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INTRODUCTION In IMAN’s Green ReEntry program, we offer at-risk youth and returning citizens an opportunity to develop real life skills through a cognitive transformation curriculum and vocation in the construction trades. The men in this program have bonded with each other through their desire to change their circumstances and a common purpose of wanting something meaningful in life for themselves, their families and their community. We recite this pledge every morning before we start our day in the Green ReEntry program: I am a man. I pledge as a man to be responsible to myself, my family and my community. I pledge as a man to never take away but to contribute to my community, and as a participant of this program, I pledge to give as much as I receive. I pledge to respect both peers and staff. We are a team, one unit, one chain. We are only as strong as our weakest link. We succeed by strengthening each other. Failure is not an option. IMAN! This is a shared anthem as participants undertake the process of transforming their lives. This pledge is a declaration that defies limiting perceptions of society. It has become the participants’ marching order to redefine their reality. This compilation allows individuals to share with the world who they truly are. The reader will not just discover amazing stories, but see people who are deserving of the best of what life has to offer, in spite of the constraints and margins they have lived in. The individual stories give you a clear understanding of personal lives, struggles and victories, and as a collection, they remind us of the systemic truths and urgent realities in our city. This is the power of story: no matter an individual’s circumstances or societal position, there is always something universally human we can relate to.


These stories interrogate perceptions and challenge beliefs. They complicate the narrative society has generally painted, a narrative of despair that leads you to believe many individuals only deserve a life they can afford, meaning poverty, incarceration or an early death. With the help of ConTextos, these now-published Authors share with you the vulnerability, truths and strengths that they explored, discussed and shared in weekly Authors Circle. In these stories, you will see individuals committed to being better for themselves, their families and their communities. Twelve months ago, these men entered the cohort not knowing each other, not trusting one another, but still hoping for the best outcomes. They have since shared the most vulnerable aspects of their lives with one another, which is only manifested through trust. They now understand, in the words of our beloved Executive Director, Rami: “We want nothing from them but their success!� This cohort is now a brotherhood and they want nothing but success for each other. The hope for the best outcome isn’t just for the individual; the individual wants this for the collective. 1link1chain!

Billy Moore Manager of Case Work and Outreach IMAN Green ReEntry


EUGENE B.

I

am from confidence, ego. From Fred & Jack’s and Harold’s. I am from the complex on Wentworth. Simple, silent, may seem inviting, But caution should be used by outsiders. I am from the tallest sequoia in the forest. In the forest of others like me, I stand the strongest. Trace my roots back to the struggle. I’m from bread, sugar, and butter, When funds got low, and determination. From Cynthia and Mary. I’m from the observers and listeners, From the constant utterance of “You’re far from nothing.” Can’t tell you what, but make sure I be something. I’m from the rebukes in the name of Jesus, But I sought Allah mid-course. Pray my family find reason to. I’m from the means, Ham hocks, with black eyed peas. From the burning fire of hope, Even when that fire caged, Them ambitions rise like smoke. I’m from the bloodline of the strong, Destined to be a survivor. My scrapes and scars show my wins and losses. I’m still here pushing. I’m from those destined to be “strivers.”


Letter To Quis

I

Eugene B .

couldn't let my pen just reflect on the dark moments in life. I was molded to look ahead. I also know that just like experiences shape you in life (situations, moments), the people you embrace, or fail to embrace, shape you as well. My cousin Quis, that’s my boy. He was everything to me. A father, brother, right-hand man—but in reality he was only my cousin. Quis, being that you are currently in the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, people probably see you as not shit. Manufacture/ Deliver is your charge and that will be the measure by which some judge you. But, I wish they knew about the times Grams was sick; you was 20, and you put a household on your shoulders. I know your pops wasn't shit, but you set examples for me when you didn’t have one set for you, when it comes to being a man. I seen you make ways out of nothing, moving with supreme confidence. Because of you, I started embracing being the “fatboy.” You taught me “thoughts were seeds that yield,” and I started to understand my thoughts/dreams were “fatter” than average. I started feeling like that dude, regardless of weight. They judged you by the way you earned, but I always looked up to the ethic. The long nights. The losses. The climb back, with no help or handouts. Yo, I just worked 3 jobs straight: woke at 6am, went to


work 7:30am-4:00pm (got off but no sleep); 2nd job was 11:30pm7:30am, got off and worked 8:20am-4:00pm, again no sleep. This was last week. People will never know that back then you inspired that work ethic in me. Until we gain wealth, I’m willing to dig whatever ditch, stack whatever box, and make no excuse for not having, ’cause you never did. The city hectic right now. So many bodies dropping on the daily, we both know. I don't worry at all. Cuzo, I seen my strength in yours long ago, and I know I’ll survive. When I did the 8, you were behind me. Every time I asked, you gave. You have a few years left and now I'm behind you, cuzo. Been a minute since I wrote you, but this is a letter that will last a lifetime. I hope the goals I achieve and heights I reach, that they measure you by that, cause after the fails and falls, you inspired and motivated the hard worker and chaser I am today.


Unplugged Eugene B.

I

t’s probably a 60-degree day, but that cool temp isn’t cooling the heat emanating from me. My anger got me on a 90. I love coming here to Granny house. If I had it my way, I’ll choose to live on 31st and Wentworth with her. Due to it being a senior building, and her being a lil more than partially blind, it’s not an option for permanent stay.

The previous day, a guy with a cable uniform was walking around the building. Older, rough, look like the guys that sit on the crates on the side of the liquor store down on 39th and Wentworth by the expressway. He came around offering cable. Can’t repeat his pitch, I just know he commanded the convo, ’cause he had knowledge of what he was selling. I’m like, I can care less. I love my N64 to death. I overload for hours on Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 64, etc., all day. But I know Sheila gone come to hang more often if I get Disney. Plus I want to watch Johnny Bravo. Grams love me to death, so when I kept asking please, she asked him how much. My eagerness didn’t let me remember prices. Just knew he said he’ll be back next day. Now I’m red as hell, I ain’t got a fighting chance in the world, but I want to fuck him up. I know that much. The cable guy came back energetic as hell, asked me can I go take a list of others’ names around the building who’ll want cable? Granny said yeah, so I did it. About 15 to 20 minutes I come back, and the first thing my Granny says is that he unplugged something and just ran out.


I felt bad because I love her to death, but like I left her vulnerable. I’m looking at her to see if she bleeding or anything. She telling me to see what he took, look at your game. I tap back in—damn, my world crash. N64 gone. I’m all, she blind, like us? I hate this nigga. I promise this situation taught me the definition of manipulation.


Learn more than what you’re taught.

Non-conducive shit always becomes liabilities. Keep going, going. Never tap out. At my lowest, never felt defeat. — Eugene B.


Hospice

N

Jaleel

o one can ever prepare you to exit this life, being told that you only have a certain amount of time remaining here. They may say it’s only a few days left, or even weeks or months... but who really knows. The only for sure thing is Death and why? Well, because it’s a promise from the Creator, that’s why. So who can really tell you when, when in fact He is the only one who knows when, where, how, and why. Hospice. I would’ve never thought that I will (have to) get a front seat at the show of time. You think of all the smiles, jokes, and of course the slaps upside your head every now and then. This lady to be a four-footer, but she stood like a giant and I was the little one. How do you hold a conversation with someone who is about to take that ultimate trip, a trip we all are going to take one day? Long breath turn into short one, eyes open one minute and closed the next, then here comes another conversation: “Don’t let that rabbit come in here. Make sure that door is close.” “Ok,” I replied, although we was in a bedroom facing the TV. Realizing the mind is also in transition: was that a time from her past as a young girl, or did the meds have her seeing things? Is this something we all will see at that time? I wonder what can I really do, why me? One thing I do know, I was here for a reason, so I had to make her as comfortable as I could. I thought being in that state, one would be worried or at least look like it, but not her. Short and strong and a look of peace on her face. I step to her and said, “You know I got you.” With a smile she said, “I know you do. That’s why I sent for you to be here.”


Norms Not Normal

W

hen is enough? Most 11- and 12-year-olds are thinking about sports, playing video games, etc., and so was I. But also at that young age, we was into smoking and drinking like most things. It start off slow. Everybody couldn’t wait for the weekend to put the little money we had together to buy weed and drink. Life is a party, so we thought. Young, reckless and free... A bunch of knuckleheads. The thing about it is you don’t know it until you been through it. Where did my childhood really go? Our norms wasn’t really normal...

New Plan

H

ow to turn a loss into a lesson. It’s not always easy running down the alley snowing night; police hit the one-way too quick, brand new nine thrown in a freshly covered yard. It wasn’t no finding that tonight. This is one time. Better to be caught without it than with it this time. I guess I have to make a new plan now. — Jaleel


No Turning Back

Y

ou die, pop, pop, pop, pop... what was about five or six shots seem more like 15 or 16 as everyone scrambled. I grab my day-one to get out the way, because he was the one nearest to me. I looked back to see one of the guys laying in the street moaning. What kind of life is this for some 14- and 15-year-olds? You never know when life will end out here. We was just going to get something to eat when the agent of death showed up. Now life as we know it will never be the same. Out here in these streets, a new chapter in life, a game changer. Grown-ass teenagers feel like it’s no turning back now.

F

Forgiveness

orgiveness. As I think about it, the ultimate wealth is forgiveness from God, the Creator of the heaven and earth. It is also from whomever you trust passed against. But if those who you trust passed against are not reachable (some of them are), then what do you do? Seeking forgiveness from God and finding peace within is a good place to start. — Jaleel


Trapped in a cell called “me.”

Going numb, a change in time. Just when they thought I couldn’t... —

Jaleel


Where I'm From Jaleel

W

here I’m from is where they say we couldn’t, but we knew we could.

