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“Until the lion writes his own story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” The Soy Autor writing process was developed in collaboration with young people at-risk of, victims of or perpetrators of violence in El Salvador. In 2017, this innovative program expanded into Chicago to create tangible high quality opportunities that nourish the minds, expand the voices and share the personal truths of young people who have long been underserved and underestimated.Through the process of drafting, revising, illustrating and publishing memoirs, the Author’s Circle members develop reflection, critical thinking, camaraderie, conflict resolution and positive self-projection. This North Lawndale Author’s Circle has been based at the Firehouse Community Arts Center, as part of Chicago CRED program.

In collaboration with:

Legacy of a Father and Son Brandon Crawford

My Dad always had an old school car. Whatever car he had, we worked on it and made it nice. Dad was an automoove master mechanic who loved cars and caring for his family. I discovered my love for cars with him.

It was sophomore year and my OG decided to give me the old family car. Thinking back I don’t why, but I received a grey four-door Cutlass Supreme which needed a liile TLC and some minor work. Most importantly it needed res and a tune-up before it would move.

So I dedicated my summer to repairing the car for the start of the school year. Every day was spent cleaning and wiping my car, as if it was my only son. I put my blood sweat and tears into geeng the car ready. There were no dents except for the one in my door and the one on the passenger side. How could I forget the gaping Chicago winter rust spots? Other than that, not a scratch.

I know it wasn’t a foreign, but I made it work adding two used MTX 12 inch subwoofers and a new dual radio with an USB and SD slot. I know it might seem like nothing, but this was 2007. Everyone had an USB and SD for school and occasionally used them to save music.

My friend and I always had a playlist ready with the latest songs so every day was lit. I was truly on an all--me high. I felt like I was on top of the reef, like Oscar on Shark Tales.

I was feeling as if as nothing could bring me down. Looking back it was a really cool me in my life. I was definitely having a lot of fun with a ‘don’t care’ mindset. Liile did I know I would receive a phone call that would change my life.

My dad’s girlfriend called saying was my father was accng strange and missing work. This came as news. Seeing him frequently and speaking to him daily, I knew he would never miss work. When she called and said he wasn’t showing up to the shop, my family knew something was definitely wrong.

My siblings and I went to my father's house where he lived on the South side with his friend. I remember taking the elevator up to the 17th floor to find my father laying weak in his bed.

We asked, “Why haven’t you been going to work? Are you ok?” My father regained his composure and set up on the side of the bed. He said “What are you all doing here? I'm OK, but someone’s stealing my money.”

She claimed he wasn’t remembering things and he was mistakenly accusing her of stealing. This deďŹ nitely lee some confusion in the air. The family was sure she was stealing from him, which started us to dislike one another. Meanwhile my father was really losing his memory and connnued showing signs. One me he even forgot where he lived. This is when I realized my father was really sick.

I remember one evening we had took my father to the doctor. We drove my mother’s car, but my father decided to drive home. Everything was going good unnl my father pulled into his apartment parking lot. His mind was racing to find his complex out of the three. I looked over to see a somber look on my sister’s and mother’s face when my father pulled to the wrong building. My sister muuered “Daddy, this ain’t yo building.”

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So we took him to Mercy Hospital. It was late in the day.

My Dad was in the hospital room trying to assure my mother that everything was ok, while my sisters and I watched TV trying to pass me.

We didn’t know what was really going on, but I remember my mother looking very worried. She tried to be upbeat, not wannng to discourage family.

Then suddenly the curtain flew back, a Doctor came in and said my Dad had lung cancer. It was like he sucked the air out the room. My father took a deep breath and said, “I won’t let it beat me.”

The diagnosis took my life on a major turn, I didn’t know how severe the disease was. I didn’t know how bad the news was for my Dad. As kids we were ssll joking and playing. Dad always tried to downplay the situaaon, but the cancer took over my father very quickly. The cancer transformed his body and mind, finally defeaang him one night on hospice care.

I woke to a loud wrecking yell coming from my father's room. I knew my father was gone. I ran to his room only to see him take his last breaths.

He was truly a great father, and a very loving dad. I don't know why, but at his funeral not one of my brothers or sisters cried.

I guess we didn’t really understand what losing our father really meant.

Now Just the thought of it makes us emooonal. I really feel I have to connnue his dream. The emppness I feel may never get filled if I don’t put it away unnl I can see if for its posiives. My life is not fixed yet. I ssll have to complete my college educaaon like he would have wanted. But he lee me.

That really fucked me up for some me.

When I heard about Burr Oaks Cemetery reselling burial plots to other families, it messed me up even more. My Dad’s body is there, hopefully.

There was so much I learned from him and more things I didn't. AAer he died, my relaaonships changed with my brother and sister. He used to make us get along if we couldn't do so ourselves.

He went and the discipline went, including his teachings about ďŹ nances.

He never liked spending his money on foolish things like high priced shoes and clothes. He was more interested in buying property.

My father raised me not to care about material things. He would say “Michael Jordan already has his money. Why you trying to give him more?” He didn’t worry about what other people thought.

My father was very serious about educaaon. When we did our homework, he would make us write it over if it was sloppy. If we cried about it, that’s when we’d get disciplined. Once my Dad got a car for my brother to have when he graduated high school. That car stood the test of me and fell apart. My brother didn’t graduate, so he never got the car.

My Dad had a long term vision of geeng a three flat building. He wanted to leave it to us, his three kids. My Dad always tried to make a beeer future for us.

In hindsight he made sure we didn’t get short-term things. He wanted us to focus on long-term goals. He also taught me about Christmas. He said, “it’s a rich holiday and really wasn't for us.” To this day I’m skeppcal about material holidays.

Someemes I think I didn’t get the sufficient me with him, compared to my brother and sister. My baaery is on 30% while my siblings’ is at 50%. Maybe his jokes about me being a “buzzard” meant something. I understand beeer now that I have my own children. Each is different and some are even more like me.

Back then it was hard for me to understand my father’s choices. I thought he was just being mean. Now that I have my own kids, it’s easy to understand. I’m learning to do the same thing for my own children and doing it beeer by going to school. I want to show, not just tell them, that educaaon is key. They see my doing homework and ask me what I’m doing.

I know what he would want me to do and am ssll learning how to do it.

I have no quesson that you wouldn’t even know me, I wouldn’t be this far behind if my Dad was alive. I’d be working with my Dad. I was just waiing to reach my age unnl I could work with them. My brother worked at the auto shop with my Dad, then moved to the carwash then to Best Buy, a real job for a young man. Dad showed him the path. With help, I am finding my way. My Dad gave me the nooon to hunkerdown. Don’t worry about what’s going on around you and work on the future. I see people in a whirlwind all around me. They don’t realize that they aren’t building something. They don’t know what they don’t know. I know because I’m my father’s son. His legacy passed to me.

Recently I went to my cousin’s graduaaon in Indiana. I have four daughters that could do that, too. One of my biggest fears when I first had a family was that we might not stay together. Now that’s not a fear, because understand that change might be necessary for growth in the future.

I’m not spiteful. With the help of my Life Coach, CRED, Soy Autour I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, just like my Dad did. I can rest easy knowing I am helping get things together. I want to sit at my children’s graduaaon ceremony in the future with no thoughts of “coulda, shoulda, woulda” when I could have made things happen for my children. At the end of the day, I want shit together. I learned to be like my Dad. I don’t care about the drama, as long as I'm building a future for my children. My Dad’s legacy landed on me and I feel that I am passing it on to my daughters, too.

Legacy of a father and son  
Legacy of a father and son