By Paul Bremmer
Marquis still remembers the moment he met the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson.
He was attending a gathering in Los Angeles at the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, or BOND, of which Peterson is the founder and president.
Marquis was 19 or 20 at the time, and he looked like many other young urban African-Americans: dreadlocks, a big necklace, gold grills in his mouth, and earrings in his ears.
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In the midst of a crowd, Peterson introduced himself to Marquis and started chatting. Peterson noted the young man's earrings and asked if he was trying to attract men.
Marquis was taken aback that this man whom he had just met would ask such an abrasive question. But then Peterson explained himself: Earrings were something women wore to beautify themselves and attract men. They did not belong on a man's ears.
"I've always been a guy that once I hear the truth, regardless of how it sounds or whatever, I accept it no matter what," Marquis recalled during a recent interview with Peterson on the latter’s radio show. "When you said that … it was an immediate respect earner. You got my attention when you came at me like that."
So Marquis took out his earrings and "threw them down the street," as he put it. That was at least 10 years ago, and he has not worn any earrings since. At some point – he can't remember when – he also cut off his dreadlocks.
Marquis was on "The Jesse Lee Peterson Radio Show" to talk about how Peterson and BOND had helped him become a man by overcoming the anger and blame that had plagued his life. In fact, Peterson recently wrote a book, "The Antidote," that aims to help other troubled black people like Marquis turn their lives around as well.
For Marquis, the changed physical appearance was one part of the turnaround, but perhaps the more important part was the improvement in Marquis' relationship with his parents, who divorced before Marquis had entered his teenage years.
"I remember it being confusing, because it was almost like you have to pick a side," he said. "I remember feeling a little confused emotionally about which parent to live with and who was to blame for them splitting up."
Young Marquis wanted to live with his father, but his dad drove trucks and was not home often, so the boy went to live with his mother instead.
Growing up without his father, Marquis felt pressure to be the man of the house. His mother had to work hard to take care of Marquis and his two younger brothers, and the strain of single motherhood affected her patience.
Oftentimes, when his mother made him angry, Marquis would turn to her and fume, "I want to go with my dad. I want my dad!" He was only able to see his dad every other weekend.
Marquis felt angry at not being able to control his own life. He claims he dealt with the anger through sex. But then he went to BOND and met Peterson, who also writes a WND column, and the reverend helped him find the inner strength to forgive his parents.
Marquis said the first step toward forgiveness was realizing anger was holding him in an iron grip.
When asked how he was able to forgive his parents, he replied: "By simply just realizing that I had the anger, first, and what it was doing to me, how it was controlling me, how it was causing me to make choices that I didn't want to make, consistently, over and over again. There would be things that I wouldn't want to do, but the anger would just control me and make me do it."
One night while finishing up work with his cousin, Felix, Marquis vowed to confront his mother as soon as he got home and tell her he forgave her. When he got home, his mother was in bed, but Marquis walked up to her anyway and said he wanted to talk.
He told her he forgave her for the way her weaknesses had affected his life – one such weakness being the many boyfriends she brought in and out of her life after the divorce. Marquis' candidness opened the floodgates to a frank, heart-to-heart talk with his mother. He was amazed that his mother's feelings were not hurt; rather, she apologized, saying she never knew how she had affected him negatively.
Marquis said after that talk, he never looked at his mother the same way again. Previously, he had been afraid to say certain things to his mother, partly out of respect and partly out of a fear of hurting her feelings. After the talk, he still respected his mother, but he didn't let hurt feelings get in the way of telling her the truth.
"I'm completely honest with her about whatever, and it's changed our relationship," he told Peterson. "It's almost like I became a man in her eyes and she became like a sister, daughter, and a mother all in one."
When Marquis confronted his father, it did not go so well. One day, after giving his father a haircut, he took the older man aside and said he forgave him for the way his weaknesses had affected young Marquis.
The father demanded to know what specifically Marquis was forgiving him for, so Marquis went into details, but his father made excuses for everything. Marquis assured his dad he wasn't asking him to explain his actions, but the conversation devolved into a dispute, with his dad trying to justify everything he had done.
Marquis said he and his father still have unresolved issues.
"He never really moved on from the conversation," Marquis said. "It was always kind of like he was continuously trying to prove himself after the conversation – you know, just trying to revalidate that fatherhood respect or whatever, just assuming it was lost."
Marquis said at times his father feels like a brother, or sometimes even a son, but he still loves and respects his father as a father. And he still forgives him. And the forgiveness has set him free from anger.
Now that Marquis is free from anger, he says he has learned the importance of being "a man," not "the man."
"When I was angry … no matter what the situation was, I was constantly trying to prove myself as far as trying to be 'the man.' Everything I did, my ego was so much into it. ... It was an ego, anger-driven trying to do the best and be the best, just to compensate for that void that I had within because I had anger.
"But I realized, once I had seen my anger, life just became so simple. ... I realized that being a man is more than enough. It was way more than trying to be 'the man' could ever be."
Marquis has been married now for four years, and he says marriage life is great. But he claims the best thing about marriage is the commitment he made to God.
"When I went to the altar, He was my priority," Marquis said. "I was doing it to be right, because of righteousness. I just wanted to get my life lined up with God, so because of that commitment and union with Him, it's been the best thing I ever could have done, besides forgiving."
In fact, Marquis says that because he loves God, he loves his wife.
"It's impossible to love anybody without loving God first," he declared.
Marquis says his life today is great. He used to be frustrated by challenges that came his way, but he has learned to trust God.
"Now when a challenge comes, I just wait," he said. "I don't even try to figure it out or nothing. I just know that it's here for a reason."
Peterson was glad his one-time student had learned that important lesson.
"I always tell people, do not put up any resistance against challenges because God is working everything out for you," the reverend said. "But if you fight against it, then you're on your own."