Where I’m from is a place we call home and they say it’s the hood. Where I’m from is where teenagers think they are men. Where I’m from, we know our life is precious, although they try to make us think it’s not. Where I’m from, the most beautiful women are now glorified as thots. Where I’m from, violence is like a norm. Where I’m from, a rite of passage is being young with a gun... so we thought. Senseless thoughts and actions left most of us in loss. Now “how do we get back” is the new mindset; get back to what? Living life like it should be.


Our opp is anything or anyone that try to stop you from your personal growth, Even if it’s yourself. Sometime we are our biggest enemy. So where I’m from, there really is no boundary, if we put our mind to it, But yet we still mark out our territory and we try to stick to it, Willing to lay down our life for something we call our own. But to be honest, we’re willing to die for something we don’t even own, Our hood, our block, our city... Head high, feet firm, back straight. Yeah, that’s where I’m from.


JEFF

I

am from a woman, From blood and water. I am from the place called the motherland, Gold, diamonds, a place of unlimited resources. I am from a planet called earth, Trees, air, water, manipulation, fire, growth. I’m from Aqbalaya and Watters, From struggle and depression. I’m from the intelligent and noble people Of the motherland, From loyalty and respect. I’m from a Christian background, But don’t believe in any religion. I’m from 601 W. 70th street, Englewood, A house with four generations in it, when I should have been born halfway across the world. From the woman I call my mom, who was From another woman who was from another Woman, who was from another woman and so on. The man I call father, who was planted In his mother by his father, A long line of Gods, Kings, Queens with heavy melanin. Jewels of knowledge passed down From the great ancestors.


I want it, I get it. Life is hard, death is easy! — Jeff


On My Mind

S

omething on my mind heavy is that I didn’t get to have more deep conversations with my father before he died, didn’t even get to say goodbye. I honestly wish me and my father would have shown more affection towards each other, but we were just alike so we had that understanding, but I regret not being more affectionate with my father.

— Jeff


Private Room

I

Jeff

t’s almost been a year since my father died. My birthday just passed, March 13th, 2019, and my father died May 29th, 2018. My father died while I was in orientation for the Green ReEntry program. When he died May 29th, I felt as if I didn’t even want to be a part of the program, but I had to look at it from a different angle. I couldn’t let my emotions mess up something that would certify my future. The day he died, he woke me up to come to this program, so I looked at it as if my father was waking me up to do and be something great. So instead of giving up and lashing out out of anger, I handled it accordingly. I had my father my whole 19 years of living and haven’t missed a day with him. I’m very fucked up on the inside but just like my pops, I don’t show it. I walk around like everything is ok when it’s not. I tend to get emotional a lot because I lost the person who taught me everything I know. I walk around mad and ready to spaz out just because my pops is dead. But I’m learning to control my emotions as a man. May 29th I woke up late and was still in orientation for Green ReEntry. My pops woke me up at 8:00, and I left out by 8:15. If he wouldn’t have woke me up May 29th, I would have been there when he took his last breath. Arriving to work at 9:00, as soon as I got off the bus, my mother called me and said my father was being taken out on a stretcher, and I needed to lock up the house and go check on him. I told Ms. Vera I had to leave because I believe my father had a heart attack. When I got home, I seen tables rearranged like they had to move something out of the house; I had officially known that the ambulance came in and took my dad out on a stretcher. I locked the house up and went straight to the hospital on 55th and Cottage at University of Chicago.


While I waited in the waiting room for almost an hour, the security called me and told me to go in a private room away from everyone. Now at this time I’m thinking, my dad is alive and just had a heart attack. So a priest walks in and sits with me, and starts talking to me about my situation and what I’m doing with myself. I told him my father had a heart attack and I’m waiting to go see him to make sure he was ok. Now, I never been in a private room at a hospital with a priest with me, so I was curious why he was there with me, not knowing it was a reason. So two doctors walk in the room with me and the priest. They tell me they did all they could and my father was dead. At that moment my life changed forever. I lost my role model, my teacher, my support system, but most importantly my father.


Dying inside, outside full of life.

Bruised and broken but still I fight. Wronged so long, I come up short doing right. — Savon


Stuck in a way of living; will i get out, change my life?

Scattering pieces of a soul, can I find myself? Make me whole? — Savon


Where I'm From

I

Savon

’m from struggle, from no lights and no gas, From candles, flashlight, and 8 of us

Under one heater at night. I’m from hand-me-downs and no fresh uniforms When it’s back-to-school time. I’m from the big brick house in the middle of the block Across the street from the park. I’m from mice, rats, and roaches. Heavy thick body, blunt snout, and short ears; Small head, small feet, pointed snout, and large ears; Both with hair, and the bugs are brown And too big for roaches. I’m from a strong bloodline Of Hollis’s on my father side, And from an even stronger bloodline Of Harris’s on my mother side.


I’m from my grandma Onnie on my mom side, And my grandma Jesse on my dad side. Onnie love spending time with her grandkids, And Jesse loves just moments. I’m from Ced and FeFe, Nicknames of my parents who could never get along From “use your CS, CS!” short for common sense, After a hard slap on the jaw if I didn’t use it, My mother will always say. And “Always lead, not follow,” my father would say. He didn’t say much due to lack of attendance, Maybe why I’m always late. I’m from a Christian family Onnie raised. I’m from the south side of Chicago, Roseland area, Land of the old-fashioned donuts, Where now I call Rockland.


A Man On His Own

W

Savon

ill I die young without half of what’s not owed? Maybe live good. Grow seeds, grow old. New way of thinking since the fast life leave you dying slow. Fast Living. This life, who knows? He was just a kid and next day he’s grown. He’s alone, Father gone, and has to learn To be a man on his own. Mother has no income, so everything he touches get sold. Because right now reality kicks in, And your dreams get put on hold. Dead or in jail comes with the lifestyle, he was told. Even told, he won’t accomplish anything Or stretch high enough to reach his goals. But when the time came, he conquered, he showed: I can beat the system, my environment. I can succeed achieve and accomplish my goals. I can be a educated black African American From the south of Chicago, brave and bold. I know I'm way too deep in them, But the streets ain’t something I chose. I made a lot of decisions But the streets wasn't something I chose.


In A Daze

D

Ta r i k

ecember 20, 2010. The weather didn’t compare to the chill the phone call gave me and hearing my brother was killed. They say life throws blows and this was a haymaker for sure. The tears filled my eyes and I tried to hold back in front of my family. I lost that fight. The room spinning, and even though my Aunt’s house was filled with wails of pain from the loss of a loved one, it went silent. Then I asked who did it. My vision blurred from the anger. Who could do this? My sister told me, “The police.” My brother’s name is Yaree; he was shot in the back in cuffs on the floor, inside his house. The hospital was on the next block. They said he had pointed a gun at them, but he was restrained. How could he have pointed a gun while he was restrained with his hands behind his back? There was a hospital not even three blocks from his house. Why wasn’t he able to receive medical attention? Makes you question life itself. It made me reflect on who I am as a man. Here it goes—someone causes harm to my family; this needs to be handled. They say life throws blows. Well, this one had me dazed for days. I remember when his firstborn wouldn’t stop crying. When it came time for him to go to sleep, no one was able to put him to sleep, not even his mother. I used to watch how my brother would hold him straight up against his chest and gently bounce him in his arms until he fell asleep. So I was the only one who knew how to calm


him. They would call me every time he would cry. And until this day they call me the same way. Those boys are way smarter than I could have imagined. I had a conversation with his oldest son. He asked me, “Uncle Fats, did you move?” I told him yes. Then he said, “You didn’t move out of town did you?” I said, “No, I’m in Chicago.” He said, “Good, because I was going to be upset if you moved out of town.” Before I could respond, he said, “No, Uncle, I can’t get mad, because I understand the world doesn’t revolve around me.” He’s 7 now. I remember I called to check on them one day. They answered the phone excited. His youngest son called me “Dad” and I had to explain to him I was his uncle. He laughed and said, “You’re my Uncle Dad.” He has his sense of humor, most definitely. The day I lost my brother changed my life. Still healing regardless of the passed time. The fact remains, one day at a time. No. One moment at a time.


1 day, no, 1 moment at a time.

Plan your work. Work your plan. — Tarik


DARIUS

I

am from Chicago, From Austin to Cottage. I am from the trendsetter Of American urban culture. I am from hearts and wills Of kings, queens, and warriors. I’m from the home of the Golden Dome, The windy city. From Willie Mae, Juanita, and Debra. I’m from the tribe of love, Truth, peace, freedom, justice, From the lowest depth to highest height. I’m from a road of travelers, Sages, scribes, and prophets. I’m from the Great Lakes to the Nile, To and from the sun, moon, stars.


My Brother’s Legacy

H

Darius

e didn’t die by the bullet but from the lack of due diligence. The night I will never forget is the only one I regret, the day I lost a brother.

The hardest times made the greatest lessons. From the stoop to school, from the streets to the belly of the beast, my brother Robbie was there through it all. He always taught me loyalty is everything, for nothing in existence can maintain properly without it. I remember us riding in my first car, an ’85 box Chevy, and him telling me, “All for one and one for all, we gone to make it.” Growing up I hated the discipline and wisdom he gave. I remember when I got my first bike, a sky-blue Mongoose with 100 spokes. He had a Huffy with 3-blade rims, and I used to try to follow him through the neighborhood. He said, “You can’t follow me with training wheels.” I wanted to go, so I did. As I was in the garage with him scraping them off, he turned to me and said, “You sure you ready?” I quickly said, “Yeah,” knowing there’s no way I could be. I never even tried to ride without them. He said, “Okay, I’m hold you to that.” When he finished, he went back to our Grandma’s house. I stared in awe, thinking how I’m do this? I grabbed the bike and tried riding down the alley. Within a few pedals down, I fell crying with my leg scraped, hollering for help. He came laughing and said, “What happened? I thought you can ride!” I was enraged, wishing he would shut the hell up and let me up. Instead he taught me one of the greatest lessons he could show me. He stood there and waited for me to get up. When I got up, he told me, “If I help you up, you would depend on or look for help with things you must do yourself.” He instilled in me that examples must be made for instructions to be followed and learned.


