click here for pt 1
It would be a couple more uneventful months of advanced training in Fort Gordon Georgia before I returned to my beloved Brooklyn. No sooner had I arrived back, still comparatively cockdiesel and disciplined, did I get to work on doing something useful with my life, as Drill Sergeant James had ordered. I chose Long Island University, in Brooklyn, because I had decided that I wanted to work in a field whose product I spent a good portion of my childhood fantasizing about being a part of: Television and Radio. LIU had the best media program of the schools that I actually qualified for. It didn’t hurt that it was located not far from home, either.
You might be wondering why I hadn’t decided any of this before graduating from High School.
While I was in High School I hadn’t even applied to a college. I hadn’t really even applied myself to High School. I had bought into the idea presented to me by the Five Percent that all the knowledge offered in Public School was tainted by white, you know, devil-derived. We called it Trick Knowledge- essentially brainwashing. Even my elementary school had me thinking Public School education was white fabrications, distortions and pure mis-education unworthy of the paper its printed on. So, I rarely gave most of it any serious consideration.
Plus, being from a relatively poor family (a single mother, on Welfare, with six mouths to feed and backs to clothe) I had figured there was definitely no money for extravangances. And, though I was pretty sharp, my school records didn’t reflect this ( I played hooky and cut class as often as I attended) and I’d never even taken the SATs. So, the truth is, one of my school’s security guards had a better chance of getting an academic scholarship than I had. I wasn’t very athletic so an athletic scholarship wasn’t an option, either. Not one of my HS guidance counselors applied any pressure to me. They’d long since written me off as a member of a deviant organization hellbent on causing chaos and other anti-social non-conformist behavior.
So…no money, no scholarships, no incentive for higher education…nothing. I finished HS without a clue what I would do next and yet I was praised like a conquering hero for merely graduating. Expectations for young black males were damn low where I came from.
On top of that, as is the case with many African American families, there was no educational legacy in my family whatsoever. I was the FIRST in the history of the Loco clan to even finish a traditional High School. I did so mostly because I knew it would make my mother happy after the hell my two older brothers had given her, having dropped out or been kicked out of every school they’d ever attended. (My older sister had gotten her GED.) I had no one urging me towards lofty aspirations like college, and few tangible black male role models to look up to.
I was in trouble, vulnerable to all kinds of traps laid out for people like me, and didn’t even know it.
It was about then that a TV commercial spoke to me, addressing my un-acknowleged desires for respect, adventure and escape…not to mention higher education…all in 30 seconds of images, song and carefully chosen dialogue. Yep, I saw one of those “be…all that you can be, cuz we need you, in the Army” commercials, handing out educational assistance loot as incentive to sign years of your life away. Next thing I knew I was at the recruiting station downtown signing on a couple dozen dotted lines.
But, now, with a little money, a little direction, and a lot of motivation (thank you Drill Sergeant!) I was a college student!
LIU Brooklyn campus was basically a black school, with a Nursing college at that, and due to that fact, and the issues mentioned above, the student body was made up mostly of black women…and what bodies!
I had a ball!
And I was all in academically, as well! I was learning television production, and studying Literature (which I discovered I actually loved.) I even made Dean’s List first couple of semesters. I was on a roll.
I needed money, so naturally I had to work. The easiest part time jobs to get were in Fast food and retail. I went the retail route. I did stints at all the major retailers: of course Macy’s, but also A&S, B. Altman’s, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, The Gap…even Benetton. If it sold shit you didn’t need at prices only a fool would pay I probably worked there at one time or another.
While working as a stock clerk for the Clinique counter at Lord & Taylor’s on Fifth Avenue, I would have my first interracial relationship.
Maybe I attracted the young and attractive make-up model with my brawn, muscling those boxes around that dingy cage-filled basement beneath the lobby at L&Ts. Or maybe it was the way I could always be found studying and doing homework over sandwiches during my break time. Or maybe it was the Ses cloud that seemed to follow me everywhere I went I puffed so regularly. Whatever it was, before I knew it, she was making moves. And I mean literally before I knew it.
I had had no intention of hooking up with Maggie from Illinois. White chicks weren’t even on my radar at the time.
New York, despite its multicultural image, was (and remains in many ways- more due to class and ethnicity than race) a very segregated city. Blacks dwelled here, Italians controlled there, Jews congregated there, latinos lived there, Russians ruled over there, etc… Especially Brooklyn. Find yourself in Bensonhurst you had better not be on foot cuz them Italians over there didn’t take kindly to niggers trespassing…uh-uh, not on foot! Find yourself in Brooklyn Heights after dark and it’d be the police stopping and questioning you, maybe even sending you home with a sharp warning.
And in the black and Latino communities…well, did you ever see The Education of Sonny Carson? No? Well, I highly recommend it! This series could very well be named: The Education of Loco.
I grew up in the NY at the very tail-end of this Sonny Carson period, as well as the tail-end of the White Flight from the inner city. Most people think of Los Angeles when they think of street gangs, but gangs used to roam the streets of NY in earnest when I was a little kid. By the time I was a teen they were mostly dissolved replaced by “Posses” and “Crews” which were basically the same thing only usually not as territorial. Even the Five Percenters, of which I was a member, was considered just a City-Wide gang to the Press, most of the Public, and even by some of the members, as well.
Anyway, that mentality stuck with me for a long time…and some part of me retained what I felt to be a healthy caution of getting involved with white girls. So, when Maggie cornered me in a cosmetic cage one evening and asked me did I want to hang out with her sometime, I seriously had to think about it.
I had to picture myself walking the streets of the New York I knew with this white woman on my arm.
…to be continued