Find a hole. Go through it.

It’s about finding a hole, and going through it.

I realized that when I was on the freeway. Standing on Interstate 880. With about 200 other people.

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I promise I didn’t plan on being there.

I just wanted to finish my article, eat the burrito I had purchased at noon and then go watch the Home Run Derby.

I knew Cespedes would show out on the baseball field that night. I just knew it. The plan was to make a beeline to a TV. It was 6pm. I had a couple of minutes before the Derby started.

I had just finished recording a story on Trayvon Martin for a local NPR affiliate, a radio station named KQED. On top of that, other news outlets filmed me recording. San Francisco’s CBS outlet and NBC Bay Area were there. They initially came to do a story on how Youth Radio’s facility on the corner of 17th and Broadway had been damaged during the protests the night before, but both outlets did stories with slightly different angles.

After I did the interviews with both crews, I made my move.

I walked on to Broadway, and saw a bunch of people marching toward the police station. My journalistic instincts took over. Within seconds I was marching along, camera in hand, choosing which angle would give me the best photo.

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I followed the march down to the police station. They stopped and rallied at the station for all of five minutes– enough time to backup traffic coming off of the freeway.  And when the protesters stopped the traffic, they took advantage:  they walked on to the freeway. And I followed. ( I’m a journalist, what do you expect?)

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It was a successful protest. It disrupted the flow of the post work traffic. It made people take notice. It made the helicopters reroute to get a good shot.

But I was there first.

On the freeway! Burrito in my backpack. Missing the home run derby. Taking photos.

The excitement of being on the freeway was crazy. All I tweeted was “this shit is crazy.”

In the midst of my color commentary on the situation, “this shit is crazy” summed it all up.

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And then the cops came…

I was reporting. I had been reporting all day. But when the cops came, I knew there would be no way to separate myself from any of the other people on that freeway.

So, I looked to evacuate. Expeditiously .

Everyone moved. It was an exodus!

I ran towards the next exit, just as everyone else did. From Broadway toward Jackson St.  And then we realized we were trapped. There were cop cars coming up the Jackson St. ramp, and cops on feet blocking the Broadway exit.

There was a small gap between the off ramp off and the freeway. The dirt hill with the steep grade was a risk to slide down, but I went for it. And people followed.

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After jumping the gap, we slid down the hill.

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And that’s all it’s about.

Finding a hole. And going through it.

So others can follow your lead.

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After I took a couple more photos, got away from the crowd.

I found a place where I could sit down, enjoy my burrito while the Home Run Derby was on. At a local bar, you know– a hole in the wall.

She Spat In My Face

She spat in my face.

It was a mist. It caught everything from my left ear to the left side of my lip.

Random white woman spit.

Racism exists… 

I left the store, and hopped on my bike with a 6-pack of beer and a plan. I did upwards of 20mph in the bike lane on Grand Ave in Oakland’s Adams Point Neighborhood; 6-pack in my right hand. Focused on getting to the house party and not dropping the beer.

A college classmate, D’Auria Henry was waiting on me about a block away from the house party we were set to attend. When I got to D’Auria’s car she hopped out and noticed I had on my Howard University sweatshirt. She said she doesn’t travel without hers, reached into the car and grabbed her garment. After grabbing the threads from her car, she reached in again to grab a dish of banana a pudding that she had prepared for the potluck/ party we were set to attend.

As she reached in the car, a white lady– 5’6 with matted black hair and a backpack, came walking past. The lady said, “I’ll throw a flower at you!” As she announced her action, she stayed true to her word. She tossed a flower in D’Auria’s direction. I saw it all happen. Didn’t flinch. I laughed– or better yet: I silently chucked and smirked.

The lady continued toward me.

I stood on the street-side of the sidewalk, straddling my bike. The lady walked on the building side of the sidewalk.

There was enough room on the concrete for her, or any normal person to walk by. A sizable amount of space didn’t prove to be enough. As she crossed my path, she waited until she was completely adjacent to me. Left side. Further than my arm’s reach, but close enough for the stretch of saliva.

