Brandon Leake – Father’s Day 2022


Virgil Grant: But today, we’re glad to have Brandon Leake with us. So who is Brandon Leake? Brandon Leake is a spoken word poet, educator, and motivational speaker, and the winner of the 15th season of America’s Got Talent. 

Now, rumor has it that a couple of weeks ago that Dustin Tavella… Remember Dustin, that spoke here? Dustin Tavella, Brandon Leake, and Kecthe was all in the same show in Vegas? What about that? Yeah. All of them, and all three of them… Now, after Brandon is here today, all three of them have also been at Eastside. 

He was the first spoken word poet to be on America’s Got Talent and received the Golden Buzzer Award in the first round from Howie Mandel. 

And so here is Brandon Leake. Give him a warm East Side Richmond, Kentucky, welcome. Yeah. So I’m going to pray for Brandon, and then we’re going to give it to him. Okay? 

Lord, thank you for what you’ve already accomplished here today. Thank you for what you’re going to accomplish here today, Father. Thank you. For your servant, Brandon. May you energize him. May you help him to recall the things that you’d want him to say? Lord, may your spirit anoint him as he brings your word to your people. And Father, we pray all of these things in the name of Jesus. Amen and amen.

Brandon Leake: Thank you. Oh, give it up for your pastor, everybody. 

Today is a really awesome day. I didn’t mention this in the first service. Today is like a really monumental occasion for me. So you guys know the CW network? Yeah. So today, I’m thinking this is East Time, so at 9 p.m., I have what is considered America’s first ever spoken word televised special coming out on The CW, tonight. Uh, and so it’s an hour-long set entitled “Family Affair.” It’s a journey through me and my very loving and odd family’s history. I’m sure we can all share our stories about our family. So, yeah, I’m, like, genuinely excited about that tonight. So, if you want to support me in any way, you can watch that tonight and help me out. 

But I’m here today because I have a message that God gave me that was pretty difficult for me to write. Pretty difficult for me to be able to receive. But I believe that all of us men, and in particular the young men here who are going to be growing up to be fathers, will be able to implement and utilize in our lives. So, I didn’t do this last time, but I would like to do this. Will you pray with me real quick? 

God, you gave me this message, and I asked that you get me out of the way. Lord, this is not about me. This could be any talking head up here at this point. But God, I ask that your voice be heard. That the hearts, souls, and ears of the people who are in front of me are prepared to receive what you are giving them. So, yes, God, please be here and be present. Amen. 

So if we’re going to get started, I would like to start off by sharing a poem with you all about my life. Because, I absolutely hate when somebody shows up and tries to tell me how to live my life, and I know absolutely nothing about them. So, this is an opportunity for you all to know a little bit about me, but let’s go over some poetry rules first so that way you all have an understanding of how this works. 

So everybody, please snap for me. At poetry events, they tell you to snap. I hate that, so don’t. Absolutely horrible. If you enjoy something, just clap for it, or this side of the room say, “ooh,” this side of the room say, “Ah.” Everybody laugh. See, that’s what I was waiting for. I love when fake laughter bleeds into real laughter. What I’m saying is we can enjoy this time. This does not have to be Shakespeare, “Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, Will you be my boo?” It does not have to be all that. By the way, young fellows, do not use that line. What I’m saying is we can enjoy ourselves with this time.  

And so, with that being said, this poem is entitled “Steps” it is the quickest way to learn about me real briefly. And then I will dive straight into the message. 

“Steps to Being Brandon Leake. Step 1 – is that you first have to be named Brandon Leake, and then Step 2 – be born on May 4th, 1992, with an extremely large head. Sorry about that, Mom. 

“3 – be born to a mother who got a heart of gold and just pray that she also has the Midas touch. 4 – being born and raised in Southside Stockton in a cave full of hard rocks that when pressed become gems. 5 – Be born with brown skin. You see this, excessive amounts of melanin will surely dictate much of your future. Be sure to remember these steps. 

“6 – be born with all of your limbs and then remove one. My fault, no, remove your father. No surprises here, refer back to Step 5. 7 – have abandonment issues. These will surely rear their ugly heads later. 8 – cling to your mother because she is the only form of consistency that you have ever known. Be sure to push all of the men in her life away, so she does not leave you, just like your father did. Refer back to Step 6. 

“9 – go to middle school and… get yourself a girlfriend. 10 – you know that girl I was just talking about like 5 seconds ago? Didn’t quite work out. But see, here’s what we’re going to do instead. Brandon, hand out your heart to girls in a desperate attempt to avoid this painful agony that we call loneliness. Refer back to Step 7. 11 – repeat Step 10 continuously. 

