By Julian Izaguirre
What am I to you, another news article? Or am I a statistic? Are you calculating my grades to see if I qualify for prison? Or do you want to give me a fair chance and qualify me for food stamps?
I don’t know that struggle of surviving off of stamps, but I know what it’s like to be called that bean that sits in the back. Tell me why is it that growing up without a father is the norm for a lot of us? ‘Cause we all grow up to be equal in some way. Why is it that we can’t have what other people have? Why do the minorities have to be the ones to stay sad? Why can’t we strive like they do without straying from our cultures? Why do we gotta apply to this world built for the white ones. Why is it that I need the stellar grades and a test made for the college kids to get accepted to a school of art? Why do I have to be the one to bust my ass to end up living like the next guy when the next guy looks me in the eye and says I’ve had this since I was knee high? Why do I have to struggle with family in ‘n out just for them to feel like they’re helping us out by slangin rocks? Why do I have to sit here and tell you my life story? Because my life story is the one that helps me build to what I want to be.
Here’s the breakdown: I grew up with a broken father going in ‘n out. I had a brother who constantly got stereotyped and with cousins who followed the role model. To them the streets were all they needed because that’s all they saw. With them in prison it was just me, my bro, and my momma who I’ve got all the love in the world for. You want the paint? Take this for the paint. You look at me and see broken, and you see a kid who’s hopeless, but if you were in my shoes you’d know that hopeless leads to homeless and homeless is what I’ve seen growing up ‘cause my aunt is there now, yet it all boils down to me.
Take the canvas: an apartment filled to the brim with people sleeping on the floors, people showering in the wee hours of the morning just to make it to school on time. A block being gentrified to run our people out of it so the other ones can live there while we’re all on the run.
What? You still want more? I’ll help you like Bob Ross once told me, and I’ll apply the liquid white. A kid going to school with hopes being crushed by people telling him he wasn’t shit but he keeps his hopes high so he can make it out of that ditch. Then you want me to tell you where everyone is? Lemme break it down again. My cousins are living happy lives, same goes for me and my brother. Living happily with a nephew who brings me joy, with a grandmother whose face lights up every time she sees us, and a mom who gets happy every time she hears us. My aunt, may god have mercy on her soul, who I pray for everyday to wake up and hear the birds chirping….There’s your paint, sir. I gave you all the tools and you want me to tell you more? Use what I gave you and do me a favor… paint the f’ing picture.
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
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