirmation from God that He is using me to do something amazing. A young man named Chris, who I had coached some time ago, came to me for advice about how to address comments he was hearing from black friends and coworkers that were making him feel uneasy. We talked. At the end of our conversation I asked him to write down what he took away from our discussion.

I couldn’t be more proud of Chris. Here is what he wrote:

Recently within the United States, racial and social tensions have been growing. As a 29 year old white male, I was uncomfortable entering into these discussions. I feared good intentions would come off as racist, or certain phrases would be misconstrued.
I recently spoke with C.J. Stewart, my first batting instructor and former baseball coach for help. Statements I sometimes hear from black friends and co-workers range from “all white cops should die” to “I will disregard the Constitution until it has a black signature”. I felt there was no good way to address these statements without being viewed as racist, so I remained silent.
After C.J. and I spoke, I realized there are good ways to address such comments. I understand that the statements that were being made can be viewed as simplistic. By simplistic, I mean very surface level and not much context. If I address the statement straight on as simplistic, then we get nowhere. I need to get to the root of the problem to move the conversation forward, and to do that I need to ask questions.
By, asking questions such as “can you share some of your experiences [on] why you feel this way?” I acknowledge that there’s more to the statement, and that the conversation is complex. Complex is not a bad thing. It simply means that the statement is composed of many interconnected parts, and the initial conversation should be based on that complexity.
Once we break down the statement by having the complex conversation, and I truly understand the root problem, the conversation becomes simple. It becomes simple because I know where the other person is coming from. We have now created a non-hostile atmosphere between us because the other person can see that I have an understanding of his or her point of view.
I can use the A.C.T.S. Method between the simplistic and complex stages and help ensure that the other person knows where I am coming from and I am not here to judge, but to understand their perspective.
  • Acknowledgement – “I see you’re hurting; this must really hit home for you.” 
  • Confession – “I understand we come from different upbringings and have different experiences.”
  • Thanksgiving – “Thank you for bringing this up.”
  • Supplication (asking for something) – “Do you mind if I ask a few questions so I understand your experience?”
From this point, you are setup to have an honest conversation. The goal of this conversation is not to solve a problem or fix something, but simply to learn from each other. I do not believe I will ever understand everything that is involved [with] growing up black. Neither do I believe that the other person will understand some of the things I encounter being white. What I do believe is that the more I understand about the experiences he or she has gone through, the closer we stand a chance to be united. We have a long road in front of us. It starts with all parties involved being open-minded enough to understanding each other’s perspectives and experiences to begin to progress. When we can get to that point; we can begin moving in the right direction.

As Chris’ advisor, I knew I didn't have to have the right answers. I simply had to give him a framework that would allow him to be comfortable with having the challenging conversations about race. I think after having read Chris’ thoughts you will agree with me that he understood our conversation, and all of us will be blessed by his efforts.

Chris Johnson


Friday, July 8, 2016

Empowering Young Black Men to Speak on Alton Sterling Shooting

Earlier this week, I was attending a Gwinnett Braves game with a group of our Ambassadors when I heard that Alton Sterling, a black man, had been shot by a white Baton Rouge police officer.

I’m standing there watching the video that I’m sure many of you have seen by now, realizing that it’s something I have to share with the Ambassadors. Speaking with, and guiding, the Ambassadors through situations like this is not something I take lightly. I view it as an opportunity to empower them to use their voices and explore not just what they feel, but why they feel it.
We have a four-step “Pathway to Empowerment” methodology that I used in this situation:

Assessment: Without expressing judgment, I asked the Ambassadors what they knew about the shooting of Alton Sterling. I then asked them to share how they felt.

Engagement: Instead of focusing on what they said, I challenged them to think about why they said the things they did in reaction to the situation. I explained to them that you can’t solve anything with trite statements.

Empowerment: I gave them the power to share their thoughts publicly on social media as Ambassadors for L.E.A.D., as Atlanta Public School students and as citizens of Atlanta. 

Application: Lights, camera, action . . .I decided to shoot this video so you can see the reaction of the Ambassadors as they watch the video for first time of Alton Sterling being, and then I asked a couple of the Ambassadors to share their thoughts on what happened and what they want people to know about them as young black men.

No doubt, the shootings this week of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have left many feeling helpless, angry and a whole host of other emotions. Hate and fear are two of the emotions I’m sure many of you have felt, but it’s not what we want for you or for our Ambassadors.

To combat emotions like hate and fear, particularly as they relate to the men and women who risk their lives each and every day to protect and serve our communities, L.E.A.D. will be hosting its second-annual “Safe at Home” game this August at Georgia Tech.