“12 – pray for brighter days because they cast large shadows for your fears to hide in. 13 – wear masks that make you far more tolerable to the world. 14 – don’t forget to have a real complicated relationship with your stepfather. Argue with him repeatedly until these fists become your only form of expression. 15 – buck up, little boy. I thought I told you real men don’t get depression. 

“16 – dream of doing what no one in your family has ever done before and then go do it. 17 – go off to college and then try to reinvent yourself to be the cool guy you always dreamed of being when you were in high school. 18 – understand that there is no escaping reality. You are who you always have been, no matter the location. 

“19 – face loneliness. But if I’m being honest with you guys, I don’t know if I’m prepared for that task yet. So, I guess the easier way to express to y’all would be like this. When I was four years-old, I had an eight and a half month old sister named Danielle Marie Gibson, and she died in the car next to me due to heart failure. So death isn’t something I really adopted, but more so grew myself into. And I can’t help but think that they still live six feet deep alongside her. And then my grandfather, the only father figure I’ve ever known, three weeks before my high school graduation died of lung and liver cancer. Rushing to a hospital next to his wife of 50 years, and a graduation ceremony where only one seat was left empty, never left me feeling so numb inside. And then my best friend, Bernard Daniels, my freshman year of college, he drowned in a levee 2 miles behind our old neighborhood, running away from a rival gang. And I was 200 miles too far north to embrace his body before it ever turned cold. Before he ever stopped breathing, before he ever never returned home again. 

20 – I wake up most mornings just so I can look myself in the mirror and I see a reflection of a stranger. This guy who I know resides inside, but I’m too afraid, too scared, and far too fearful to finally unzip myself from my own skin, to allow the world to see who I actually am. 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. There are no more steps. Just tons of questions like, Who is Brandon Leake anyways?”  

And so I like to share this poem in particular on a day like today, because the first time I ever met my father I was 25 years old. I remember driving to my soon-to-be in-laws house, because I was going to go ask for their permission to ask my wife to marry me. And I thought to myself, “Man, I’m going to have kids. And if the only reason my children don’t have a grandpa is because I was bitter, because my father wasn’t a part of my life, and that’s my fault, not his.” And so I called him, and I said, “Hey, I know we haven’t talked since I was a senior in college, but I wanted to invite you to my wedding.” 

And he cried, and he said, “I never thought would forgive me.” I made sure to explicitly let him know, “A. This is my wedding, and my wife will kill you if you try to make this about you. So… Just be aware.” He and I now have a relationship. It’s not like a father-son thing. It’s like we’re homies. Because I don’t need to know how to shave, I don’t need to know how to do any of that stuff. But his presence in my life, brought about a sector of generational healing in which would have never occurred without that forgiveness. And without that reconciliation with inside of myself about all the things that happened, because –  This is completely off script, sorry. 

I carried father issues my entire life. I used to hate Father’s Day. Father’s Day was a day that I didn’t see the significance in, because the only person I would celebrate would be my grandfather. An immensely flawed person, he was an assistant pastor who was also a raging alcoholic, addicted to cigarettes, which inevitably killed him after he finally cut it cold turkey for the last four years of his life. But Father’s Day left me embittered for a very long time, because I used to be immensely hopeful that my dad and I would be able to live a life together. That he would finally return home and claim the son in which he was, he was responsible for bringing into this world. And by the time I hit 15, I got to a point where I said, “You know what? Screw him. Screw anybody like him. I don’t want anything to do with him.” If you’ve ever seen The Fresh Prince episode, where Will Smith breaks down into tears. That was me.

In my brokenness, I leaned in, and I remember the first time he and I ever talked on the phone was my senior year of college. He had called my mom asking if he could have permission to have my phone number. And my mom called me and asked how I felt about it. And I remember being like, yes, and sending him to me. And within 30 minutes before he was about to call me, I remember jittering out of anger. I wrote the probably the most disgusting poem I’ve ever written, in terms of how much vitriol was placed into it. And Father’s Day for me came to mind in that moment because I remembered all the Father’s Days that I bought cards without an address to actually send them to. 

I want to I say all of this for all the people who are here who are struggling with father issues. Who are having issues with their, you know, earthly fathers, and then they’re transitioning that into their issues with their heavenly father. Because oftentimes, what ends up happening is the same way that we view the parental figures in which we had, is the same way we inevitably view God. We end up having these trust issues, and being able to submit to God the things that we need to submit to God, because we have a very large issue of being able to submit to the people who raised us. 

