Friday, October 09, 2009

We Gotta Do Better

It's been two months, but I'm bizzack! Sorry to come back on a such a somber note, but I just had to share this. Peace.

The first time I saw "Boyz in the Hood", John Singleton's classic film about life in South Central L.A., I cried nonstop for two days. My father who had grown up on the mean streets of East St. Louis thought it was a good idea for my and my sheltered valley-girlish behind to see what was really going on in "our" communities, so he arranged a field trip for me and my equally suburban cousins to go to see the movie at the local theater. I had no idea what was in store for me, I just went along with everything and was excited to see a movie that had Ice Cube in it. I may have been from the 'burbs, but I was already in love with rap music and would've seen any movie featuring any rapper, regardless of the subject matter, at that point in my life.

Now, I say that my father grew up on the mean streets of East St. Louis and, at the time, they were relatively rough. But in relation to the roughness of South Central in the early 90s, he may as well have lived in Utopia. When my dad was a kid, the worst that would happen to someone was getting jumped. Back then, they fought with fists and usually someone broke it up before things got too bad. Sure, some of his friends died young but most of them died in car crashes, from getting improper treatment for easily curable diseases, or drowned in the Mississippi River. He lost other friends drug and alcohol addiction, and he was one of the few who made it out of their tiny depressed neighborhood. But, he felt that he got a sense of what it meant to grow up poor, and he knew that he had a lot of street sense... these were two things that he felt made him into the man that he is today, and these were two things that he felt that my cousins and I were missing. So, he would do little things to expose us to how other people were living. This was one of those "lessons".

On a Saturday afternoon, we went to see the movie. I have always been a BIG fan of TV shows and movies, so I was really excited about seeing how the story would unfold. We get to the part when Ricky (Morris Chestnut) was walking through the alley and the car rolled up on him slowly. The whole movie theater had been hushed all while he was running through the streets, and when the car pulled up and the semi-automatic weapon was pointed out of the window, there was a loud groan. Everybody knew what was going to happen. That scene is permanently burned in my mind. It was all in slow motion, and I felt like a rug had been pulled out from under me. I couldn't breathe. I was confused, and then the tears came. I sobbed audibly in the movie theater. And later, in the scene where Ricky's mom learned (too late) that he'd scored high enough to make it to college and get out of the hood, I burst open with fresh tears.

The drive home was quiet. All of us kids were in a daze and my parents were letting things sink in. When we dropped off cousin #1, I was still crying. As we dropped off cousins #2 and #3, I was still crying. When I made it home, the tears kept coming. And for a few days after we saw the movie, I would burst into tears at random times. It was very strange and my parents who are both therapists were concerned. They thought maybe I'd experienced some sort of post-traumatic stress as a result of seeing the movie. I guess their diagnosis was right.

The bottom line is that I was stunned. Stunned that people lived like that. Stunned that children and teenagers were killed for such trivial reasons. I mean, when I was growing up, DC was no "safe" place. When I was a child, people were getting shot and stabbed for their Jordans. Then, I got a little older, crack ran rampant throughout the city and people died daily in the drug wars. I grew up at a time when Rayful Edmonds ruled my city, so death and dying were not new concepts to me. (If you've never heard of him, Google him. He was major.) But still... those people I saw on the news weren't "real" to me. I didn't know them personally and had no idea of their stories (because the news did not do an adequate job of humanizing the victims of these crimes). Ricky changed all that. (And to this day, I cannot see Morris Chestnut without thinking "Hey! It's Ricky!" Lol!)

At any rate, eventually the tears stopped flowing, but I seem to remember a dramatic shift in my thinking after seeing that movie. I started to recognize that the world wasn't this safe, comfortable place where I'd been living my life all these years. I realized that there were people out there in the world who experienced that type of loss on a daily basis, having friends and family killed over dumb shit. My eyes had been opened to the harsh reality of our world and the fragility of life... that it could be gone in a second... taken away by someone who has NO RIGHT to determine when it should end. And that made me angry.

I got mad all over again when I heard about the video that showed the murder of 16 year old Chicago high school student Derrion Albert. I refused to watch the video because I knew that, for me, it would be just like watching Ricky get shot in the back all over again... except this time, it would be REAL. I couldn't watch. I wouldn't. But it still made me angry. How DARE this happen in broad daylight with a crowd of people watching it all go down? Who is protecting our children? Who is telling them that their blatant disrespect for their brothers and sisters is destroying our community? We're failing our children. We're not doing what is necessary to help them see that there is another way. Killing one another is getting us nowhere. But we have become so desensitized to killing... this kind of thing happens everyday in communities across the country, but unfortunately, it take something egregious like catching it on tape to cause any real outrage.

And then, just a few days later, Ashley "AJ" Jewell, the fiance of Kandi Burruss (formerly of Xscape and now a cast member of Bravo's Real Housewives of Atlanta) was killed outside of Body Tap, a well-known strip club in Atlanta. I'm saddened by AJ's death... I wasn't exactly a fan of his in life (although I was only going by what I saw on the show), mostly because he was the father of six children by four different women, which is overdoing it just a tad if you ask me (condoms, anyone?!). I tweeted about the fact that I found his obvious promiscuity and aversion to prophylactics to be a symptom of severe lack-of-judgment-itis. But the fact remains that last Friday night, when his grown ass stepped out of Body Tap to fight another grown man in the parking lot, he didn't take into consideration that he might be putting his well-being AND that of his SIX children at risk. Why, oh why, are you 30+ and still fighting in (or outside of) the club? I'm floored! So now, a woman is without a fiance, and six children are without a father. And what kind of example was AJ setting by even taking it there in the first place?! We need our men to stand up and show us what's right. Lead, don't follow. Use your head sometimes! Don't always be lead by the rules of your testosterone fuled pissing contests. Sometimes when I get angry, I don't break things or scream and shout, I cry out of frustration.

I read the headline about AJ's death and I got choked up. I didn't know him personally, I didn't have to.

These young men are gone too soon.

And I'm pissed (and still crying).

1 comment:

your fan said...

Wow, LBG, this was one of your best yet . . . this made me sad and proud of you at the same time. Sad about all you wrote (I've never seen Boyz in the Hood but now I'm sad about it) but proud that it angers you. That might sound weird, but it's b/c you care and want better for the community and world. You're absolutely right. We all need to stop and think more. If everyone did, alot of senseless violence could likely be avoided, alot of tears and lives spared. And of course I'm proud of how well you articulated this, I was moved by this, and also appreciated your talent yet again :)