We’ll bring together our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors with officers from the Atlanta Police Department so they can interact with one another in a positive setting. Young black males and police officers may have more in common than even they realize – both are targeted and find themselves labeled as thugs, criminals or corrupt because of the actions of some of their peers. Through the “Safe at Home” game, we’re able to bring together two important groups who are assets to our community.

We want to abolish any notion of hatred or fear – from either side. Our young men seek to be stewards of this community, right alongside the men and women in uniform whose job it is to keep this community safe.

Now isn’t the time for hate and fear. It’s a time for reflection and change. Join us.


Thursday, May 26, 2016


I hear a lot of people go through “mid-life crisis” at 40. Since I turned 40 in April this year, I’ve been on the look-out for any signs of it. Although I haven’t seen any yet, I made the decision that I want to be prepared in the event I do. I know if I am prepared and my faith is strong I can meet any challenge head on and work through it successfully for a positive outcome.

So . . . I sat down and started to prepare for the possibility of a mid-life crisis. It wasn’t long before I came up with a list of 40 things that I feel led to do now that I’m 40. Now that I had my plan, I needed a way to hold myself accountable and look for support.

What better way to hold myself accountable than to make my list public by posting it here? I realize that holding myself accountable is only part of the equation, however. I know that I cannot accomplish these items on my own, so I also ask for your prayers and support as I work through my list.

Additionally, my hope is that by sharing it with you, you may be inspired to dream big as I’ve allowed myself to do. I would love to hear from you if something here inspires you to think bigger and bolder than you would otherwise.

1. Prepare my daughters to become awesome wives and mothers.

2. Love and support my wife in her life’s journey to become all that God has predestined her to be.

3. Be available to my relatives with all of my heart and soul.

4. Model a new narrative for Black males growing up in Atlanta’s inner city.

Ralph Berry, educator/coach Sylvan Hills Middle School; Tezra Holmes (Vernard's mother), L.E.A.D. Ambassador Vernard Kennedy, New Schools at Carver; C.J. Stewart

5. Teach the Gospel and God’s word to millions throughout the world via blog postings, personal public testimony, a book and my daily actions.

6. Incorporate the game of baseball into the lives of Black males growing up in Atlanta’s inner city and use it as a tool to provide for their spiritual and personal development.

7. Through baseball, bring racially and economically diverse communities together to solve racism and poverty in Atlanta and the world.

8. Identify, and collaborate with, 40 intentional people throughout the world to solve racism, poverty and education reform.

9. Mentor my L.E.A.D. successor to hit the ground running as L.E.A.D. CEO in 2025.

10. Be a change agent who inspires and serves Atlanta Public Schools to empower its students so that, annually, at least 100 new Atlanta Public Schools alumnae attend and graduate college, work in a career of their choosing, and each donate $1,000.00 per year to Atlanta Public Schools.

BY 2020

11. Annually, through Diamond Directors, directly mentor 100 baseball coaches located throughout the world.

12. Create a forum and facilitate conversation with all NCAA Division 1 coaches on the topic of racism and inclusion.

13. Write and publish my first book to inspire others to view their failures as opportunities to grow in service to God and humanity.

14. Establish and accompany our L.E.A.D. Ambassadors on the first annual trip to Japan that includes a service project, a baseball game between the Ambassadors and Japanese high school students, and a tour of Japanese primary schools, as well as colleges and universities.

BY 2025

15. Mentor Pastors of Elizabeth Baptist Church.

16. Mentor a host of Black males that will represent billions of dollars of the U.S. economy on an annual basis.

17. Mentor 10 Black males so that they will all serve Major League Baseball as C-level executives.

18. Be a world renowned model of hope and happiness for Atlanta’s Black families.

My youth league football coach Bernard Terrell, C.J. Stewart and my father Willie Stewart
Photo credit: Audra Starr

19. Be a change agent who inspires and serves Atlanta Public Schools and inner city Atlanta communities to make the necessary changes that will result in an increase of the percentage of Black males graduating high school from 40% to 70%, annually.

20. Be a change agent who inspires and serves the Atlanta Public School Department of Athletics to do what is necessary to ensure that, on average, 100 student-athletes annually will receive National Letters of Intent for NCAA Division 1 schools.

21. Be a change agent who inspires and serves the community to create 1,000 new significant jobs in Atlanta.

22. Be debt free.

23. Operate a human resource development facility, L.E.A.D. Center For Youth, that will be home to 100 Ambassadors and will have the primary focus of preparing the Ambassadors for leadership positions in the community, education and commerce.

BY 2026

24. Watch my oldest daughter Mackenzi bring millions into a relationship with Christ through the notoriety she receives on tour as a professional tennis player.