And so today, I took the long route to really get where I am getting to. I’m sorry, but that was just really on my heart. Today, I pray for healing for everybody who may be dealing with that. Because the healing going to be – the steps towards going where we need to go are going to be on the other side of that type of healing. 

And so, what I’d like for us to do today is, I’d like for us to explore a concept in which God put on my heart, which is a challenge to all men here, which is Biblical Masculinity. That’s what I’d like for our topic to be about today. And it’s not to say that, like, women aren’t involved in the leadership and, you know, progression of the body of families. But it’s Father’s Day, so I’m talking to guys today. So sorry ladies, but this one, it’s not necessarily for you.

How many people here have ever heard of the term Toxic Masculinity? Cool. So I live in California. A bunch of liberal folks live in my state. In particular, I am a poet, and the spoken word community is comprised, particularly the one that I’m a part of, I would say, 95% nonbelievers. Of that 95% of nonbelievers, 60% of them were once believers who then left because they felt hurt by the Church in some form or fashion, many of them being women who believed that they had no place outside of a subservient role within the Christian religion. The other particular sector of it was men who felt that they were being essentially ostracized for not fitting in this typical concept of what being a man actually was within the Church. 

I don’t call myself a Christian poet because I don’t believe that about myself. I call myself a Christian who does poetry. I talk about anything and everything from the perspective of somebody who loves Jesus. And so when we talk about this idea of Godly masculinity, I mentioned toxic masculinity because they are in direct contrast. Toxic masculinity is defined as characteristics of men or manliness in which perpetuate domination, homophobia, aggression, as well as several other negative characteristics. And this popular buzzword has been around for about the past five or six years. And inevitably, what happens is the world tries to attach it to the Church, because they say toxic masculinity is mainly derived from this place. They say that we as a culture produce men who end up breaking our world further. And I assert to them that that is immensely false, and unfortunately, at times, still drastically true. Because the reality is the Bible, and Yaweh, do not produce toxic masculinity. They are the healing for the toxicity in which we bring into this world. But our application of said word is what oftentimes becomes toxic. 

And so today, I come here with a challenge for all of us men to be able to say, how can we be more biblically masculine? And with that, I would ask if you would please think of the words “submissiveness,” and then “leadership.” There is first submissiveness, and then we, as men, get the opportunity to be the leaders that we are called to be. Oftentimes we let go of that first word and just say, “Hey, I’m supposed to be called to lead this household, to lead my family.” But you have to be willing to submit first. 

And so with that, I would ask if you would please open up your Bibles to first Samuel, chapter 16. We’re going to start at verse 12, or we’re actually going to start at verse 8, and we’re going to read to verse 23. It’s not going to be on the screen, so don’t wait for it. But we’re going to be in first Samuel, chapter 16, when you have it. Just give me a thumbs up. Perfect. You guys are way better than the first service in terms of speed. Also, I resonate with the first service because I can never find anything in my Bible. I’m like super slow.

 I’m going to start off verse 8, and just track with me. “Then Jesse called Abi-” and I’m so awful at pronouncing these names, “Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, ‘the Lord has not chosen this one either.’ Jesse then had Sharma passed by Samuel. But Samuel said, ‘Nor has the Lord chosen this one.’ Jesse had seven of his sons passed before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ So he asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’ And he said, ‘There is still the youngest.’ Jesse answered, ‘He is tending the sheep.’ Samuel said, ‘Send him. We will not sit down until he arrives.’ So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. And then the Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him. This is the one.’ So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers. And on that day, the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah. Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and the evil spirit of the Lord tormented him. Saul’s attendant said to him, ‘See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our Lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.’ So Saul said to his attendants, ‘Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.’ One of the services answered, ‘I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man, and the Lord is with him.’ Then Saul sent messengers to see Jesse and said, ‘Send your son David, who is with the sheep.’ So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a young goat and sent him with his son David to Saul. David came to Saul and into the service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. Then Saul sent word to Jesse saying, ‘Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.’ Whenever the Spirit of God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul. He would feel better and the evil spirit would leave him.”