BLK MOSES D.C.

I

am from the abyss. From everywhere and nowhere. I am from the black hole, Dark, cold and very alone. I am from the ashes of an erupted volcano That covers as far as the wind blows it. I’m from water and life, From standing alone and being involved. I’m from the pace and the raft, From love and hate. I’m from the way of God, as well as the devil. I’m from the jungle where those before me Were comfortable. From the unpredictability of our current weather. From the “I don’t want to do this,” So I am forced to be uncomfortable For the moment.


I Am What I Am

I

BLK Moses D.C.

am a wolf Misunderstood and alone Cries unheard as I howl at the moon Searching for a soul That the forest has stolen Tears never seen but a river you notice I am a dragon Full of hatred and rage Fire coursing through my veins I open my mouth only to set the world ablaze Swift as I move and fierce when I strike An angelic moment to see me take flight I am an owl Staring through the night Wise and bold and full of insight My vision is rare The best without light I move how I move I’m the king off the night I am Starhydra Never seen or heard of I am many but one Peaceful but frightening I breathe galaxy and cry stars Always seen but never noticed I am hope as well as Dreams and nightmares I shine bright but covered in darkness I am what I am


CARTEZ

I

am from a loving family, From Roseland and the Southside. I am from the wild 100’s, Buff city, Zone 6, Citgo shawty. I am from green grass, Lovely flowers and heartbreak. I am from White Sox fitteds And a strong family bond, From Sherika Garrett and Carlos McGary. I’m from chain smoking and gang leadership, From “you will be something” And “you will stick together.” I’m from Christianity, further leadership. I’m from the Southside of the Midwest. Money, cars. From the path my father paved for me.


Love, pain, and struggle.

World can’t be ran on feelings. Always need a great support system. 360 is a must. — Cartez


My Father Is My Higher Power

W

Cartez

here do I start? Growing up, my father was locked away and my mom had no help with 5 kids. So me and mines were in the system early, system meaning DCFS. Even though we were house-to-house, we stayed with family members, but my mom was always there. Growing up in the system and having been treated like shit brought our bond closer and made us stronger as siblings. Fast forward a few years later. My father came home, and then me and my siblings were sent home. Since then, my mother and father have been there for us no matter what, right or wrong. Once we were outta the system, our parents made sure we stayed with them forever. I ain't gonna lie... my pops was who he was. He did what he did, but made sure we was straight. He is the best father anyone could ask for. Growing older with my father, I cherished every moment. I never in my life thought I wouldn’t have my daddy no more, but that's for later on in the story. Growing up with both parents, you’d might think a child would be a good child, but see me, I was bad as F. I ain’t give a F about shit. January 20th, 2019, was the last day I spent with my father. He dropped me off and our last words were “I love you.” He was killed hours after. That shit killed me in the inside. I had so much anger and pain from deaths that happened before. So I lost my mind. I never drunk alcohol in my life. I found myself buying fifths, just numbing the pain.


I always find myself reliving the night he was killed. The pain in my OG voice when she said, “They just shot yo daddy up.” Never thinking he would die, but he died minutes after he was shot. That night in the hospital, I was in so much disbelief. I just knew my pops was gone come walking through them doors. Seeing my dad’s blood on his face really tore me apart. It made me turn into something he was. The scariest part about this situation is coping with the fact that he gone forever. My father taught me and my siblings to always stick together, and to always keep our mom first. He also told us, “If me or y'all mama die today or tomorrow, ain’t nobody gone give a fuck about y’all.“ So I take that into consideration and do what’s best to keep myself happy and safe. Now I’m the man of the house and I’m second youngest. This is a big thing for me. Since my father’s passing, I’ve been the one my siblings come to when there is a problem or when they just need to know something. It’s not that I don’t like it; it just be a lot to handle. But I’m grateful for the experience. I named this “My Father Is My Higher Power” because he always was there. He gave me strength that I have today to get through whatever comes my way. He’s the reason I get up in the morning. He’s the reason I go hard with everything I do. He pushed me to do better and be better; I feel as if he is my God. Daddy I love and miss you!! Love, Your Second Youngest


My father is my higher power. — Cartez


SEAN

I

am from in the dirt, From graveyards and tombstones. I am from the city of hate, fakes, snakes and apes. I am from roses that grow from concrete, But dry and die out like grapes; now it’s a raisin. I’m from families that grow together Until somebody gets taken. From Charlene and Debra Griffo; I used to live In her basement, gave me a chance to rise. I’m from a family of scholars Whose minds are trapped in a prison. From a head full of dreams And in a world full of lies. I’m from a religion that’s lost in the world, But afraid to die. I’m from the mud deep in The dirt but I feel from the sky. A family that ate bread alone But that’s what made us strong. From a family that will give you the game But it’s up to you to listen.


Opportunity

W

Sean

hat if I never grew up in the place that I grew up? Out of all the places in the world, why would I have to be born in Englewood, a place with the highest murder rate in the U.S.? Maybe my life would have been better if I was born in Vermont. Wait. Why does Chicago have the highest murder rate? What if I was able to get a job at 15 and I wouldn’t have time to hang with the people I hang with? What if I had the money in school to purchase my insecurities, new shoes and clothes? When I was in school and my grades were bad, my old man would stop supporting my shoes and clothes. When the baggy fashion was in style, I used to have to wear his clothes when my grades wasn’t up to par. So this made me study harder and get on top of my school work. But as I went to school and started to stand out, people started envying. The females like males with the “smarts,” but the envy made me have to fight a lot. Now I’m getting suspended. Envy has many disguises, so my father is thinking I was fighting trying to gangbang. He had it locked in his head, so it was nothing I could do to change it. Those suspicions led to hanging on the streets. Parents giving up on me. Loss of confidence in myself. Hard to get a job. What if I had the opportunity to make something of that wasted time?


Dark Smiles

W

Sean inter days, no heat in the house. Blow your breath and you see fog. Seem like it’s colder in the house than outside. Toilet frozen. I used to have to relieve myself in a bag and have to throw it out. Smells of

burning candles and gas from the stove under the boiling pots we used to wash ourselves with—me, my Grandmother, and my cousins Chris and JR. No lights in the house at all, just burning candles. But through the flickering light, I still see smiles. My Grandmother trying to joke and laugh about the situation. Through her smile I can see that her pride is hurting her, because she can’t change our situation. That was the longest winter I ever experienced. January came, then February, but the house was still freezing cold. We used to joke about the situation too. We take pictures and threaten to show everyone else as you watch your cousin shit in a bag. We went to Lansing, Illinois, to stay with my aunt for a weekend. This was Valentine’s weekend. No romance, no balloons. The little money we got from auntie we used to buy a meal and smoke. Through the smoke I can still see pain behind the smiles, knowing we would soon have to return to the icebox. The next day we went to a party. Everyone in the suburbs seemed to have heat and always the best fashion. I remember looking at people in the party wishing we could change positions. My auntie’s son was with us now, and he ran into someone he was into it with over a bike he stole. We chased them out the party, but their ride was still outside so they called the police.


Adrenaline rushing. We run in a land unknown at this time. They didn’t have as many streetlights and I didn’t know where we were going. Everyone in the party followed us in excitement, looking to see a show. It was so many people, I lost sight of my cousins. Only thing I could think was, Don’t get lost. A train was coming, but the rail hadn’t dropped. I just seen the lights from afar. When we make it across, my cousin brushed against the train and was killed. He had a white coat. He was dragged so far he looked like a plastic bag from a distance. He was laying on his chest. My cousin turned him over. I was expecting to see a smile, hoping he was playing since he used to sag. But instead I seen blood. Went to sleep, woke up, and nobody was smiling no more...


JEREMY

I

am from nothing. From homeless and hungry. I am from Roseland, robbery, killing, hate. I am from a Rose, I do good in the winter and do bad in the summer. I'm from unknown and restarting. From Wanda Berry and Brayden Tucker, I’m from having to raise myself And looking out for me. I’m from your life is what you make it. I’m from never be a follower, Always lead by example. I’m from the Christian Covenant Church And the love I receive. I’m from Michael Reese Hospital And greens and cornbread. I’m from the no-boundary 3rd grade class clown To starting point guard. I’m from no baby pictures, no family pictures, To wishing I had baby pictures and family pictures. I'm from wanted to be close to my family To not liking them at all. I’m from learning from my family mistakes To making my family stronger.


The Day I Lost Rock

I

Jeremy

t was March 20th, 2017, my second day out of jail. The day before, I was trying to get in contact with my boy J-Rock, but did not have my phone ’cause I got out of jail on a Sunday. I went to work, and after work I had got on the bus to go to Homan and Fillmore to get my property. Soon as I make it there, I give them my release papers, and they give me my property. I cut my phone on. It was around 5pm. I get a call; it’s from J-Rock. My phone die before the FaceTime connected. I did not have no way to charge my phone. I got on the bus and headed to the block. As I'm getting off the bus, I see the fire department and a lot of police. I’m walking towards the block and I see my homie Ray Ray crying. I ask, “What's going on?” He say, “They killed J-Rock.” I instantly get to walking in the street and I see my boy J-Rock laying there. I did not know what to do. I fell to my knees and got to crying. This was officially my first real loss in the street life. Killing J-Rock was like killing 5 of the guys at once. That's how much love we had for him. I was lost. For days, I ain’t eat, ain’t sleep. All I wanted to do is kill for my boy J-Rock. When I first got shot, he was one of the main guys going for me. So I felt like I owe him that much. I was looking to kill, but through my hard times I had a program in my corner, Chicago CRED. They kept telling me, “Stay strong. You came a long way. Don't take a big step back and get yourself and those around you hurt.” They wanted the best for me and I wanted the best for me at that time of my life. The J-Rock killing fucked with my head. With thanks to Chicago CRED, I did not hurt no one or did not go back to jail for trying to kill for my boy J-Rock. I went a different route. I got a job. I was a supervisor. I had my own house, and I also had my own car. What I had learned from J-Rock death is that life is short, so try to make the best out of it. Being honest, I think Rock would be proud of me today for the decisions I made at that time of my life. It's not a day that goes by that I don't miss you. Long live Rock Block.


