Lost Ones

By on July 30, 2007 @ 10:00 am

So while writing a friend of mine, trying to explain why he shouldn’t move out of the “hood” and the merits of staying and making it a home, I had to put myself in his shoes – someone trying to be upwardly mobile, even borderline bougie would obviously believe that the ‘burbs are the promise land. Thinking about that for a moment made me really sad.  It saddens me that in trying to become a better person, we are seemly forced to leave the places that nurtured us, molded us and taught us the hard realities of life. It isn’t my right to judge anyone’s aspirations, but as I get older, I realize how valuable “our” real estate has become to everyone else; I am more apt to want to stay and wait for the tide to turn.

I grew up in the South Bronx in the heart of the crack game.  I have vivid memories of playing in the school yard and seeing red and blue crack vials scattered in the crevices of the cracked pavement and knowing what it was and knowing that touching it would be death.  I remember that directly across the street from the school yard was the neighborhood crack house and it was in business night or day.  Now those may not be the best memories to retain from a childhood in the hood, but on the other side of the coin, I have smiling memories of playing in the playground behind the “house” (we lived in an apartment building) and eating helado and shaved ice or going to the corner bodega and loading up on the sweets of the day – lemonheads, now-or-laters (pronounced na-laders) and blow-pops, especially the sour apple ones.  We would show our tongues to each other and guess which flavor we had.  I remember open fire hydrants, boom boxes blasting house music and blaring car horns singing “Cucaracha,” smiling neighbors who not only said hello to you and inquired about your family, but also kept an eye on you to make sure you didn’t do anything too stupid and if you did, your ass was grass.  I remember the beauty of the hood along with the ugly. I remember seeing families bonding: single families, “typical” families and everyone in between doing their best to stay a float, raise a family and make a home.

What scares me is what happened to that?  What happen to those aspirations of making the ‘hood’ home?  Maybe we made the hood our home out of true necessity.  I mean since we didn’t have the means to move, my parents had to make what we did have beautiful.  It seems that this sentiment is disappearing and in its place are the lost ones – our children who have had to discover their manhood/womanhood with the love and good examples of their parents and neighbors.  Looking back now, I realize that there were so many wonderful working people around us – teachers, actors, dancers and secretaries – old fashion working people living and loving. What has happen to that?  Why have our young people made our neighborhoods prisons? 

Flat out, we have become afraid of our children – we have suffered a brain drain.  I remember being in “Gifted & Talented” programs most of my life – shielded from the reality of ghetto life because I was smart.  It was expected that I leave and do and be better than where I came from, but the sad thing is no one encouraged or expected me to come back. We are taught to go rule the world (aka run to escape), instead of coming back to make things better.  Maybe I’m idealistic, but instead of telling our children to leave, what about asking them to return?  We have an obligation to give back in some way.

The hood that has nurtured and loved us enough to let us go find ourselves deserves to reap some of the benefits instead of continually dripped dry.  I was saying before that the lost ones were the ones terrorizing our neighborhoods; maybe in reality it is I who is lost. . .

– The Orange Phoenix

Categories: Observation

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meleah rebeccah August 2, 2007

What a beautifully written and POWERFUL post. I loved the part ….”lemonheads, now-or-laters (pronounced na-laders) and blow-pops, especially the sour apple ones. We would show our tongues to each other and guess which flavor we had.” ….That reminded me so much of my own childhood,playing in the streets with my friends and loaded up on sugar.

I have never been shown the “light” of the ‘hood’ like this. The news doesn’t exactly show the side you have so eloquently stated in this post.

I am seriously moved.

Thank you for widening the eyes of a typical suburbanite.

Jill August 3, 2007

I loved the candy part too – also reminded me of my childhood. :-)

I’ve lived in a small town, in the middle of the woods, urban/big city and suburban, and suburban is the only one out of all of those where I would never want to live again. (Sorry Meleah :-( but really, really it’s the only one out of them all that I know for certain I wouldn’t do again.)

Orange Phoenix August 12, 2007

Thank you for the comments, as much bad that ghettos across the nation contain, beauty lives there too; it just took growing up to really appreciate that.

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