Question. How many of you all have ever worked a job in which you felt more qualified than your boss to lead? Some of y’all like I feel that way now. And in modern-day culture, we like to call that “feeling salty.” The idea is, “Yo, man, like, I walk into this place, it’s hard for me to be here because these people are incompetent, Fam. Like, I could be doing this so much better.” And imagine if when you first got the job, the person who hired you said, “Eh, you are going to run this company… one day” and then a day comes after being there for a minute. And then they call you into the office where the CEO of the company is, and the CEO says, “Hey, stand by my side because you’re going to bring me good fortune,” and you have to watch them then lead this company awry. Would that not be maddening? Would that not be wildly frustrating? Would you not turn to God and be like, “Hey, you told me that I was going to run this place? What’s the deal, God? God, that’s what you told me.” That’s what David had to do. David was told and anointed to be king. And when he got called to the kingdom that he was told he would have to lead. He had to submit to God and be immensely patient and wait for his opportunity to come. 

Before he could ever lead, he had to submit his own will to God and say it, “It’s your time, not mine. Whenever this comes, it will be because of you.” And this is not a thing in which is distinctively masculine in terms of the way that we historically have taught this. 

I’m telling you now, I was taught as a young boy to be aggressive. I throw the first punch. I’m not patient. I go get what’s mine. As an entrepreneurial mindset that I was told to have. I’m like, You do not wait for anything. You go pursue it and you go chase it. When it came to dating, I was told, “Don’t wait, you have to go find your partner!” This is in direct opposition to everything that I’ve ever learned about being a man. It’s submitting my will to God and saying, “I will wait on you. I will wait for you to tell me where to go. How to go. When to go.” How many of us have ever prayed for something, ask God to help provide for it, and then we actively go do stuff and don’t wait?

What I’m challenging is our conventional norms about what manliness is supposed to be, because we have gotten it wrong. Because this example is a key one here. Because I’m telling you now, if I was in David’s position, I would have been walking through the kingdom like, “Yeah man, I’d fix them cracks in the wall there. Those people over there wouldn’t just be idly doing stuff. They’d be doing an impactful work.” I would be examining all the flaws of what was going wrong, and then I, in my own head would be saying, “Yo, God, I’m about to fix this whole thing,” and be wildly impatient and waiting for my chance to show up. But patience is rooted in submission and humility because it says “I’m not the most important figure in what’s about to happen.” And that humility is a posturing not of one’s actual actions first, but of one’s heart, and which then derives the actions because how many of us have ever done things that we didn’t actually have the heart behind, but we did the right thing? 

So I’m not asking for your service because plenty of people at Christian, but don’t got the heart for it. I’m asking for your heart to be positioned in humility towards God and say, “I will submit to you before I ever move.”

And if you think that this is just an Old Testament thing, that would be completely false. Because if we open up to Mark 14 and we look at verses 32 through 38, Gethsemane? Gethsemane. See, I’m going to get this right one of these days. And so it reads, “they went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James, and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.’ He said to them, ‘Stay here and keep watch.’ Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that, if possible, the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. So please take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will be done.’ And then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Simon,’ He said to Peter, ‘Are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep awake for one hour, watch and pray that you will not fall to fall into temptation because the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'” 

And you may wonder, how does this relate to what I’m talking to? I ask you, how long did Jesus know that he was going to die on that cross? How long did Jesus have to wait for the cross, knowing it was coming? Imagine the patience that you have to have, the humbleness that you have to have to say, “Hey, I can’t rush to this inevitable, gruesome end. I have to take the long route. The humility that that must have, the posturing of submissiveness, to say, God, please, if we’re going to–” if you knew something that painful was going to happen, wouldn’t you want it to just come quick? So you wouldn’t have to wait for it. You wouldn’t have to think about it because I’m telling you now, I would be up every night just thinking about the fact that, “God, I’m going to be strong to that cross. Nailed, beaten, bruised, battered. Just get it over today. Let’s just do it today. Why wait? We can get it done now.” But that once again puts me as the central figure of how this thing works and operates, and this humility then states that we can’t be that central figure. 

To be the leader that crist has called us meant to be, we have to first submit. We have to place ourselves in posturing of submissiveness because this is consistent from Old Testament to New Testament. There is no leader who has ever been worth their salt who didn’t first get on their knees soul-wise, heart-wise and physically, and say, “God, you take this, and I will go where you take me.” And I’m telling you now, this may seem like “duh!” But this is also a really hard thing to do when it’s things you care about. It’s really hard to say, “God, I give you my marriage, and I will go wherever you take this marriage. I give you my children in whatever circumstances may happen. I give that to you, and then you get thrown a curve ball. And then suddenly, you have to love out of a capacity that you don’t have, that God has. But you have to tap into God.  

