The idea of identifying a scar in my life immediately connects me with many stories.
I would like to say first that although I am sad that I am able to recall so many physical, mental and emotional scars in my life inflicted by others, by the grace of God and having been on a men’s team for the past 15 years, I have been fathered and cared for by the men in such a way that I feel healed and whole.
The year was 1974 and it was an exciting time for me as a 9-year-old young boy. Up until that point I had lived in South Central Los Angeles five years in the Watts Projects on 103rd, two on 65th & Vermont and two on 43rd and Wall. One of my mother’s friends from her work had recently moved out of the area to Carson, California to a place called The Scottsdale Townhouses.
Within a couple of months we also moved there. It was the first time I can recall ever traveling outside the Los Angeles area. I can remember getting to our new home and feeling a sense of security I hadn’t felt before. From a young boys eyes what stood out to me was it being a gated community with security guards at the entrances. It was also the first time we had not lived in an apartment with either someone living above or below us.
The Scottsdale community was separated into North and South with a huge park in the middle, which included a pool, playground and community center. From my eyes it was a paradise. As a matter of fact the middle tracts of townhomes were named Paradise Valley North and Paradise Valley South. One of the things that was exciting about this move was there were a few whites that live in Scottsdale, albeit the majority were black. I had not had a single white friend up until that point in my life. The quality of living for me was improved substantially as a result of our move, however there was still a high level of gang crime and violence.
There were many instances where I incurred physical, mental and emotional scars during the three years I lived in Scottsdale and I am going to share two of them.
The first happened within a couple of months of living in Scottsdale, when I was 10.
There were some boys throwing a football in the park within 50 yards of my house. A neighbor friend and I walked over to the park hoping to join in throwing and catching the football. Within a couple of minutes of me walking onto the grass area and motioning to throw me the ball, an older teenager ran full speed into me from the side.
I was probably about 80 pounds at that time and was knocked violently onto the ground. All I can recall is being laughed at and racial slurs being made because I was white, I was the only white kid in the park. I was hurt pretty bad and had to be carried home. I had sustained an injury to my back and was in bad shape for a few weeks. Needless to say there was no recourse to the young man that had caused my injury; there were no men in my life to defend me; there were no x-rays or MRI’s to be taken. Just me to sit inside being a victim, fantasizing about how someday I would be the hero and get all the bad guys.
The physical, mental and emotional scars I experienced that day stayed with me for years, and although I have no evidence of it I believe it contributed to the many back and neck aliments I have experienced throughout my entire life.
Ditching School; Avoiding Trauma
The other story occurred when I was 12 and was enrolled to start 6th grade middle school at Wilmington junior high.
My best friend at the time Greg Madison and I walked to school together as we had done every day in elementary. The walk was about almost two miles, so we left early to have time to find our classroom on the first day. As we approached the school there were crowds near the football field, a number of police cars and other emergency vehicles. As we got closer we could see something on the field goal post and realized it was a rope that someone had been hung from.
What we had heard from others in the crowd is a gang had hung someone. I don’t know whose idea it was – Greg or I – but we immediately turned around and went back to his house. We were both mentally and emotionally scarred from that experience, and I don’t ever recall us talking to our moms about it.
For the following 2-3 months we did not attend school. We went to the park in the morning and hid until Greg’s mom left to work. Then we went to his house and watched TV all day. Eventually our moms did find out from the school that we never made it, and ultimately we were forced to go school. Fortunately for me it was only for about a month or so as my family was on the move again, this time to Lawndale.
So what is the end to all this?
These stories and many others have given me compassion and understanding for others who have had less than ideal childhood experiences. They are also part of my life and have helped to develop and define the unique human being that I am, just like other men’s stories have developed them.
Whether they are good or bad, happy or sad, my life experiences are mine and mine alone.