My City (or, Coming From Where I’m From)

…coming from where I’m from, I’m from…

My city isn’t like your city. It isn’t a booming metropolis, a cultural hub, or filled with a wealth of architectural wonders. It’s filled with crime, poverty, unemployment, and often times, harbors smells of desperation and despair. It’s located in one of the richest states in the country, but the disparity between those who have and have not is vast. In my city, many of my former classmates are felons, drug addicts, or unmotivated individuals with no drive or purpose. Even the lyrics Biggie Smalls spat don’t hold true for this community (cuz the streets is a short stop, either you sling a crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot), because the chances of anyone having a wicked jump shot are far and few between, and at most, hand to hand is as high as they would get on the corporate street ladder.

...cuz the streets is a short stop, you either sling a crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot...

Even amidst all of this negativity though, I, and others like me, managed to find a bright spot. We held on to two important elements that were hidden in the trenches, elements we had to search diligently for: hope and motivation. The majority of us city kids grew up with nothing – in the projects, section 8 housing, and shopping at C-Town with our paper food stamps. It is so easy to follow the lead of those before you, who never sought to aim higher. We could have easily been led into complacency  -because, if that’s all we know, then that’s all there is, right?

The PJs

But no. For some reason, the folk in my generation determined that there was a way to pull ourselves out of the abyss of apathy. We decided that education was the ticket to our release from the confines of the stoop, the allure of the street corner. Even through adversity – pregnant barely past our teens, lack of sufficient income, crabs in a barrel attempting to pull us down from every side, we still managed to succeed (still I rise!). My generation, my peers, consist of lawyers, doctors, artists, entrepreneurs, professionals. We saw adversity as a challenge, not a hindrance or a reason for us to give up. We’ve shattered the plexiglass ceiling of the place we called the ghetto, with our adjustable ladders of steel. Those ladders don’t have a limit to their extensions, and have allowed us to continuously build and progress.

Crabs in a Barrel
...crabs in a barrel theory, hear me creep, it's a mutha****** war in these streets...

It’s difficult sometimes, to drive back through my old ‘hood, and see the seemingly lack of progression. It can be frightening, to see the same listless eyes, even though they watch through different faces. That drive can make you feel hopeless, as if nothing has truly changed. Looking at those to the left and right of me though, I know that feeling could be farther from reality. I’ve seen hard work, I’ve seen the strive for change, and I’ve seen the success that can occur when the two are coupled together. My city isn’t like your city – we don’t have its sexiness, nor do we have its allure. Nonetheless, my pride in what we do have – people with the want, the drive, the need to rise- is relentless. So I’m glad my city isn’t like yours; if it were, it would have never created the experiences that gave birth to people like me.

Nike, Greek Goddess of War
...still I RISE!

8 thoughts on “My City (or, Coming From Where I’m From)

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  1. Right on with this post. Certainly growing up in places like Hartford is just like that bucket of crabs metaphor. I remember growing up everyone always said I didn’t speak or act like I was from Hartford, more like Avon. I suppose this was because I insisted on speaking English properly and preferred to listen to music that spoke to my soul rather than glorified drugs and ass-shaking. Sometimes when you want to rise above, your greatest critics are right in that bucket.
    I was thinking this in relation to your old post, but it has to do with this one as well. I guess you could say that I have erased a lot of the old “hood” habits. Unnecessary and expensive items, music that keeps people in the hopeless or victimization mentality just don’t fly too high with me anymore. Maybe because I realize they’re tools used to keep people in the hood in the first place. Think about it, why is it that a person in the hood doesn’t have money to acquire wealth, or even pay their bills, but just HAS to get that new pair of kicks? Because we’re made to think we’re worthless if we don’t. So we go for a check-cashing loan, get further in debt, and sell our soul to the devil to get it. And so there is no movement. That’s why you can still see people we grew up with in the same predicament as their parents. No hope, no inspiration to do things differently.
    And so to rise above, we do first have to change our mentality about what we think we know and want. Its the only way some of us have managed to escape. It is not to say that we think we’re better than those that are still there, but that we hope some day they too will take ownership for their future.

    Anyways, not trying to preach and trump on your post, which was true and well written ;). Just wanted to throw that out there for conversation sake. I certainly have no one to discuss this with where I work.

    1. This is the sort of discourse I look for when I create these posts, so I definitely appreciate your comment. I think a huge part of striving and “flying” consists of being smart enough, strong enough to realize that the music you’re listening to, the lifestyle that’s being glorified on the television, isn’t reality. There are some things that I mentioned in my “You Can Take the Girl Out of the ‘Hood, But…” post that may, to some people, seem counter to the message I’m giving here, but it definitely isn’t. Hip-hop music, for instance. Yes, much of it is ass-shaking and the like, but so much more of it describes the struggle I and my peers encountered growing up. Perhaps it’s a constant reminder of where I came from; and this constant reminder forces me to continue to grow from what I came from. For that reason, hip-hop music will always speak to my soul just as much as an Amel Larrieux song, if not more. I think those of us who did have the intelligence to recognize that we can separate entertainment from real life, and still enjoy both, are the ones who have made something of themselves.

      So thank you again, for your response. I know I can always count on an insightful opinion from you!

  2. And I know that’s right! It can be depressing to take that drive and to see those faces. Those faces that don’t believe like we believed. The motivation that your city isn’t going to just change. If you want change, you have to have the drive to accelerate your own success. This is a great post!! Great read! I’m glad my city isn’t like their city either. Who knows the type of person I would be now. Would I be as strong and motivated? We just have to hope that the next generation can dig deep and find that same type of drive.

  3. There is a certain level of misfortune that is just that, misfortune. We get so lost in the fact that we feel disenfranchised that we forget that we can change it. I love Hartford, it helped make me who I am. But the culture of complacency was never me, nor you, nor some of the other folks that we call friends. But then there are the others, those that fit our self appointed creative descriptions… “the baby mamas”, “worthless fathers”, “uncle ray ray”, etc. Unfortunately, from the outside looking in, they define us.

    Yet, somehow, we still define ourselves!

  4. This was great to read. It is sad to see the hood hasn’t really changed and there are so many who will not have motivation to seek other things in life than what they seen growing up. But on the other hand there are so many with the drive for more… So go us!

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