“As adults, we’ve forgotten what we came from or where we came from.”
Hold a Conversation
In addition to the questions below, please see How to use the questions for reflection.
- What does the storyteller value from his upbringing?
- How does he describe the discipline he experienced in the neighborhood?
- When the storyteller says, “We believed in everybody and they believed in us,” can you tell where he thinks that belief came from?
- Why does the storyteller see moving away as a problem?
- Why does he think today’s kids in Gary should know there used to be three or four Pop Warner teams?
- How does this storyteller’s experience confirm yours or challenge yours?
- What does it mean to forget where you’ve come from? what does it mean to remember? do you fall into one category or the other?
- What external factors do you know of that keep the whole family and the whole neighborhood from helping raise kids?
- Can you imagine something you can do as an individual to help raise the city’s kids? or does it have to be a communal effort? or a city effort?
Let us know how the conversation or self-reflection went. Email us or discuss the experience in our comment box.
Transcript for The Village Raised Us
I was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. I grew up on the west side of town on Clinton Street, two blocks from West Side High School.
When I left the house that morning, I stayed at school the entire day. There’s no such thing as I’m trying to hurry up and get home. I went to school at seven o’clock in the morning cause I was an ROTC drill team commander my senior year, so I was there at seven o’clock for drill team practice. Left from there; go to class. After class, during football season it’s football practice. Then after football practice, I went to karate class.
So by the time I got home it was like seven thirty or eight o’clock. I did get home in time to do homework, my chores, which was wash dishes or, if it was my brother’s week, he’d wash the dishes and I’d clean up the basement.
Now with summer, it was like: you’re up, you went around the neighborhood, you played sports, you know, if you went from one thing to another. You rode your bike; it was safe to ride your bike back then to wherever you wanted to. But when them street lights came on, you had to be in the house, or you had to be anywhere in distance where you could hear your mother calling you. That’s the thing – we didn’t have cell phones and all that back then – you had to listen to the voice of your mom, cause you could be blocks away and hear your name. And you knew that was the time that “Hey, I need to get home,” and your friends did too. So you could see us all flying home on our bikes cause we knew when those street lights come on, we had to be in the house.
When I came through, you had all five schools. You had West Side, Horace Mann, Wirt, Wallace and Roosevelt. Each of them had a ROTC program. Each year in March we would have a citywide competition. You had male drill team and female drill team, and the whole city is inside West Side gym, from the floor all the way up to the ceilings on the second floor is how it used to be. Like the Superbowl for high school. Who has the bragging rights to be called the number one drill team in the city? So then as the schools close and as the program withered away, cause you only have West Side with ROTC program, now, it’s not a big deal like it used to be.
We had recreation every summer. We had arts and crafts at one point, we went and learned geography at another class area, we had basketball, we had all kind of other stuff to do during the summer. And we ate lunch there amongst each other. So we’d be at recreation and parents didn’t have to worry where we were at over the summer while they was at work. So our parents was working eight to four, that one hour, we’re home, they know where we’re at the next six hours, so between the first hour they’re gone, we’re home. The last hour before they come home, we’re back at home. But they know those six hours they have recreation: “I don’t have to worry about where my child I s at because I know that’s where they’re at.” And we had people who lived in the neighborhood who might have worked evenings or nights that kept an eye on us. So we all did come home. “Hey, I got your son, he’s here at my house. Don’t have to worry about nothing.”
We was always disciplined by everyone, so it wasn’t that, we just couldn’t just say, “Well, my mom this, my mom that,” or “I’m going to tell my mother.” Naw, if I did it with my neighbor, then that neighbor parent got a chance to correct both of us if we was wrong. Then my mother would say that too. She would always say that if you did it with them, then you deserve the punishment with them. It’s not just that you can’t say anything to my son because I was in the wrong. If I did it with my friend Tim, his mother or father had the right to say something to me as well. That’s just how it was done back then when I grew up. ‘Cause it takes everybody to teach someone how to be. It’s not just one person or that one family; it’s the whole family as a whole and your neighborhood that you grew up, that you respected.
That’s where it comes from, like, the village raising each other, because we had that aspect of being safe. We didn’t have to worry about, okay if we go next door, this is going to happen or that’s going to happen. We believed in everybody and they believed in us, and they helped raise us, and they watched over us.
As we got older as adults, we’ve forgotten what we came from or where we came from, and realize that in order to make our kids better, we have to provide these things for them. But a lot of us have moved on or moved away, so we’re taking them things to the other areas, in the area where we live at.
I see a lot lacking, and it’s because no one wants to come here and put in the work or the effort or the money into this for some reason. I don’t know why. But, I mean, if I’d had the chance I would because we have a lot of kids who don’t know that we had Bitty Basketball everywhere, who don’t know we had little league baseball here and there, who don’t know that we have–we only got one Pop Warner team–no we had three, four Pop Warner teams.
So it gave us, as we were growing up, something to do besides standing in the streets, hanging on the corner, just not–or at home just playing Xbox or PlayStation all the time. We had something to do.