Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I AM The Hood

Ok so I know it’s a countdown week. And I know there are so many things going on in the world. Now, I normally don’t get all political or social on my blog, mostly because why I have very distinct opinions about the state of the world today and the souls of black folk, I don’t bang I rock the dope rhymes (or blogs so to speak).

I often feel there are far better voices out there blogging about aspects of race, gender, and politics as it affects us than me. I rather spend my time on those blogs exchanging ideas with those authors and their readers than standing up on my soap box twirling my cloak of self-righteousness and adding another, off key, verse to the song ( off-key like Solange not off-key like Ashanti or Cassie) that is being sung across the internets in beautiful harmony by those bloggers.

But today, yes today, two days before I go to the Dominican Republic and party with my friends and members of the Latin Diaspora I want to talk about who I am and what being a part of the black community, the collective, means to me. I must shout out Big Man, because this post was inspired by a post and subsequent discussion on his blog. If you have never read him, Big Man is one of those bass voices in the chorus of great blogs discussing race in America today. You should check him out.

Who I Am (on a ego level)
If you have read me you KNOW who I believe I am in the real form, however I do know there are levels of who I am, while I realize at my core I am who I am devoid of race, gender, or class, I also realize on the operational level I am all those things. Unfortunately we do not live in a world that engages us based on true essence of self, but one that engages us on the ego presented self. And that ego is tied to the unchangeable things like gender, race, and class. And while two of the three can change either by medical intervention or cash influx or decrease one can never change. Hence the old adage in my head always rolls around, All I have to do is stay black and die! And if you are an American pay taxes (ask Lil’ Wayne).

I am the daughter of the eldest child of a working middle class family from Baytown and youngest child of a lower middle class family from Fifth Ward, Houston. Both sides of my family have been in Texas so long I think I might be Mexican. Some of you may be familiar with the Nickel because of Rap A-Lot and the Ghetto Boys.

While my father grew up in one of the hood-est of Houston’s hood, my mother lived quite a middle class life in a rural oil refining town 30 minutes NE of the city. Her father and mother both worked and she and her sisters grew up with more than what my dad and his siblings had. My grandfather took pride in providing for his family and provide for him he did. There were always new cars and nice things in my grandmother’s house growing up. She worked watching an elderly white couple and together they managed to provide my mother and her siblings with a good stable home life.

My father was somewhat of a football star, my aunt once told me of all the letters he got from schools all over the country to come play for them, some of the same schools I applied to. She told me he was smart and athletically gifted. My father even spent a minute playing semi-pro ball despite the fact he never went to college. My father’s father was a mechanic and somewhat of an alcoholic, nothing violent, just a drunk. My grandmother on this side also sat with elderly white folks for a living. However my grandfather’s income was not as steady or class changing as my mother’s father’s was. But they still had a good upbringing.

My parents met at 16. My mom moved out of her mother’s house to Houston to stay with her Aunt Mandy. Mandy was my mother and her sister’s favorite aunt, I even have a cousin named after her to prove it. She was my grandmother’s older sister and she was married with no kids. I think its kinda cool that is also the name of my best friend!

Anyway, there was the usual mother/daughter teenage angst and my mother was not my grandfather’s child although he never made any distinctions (remind me and one day I will blog on step-parenting). I believe those factors set my mom off to live with Aunt Mandy. Aunt Mandy died suddenly of aneurysm and rather than go home, my mother moved in with my Uncle Stevenson, my grandmother’s brother. It was there my mom met my dad, when he came over after one of his cousins who was dating Uncle Steve’s daughter met her. I believe he said something like “Man Valeda got a fine azz cousin living with her from Baytown!! You need to come with me next time I go over there!”

My dad accompanied his cousin the next time, met my mother, and while the rest was history it took a little longer than most. My mother got pregnant at 16 (keeping the cycle of young pregnancy alive started by my grandmother) however my grandmother wasn’t too happy about it. My mom was whisked away and that baby never saw daylight. Yes, this was before Roe v. Wade and according to my father my mother almost died after the baby because, well as we all know illegal abortion exists and making abortion illegal doesn't make people stop having abortions it makes abortions unsafe. Later in life my father would tell me that was his baby boy she, my grandmother, took from him. That was also the end of my father and mother's first chapter. There is nothing like unplanned pregnancy to snuff out young love. I guess should mention my grandmother kept the flame alive by allowing my father to see my mother when my grandfather was away at work.

