Signed Sirelle: There Has To Be a Point

You will never see your child alive again.

The feeling that overcame you, at the conclusion of that lede, should be the same feeling you possess when you see that an elementary school, once again, fell victim to a mass shooting in America. There has to be a point.

As a society, we have drawn our desensitized lines of acceptance in the sand: You can be killed in a movie theater. You can be killed at a music festival. You can be killed at the grocery store. You can even be killed at church. But—there has to be a point.

There should never be an instance when children are killed at school.

There should never be an instance when children are killed at school.

There should never be an instance when children are killed at school.

Nearly ten years removed from the horrors of Sandy Hook, we are faced with a tragedy that should have remained strictly unimaginable. Yet, for this country, it is a reality repeated. Dead schoolchildren. There has to be a point.

I am not a parent; but I feel, in this moment, a rage that is indescribable—because that’s how it should work. Tragedy should never have to knock on your door in order to hit home. There has to be a point.

In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, several major media outlets reported that the parents who rushed to the school were ultimately gathered into the town firehouse. The group of parents grew smaller, and smaller, until those remaining were told that their children were the victims. That night, across this country, every man and woman with a beating heart should’ve vowed that they would do everything, anything, in both their individual and collective power to ensure that such a tragedy never happened again in our lifetimes. Because, there has to be a fucking point.



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Living in the Black & White

When I was seven years old, I saw a movie that stripped me of my worldly innocence long before I was prepared for it.

That movie, starring Jon Voight and Ving Rhames, was Rosewood.

I have not seen the film since, but the visuals remain as clear as though I watched it yesterday.

There are two scenes from Rosewood that will haunt my life forever: when Aunt Sarah, whilst pleading for her son’s life, was shot on her front porch, and the lynching of Rhames’ character.

In the immediate moments that followed that lynching scene, a young boy—me—sat broken-heartedly frozen at the image of the limp and lifeless silhouette swinging from the tree. I saw, in that moment, a man who’d looked like my grandfather, my father, and my uncles—but that wasn’t the worst of it.

The worst of it was trying to make sense of the group of onlookers standing by, spectating; unmoved and unbothered.

This was based on a true story: the 1923 Rosewood Massacre—less than 100 years ago—and, at seven, it was my first “This is America” realization.

Black bodies aren’t swinging much from trees anymore. Yet somehow, I’m still seeing the images.

Black and white images of lifeless bodies formerly known as Henry, Mary, or Elijah swaying from oak trees have transitioned into modernized visuals. Gone are the trees, yes, but the lifeless bodies remain. Only now they lie in the streets, and on the pavement—formerly known as Eric, Mike, or George.

And the worst part?

Still trying to make sense of the spectators—Americans—standing by; unmoved and unbothered. All these years later.

I never understood how the great man who created my mother survived a war in Europe, only to come home and societally fight another from St. Louis to Detroit. He lived in the black and white. And I never thought I’d see what he saw.

I was born in progress, because of the battles fought.

I was born in the color, or so I thought.

I never thought I’d, too, be living in the black and white.

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Signed, Sirelle: “To Come Across a Hero”

Several of my group chats have spent much of the last day discussing Kobe Bryant. Business as usual, essentially. Except this is unusual. We aren’t arguing, we aren’t debating—we’re coping.

Like so many others yesterday, I sat blank and motionless in my living room, trying to process the words on my phone screen: “Kobe Bryant dies..”

There are combinations of words you never expect to see in life. And as yesterday developed and concluded, I found myself dissecting why this tragedy was so uniquely unfathomable. The death of Kobe Bryant, for an entire generation, is not registering. We thought he was infinite, in the sense that he wasn’t like us, he wasn’t human; rather, an institution that would always be here, like Disneyland or something.

For perspective, much of my generation wasn’t alive for the “Bad” or “Off the Wall” eras. Unfortunately, the Michael Jackson we knew during our childhoods was tangled in scandal and controversy. So when the news of his death broke, we were able to make some sense of it. But this, this is unbecoming. We grew up with Kobe, he was literal magic. The peak of his talent brought about the same astonishment as Batman and Superman.

