This piece originally appeared on DrunkenBoat.com, and is republished with permission from the author.
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by Jane Lopez
It is about the street lights, the housing projects, the cookouts. It’s about the Division of Youth and Family Services, the PR Day Parade, the bodegas, the Cherry Blossom Festival, the street fights, the smell of cement in the air after a hot summer’s day rain.
It’s the Temptations, MJ, and the cassette tape collections of Motown’s greatest.
It’s about fried chicken, mud pies, visits to Mom, an interracially mixed surrogate family.
It’s about everything and nothing. The pick-it, a pack of Kool’s cigarettes, the Star-Ledger, Budweiser, bid whist, spades, and temporary vacations at the county jails and state prisons.
It’s about repping your block, dreams of finding your way out, food stamps, fatherless daughters, summer rides to the South, sleepovers with burnt Betty Crocker cake.
It was yellow stained walls, black power, Grammy Awards, and the three blocks’ walk to and from school.
It’s about survival and finding yourself only to lose it again.
It’s about Bible verses, summer camps, and Sunday school. It’s your word against mine, hopscotch, double dutch, fire hydrant pools, and hours playing Green Light Red Light and Mother May I.
It’s Easter Sunday at Keansburg Beach, The Boys and Girls Clubs, Georgia King Village, the red brick streets that kissed the foundations of the red brick skyscraping low-income projects.
It’s about penny candy, the dirty old mattress in the empty lot used to practice our next Olympic-winning gymnastic flip off the old abandoned rusted car adjacent to it.
It’s the abandoned homes with broken windows, crackheads, and dope fiends. It’s about the merchandise that fell off the back of the truck.
It’s the cop cars, the fire engine’s siren, the constant loudness of the block, and cornrows that were decorated with beads and held at the end with aluminum foil.
It’s the short ride with the Brownie Girl Scout team, drive-bys, stolen cars, empty plastic marijuana bags on the ground, crack vials, and used needles.
It’s about chitterlings, corn bread, collard greens with turkey neck bone, speedy jobs and my first summer crush.
It’s about the color of my skin. Was she white? Is she black? Why she rocking those cornrows with her hair long down her back? She can’t even speak Spanish.
It’s about defending what you never really understood.
It’s the drug dealers, the free summer school lunches, arts and crafts hosted by the local public school.
It’s the house parties, club music, fresh kicks, and the long hours on the stoop doing absolutely nothing but waiting for the street lights to come on.
Image credit: Flickr user wan mohd. Used under Creative Commons