She spat on me. 

I don’t remember the obscenity she said as she did it. I’ll never forget the shock hitting my stomach, nor the spit hitting my face. I was frozen. She took another step. She was now on my blindside, almost completely behind me.

I turned away from her. Toward the street. Still straddling my bike and holding my beer in my right hand.

I turned 180º. Not thinking. Reacting. I reeled around and launched my 6-pack of beer like a discus towards her. She was now about two or three steps past me.

My backwards frisbee toss of a 6-pack of beer connected. It hit her left side–gently. And then the entire case crashed to the concrete. Shards of glass and beer suds scattered.

Broken beer bottles
Broken beer bottles

That wasn’t sufficient. I dropped my bike.

I started after her. Taking took two or three steps in her direction “You spat in my fucking face!!!” I was yelling. I don’t yell often. When I do: I YELL!

She looked back at me, as her body gained momentum in the opposing direction.

Going from a walk, to a light jog and then a full run– she looked back at me and said: “You’re a fucking racist!”

I stopped. Right then and there: I was guilty.

I was guilty of being a racist. Assault with a deadly weapon. Armed robbery. Attempted homicide, kidnap, rape… whatever she wanted to throw at me.

If an officer had rolled around that corner at that very moment, it is very likely that I would have been arrested. If not shot.

She spat in my face. It hit my ear, my cheek … my lip.

I didn’t see it coming . Didn’t provoke it.

I was just straddling my bike. Headed to a party on a Saturday night:

In pursuit of my happiness.

… And then she spat on me. 

But I was racist.

I went back, grabbed my bike, used my undershirt to wipe my face; but I couldn’t wipe away the thoughts.

In many ways, African American culture is a reaction to being spit on. Many aspects of Black culture, both good and bad, are a direct reaction to the predicament we have been placed in as a people.

That Howard sweatshirt. That soul food dish. They are symbolic of African Americans getting disrespected, and then reacting in a way that is beneficial to us (and the larger society).

My violent reaction and vulgar language were an example of  what it means to be disrespected, and then reacting in a way that is detrimental to myself (and the larger society, maybe).

(Maybe it benefits the larger society if I choose the detrimental route… hmmmm…)

This combined with the stories I’ve been reading and writing about all summer: Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin. Alameda County Probation and San Quentin Prison. Homicides of old ladies and little babies. It’s like turning on the TV or looking at a movie screen and getting spit on. And then walking outside and getting spit on.

We have to choose how to react.   

Racism is only a belief. Racism is only a belief.

Racism is only a belief… until it manifests in the streets.

D’Auria lightheartedly said, “that crazy white lady wasn’t that crazy: she was smart enough to run!”

We laughed it off, purchased some replacement beer from Whole Foods and started toward the party. Passing back over the scene of the crime, I stopped to kick the shattered glass off the sidewalk and into the street. A Caucasian couple walked past. The lady of the duo thanked me for cleaning up the neighborhood. I laughed silently,told the couple to have a good evening, and then took off to my destination.

Just before D’Auria and I entered the house party, she looked down on the pavement: she found $60 folded on the ground. We split it.

My beer money was restored, and so was my understanding of racism.

God bless America.  

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: An ethical look at an unethical story.

 

ImageA book report by Pendarvis Harshaw.

The subject matter: An African American woman whose cells have influenced the world over, and are the basis for most modern medicines; yet few know her story.

The subjectivity: a writer who is unashamed to identify herself, her background, and her stance on the subject at hand.

The substance: a story that brings together modern medicine, racism, sexism and gives more evidence to just how deeply these forms of discrimination are rooted in our society.

