If you missed it, check out part one, otherwise…
To say I had a mentor in the streets would probably be an overstatement. There was, however, a certain individual who could see that I just thought differently than the rest of the kids my age. Let’s call him KB.
KB was a full grown man and the rest of us were teenagers. He had mad juice and was a natural leader. He didn’t have an army of followers but he did command respect wherever he went. For example, he could just show up on the block and whoever was out there would listen to him and do what he wanted. Like I said, he had mad juice.
For whatever reason, he didn’t let me partake of the full street experience. He immediately steered me away from JB and the street gangs. This wasn’t easy, because that’s where my heart was. In the end though, he redirected me away from JB et al and stressed to me that I needed to use my brain to survive. He eventually convinced me that I didn’t fit the role of the street soldier.
KB started me out by examining different scams that he would have people pull off. I wasn’t allowed to be directly involved, but he would ask me things like, “if we did this, how could we get caught?” or “are there any holes in this sequence of steps?” or “hey, can you find a loophole that we can exploit in this?”, etc.
Since my junior year in high school, I made cash by simply applying my analytical thinking to the scam of the week.
That went on for a while, but it was too boring. What I really wanted was what JB had. I wanted the power to go anywhere in the state and take over the set when I got there. I had no idea, at the time, of the true cost of such foolishness.
Once I graduated, I broke away from KB and took a stab at doing my own thing.
I was chillin’ at Hessel Park shootin’ ball when JB walks up. Along with most everyone else out there, I was happy to see him. Everybody pauses in the middle of the game and we all walk over and dap JB. Some of us (like me) did it because we wanted to, others because his gang rank demanded it.
JB and I start chit chattin’ about how things have been going since high school and I find out that he’d been locked up for the last 3 years and had just gotten out that day. Damn. Of course we reminiscence about that crazy night in Danville.
We ended up riding around and he introduced me to a few dudes. Apparently, he was getting me connected… partially. He started teaching me some of the basics of gang literature and lifestyle, but at the same time he kept intently stressing that I didn’t really want that life. What the fukk man? He started to sound just like KB. I do want that life.
Regardless of what I said, though, he would only let me in so far. I got to know everybody, but whenever something overly dramatic was about to go down, he always managed to have me doing something else somewhere way across town.
One day, JB got arrested again and I wouldn’t see or hear from him for fifteen years. At the time, I didn’t understand just how much he was helping me by keeping me at a distance from all of the gang shit. As soon as he got locked up and wasn’t around to stop me, I tried to advance further into the gang scene.
That’s when I learned a bit more about the interconnectivity between gang life and prison. I was surprised to find out that he could still stop me, even if he was locked up. As a matter of fact, the longer he was in prison, the more powerful he became on the streets. What the fukk?
Since I couldn’t get all the way in, I contented myself with living on the periphery. It was still a lot of excitement to be had, even if I couldn’t go out of town and take over shit. And it was still cool to kick it with my niggas that he had connected me with. Or so I thought…
Life during that time was pretty carefree. I’d wake up, decide how I wanted to try and make money that day, figure out which girls I was gonna get down with that day, which different girls I was gonna get down with that night, see what my niggas was up to, and find out where the dice game was.
That’s pretty much what my days consisted of, day in and day out.
One of my friends from high school (dDub) that wasn’t part of the street scene (although to this day he swears he has deep street heritage) asked me to go to church with him one Sunday. I didn’t have anything else better to do, so I agreed. Sundays were always pretty laid back as we had an unwritten rule not to be on bullshit on the Lord’s day.
The pastor there took and immediate interest in me. He stood me up in front of the entire congregation and told me that he could “see” that I had bought a gun and for me to get rid of it. He also said that he saw a trip being planned for me to drive someone to Chicago. He instructed me not to go because the guy who I was supposed to take up there was wanted by both the police and the thugs. That if I went, I’d be caught right in the middle of this guy’s troubles.