Damn, I can't take you down, shorty. — Michael


The Games We Play Michael

A

t the time, everybody I knew had one. They would bring it up every

time. They would ask me, do I have one? I would lie to them like, “Yeah, I have one.” But I didn’t. They would ask me what type of games are you for? I would be like, “Umm, what you mean for?” Games, goofy! I be like, “Oh I don’t know, shooting games.”

And they used to test me, if I really had one of them games. So I got tired of just lying and told them the truth. That I don’t have. A couple of months, I really got one. I was 7 or maybe 8 when I got a game I wanted. The Xbox. My dad had played with me like, “I don't know whose game this is.” I was like, “Stop playing, Daddy!” He said, “It’s yours.” I must have ran around my house like 5 times. I was so happy! That’s a moment in life that I most remember.


Dumb BS Michael

M

y first fight, umm, I must have been in 3rd or 4th grade. I was at summer school coming from the lunchroom. One of the boys I was cool with told me that his homie wanted to fight me because of his sister. I was trying to talk to his sister and he had got mad about it. I was like, “Bitch-ass nigga, you a ho. She likes me and you mad about it?” So, one day I told his ass, “Wassup? Do you! If I see your ass in the streets, watch what happens!” So we ended up fighting again two or three times. After that, I learned not to be pulled into dumb BS.


The Hardest Thing

L

et me write something. The hardest thing in this world to me is a woman to have the power over you to take away what you want the most. And that’s a baby. The only thing they say is that you are not ready to be a father

A

Experience

t the age of 10 or less, I played tennis. Most kids 11 didn't even know that. They’d come play and talk about it. Others thought it was not a manly sport. Back then I listened to them. I’ve learned I shouldn’t have let them get in my head. —Michael


Man, nigga be broke every day be.

Who? You can't really trust niggas out here. — Michael


TYREE

I

am from gold, From Englewood and Gresham. I am from 7300 South May block, Where police harass you and people get killed. I am from water and boats, From grass to flowers. I’m from blessings and gifted, From Tyree and Tappler. I’m from the slums and trenches, From Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am from gold, From Englewood and Gresham.


My Mom Tyree

I

could never forget one day. I was about 13 years old. I was the only child all the way up to ’bout the age 14. My Mom had another baby. I didn’t want her to have the baby because of who she was having it by. I was mad to the point I didn’t even like her. I didn’t want her to be my Mommy anymore. I had a strange feeling about him as a kid. Something wasn’t just right. But come one night, it was late. My Mom left, but came right back and crying. I heard her on the phone talking. She like, “This nigga just got us robbed.” So I was wondering like, how he didn’t protect her? Why did he put my Mom in a situation to have guns in her face? Years later, it was a hot summer day and all my homies were on the block. So everybody is flee and got money in their pocket. So a big dice game started. So I won about $1500. I went shopping and gave my Mom a few dollars. She will do anything in the world to make sure I have what I need. I always look out for my Mom.


Life

G

rowing up, life wasn’t always the best, but it played out. I didn’t have everything and haven’t been everywhere, but I been some places that I always wanted to experience. I got the chance to see different personalities and a different part of the world. Life isn’t hard or easy. It’s about what you make it and who you surround yourself with. Be at the wrong place, wrong time, bad things likely to happen. Therefore, the best thing to do is stay to yourself and mind your own business. Life isn’t hard or easy. — Tyree


ARVIS

I

am from Englewood, From 54th and Aberdeen. I am from the area where bungalows Line half the street. Big windows, fireplace, two-car garage. I am from where at least two neighbors Grew fresh veggies, tomatoes, greens, hot peppers, And corn, to name a few. I'm from the Burnside and Miller families, From Mississippi and Arkansas. I'm from the Anderson and Jones families, From where love is taught and showed every day. I’m from when we was told do something, we did it. I’m from a Christian upbringing and teachings. From spaghetti. From the days when PawPaw Would load the van up with us And take us on an adventure. The days and Sundays when G-mom Would have the house Smelling great with her cooking. Sitting on the coffee table, Long last memories.


Summer To Forget

A

Arvis

t 10, I lost my moms to an unfortunate accident. That summer was supposed to have been one to remember, but turned out to be be a summer I wanna forget. I wish I can go back to change the outcome of that summer day. The things we had planned, the places we were to visit, the people we had planned on seeing and visit had all been washed away because you are no longer here with me. I’m a grown man now. The loss of my pops will always hurt because he was such an amazing father. Yes, my dad was better than yours. Up until my mom’s death, my parents were in love and always demonstrated the family way of life for us. Pops showed me how to be a hard and smart worker by taking me to work with him at the Butternut Bread Company that was located on 55th and State. It would have the entire community smelling like fresh bread. I miss the Sunday calls I would get and I wish I could get them back. I really miss those phone calls. “George”—that's what he called me. “Where are you? I'm really trying to get out of this house. I’m tired of this house and ready to go over Chip’s, my brother’s house. I talked with him already,” he would tell me. He said to pick up some charcoal and lighter fluid because he wanted to throw something on the grill. After getting there, we would play cards and watch whatever sport is on until late in the night.


Gone Fishing But To Never Return

T

Arvis

he weekend started as a typical weekend but ended like no other. My grandmother’s house was full as always. All the grandkids, cousins, and friends woke up to Granny cooking breakfast. Her blues was playing as we all sat around the floor for breakfast—yes, the floor, because only the bigger kids were allowed to eat at the table, and mainly the girls. Morning cartoons were playing on that big box TV in the front. Most of the kids by now had dressed and went outside, either riding bikes or skating on their skateboards. Pepe, Shelia, Tre-Tre, and Angie were sitting on the porch as the smaller kids played in the fire hydrant. A lil while had passed when my uncle and his van pulled up. The side door opened and out hopped some more of our cousins. They lived on the west side. Bill, Brodie, and Bud are bad. Some of my family really didn’t like them because everyone says they be stealing, but as kids all we wanted to do was play, as kids do. We enjoyed seeing each other. The older people decided that they were going fishing for a few hours. They gave everyone money to get us something to eat. My sister and auntie was left to watch us for the day as we played, running plays and football in the street. Enjoying this warm summer day was all we were looking for. Time passed and we were starting to get hungry, so we decided to walk to Fritzee. They had the hook-up for the low, a cheeseburger and fries for $2 bucks; you couldn’t beat that. Being new to the area, I was confronted by some of the guys that live in the area. I was asked what I ride or what I’m repping, which led to more fights because I’m not part of or affiliated with the groups they rep. As the day came to late in the evening, we all decide to go in the house and watch some TV.


Hours had passed and my auntie had received a call that something bad had happened, and for her to come to the hospital. After she left, I don’t know what, but my sister did something to me and I couldn’t wait to tell Mom when she got back. Sitting on the porch, the van pulled up, and I ran to the van to tell my mom what my sister had done to me. But she wasn’t in the van. My grandmother took me by the hand and told me to walk with her. We all sat around the front room as she started to speak. The very first words were, “I tried my best...” Then she began to tell the story of how the boat had took upon water and flipped over. In the process of the boat flipping, it hit my mom in the head and knocked her unconscious, which led to her death. I couldn’t believe that. Mom was a good swimmer. We went to the YMCA on a regular, getting in their pool. She taught us all how to swim. I can’t believe it. My world will never be the same.


Always stand up for what you mean.

Take pride in all you do. My 3 boyz are my weakness. — Arvis


Always strive for a better life.

Pops always told me I'm a giant. Don't be a fool all your life. — Arvis


No Guidance No More Z.A.

I

could talk about all the shit I lost in the streets, but let’s take a real lost moment. I lost opportunities, better living positions, women, money, even my effing smoke, lol. All seriousness though, I lost homies, as well as time. But the main thing I lost was my father. (No, not my actual father; that nigga around dis earth somewhere.) My fucking grandpa, man. My main guy, my partner in crime, my father figure... I try not to think about it, especially losing him on the 30th of my fucking birthday month. The nigga who actually gave a fuck about me fr, fr, besides my aunt, uncle, OG, and my grandparents on her side. I’m still fucked up about it til this very day. He is among others I will never see or converse with again, until my life perishes. I lost time with my family due to my insecurities and how I viewed that my people viewed me. I lost a nigga who I viewed as my protector, my king; and I was his prince, his "Sputnik," his Zeke, his lil Isaiah—don’t call me that shit though. I hate it, because he was the only one I allowed to say that. That was my shooter. If you ask me, that nigga was crazy. It was crazier losing him. It was crazier watching him lay in that fucking box, all skinny and pale. That’s not the big dawg I know. The big dawg I know was big, strongminded, and mean as fuck, but not towards me unless I was fucking up.


Now that he’s been gone, I been gone too. When he’s dead, I’m fucking dead. I’m not the same shorty when he died. Not the same Sputnik since he’s been dead. But a new form has been developed, and I’m sure of it that he’s mad at me. Because half the shit I’m doing he wouldn’t approve of, but at the same token, he understands. Well shit, I hope he does, at least. If not, I hope he can forgive me for being lost. Like I say, no guidance no more.