It isn’t lost on me that a part of Kobe’s legend was that he was often heroic even in defeat. In 2013, when he tore his Achilles, the world watched in awe as he hobbled to the free throw line, drained two shots, and then walked off–mostly unassisted. It was unbelievable–but at its essence, it was Kobe.

In that moment, the fairytale would have ended for so many others, but not for Kobe. Adding to his legend, he worked his way back and allowed fans and admirers, all over the world, to shower him with proper praises throughout the 2015-16 NBA season—and we all remember how the story closed.

We remember exactly where we were on that late night in April 2016, leaping off the sofas in our living rooms, and slapping countertops in our kitchens. In his final game, Kobe was tapping into his infamous “Mamba Mentality” one last time. The visuals of those closing moments are forever etched into my mind. We were all Jack. We were all Snoop. We were all Kanye and Jay-Z. And for an even briefer moment, we were all.. Gianna.

Kobe scored 60 points in his final NBA game, and by all accounts, rode off into the sunset of retirement: having two more daughters, championing women’s sports, and winning an Academy Award.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. It wasn’t supposed to end at all. Kobe Bryant was a giant, both figurative and literally. He was global. He was everything you don’t expect a human being to be, which is the entire point: he was Kobe.

Kobe Bryant made adoring your dreams, but more importantly realizing your potential (and tapping into it) feel good. And when we latched on to him, at different points of our lives, it was initially because of basketball—we never expected to come across a hero.



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Signed, Sirelle: “Thirty Trips Around The Sun”

Google Calculator tells me that this weekend will mark around 10,950 days in which Antoine Sirrelle Starks has been a thing. Which to me, it feels as if there has been that many days in 2019 alone.

When it comes to my birthday, every year I put on this flagrantly horrendous acting job in which I pretend that I don’t care much about it. I’m not sure who I have ever fooled with this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was no one.

This year is different. It means something. In fact, this particular birthday gained significance about two years ago when I came across my father’s death certificate and discovered he was only 29 when he died—he had his entire life ahead of him. I’d never realized that. To be honest, I’d never really given it much thought. He was my dad, and all dads are old. At least, that’s what I thought at seven.

For me, 30 became monumental: I wanted to see and live the life my father didn’t.

As November 16th has crept closer, people have asked me am I nervous. I don’t look to 30 with a daunting, glass half-empty outlook. I not only anticipate my glass of 30’s to be half-full, but to fucking overflow.

Ahead of this weekend’s celebrations, my friends and my mom (and my mom, again—and again) have asked me about themes. Dirty 30, bar crawls, essentially stopping just shy of last hurrah! I think I’ll pass.

I’ve opted for a turn-up, yes, but nothing much out of our norm: Italian dinner for the borderline-broke bourgeoisie, followed by hidden Yelp gems we quietly think we made cool.

Like everyone, I’ve seen the 30th birthday celebrations on social media, where the theme, to me, carries a sort of “it’s all downhill from here” undertone more than anything else; and personally, I don’t want day one of year 30 to be ignited by an outlandish theme that subtly hints at the beginning of the end. Because, for me, the fun isn’t ending, it’s just getting started.

Several years ago, my childhood best friend, from Detroit, was shot in the face at point-blank range. For the rest of his life, he’ll function, at best, at half-capacity. My own father, again, never saw the age of 30. And just last week, a hometown legend, former Michigan State and NFL wide receiver Charles Rogers, died at 38.

I read in a journal article, a few years ago, that stated Black men have a “substantially lower life expectancy” than most other groups. So it isn’t lost on me, that as an African-American male, life from the beginning is living on borrowed time–playing with house money, in a sense. And because of that, I find myself, perhaps a bit more than I should, rolling the dice.

I often tell my best friend, Sam, that my biggest fear in life is one day lying there, taking my last breaths, and I think of all the things I never got to do or see in life. Whenever that time comes, I want that list to be as short as possible. And that’s how I’ve chosen to live my life.