Rebecca Skloot received court records, she dug up health records… and she even got family records– which traced the lineage of one African American family back to its enslaved ancestors. There are laws that impede a journalist from obtaining health records; it’s not unheard of for those barriers to be crossed. But getting records on the family of enslaved individuals almost defies the laws of physics. It’s hard enough for African Americans to contact relatives and develop a comprehensive picture of their family tree; I’m amazed that a white woman from Oregon would be able to do so, so vividly.

Skloot is a journalist with a knack for science; a woman who heard about Henrietta Lacks cells as a youth, and has been chasing that unicorn ever since.

The unicorn, as my classmates at UC Berkeley’s Journalism school have defined it, is the perfect story.

In chasing down the unicorn, she succeeded. She left voicemails and went on wild goose chases that left her stranded in random parts of Baltimore, and she overcame. In not having access to the family, medical records, and little help from the snide doctors who were elderly and succumbing to diseases many of them worked to cure, she respectfully persevered.

She came out with a great story; she captured the unicorn.

The unicorn is the perfect story: the drama, the universal appeal, the characters and the resources to actually tell the story.

Although, in some senses, the unicorn had already been captured. Science articles, a Rolling Stone Piece, and a BBC documentary are just three of the many outlets that covered the HeLa story; so what makes Skloot’s tale any different?

Maybe it was the fact that it wasn’t the HeLa story, as much as it was the Henrietta Lacks story. The story of a woman who birthed five children, maintained pristine red toenail paint, and had few photos aside from the iconic one of her standing with her hands on her hips. Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman who fell victim to medical malpractice, and in turn rose to post-mortem medical infamy.

It’s an ethical look at one of the most unethical stories the world should have heard of, but still I question some of the ethics of the reporter.

I’d be gullible if I didn’t question her quotes and her details. The verbatim dialog, back and forth between her and her interview subjects, the type of sandwich the laboratory assistant ate on the day the cells first came into the lab. As a practicing journalist, I question how she could manage to remember all of these details from the first encounter with people—or was she rolling up to the scene with the audio recorder rolling and journalist notepad in hand? Was she walking into old Southern Black folks’ houses with a machine in their face, documenting their every last breath?

Her details are immaculate. They add the color need to carry a science story into the hearts of those concerned with the human story. But as a journalist, the first rule is to question everything—susceptibility is for suckers.

In the end, I have to appreciate a book this well researched. I’d love to see (not look through nor fact check, merely see the presentation/ organization of) her notes. I’d like to hear her talk about her relentless approach in contacting the family. I’d like to interview Skloot about the financial cliff she walked out on to fund the traveling, lodging and the entire book project by way of her student loans and credit cards.

I’d like to know what she’s working on next.

To think, the story of Henrietta Lacks brought together the plight of Baltimore, the cure for Polio, health insurance, the movie Jurassic Park, A famed Rolling Stone writer who lost his house in the firestorm in the Oakland Hills, The Nazi experiments, the Tuskegee experiments, and a lot of the issues that are currently debated during discussions about Medicicare/ Medicaid in Washington DC.

She did it subjectively. Never leaving out the fact that she was a woman, a white woman, a white woman who was out to advocate for the story of Henrietta Lacks, and her family. And although this is Henrietta Lacks’ story, it is told by Rebecca Skloot, and this is her (well researched) perspective on Henrietta’s life.

Sarah Tramble’s Story

After being born in the early 1900’s, and raised in Louisiana, Sarah Tramble has both lived and documented American History.

Tramble’s education was cut short after her 7th grade year. Her 8th grade school house was too far to travel, so the young Tramble began working as a janitor at a dentist’s office. While she cleaned toilets and scrubbed floors, she took note on the office’s daily operations. One day, she was asked to step in for a dental assistant that had called in sick. Tramble, who had never been formally trained, took advantage of this opportunity and performed well in her new role. The next week she landed a job as the new assistant, which payed double what she was making as a janitor.

Education proved to be Tramble’s calling, as she then grew to teach herself how to sew. And although she is big on self-education, Tramble did attend the American college and Laney College where she became a licensed nurse.