Trying To Find The Truth

I

Z.A.

hate to say it, but I’ve seen more bad situations than I’ve seen good. I kind of lived the average Chicago hood nigga life. Under the circumstances of the situation, it all was a means of survival. Yeah, I hate to say it. Most of us in the streets go through the same scenarios, just different shapes and forms. It’s just you either learned something or you didn't gain anything. Father not around, and OG struggling to keep ends meet, and provide for me, and my siblings. WTF was I supposed to do? She didn’t understand either; she didn’t understand the purpose of why I was doing what I did. I mean, she is from the ’burbs, and thank Allah, I wasn’t. I gain a lot of knowledge from streets in the inner city and I’m still learning, still searching. It fucks my head up cause survival mode is in play. I just didn’t know how to go about it at first. I didn’t know how to really understand, until I started going through life experiences in the street. I had to learn how to move or it was up the road, or learning six feet in the ground. The shit gives me the chills because I sometimes wish it was another route for me. It took me a moment to realize it wasn’t. Yeah, I went to school and hooped. I was kind of on my square, till I realized my OG’s struggles—life in the trenches, as we say. Then the realization I wasn’t going to get a basketball scholarship, and I fucking hated school anyway. So it was like, Fuck! I need a plan. I need a move and I need to think about the next steps to take as I advance through the ranks of life. Shit got real and hit me fast.


I’m trying to smile, but that shit never works and never was me. I always had a mean mug on my face, and the shit didn’t do anything but get worse. Not to ever mention the street shit, ’cause I can never talk about it. It’s in the code of silence; that’s just how it is. So on that note, let me change back to this subject. It’s so frustrating because it feels like I’m born with a blessing and a curse. Mainly a curse if you ask me, ’cause of all the shit I’ve encountered over the years. I just want shit to be normal.


ANDREW

I

am from Aurora, From corn fields and corn tortillas. I am from the center of tension, gutted roads, Immigrant families in tents by the bridge. I am from red roses placed on graves Where they get replaced every year. I’m from getting money and loyalty From Sean and Mark. I'm from the flashiest and humblest, From people that love to travel and athletic family. I’m from the blood of Jesus And those that have hard heads and soft asses. I’m from Chicago and New Orleans, Fried turkey and gumbo. From the family my granny kept united, That the only time we could all get together Is her funeral. The house my pops got shot up. At my granny’s old home, there are still pictures, Those pictures of all of us together are so beautiful. To see us all together, Those pictures give me warmth And bring me peace.


Emotions

I

Andrew

’ve always had this burning sensation in my neck when I get angry. Then my hands start shaking. The older I get, the more conscious I’ve become. I’ve learned to take deep breaths and meditate. I’ve taken anger management several times and learned several techniques, but it's frustrating to have that reaction still. To physically feel my temperature rise and start sweating. Feeling my t-shirt start to moisten and cling to my skin. The quote from The Godfather resonates with me: “Sonny, never let anyone outside the family know what you're thinking.” I’m paraphrasing, but it constantly is a reminder. It brings me shame to be vulnerable, to be so foolish to show my emotions. Giving my target an advance warning strategically is a mistake. It can lead to larger mistakes. Any time when I used to show emotion, I used to get called “light-skin” or told I’m “acting light-skinned.” I developed a fuck-it mentality, becoming numb to the anger, sadness, even jubilation I would feel during my day. Eventually I learned actions speak louder than words.


Serve And Protect

W

Andrew

e walked into the porta potty together. The heat was stifling, but it was great to take a break. My body was already covered in sweat. The faint smell of the skunkish, dry herb was emanating from my pocket. Chris was already on his phone recording himself. He was always on his phone, laughing, smiling, dancing. He always wanted attention, always wanted to be seen. I was more shy, more quiet; over-analyzing. I pulled out the weed, my phone, my lighter, and grabbed a seat on the other side of the toilet seat. I began going through my iTunes playlist... cautious, scanning, searching for the proper song to listen to while Chris unrolled the cigar. We began talking about our day: the work we completed, work still ahead of us, plans for the night. My mind was so clouded, dwelling on my ex, questioning my worth while grinding up the weed with my thumb and first two fingers. The smell was so pungent it caused my mouth to water. My stomach was pulling me in several directions, causing me to feel anxious. Our current situation, on lunch on the south side smoking a blunt in a porta potty. I was always more cautious to see who’s coming. I had got robbed less than six months ago, two blocks away. Chris finished rolling up and we began smoking. It was the afternoon... we told our boss we were going back to Chris’s house to grab some more tools and left. The sun was beaming. I instantly regretted not leaving my tools at the worksite. I carried them to the backyard while Chris went inside. I put my tools on the pavement and took a seat on the bench. I was exhausted... daydreaming, staring into the sky. Chris during that time had walked to the backyard, picked up a basketball, and began shooting. After a few shots I looked at my phone and asked Chris if he was ready to go back, and he agreed. We took the alley since it was closer to the site. We began walking without tools, when I heard an engine speeding towards


us. I turned around and my breath immediately sped up. 12 was speeding towards us, and I immediately did a mental inventory of what, or if, I had anything illegal. No weed, no knife, my ID... OK, just remain calm. Officers hopped out the front and back seats, interrogating us with attitudes. They began asking us for ID, which I provided. I remained silent while Chris asked why they stopped us to begin with. The police began arguing with Chris, telling us to put our hands on the car while they searched us. Chris and one of the officers kept arguing, and I just kept getting angrier in my head. Angry at Chris for arguing, angry for the police to be talking down to us... angry at myself for being in this position and for being upset at Chris. But Chris had never been in trouble. The police claimed they stopped us because they heard gunshots. We’d been outside for over 45 minutes and had not heard a single pole. I saw the same cops after I got off work... and they pointed at me as they rode past and laughed. I flicked them off as they rode past. I love the city!


Things I Lost Lul Charles

I

lost my fear when I was exposed to my environment.

I lost my mind when I lost my brothers to the streets and the system. I lost my freedom because of my ignorance. I lost my bond with my father because I feel as if he is a coward. I lost my innocence because of things I would rather not speak on. I lost my old mentality as I matured as a man. I lost my Grandmother due to cancer, it hurt me deeply. I lost my ability to live normally because of the choices I’ve made. I lost my emotions at a young age.


Underestimated

I

can’t count the times I haven’t felt underestimated. I spent a lot of time wondering when it would change. Is it my appearance? Or is it just my luck? It seems like I’m always stereotyped before I have a chance to express myself. — Lul Charles


Different Cloth Lul Charles

T

o change anything, you must first reflect. I don’t blame anyone for my shortcomings, not even my parents. Even as a young man I was forced to make adult decisions. It helped me mature, but it also caused me great heartache. The path I chose, I don’t regret; it made me stronger and more resilient. A man is defined not by his age, but by his intellect, wisdom, and his willingness to handle his responsibilities. With that being said, I celebrate myself as just that: A MAN. A young Black man with great potential. My past should not define my future. Because I’ve been to prison shouldn’t hinder me from being successful. I look amongst my peers and see that loyalty has been lost. A nigga you have been around your whole life, who you would die for, will betray you the fastest. I would rather be to myself before I surround myself with snakes. I was cut from a different cloth. Simple. I see nowadays that the dumbest or most ignorant is most praised. I remember being criticized in school because I didn’t fit that criteria. Disrespect is something I will never tolerate.


Sixth Child

D

Eugene S.

on’t know exactly where to start so just bear with me; this should really come out good... so now we will begin. Born June 9th, 1955, in the city of Chicago, Illinois. I was raised in a stable house with both of my parents. Four brothers, four sisters. Nine of us. All together. I was the sixth child out of nine; I was getting my two older brothers’ hand-me-down clothes, shoes, etc…. my family wasn’t poor, but wasn’t rich either... all and all, I don’t have any complaints whatsoever. Don’t get the wrong impression, we was nothing like The Cosby Show.

I was always taught to work for what you “wanted,” so at a young age I used to cut grass and shovel snow. Did store runs for the older people in my neighborhood. I enjoyed going to schools, grammar and high school. I got a paper route at the age of eleven. Afterward I started being a stock boy at the corner store, then started working in a restaurant, cleaning up and learning how to “cook.” As a couple years passed by. My needs started getting bigger, or so I thought. So in my mind I felt like I wanted to be like my peers, got sick of wearing PF Flyers, I wanted come Chuck Taylor gym shoes. So I had to quit working.


Thousand Miles Away

W

e all have to be able to forgive a person for whatever happened in or to your life. Man, it seems to me that it really is hard to forgive a person for hurting one of your loved ones. I’m here physically, but mentally I’m a thousand miles away. — Eugene S.


Keep fighting no matter what it is. Never give anything away you can’t afford to lose. — Eugene S.


MELLO

I

am from blood of a king Mixed with blood from a queen. I am from a race Where Maya Angelou told me “Still I Rise,” From the trials and tribulations That had been given. I am from poverty and it means a lot to me. I am from segregation, But my mind will never be segregated. I am from war, but I found peace within myself. I am from words can’t explain, But everything to gain. I am from where Life will put that peer pressure on, But in different shapes and form. I am from Chicago, where there’s Too many fathers not in the household. I guess society try to make it Just a Black thing.


Getting Started

A

Mello

s a kid growing up, I had one brother and one sister. My brother is younger than me and my sister is older than me, which makes me the middle child. I had a good childhood. I grew up in a single-parent household on the south side of Chicago. I was born June 19, 1990. Growing up in the 90’s was a feeling I could never forget. Some thoughts too hurtful to talk about. But I also had a lot of good times growing up. I played video games a lot as a kid. I came up playing Super Nintendo Donkey Kong and then Nintendo 64. My brother and I bonded well playing games over the years. When I turned 11 years old, I became interested in sports. I started playing with my childhood friend Tyree. I found a passion and love for the game that will always be with me in life. I played Pop Warner football that gave me skills. When I was in 8th grade, I played for a team called Wolf Pack located on 62nd and Stony Island. Some of the best years of my life. I met some cool friends, and some lost their lives as we got older. I’ll never forget my first day of high school, being around a bunch of kids I’d never seen before that day. So many people at one time. Then I remember the freedom that I had. I didn’t have staff walking me to class like I was used to doing when I was in grade school. When I was in high school, I had off-campus lunch which I never used to do. I would leave and sometimes not come back. But the older I get, the more I realized I was hurting myself. I can’t even say I was running with the wrong crowd, because it taught me street smarts. Made me wise. Taught me discipline and to address issues with my brothers. I carry that to today.


