I don’t know what most people think of when they think of high school, but I think that for most, it’s a mixture of feelings. A lot of us go through our awkward phase either right before or right when we enter it. We start trying to figure out exactly how we fit in with others. We become more aware of popularity, peer pressure, sex, drugs, and the different things that are going on in the world.
My school was no different. But there were a few notable exceptions. For one, there was initiation. This wasn’t for all of the kids, but the young black boys felt a need to “jump you in” to high school. In this day and age, it sounds like a form of bullying, but in some sense, it was a right of passage. We wanted to show we were tough as we entered the school, and they wanted to make sure we could defend ourselves and our school if something were to go down. And in those four years, a lot went down. Someone blew up the bathroom, a teacher got bombarded with water balloons, there were food fights, there was a gambling ring that was busted, and we were put on lock down so drug sniffing dogs could search the school. I don’t mean to glorify the drama, but those are some of the things that stick out…be it good or bad. There was also plenty of good like marching together to get a Black History course put in the curriculum, and plenty of teachers who truly tried, and cared about our success. Some of us hung out on “the block,” and some created our own “block” at a different location.
In my school, there were people that were born and bred in the town (typical suburbia), and there were those that didn’t actually live in the town, but lived with their “aunts” in town so they could go to the school. There were kids from the ghetto whose families moved them there for a better way of life. White, Black, Hispanic, