Gang Form

For the past three weeks, I’ve been lacking a good night’s sleep.  There’s been that one cricket somewhere in a wall, near the doorway to my home that I just can’t find and kill.  What’s worse, I’ve been seeing crickets everywhere since.  In the kitchen, the bathroom, in my damn dreams!  The final straw for me, was the kitchen. Babies crickets crawling up a wall. Uggh.  After trying some home DIY remedies for about a day – “natural” type of things, I lost all hope and decided enough was enough. I called for pest control to come out and do its thing.

I spent the entire day and night elsewhere while they sprayed the space, and when I came home the following day, there were hundreds of dead crickets at my front door and doorway.  Clearly, my man from pest control had done his job well!  Never thought I’d be so happy to see such death.  But yeah, I was looking forward to getting a great night’s sleep.  First though, quick shower and a run to the grocery story…I washed my hair and threw on my baseball cap and ran out the door. 

When I returned from the grocery store in my car, the end of the alley way was closed off because of construction.  I had to back up and go around the block to get to my space from the other end of the second entrance. No biggy. It happens. 

As I made my way into the other entrance of my alleyway, a white van was parked on the ramp part of the entrance.  I could squeeze on by, but why would someone park right there?  It made no sense.  I waited for a moment and then carefully made my way past the small opening beside them.  As I passed on by, I looked over to see who it was.  I noticed it was a young woman, clearly looking frantically on her phone for what I assumed were directions. On the one hand, I thought it was smart that she pulled over to look for directions. On the other hand, it wasn’t the smartest place to pull over… I went on my way down the driveway.  And then I heard someone scream…

“What’chya lookin’ at, bitch?”

I checked my rear-view mirror.  From the opposite side of the opening to the driveway, this young Black woman wearing a white shirt and jeans was gesturing with her arms and now screaming, “Yeah, you. What you looking at? You have a problem or something?”

When I say it’s been years, I mean it has been decades since I did what I’m about to describe

I stopped my car, put it in park and got out the car.  I walked, almost ran, back up the driveway and when I got face to face to her I asked, “Are you talking to me?  Did you just call me a bitch?”

I was close enough to see the detail in the colorful, but mostly blackish grey tats across her neck, that ended close to her chin.  I stared straight into her eyes and said it again.  “Are you talking to me?”

She seemed startled but stood tough, her several long braids peeking out of her hoodie. “Yeah. What you lookin’ at?” 

I got closer. “First of all, I can look at whoever I want.  Second, I live here  and she’s not supposed to be parked there, my sista.  You sure you were calling me a bitch?”

She backed up a bit, pulling down her hood. “Naah, you didn’t have to get out your car is all.” Truth is, for all her bravado I could tell she was stunned that I was a Black woman and confronting her. I was so mad.

“Clearly, I did have to get out my car! Don’t be calling people names and calling people out for no damn reason because sometimes people will get out the car and confront you.”

Her voice lowered but she portrayed a quiet toughness. “Yeah, but you still didn’t need to get out the car, though.”

I got closer.  “Let me say this again – if you’re gonna call someone a bitch, that someone may actually respond.  So you best be prepared to answer for your words. You hear me?” I said it with such old school gang authority, I honestly don’t know what came over me. I was so angry with this girl.

She still wouldn’t back down. No apology was coming from her – but I could tell in her demeanor she knew she had made a mistake. 

I heard a car horn screech. I had stopped my car in the middle of the alleyway and left it there. Now I was blocking someone else.  A neighbor from across the way. A White guy I’ve never spoken too but have seen several times before. 

The young woman now interjected almost in a gleeful whisper, “Looks like you need to move your car.  See, like I said, you didn’t need to get out your car, ma’am.” 

I was thrown by my neighbor needing to get by. But I seared into the young woman’s eyes and said clearly, “You best be careful who you call a bitch. Not everyone is out to get you. And looking at someone ain’t a damn crime.”

I headed back toward my car but before I could jump back into it, my White guy neighbor who’d been honking his horn to get on by decided to interject: “Why did you even bother getting out of your car? Why would you waste your time with her -she’s crazy?” 

I took a deep breath. “Because. She’s not crazy.  She’s a young Black woman, in a White neighborhood and I was wearing a baseball cap.” He looked at me confused. I continued exasperated, “I needed her to know that I, a Black woman, live in this neighborhood – and yes that she belongs here too.  Not everyone is looking at her because she’s Black.  Sometimes, people are looking at you just because we’re looking.” 

He nodded his head in agreement, but I’m not sure he understood at all. 

I got back in my car and went to my garage. I pulled the car in and sat there for a minute. My hands were shaking.  Two decades later and clearly you can take the girl out of the hood, but the hood is always a part of who she is…  and that’s not a bad thing at all. 

That night, I finally got a good night’s sleep. Crickets no more.

Share Your Story

I thought I’d play a little bit with video posting this time around.  The gist: I encourage everyone to tell their story.  When you do something from your heart, you just never know how it will manifest.  For me, I’m starting on a new journey, speaking with different groups about my book CANELA.  I met with students in Boston this past week — and I’m a better person for hanging out and sharing some stories with these amazing kids!  I learned so much!  They really are going to rule the world! So grateful.

Here’s a little quick video clip I made yesterday morning…