Sompong, a youth member of TCE's President's Youth Council, reflects on his night at Tyler Perry's House for the Black Men in Hollywood event. For him the night was filled with overwhelming emotion and a new found support system.
While I’m at home eating I received a text message from Sophonya, representative of the President Youth Council. I called her up. Sophonya told me if I was busy on the 26th of February 2014, I knew she was going to surprise me with something, she’s known for that. This time it was different, I remember telling her and doctor Ross on my vision paper that my passion was filmmaking. She asked if I wanted to go to Tyler Perry’s house. I nodded yes, in a way where you nod yes when your older sis says to don’t stay up late because your out with friends. Then reality soaked in, I’m actually going to Tyler Perry’s house. Took one last bite of my chicken and told my family with excitement. When I got to Los Angeles, The Sompong, Timothy, Albert, and Charles (STAC) team was looking sharp. Since we’re invited to an event where there’s a house full of celebrities, we felt like one, talked and dressed the same. The item that stood out of the STAC team was the black rose we wore on the left side of our chest where our heart is located, symbolizing, “Sons And Brothers.”
Traffic anticipated us, if seeing these celebrities for the first time isn’t going to kill us, the wait will. The further up we went through these Hollywood Hills, the bigger the house grew. The STAC team had to enter two gates In order to see Tyler’s mansion, we finally got to his place. I’m seeing celebrities coming out of limbos, taking pictures, ushers escorting us out the car. I look to my right in slow motion; my vision was shooting at 50 frames per second. I saw Tyler Perry coming out of his mansion. Tania, the head of the media for the California Endowment introduced me to Mr. Perry, I shook his huge hands and stood there looking at him with my mouth open at awe. A fly almost flew in my mouth. All of a sudden more celebrities kept on coming. Soon I saw Dr. Ross, thanked him, and gave him a big hug for this opportunity. He gave me the best advice and said something like, “This is your opportunity to shine take advantage of this opportunity,” it stayed in my head but I didn’t soak it in, I was still a nervous wreck.
Seeing these actors where star striking, I didn’t know how to approach them. Even if I did I would be speaking gibberish. I started over thinking things, anticipated every movement I made. This one time I went up to Sydney Poiter and handed him the Black Sons And Brothers Rose, this man had the most respect in the room, I can feel all the love other celebrities handed him. While I was handing Sydney, “The Sons Of Brothers Rose,” I forgot that I was human again. I shook his hands, and gave him the rose. Afterwards I spoke in some kind of nervous language I didn’t understand. I smiled then left the room. I failed again, that was strike two, third strike and I’m out. What’s wrong with me?
Everyone headed down the ballroom where, “The Black Men of Hollywood,” event began, Diana Ross as the MC host. The black rose is set down on every table, waiting to be picked up and represented. All celebrities were seated in the same exact room the California Endowment and me was in. All of a sudden Diana called Dr. Ross’s name to come upon the stage to share a couple of words, along he brought me, and Timothy with him. Dr. Ross spoke on behalf of our struggles and what we’re doing currently to accomplish it.
Dr. Ross brought up the Sons And Brothers campaign; this initiative fell under my umbrella. Dr. Ross with his power, knowledge capacity, and generosity to give back to low-income communities of color, made me understand that there is hope. Every cycle you can think of can be broken. This initiative will help violent low-income communities grant access to more successful people in the field. The initiative will help provide more resource and materials to enhance young brothers of color grow. My parents struggled during the War Against Communism in South East Asia; they had to escaped tragedy in order for me, and my siblings to live a better life in America. Everything being said, the black rose worn on the right side of our chest represents every struggle our parents and relatives sacrificed so that generations before us can live the American Dream. It’s to accept our past and honor our future generation.
Dr. Ross, Timothy and I were up on stage; all celebrities’ eyes were aimed on us. I’m use to watching these actors on stage, not the other way around. I felt nervous. This was either a breaking, or a turning point in my life, maybe both. Soon all of my nerves were gone, I felt emotional. Having lost both my parents and my eldest brother in a fire due to natural causes, possibly violence, begged for their presence to be on stage physically with me. Images of tragic event would randomly appear. I’ve worked hard and come this far in life, they’re not here to see me meet all of these successful people. I tried to hold in my tears, trying not to break down in front of the stage, but it was noticeable.
The STAC team and the California Endowment was there to support me, I finally let it all pour out. Albert, Charles came to the back and crack a couple of jokes, we laughed, I felt normal again. I went back to the table there was David Washington, and Tania, they gave me their numbers for support, they told me to call them whenever I need to vent out anything.
Furthermore, I don’t know what happened, I guess all of the support from all of my mentors got into my head. My brain was on steroids. I accepted the fact that they’re here with me spiritually, I grew strong mentally. Timothy and I started conversation with most of the celebrities in the room. I went up Terry Crews, paraphrasing lines from his script; we shared a couple of laughs and got to know each other. John Singleton handed us his phone number. I met a guy that grew up in the same neighborhood I did. He was from Richmond, Ca, raised in the iron triangle. He now works for paramount. Diana Ross taped my shoulders, which led to small talks, and a selfie photo.
One celebrity I felt stood out the most out of all, I’ve seen him in other movies like, GI Joe, The Mummy, and I now remembered he was casted in the show “Lost.” Adewale approached me, and handed me his business card. He approached me in a settle authentic way, he knew what I was going through, and it looked like he was willing to help if anything. I found out that he also lost both of his parents all at once. I remember the one advice he said, “In hard times like these, you either cower, or use your sorrow to make you stronger,” what he said touched every nerve in my body. I felt the realization. I looked in his eyes and I didn’t see a royal celebrity, I saw myself. I saw tears of pain, and sorrow, but I also saw fire, strength, and resilience that over powered all his pain. Regardless of our different appearance, race, size, and skin color, I seen myself in the future with his mental state. I shed tears while talking to him, gave him a hug, and then felt inspired.
The night was late; everyone started to depart from Tyler Perry’s house. I was still at the, “pinch me I’m dreaming” phase, everything that went on that night was real. Before I left Tyler’s house, I approached him and said, “thanks for the invite, I’m sorry I froze up earlier when I shook your hands, it was such an honor.” Tyler said, “it’s a pleasure meeting you too, after you graduate from SFSU make sure you call me or any of the people here, they know me. I’ll hook you up.” I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I left the house floating on cloud nine. I’m all set for my future, now all I have to worry about is graduating from San Francisco State University. I finally soaked in Dr. Ross advice by the end of the day and conquered my fears. In return I got to know the greatest people literally in the world.
This experience was memorable, the turning point of my life. I want to give a special thanks to Sophonya for constantly supporting me by giving me strength to continue during hard times like these, always checking up on the everyone in the President Youth Council, making sure everyone’s doing great. I thank the Ryse Center for having my back twenty-four hours and seven days a week. Also would like to thank the STAC team for providing a day of suspense and support, and Tonya and David Washington for introducing me to great people. Lastly Dr. Ross for being the man he is for having the boldness in launching The Sons of Brothers Campaign.
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