What if someone were to tell me that the games I play would not change but would evolve one day. What if someone were to tell me that these very same games will fashion my way of thinking from here on out, that the way we play as kids will be the way we think and act as adults.
What if someone were to tell me that I should be mindful of the thoughts I have because they become spoken words. Be mindful of those very words, they become actions. Watch out for those actions, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny. All from a thought, the choices I make will soon become my character. If someone were to tell me that, I would tell them they are crazy. Stone, cold crazy!
Remember grade school, in the middle of the cafeteria, during lunch hour? Me and my friends would gather in a circle, somewhere far off in a corner (Well, according to my Nana. It’s “My friends and I.”) away from any teachers and out of the sight of any authority whatsoever. Our own little space in time where no boy is judged by the color of his skin, but by the strength of his pencil. “Walk lightly, but carry a big pencil.”
Infamous, from city to city. Schoolyard to schoolyard. Friends and I would compete with each other to test the strength of each. Of the pencil, and of “the flick of the wrist.” Youthful, and playful “wars” in the middle of school cafeterias. Front and center on almost any blacktop in the hood. No basketball games were being played on this blacktop, you better believe.
This court is for fighting. Pencil fighting.
The Pencil Fight was the apex of our childhood, and unbeknownst to us, the gateway to most of our street violence. Who knew? Really? Who knew that such an innocent game of pencil fighting could be a gateway to street fighting? Who knew that while we were playing our favorite game, we were learning the competitiveness and callous nature of survival of the fittest? Survival of the fittest on these mean streets of—(insert your city here.)
I don’t know about your school, but my school had lunch outside weather permitting, of course. We always sat in the same seats. Assigned seating kept the Pencil Fight alive. The real players would tape their weapons of pencil destruction under their seats. I kept my pencil in my pocket. You just never know when you gotta get it on and popping up in here! I started packing pencils. Gradually, that pencil changed into a knife. That knife changed into a pistol. The Pencil Fight became a street fight. The Pencil Fighters became gang bangers. The youthful and playful “wars” became serious and deadly.
This street violence didn’t just blossom in the hood over night. No sir. This street violence has a beginning and an ending. Before we can get to any ending, we need to know and understand some of the beginning. Even if it is ugly and hurtful. Truth hurts. It also can set you free. If we can face the truth, head-on, about the origins of this street violence. We can do something about it. We can make a change. We can stop the vicious cycle.
If we look at the games kids used to play, we might be able to understand some of the games people play as adults.
As adults, we play games to manipulate the minds of others. We play games to get what we want from others. We even play games just to see someone else lose. We have a very competitive nature and take much pride in winning. Sometimes, too much pride. We will do almost anything to be victorious. Anything.
The bible says: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Who taught us pencil fighting? Who gave us the mindset that it is okay to take a perfectly good pencil and use it to destroy another perfectly good pencil? “Train a child up in the way he should go.” That very behavior made a whole lot of thugs and killers, with no remorse. So, squares beware.
The boys in the hood often competed on various levels which transcended into violence of some sort. How? You ask. Well, being boys we were always more aggressive. More aggressive than the girls. The girls were always more empathetic. And that’s just the way we expected them to act. We tend to be rough with boys and more gentle with girls; we give boys trucks and cars and give girls Barbie dolls and tea sets.
See, the neighborhood girls did not have to resort to violence like we did. They were made “with sugar and spice, and everything nice.” Our DNA is our history. And our history is that of conquerors. Conquerors like Napoleon, Attila the Hun, and Alexander the Great. After all, the defining characteristic of a conqueror is the ability to kill others and take their stuff. Even more, to convince people underneath you to kill people and to take their stuff.
By any means necessary, we set out to conquer all we ever encountered. By. Any. Means. Necessary.
If the Road Runner could drop an anvil on the head of the Coyote to get what he wanted, so could we. If the Road Runner and the Coyote could have wars with sticks of dynamite, so could we. Can’t get a stick of dynamite? It’s okay, my friend! Firecrackers mashed up and combined together will suffice. (The local library has a book for everything.)
That’s where the Roman Candle War was born. The Fourth of July, shooting fireworks in the sky. Why aim for the sky when we could be like the cartoons and shoot them at each other? Light. Aim. Fire.
Roman Candles were perfect for the neighborhood shootouts with fireworks. So, here you have young boys competing with each other just to be the “best on the block.” They grow into two grown men parading about on so-called reality TV in competition with other men. Maybe these men were mesmerized by a pencil fight or two. Something has made these boys grow up to be violent. Instead of being the best pencil fighter on the block, they strive to be the baddest thug on TV. Or in the hood. What a damn shame.
At 22 years old, I was a high school grad, but still a gang banger. I was your typical street thug. Even though I had a mother and a father who both loved me dearly. I still was raised in the streets, by the streets. I still was more street smart and less book smart, by choice. Granted, I liked the idea of being in school. All of my friends were there. School gave us the opportunity to bond. Not just through pencil fighting, either. No sir, pencil fighting may have started the bonding process. However, our imaginative and inquiring minds wanted to know more.
We bonded more through games and nursery rhymes. Then, one kid’s fun became another man’s poison.
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