I met Maurice Marable when he was in 9th grade and I was in 8th grade. He - like me - was an Air Force brat and his Valdosta-native parents decided to retire in Savannah, which is the childhood home of my parents, who decided to do the same thing after my dad's 27 years of service. Initially, we didn't hit it off. Perhaps we were too much alike as well-traveled "black boys" who weren't exactly like our peers who were born and bred in Savannah. Eventually, we'd realize our commonalities were worth aligning and we'd be a support for each other that would transcend many of the shortcomings that Savannah (and society at-large) can sometimes project on black men. For example, Maurice is responsible for me getting my first job. Quite simply, on a day where most of our friends were looking for jobs at the mall, I decided to join Maurice at Baskin-Robbins where he was going to pick up his check. I ended up engaging his boss, the owner Rodney (who some might deem a "red neck"), in some non-descript chat about politics and such, and Rodney --- impressed perhaps because my subjects agreed with my verbs without a southern twang (like Maurice) --- offered me a job on the spot. I wasn't really looking, but checked in with my parents and accepted. I would join the 'ice scream scooping' team and go on to win the SMASH AWARD ("Sell More and Sell High"). No one could convince a customer to go for the triple scoop (or maybe even a quart of ice cream) like me. During these times, Maurice and I would talk about our futures and our lives with pop culture usually at the fore of most of our conversations. We admired Spike Lee and lived for "The Cosby Show" and though there were no mentors in front of us, who gave us the sense that this world could be our reality, we somehow believed --- without a sense of the mechanism --- that it could be.
After graduation (a year before me), Maurice would go on to study Accounting in college. Admittedly, he was playing it safe. Not happy about the major, but afraid to confess his "dream" of writing for film and TV to his dad, he instead found a way to escape the doldrums of bean counting and please his father at the same time. Maurice joined the Air Force. During this time, Maurice reminds me that I was on the journey. I said I wanted to do news and by my senior year in high school, I was working at the local TV station as the teleprompter. I said I wanted to perform, I was singing and acting in many student productions, honing my craft. Maurice, on the other hand, ended up in Iraq in The Gulf War. I remember he'd send poems that would describe what he was seeing, but also what he was "dreaming" for his life. As I pursued my "dream" at Morehouse, Maurice says he became all-the-more convinced that if he made it back, he must begin the work of making his dreams come true.
As I was two years into my matriculation at Morehouse, Maurice came to Atlanta to study Film at Georgia State. We spent lots of time hanging out. I even starred in a couple of Maurice's student films. He hung out in my mass communications department, which was housed at Clark Atlanta University. And we collaborated and networked often. As I began my career in Atlanta at WSB-TV and FOX 5's "Good Day Atlanta", I would stumble across many opportunities that allowed us to elevate our respective games. I remember when Spike Lee announced he was coming to Atlanta to executive produce a joint called "Drop Squad". We all jumped aboard to be a part. Though I got the opportunity to do a walk-on role in the film (and to interview Spike and the players for "Good Day"), Maurice walked on the set and impressed the hell out of the New York City-based producers on the project. They loved him so much, they asked him to drive a truck of equipment back to New York City... and he never looked back.
Though Maurice argues I was like a "mentor" (even though I was a year younger) in that I went for mine, he became my "mentor" because he made it to the Big Apple first. However, a year later, I could call it home too. And he and I would continue to have "synergy" around our careers. His wife, Tracey Moore- Marable, is a casting director, acting coach, and director as well. She would take to me and through the bond that is Maurice/Patrick, she would give me opportunities to act and do on-camera voice/ personality work for projects like HBO's "Cosmic Slop", "New York Undercover", and Faith Evans' "You Used To Love Me". At a point where I decided to leave my fulltime gig at CNBC, Maurice made it possible for me to interview celebrities and produce entertainment projects for HBO, a gig he impressively landed that led to his working as a top-flight creative director of on-air promos for original programming. He did this before launching his directing career, which boasts credits like "The Dave Chapelle Show", "Six Feet Under", "The Dennis Miller Show", and BET.com to name a few. He has also directed the opening of the hit show "Entourage", a promo for the drama "Carnivale", and the "Grocery" promo for "Six Feet Under". Maurice was also nominateed for an Emmy for the opening sequence of "Big Love" in 2006.
Along with Warrington Hudlin ("House Party" & "Boomerang"); Elaine Brown (HBO); and Maria Perez ("Gullah Gullah Island"), Maurice sat on a panel "Pioneers of Progress: Empowering and Inspiring a Generation Through Film". My friend Michael K. Watts hipped me to the panel. Since my schedule allowed, I just had to attend to surprise Maurice. Over these years of late, we see each other rarely. My work keeps me on the road (as "A Day In The Life of Riley..." chronicles). His work coupled with raising two kids keeps him busy as well. But when we get together, we just pick our friendship right on up and step right into the roles that have sustained our friendship for 23 years. When Maurice saw me, he received me warmly with a big hug. And during his time on the panel, he shouted me out. I got a kick out of how many people in the audience wanted to talk to me because they knew "... I knew Maurice when...". He took my friend Khalid and me to SOHO House (www.sohohouse.com/) for appetizers and cocktails. There, we reminisced on our days in Savannah and how far we've come. We caught up on the joys and struggles that continue in our respective families. We took some time to talk about what's going on in our current lives before calling it a night. We promise to see each other very soon. It may not happen until late this year. Maybe this month, since his birthday is coming up. I have joined him for many of his birthdays over the last ten years. Or maybe in November, which is my birthday. He joined a host of friends and me in 2005 to celebrate that special day. My point? We don't talk everyday nor do we have to. Our bond doesn't require it. And yet, our bond is one that weaves, amplifies, and celebrates his success and my success... wirelessly...
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