Boulevard of Broken Dreams

I ride through the Ghetto windows down halfway/ Halfway out of my mind/Music on nine/Blasting Donny Hathaway
Jay-Z "This Life Forever"

I miss living in the hood. Not entirely, but parts of me miss hearing gunshots in the background, having my neighbors break into my house and act surprise when the cops show, the loud arguments at 3am and being the only one in the neighborhood going to work. Somehow, surrounded by all of that chaos, I was comfortable. I’m uncomfortable around all of these White folks.
However, when I ride through these days, I’m quickly reminded of why I had to leave. There’s a sense of hopelessness that hovers above any Martin Luther into classrooms and finds a seat at empty dining room tables at dinnertime.  It is this impossibility that seems to infect people and redirect the audacity of hope into a malaise of nothingness, sending dreams crashing down into the cracks on the boulevard, lost until someone reminisces when it’s far too late.

The smiles from my childhood have been replaced by grimaces; the burden of being poor in America is far too heavy a burden for a people that have carried slavery and Jim Crow on their backs, it seems all of the fight was left on a balcony in Memphis or integrated with Affirmative Action. So many miles traveled, so many miles to go, yet, so many pedestrian thoughts and people waiting at bus stops wondering how to get to the rest of the world from here?
While the President and Republicans haggle over the debt ceiling, folks are trying to remain under a ceiling, oblivious to the changes people are making for them. It’s hard to engage yourself in politics when you feel like life has dealt you a losing hand; you change your cards, bluff, but eventually life calls and you’re stuck holding a pair…a high school diploma and the audacity of hope. But what’s any of that worth these days, a bus pass and the paper it’s printed on? You have to invest a lot more in yourself to make it where you want to go and unfortunately, some seem to think that’s too much of a risk.

Yet, it’s my job to help rescue those who want to escape, assist in connecting them to the rest of the world they know nothing of. Each year, my job gets harder and harder, because the conditions my kids are living under get worse and worse. It seems as if each new group of students wants to work less than those that came before them, even though they have further to go, they’re delusional about their place in the world. It’s hard to imagine a global competition when you’ve been trapped in three block radius for most of your life.

There’s a thin line between Heaven and here and far too many people that look like me are on the wrong side of that line, seeing what life is like on the other side by watching television. In a world so obsessed with beauty and ugliness, you would think the ugly truth would make people pay attention; instead it receives a blind eye. Politicians are fighting to keep you poor, in jail, barely keeping your head above water and you’re shooting at one another over pieces of pavement that you couldn’t fathom owning.

We’ve lost our boys because we weren’t man enough to help them grow; instead we fled from responsibility and left the streets to raise them, the same streets that failed to teach you anything you could transfer into skills you gave him to. Two generations of Black boys gone astray has left Black girls lost, finding self-worth three minutes after Hennessey and weed, doing their best to study while babysitting younger brothers and sisters until it’s her turn to be a mother, because mommy and daddy feel like they’re missing something in the streets.

But we’re all living it up, drinking and getting high, numbing the pain of ghetto life, accepting our conditions. What most people call living these days, I don’t consider life. Heroin and crack left us with broken homes churches and schools can’t repair, generations in the wild living lawless, a bourgeoisie that looks down their nose at others, a government that creates policy to ensure these conditions don’t change and here I am sitting at a red light watching time stand still while Donny Hathaway bares his tormented soul to deaf ears…

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