“I’m Still Trying to Find Out.” Written by Lionel Tate. Performed by LaRoyce Hawkins. Lionel embodies healthy living both personally and professionally by honoring his truth on paper and devoting himself to his successful vegan catering company.
“I don’t feel like I’m in a position where I have to lie to the paper because basically I’m just lying to myself.” – Lionel Tate
Find Lionel on Instagram at @takemoney_chef and @tasty_tates.
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Lionel Tate, Tyler, Walter Thompson-Hernandez, LaRoyce Hawkin
LaRoyce Hawkins 00:37
Who am I? Huh? Here’s what I’m trying to find out. I’m on a journey to learn me. For my time times out for the longest I believe that I was a thug and as a kid I was exposed to violence and drugs. I receive love from the blood who was battling with guns. I started off young. The folks I respected the most show me the ropes. Some right, some wrong, money with a goat because I’d hate being broke. And we fight with folks. We call in amigos. But that was some time ago. I needed time to grow. Who am I now? I’m still trying to know I wouldn’t change my role. I’m headed a new route. I still don’t know who I am. I’m still trying to find out. I grew to a new state of being because living senseless made seem as a hateful being. I grew up in poverty. I’m not a poor baby. I was just born into the struggle. Raised inside my jungle I participated in gangs. So I fall victim of them. My parents that birthed me had their own journey. I know they love me, can do nothing for me.
My life was in the hands of an attorney. I spent a lot of days in a sale trying to learn me. I was mad at the world for what I was becoming or how society was trying to form me. My life last without warning I had to continue my journey so post my release. I had to do me. Get rid of everything that was not good for me. I mean family and some homies. All that positivity transformed me. Time was to restart. Where do I begin? I’m not sure where I’m going. But I’m running for a while being. Who am I? I still can’t put my finger on.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 03:02
I’m Walter Thompson Hernandez. And this is WRITTEN OFF. You just heard Chicago PD actor LaRoyce Hawkins, read a piece by Lionel Tate Royce has said that he firmly believes we all have gifts inside of us. We just need to learn to maximize their potential. So take Lionel out for instance. He once dream of being a chef. And so he honed that gift by starting as a line cook inside of an IHOP. He then became a sous chef at Cheesecake Factory to ultimately work in the kitchen inside of the famed Soho house. And now he runs his own business. On top of that, he’s a dedicated father. It’s all evidence so that family is at the center of Lionel’s life. See, he updated his existing catering company to a fully vegan business to help diet conscious clients out. Just like his mommy says. And health and wellness remains a central part of his own life too. He met me at the IOW offices after going for a 90-minute jog at the park with his three-year-old son. Lionel walked in wearing two gold necklaces, one of them in the shape of Africa. They matched the design on his black tee. With his 1000-watt smile. He’s super easy to talk to and joke with, that’s part of what made our chat so common. What’s it feel like to hear your poem like that?
Lionel Tate 04:29
Man, that was gave me chills like I lead the away like he delivered it and take this time to really like you know get across the words and he made it like heartfelt, he made it you know, he like made me relive it pretty much you know it made me feel like damn. Oh because I’ll be just writing you know; I didn’t really like I’m just writing like my thoughts. So to hear my thoughts being read to me was like another little, just a piece of power. A piece of power that installed me, I liked it.
walk me through where you were, what you were feeling, what you were going through, when you wrote this?
I was searching, you know, I was in the process of becoming. And I felt like, I just couldn’t figure out how to get to the next step in life. I was just clearing my mind on the things that I’ve learned throughout my transformation, just being part of, you know, the InsideOUT writers program and the things that it has showed me, you know, create different perspective, but all I know, is what I’ve been through in my experiences. So I was in, caught in the middle of becoming better, you know what I mean, but only knew one thing.
Had writing been a part of your life before this?
Not really, not really, I wasn’t really, I wouldn’t really consider myself as like a writer. Like I know how to write of course, like, you know, I knew how to write, I used to like writing short stories and reading little books where I can, like escape with some writing and make myself fly and, you know, I create my own world off the writing, but it was never nothing like serious, to my experience being like, you know, incarcerated, the only thing I could write about is, what I was going through, and how I was feeling. So then my writing started becoming more of a reflection of what I’m going through. And then they started becoming therapeutic, you know, started writing more and more to release what I’m doing.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 06:43
If you go walk me through, or like, tell me more about the first piece you ever wrote. And, you know, I really take me there really take us there, in terms of like, what you’re experiencing, the sights, the smells, everything. And that could be why you were incarcerated or not, you know, just in general.
