“My mama always used to tell me: ‘If you can’t find somethin’ to live for, you best find somethin’ to die for.” Tupac Shakur 

The first thing I learned about the hood is that most ‘white’ people don’t have an idea of what they are talking about. 

African American photoHere’s a story, Paul wanted to buy some marijuana and they drove into the projects of Paterson to buy a dime bag. Paul was in the passenger’s seat and rolled down his window with his ten dollars in his hand. The drug delaer promptly grabbed the ten dollar bill and punched Paul in the face and then ran away. What does that tell you?

A. The hood is a dangerous place.

B. Paul is a fool.

I have extensively studied ‘African American’ culture for a good number of years. I feel an affinity to the oppressed and I consider myself among their numbers. It is why I am ‘The Poet To The Poor’. Of course beside the academia there is my personal eight years of experience as a volunteer missionary to the inner city of Newark, New Jersey. Of which I was involved in outreach spanning the cities of Newark, Hillside and Irvington. I’ve knocked on several thousand doors and talked to hundreds of people.

When I was a child I heard a lot of racists jokes, none of which I would dare repeat. As I got older and I reflected on this, I realized that the young children espousing their filthy prejudices had zero contact with the brunt of their jokes. Still they were convinced of their ‘knowledge’ in their own minds.

If there is a strength to the inner city I would have to say it is community. People are not as well of economically and thus lack resources. As such some have to scrap along on the kindness of others. This tends to bring about a giving spirit. Almost every time I went to the store by the church building on Chancellor Avenue I was asked for money or to buy something to eat. Since I was a ‘minister’ and reflected the church I’d gladly spend a dollar on coffee or a snack. Contrast to the nasty classmate who borrowed a dollar from me when he forgot his money but refused to pay me back.

There were several murders on the corner by our store front church building. Drugs are dealt openly on the streets. The drug dealers were very friendly to me and I never had a single problem with them except when they didn’t realize I was with the church. At these times I was viewed as a customer and asked to buy drugs. I just smiled and politely declined. It is true many of the residents in the area are very much afraid of the drug dealers, so much so they are afraid to go out.

The rampant racism in this country is evident in the fact that the hood itself exists. Just like Native Americans are corralled into a ‘reservation’ so are people of darker skin kept in ‘the hood’. Racism is promoted by the very rich who control this world as a means to keep poor people divided. If you have the poor whites putting down the poor blacks they’ll never united to defeat the rich, it’s as simple as that.

Funerals in the hood are well attended. I didn’t find that so where I grew up. Maybe I was isolated and unpopular but I didn’t see the same community that existed in my middle class, white, abode. It seemed like for the most part everybody was taking care of themselves.

To be perfectly honest I like things better in Newark than where I grew up. The people simply treated me better and kinder. Perhaps that has a lot to do with the great changes that had occurred in my life or that most of my associates are Christians.

So why quote Tupac? I am told that he tells it like it is, just like me.

Check out my life story in my memoirs More Than The Madness  https://johnkaniecki.weebly.com/more-than-the-madness.html

Photos by Bill Gantz,