As soon as my mother was old enough she was back with my dad. She reunited with my father. By this time he was working. He had a gift for gab and was a natural salesman. When my mother got pregnant with me at 19 my father was making moves in the Insurance Industry. Before they turned 25 my parents had already owned and sold a house and were living in a big two story home with cars to match where the white folks lived. My dad was a beast back then. When I think of the stuff he had as an adult it boggles me the kind of money he had to be making.

As a kid I really had no clue, I just thought it was life. It really wasn’t until I had friends come over or see me get dropped off for school in a Benz, that I realized what kind of success and wealth my parents had. My dad being from the hood was a bit flashy with it. I would have to say, when other black folks were pushing a Caddy he was rolling Benzes and if he was a young, successful, black man today he would be the one who owned a McLaren. Anyone who reads knows my father’s story. To save you some reading time he came, he saw, he kicked ass, then got his ass kicked, kicked ass again and got his ass kicked once more and died trying to kick life’s azz one last time.

If you read regularly, you know my mom’s story of restarting and building a nice life for herself as she could after leaving an abusive relationship.

My Story
My story and who I am and why I feel and think how I do has been greatly influenced by my parents and my extended family on both sides. I spent my childhood being shuttled between wealth and doing ok. I was exposed to poverty when I would visit some of my family members. I remember visiting one relative who's house was so filthy I was afraid to use the bathroom. I mean really think about that.

I was exposed to people who were crazy, crippled, and just plain ol’ mean. I was exposed to all the things that are good and bad about being Black America. I was exposed to that and ALL of that was not just stories of how other black folks lived it was a part of my blood, the blood that coursed through my veins and made me me. It was the family I interacted with and loved on the daily basis. It was who I was, WHO I AM.

I was the uncle strung out on crack who stole our TV and microwave when I was in high school. Who when confronted by my mother for stealing those things said to her in a very Tyrone Biggums tone I didn’t steal your microwave, Liiiiiiiiiinda! I was the aunt who believes white is better and at every turn is chasing white because she honestly believes white is synonymous with BEST or at least better, I was the aunt and uncle who came from modest beginnings to be upper middle class status raising a family in a very Huxtable way.

I was the aunt who got involved with the wrong man because she wanted a better life for her kids and had that man destroy her children in mayhem, sexual abuse, and death. I was the aunt who packed up her young son left everything and moved back home from LA to Houston, after her husband began experimenting with harder drugs. I was the uncle who joined the Marines and saw the world and toured Vietnam. I was the cousin who lived 30 years past the doctor’s prognosis of how long he could live a life having Down Syndrome, severe Autism, and Cerebral Pausey.

I was the cousin who had a baby at 16 and still graduated with honors and a voice scholarship to school. I was the mother who lost her 21 year old son at the hands of her husband, his step-father and father of her daughter’s children. I was the 18 year old daughter who secretly aborted a child whose father was either a rapist or her first time lover in order to continue with her education. I was the cousin who got jail time for robbing a drug dealer because he was desperate to make ends meet for his young son. I was the cousin in and out of jail because I think I am the streets but I am not really built or raised for real street life.

I was the uncle who lost his life because he knew too much of the drug scene in LA and I was the mother who got the call from that son saying “I love you momma” only to find out a few days later he was found dead in a dumpster, murdered. I was all those things... I am all those things. And the more I live the more experiences get added to my life, from unfortunate medical diagnoses to triumph of the complete turn around of the formerly incarcerated to the loss of all those memories due to Alzheimer's.

My family has helped shape my relation to “the hood” I am the hood. I carry them on my shoulders with each step forward. No matter how far I come from those stories, no matter how different I am from those people and those things they have done and experienced, I am the hood. I am all the good tings that happen here, in the hood, my home. I am all the bad things that happen here in the hood, MY HOME. I never have thought or will think who I am, what I have made of myself, the cities I have seen, the places I have lived, and the money that I have makes me better than the hood, MY home.

That’s why when I return home to my hood, it is the most comfortable place for me. It feels better than any place I could imagine. It is home. It is my origin. I want to be as much of it as it is of me. It feels right to me and it is WHO I AM!!