So I remember like, okay, I was, I was like that, right? I was 17 years old; I was looking at the rest of my life being gone. I have so much bottled into me, I was dealing with so much with like, friends and family, then just my personal life, you know, like, the rest of my life has been taken away from me, I haven’t had a kid I haven’t really felt like already live nothing, you know. So I was just dealing with that, the elders in my family health is starting to decline. I had that on my mind. And then you know, living in poverty, so all those other circumstances, everything, which is where know me, I was sitting inside the cell, my grandma was telling me, like, just read the Bible, you know, make sure just getting the Bible. And I’m like, I don’t even know how to read the Bible. I don’t know, like, I just open a book from the beginning to start reading, you know, sort of reading how to, like actually go about reading the Bible out of thing God knew even wanted to hear what I had to say, because I was out doing what I really wanted to do. But you know, just sitting this out of what I was dealing with, I end up picking up the Bible, or open to like a random page or random scripture. And when I read the verse, it was something that applied to me. So it was crazy. So I did that, again, random page, random scripture. And it was something that applied to me again. So I started writing those down. And I had, like, 16 different like, verses that I had, and I put them all into one. And that was like the first story that was like, helping me realize what I was going through and transform myself. That was really like the very first meaningful writing that I say I have.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 08:42
So that was at 17. Does that sort of writing continue after that?
Yeah. Because now that’s all I could write about. It was just like, meaningful step by step that I was personally dealing with, or trying to get through. And then like, little raps and stuff, like I used to write raps, and try to articulate myself and like a poetic form. But it was still stuff that I had to really go through. And, you know, I can’t really do too much imagination writing, like even today’s data still hard to like, do the imagination, right? And writing short stories and all as of now..
Is there a reason why that’s hard?
Yeah, I believe the reason is because, I’m still dealing with life, you know, and all the circumstances where they all felt like, I have overcome everything to even have that peace of mind to even think at ocean and blue skies and stuff. You know, right now, all the writing is still what I’m dealing with in. So I’ll be having writer’s block when I’m trying to think about just free writing. Just play, you know, and always has come our way. I’m happy to write something about what I’m dealing with. But it’s therapeutic for me has been very releasing, you know what I mean? Like now I write to, to clear my mind, I put it all on paper so I can start thinking of new things. And, you know, so it has been become a therapeutic tool for me
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 10:28
What is the version of your life look like without writing?
You know, discombobulated because I wouldn’t have that, that vessel to really see what I’m dealing with, you know what I mean? Go when you put it on paper and you read it, you see really, like, […] this is how it is. Now it gives you room to recreate and make a change. Without that I will be costly on the hamster wheel, just reliving and keep doing the same thing over and over. So I feel like by me putting those thoughts down on paper, I can reread it. And I’m like, damn, I was thinking […]. So you can correct that, you feel I’m saying? You can really correct and so yeah, so without that I’ll just be continuously dealing and going through the same thing, you know, over and over.
And your writing process, like what do you have to tap into, to get into like a good writing group?
Nowadays, I would need scenery. I like scenery, like I gotta get into the environment, because my household is discombobulated. So it’s hard for me to focus and get into a state of mind to even write at house. So I would say, scenery, being up in nature, being out somewhere.
Has becoming a father changed how you write in any specific way?
Not that I know of, honestly, Far as being a father, I know I’m a lot more thoughtful. Now that I’m a father. So that can for sure be reflected into the writing, like honing in on the skills more and more because now I’m a father. I went, you know, I want to say that was true. But I believe I’m more thoughtful.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 12:19
Yeah, I remember, for me growing up, like my idea of what writer was, was like a very specific sort of thing. I got that with a white dude, who, you know, had a library in his house who like wore a stuffy sweater? Like I didn’t know, writers can look like me or someone else in my community, right? And I’m asking, I think, like, was there a moment for you where maybe your idea of what a writer was, was different, but then you’re like, wait, I’m a writer, I could write poetry. I could do these things. Like, did you have a moment like that?
Yeah, I did. And I believe it was inside our writers for me. Because at first I never really liked that right as anything like prolific or some formula, you know, I never really cared about the write, like, I learned how to read in elementary. And I can read words and be reading all day. And you know what I mean? So, I’ve never really looked at writing in a glorifying way, being a part of like InsideOUT writers, being able to say, express yourself, and use, writing as a catalyst for transformation. I feel like that has inspired like, okay, you are a writer, anything you put down on this paper is powerful work, you know what I mean? So it’s like you are a writer, and anybody can be a writer if you have ideas and thoughts that you’re putting down on paper. So I feel like, you know, InsideOUT Writers for sure has installed that you too can be a writer videos, getting things like publish certain poems get put up, you know what I mean? So, I have the idea of really having the work published, or really writing on a serious level, or even thought that I was capable of even writing on a serious level. And then, being a part of this writing program. We do write in circles weekly, and stuff. So made me felt all right, I guess I am a writer, I guess I am a poet. I guess.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 14:17
In your poem, you titled it, “I’m still trying to find out”. And the first line says, “Who am I?” It’s a deep question that I think a lot of people ask ourselves, right? And I’m curious if, at this age, you’ve come closer to answering that question.
