I’m changing my name!!!

Posted: November 19, 2011 in diversity, inspiration, personal
Yes I am changing my name. From now on I will be known as Mustafa “Space Cowboy”Mandelbaum! No. I will just be one word Ramon (you know like Madonna or Prince). Maybe I will just be a letter. The “R”. Just kidding. No I’m not changing my legal name but I am changing my blog name and url.
Why the change? Well I am personally going thru a time of change and reinvention. This is the time to change if there ever was one but really it boils down to having mixed emotions about this blog and needing to focus as I am now out of full time ministry and concentrating on other aspects of life.
What I love about this blog. I have been the most consistent at this blog. I have connected with some great people. I have had the most success with interacting with folks on this blog. I have begun to see an emerging focus and discover what I can write passionately about.
What I hate about this blog. It does not have a focus. It is called Mayo’s megaphone but has negative connotations when it comes to connection, listening, and dialogue. It also is connected to a certain season in my life which I am in the process of moving on from.
So here is what I am about to do: In an effort to keep up with my ever evolving self I will now be posting at ramonmayo.wordpress.com Also there will be no posts concerning race, culture, or ethnicity as the main subject matter. Yes I said it. I am fasting from diversity 🙂 Why? Well eventually I want to have my own website dedicated to those issues but for now I am focusing on three things: 1) Improving my writing 2) Finding my authentic voice and 3) Creating more content focused on personal development and spirituality. That’s where I am right now and although it is not a legal name change it definitely is a slightly different direction.

Pitt bridge

So it’s week three in the Burgh. I am currently working at Trader Joe’s and living among boxes as my beautiful wife Yvette sets up shop at our new place. One of the unusual things about our new place is that the street it’s on is Linden which is the same street I grew up on. Maybe God is making me grow up all over again. Hmmm…

This week was full of laughs and I will give my top 3 funniest moment:

The marijuana notice. One day while Yvette was unpacking boxes and cleaning some things in the apartment she noticed there was smoke outside the front door. She did not know what kind of smoke it was-it was just smoke. This really bothered us both as we don’t like smoke and don’t want our children to be inhaling secondhand smoke. At the same time I shrugged it off as just one of the downsides of living with/near a large amount of people in an apartment building. Then less than a week later we get a letter in the mail which read:

Yvette and Ramon

It has come to our attention that someone has been smoking marijuana in the building.

Perpetrators will be evicted immediately!

I immediately bust out into laughter because 1) How would you find the perpetrators? and 2) They used the word perpetrators

It may not be funny to you but it had me in tears as we were driving down 376. Note to self: Do not be a perpetrator. You could lose your apartment 🙂

Intense ashiness. Now some of you may or may not know that when black people have dry skin it really shows. They call this being “ashy”. Especially on the hands, elbows, and knees. It has provoked the timeless jokes/insults such”Your knees are so ashy you look like you been breakdancin in flour” and a host of others. Well I got home one day from work and it looked like I did more than breakdance in flour. It looked like I was wading in it!!!! Note to self: Lotion! Lotion! Lotion!

Atomic Wings. So me and the fam met up with Steven Hamilton at the infamous Quaker Steak and Lube which has recently been made famous by Man vs. Food for their Triple Atomic Wing Challenge. These wings are hot! I mean they are super hot with 150,000 Scoville Heat Units to scorch your tongue! I figured I don’t want to overextend myself. Let me use sober judgment. I will go with just plain old Atomic and not Triple Atomic. I had five atomic wings and it hurt. It hurt bad! I had to drink water every two minutes and it felt like my lips were swollen. I finally finished them off by drenching them in ranch dressing but they were still hot. Well that’s only the beginning…later on that night I was getting ready for bed and rubbed my eye. Guess what was on my finger??? Atomic sauce. I keep rubbing it not realizing I have it on my finger and my eye is getting smothered in Scovilles. I finally rinse it out in the bathroom sink and get to bed. But that is not the end. When I usually eat something hot I estimate that my tongue will burn, maybe my mouth and my lips but there were other parts burning as well and I had some serious bathroom issues (I will not go into details so you will not be totally grossed out) for the next couple of days. So that’s sober judgment. I have to laugh at myself for that. Note to self: Atomic is atomic. The word itself has deadly connotations.

So that’s week three. Stay tuned for more Life in the Pitt adventures.

Last week I posted the first nine of the ten lessons I learned as a pastor. I left off at the tenth just to keep you salivating for more. Well here it is. Drumroll please! The tenth and most important lesson is…..

