Formerly impoverished, lower middle class black youth.
That was us. A bunch of inbetweeners. Aggressive adolescents raised by retired street niggas and crack dealers from the 80’s. Fathers who wanted us to have the intellect of a suburban child and the heart and hunger of a street nigga. Mothers who wanted nothing but us to come home alive, but to defend ourselves to the death if it ever threatened.
Defend ourselves to the death.
I’m not sure how death affects my readers, but at 17 it was very tangible for my friends and I. See, most people thank God and offer prayer when they first rise, grateful for another day. Us? We prayed the nights we got home, because there were quite a few where we shouldn’t have.
The following story that I’m about to tell is about one of many nights that we should’ve died. First, a cast of characters.
Ace: One of my best friends from high school. He and I both had cars and pulled the majority of women. He played strong safety, 5’10”, 175. Classic pretty boy, but wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.
Beast: A childhood friend, and easily one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. Beast was always the enforcer. He was so strong that he used to break up all the fights in the locker room, and he played Nose tackle at 5’10”, 185. All muscle.
Trey: Beast’s stepbrother and the old man of the group. He was a year older than us and always had alcohol on deck. Tall, lanky kid with glasses. Was down to ride, but didn’t go looking for that action. 6’0″, 150.
Dear: When TI said “5’5″ with the soul of a 6’4″ nigga” he was talking about dear. Dear was about that action, anyway that it came. We grew up on the same block, he played corner. 5’6″ 150.
Black: Black was an exceptional athlete, full of testosterone and a willingness to prove himself. He played linebacker next to me from 7th to 12th grade. Black was a prideful hothead and didn’t take shit from anyone. 5’11” 205.
It was a fall night. I know it was fall because we all had on letterman jackets. Even Dear, who didn’t get his varsity letter had on a jacket that he stole from a white boy.
We met up at Beast and Trey’s house to perform our weekend ritual. Beast would turn on “SpottieOttieDopaliscous” and cheap liquor and cheaper weed would be passed around amongst my friends while I texted females.
We stacked up into Ace’s red Honda and journeyed out into the night. The destination Was “Boughettos”, an adult lounge turned teen club on Friday nights. This particular event hall was smack in the middle of a fucking rival neighborhood. A rival neighborhood that we had just happened to have an altercation with earlier than week..
Think we gave a fuck? Absolutely not.
We pulled up to the spot and I specifically remember Beast drunkenly saying..
“Man, I don’t know. I Got a bad feeling about tonight.”
“Shut the fuck up, you thinking too much” said Black.
They went back and forth for a while because Black was disrespectful and Beast didn’t play that shit, but nevertheless they made amends and we youthfully bounced in the club.
The lights were dim and SHAWTY LO was playing. Despite the awful lighting yet we got plenty of hateful looks thrown our way when we walked in 5 deep and exuberant. Beast hugged whatever ratchet little chick invited us out there and we settled in.
Thanks to my dad, I was already a thinker, so I started to peep the scene. There was one way in, one way out. I hoped that nothing jumped off, and tried to enjoy my night.
When my crew and I went out? We went to have fun. We’re over in our section of the party jumping around, singing along, just genuinely turning the fuck up. “Doing Us” Is what we called it back then. Because of that, the party naturally gravitated to us. Girls came over and started twerking, dancing along with us and shit. It was a good time. The local niggas were trying to look cool. Us? We were being that.
This chick starts twerking on Black and he starts wilding the fuck out. Black could never just be cool, he ALWAYS had to push the envelope. He has his tongue out, shirt off, humping shorty in the air and all that. Not only is she with it, but she’s encouraging her friends, who happen to be all over the rest of us. Yall know neighborhood girls love niggas from other hoods.
Now, In addition to being in a rival neighborhood where we had recently got into a confrontation, we’re enjoying ourselves with THEIR local women? Boy they were fucking HOT.
A random local runs up:
“Keisha, what the fuck you doing? You supposed to be my girl!”
“Get off me pooh man, I’m just having fun, damn!” Keisha squeals back.
“You can have the bitch, I’m just dancing, hoe ass nigga.” Says, Black.
Beast and I made eye contact because we already knew what type of night it was going to be. I immediately attempted to diffuse the situation, but it was out of my hands.