I stood there as if I had no idea what he was talking about, but every word of it was true. Me and my brother had bought me a heater not that long ago. In addition this guy from one of the projects named HC had asked me to drive him to Chicago. He promised that I’d make a nice sum of cash just by driving him up there and back. The only caveat, I wasn’t allowed to speak about this to anybody, not even my brother. It had to stay between just us.
After church, I kept trying to figure out just who was all in my business enough to know about my .38 and my trip to the city. And most of all, why would they tell a preacher? This made no sense. No one else knew about the trip but HC and I’m pretty sure he didn’t tell anyone. No one else knew about the .38 but my brother… and he had gone back to Michigan.
To keep it completely 100, I was kinda spooked by this. I didn’t wanna take the chance and ignore my “warning” just in case he actually could “see” things. So I got rid of the piece and I didn’t go on the trip. Lo and behold, a week or so later, word on the streets was that HC did indeed get caught up in some drama up top.
I was extremely grateful that the pastor had steered me away from taking that trip with HC, but I wouldn’t go back to that church again. That whole thing was just a bit too much for me.
The pastor would send me messages thru dDub, but I just kept ignoring him.
Eventually I ran into him somewhere and he told me… “You need to come to church. If you keep on running from the truth, you’re gonna get yourself hurt real bad. Come to church. There’s a ‘calling’ on your life and you can’t keep running from it”.
Ummmm… okaaayy, I guess? But I still didn’t go back to that church.
I went to a dice game one night in the projects.
I’ll never forget it. It was a little after midnight and I had two girls with me. We were going to go do what grown people did but I just had to stop by the dice game first. The girls kept telling me to just come on and skip the dice game, but the lure of extra money was too strong. Besides, I saw some of “my niggas” out there and I wanted to kick it with them for a few minutes too.
Everything was going fine until this clown tried to cheat me out of a dollar.
Of course I stood up for myself and dude decides he’s willing to fight over this dollar.
By now, you know the battle cry of every young, dumb, Black kid… “I ain’t no punk”. Seeing that I was all of the aforementioned, I got into a fight with this muhfukka over a dollar. Thinking back on it, it was silly. But back then, it was as right as rain. It was then, that I got the worst beating of my life.
I don’t know how I didn’t know this, but the dude I was beefing with had a pretty fierce reputation on the streets for violence. Even if I had known, I wouldn’t have cared.
So we square off. He fully expected me to back down (because he expected me to just know who he was) and when I didn’t, I could tell that it infuriated him more. I beat the shit outta that dude. In fact, he was extremely easy to beat up. I was kickin’ his ass so bad that I felt sorry for him. To feel compassion in that moment was a big mistake.
According to all of the street rules, I should’ve beat him until either he passed out or we could hear the police coming. I guess I wasn’t as hardcore as I thought I was, because my sympathy for him compelled me to stop. I was thinking “he’s had enough. I’ve got two fine bitches sitting in the car ready to go get it on and I’m out here fighting with this fukkin clown. This is a waste of my time.” So I took my dollar off of him and started to walk away as he lay there curled up on the ground.
I had just opened the car door when both girls started screaming at me. They were trying to warn me, but it was too late. All I saw was a flash of white light. The next thing I knew, I woke up in the emergency room with wires running everywhere.
To this very day I still don’t know what actually happened. All I have to go on is what everybody told me after the fact. He hit me with a cane and proceeded to beat me senseless until somebody decided to break it up. Who actually broke it up, I don’t know. The most consistent version that I’ve heard was that it was the house man who finally stepped in and stopped it.
Apparently, this was allowed to go on for over five minutes. What was most important to me in this story, was that none of “my niggas” did anything to assist me. I don’t recall how long I was in the hospital, but none of “my niggas” showed up there either.
I also don’t know how many stitches I ended up with, but it was a lot. Both my eyes were swollen shut and my nose was broken in multiple places. My entire head looked like it was about 3 times too big for my body. I was the picture boy for street violence.
The only person who did show up, was that same pastor who had been trying to get me to come to church.
I could hear him saying “I told you that you were gonna get hurt. I told you.”
Ugh. Dude… get away from me, I don’t feel like hearing that shit.