Your personal life will affect your ministry more than you know. On the surface it sounds pretty obvious but when it comes down to it not many pastors act like this is the truth. If you look at their hectic schedule, their disgruntled wives, their lonely kids, their bulging waistline, and their non existent life this lesson sounds far from the truth. But underneath it all if our personal life is crumbling and weak then our ministry is crumbling and weak. Ultimately God sees no difference.

For years I lived as if ministry was life but the reality is that ministry flows from my life. What does that mean? It means that ministry must flow from my being (Thank you Bobby Clinton). And this is one of the things that I am focusing on this first year while we are in Pittsburgh. Right now I am using this time to explore who I am in Christ and to actually “get a life”. I am going to work out consistently, play with my kids, be with my wife, look at football games on tv (Steeler Nation!), write poetry,  and listen for God’s voice in the midst of it all.

Some of these things I have been doing previously but it was for the sake of continuing the ministry. Right now it will be for the sake of continuing with my life. Ministry is not my life and I do not want to make it my life. Christ is my life and he is there whether I am wrestling with my son, stocking groceries at Trader Joe’s, or reading the Tale of Desperaux on my Kindle.

And no I have no plans of leaving “the ministry”. In fact, I never left it. The only thing that’s different is my focus. Before it was ministering to an organization. Now it’s ministry to the Lord, to myself, and to whoever is around me. That’s a lifetime calling that will never change.

When talking about race in America we realize and understand that there are more ethnicities and cultures, labels and categories than black and white. At the same time we must face the brutal fact that this is the main divide in America. Whether you are actually black or white does not matter. These are two cultural categories that you are invited into whether you were born and bred in the good old USA or an immigrant from India, Korea, or Argentina. Why? The ugly and brutal racist history of this country has determined it to be so.

In the history of this country white has been associated with: good manners, wealth, intelligience, cleanliness, and morality. black has been associated with: bad manners, poverty, stupidity, filth, and immorality.

There is also the fact that there are two primary cultures in America: white and black. White culture is seen as more reserved, structured, and rational. Black culture is seen as more expressive, loose, and emotional. It is also evident when you realize the different Stuff White People Like and the different Stuff Black People Like

These are just some of the ways in which we are divided. But why the divide? It is all based on man made ideas that categorize and label people in order to justify injustice.

To put it more simply there is no such thing as white and black:

Black: A color based on racist ideology

White: A color based on racist ideology

In my short 34 years of life I have seen some really really dark skinned people but no one was ever the actual color black. The darkest of browns but not black. I have also seen some really really pale people but no one was ever the actual color white. No one is actually the color black. No one is actually the color white. These terms intentionally or unintentionally polarize and dehumanize us and keep us in the same racist paradigm.

It is my belief that to continue to use these terms is to continue the legacy of racism and slavery. African American and European American is the truth of who we are culturally and historically and I believe the more we affirm that aspect of ourselves and less of the racist aspect we will have moved towards true self definition on both sides of the black-white divide.

What do you think? Is there still a black-white divide in America? What do you think about using different terms to describe ourselves? Is it helpful or a meaningless exercise in semantics?

BTW If I use white and black outside of referring to this divide call me on it. Old habits are hard to break 🙂

Life in the Pitt: Week Two

Posted: November 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

So here we are…week two. The new apartment is full of boxes. I am spending  nights there in order to go to work at Trader Joe’s and Yvette and the kids are still in New Castle until we can clear the boxes and make the place safe/clean enough for the kids. All this while I squeeze minutes and hours out of my day to work on my thesis and keep up with blogging.

Things I am noticing about PGH:

  • Not alot of chain stores. There are still  a lot of Mom and Pop stores and when I get the chance I want to go to every one that interests me.
  • It’s cold. On Saturday I left the house in a T shirt and it was 27 degrees outside. Also you have to start your car up way before you are about to leave because of the ice and frost. Still something to get used to….
  • All of the diversity is centered around the Universities (Carnegie Mellon, Pitt, Chatham) and the East Liberty neighborhood (We are about two blocks down). I think this says something about how to increase diversity in any area. Education definitely plays a major role in our tolerance of other people. At my Trader Joe’s it is like the United Nations every day. Hmmm….

Things that I am loving:

  • Steelers pride. I am now a citizen of Steeler Nation. Boo Ravens!
  • Authenticity of people. Not a lot of people trying to promote the screenplay that they never wrote or handing you the card for their business which they never really started.
  • The cost of living. Things are just cheaper here. Especially rent. Hallelujah! (Angels singing in the background)

Things to do next:

  • Find a place to workout and a workout routine
  • Find a church
  • Get my PA drivers license
  • Get our new PA Bank

Stay tuned for more Pitt adventures….

