857 Tecumseh Street
Flashbacks of a once proud, thriving, working-class black community segregated from the harsh reality of ghetto life. I remember like it was yesterday, kids playing kickball, tag football, hopscotch, jumping double dutch and sting ray bike races.
Me and my boy's chill-in on the corner of Tecumseh and Miller talking smack, watch-in honey's swag they fatty, as they glide down Tecumseh St. Life was predictable as “Good Times” and roses still bloom where the asphalt cracked.
40 years later all that now remained are abandoned factories and run-down vacant single-family dwellings that use to be somebody home. The corner of Tecumseh and Miller was now overgrown with ghetto tumbleweed, littered with empty 40-ounce malt liquor bottles and crushed, rusty Faygo pop cans. If I had not grown up around this neighboorhood, I would have sworn I was in a third world country, not in America.
I slowly drove my 1997 Honda Civic down my old block staring at the young idol brothers standing on the corner staring back at me. Urban foot soldiers without a war, who choose to wage a personal battle against each other. Their rage is fueled by poverty, guns, absent fathers, drugs, hopelessness, gangs, and unemployment
They knew I didn’t belong in their hood, a stranger in my old neighborhood.
I tried to associate the homes with names of the residents who once occupied them back in the day, but like unmarked graves, death claimed their identities. All my childhood memories had vanished, not one recognizable face, the ghetto had blanked my past.
I wanted to park my vehicle and walk the block but decided against it. I was overcome by my emotions nothing was the same. My hood stood in ruins, like an act of war was declared against the residents by social injustice; manufacture closings, the crack epidemic, urban removal and black children being bused away like refugees.
My instincts kicked in, nothing was recognizable not even the home I grew up in for 18 years. I drove up to the abandoned dilapidated house parking in front of my childhood home. I just wanted to take one last look at the house that encapsulated so many joyful memories. The 57 was turned upside down and the 8 was missing from above the front door frame that was wide open. The weathered porch was in desperate need of repair. The railings had been kicked free from their frame and the foundation slopped from erosion. Half the windows in the house were broken, the remaining boarded up with graffiti tagged plywood. The exterior green paint was cracked and peeling from neglect. I wanted to walk inside but the piss smell stinch knocked me back outside into the fresh air.
How could I explain to my children this was the neighborhood I so proudly bragged about growing up in? There was nothing left to be proud of just faded memories of a distant past.
Sadly I slowly drove away right on Miller, left on Nebraska to Collingwood Ave, onto the freeway entrance. I didn't look back, the past was behind me realizing the most important lessons I learned in life occurred while growing up at 857 Tecumseh Street.
I smiled as I reminisce about the good times; my first kiss, my childhood friends (William, Dino, Kevin, Steve, and Duane) and the security of knowing my innocence had been spared.
Like missing pages, I wished I could rewrite my childhood and hand it back to the children who lost theirs.
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