The only other thing on my mind besides “my niggas” not doing shit to help me, was figuring out the best way to exact my revenge. Working out multiple attack plans consumed me, as I lay around recuperating.
When I was released from the hospital, that same pastor came to visit me almost every day with the same message.
Still no sign of “my niggas” though.
Then my “real niggas” entered the scene. Everybody expressed regret at not being around the night that everything went down and was as equally confused as I was as to why no one else helped. We took down the names of everyone that was there that should’ve helped but didn’t.
It was made clear to me that as soon as I was ready, they had my back. And these fools meant it. It was also made clear to me that the “fake niggas” that didn’t do shit needed to also be put on the hit list.
There was only one problem… I didn’t wanna go to prison.
The police were all over this. They’d come to the hospital several times to question me and somehow they already knew the name of my attacker. This meant that if we just bum-rushed the dude, I’d easily be the first person that the police came after. And seeing as to how I’d actually be guilty, jail time wouldn’t be too far behind.
I needed a better plan.
Me and my “real niggas” rode around for a couple of weeks looking for the perfect spot to torture and beat this punk. Somehow, we concluded that the only way not to go to prison was to kill the bastard and hide his body.
I was so consumed with the idea of getting my revenge, that this dumb ass plan somehow made perfect sense to me.
So we picked out a remote cornfield, dug a big ass hole, and worked out exactly how we were gonna snatch him up and get him to the spot. All that was left to do now was wait until the appointed day.
Thank God (literally, I thank God) that that same pastor was able to reach me before I got a chance to act out that stupid attempt at revenge.
He told me that he could “see” that I had a plan for revenge and that my plan was going to backfire. UGH!! Here we go with this “seeing” shit again. He also told me that I was putting my trust in the wrong people. That the guys I trusted didn’t care about me and in fact were extremely envious of me, and that I was the one that would end up “dead and in a hole somewhere”.
You’ve got to be kidding me. Who keeps telling this man all of my business???!!!! How does he know about our hole??!!! Who would tell him that??!!!!
I can’t explain to you just how badly I wanted revenge for what had happened to me. There are no words that I can write in this post to fully convey what I was feeling. Nothing was more important to me, at the time, than that.
Except for not going to prison. And not dying.
This pastor had been correct before, even if I didn’t understand how. It still didn’t make sense to me that someone would single me out to tell all of my business to this preacher, but how else could he know all of this shit man? No way he actually “saw” anything. Although HC did end up in a lot of drama in Chicago.
My mind teetered back and forth and back and forth for hours. Eventually I called him and said that even if I was willing to start going to church and even if I was willing to give up my current plan for revenge, that didn’t mean that I wouldn’t come up with a new plan. A plan that I could do solo and not worry about betrayal. I explained that I could not, dammit, would not just let this ride. I had to do something.
He told me that what I was going through was the perfect opportunity for me to learn about forgiveness.
I didn’t wanna hear that shit, but I did abandon my current quest for revenge and started going to church. I just didn’t wanna take the chance that he was right (again). Besides, I figured it was the safest place while I thought up a new strategy.
I learned a lot at that church. As a matter of fact, I’d say that other than my parents, that church had the most positive influence on the man that I am today.
I was still young and dumb so I wasn’t always in compliance. Actually, I was rarely in compliance. I still had some pretty deep roots in the streets and so I kept finding myself back there. But the more I “straddled the fence” as they called it, the more I began to realize just how much I was not a criminal.
I simply wasn’t cruel enough to advance the way I wanted to in the street life. I would stand up for myself, no fukkin doubt about that. If you started some shit, I could finish it. But the streets wanted more than that. Thug life often required you to be extremely cruel for no good reason other than for the mere sake of being cruel. The whole “kill or be killed” mentality just didn’t make sense to me in such a small town.
It was becoming more and more clear that, like it or not, the church was the better fit for me.
Like I said, I still had some deeply-rooted street behavior which would often cause conflict in the church, but I kept at it and eventually I learned how to be a man and a (mostly) model citizen.
