“This ain’t Ferguson. You ain’t just gon’ spray us and we ain’t gon’ fight back! And I kept telling them, ‘If they don’t charge them officers’, I said, ‘I guarantee its gon’ start a civil war…’ I said, ‘N’ggas jus’ gon’ start shootin’ whaz left ta do?” Naturally, he carried double-o sound of the word ‘do’ letting it echo in typical Baltimore vernacular fashion.
“Boys in DC, they like, ‘Y’all crazy up there! Y’all doin’ all this them officers ain’t goin’na jail!’ And then when they were burning it down, I used to come to work like: Man BURN DAT BITCH DOWN! I’m like, ‘y’all talkin’ ‘bout it, sayin’ its stupid and crazy – man burn dat bitch down!’
“Nobody don’t understand what we went through forreal. I’m twenty-six. I’m ten years away from the kids that’s doin’ what they doin’. It feel like yesterday that I was in high school. It’s a struggle and you wouldn’t know the half.
“So I get to tellin’ just lil’ stuff about myself: I dun’ went mont’s wit’ no BGandE, you know, still go to school wit’ a smile on my face. Christmas time, I’m coming back to school with same shoes on that I started on the first day of school. And you hear, ‘Oh I ain’t get you for Christmas, oh I get you in tax time…’ Tax time come, ‘oh I get you in Easter’ … But really you get 3 new things a year. Maybe you get a outfit for Easter, your birthday possibly, and then back to school time. But when holidays come around, if yo’ shoes ain’t messed up then you still gon’ be in the same thing. You gotta look at errbody else in they new stuff.
“So I’m tellin’ ‘em, I’m like, ‘y’all not understanding.’ I showed them a video of a guy. It was funny but I wanted them to get the message. The video start out with a man robbin’ the store and he telling the man like, ‘Y’all betta’ hurry up cuz I gotta’ sh’t!’ And when the video was finished they laughing about what he said but I said, ‘Did yall hear what he said at the end?’ They like, ‘Naw’. At the end, the reporter asked him, said, ‘Sir, do you think this is right?’ The man like, ‘Naw, I don’t think its right but its gon’ stop my mufughkin stomach from growlin’!’ But they laughing and I’m like, ‘Listen to ‘em! He’s dead serious! He just want to make his stomach stop growlin’!’
“This jus’ shows, the system, it’s not for us anymore. They shut down recreation centers. I grew up when summer camps was free. My home girl called me crying talkin’ ‘bout how she ain’t have ahnough money for her son to go to camp ‘cause its a thousand dollas. I’m like, ‘When dafuk did summer camps become a thousand dollas? They teaching them how to drive or they get a degree when they come outta that bitch?!’ Val, you gotta’ ‘scuse my language but this is just crazy right now!”
We laughed at his joke but we both knew that the fact that the youth’s parents cant afford to send their children to summer camp was nothing to play about. With reading levels down and the murder rate up, it almost seems as though city officials are purposely outlining the plan for the destruction of our youth by ignoring the need to make summer activities accessible for all.
“You can speak on as a teacher, Val. You been out here for eeleven years but its different ‘cause you speakin’ as an adult and the kids you’ve encountered. But somethings nobody wont understand … its easy to say but its not easy to know unless you apart of it ... unless you that child who is tellin’ you certain things but its hard because its so much garbage out here but he’s not really mentionin’ as he try to explain sh’t to you because he don’t really know how to word some of that sh’t.
“Me, at this age, as I am growing and maturin’ forreal, I’ve come to a position of comfort of telling people what I’ve been through. When I was going through anger management, they was askin’ me all’at like, ‘Where do your anger come from?’” He changed his tone and accent to sound like an educated white psychiatrist. “And my ex used to always say to me, ‘I think you got so much anger built up in you from when you was a child and that’s what makes you explode at times.’ And I’m like, ‘Dat sh’t ain’t got nuttin’ do wit’ it!’ Denial and sh’t forreal. But it was anger management that changed sht. I really like saw the sh’t. My counselor, we did this thing with like water and a big iceberg. She started having me list all the things I went through, all the things that frustrate me. I’m like, my family abused drugs… she straight put that in there… puttin’ everything in there and it started buildin’ up… and she’s like, ‘Do you realize where we at?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah we at the tip of the iceberg.’ I really learned about myself and I ain’t argue wit’ nobody since I left that class. I walk away from fights. It’s been a year, Val.”
“And that’s thing”, I said. “You see what you’re telling me you went through? All of those things are things that you should have had support with for years. It shouldn’t have had to take for the judge to sentence you to participate in mandatory anger management sessions to get help. But nobody is in our communities telling us, ‘You need help, you need therapy, you need counseling sessions.’ We go through all of these things that we are born into and are expected to just know how to cope with it, with no means or tools for guidance. So then what?” I found myself going off on a tangent… “We angry, we cant concentrate in school long enough to keep it together, our teachers mislabel us, we are then improperly educated so we cant find a job, we find comfort in frivolous materials objects that we cant even afford – which leads us to steal, sell drugs, sell our bodies because that’s all we know… and mainstream media doesn’t help with its perpetuation of these notions through the images we see on TV and hear in this ratchet music that the we all love.”
“And that’s the reason why most kids turn to the streets.”
“Mmmhmm…” I nodded, totally agreeing.
“Parents is strugglin’, no summer youth jobs, they hungry. I struggled my whole life ‘til I got this job. And ever since I was a kid, I used to ALLways think about sellin’ drugs.” He placed a heavy emphasis on the prefix in always.
“All the time, Val. All the time.”
“My homeboy, we young as sh’t, poor as sh’t, but he comin’ ‘round with fresh ass shoes! How I supposed to feel when I see that? And it becomes addictive. Once they get that money, they can’t just stop. They feed they family now, until they go to jail for the rest of they life. But until then, they selling and killing. Its so bad they was even killin’ during riots. It’s all for the same reason, everybody is hungry. You see what they did? They didn’t care. They took two ATM machines and put them on the back of dollies. That’s hungry. They sending a message. You talkin’ ‘bout we need counselin’ and sh’t, really n’ggas all we see is that we need to eat out here!”