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Tramble now lives in West Oakland’s Lower Bottoms neighborhood. But when she first moved out here, she bought a house on Parker in East Oakland in 1961, and stayed until ’75. She then moved to her West Oakland Victorian house, which was built in 1885 by a man named Mr. Black who worked at SP Railroad Company. She learned this fun fact from a discussion with some neighbors when she first moved in—she told me that she got word of this and took notes, similar to the way a journalist takes notes.

Tramble’s story of self-education is not a new tale at all, especially for African Americans coming up from the south. But it is Tramble’s story of self-documentation that is rare.
“I’m black- my momma look like she was white,” Tramble said as she pointed to a photo of her mother.

Her great grandmother came here as a slave- her great grand mother raised her mother, after her grandmother died as a child. At 96 years of age, Tramble has no problem recalling her family history.

As an African American woman who will not let you forget her age (96), Tramble’s personal notes show an angle of American history that not many see. She covers everything: from the history of West Oakland and the Pullman Porters, to the personal photos and notes of enslaved relatives … and even the images of the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga.

Tramble, a strong-speaker who constantly moves until coming to a momentary pause to drive her message home with a deep stare from her blue eyes said, “I talk to all young people, whoever will listen, but young people don’t listen- they don’t want to listen.”

On a cold winter’s Saturday afternoon in West Oakland, Sarah Tramble warmly opened her doors to me, and we cracked books and jokes, as I took notes from her notes.

Walk Off Homerun! The A’S WIN!

Walk Off Homerun. The A’S WIN!

I’ve been attending A’s games since I was a little kid.

A's game...
4 time champs…

Every time I go to the A’s game, I think of the fact the movie “Angel’s In The Outfield” was partially filmed there. 1 of my many childhood memories at the park…

I recently went to my 1st A’s game by myself. Ever.  It was a “winsday”. The $2 tickets were sold out- I got duped into paying $14… It would prove to be worth every cent.

The Oakland A’s epitomize the moniker of “blue collar baseball”, year in and year out. A bunch of scrappy ballplayers with funny names and serious game; yeah, there’s always a lot of heart behind the patches on those green and gold uniforms. And this year is no different.

I’ve been a fan since the days of ICE BOX, an overweight security guard who (graciously) did the Macarena in between innings, the drummers in the bleachers who would (violently) scream “Tejada”, and although a youngster- I was even there for the bash brothers (Canseco & McGuire).

I came up after the “glory years”, if you let some of the OG’s around the Town tell it. The A’s were a powerhouse in the early to mid 70’s, as they won three world series titles. 1989 was their last title year- two years after I was born, and one year prior to my family moving from Ohio to Oakland.

They’ve had some good runs since then. The glory years of Rickey Henderson and Dennis Eckersley. The treacherous trio of Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, and a young Barry Zito- who’s curveball had a hook only to comparable to Gonzo’s nose. And the remarkable 20 game win streak of 2002.

I’ve also been there for the not so glorious days…

When Jeremy Giambi was thrown out by Derek Jeter in the playoffs, it was the direct equivalent to the Raider’s “tuck rule” game vs. the Patriots. Equally heartbreaking.

Stomper & fam.
Stomper & fam.

The story of the A’s parallels many people’s stories in this town. This city is full of families who have migrated twice over, including my own. The A’s started in Philadelphia as the “Athletic club”, then to Kansas City, and finally to Oakland. The way the team got traded around like a “white elephant”, combined with a diss from one time Giants owner (in which he called the A’s a ‘white elephant’)- lead to the A’s adopting the symbolic image of their current mascot, stomper the elephant.

The A’s moved to the city by the bay in 1968, and ever since, the connection between this city and the team has fit like a glove. (History of the A’s timeline). Currently, at the Oakland museum there is an exhibition called 1968. The exhibit highlights the Vietnam war, the Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and how the Bay was at the forefront of a number of the social and political movements of the time. Perfect time for the boys of summer to come to the Bay.