I’m closer and closer, you know, I’m not all the way there yet. But for sure, I’m closer. It’s the question that I asked myself at that particular time as well, because I was in the process of like searching for like I want something better for myself. I don’t know where I’m going. But I’m leaving from what I was doing, you know what I mean? So that who am I question is like, What is my ideology on life? I What is it? Who is my idols? And what am I looking forward to really becoming? You know, because at one point in time I view man as being gangsters and drug debtors having money, that was the first image of man that I like, admired. And then now as searching for better role models and better people to look up to, and really trying to find myself within those people, you know, and so sort of like finding like Malcolm X, and you know, […] you know, Martin Luther King, and I just started other people where I tried to, like, really see different images of man’s and fire respect for all different thought processes and levels. And then boom, I’m right there in the middle, where it’s like, okay, that’s the way I used to think that’s the way I want to think. So I was right there in the middle of asking myself, who am I? You know, do you want to be this leader? Do you want to be this gang banger? You know, because I learned what this route has taken me and I’m curious of what this role can take me, you know, so it was just me questioning myself, and just really, you know, trying to put my finger on. Who am I?
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 16:17
Based on what you were saying in the title. And I read it again, I was like, wow, like, I’m curious to see like, how he answered that now, you know. There’s also I think, throughout this poem, it’s so descriptive. It’s sort of bares honesty and like, a really, real way, right? Like, you’re really going there. And I’m wondering, like, is it easy for you to tap into that? To be as honest as you were in this poem? Because I know, sometimes, it’s easier for us to, to write something down than it is to like tell someone or to share that verse to ourselves to the world. Do you ever experience that?
Yeah, yeah, for sure. But I feel like for me, it’s more about my healing process, you know, where I’m trying to really get to in my life. So the more raw it is, the more authentic it is. And then it’s just me versus the paper. So it’s like, I don’t feel like I’m in a position like I have to lie to the paper. You know what I mean? Because basically, I’m just lying to myself. So I put the truth there. And I read my truth, I’m looking at my truth, and I’ll start to deal with my truth.
When you aren’t writing, like, what are you doing? What do you listen to? What are you reading? What’s that life like?
I got a lot of different projects going on. You know, I’m a chef, I have a catering company that I run. I’m looking for, I’m working on a project right now, while I’m building a food truck. So I’m pretty. I’m pretty busy working on like my entrepreneurship. You know, I have a three-year-old son, I’m trying to intact my health as well and trying to, you know, stay some sort of fit, you know what I mean? Ain’t got a lot of real time to work on cardio and exercise. I just like final. So I had to get up at six in the morning to for some time to do some for my health and everything. Yeah, I like to, you know, play a little basketball. When I get some time. I’m reading more. I’ve been meditating, you know, trying to gain like a peace of mind. Cooking for sure is therapeutic. Gave me a peace of mind as well. You know, learn how to be a dietitian right now. My mom, she is just having, she’s had like a stroke and, like heart failure she did with these complications, because of the way she eat. So it made me want to dive more in heavy to try to be a dietitian. So I started a campaign called Eat to Live. And I changed the whole restaurant, the whole business to a vegan restaurant now. And we promoted Eat to Live trying to you know, clean up our health and really keep my mom living.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 19:11
How about music? What do you listen to?
I like substance, you know, I’m listening to like Jay Cole. I like that dude, D Smoke, you know that one a little contest, like his music pretty dope. last person I was listen to was Rod wave, but I like Nipsey and, you know, I like people that got like a meaningful message behind it. You know, but when the in the clubs, you know, I listen to that jiggy stuff, too. You know, whoever hot, you know, get your head moving and all that. But for […] if I’m the one controlling the playlist you’re gonna probably be listening to like Nipsey.
Right. Is there a part of you that appreciates the writing that goes into lyrics and music writing.
