A Black Man’s Amends to Black Women By: Timichel "Coach" Addison How are you doing today beautiful, black, intelligent and sophisticated sista? I wish I was articulate enough to actually say this, but it seems as if before I am able to collect and organize those words, the anxiety of being in the presence of your beauty makes me fumble my thoughts. As I attempt to pick up the pieces that are scattered all over the floor I repulsively react by saying, “PSSSSSSSSSST… AAY, AAYE BABE C’MERE! WHAT’S YO NAME?” I’m kicking myself inside as you cut your pretty brown eyes at me and keep walking in the opposite direction. As my homeboys look and laugh, I attempt to relinquish some of the embarrassment as well as re-affirm what I perceive as my masculinity by saying, “WELL **** YOU THEN! I AINT WANT TO TALK TO YOU ANY WAY! STUCK UP *****!!” Sista, don’t take my disrespect personal. Believe it or not my attempts to belittle you by calling you a garden tool or a dog in heat are more of a character flaw on my behalf than a short coming on yours. Sista, I pretend to be complex because I live in a world that is still a mystery to me. My problems are as deep as my enslaved ancestor’s blood that runs through my veins. In an attempt to gain a better understanding of myself, as well as give you more of a fair opportunity to relate, respect and ultimately love me, I will relinquish my pride and sacrifice a piece of my mind. Warning: Sista, what I am about to tell you are the things about me that I most fear. My deepest fears are stored in a place that is seldom visited by neither myself nor anyone else. Take a walk with me sista, and I will enlighten and probably frighten you. Where do I begin to explain? It’s only appropriate to start from the beginning, my beginning. CHAPTER 5: Surviving the Womb. If those nine months spent in my mama’s womb were any indication of how difficult life would be, I could say that I was face to face with my future before I was a fully developed fetus. My daddy was an ex-con who was trying to turn his life around after being in prison for 10 years. The sound of his deep and volatile voice is all I can remember of him, not to be outdone by the sound of his fist pounding against mama’s face. Daddy seemed to be mad at the world for his insecurities due to lack of control over his life. Because of his criminal record it was tough to find a stable job to provide for his family and it must have been tough for daddy to accept that mama was the primary bread winner. Daddy drank and did drugs regularly and the only time he felt like a man in control was when he was beating mama. I could always tell the exact moment that mama was going to get a beat down. She was a proud woman, a community activist against crime, injustice and domestic violence within the black community. (Go figure) Mama was articulate and educated despite having to drop out of junior high to take care of 5 siblings when her mother was beaten into a coma by her step-father. Why would mama allow a man to beat her like that? How could someone who witnessed her mother being abused by a man grow up and end up in an abusive relationship? I wondered if she thought that domestic violence was a form of love, or that the men who beat their women needed understanding, love and support in a world that offered very little if any. I knew that daddy was intimidated by mama’s intelligence. I remember when daddy would receive mail from his probation officer or other important business mail mama would read it to him. She always had to be careful how she read the letters because on one occasion daddy got mad and slapped her repeatedly for reading the letter too fast. Sista, I was an emotional rollercoaster before I started my life. I was able to identify and become comfortable within turmoil and dysfunction. For me violence and negativity became impulsive. I sub-consciously seek out dramatic situations because within them I find peace. Where one person may find refuge in a nice, quiet neighborhood with green grass, and friendly people, I have grown to feel at ease with loud music, fist fights, gun play, aggressive communication with peers and abusive relationships with women. On the day I was born I was scared. I gasped desperately for air for my developing lungs that was seemingly less available for me at this time. You see, mama and daddy were fighting again. Mama confronted daddy about taking the light bill money out of her purse to buy drugs and alcohol. Daddy got extremely upset and started violently slapping her until she fell to the ground. He dove on top of her and began to choke her with two hands while screaming at the top of his lungs. Suddenly, a large pool of fluid rushed down beneath my mothers belly and dampened my father’s knees that were touching the floor. Unable to speak, mama’s eyes grew wider as she desperately searched for the breath to say “my baby is coming!” Confused, my father pried his hands from her neck and ran out the door in a frantic looking for someone who could help. With no money to go to a hospital, daddy ran to get his sister from down the block as well my grandmother to offer what little assistance that she could. Mama gave birth to me on the floor of our project apartment after being in labor for 12 hours 47 minutes and 35 seconds. Fresh out of the womb, I received my first glimpse of the light that illuminated the room. It was amazing, although it was too bright for my tiny eyes. Just as my eyes begin to adjust to the hue of the room this process was interjected by a sudden darkness. Feeling confused and robbed of the world’s beauty I cried. Mama cried too. I now know that her tears were not only of joy for brining a new life into this world, they were also tears of sorrow and anger because daddy was probably somewhere getting high and the “people” just came and cut our lights off. For me, it was the beginning of a life with seemingly unfair obstacles. It also was the end for my father. He was found dead in an alley with significant amounts of crack cocaine in his blood stream. CHAPTER 10: When Poverty is Present. As a child, I was coddled a little too much by my mother. Perhaps she felt validated to over indulge in the motherly love to attempt to make up for the fact that my father was non-existent. Maybe she felt that because our living conditions were below poverty, extra love would conquer all. But the extra love only made me more vulnerable to the shark infested waters of the outside world. Being a “mama’s boy” was like bleeding into those waters, and those sharks could smell blood a mile away. I learned at as early as a toddler that it was essential to exaggerate my masculinity in order to gain the respect of others. Before I knew what it meant to be masculine I learn to hide emotions, walk with my little chest out and put on this blank stare that gave off this perception of a cold hearted and disturbed little boy. I learned the hard way that if you smile it was a sign of weakness, and weaknesses would get your candy, bubble gum and even your shoes taken from you. Fights were a regular occurrence on the playgrounds in my projects. I didn’t understand