One day the church choir decides to have a concert. Through a series of events, this concert turned into a really big deal and the decision was made to assign me the task of creating the flyer.
A friend of mine had come back to town form Cornell for winter break and she agreed to help me with the flyer. We went to the Kinkos on campus to assemble the flyer and get it printed out. While she was away at Cornell, she’d spent a lot of time and gained a lot of experience working on this awesome new computer called a Macintosh. It just so happened that Kinkos had one of these macs (as it was called for short) and we ended up using it to make the flyer.
I had never been so engaged with a piece of technology in all my life like I was with that thing. This included my Sega and my Nintendo, both of which I loved dearly. I simply did not want to leave that mac there at Kinkos. My first thought was to steal it, but it just felt wrong somehow to steal the computer that I had just used to make a flyer for a church concert.
So I tried to figure out a way to get one of my own.
The first thing I found out was that paying cash for one of those damned macs was not an option. It took a couple grand to buy one legitimately and I simply did not have that kinda scratch laying around.
I definitely knew some ways I could get it real fast, but at that point in my life, I was seriously trying to avoid street enterprises. But damn I wanted that mac sooooo badly that I could taste it.
As I teetered on the ledge of “going back to the streets to make this money real quick” and “trusting in God to provide a way”, I learned about another home computer called the Atari ST. Lo and behold this sumbitch had a program called spectre gcr that would let you emulate a macintosh!!!
The cost for an Atari ST was only a few hundred or so and I easily had that on hand so the decision was made.
Even though I had the money and desire to own one of these bastards, actually finding one was harder than shit. Nobody had ‘em and there was no amazon.com back then so I was shit outta luck.
I ended up learning about a local Atari ST user group and figured if anybody knew how to get their hands on one, it’d be these people. They didn’t meet up every week so I had to wait a couple weeks in order to attend a meeting, but when the day finally came I was brimming with excitement!
Of course, the whole “me being a black male” thing initially got in the way. They didn’t know why I was hanging out by where they were assembling and was sure that I meant to be somewhere else in the library. Sigh. I explained why I was there and I was allowed to stay.
After the meeting I was introduced to one of the group members who actually sold the computers. He was a cool dude and gave me a great deal on an entry level system with a color monitor. I also learned that we had a local Atari ST champion named Dorothy Brumluve. She wasn’t at that meeting but apparently she was this awesome programmer. I didn’t quite understand how important she would be to my future right then, but it was cool to know that we had her as part of the group.
After weeks of waiting, my computer finally arrived and I couldn’t wait to get started playing with it. The people in the user group were great resources. Not long after I got it, I had spectre (mac os emulator) up and running and was tearing through all sorts of mac software like a windmill in a tornado.
At first, I was only using my Atari ST as a super advanced gaming system. I really treated just like a better Sega or Nintendo. The notion of programming it never occurred to me.
That is until my competitive nature took over.
Remember that friend from Cornell? It really annoyed me that she knew so much more about my pseudo-mac than I did. No matter what software I got my hands on, she always knew how to work it. All of it. She was always teaching me something that I hadn’t figured out on my own. I flat out didn’t like it that she was better than me.
I had to find some way to one up her.
Her experience at Cornell had given her too big of a head start on all things mac os, so there was no way I could compete with her in that space. She didn’t care that I could beat her at the various video games because gaming wasn’t taken seriously back then.
Finally I decided that the only way I could surpass her was to have skills enough to write programs myself. I had to be the one creating the software that she used. It was the only way.
It was then that I sought out Dorothy Brumluve and started on my path to programming mastery.
And that was the very first awakening of the Gangsta Geek.
With Dorothy’s help, I actually understood what I was doing and could code a lot of different shit.
In the beginning though, I was content just to be able to outdo lil’ miss Cornell. But this was a very important step along my path because, as I said earlier, that was when the geek in me initially arose and breathed its first breath.
Programming was hella fun but it took a bit more ‘waking up’ and breaking a few more ties with them streets before I really dedicated myself to it.