Yeah. For sure, for sure. I value the words that these guys putting in their music, you know, that’s why I listen to the jiggy stuff like, only out and you know, the jiggy stuff where it’s like, it’s more like dance music, you ain’t really singing that you just, it’s the heartbeat and you just […] now you just not really saying that there’s really no substance, there’s really no real lyrics. You just writing a beat. And it’s a hard song, you know, because of the beat in the way the melody, you know what I mean? Like, before, like the substances, like, you know, somebody’s got some real lyrics, that’s gonna help you do something like, Jay Z, that 444 album, where it’s like, it started to inspire financial literacy for me. And, and I’m, you know, I like listening to albums where I can go apply when I’m listening to.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 20:52
Is there like, a certain time that you write? Like, do you write to both express yourself, you know, when you’re dealing with something, coping with something? Tell me more about that.
Yeah, so it’s a little bit of both because, like I said, I’m like, I’m currently active working and doing all this stuff. So I wanted to say like, I’m just gonna Hurry up in journal down stuff every day. But it’s for sure, like coping mechanisms still, because when I got too much on my mind, I have to, you know, go jot them down. I’ve been writing like, a lot of recipes, and you know, stuff or like, the menu. So it’s been more like strategic writing, you know, what I mean? I haven’t just been having like, free writing and fun writing or just expressive writing, I haven’t really been doing and I haven’t even wrote a poem in a long time, you know? So I feel like my writing is more of emails and keeping up with people, you know, just business, right?
I’m curious, what you will tell that Lionel now, the age you were when you wrote this poem.
Lionel Tate 22:04
Man, a whole lot, a whole lot. Basically, you know, be patient, you know, you still young got a lot of life to live, because you very anxious, you know, have big anxiety, and forgive yourself and really just focus on what it is that you want to do, I’ll basically just explain to him like, you know, don’t take it so hard on yourself, you know what I mean, and really be eager to learn how to get to that next situation, you know what I mean? Like, I feel like the predicament that he was in, because you grew up in that situation, you know, so your parents was never able to elevate you or get you out of there. So you need to learn what it’s going to take for you to get out of there. At that time, he didn’t know but I will be telling them to just really, you know, work towards something we’re going to get on the path, you know, like I say, let positivity transform you. And then you know, and work towards something, feel like it was done and what a lot of personal things at that time, and then have nobody to get answers from, you know, what I mean? Like, you got outside people that you can, like, acts about certain things, but it’s like, when is real thing that you did and where you went really go to people to express that. So I’ll just tell him like just, you know, be comfortable. trust your network, allow life to happen.
What would you tell that Lionel about writing.
I’ll tell him to write a lot. Write more be able to express yourself because of articulation. The better you can you know, express yourself and articulate your story, the more healing that you have and more direction you can start to find on your journey. So I’ll for sure encourage a lot of writing and a lot of reading and a lot of separation. You know, at that time hanging around with the wrong people or you be doing good things. But then you get back to your comfort zone you be around homeys in the same corruption, that curettage, you know what I mean? So, just, you know, isolate, and really focus on something and get to where you need to get to.
Walter Thompson-Hernandez 24:27
Thanks again to Lionel who’s catering business again, it’s called Tasty Tate’s Kitchen. Visit tastytateskitchen.com for all upcoming events, weekly featured menus, and suggested meal preps. You can also follow him and his work on Instagram at @takemoney_chef and @tasty_tates. He’s even accepting cash app donations for his company @$tmchef. Moved by what you heard today? Want to do more? Follow and support InsideOUT Writers Workshop at insideoutwriters.org and click on ways. To get involved personally in the work to end mass incarceration in California. Check out the work of ARC, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition at antirecidiviesm.com. Next week on WRITTEN OFF, writer Taylor […]
As she mastered it I loved I always wonder as a poet can someone really like convey what I wanted them like, everything that it means is so personal your writing, so the tone the way you say, time will pass you by is more of a like, I’m a singer kinda and I can’t sing so it’s kind of funny, but I loved everything about it was dope.
WRITTEN OFF is a co-production of Lemonada Media and Black Bar Mitzvah. Our producer is Claire Jones. supervising producers are Xorje Olivares and Kryssy Pease. Executive producers are Aaron Bergman, Jay Ellis, Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs. Music and sound design by Xander Singh. Mix and scoring by Matthew Simonson. Special thanks to all of our contributors, and InsideOUT Writers, you can learn more about them at insideoutwriters.org. If you like what you heard, help others find us by rating the show and writing a review. Follow us at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms. To support WRITTEN OFF and gain access to exclusive bonus material. Like additional conversations with the writers and producers of this show. Subscribe to Lemonada Premium, only on Apple podcasts. And for more of my work, visit my website wthdz.com. I’m Walter Thompson Hernandez. Thanks for listening.