Over the last three decades, I’ve chased a lot of things in life: dreams, liquor, and women who gave me goosebumps. These days, I can admit that I’ve become a bit more of the “runnee” than the runner, in a couple of those categories; but one thing I’ll never stop chasing at 30, nor 80, is the thrill in life. And I hope you don’t either.

Happy Birthday To Me.



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Signed, Sirelle: “Did You Make It Home?”

I have this saying, most days, when I’m leaving the office: Make it home safe. It is my daily farewell ritual to whomever is left in the office to make it back to your loved ones in the condition that you left them that morning.

In a span of 13 hours, yesterday, 29 people were executed in two separate tragedies. They didn’t make it home.

It started in the afternoon, when 20 people were gunned down while shopping at an El Paso, Texas Walmart. Thirteen hours later, and roughly 1,600 miles away, nine more people were gunned down at a Dayton, Ohio bar.

Workplaces in El Paso and Dayton won’t look the same tomorrow. Someone’s favorite co-worker won’t be there because they were killed in the middle of a grocery store or bar.

The violent events of El Paso and Dayton were terrorist attacks. Not the nearly imaginable, stereotypical attacks, however, where a Muslim has a bomb strapped to their chest. No, those almost never happen in America.

These two recent terrorist attacks were more like the one at a northern California food festival last weekend. Or, remember the one at the South Carolina church, when the members were praying? Or the one at the Southern California bar last November. Or the one at a Pittsburgh synagogue last October. Or the one at a Santa Fe high school before that. And the one at a Florida high school before that! But not like that one at the elementary school, because some say that was a conspiracy theory.

Forgive my facetiousness, but the routine images of ordinary people running for their lives in terror, wounded bystanders performing CPR on strangers, and lifeless bodies lying in parking lots have driven me to the brink of insanity.

I don’t have the answers, political or otherwise, to solve this epidemic. I just want people to make it home.

I want the sons and daughters, dropped off by their parents at school, to make it home. I want the grandmother at bible study to make it home. I want a father, working to keep the lights on for his family, to make it home because that is the way it should be.

I want you to make it home.



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October 10, 1997: The Day I Met Death

94 minutes. That’s how long he fought off death.

From the listed “Time of Injury,” to the pronounced time of death, he was as stubborn as the genetics he passed on to me.

The entry on line 33d of the death certificate instructed to describe how the injury occurred: MULTIPLE GUNSHOT WOUNDS.

It was a powerful line, 33d, in the sense that it’s the line that ultimately shattered the spirit of a seven year-old boy, when he asked his mom: “How?”

I recall so much of that third grade picture day vividly. But never, for as long as I shall live, will I grasp what it was about my mother’s answer, “He was shot,” that sprung me from a suffocating living room, to the threaded embrace of Buzz Lightyear within a matter of seconds.

“You’re too damn smart for your own good,” he used to say to me. And in hindsight, October 10, 1997 was the one day I wish I hadn’t been. Because I understood the reality all too well. He was gone.

I think about the last time I saw him. Not at the basketball game, a few nights before, but that afternoon in my dream. I’d drowned myself to sleep in a pillow of tears.

That stoic, straight-lined smile staring down at me; and his palm, the size of a baseball mitt, cupping my head. Even in my dream, his scent of vanilla and cocoa butter mixed on him in a way that it didn’t mix on anyone else. His eyes revealed his worst kept secret: that he loved his son with the strength of 10,000 hearts.

“Hey nephew.”

Twenty years later, to the day — today — I hear my aunt’s voice playing back to me via voicemail. “Was calling to see how you was doing. We all know what the day is. And I know your dad looking down on you, smilin’, and very proud of you. He’s very proud of you, and so am I.”

I could listen to her talk about him forever. They could finish each other’s sentences, those two. I need to call her back.