Black is black and if we don’t begin to realize that we will never move forward collectively as a race. W believes in leaving no child behind, well I believe in leaving no nicca behind, you know Harriet Tubman style!! Harriet Tubman style!! If they reach out to be delivered from New Dixie's cotton fields, I most certainly am more than happy to grab their hand and let them ride this new underground railroad I'm forming, also known as success and perseverance and empathy.

In the words of Ciara. I'm A little G to the H, E to the O to the T// T to the O, now tell me what you see/ I’m just Ghetto, I’m just me, I’m just me

Ciara Lyrics
I'm Just Me Lyrics

Be EZ,


crys said...

and filled in so many gaps.

YOU ARE ALSO your satellite forgot that.

see you on the beach bytch!

Big Man said...

Damn, that was informative. You're family is more interesting than mine. Well, more interesting than the family I'm familiar with, since my folks kind of kept to themselves a bit.

WNG said...

That's how I feel about my mother's family - that when I go home I am completely comfortable, even though that side is where most of the drama and hood comes from.

I love that you were able to tell about your WHOLE family - one of these days I'm going to have to do that...

Mizrepresent said...

Awe dayum are an original OG, and you know am I!

Keith said...

Now YOUR life is interesting missy,
You're the one who ought to be writing a book.

(Speaking of which, I think I'm going to do that next's not going to be about Mabel though.
and speaking of our favorite southern girl...I wrote another story that won't be posted until you come back from the D.R. so you won't miss it.)

As for you, you've got to write more about this family of yours...
So many rich stories here...They could take up a whole blog alone.

Loved this post.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

@Crys- ha ha ha very funny. that's affirmative see you on the BEACH bytch!

@big man- lol, yeah my family is quite interesting I never knew really until I would share things from my childhood. Thanks for the inspiration

@wng- yeah my whole family did shape me. I got drama and hood on BOTH sides as you can see and those were just the highlights.

@miz- I know you are...we all are unique and interesting if you ask me.

@keith- that is so great and I know a website to self publish I will have to dig that up. You know how much I LOVE Mabel and the gang.

I'm glad everyone enjoyed my post.

Anonymous said...

Can I just say I love this post. I love the rich diversity that makes up the Black experience. I was chuckling and just nodding my head reading this, in my own family I got crackhead uncles but also ones with Ph.D's. Yet like you the older I get I realize they all play a part in who I am.

Have a great time in the DR.

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

so u old school folk
im with ya on that
what u gone drank for folk while in the dr
ans: tequilia and hot sauce and bring jones something back now u hear

-Q. said...

First time in, last time you'll miss me up in here. your story is one of the same, yet as unique as you are. That was beautiful understanding patchwork of an individual being.. OG for real- i'll give you that. cuzz thats your story.. I'll definately be back( didnt know what i was missin_

Enjoy that DR!!! Im slowly findin more Texas bloggers, thats wassup -Q.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Thanks BGiM, it was really a lot fun to write picking out events from my family and my past. I bet you didn't know that, some of those I am really are I ams. *lol*

Yes RDB I am ol' school all the way baby!! All day E’rry day !

Q- Welcome to my spot, you are welcome anytime. I really liked your spot too. Welcome to the Lone Star state sorry I'm up here in the bean right now keeping it real, but maybe when I'm back to visit. Austin ain't but a skip and a jump. *lol* Austin is very different from NYC, but different from Texas cities too. I call it the Seattle of Texas. *lol*


SaneAndSingle said...

This is my first visit to your blog, and what a time to drop by! :)

I love reading other people's family history. You can learn so much about a person.

Imhotep said...

OG, I decided to take a stroll over from Big Man's place and I'm glad I stopped by. Excellent work.

Sister Girl said...

Sorry for being late on input,but it's been a HELL of a week !

In the clinic where I work, it's very heartbreaking to see the decline that Alzheimers, Autism,& other issues of the brain unfold. Often times I see them start out in "normalcy" & watch the toll that it takes on them.

But I believe that I'm there for a purpose & I try to show exceptional kindness because I definately know that I'm BLESSED because could be me or someone I know !

I hope that you have the best time & can't wait to read your blog about the event.


Monica Roberts said...

OG, your family is as interesting as mine.

We definitely gotta talk one weekend.