I been through many things. I feel like my life is just getting started at 28 years old. I wouldn’t change whatever happened to me, from going to jail, not having my pops around, or from being in a shelter, or getting out of jail in a state I was not from, and no family there. It made me see life different and made me stronger mental-wise. Made me more aware of life and other people’s lives. I met a lot of people along the way that I’ll never see again. All the situations, all of them, grew me as a man and a human. Some of the best times were living out of town. Seen a different aspect of life. Made me respect life and love more. Small part I left out that important to me: my Mom’s friend named Mike. He helped me and my siblings. He used to take us out and take us on road trips and fishing, and many more things he did not have to do. As a man I respect that and I appreciate him for that. And I never told him that. I feel like my life is just getting started at 28 years old. I wouldn’t change whatever happened to me. I’m growing. As a man and a human.


Thanksgiving

T

Lavelle

he day of Thanksgiving 2016, everyone was over at my grandmother's house. Everybody was chilling, having fun, cracking jokes, and having a good time. Me and my cousin was very close; he was like a little brother to me. We did everything together. We was talking about what we was going to do for my birthday, which was two days later. The day was getting a bit boring, so he wanted to play the game, but I only had one controller. I had let my friend see the other one. I didn’t want to walk, so I borrowed my sister car for a second. We both got in the car. I was driving. I pulled up to my friend’s house. I try calling his phone before I pulled up to get the controller, but no answer. I knew he was in there and we are so excited to play the game. So I finally got out the car to knock on the door. As I’m knocking on the door, all I know is shots started to ring out. 15 shots. I dropped to the floor as my first instinct. I run to the car to check on my cousin. I seen an all black, tinted-window SUV pull off fast. As I look in the car where my cousin was sitting. He was shot up, but there wasn’t any blood. What thanks to be giving?


On The Couch Andre

L

aying in the front room on this floor on top of all these blankets, all I could do is sit and think like, Damn! Am I the reason I’m sleeping right here? Then I look over and see my hard-working, loving mother laying on the couch of her hard-working parents. That’s when I came up in my head we was fucked up. Broken up porches, tall grass and bushes, holes all in the walls and ceiling. I was embarrassed to even have company. Crib so fucked, roaches and rats everywhere. I knew the way that I was living wasn’t right. All I can question is, am I the reason shit the way it is? Noodles, hot dogs, pork and beans, oatmeal, all I really ate daily. I got tired of that and wanted different for me and my family. Asking my mother for certain things that she couldn’t do for me. She still trying to get herself together, pay for rent, and she pregnant. Grandad and Granny can’t let me hold something; they got four grownups that they’re taking care of. I’m stuck like, WTF, what could I do to better my situation? Finally I opened my eyes to the shit that was going on on my doorstep, which is dollars being made. Every car that ride past stopping, passing out dollars. Shit, I like this. They got all the money, girls, big guns, cars, fighting


these boys a little older than me. So this got to be the way of the world, ’cause everybody that come down this block giving money to somebody. But this white rock, I couldn’t get my hands on it. I got an idea. I got a cousin that got these same lil white rocks. Not knowing what it was—crack cocaine is what it was. Sitting in my cousin’s crib one day, I decided to hit the stash, a whole bag of white rocks. Fuck that, I need some. So I stole four 8 balls from my cousin, not knowing what to do with this shit. I was going to give it to somebody for some money. It’s my time to shine now, lol can’t wait to get to my granny’s crib. It’s time to get money. I went to sleep early to get back home.

BOOM. “Break, get TF up, where my shit at?” I'm laughing. I can hear my cousin going crazy, tearing the crib up looking for his work. “Dre, get TF up, empty yo pockets.” I knew this was coming, I’m young, but I ain’t dumb. I been straight ever since then.


My family. Love hurts. Heart broken.

Life harder; I show no emotion. Fatherless son surviving. I found enemies. Lost son. People changed. Head’s up. — Demetrius


Potential

P

Demetrius

eople have always told me I had potential, but as I was growing, I always wondered, where was all this potential? I could never find out where this potential that others say they saw in me was.

So I started to think I’d find it by signing up for positive programs such as African American Male Initiative, and what we did was go to different fundraisers to win money through drawing and writing. But then they shut the programs down due to youth not showing up. And there was the PEACE Center, where all the kids went to do homework, boxing lessons, flipping, and more, but eventually it also closed. At the time I didn’t really understand or appreciate the programs. I wonder if they had stayed, would things have been different? The loss of the programs led me to hanging out on the blocks with my other friends... So by me being used to hanging out always, I took that and ran with it, not really thinking or using my real 360 as far as my own well-being. Just to find something to do led to one afternoon me losing two of my homies that was close to me. We were just buying something to eat at Church’s Chicken when one of our opps came into the store and started shooting. We were trapped in the restaurant, and I had no way out but to try and duck and run for the door. The shooter was standing in the doorway of one door, shooting at everyone trying to get to the other door. When the smoke cleared, I was shot twice. Dantal Brown and Sawan Ross, two of my close friends, lay dead. I’m wondering, what are we letting happen to all this potential.


Lose Time

I

Demetrius

was with the homies and we started shooting dice. First we started off with shooting 1’s and 5’s; we was going back and forward. I started thinking like, nigga putting nice bills on wood so the bet looking good. “Let’s shoot 10’s,” I said. Then my homie like, “How much you playing with?” I’m like, “$200, what about you?” He like, “I got $250.” I’m like, “And you wanted to shoot 1’s and 5’s? You petty asl.” Right then we started playing for 10’s. But right when I had him down to his last 10, he gone yell out, “Shoot 5’s, you took everything.” I’m like, “Come on, why in the hell?” He started smacking all his points, won $30 back. I’m like, “Fuck that, let’s shoot 10’s or I quit.” He started tweaking, talm ’bout, “Naw, I said 5’s.” I’m like, “I told you I’m finna quit.” He like, “Come on, shoot 10’s.” Why he win everything back?


JAMEEL

I

was born in Chicago, Home of the windy, With downtown streets That have stores and lighting That would amaze all the tourists. I am from Englewood, Where those streets look Like a jungle and where people Take death as something normal. I grew up on 8951 and 8963.


Promises to Keep

T

Jameel

ick, tick, tick. I can hear the clock as I’m rising from a nap. I’m in the cell with my cousin T-roy. We ended up in the same cell because we got two different last names. We was in Division 9 2C. The school wing ain’t no joke. I mean, it’s laid back, yet the slightest misunderstanding can result in some crazy situations. “Aye, aye C.O. It ain’t shift change yet? I need to use the phone. Monalisa waiting on me to call,” T-roy say. I say, “You better stop before he let everybody else out and leave us in here for our half.” "On O, you ain’t lying. I need her to send this money. She sent some pic of Munna Son,” he’s telling me as I brush my teeth. “Look.” He hands the pictures over to me and then cleans himself up. I say, “Damn, he look just like blood.” “On O, you see his lil mohawk?” “On bro, his lil outfit go crazy. What that is, blood?” I say. “Some new shit that’s out. I been gone a year, into all type shit out, nah.” “Hell yeah,” I say. “I can’t wait to get out.”


Doors begin opening. “You need me to have somebody call somebody?” T-roy say. “Naw, gang, I got a couple phone cards. I’m about to call bro nem, see what’s going on out there,” I say. He gives me a boy-you-crazy look. T-roy say, “On bro, let me get a phone card, call a few people. I ain’t gone burn yo shit up.” I reach in my corner pocket of my khaki uniform that was given to me by DOC, which it says on the back and the leg of my pants. T-roy knocks me out daydreaming. “Come on before all the phones get jammed up,” he say. “Here, thirsty-ass,” I say. He walks off and heads to the phones. I begin politicking as I do. I look T-roy way to make sure he is straight. His back is faced to the wall and he’s talking, watching me as well, doing that weird chopping sound with his teeth. I smile and carry on with conversation. The news is playing yet I’m not paying it attention. I’m actually waiting on cuz to get off the phone so I can get it next. “Big Folks,” we called him. That’s because of his size plus whatever we was on, he was with it. He calls me to the table where he’s shuffling cards: “Aye bro.” I don’t hear him right off. “Blank face, let’s play spades,” he says to me as I get closer to him and two other guys.


Just as I’m about to sit down, I hear a phone being slammed down and my cousin calling me to get the phone. “Cuddy,” he calls me, but I’m already up running to the phone like it’s commissary day. First I call my mother. She doesn’t answer, so I call my sister. She doesn’t answer either. In that instant moment I find myself looking back at the news. The TV says, “Coming to you from the 7300 S. May Street of Englewood, this is WGN News reporting an incident just moments ago.” First I’m looking like, what the hell bro nem done did now? Then my world came crashing down: KAYLYN. “No, no, no,” I began to scream, “Not my sister.” My whole heart: she was gone, dead on the scene. Also John John, who was fatally injured also. All I could think was nothing, yet so much anger and tears were coming out. Questions started to sink in. Why Kaylyn? What was she doing on the block? Am I tweaking, am I dreaming? Is she gone be ok? Why wasn’t I there to save her? Then so much self-guilt clouded in also. Why wasn’t I there to stop her bleeding? Why did I introduce her to this? Why did I leave when she needed me the most? I’m able to come to a bit from my daze. T-roy sees my frustration; he hugs me and says, “I love you, cuz,” I say the same in a mumble. He asks, “Are you ok?” I give him a look: if you wasn’t my cousin, I’d kill you right here.