This post is dedicated to two Steves: Steven Hamilton and Steve Schenk. You can check out Steven Hamilton on his blog Verve and Verse writing about theology, church, and his future plans to start a faith community in Pittsburgh and you can check out Steve Schenk writing on his blog Damascus 9 about his adventures as a church pastor in Buffalo here.

In recent years I have become aware of the issue of race more so as the pastor of a multiethnic church and through my studies at Fuller and this has caused me to explore not only the social issue of race but where I stand in regards to race and ethnicity. It has caused me to ask serious and honest questions about what I believe in regards to God’s perspective and viewpoint on race, culture, and ethnicity. Questions like

“Should there be a multiethnic church this side of heaven and is this a mandate for every church?”

“As an African American who has been robbed of culture should I place myself in a congregation where my culture is not dominant or at least valued?”

“Is there a place for a Christian black nationalist/separatist or is this going against God’s purpose for his church?”

“How can I be true to my culture and ethnicity while at the same time being a blessing to the different people around me?”

Many of these questions have been answered and many of them have not. The one thing that has emerged is that I do not want to be boxed in by race. Race is a social construct created to justify oppression. By being categorized in this way and operating within that construct I only give power to false notions of who I am as a person. To put it simply:  I am more than my skin color and physical features and these do not determine who I am. I am a human being who is capable of doing and achieving many things and experiencing the range and variety of human emotions and feelings.

With that being said.


I refuse to be boxed in. categorized. labeled. Stuck in what others have thought of me and planned for me. I refuse to be prejudged and placed in a fabricated construction of someone else’s reality. I am more than my skin color. nose size. hair texture. I am more than my history and my background. I am that but so much more. I refuse to be barred from anything life has to offer. I refuse to be excluded from all of the experience of humanity. I refuse to let my identity be dictated by others who do not know me. I refuse to grab at the small amount of options that society has opened for me.

Instead I choose to be different. unique. African. American. Loving myself. Loving my culture. I choose to be someone who lives and loves the thought that black is beautiful. I choose to contribute and give these gifts to the rest of the world. I choose to have an identity that embraces these things and goes beyond them. I choose to love others who are different. unique. European. Korean. Mexican. Chinese. Argentinian. Human. These are my people. They are me. For we are all human. I choose to speak life giving and affirming words that transcend language. transcend accents. transcend culture. transcend hatred. I choose to follow in the tradition of Martin and Malcolm. Mother Teresa and Cesar Chaves. Jesus and Buddha. I choose to speak the truth that transcends race. I choose to a be race transcending prophet.

This post is dedicated to Israel Robles and Matthew Bivens. Matthew has no blog but he really doesn’t need one. The dude is epic. Israel can be found all over the world as he runs among many other things a non profit called Tu Contacto Global and a movement called Terra Tour which has led him to lead road trips from Canada all the way to Brazil

So I decided to start posting tweets of meditations/quotes and call them verses from the Book of Ramon. A narcissistic obsession. Maybe? But the story behind them goes a little deeper.

Last year around September I took a trip to Juarez and went to visit Israel Robles who is doing some amazing things there and all over Latin America. I was impressed with not just the activity that was going on and the things that he was doing but the positive attitude that seemed to exude from him and his team members. At the same time I was bogged down in negative thinking about how our church was doing but also just depressed about my life in general. After seeing Israel in action I became inspired to live my life with the same passion and gusto. The only thing was I knew I couldn’t take Israel home in my pocket. That’s when I remembered 1 Samuel 30:6 where it says that “David encouraged (strengthened) himself in the Lord his God” and I thought I may just have to encourage myself to live the life that I want to live. So that’s where the Book of Ramon comes in.

No I am not trying to add another book of the Bible.

No I am not starting a cult.

No I am not saying that everything that I posted was inspired by the Holy Spirit

I just wanted to remember and keep a record of all the nuggets of inspiration and encouragement that was helping me and I realized that this could also be helpful to someone else out there in FB or Twitter land.

But here is the bad news: I am sad to say I am closing it. I realize that I am now no longer encouraging myself but I am only doing it for the sake of others which although that is a good purpose that was not my original intention. So I have several tweets left and it will be officially closed. The good news: I am going to take each post and write a couple pages on it and turn it into an ebook which I will be giving away in the near future.

So that is the book of Ramon explained. Nothing super amazing. Just a guy trying to get out of a pit of negative thinking and low quality living.