I unfold his death certificate far more often than I should, I know that. But I feel something every time. A cluster of emotions, really. Especially at Box 16. RACE: Black.

Not because of our race. I wouldn’t trade what I am for anything in this world; rather, the dark irony. Early on, he’d built his reputation on statistics; and in the bangs of several bullets, he became one.

It angers me.

His life was more than a tally, or, body count for the city of Detroit. He had the heart of a giant. And somehow, without transplant, he gave it to me. Because, like him, I love so incredibly deeply that it hurts — and I don’t know if it was his greatest gift, or a curse.

What I do know, is that October 10, 1997 has taught me the most invaluable lessons. Dealing with loss, dealing with death, can shape the soul of a person in the most unimaginable ways. I’m certainly no exception.

On December 26, 1992, my dad penned a letter to my great-grandmother, “Granny”, in which he closed it, “And remember the Love that is waiting always for you and you alone.”

I now have that letter. And it’s that Love that gets me through the days when I need it most.


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Case of the Mondays 11.28.16

cotm112816It’s been awhile since I’ve written about it—love, that is. I find it as fascinating a concept, now, as I ever have. More than vodka, and more than whiskey, love is the single most intoxicating concoction that I have ever known.

There’s something dangerously alluring about unapologetically loving someone, and it stems from having an organic, near-effortless connection with that individual. But love is risky business, as maintaining that connection, and that chemistry, can be a battle. A battle of internal and external warfare, for which is sometimes indecipherable.

Yet, I’ve come to appreciate the experience of love for the tremendous source of self-knowledge it has proven to be. Because in loving someone else, one acquires essential lessons about themselves, and about life—as love teaches practicality, resiliency, and commitment. And through those lessons, one learns how to be both patient and efficient, how to overcome, and ultimately, how to never quit.

That’s my Case of the Mondays.

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Signed Sirelle: “Letter to My Future Son”

I write this guide to life in the event that I never get to tell my future son myself. 

My darling boy,

I have so many thoughts, I don’t know where to begin. There is a lot going on in our country right now—some of which you may one day read about in history class. These times I’m living in seem to be spontaneously perilous. Our country is gripped by turmoil, tragedy, and division. And the common denominator among all these factors is race.

As a Black man in America—the world, rather—people will almost always form an opinion of you before you even open your mouth to introduce yourself. That is out of your control. What is in your control, however, is the power you possess to either prove them wrong, or right.

LTMS ImageYou will never be able to change what you are, son. And never should you want to. Be proud of who you are, and be proud of your history. But understand, in your life, you will encounter a gauntlet of obstacles that many people will never even know exist. All because of the way you look. And there will be people, even friends, who will never face a tenth of those challenges, who attempt to tell you how you should act—or react—in certain situations. Block it out, always. A bird can’t teach a cat how to climb a tree.

Be respectful in all that you do. It is said that “the true measure of man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” Understand that, embrace that. You are no more important than the next man, but you are just as important as him, too. Nothing, including—but not limited to—respect, will be given to you in life.

There will be times you feel like the deck of life is stacked against you. Never let it discourage you. You must work hard, and most times, harder than others. As your grandmother always told me, “you are more than a conqueror”. Take as much pride in the process as you do the success; only then will it be fulfilling.

I wish I could promise you that adhering to all of the aforementioned would guarantee you a life free from conflict and hardship, but I’d be doing you no favors. The road ahead is rough. But there is a road. And Gods be good, it’ll lead you to victory.

I love you.



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Signed Sirelle: “Untitled”

In the aftermath of the most deadly mass shooting in our nation’s history, we have reached peak hypocrisy in America.

Nightmarishly, in the early hours of Sunday morning, a gunman entered a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and opened fire on countless patrons. As of press time, 50 people were killed, and many more were wounded. The gunman, dead.

Needless to say, this was a terrorist attack. It has been reported by several media outlets that the gunman, an American-born man, called 911 at some point to pledge his allegiance to ISIS.