Me: “Honey excuse my friend, he didn’t mea…”
Black: “Naw Heaggans, fuck that. Why you always excusing me. I meant that shit!”
“Black ass nigga who you calling a bitch? Yall ain’t even from around here. Who invited YALL?” Keisha squealed.
The chick who invited us eased back into the crowd like Homer Simpson into the bushes.
Time immediately slowed down.
The DJ cut the music and the entire party shifted. There were the five of us and a hundred odd teenage boys staring us in the face. The girls who were civil had migrated near the exit while the more savage ones taunted us, teasing of impending doom.
Ace started stretching. Dear tucked his chain into his shirt and sighed. Beast started cracking his knuckles as Trey switched his bottle-grip from under to overerhand. I took my sunglasses off and pulled my pants up.
“Should we run for it?” Beast said.
“Nah” I replied. “We wouldn’t even make it to the door.”
Black is huffing and puffing. Slapping his shirtless chest, pridefully accepting his and our fates.
“If I die tonight, I ain’t go out like no bitch. I wanna see my mama anyway.”
The tension has pressurized enough to blow the top off the building. They were anxious for one of us to run up, but tactically it was better for us to be on the defensive, seeing how we were out numbered and there were chairs and tables near us.
I remember preparing for death. I remember thinking, “Damn, a nigga playing good ball, about to go to college. I’d rather die like this than die a nobody. This wouldn’t be a bad time to die. People will always wonder about me opposed to seeing me as old wasted potential.”
There were no adults inside to pull those niggas off of us. There was no escape, no humanity in sight. We would’ve fought with everything we had but probably would’ve ended up getting beat to death.
Just as the metaphorical floor prepared to fall out, a familiar voice rang out.
“Yo Josh, Josh is that you? Josh! Aye Josh!”
Beast looked up as the crowd parted and Lo and behold, his cousin Lil Meechie ran up.
I don’t know what type of rank Meech had, or the type of work that he put in, but he made niggas with FIRE in their eyes calm down.
Meech pushed the five of us back and immediately turned to the crowd.
“Yo, this is my cousin and his people from the Heights. I know Yall ain’t gone hurt my people! They good. Be smooth.”
“It’s too many hoes in here to be fighting” I said. Attempting to appeal to the humanity of the angry mob.
Meech continued to push us back in the corner.
“Heaggans, shut the fuck up. Josh, Yall need to leave, right now. These niggas been plotting on Yall all night. go.”
We didn’t need any convincing. We hustled outside where we thought it was safe. There were s bunch of older niggas who were in their twenties working “security”. As we’re walking out, A voice cut through the air at Dear…
“Aye little nigga, I like that chain!”
Beast and I once again made eye contact as I prayed that Dear didn’t say anything. Before Dear could yell back, the most mild and meek of us, TREY yells out
“WELL COME TAKE IT THEN NIGGA.”
Beast grabs and pulls Trey as we break into a full sprint to the car. Half of the fucking party who heard commotion and the entire outside congregation give chase, yelling as they do.
Ace, who was exceptionally fast, pops the trunk and grabs a crowbar and an old, rusty ass track meet pistol. Once the aggressors saw Ace at the trunk they all stopped in their tracks.
“Aww man these niggas strapped. These niggas soft, boy.”
Outnumbered 5 to 125, yet we’re soft? That makes plenty of sense. Right.
We hopped in that little red Honda and peeled the fuck off. In all our adventures, that was the most silent ride back to the house that we’ve ever had. I remember Black venting to himself. Angry with us that we made him leave. Furious that we took his glory away, because he believed that we could win.
To this day, beast and I bring up that night. We talk about how accepting we were of death. The lack of fear and the preparedness. How irrational and prideful we were. How defending our crew almost outweighed the value of our lives.
Human life is the most precious thing on the planet. As a result of coming up in a violent culture and being told and shown otherwise by mass media, we didn’t know any better. Now I’m grateful to be alive! All I’ve accomplished at 25 would mean nothing had I been beat death at 17.
Formerly impoverished black youth, remember where you originated from. Be thankful for every breath, and live like there isn’t another breath left.
Fortune favors the bold.