why mama always told me that knowledge was power, but if I were ever caught in my neighborhood with a book I would get teased and beaten up by the other kids. Mama also insisted that I look presentable and maintain a clean appearance in the public eye. She always said that as a young man I should be prepared to make positive first impressions everyday. Obviously the kids in my neighborhood didn’t live by the same values. I was constantly teased for wearing my shirt tucked in, or for having nicely pressed slacks. Mama always said that just because you shop at thrift stores or the goodwill and wear “hand me downs” doesn’t mean that you can’t take pride in your appearance. Mama seemed to have enough pride for the world. She could make sense of the worst of scenarios. She always told me that in life people will always crucify what they don’t understand. She told me that it takes courage to be an individual, and only a coward afraid of the greatness of his own individuality follows suit. I thought my mother was the greatest woman alive. I never understood why she talked to me like I was an adult, with such advanced dialect. She could tell that I was lost so she always followed up her speech by saying, “one day when the time is right you’ll understand.” Chapter 15: I’m a Dope Boy The ghetto is a society within a society, equivalent to what the black market is to government sanctioned retail suppliers. What you must understand and evaluate is that life is about choices. We are all one choice away from prison or a grave just as we are all one choice away from financial freedom and true happiness. I began dealing drugs because I felt that it was a crime itself for me to be living in such miserable conditions. I grew up envious of people who had nothing because I had less than that. It’s difficult to explain to a young man the reason he is living in poverty yet if he traveled 10 miles in any direction he could witness people living lives of luxury. I got caught up in recklessly chasing the American dream and nobody ever told me that this dream was a fallacy. Since I never had any, I always felt that money was the solution to all my problems so I started selling drugs and it changed my life. Over night I went from a nobody to a respected drug dealer in my hood. My perception of living the street life was that I was too smart and too careful to get caught. The objective of this perception is to always stay two steps ahead of everyone but mainly the cops. I can’t believe that I thought that one man could outsmart narcotics agencies who employ hundreds of men equipped with the best technology to work around the clock to lock drug dealers in cages. The drug game is a system designed for me to fail. It is that life-sized mouse trap with the “cheese” in the middle. The sad part about it is I never realized any of these facts until I was sitting in court being prosecuted for 36 different counts ranging from trafficking and running an illegal drug enterprise, to kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder. With all the evidence, witnesses, audio and video the prosecution presented in the court room, I knew on that day that I wouldn’t see the streets again for a very long time. When the judge labeled me a menace to society and sentenced me to 45 years to life with no possibility of parole my knees buckled. Doing my best to hide behind what was left of my bruised ego I did all that I could not to shed external tears, but internally I wept like a baby. I remember thinking about my mama and how I wish she could hold me in her arms and tell me it’s gonna be all right. I thought about my kids and my family. I tried to pull myself together as I reassured myself that I know what its like to live in hell. The ghetto is hell and jail can’t be worse than where I am from. The next 5 years of my life would be the mis-education of what it means to be a man. Chapter 20: Making Amends Sista I have failed you, can you forgive me? Sitting here in this jail cell with a 40 years left of a 45 year sentence makes me ashamed. Ashamed that for so many years I called myself a man, but I was a coward and a sell-out. I sold poison to my own people for nothing more than selfish desires and material commodities. I have the blood of many of my brothers on my hands because of greed and ignorance. Sista, the least I can do for killing my brethren and contributing to the destruction of our communities is rot in this cell, but before I pay for my transgressions with my life I want you to know about my life as a thug. I want you to know that I talked loud because I really had nothing intelligent to say. I thought that by increasing the tone in my voice people had no choice to listen. In retrospect I was a fool for making it difficult to hear those who had something conscious to say. I want you to know that I wear gold teeth, jewelry and other flashy items because my identity has never been defined. Instead of blessing you with a genuine and original persona of what it means to be a man, I chose to be lazy and follow suit of the latest trends. I want you to know that I walked with a manufactured limp and held on to the crotch of my pants as a reminder. I thought that’s what made me a real man. This tool between my legs has caused me and you great harm over the years. I apologize to you sista for placing your life and health in danger just to fulfill my personal sexual desires. Constant messages from peers and television gave me the impression that my manhood was defined by how many women I slept with. In hindsight, I was brainwashed, reckless and insensitive to you, your emotions and your temple. I want you to know that I ran the streets, neglected my children, could not keep a steady job, fought, robbed, stole and perpetuated all other stereotypes about black people because I am a coward. I choose to live law-less with little (if any) commitments and responsibilities because it’s easy. I have never been able to develop accountability within my character. With that being said, how can I be a man? I was good at portraying a man like an actor in a movie and I am happy that I am in a place where I can t hurt you anymore. Perhaps I belong in a cage. When I was free to do as I wish my thoughts were never as clear as they are now. How can I be a man when I had to be stripped of my freedom in order to develop discipline and humility? How can I be a man when I had to be locked in a cell to seek spirituality, knowledge and love? How can I be a man when I had to be broken down to nothing in order to understand what should and should not be valued? My deepest regards go out to you my queen. You are the light, and for so many years I abused and squandered your resources instead of nurturing you to let your light shine. I could never make amends for the things that I have done, but I can only hope that you find it in your heart not to view other men in a negative light because of all of the horrible things that I have done. I hope these thoughts served as understanding. Sista, although they may be sexy, or their confident swagger serves as a thrill take it from me, thugs don’t live that long.