I was recently advised not to visit my hometown because the block I grew up on had several shootings in a short time frame and the person didn’t feel that it was safe. That weekend I went back “home” parked my car and got out and walked around saying hi to a few people who I knew back in the day. I can’t just abandon the place that I grew up anymore than I could walk away from a loved one.
The silk city has some challenges for sure and it can be a daunting place to visit at times but I can’t help but think about the children who are pushing forward in the face of adverse conditions. We can’t move out and claim success and not try to uplift our precious children who are trying to get through their day. My hope and prayers are not enough for these children for I am compelled to do more.
I have lost too many friends over the years to not stand up and try to do something. Every day is a struggle. I had to fight for every inch of progress, a library and a museum full of rocks was my sanctuary but there were moments when I had to stand up and fight back. I found that I didn’t have to earn the respect of anyone growing up in Paterson, I simply demanded it.
I want our young people to know that you can make different choices and still be cool. Ask the tough guys I grew up with, the ones that survived, who was the coolest kid in the hood. They will look back and see that kid with the big afro carrying books back and forth, being teased pushing forward every day. With a glean in their eyes they will recall the fun that we all had but when it was time to do the wrong thing, they will recall that I was the first one to say why we shouldn’t do it and then walk away.