For those of us who grew up in not-so-nice neighborhoods across urban America, we walked a tight rope. While we tried to sidestep the traps that commonly brought down our peers, we often dreamed of getting out and living a life that wasn’t plagued by crime and limited options.
However, for those of us who managed to rise above the traps and distractions to go to school or build a life that afforded us some semblance of success, we often left, only returning to visit our peers and family members who were left behind.
But make no mistake, we carry the scars. And our “hood pass” gleams like a badge of honor, showing that we were tough enough and smart enough to make it, but still very real.
I hadn’t given much thought to the scars and guilt many of us who grew up in urban areas carry in a while until I saw a clip of Lupe Fiasco breaking down on MTV. During the clip, Sway replays an interview he did with Lupe six years ago, in which he introduced viewers to the rapper’s neighborhood and many of his friends.
After they traveled back down memory lane, Lupe was visibly emotional and cried about the “ghosts” he saw onscreen, those people who are now dead, killed before their lives really had the chance to begin.
During the interview Lupe explained that while he’s from the ’hood, he hates what it stands for—violence, inequality, a lack of options. Like many of us who grew up in troubled neighborhoods, we recognize the lessons we learned there, but knew the world was so much more than our blocks. So we left.
I’ve often felt bad for leaving. As someone who cares about black folks, both locally and globally, I’ve had dreams of moving back and helping to revive the ’hood, perhaps open a bookstore or a community center. But then reality sets in. I’m only one woman with a young, black son I need to protect, and moving to any area where my son’s life is treated as expendable just doesn’t seem like a prudent thing to do.
So what’s left for those of us who have moved on up like the Jeffersons?
Do we simply look back on our early years as hard-earned memories, or do we try to give back in meaningful ways despite not living in day-to-day conditions of the ’hood?
I’m willing to wager it will take more than a few of us who have made it not only to give back, but also to move back, raising the boats of those around us.
So, who wants to go first?