5 Things I Learned From Joe Hall
There are times when somebody comes in your life and forever impacts it. That’s the sort of person Joe Hall (Jonathan Duane Hall) was to me. I won’t lie. I am having a hard time with this. The only way I can deal is to take some ofthethoughts swirling in my head and share them with you. One thing that was extremely important to me, as Joe fought cancer, was for me to BE RIGHT WITH HIM. I had major life struggles going on that I was dealing with at the same time. We did not talk much during that time. So, when life cleared up, I made it my mission. Heck, I even wrote Joe a letter (LOL). I don’t come across a lot of dudes in my peer group that I look up to, but I looked up to Joe Hall. His opinion mattered to me and even when we were not speaking as much, it still mattered. In college, he was a huge presence that kept me striving to “live enormous.”
So, here are 5 (of many) Things I Learned From Joe Hall (RIP), my brother and friend.
Go Hard, Go Hard - Every Time!
Becoming a brother in Alpha Phi Alpha was something I never fully intended to happen. I considered myself an individual and had little interest in conforming within a group. I knew the brothers and respected them greatly. But it wasn’t until the Spring of ’93 when I saw The Alphas step that I was (partially) converted (with some coaching from my friends). I didn’t know Joe at the time, but he jumped off that step show and those that were there will attest to this - All Black Fatigues and Black Timberland Boots. I had never seen a show of force like that since…the 60’s or something. Just my style! The Alphas were leaders, they were intelligent, progressive AND NOW THEY HAD THIS RUGGED, HARDCORE SIDE. I was down. Joe, Shawn G, me and later 06 The Hard Way, would continue that legacy of Black Excellence in our own little world. One time, my little rap group opened up for KRS-One and the Lords of the Underground. And Joe got up on stage and started stepping - totally unplanned, but it added EVERYTHING to the performance. This is one of many lifelong memories.
Giving Up Is NOT Optional
The process of becoming an Alpha was not an easy one. In fact, it's my greatest mental/physical challenge outside of living in this crazy world. The only thing that has come close was running a marathon. Joe was a big part of my process, both the mental and physical side. When I was pledging - and I don’t think I have ever admitted this - but there was ONE moment when I wanted to quit. I am no quitter, but by that time all my line brothers had dropped and I was the only one left, yes quitting entered my mind. Joe had become like my dean by this time and he would have none of it. Giving up wasn’t an option even when your mind is playing tricks on you. I don’t think I would have quit, really, but I really did need some encouragement at that time. His response to cancer did not surprise me. Joe - the fighter - nobody wanted to tangle with him.
The Inside / Outside Game Is A Pathway To Victory
Joe was a police officer - after a short stint as a teacher - which was dicey for me. In the 90’s we saw different levels of injustice. It could be Rodney King or it could be driving a red car and getting pulled over all the time like I did. But early on Joe told me THEN that it was important to be in those institutions to implement some level of change inside. I remember one time, him speeding on the way home from Philly after he became a police officer. We got pulled over. This cop was so MAD after Joe flashed his badge. He couldn’t do a thing. No ticket, just angst from somebody that really wanted to stick it to us. ;) I got it after that. We didn’t talk a LOT about the job, but I know he went through a lot including physical injury. The idea sticks with me, especially in these days.
Continue On…Keep Moving Forward…Life Goes On…
When I left Delaware, I had this grand mission of a group of us all going to New York City and taking over. At the end of the day, only two of us left, me and Steve Raze Julien. But Joe was one of the people that I recruited. Joe kept it real, “Go on without me.” I should have known, he had a higher commitment to Shanda and his family-to-be. But, I appreciated that. He told me to go on. There are far too many people that will act as an anchor, hold you back or pretend to be with you. Joe’s mission was different. He knew that and kept it moving.
On another instance, when one of our college comrades died of cancer, I was tore all the way up. At the funeral, Joe really eased my spirit. I was questioning everything in that moment, even God. I just couldn’t understand. Joe was mourning too, but he was calm at that moment. I cannot remember his exact words, but he implored to me that she’s still with us, just in a different form.
Later in life, Joe became spiritual and deeply religious. He was on my mind the day before he passed. I had a strange incident with a security guard at a super market and I immediately thought of Joe. However, I called Ken Swain, as it dealt with fraternity and masonry (the Joe part). But, Joe was a different person and I appreciated that evolved person as well. In fact, although I know we will miss him, it is great to know that he found solace, comfort and peace that only the Creator can bring. “Keep God first,” he told me in our last conversation. He also told me that he was proud of me, which means everything to me.
In closing, I just want to say that to Joe’s Family, Shanda, The Kids and extended family, stay strong and in prayer. Joe was a LIGHT. We’ll see him again. Stay blessed. This isn’t easy for me, so I know its hard[er] for others. I just pray we all know God, know growth and know it is our duty to SHINE - Just like Joe.