It’s really difficult. Because I’m telling you now, being in the position that I’ve been in as a man, I have been constantly told you are to lead a household. And I walked into a marriage of my wife with this idea of what I was, how I was supposed to lead. I was like, “Hey, we’re going to be doing Bible studies every night. We’re going to be doing all of these, like, you know, conversations. We’re going to be doing ministry in the crib by bringing everybody over. We’re going to watch Christian movies. We’re going to do all this very cool stuff.” And none of that has happened. But ministry has been getting done in my house because God told me, he was like, “You can only serve when you know the one you’re serving. Because you’re serving me first, and you have to read this to get to know me. And you are serving your wife first, before you serve yourself because now you have to get to know her.” And that’s in opposition to everything I learned. 

Because growing up, I was taught this verse in Ephesians, chapter 5, and it reads, “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to yourselves to your husbands, as you do to the Lord for the husband as the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church, which is his body of which he is the Savior. Now, as the Church submits to Christ, also wives submit to your husbands in everything.” And that’s where it usually stopped.  

I would hear men refer to this verse and say, “Aye, you woman, submit to me. That’s what the Bible tells you to do.” Completely ignoring the verses that then proceed after it, in which say, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up to her. To make her holy, cleansing her by washing water through the word and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain, a wrinkle, or any other blemish beholding him blameless in the same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body. Just as Christ does the Church for we are members of his body.” What I’m saying is… love is the position that we men have to now take. Being less hard, being more transparent, being less rigid and more flexible. 

Being able to say, “God, what version of love is needed of me today?Because the love that I’ve always known and being a man has been a hard love.” And this humble love is a very gentle one. It’s one that I’m unfamiliar with. Because I left affection to women. I did. I was like, “Yo cuh, that’s not-it’s not my, it’s not my gifting. So I’ll leave that to her.” But I’ve been called to actively say, “Brandon, there’s more. I have more of a love for you and with you. Because, Brandon, the world needs you to be the best version of you that I’ve called you to be.” Because the Bible says the world will recognize my people by the way that they love. But if we only embody a particular portion of love, then we are going to shortcut the world from seeing the wholeness of Christ. We’re going to shortcut our children from being able to see the wholeness of Christ.

I’m telling you now, I see it in the eyes of my children. When my wife and I are finally able to get this thing right, most days, they light up in a way that only God could light their eyes. And this goes for the fathers in the room, the young men who will inevitably be fathers, doing the opposite of something bad does not mean that you are doing the right thing. We have to be willing to submit, because oftentimes what we will do in our desire to be in control is we will say, “hey, that bad, that thing over there is bad. I will just swing through and, in my own strength, do the opposite.” And God says, “No, it is in my strength that I will bring you to wholeness and fullness in the middle. But you have to give it to me first because I won’t take anything away from you that you won’t first hand off to me.” 

I’ve always known God to be the owner of a house that I live in, who has a key but refuses to use it. Because he comes to my door and knocks and says, “I’ll only come in if you let me.” In the humbling nature to say, “I will let you in, and I will let you run this place.”

Normally at this point, I have a poem, but I have something else I’d rather kind of continue with in this. I have an example of this in which I can lean on. My grandfather. I mentioned him before. Assistant pastor. Alcoholic. All these things. My uncle called him while he was attending seminary. And my uncle called him and said, “Papa, I love you. You did the best you could, and I forgive you.” The day that my grandfather received that type of gentle love from my uncle was the day that my grandfather quit alcohol and cigarettes cold turkey. Let it go. Lived the last four to five years of his life without it. And then he passed away sober. 

I’ll never forget that. Because my grandpa grew up in a generation of old, in which gentleness in men was something to be ridiculed, not to be admired. My grandpa grew up in a generation of men in which took charge, took the lead. They ran into the battlefield head first. And my grandpa, in his last few years of life, learned what it meant to say, “Man, I love you enough to admit that I don’t know enough. And then I will let go of all the things on which I’ve held on to to be better. I will submit to you, God, because I can’t do this without you.” My grandpa taught me that God does not need me to do anything with him, but He wants to do a whole lot with me. Sorry, I said that wrong. God does not need me to do anything for him. He wants to do a whole lot with me. Because God could do anything and everything for himself. God loves us enough to say, “I invite you into fullness with me.”

And so for all of us men who are here in the room today. All of us fathers. On this day, let us be the standard bearer of change for our generation, for the generations to come after us. Because I’m telling you, when we men get healed, imagine what that will show the world. When we submit and posture our hearts towards God, imagine what that will do to the world because we are called to be leaders. But not merely an action, but also in heart and posture and our everyday lives in the ways that people won’t even see. 

So I ask you to consider today. Will you be willing to be submissive to the point where you lose yourself but you find God? And that’s what I have for you today. Thank you