Survival Mode is a Death Sentence

I’ve lived in Baltimore my entire life. That’s almost 45 years. I’ve been a driver for two plus decades. For as long as I can remember, squeegee boys (edit: workers) have always been around. My experiences with these youth have always been positive, whether I had money to give them or not. I remember driving westbound from Harbor East and about three young men were weaving in and out of traffic at the intersection of President & Lombard on foot with the youngest of them appearing to be about 7-years-old. It was a weeknight. All the boys were school-aged or appeared to be. It was just after dark outside. I rolled down my window. I don’t remember now if I had money to give them. “It’s dark out here. Your family know you out here this late?” Looking at the littlest one who was basically shadowing a young man who looked about 13-years-old. “Y’all related?” The older one said that was his little brother. I wondered where the parents were. I was concerned for their safety. I’m always concerned about their safety. Unlike some of the comments from others who consider them a nuisance to the city amongst other things, I see children. I speculate that most aren’t out there as a hobby or pastime but out of necessity. I’d rather not see children at any intersection risking their safety, dodging cars in motion, weaving in and out of traffic in an attempt to make money. I do wonder if these same individuals hold the same opinion of panhandlers or The Girl Scouts or the Santa soliciting donations for the Salvation Army. What about the people selling flowers at some of these same intersections? What about the white, opioid-addicted beggars in Black neighborhoods? Are they also a nuisance to these same people?

This past summer, a fatal incident in Baltimore involving squeegee workers and a 48-year-old male made headlines. A 15-year-old boy has been charged as an adult for the alleged shooting of the motorist, who approached the group of boys with a bat. The 15-year-old, who was 14-years-old at the time of the encounter, was initially offered 60 years. The child’s defense team rejected the offer (thankfully) and understandably so. What would cause a grown ass man to get out of his vehicle, cross several lanes of traffic to approach a group of teenagers with a bat? What would have happened if he was able to strike one of those boys?

My biggest issue with this situation is that the child in question is being charged, held and tried as an adult. The problem with holding a child to the same standard as an adult is just that. This boy is not an adult. He doesn’t have the capacity to think as an adult nor should there be any expectation of him to think nor behave as such. There are many books, scholastic articles and other resource materials that would indeed support that fact. To have the expectation that a child of any age should have the same impulse control of a fully-developed adult is entirely unrealistic and unjust. Unfortunately, this is a societal and systemic trend as it relates to Black children, especially. Holding children to standards that (too many) adults aren’t being held accountable to maintain is problematic and dangerous. I mean, the young man responsible for the massacre in Charleston got a police escort to a burger joint afterwards.

The way I see it: poverty is the culprit as violence thrives amongst the impoverished. As long as poverty is allowed to ravish communities, nobody’s safety can be guaranteed.

Get Down or Lay Down

“I won’t melt.”

I giggle every time I say it, or some other variation of that statement, usually after somebody asks me about having an umbrella. I hardly ever carry an umbrella, unless I absolutely can’t avoid it without getting drenched–and even then, I’ll still bargain with myself if I’m close enough to deal with it until I get where I’m going. I can’t remember the last time I even bought one. As of today, I have one that was given to me by the second brother in the last month or so that has offered me one. The latter gentleman kind of “Debo’d” me this time, though.

I’m pretty well-versed in my own self-awareness. I’m aware of my quirks, emotional triggers, and the fact that my ego at times, is a fire-breathing monster that I’ve kept alive too long–amongst a host of other issues I’m learning to unlearn. With that said, I’ve yet to pull the plug on the monster, but I’m getting there. Brick by elevated (uncomfortable but necessary) brick. Meanwhile, I’m still working towards reprogramming how I translate, respond to, the need for–and acceptance of– help/assistance/support. In my mind, I’ve somehow made the connection that needing help/assistance/support equals damsel in distress. And I don’t do damsel. I’d rather die first. Full disclosure: I don’t even understand my own logic sometimes. That’s a whole other case study waiting to happen–one that’s going to require unpacking with someone more credentialed and far more qualified than myself. I can’t get to a therapist fast enough.

Again, I know me, myself & I. We’ve been in this thing a long time, but I believe we’re growing tired to the point of exhaustion now.

Anyway, “winter is here”, and I’m en route to a ‘GoT’ themed watch party. The rain that night was steady enough to warrant having an umbrella on hand. My driver, quite the gentleman, hops out the car as I approach, umbrella in hand, pops it open and positions it over my head as he opened the car door for me. Insert *swoon* here. One time for chivalry.

He hops back in the car and we ride a few blocks exchanging pleasantries. He offers me some premium water in lieu of the generic brand that was in the storage part of my door, and I’m thinking: Brother is getting rated with all the stars and a tip for his impeccable service.

We chat it up a little more about current events, social issues, metaphysics and such. Needless to say, it got a little deep. He asked if I was originally from Baltimore and shared some of his own personal details. This wasn’t a short ride, obviously.

The conversation dies down a bit and we’re getting close to my drop-off location. He then offers me an umbrella and says to feel free to take it with me.

“I appreciate the offer, but I’m ok. Thank you.”

“You sure? You’re welcomed to take it with you.”

“I won’t melt.” He laughed and let it go, but he wanted me to have it, but I was standing firm on my square.

Fast forward to Friday afternoon. I’m walking to the library as it starts to drizzle a bit. Thinking out loud, I remind myself that I should commit to checking the weather more consistently, while Spirit sarcastically whispers how owning an umbrella wouldn’t hurt.

“Eh. I won’t melt.”

Spirit was not amused, but I was.

Later that evening, I decide on dinner, which requires me heading to a few stores in my neighborhood. It’s threatening to rain again, but I’m not deterred, because again: “Brown sugar don’t melt in the rain!” I know my Spirit tribe tires of me and my antics. I wear my own self out sometimes, but whatever. Off to the stores we go.

On the way back, it starts coming down hard and I hear: “About that umbrella…”

I’m laughing at this point because….touché, but as it stands…ain’t no umbrella. So, I’m gonna just have to be wet for a few blocks. Oh well…

As I’m approaching the convenience store on my block, there’s a few older brothers congregating under an awning, talking amongst themselves like they usually do. I cross the street and before I know it, one of them pops open his umbrella, rushes to put it over my head, hands it to me, and walks back to his spot. I thank him, as the others are co-signing the gesture with, “look at that!”, “right on time!”, and “that’s right!” At this point, I’m not only in awe of his precision, but also laughing and shaking my head at how aggressive my tribe has been lately, rightfully and justifiably so when it comes to me, my hang ups and idiosyncrasies.

As I’m leaving out the store, I yell to the man whose umbrella I’m now in possession of, who also happens to be the security guard at the convenience store I frequent. I’m trippin’ a little off the fact that whenever I come into the store, I always speak and how he barely even utters a response each time. Add that to another one of the reasons why I was taken aback by his gesture, but I digress.

As I’m attempting to tell him I can return his umbrella when I come back to the store, he waves me off with a “get outta here” and yells out:

Wait for it…..

“I ain’t want you to melt!”

Shouts out to the Universe, my ancestors and my entire Spirit tribe for pulling a me on me.