Conversation Book Discussion

Forgive: The new practice and mantra for Black Men

At the fragile age of 12, Ulysses Slaughter listened as his mother Clarice was shot to death by his father Ulysses Grant Slaughter Sr. Emerging from his bedroom, he watched as life flowed out of his mother. Stepping over her body that day was the first act in his amazing odyssey toward forgiveness.

Tamara Smiley Hamilton is a professional speaker dedicated to giving voice to the voiceless. She facilitates workplace conversations on conflict, race, and implicit bias. In this podcast, she and Ulysses discuss the meaning of true justice and explore the collective trauma Black men (and women) in particular face on the journey to reconciliation.

Forgive: the new mantra and practice for Black Men, Ulysses Butch Slaughter (Author), Eric K. Grimes (Foreword), Paperback, Create Space Independent Publishing; First Edition 2016


Ulysses Slaughter: …this year’s the 40th anniversary of the passing of my mother Clarice Slaughter. At the age of 12, growing up in Chicago, I listened as my father shot and killed my mother. I was in the apartment when it happened. I wound up being the lead witness in the criminal trial against my father and literally had to step over my mother’s body to get out of my room the morning that she was shot and killed. And Tamara, I use the term “killed” just to make a connection with people who understand that kind of language. I always tell people that my mother is alive and well, and one of the reasons why I’m here today is because she is alive and well. Her messages to me have made me the man that I am.

When I was 12, it was a profound awakening for me and, oftentimes, I think of that moment and I can see it in my mind’s eye right now. I think in that moment where I was confronted with a visual that always seemed it would be the logical conclusion to years of domestic violence that I witnessed as a child in our home. And so coming into June 25, 1978, I have to say I was not as shocked that my mother would wind up being shot and killed. What was more shocking to me was that 33 years later… that I would get an opportunity to forgive my father was more shocking than what actually happened on June 25, 1978. The only way that I could change that was to create a powerful counterbalance to that moment, and forgiving became that counterbalance.

Tamara Hamilton: I would just like to take a little moment to hold a space in honor of your mother, in a brief moment of silence, because it is the 40th anniversary and because she is Clarice Slaughter, the woman who always taught you to be better. So I’m going to have our listeners also pause for just a few seconds as we honor your mother.


Thank you everyone around the world who took time to honor Clarice Slaughter. So when a young person witnesses such a horrific tragedy, you use the word madness, I know sadness is profound. Tell us, what did you have to unlearn about the reaction to what happened to you and what was happening to you as you say for years as a witness to domestic violence and to have your mother be killed in your home while you were there? What did you have to unlearn in order to move towards forgiveness?

Ulysses Slaughter:  I like the way that we’re using the word “unlearn” right now, because Tamara in many ways forgiving is about unlearning.

Forgiving is about transcending. Transcending the kind of everyday, common, usual approaches—social approaches—to what we see as infractions. To what we see as pain. So, it was important for me to unlearn, forgive those kind of preset ideas that I had been taught about what the normal response should be to something like that. You know, we’re brought up in a way that says, if this happens, this is the way you should respond to it. If that happens, this is the way you should respond to it. And the response, oftentimes, is a trap. So you have what we would call a tragedy, and then you have the trap. The potential trap that is the response. And the tragedy is not transformed through a trap.

And so it became important for me to ask myself, “What do I want?” If I could have it my way, “What do I want?” There was no personal choice and no freedom in anyone telling me what I had to do… and the choice that I made was the liberation factor for me. That is where my freedom lies, in the choice to decide how I was going to be—that I did not have to deal with my father through a committee of people. We talk about justice, and I think that justice is a very intimate thing. And my father and I—the work that my father and I were able to do in the 18 months between us reconnecting and his passing away—the work that we were able to do, represented the real justice.

It was a cosmic kind of justice. It was not the kind of justice that people, you know, find in a court. People often ask me, “How long did your father spend in jail?” Well my father spent 39 months in prison. And they go, “Wow, 39 months, how could that happen?” And, “How come he didn’t get more time?” And there are a lot of reasons I now understand why he did not get more time. But in the end, it didn’t matter how much time he did. It didn’t matter how much time he did, because that was not going to be the healing factor in the reconciliation for us.

Read the full transcript.

Forget what you know about forgiving

by Ulysses Slaughter

Forget what you know about forgiving for a while. Just totally forget your past ideas.

Some people say forgiving is a response. Some say a reaction. Some people say forgiving is all about the past.

I disagree. I disagree deeply and strongly. I say forgiving is now.

Forgiving is a choice – a sustainable shift in perspective that will change the thoughts, feelings and actions you are living with right now. Forgiving can only be related to now and can only happen now because we can’t change what happened.

Forgiving is not about the past. Forgiving is not even about the future. Forgiving is about the present. Forgiving is the action of now.

Whenever anything happens it will arrive in a moment called now. When we seek to name the experience, to judge it, it is mostly to our own detriment. When we judge an experience as bad, it becomes bad. We enter into an experience, mix it, remix it and hold it in our minds. We commit to making even the worst moments last a lifetime. We are mesmerized by the moment. We won’t forgive the moments, so the moments don’t forgive us.

Some people insist that their feelings are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They feel that their truth is the one size truth that fits all. They can’t distinguish what they call truth from their feelings.

But feelings are like clothes. They come in different colors and different styles. We have a choice of what to wear from an unlimited internal wardrobe. But for some reason many of us like to wear the same feelings for a very long time. We like to wear our feelings no matter how much we’ve outgrown them. Imagine a full, grown man – six feet, 200 pounds – wearing clothes he wore at 14. He admits that he’s uncomfortable in the tight garments. He’s constricted. But he insists on wearing the clothes anyway.

People wear feelings too long sometimes. They think their feelings are the only ones available.

Forgiving is like taking off the clothes that you have outgrown.  Forgiving happens when we let go of our feelings about the clothes. You don’t judge the clothes because they are too small. You simply take them off now. You can’t take them off yesterday. It’s too late. But you can take them off now. You can say you’ll take them off tomorrow, but when you arrive in tomorrow the new day will be called “now.”

Forgiving is about now. Forgiving is a word that actually tells you what it is. Forgiving is “for giving.”

Consider this:  whatever you got in the past is for giving away right now. Whatever you got in the past is forgiven right now. It doesn’t matter the circumstance. Hand it over. Release it. Let it go and it will let you go now.

About Ulysses 'Butch' Slaughter

Ulysses “Butch” Slaughter is a social entrepreneur, author, and filmmaker. He is Founder of I Forgive University (IFU), an emerging human transformation project advocating forgiving as the “Ultimate Practice.” He recently completed his third book “Forgive: The new mantra and practice for Black Men.” Learn more.

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About Tamara S. Hamilton

Tamara Smiley Hamilton, a global professional speaker and conflict resolution coach, is called to facilitate difficult conversation on race and differences. As CEO of Audacious Coaching LLC, her mission is to use her unique gifts to help people find and shine their light as they stand in their own power.

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