Don’t give up — hope doesn’t have to die in the ’hood
JOHN W. FOUNTAIN firstname.lastname@example.org February 1, 2012 7:16PM
Updated: March 3, 2012 11:36AM
Disclaimer: I am not a “Super Negro.”
I was born a son of the ghetto, joint heir to poverty, the firstborn of a 17-year-old black mother married to a black male, sometimes mechanic, 22. My father was an alcoholic. This was how he lived. It was the way he died.
A deadbeat, he never gave me much more than his DNA or his name.
He never called me with a birthday wish. I do not remember even so much as a kiss.
I was destined to become a statistic: Black, male, poor, reared on the colder side of Chi-Town — where premature death by GSW (gunshot wound) sometimes seemed the lesser of the evils compared to becoming one of the living dead who staggered in hopelessness and despair.
Neither of my parents were college graduates. Welfare was too often our sustenance. Ketchup sandwiches and sugar water our treat. And my days as a child too often were filled witnessing horrors committed by brother against brother — or sister against sister.
The “Klan” of my generation, and also this one, was soulless young black men gunning for young black men — dressed in assassination all black, in hoodies or ski masks.
Of all the times I was robbed, threatened or chased home after school, it was by somebody who looked just like me. Most often, when I was called “nigger,” it was someone who looked like me.
Those who held my stepfather and younger siblings in an alley at gunpoint, or the local drug dealers, the murderous gang-bangers or thugs who lay in wait to rape, brutalize or terrorize my community? Black like me.
Even today, the greatest violent threat to young black men in urban America is young black men in urban America. And the sea of socioeconomic waters that threaten to consume them is ever swirling.
So what should we teach the children? That racism and discrimination have forever sealed their fate? That they are powerless? Permanent paupers?
That dealing drugs or choosing a life of crime, violence and debauchery is an excusable, understandable, or acceptable option? That they ought just lie down and die?
When I dove off the southbound Pulaski Road bus that cold night in 1984, fearing I would be shot during a robbery — the back of my head crashing against the street — I came to, the streetlights and the night sky shining in my eyes.
And what I realized, as I lay there, was that I might surely die in the hood along with all my hopes and dreams.
I was determined not to.
I chose to believe that despite poverty, discrimination, and hatred — none more wretched than the hatred my people inflict upon each other — I might somehow steer my ship out of troubled waters, even if it more resembled a rickety rowboat, and me being hardly some Super Negro.
I did have a super mama — a mama willing to sacrifice for my good; a mama who never abandoned ship — even when my father jumped overboard; a mama who never blamed “the man” nor allowed me to blame him; a mama who schooled me on history, racism and other facts of life. A mama who understood that education is the antidote to poverty. A mama and a praying grandmother.
And herein lies the greatest hope for all boys and girls predestined to become statistics: Education.
They need not be so-called Super Negroes or part of the mythical magical “Talented Tenth.”
They need to work, plan, build, dream, and, even against all odds, to never — ever — give up.
Can I get a witness?