One of my best friends once spent a summer as the mascot for the Oakland A’s. I’ll never forget the day he went to volunteer at Children’s Hospital, and locked his mascot gloves in the car, along with his keys. (I have it in the personal video archive- just in case I forget).

To even out the tales of my costumed friend’s list of shinning moments- his performance in the Stomper suit at the 2008 All-Star game in New York is a video I can watch time and time again…Classic.

And of course- my 1st youtube viral video came when Stomper made an appearance at E-40’s record release party… This video was one giant step for the Hyphy movement.

The personal highlight reel continued this year when I was able to play audience to Oakland’s native son, and childhood friend,  Tyson Ross pitch in the big leagues for the home team. I was able to bring some of my students for a day out at the park, for the second year in a row.

I’ve been to three games this year:

  1. VS. the Boston Red Sox on the July 4th   fireworks game (on the night of July 3rd):  A’s win and a tremendous fireworks display.

    Fireworks!
    Fireworks!
  2. VS. the Detroit Tigers, on Mother’s Day: A’s lose. (I brought students to the park- some of them brought their mothers. Tickets complimentary of Tyson Ross, it was a win nonetheless.)

    Tyson and myself trading a educational t-shirt for an athletic one.
    Tyson and myself trading a educational t-shirt for an athletic one.
  3. VS. the Texas Rangers on July 18th: A walk off homerun certifies the A’s as the hottest team in the league in July.
Walk. Off. Home. Run! A's Win!
Walk. Off. Home. Run! A’s Win!

The July 18th game proved to be a gem. A pitcher’s duel through the 6th inning- a number of questionable calls, and close plays were all overshadowed by a bottom of the 9th walk off homerun.

At the end of the game, I shook the hand of the gentleman two rows over from me- I thanked him for the running commentary from the peanut gallery- his clever vulgarity was comedy throughout the entirety of the game. Baseball games bring people together- I probably would have had no other reason to speak to the shirtless white man who’s chest flesh went from Salmon to burgundy as the game progressed.  Attending the baseball game is definitely more fun now that I’m legal drinking age, and obviously my new friend/ color (colored) commentator felt the same.

As the game ended, he felt the need to express himself by giving the Texas outfields the “suck it” gesture popularized by WWF wrestler from my childhood known as X-Pac.

Suck it, Texas.
Suck it, Texas.

Not exactly “Angels in the Outfield”, but a memory from my younger days- so I’ll take it with a grain of salt and count it as life coming full circle.

Prison Only Exists in The Mind: Meeting My Father For The First Time.

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I looked at the reflection of my 24-year old face in the hand mirror. I was in a barbershop in downtown Oakland analyzing my fresh cut, as I told the gentlemen in the room of my upcoming journey.

It had been about 18 years since I had seen my ole man.

He and my mother had been separated for over 19 years.

A recent arrest left him incarcerated in Alabama, facing up to 20 years.

I hopped out of the barber’s chair and it was confirmed: my hair was indeed thinning at the corners. Another one of God’s clever jokes: give the bighead kid a receding hairline.

That was the final line. I had to have my question answered: Is my biological father where I got my bighead? Is he as short as I am? Is he charming and good looking, like myself?

I bounced out that barber’s chair and setout on a journey.

A 4-hour flight from San Francisco to Chicago, a 12-hour road trip with a friend, from Chicago to Alabama, just to speak to my father for 90 minutes in an Alabaman prison.

We crossed the Blue River, the Red river, and the White River as we drove through America’s heartland. Our trek lead us through the flatlands of Indiana and the Mountainous terrain of Tennessee.

The drive from Chicago to Alabama on Good Friday was a breeze.

There’s truth to the Billie Holiday song, “Stars Fell on Alabama”, the southern night sky proved it. It had been 18 years since I had seen my ole man, and the billions of stars overhead became meek in comparison to the zillions of thoughts running through my mind as I sat in a hotel parking lot in Birmingham the night before the meeting with him.