Mackenzi Stewart age 14
Photo credit: Thomas Morse

BY 2030

25. Indirectly mentor 100,000 baseball coaches annually around the world through a baseball coach’s association and baseball coach development certification program offered by my company, Diamond Directors.

26. Indirectly mentor 500,000 baseball players annually around the world through a baseball players’ association and baseball player development certification program offered by my company, Diamond Directors.

27. Inspire the creation of a strict alliance of organizations whose collective mission it is to empower Black students to graduate from high school and college, and become employed in a career of their choosing by setting and promoting those expectations.

28. Mentor Atlanta's Mayors.

29. Be a change agent who inspires and serves college baseball coaches and administration to make necessary program changes that will result in a 50% increase of Black males competing at the NCAA Division 1 level.

30. Mentor Black baseball coaches so that they represent at least 30% of coaches at the NCAA Division 1 Baseball.

31. Support my daughters, Mackenzi and Mackenna, in their desire to use their experiences through tennis to encourage 500 Black girls from Atlanta Public Schools to take up tennis and, through that, influence and empower them to graduate from high school, apply and enroll, and graduate from college.

32. Continue my service as Deacon and use my testimony to help Elizabeth Baptist Church grow its active membership to 50,000.

33. Be witness to at least 1,000,000 people that I mentor, directly or indirectly, that have developed a clear and concise personal mission statement as well as realizing their calling in life, gift and talent.

34. Know of at least 20 L.E.A.D. Ambassadors who have become LEAD Atlanta and/or Leadership Atlanta alums.

35. Know of at least 20 L.E.A.D. Ambassadors who are members of American Enterprise Institute.

36. Coach baseball skills to 10,000 athletes in impoverished countries as a means of allowing them to receive a baseball scholarship to a U.S. university.

BY 2032

37. Watch my youngest daughter, Mackenna, bring millions into a relationship with Christ through the notoriety she receives on tour as a professional tennis player.

My wife Kelli Stewart, C.J. Stewart, and Mackenna Stewart age 8
Photo credit: Thomas Morse

BY 2040

38. Mentor U.S. Senators representing Georgia.

39. Be a change agent who inspires and serves Atlanta’s residential and business communities to effect change that results in significantly closing the economic gap between the wealthy and poor in Atlanta.

40. Know at least one L.E.A.D. Ambassador as an industry leader in the following sectors: Media, including broadcast and internet, Elementary and Secondary School Education, both public and private; and Financial.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Preparing Youth To Lead When They Leave

As youth development professionals, we spend a good deal of our time preparing students on how to get things: an internship, a job, a mentor, etc. We do not, however, spend enough time teaching them the proper way to leave the internship, job or mentorship. As a result, we are developing a generation of young people who have an idea on how to create relationships, but do not know how to maintain them.

As the CEO of L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct), I am always aware that our organization will not always be the right fit for every young man who enters our middle school pipeline. Even still, those who make it to the Ambassador Program don’t always finish the course. My mentor Bill McLellan once told me, ‘95% of the falls in mountain climbing occur in the last 5% of the climb’. Sometimes we just don’t finish things well, but we don’t have to go through life burning bridges.

Below are three ways that our organization prepares our Ambassadors to lead when they leave; either through program completion or attrition:

• Discuss the end at the beginning: Kelli and I have a 14-year-old daughter who is a beautiful girl in spirit and beauty. Undoubtedly, we are entering the stage of teenage life that most parents dread: dating. Although Mackenzi is at least a year or more from having a boyfriend (emphasis on ‘or more’), she knows the one question that any young man who asks to be in her presence must answer – ‘How are you going to break up with my daughter?’ As my mentor Dr. Covey says, we have to begin with the end in mind. When everybody’s heart is gushing at the beginning of a new relationship, that’s the best time to talk about how each party will behave when and if it becomes necessary to part ways.

• Evaluate Commitment Daily: Earning and keeping the Ambassador status is not an easy thing to do. I often equate our programming to the Military Academies; this isn’t for the general enlisted, but for young men who are willing to submit themselves to training that will test them on a daily basis in various areas of their lives. If an Ambassador is not asking himself everyday, ‘Do I really want to do this?’, then we aren’t doing our jobs right. Young people under your leadership should be encouraged to revaluate their commitment to your organization each day. This pause allows them to not only reflect, but to also recommit themselves for the challenges ahead.