The gunman used an AR-15 to carry out his attack. And if that weapon sounds familiar it is because it was the same that was used in other mass shootings such as: Sandy Hook and Aurora. However, we don’t classify those tragedies as terrorist attacks.

Those attacks, according to many Americans, were merely “mass shootings”. Modern day executions carried out by troubled lone wolves, who didn’t have any friends and showed no signs of ever doing anything like this.

You see, in America, when James walks into a theater, followed by Adam into an elementary school, and then Dylan into a church, the events that follow are unfortunate incidents. The result of mentally unstable minds. Their religions aren’t to blame, nor are their parents, or where they’re from. All external factors are detached. Radical Christianity has a hall pass that causes even the most serial swinger to cringe.

The troubling truth about America and mass killings is that we always claim to mourn – and pray – but we don’t always condemn. Because ultimately, condemnation is driven by agenda, and what fits the benefiting narrative. Learning about a new mass shooting in America is like watching a pirated new blockbuster, because there’s this instantaneous lag. And during those minutes when details of the story – and perpetrator – are still developing, America is deciding how much attention they are going to give the attack, all based on the individual(s) who carried it out. And that, my fellow Americans, is what you call hypocrisy.

When the common denominator is terror, it doesn’t matter whether the equation is based around an Adam or a Dzhokhar, the objective remains the same: promote violence, fear, intimidation, and hate. The act of terror in Orlando was no different, as it specifically targeted the LGBT community.

President Lincoln once said that, “America will never be defeated from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” There was a reason they called him “Honest Abe”. Nearly two centuries later his declaration still rings true. America cannot falter to what happens on the outside by succumbing to bigotry and fear mongering on the inside.



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Opinion: You Are Not for Sale

While recently strolling down the cereal aisle, I became mortified as I approached a section of Frosted Flakes. Not due to that box of artificial sugar – though it should have been – but because of the realization that I had reached a place in my life where I was reduced to grocery shopping on my lunch break. It was my tipping point.

Society is witnessing a fascinating era of extraordinarily gifted millennials. In a revolutionary approach, they are challenging – quite successfully – the status quo in countless industries. Although for every boldly innovative mind, there seems to be several more far too at peace with mediocrity, and merely existing.

I find myself increasingly troubled by the trivial justifications offered by many of my peers and fellow millennials, as it pertains to their roles within their respective institutions. They often do not feel valued nor appreciated, and the unfortunate truth is that they typically are not; but, “the pay is good”.

Internalizing, and worse, subscribing, to such a sentiment is dangerous. It establishes a low standard that conveys a message that you can be bought. This, in turn, sets a dangerous precedent, because it transcends other aspects of an individual’s life. If you can be bought at your job, you can be bought in your relationship. You can be bought in your friendships, and in any and every interaction throughout your life. It’s a slave mentality, quite frankly; and you cannot go through life content with sowing the seeds of crops you will never benefit from.


One of my favorite actors often says that, “You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.” You may justify submitting yourself to a life that lacks fulfillment and self-gratification, essentially, because “the pay is good”. But all the while, you’re numb to the pain that you can’t take that pay with you at its conclusion.

Somewhere along the way, you must decide whether you want to be the difference, or the indifference.

I believe with every bone in my body that every individual on this planet was graced with a predestined gift. And while others may identify your gift, it is only you that can open it. Your gift is unique to you, as it – if tapped into – is your destiny. You must claim it.

“You cannot let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game” is more than just an old MySpace status. It is a rallying cry for every individual who has ever felt that there has to be more to life than just existing in it.

There’s a stark, often uncomfortable, difference between living and existing in life. Recognizing, utilizing, and – ultimately – capitalizing off of your gift is the key to living your life. Ignoring your gift is the key to simply existing in it.

Recognizing your gift dares your mind to dream. Utilizing your gift, enables one to chase that dream. And as I stated in the summer of 2014, “Chase three things in life: your liquor, that person who gave you goosebumps at first sight, and your dreams.”

You and your gift are priceless. You oughta let the world know you are not for sale.

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