Rollin’ Thru the Hood
Ray Childress – Learning the ropes, the dos and don’ts of entering an urban neighborhood.
Reece scratched at his shadow of a beard in momentary thought, prior to turning onto Lang Avenue… “They love to hunt Black and Brown boys like you.. because y’all make good game.”
With that said, in a huff the boy crossed his arms in a way that belied his 4 years on Mother Earth, and then went into a bottom-lip protruding pout. “They are not going to get me.” R.J. wrinkled up his brow in anger, “I’m not like those dumb impalas and gazelles.. I’m smart.”
The young man turned to his boy and grinned proudly. “Yes you are.”
“Okay-okay, okay, you know I ain’t gon’ let nobody get at you.” He said, soothingly rubbing his child’s curly head of hair. “On er’thing,” He added, more to himself than the boy, “They’ll never get a chance to get’ chu.”
With R.J.’s giggling fit subsiding, he heard his father clearly; thus he turned to him, overbit his bottom lip, blinked a few times, then studied him with those deep, inquisitive eyes…. “Why would they want me, Dad?”
Reece glanced down at the platinum band on his left ring-finger and thought, Imma’ family man, now. Then he growled and reached out to claw playfully at his son’s knee, “Ra-aah!” which sent the boy into a fit of high-pitched, uncontrollable, childish giggling.
“Nooooo! Aaahh, Da’ddyyyyyy!” R.J. shrieked and squirmed within the snug confines of the seat belt. “Da’ddyyy, pleeeeeeeeze!”
Reece winked at the boy after giving him a few heartbeats to think over the jewel he’d just dropped.. “Son, they like boys like yourself to wear caps…” He eyed him, “It makes y’all easier to track.”
The boy’s eyes lit up at the extra tidbit of information. “I understand.. It’s like on the Animal Planet when lions and cheetahs hunt herds.” His chest heaved with an excited intake of breath, “They w’ook for any weakness. Then dey stalk the ones they picked.”
“Exactly,” He responded eyeing the traffic and checking his rearview mirror. “They look for any weakness.”
“I see’em. They’re out here huntin’… Looking for somethin’ young, Black, and wearing a fitted cap.” He took another look to make sure they hadn’t hopped on him, “Preferably turned to the back.”
The boy’s soft features skewed as he pondered, his small mouth and little snub-nose clearly a gift from his mother—along with his spunk and a lot of his toughness; something even the boy’s father would begrudgingly admit to if pressed on it.
“There dey go, Dad...” the brown-skinned child suddenly screeched and twisted in his seat to jab a tiny index finger out towards their left, in the direction of two all-American white boys sitting in a police cruiser parked on a side street. “Hondo (The cops)!”
“R.J.,” Reece replied, as he watched the cops out of the corner of his eye while passing them by.
“Huh, Dad…” The boy probed, peering up through a set of bright and very intelligent dark eyes that keenly resembled his father’s.
In reference to Reece, a 25-year-old whom some might characterize as a Street Nigga or a Thug who had lived through it all: the shoot-outs in the middle of the street, the fast women and the drama that came with that, the moving of large volume numbers of drugs, even a stint or two behind bars—it took nothing more than the birth of the little guy strapped into the seat beside him for him to make a drastic lifestyle change.
by Ray Childress
"Dad, juh lived in that gw'ay building over there when you was a boy?" The enthusiastic 4-year old eked as the white-on-white Navigator passed by the grey apartment building.
"Yeah," Reece spoke, removing his PITT ball cap before casually tossing it onto the back seat--as was the custom for most young Black males when they entered a predominantly Black neighborhood. "You don't remember the time I took you to play in that big park down the block?"
A huge smile spread across the boy's face and he began to promptly nod his big head up and down, to the point of it jovially tumbling from atop his narrow shoulders. "Yep, Daddy.. It was fun, too!"
Reece's heart skipped a beat at the sound of so much innocence and jubilance in his son's voice... After having spent the better part of the day over on the North Side of the city taking in a College football game with his bouncy 4-year-old, he'd turned off of Penn Avenue to cruise through his old Point Breeze neighborhood, where things were not the best but were far from the worst . He then drove the customized SUV down N. Dallas into the rough and rugged Homewood section of his old hood where blocks upon blocks of row houses and two-story homes that had all seen better days stretched on for as far as the eye could see, amid a jigsaw-like collage of abandon and crumbling buildings, homes, and weed strewn vacant lots. It was some place; a place where only high-crime and open-air drug markets flourished. Though unlike within most ghettos around the United States of America, this one was criminally ruled by those that controlled the killer alleyways and dangerous cuts that crisscrossed throughout the decaying neighborhood like a complicated crossword puzzle.