My mother and father separated when I was three. I visited Alabama as kid, but from the time I was six until the time I was about 23, I had spoken to him only a handful of times; and not seen him since that last visit to the South. Most recently, I had gotten in contact with him through his brother, my uncle Erick, who I met via facebook in 2011. My father and I exchanged phone calls and letters; the last of which resulted in the words: “please don’t write back” written boldly on a piece of paper addressed from him to me.

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… this is what I was thinking as I looked at the stars…

The following morning I continued to think about all of this as I waited to meet up with my uncle in a Winn-Dixie parking lot. I drove behind him as we made our way to the State Facility just outside of Montgomery, AL on the Saturday prior to Easter.

I wanted to take pictures, but the guards at the jail informed me that nothing but my ID and car keys were allowed inside the jail; and that I would have to change my shirt: my white-T was too similar to the ones the prisoners wore.

Upon entering the small meeting room, I shook my fathers hand. There was no glass to separate us like on the movies. I sat adjacent to him. He wore glasses when we initially shook hands, and took them off as we delved into our meeting. It was history lessons, light humor, and talks of spiritual growth; it felt like a nonprofit board meeting. It was a stiff room. We we’re two Black men from the hood- and Cancers at that, which means no emotions shall be shown, no matter the circumstance.

“I don’t think I can cry- my tear ducts don’t work.” He literally said that as he described the conditions inside the prison. He said he had seen a man get stabbed just last week. He was solemn, calm, and very centered as he spoke about the incident.

He had been incarcerated for a number of months; it was his second time being in prison. He hadn’t yet been sentenced, but given his charge, he could be facing up to 20 years behind bars.

He was forced to face the window, in plain sight of the officer overseeing our conversation as we sat in that small blandly colored room. We talked about life: His life. My life. The meaning of life.

He showed me his only tattoo, a prison tat on his chest which read “Isaiah 10:13”. We recapped his childhood and his turbulent teens. We discussed the breakup between he and my mom, and how is addiction to crack cocaine pushed her further away. We talked about regrets and what could have been. We mentioned the future, and what will be if we choose to work towards it. We laughed about the origins and the ironies of our shared first name “Pendarvis”. We conversed for an hour and a half. But it seemed more like half an hour. The meeting concluded, and I was escorted out the prison.

The image of him remains with me. His rigid mannerisms- stiff moving, like he just worked out. His height, he is 4 inches taller than I. His hair, he had waves and salt-and-pepper sprinkles of grey… I have waves too- but I’d much rather have grey hairs than this receding hairline.

His skin tone was brown with a hint of red; kind of like the Alabama clay in the morning sun. He had high cheek bones- like my sister. He had an aura of centeredness, calmness, and spoke with eloquence. That reminded me of myself.

I left out of the jail and took one photo of the outside of the facility. The correctional officers barked at me for doing it, and asked me to leave the primacies.

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I left abruptly. I had regrets about questions I didn’t ask and words I didn’t say. I wanted to continue the conversation with my father, but I didn’t want to spend another minute in jail.

… Aside from my reflections of his image, six simple words stuck with me: “Prison only exists in the mind.”

He nonchalantly stated this profound sentiment, and subsequently admitted that he has now become a poet.

“Prison only exists in the mind.” A sentiment I had heard before, but it resonated much more, coming from someone on this side of the fence.

He expressed that he would’ve loved to have been with my sister and I during our upbringing; but I could tell the deepest regret was losing the love of his life, my mother.

Four days later I was back at my mother’s house in California, a letter from that jail cell in Alabama was waiting for me. He wrote me the day I left. In the letter he thanked me for traveling to see him, congratulated me on my accomplishments, and asked that I never come to see him in prison again- he stated that being seen in a prison is not the only memory he’d like for me to have of him.

He told me that prison only exists in the mind. Although those profound words came from a man physically sitting behind bars, I don’t believe it.