• Don’t Be Afraid of Attrition: There are those who equate attrition to poor service and poor leadership and this assertion is true, sometimes. Attrition can also be attributed to choice. Sometimes people leave because they are not willing to adhere to the program standards that have been set before them. L.E.A.D. is a six-year program; what was good for a young man in the 6th grade, might not be what he wants in the 9th grade and that’s ok. Our job is to ensure that we’ve done all we can to prepare him to be a good steward over the relationships and opportunities that will come his way- whether we’re in his life or not. In addition, we also want to be sure we’re providing the best programming we can, so I strongly suggest doing periodic surveys. The feedback from these surveys will help to keep your program activities fresh, relevant and impactful.

Through technological innovation, our world has become so wide; the way we make it smaller and more personable is through relationships. Let’s be sure as men and women who are leading young people that we are preparing them to lead even when they have to leave.

Special thanks to L.E.A.D. Ambassador DeMarkus Parris (Alonzo Crim High School c/o 2017, Atlanta Public Schools) and Rose Caplan for helping me write this blog.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Thankful To Live Out Of My Wilderness

Life on earth is indeed a wilderness experience and I'm grateful to be a part of God's eternal plan. I share the 40 things below that I'm most thankful for as a challenge to myself because I need to know what I'm thankful for in order to also know what to ask God for in prayer.

1. Thankful to be among the living.

2. Thankful for being a follower of Christ.

3. Thankful for being the husband of Kelli Stewart.

4. Thankful for being the father of Mackenzi and Mackenna Stewart.

5. Thankful for being born to Willie and Gail Stewart.

6. Thankful for being a brother to Nicole and Erica Stewart.

7. Thankful being a grandson to two healthy age 91 grandmothers Elizabeth Dunn and Lizzie Moss.

8. Thankful for being an uncle, a nephew and a cousin.

9. Thankful for being born and raised in Atlanta.

10. Thankful to know my purpose in life which is to be significant and to serve millions by bringing them into a relationship with Christ Jesus starting with my wife Kelli and my daughters Mackenzi and Mackenna.

11. Thankful for several close friends.

12. Thankful for haters.

13. Thankful that I can forgive haters.

14. Thankful that I can be peaceable with haters.

15. Thankful for being the CEO of L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct) who's mission is to empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform their city of Atlanta.

16. Thankful for being the fulfillment of L.E.A.D.'s mission with the support and prayers of people like you.

17. Thankful for being an unapologetic and consequential leader.

18. Thankful for being true to myself.

19. Thankful for John White for loving me enough to introduce me to my discipleship partner Mike Moye. Mike challenged me for three years to memorize bible scripture although I was kicking and screaming at first. And now I humbly serve as a Deacon at Elizabeth Baptist Church.

20. Thankful for my spiritual, emotional, mental, physical and relational health.

21. Thankful for being convicted as a selfish and self-righteous man several years ago and being built up with Habitudes.

22. Thankful that my yes means yes and my no means no.

23. Thankful for loving myself firstly so that I can love others.

24. Thankful for being able to be loved by others.

25. Thankful for being willing to forgive others and reconciliation as well as understanding the difference and need for each one from sermons and teachings from Pastor Bruce Hebel and my pastor Dr. Craig L. Oliver Sr.

26. Thankful for food, clothing, shelter and working automobiles.

27. Thankful for being born in America.

28. Thankful for being educated within Atlanta Public Schools (Center Hill Elementary School, Grove Park Elementary School) and Fulton County Schools (Love T. Nolan Elementary School, Ronald E. McNair Middle School, Westlake High School c/o 1994).

29. Thankful that on November 20, 2011, Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond proclaimed November 20th as C.J. Stewart Day and L.E.A.D. Day in Atlanta through perpetuity. And that is a day that I can be held accountable by Atlanta to do what I claim to be called to do as #10 states above.

30. Thankful that my friend Rendell Jackson (Atlanta Public Schools, Assistant Director of Athletics) would have the humility to ask Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond to do it.

31. Thankful for not having to fear another man but God alone.

32. Thankful for hope and being able to dream.

33. Thankful that people that don't respect me are exposed sooner rather than later and removed from life but not forgotten because everybody is special and have a calling to fulfill.

34. Thankful that I can pray for blessings for my enemies.

35. Thankful that I can apologize when I'm wrong.

36. Thankful that I value the power of relationships.

37. Thankful that I now have a childlike excitement to read and write so that I'm empowered to lead for wants right.

38. Thankful for being a Leadership Atlanta alum.

39. Thankful that I can laugh and cry when my heart hurts.

40. Thankful that I can worship God for who He is, praise Him for what He does and the wisdom to know the difference from studies of Boyd Bailey of Wisdom Hunters.

I am a unapologetic, consequential, often misunderstood, transformational leader that is intentional about blessing the world with significant people that I've mentored. It was done for me. My life will have meaning among the living as well as through eternity. - C.J. Stewart