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When your mentor falls down
A tribute to Scot Anthony Robinson
Scot Anthony Robinson transitioned this summer. He was my first mentor.
I put him on a pedestal, as is contractually required in the mentor-mentee contract.
But then he fell off that pedestal and into a hole.
And then he really became my mentor.
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When I was a fifteen, I was invited to the CADCA conference in DC. George W. Bush planned to sign the “Drug-Free Communities Act” and someone with an eye for optics decided it would play well if there were some plucky teenage change-makers on stage.
As the cameras flashed, W shook my hand and whispered in my ear “Listen to your Mother,” which was probably among the five most sensible things he ever said (Hi Mom!)
It was all well and exciting, but something else caught my eye.
Among a sea of suits and conference badges, a guy in a hoodie and sweats was giving a performance like his life depended on it in a hotel conference room. I wandered in.
Scot was a protege of Spike Lee and then got addicted to heroin and lost everything. In rehab, he wrote a show called “Vision Warrior.” It was, to this day, the most wild and powerful performance I’ve ever seen.
“Vision Warrior” was an explosive argument for finding joy, power, and meaning in the painful experience of being alive. It was the first time anyone laid out spiritual guidance that made any sense. It cracked something open in me.
Dude was wild. If you were distracted during his show, he would CLIMB into the audience and confront you. ”This shit might save your life, homie.” And you really believed him.
I could tell you more, but it’s worth experiencing him for a minute:
I had a lot of people around me numbing their pain and fucking up their lives. I knew I couldn’t do anything about it. But maybe he could. I became determined to bring him to my school. I raised money and won grants, but came up short of the fee. I delivered the bad news and he smiled: “When can you get everyone out of class?”
I somehow convinced my principal to get the entire school there. It blew people away. Afterwards, he started calling me “Big Red.” It was an obvious nickname for a redhead with the last name Redleaf. I always hoped someone would try out. Maybe I hadn’t earned it yet.
We stayed in touch. I graduated college and he introduced me to his network. He got me my first paid filmmaking gig.
Life got harder for him. His mom got sick. His health declined. Performances became scarcer. Surviving in capitalism wasn’t one of his areas of vision.
One day, he asked if I could loan him $500. I started to worry. I wrongly assumed he was using again. I gave him the money and then ghosted him.
And so did most people.
We like our inspiring figures to pick themselves out of the hole. And then stay out.
His Mom died. I heard he lost his house and was living on the street. And I evicted him even further from my mind. I didn’t want to look. I had no clue how hard it is to survive outside of my bubble of shelter and privilege. I didn’t want to feel the pain … about the guy who taught me how to feel the pain.
My life went on. Years later, I was on a retreat and I tapped into something that reminded me of what he opened up in me as a kid. I felt profound shame for ignoring him.
“You can mask, you can hide you can evade, you can bug, you can sex, you can puff, you can push down your feelings way down deep into the bowels of your vessel. And some people do, man … they lock them up in a vault. They lose the combination, they pretend it’s not there. But those feelings, unexpressed, unrealized, internalized, it implodes, it doesn’t go anywhere. It eats away at the foundation of your spirit … your vessel.”
The retreat challenged us to set a goal that could be done in 2 weeks.
Mine was to reconnect with him.
I flew to LA and I went out looking for him. I found an article that mentioned a neighborhood he was seen in and I found him panhandling.
I’ll never forget the look on his face when he saw me. I’ll never forget the love and forgiveness he showed me. I put him up in a motel for as long as I could afford.
The best eulogy I’ve ever heard was “Ram Dass died who we thought he was when we first met him.” Scotty Rock also proved the thesis of his work in the battle for his life. While unhoused, he was run over, stabbed, robbed, had strokes and cascading medical issues, and never lost his warrior heart.
He would hang out near a Starbucks and people he met could tell there was something about him. Word got around and he miraculously was given a section 8 housing voucher. Then he had to fight for over a year to find someone to accept it.
On the day he got the keys, he invited me over to see his new place. You’ve never seen a human more grateful for unlimited access to four walls, electricity and running water. He dug himself out of the hole twice. And won the right to battle his health conditions with a little bit of a dignity.
The kids used to always ask me in the processing groups after the show, Mr warrior do you have any side effects from all the drugs & alcohol you abused? Thank God I said, I'm blessed that I really don't, but I wld tell them, you can't abuse drugs for over 20 yrs & not one day have to pay the piper, that's why I live every day as if I don't have many left to waste, why I cherish everyone I love, try to cherish eveyday, cause one never knows, I'm a perfect candidate for a heart attack or stroke, and sure enough I am now paying the piper. But I have been so blessed with so many incredible friends, 25 yrs of vision warrior, amazing parents who gave me an amazing upbringing, have traveled the world, had beautiful creative experiences and opportunities, have had great loves in my life, all in all I've had a beautiful life, so I'm truly blessed despite these last yrs being in such bad shape, sorry if I'm depressing anyone, I'm trying to be more positive of late, its been difficult when you have to face chronic consuming pain on a daily, I try to visualize healing and positivity, but its been a challenge honestly, hopefully I will have definitive diagnosis and can focus on whatever the battle ahead. Sending everyone all my love, congrats on your accomplishments and encouragements for those who need a lil Warrior love.
always yr Scotty R - his last post
His last act was becoming an advocate in the LA system in the midst of the city’s worst housing crisis in history.
I love you, Scotty Rock. Thanks for teaching me about the human condition. Thanks for being my mentor. Thanks for teaching me how to be Big Red. I’ll pay it forward.