If nothing else, this experience has shown me that prison is not just a place where you do time or something confining you within your mind. No… Prison also exists in the heart. And the deepest darkest prison a man can be confined to: The regret of a love lost.

… sneak peak at this book I’ve been writing…

1 page out of one of my 31 notebooks...

I will write this book.

It’s a story of a lost young man, growing-up and looking to his elders for guidance… well, he actually looked to women, cars, and money- but, it just so happened that his elders had the women, the cars, and the money; plus wisdom of how to obtain these things.

The elders would drop wisdom rapped in words so profound that the young man couldn’t help but to write them down…And as a young rapper growing up in inner-city America, he’d quote these elders in his lyrics. But he’d soon find that this process of taking the wisdom from the elders and applying it to his life was more profound than any rap song. Deeper than poetry. and too big for newspaper headlines.

It’s not just about this one young man in America. It’s a universal concept:

Learn from elders. Teach the youth.

It is culture. It is religion. It is the way of life…

It is human nature to want to grow old and gain wisdom as you do so.

Only thing is… out here… We don’t all get to grow old.. and even fewer of us value wisdom…and on top of that…we don’t call them elders… we call them OG’s.

I will write this book.

Afterall, it’s my story.

Bruh Wolf

Lone wolf, soft paws and sharp teeth, ferocious and fur covered, pig hunter, chicken plucker, the bigger big brother of that slick muh fuggah…Sly fox.

all dogs: pitts and rotts, beagles to dingos, even
the skinny lil doggy on the Nile with Cleo

…they all my peoples…

Well…uh… The name the Latin’s gave us, “Canis familiaris”…
That’s us.

All cute as pups… we grow up to be dangerous…

Quick lesson of life: anything with teeth… Can bite…

except for combs
humans use on their hair.

That’s neither here nor there.

Reason why I’m here: fear…

Big Black wolf…Native to North America…

No mask, no sheep’s wool…

my pack was once strong… Now some of them rest in heaven with all dogs…

Others domesticated…and some run wild

…leaving the lone wolf…walking thru dark woods.

Big moon.

I howl: oowwwwwww-ooooohhhhh!!!…

Inside the moon there’s a man…

inside this man is a wolf…

no x-man wolverine- no werewolf teen… A wolf inside a being…

soft paws…sharp teeth.

Jumping Off The Porch.

Each summer, juveniles in America’s inner cities made the decision to take a step outside of the boundaries made by their caretakers; this phenomenon is called “jumping off the porch”, and this summer many will take that leap.

I’ve seen it before…

The older neighborhood boys are paying, and  all you have to do is ride your bike around the corner, and see if there are any police lurking…only problem: your granny told you to stay where she can see you.

You want the money. You need the money. But above all- you would want to obey your granny. After-all, she bought you that bike. And she can take it away.

But its summertime. And you know you could ride around the block, wave at the girls playing double-dutch, check for Five-0,  receive your payment from the older boys, and return to your porch, before granny looks up from her daytime stories.

This is where you make the decision to “jump off the porch”, and into grimy city streets that move faster than any one of those gears on your pretty little 21-speed can handle.

It happens all the time, not just summer time. It happens for many reasons, not just money. And it leads to something one cannot find sitting on the porch: adventure.

But it leads me to question: is jumping off the porch a good thing,  a bad thing, or a natural thing?

This train of thought was inspired by Youth Outlook reporter, Amanze Emenike, as he explored the topic and how it has influenced his community of Hunter’s Point San Francisco.

Here is a link to Emenike’s video story : Jumpin’ Off The Porch In Hunter’s Point

In the end, the classic teaching reins supreme: respect your elders. which means, if granny says stay on the porch, then do so. But then again, each experience where a wealth of wisdom is gained can be considered “a rights of passage”. And,  if it weren’t for jumping off the porch, who knows how much first hand knowledge and experience I would have missed out on…

That leaves me asking: is there anyway I can jump off that porch, make that money, wave at those girls, gain that life experience, and not disrespect granny?