My mom doesn’t care if I walk like this…
Growing up in the Bronx meant you had to have a mean walk, the meaner the walk, the least likely you were to be set upon as a target.
And keeping that bull’s-eye off your back meant the avoidance of becoming labeled a statistic, a victim, a casualty of some other young tough whose walk was meaner than yours.
These were the unwritten rules of the streets. Rules learned more though observation than conversation.
And no one in my life had a meaner walk than my cousin Herman. His ditty bop was so hard that he must’ve appeared to have one leg shorter than the other to the casual outside onlooker.
I remember the first time I decided to adopt my older cousin’s mean walk. I spent the entire weekend sleeping over his house, practicing in his shadow.
If he noticed me, he didn’t say anything. As I walked directly behind him attempting to get the dip of my leg coordinated with my shoulder. I was trying to figure out the proper height of the bop with the sway of my body and get them all in a synchronized dance of toughness.
Damn, this walk was much tougher than it looked.
I was about nine-years-old and it was time to unveil my walk to the world.
My siblings and I were walking up the Grand Concourse with our mother on the way to school. I’d been doing my ditty bop for about two blocks when my mother finally noticed my new tough guy walk.
I felt the crash of her hand against the back of my head and coupled with my off balance walk – I think I was on the down strut of my bop – the force sent me flying into the concrete sidewalk…
“I’m not raising no titere here… so you better straighten up that walk mister.”
It was my mom taking a stand against me turning into everything wrong our community was becoming.
Of course this was before the anti beat-your-kids-ass laws went into affect. It was still a time when parents could be parents and lay a respectable smack down on their children for misbehaving, disrespecting and just plain getting out-of-line.
In today’s society many children keep ACS (Administration for Children’s Services) on speed dial on their iPhones – just incase mom and dad even think about disciplining them.
Over the last few years I’ve had a lot of back and forth dialogue with people about the fact that it’s the parent’s responsibility to raise their children.
But the question still remains, “What happens when the parents are children themselves?”
Or better yet, “What happens when the parents don’t care to be parents?”
Or when the parents believe that raising overly aggressive kids who are quick to fight and curse is the right way to go, for the sake of their children’s survival on these same mean streets Piri Thomas wrote about over 40 years ago?
Never have I personally had to analyze so closely these questions. Not until last week when I received a call from a school in the South Bronx in need of assistance.
And what shook me to the core of my foundation was that it wasn’t a High School and it wasn’t even a Middle School…
I won’t name the school here because they’ve taken a bold, drastic and just plain desperate step in contacting me to come in and assist them with the problems they’re experiencing with their children.
And when I say children I’m speaking about first and second graders.
Yes, you heard me right… 1st and 2nd Graders!!!
When I sat down to meet with the Principal she shared with me that they’ve reached out to many organizations and many politicians to no avail.
I was most disappointed to hear that a letter to Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. went completely ignored.
Ruben, you have to do better than that brother. You simply can’t ignore a schools cry for help, especially when you’re the President of said Borough!
I sat there listening to stories of how the children fight with each other, the things they say to each other, the things their parents say to them, what parents say to each other and on and on.
It scarred my heart that children this young were already cursing and talking about drugs, violence and sex. And it took me back to being in a sneaker store a few months earlier when I heard a mother say to the most gorgeous little girl, “If you keep walking away from me, I’m gonna beat your stupid ignorant ass so bad when I get you home…”
Did she just call that little doll STUPID and IGNORANT???
I shook my head and gave the mother the meanest look I could muster up, meaner than my Cousin Herman’s walk. But I still felt like I failed the little girl when I failed to tell her mother verbally that the way she’d spoken to her daughter was beyond disgusting.
While I was sitting in the Principal’s office – this time an invited guest - it became apparent to me that what the youth in a lot of these communities are missing are mentors to replace the parents they don’t have.
What they’re missing is a professional adult in their life who will be honest with them about the difficulties of life, while at the same time mentoring them about all the possibilities that await them if they can survive the dire circumstance they were born into.
So I’m asking all of my readers to reach down deep inside and come up with alternative solutions for these children whose lives are just beginning and who are already destined to fail due to their upbringing.
This is exactly what I’ve been talking about when I say if the parents fail their children in the homes… it’s up to the community at large to pick up that responsibility and save these children from a lifetime of failure.
And now it’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is and be the community leader I’ve set out to be.
Now it’s time for all of us to find a viable, measurable solution for combating the brainwashing their parents are doing to them.
I don’t want any of these kids saying, “My mom doesn’t care if I walk this way… if I talk this way…”
But even if they do say this, I want them to follow up that sentence with, “But my mentor does care if I walk this way… talk this way…”
I want to smack these kids with a dose of love the likes of which they’ve never seen.
I’m about to adopt this school for the next few years… But I can’t do it alone… So I need to know who’s with me.
Mentors needed immediately!
If you’re interested in helping me with your ideas, your talent, your skill set or your mentorship abilities, please contact me immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.