That entire day all I could do was stay to myself. I refuse lock-up so I could go to solitary confinement. I didn’t want to be around anyone. Losing Kaylyn and fighting a 4-to-15 sentence was hitting me hard. My next court date, I took some time, eager to get back and live out my sister’s dreams and goals. I call one of my homies. “Why y’all didn’t keep her off the block?” I say. He say, “Man, we wasn’t even out there. She was walking with John John.” “Who the fuck is John John?” I say. All I could think about was inflicting the worst pain on whomever it was. “One of the lil bros,” he say. I was so furious. “I’m taking my time tomorrow,” I say. “You gone miss the funeral,” he say. All I could do was cry and hung up on the call.


Released

F

Jameel

inally home, I parole out to my Mom’s, like most people do. After a while, I had to set out, so I switched parole to my little chick’s crib. It was cool. She helped me get a job at McDonald’s at Madison and Lavergne out west. I had clothes, a way around, food, and my own money. But it wasn’t enough. So I quit my first check. I had to dip; my chick thought she was entitled to my whole check. What I’m gone do next? I got 4 months left on parole and they want me with a job. My cousin come right in time with a forklift job. I worked it every day, no days off, not realizing I was killing myself, because of so many I done lost. November made a year I had been there. That same month I ended up in the hospital unconscious for 3 months. Drugs, no sleep, missing meals had me going through some things. I was blessed to make it out of Olympia Fields St. James Hospital. A few weeks later I ended up at IMAN, a re-entry group designed to not only perfect a craft, but also yourself. They were kind of hard on me, but they helped me find a bit of myself that was lost. Helped me to control my pains and my emotions. This program may have saved my life. My homie Marquist Evans may have saved my life also. He kept telling me to get in the program. Even threw in a couple of good words to a couple of good brothers that embraced me. I’m home and preparing a meaningful life.


Losing you, I lost it all.

My pains and emotions are self-medicated. So many cries that aren’t heard. — Jameel


Success is coming. Be patient. Head up: success isn’t beneath you.

Made promises I’m going to keep. — Jameel


Letters To The Dead

I

Jameel

f I could write a movie and name it, I would name it Behind 4 Walls. I would name it this in reference to those, and others, not here—lost to gun violence, natural causes, etc. Most the violence in Chicago comes from the deaths of those close to them. I would ask each deceased man or woman, how do we stop their loved ones from committing crimes to revenge their deaths? I been home three years, and the thought of revenging my sister and many others cross my mind. Emotions say, “Go,” then the other emotions say, “NO, stop.” Do other dudes and women think like that? As in, is it worth it? Do they really want that lifestyle? In some way I would ask the dead to reach their emotionless loved ones and give them thoughts of peace... thoughts of “I’m okay...” continue to live so the violence in some way could stop.

In Boyz N The Hood, Tre gets out the car. Lately I’ve been getting out the car myself. Of course like Tre, they thinking I changed or left them hanging. Yet, like Tre and his innocent friend, I got shit to live for. I would ask each rival to stand face to face with a wall between, give them realization like IMAN has given me. Show the reality of those we lost aren’t coming back. Beat this man, kill this man. The War Never Ends. In some way, my movie would be like Menace II Society. Retaliation always come back. I have found out the hard way. I would ask guys, who are they trying to impress, or is violence just something they came up with, as playing music? I would ask each savage, do they know what certain cases carry? How the system works? Are they ready for those 4 Walls? Is that what the ones they loved would want?


JAMES

I

am from bunk beds and let-out couches, From government cheese and pinto beans. I am from the red-slate stone buildings On Wabash, A stone’s throw away From the Stateway Gardens projects. I am from red roses, With thorns to protect me from poachers. I’m from hugs and kisses And builders and homemakers, From the Malletts and the Barners. I’m from the gifted givers and super supporters, From putting some fat on your head And doing what you told. I’m from the belief in God, but not religion. I’m from Chicago by way of Memphis, Chitlins and dressing, From the blood, sweat, and tears of David Mallett, A sharecropper that moved his family to Chicago For a better life.


From Boys To A Man

H

James ow do a person so young become so used to death and violence? Is it from seeing and being a part of it at an early age? As you grow up, you start to commit and be a part of the same way of life that you witnessed

at that young age. Was it God forecasting my future for me? Or was it meant to play out in front of me to teach me what not to do? First person you ever seen dead, and you just 9 or 10 years old—to 38 years old, losing your own son to violence, and wishing it was you. Imagine sitting on your porch with loved ones, friends, and family. Playing neighborhood games like rock teacher or four square. Enjoying each other presence. Then hearing and seeing a group of people walking to your house. You could feel and see this wasn’t a friendly visit. They didn’t come to play with us. From the crowd you hear “bitch this,” “bitch that.” They rough, and you hear a female scream my sister’s name. She came to fight my sister, and she brought help. My sister was known to fight dudes and she knew this wouldn’t be an easy out. I was taught that family first. If one of us fight, we all fight. This time was no different, even as we knew their numbers was greater. The sense of family superseded any thought of that. The fight starts. My sister never backed down. Not once. Kicking ass and taking names, needless to say we needed help. But, as the fight was ending, my family and friends began to all come back to the porch. You hear gang slogans being shouted, over and over: “BPSN, we beat they ass.” Then as they was shouting these things, a crowd approaches. I see that these are people


from my block, and they was here to help—or so I thought. They get close to the other group and they started to yell at the group that we was fighting. The new group told us and everybody that was fighting with us to stay on the porch. The other group kept shouting gang slogans. The group that I looked to for help was definitely about to change that and forever. All I heard was “Take that BPSN shit back on Indiana.” And shots were fired. I see one of the girls that was there to fight my sister fall to the floor. As she fell, the people that was with her ran. She laid there all alone. No friends now, she’s alone. Bleeding and kicking and moaning right in front of my house. A house that I lived at for at least 15-20 more years after that incident. I never forgot that night. I still see the faces. I still hear the scream. I still remember being questioned by the police. And I can’t forget the feeling I had when she got shot. I was happy because those people had came to fight us and they had been winning. When I seen the other group walk up, I felt happy, I thought they were here to help us. We were not by ourselves. I watch her body lay there for at least an hour or more. Never feeling remorse for that loss of life. Fast forward to my middle twenties. By this time in life, I’ve done and seen a lot of things I’m not proud of. I can remember picking my kids up from EDYC, a youth center I grew up attending. And I see this lady, she says to someone else, “You know this is such-and-such kids.” Initially I’m taken back to that day. A chilly day and a loss of life, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and not to mention she was a black woman. I began to speak to those kids every day when I would pick up my kid from after school. I hated the memory of knowing that I knew of their mother’s demise. I felt


responsible. The smiles of those motherless kids would sometimes break my heart. And other times inspire me. Time passed. Was a summer night two years ago. Earlier that day the smell of jerk chicken and pork sausage. Even before I could see what else was being seared, I was overwhelmed by the smell of seafood. Instantly, a car pulls up yelling my name: “You know what I got?” My thoughts were answered without a word being spoken. This guy knows me so well. Day turns to night. Bellies are full and we partake in adult things. Coronas and Hennessy fill most of our cups. A blue GMC truck had the earth vibrating while the sound took control of most of the people there. One person after another seemed in tune with the vibrations that filled the air. We partied till the wee hours of the morning. It was all fun and being safe. Night turns back to day. Like a lazy person or someone without a job, I sleep in most of the day. After that fun-filled night, I wake up to a dead cellphone and a living nightmare. I’m usually never the one to let my phone die, but this time it did. As the sun stained my eyes, I wonder what will the rest of my day be like, not knowing horrible messages await my ears. I felt something was in the air. I’m usually up and at it. I charge my phone. Bing, bing, bing, bing. This sound goes on for what seems like forever. The name of the people who were sending the texts and FB inbox messages were not of my regular usual line of people. My kids, mother, her brother, and also her family blow my phone up. I knew this wasn’t good. I finally listen to one of the voicemails. It was my son’s uncle. You could hear the hurt in his voice. He said, “James, call Mimi. It’s important.” Instantly my mind races. I wasn’t prepared for the information that was about to change my world.


Palms sweating, I knew this was about my son. Me and his mother never talk unless it’s about him. Our relationship is so distant. As she spoke slowly, slight trembling and hesitation in between, she asked me to sit down. Almost simultaneously I knew I wasn’t going to like it. The words she spoke changed my world forever. “He’s gone, James.” My first response was “What you mean? Is he locked up?” I know he just had a little encounter with the law, his first and only. She said, “No, he’s dead. He was stabbed and he didn’t make it.” I lost my breath. I lost my thoughts. I felt pain so strong. Hurt so deep. The feeling and the spirit of death had followed me from a boy to a man.

Do it now. Time don’t wait. — James


Need

2

008. I’m in my third-year apprenticeship. At that time, I’m the breadwinner for my family. I’m married with five kids—all boys—ages 15 to 5 years old. Everything I did at this time was for them. The summer of that year, or the year before, my marriage began to fail. At this time, in the field I worked in, I really needed the support at home. Because even though I was in the job of my dreams, I was living and experiencing racism and racial favoritism every day. I needed support and love, because what I faced every day at work was hate and unrest. I needed that balance to succeed. Eventually I failed. Home affected my work and vice versa.

Adult Choices Since Childhood

1

997. Senior in high school with a two-year-old son. My personal space was raided and I was kicked out. Thought I was above, that there’s no one would tell on me; I’m a cool dude, and a star player of the football team. Had so many letters of open invitation to attend some great schools, only to end up getting a job in a field of work in which my cousin had mastered. He was the reason I went to that school anyway. 7 years of cold, wet day practices to two-a-days in the summer hot sun. Championships won and lost. Dream never realized because I had to make adult choices as a young man, choices I’ve had to make since early childhood. Chalk it up to growing up fast.. — James


Everybody can’t go; take the willing.

I’m best when I do me. The energy I take is given. Watch and see. Make it happen. — James


My time, is now, on God.

I want the best. Trouble’s temporary. Common sense ain’t all that. — James


Father, mother, son gone. Just me. Seeing birth made me appreciate it. — James.


Where I’m From Jake

I

was born of the peculiar. I am from the mother of us all. I am upheld by the covenant. I am black but comely.

My tears shall be wiped away. My wounds shall be healed. My life was a lie, until the words was unsealed. I’m the son of the king. The sun turns me into gold. Water purifiers my soul. Oppressed by the oppressor. Stressed by my ex’s. I’m troubled by my own free will. I have afflicted myself. I am change. I am future, and the past. I struggle with materialistic world and cash. History repeats itself and so does my soul.


Can’t Smell The Rain

I

Jake

grew up in the city of Chicago. As a small child, each time before it rain, I would always say, “It’s about to rain.” There was a moisture in the air that gave me some kind of insight.

I didn’t watch the news, I didn’t listen to the weather. I would come outside and sniff. I believe I experienced this up until the age of sixteen. By this time I was smoking weed and cigarettes. I don’t even remember when I couldn’t smell it anymore. What I do remember is asking myself, what is wrong with the world? I questioned, was global warming affecting the smell that rain usually gave off? Or what was it? I have never figured out why I can’t smell it no more. Or maybe my nose ain’t the same. But I thought the first thing that went was the eyes. My smell just ain’t the same and I don’t know what to blame. Hopefully one day I can get an answer. Just maybe. There would be days I would be with my friends Craig and Xavier. There would be not a drop of rain. I think I was like 8 or 9. And I would say, “It’s about to rain.” Then we would argue, Craig saying, “No, it’s not,” or Xavier saying or asking how I know. And I would smile and say, “I can smell it.” Xavier would say, “You can’t smell rain.” And I would say, “I can.” That was a common routine between us for years to come. And I didn’t too much pay attention to it as I got older. But one day I was sitting in prison, I was 19, and we were on our way to chow and I knew it was about to rain because of the news, but I couldn’t smell it. I told myself, well, maybe not today. But I was never able to get that smell back.


Never Will

W

Jake

hen I was 16, me and a few of my friends got into a big fight with some people from our neighborhood. We jumped on them pretty bad. I can remember we beat every member of their household except their grandmother. That same night, me and my friend was shot close range with a .357. Sitting in the emergency room, looking at my mother crying, not knowing if I was going to live or die. The pain that I caused her. Not knowing if this would set her back. My father was killed and my mother was there when he died. That pain I did not want to cause. The incident with my father changed my mother life forever. And to see her baby in the same situation. I can’t imagine. I was determined from that point on to not cause her any more pain. To be the man that she wanted me to be. Even though I still had a rough start. I never gave up, and never will.


Forgiving

F

Jake

orgiveness is something I believe in. When I was in my mother’s womb, my father was killed by a man he knew. He did not serve that much time in jail and is back on the streets of Chicago where I live and grew up. Forgiving him is not something I have to do, but is something I want to do. Reason number one, because of God, and vengeance is of Him. And secondly, holding grudges damages a person. Brings a depression, sickness, hate. It controls a person. And why would anyone want negativity to control them when it only brings on more negative? Which leads to incarceration, or an early death. Regretful situations and much more. So forgive. And understand everything is a part of God’s plan.


Awakening Jake

G

rowing up, my great-grandmother took me to church every Sunday. She was a lovely woman who cared for me and my big brother like no other. But she didn’t understand what she was doing that was harming us. Shortly after my mother attended a Baptist church on Sunday, they would scream and shout. Some would catch the Holy Ghost. It was all dramatic to me. Me and my cousin would laugh and imitate them when we got back home. Yeah, they were introducing God to us. But they were introducing their Gods. Not the God of heaven and earth. That God has a description. The Savior had a description: “And his arms and his feet looked like brass as it was burned in a fireplace”; “The hairs on his head was white as wool.” Media has taught me being rich is the only way to live a good life. It has said, do whatever it takes. Money, power, success defines a man. As we listen to a rap song, the rapper might say, “I shot the nigga dead. This bitch just gave me head.” So killing a human being while dehumanizing a woman is popular. It made me think, why? Why is evil seen as good? And good seen as evil? People will hate me for writing this. The Sabbath is not Sunday,


it’s Saturday. Praising destruction only promotes more destruction. In the Bible, it talks about how the devil walks to and from to see who he may devour. It was then that I realized that I wasn’t doing the work of God. That I didn't know who I am. That I didn’t even consider factual history that happened to me and my ancestors. It was evil for me to sell dope or crack. Or steal or lie. Those things were easy and felt good. But that goes back to turning evil into good, and good into evil. I wasn’t conscious. I was a walking zombie. The walking dead. I was killing me and killing every good thing around me. But God chose me. An Israelite from the tribe of Judah to be his people. Now I can see. Now I can hear. Now I’m free. Without His love I was enslaved to my oppressors.


A Brother’s Love

I

Jerry

never knew I would love you as a brother. I moved to your hood from Englewood. The grass was green, and the color of the people were different. You showed me that it didn’t matter. My clothing was different. You used to laugh at me and showed me what authentic clothing is. We started to spend a lot of time together in school and then after school. We formed our first organization: FBI (yeah, Female Body Inspectors). We almost got expelled out of school, not knowing what we was really doing. But society checked our ass. I remember when you moved into Hyde Park is when our bond really began to form. I was a part of an organization that had you not wanting to walk under the viaduct. You would often come to get me so you could hang out. Then you exposed me to the Low End and a youth center where your Mom was the Director. Man, I miss those days. We would run around talking to females in the hood and at the center all day. I often thought it wasn’t safe hanging out, but you kept pushing me. Moving on, I began to notice your ability to play most sports. You was an all-around athlete. I was jealous and admired you at the same time. What I loved most was how positive you was and optimistic about life. So much time passed. Before we knew it, we was graduating out of 8th grade. You was beginning to gravitate towards the streets more. We both knew I wasn’t feeling it, because I felt like I was already in it and you was doing so good at sports. You was good at football. We used to joke about it, that if you make it to the NFL, that you would invest in me: “Jerry, a million


dollars is all I’m going to give you. If you fuck it up, that’s on you.” High school hit us and we separated schools, yet we was still rocking back to back. You began asking questions about organizations. (I would never forget the look on your face when one of the Mafias, Torence, said you had to get their gang sign branded on you if you wanted to join.) I felt like if I had your back, what’s the purpose? You told me you was just asking… You began to go under the viaduct. I was a little concerned, but not really. You began to hang out with them when I wasn’t around. Cool... I went away for a couple of weeks, came back, you was coming across your chest. (Now we are really brothers.) I went into protection mode. Every chance I would look up, you would be proving yourself. I gave you the nickname Lil Bo cuz of your football skills. The hood embraced you with open arms. All along I’m thinking how to show you not to totally trust the people you began to love. People began to confuse us as brothers, because when you saw one of us, you saw the other. We began to get in trouble. Real street beefs you got into. So we handled it. Now niggas want our head. We just laugh it off. Meanwhile I’m telling you how serious the shit is. I lost my Grandfather. I began to wild out, said fuck school. All I wanted to do was chase money. I remember being cornered by your Mom in a hair salon, and she told me that she took you away from one half of her family and that she wouldn’t hesitate to take you away from me. I wanted to tell her so bad that it wasn’t me, that I never wanted this for you. But she wasn’t trying to hear it. Nor did I get that at the time. It was deeper than that. One child’s lifestyle could influence another. School began to start back. I had a couple of run-in’s, but you know I can handle mine. You still popped up with the guys to check on me. We laughed about it as we always do. I told you that I had it...


Damn, WTF happened? I tried to get away. He just kept coming, so I had to get down on him. Game Over. Now I’m sitting fighting for my life, while you coming to visit me. Telling me if this music shit takes off, I’ll be alright. Going to see lawyers, telling me the money doesn’t matter. I’m coming home. I called home and you told me you had been shot. Yeah, skinned in the head by our family. I ask you how you feel. You told me you was cool. I warned you that in our lifestyle, to save yourself, examples had to be made, and to protect yourself, you have to put yourself in a position that you can’t be reached. We agreed you had to move different. You started sending pictures of rap celebrities, Yeah, my brother is making friends. We about to be in this rap shit. “Hold on, Jerry” is what you said. “One more hit and you’re signing a deal. I’m coming to see you. We just got the spends we need” was our last conversation. You said you was about to sign your label to a deal. I called home four days before Christmas, and all your Mother said to me was, “Jerry, we need to get you home.” Right then and there, I knew my brother was gone.


Coming Home

I

t was all like a dream to me. Somehow I knew I was supposed to be prepared, but I knew I was underprepared, being I didn’t really want to think about going home. To my defense, I’ve seen people lose their mind, so my way of not losing mine was not to really think about going home, but to stay in the moment and focus on doing time. — Jerry


JERRY

I

am from a poverty-stricken area. From a mother and a father. I am from the south side of Chicago where Disloyalty and love parallel each other. I am from where the grass is green But the terrain is rough. I’m from a family of God and celebration. From Mary and Rosie. I’m from a family of togetherness And no know-how. From a man being a leader and a hustler. I’m from prayer but no religion. I’m from Chicago by way of Chicken and macaroni and cheese. From the womb of my maternal grandma To Theresa Marshall, a Queen Who sacrifices her life to raise her son, And still, after I made the wrong decisions in life, Never gave up on me.


Anticipation

I

Jerry

woke up with a smirk on my face, playing all my favorite songs. I grabbed two fresh brand-new towels and headed to the shower. I was so calm and humble on the outside, yet excited and anticipating on the inside. It was a moment that I always tried not to think about, but that in the last past twelve months kept creeping up in my mind. I began thinking to myself, this is my last shower in this bitch. The moment had finally come that I’ve been waiting for for 20 years: my release date.


Profile for ConTextos Chicago

Iman Authors Circle 2019  

Iman Authors Circle 2019  

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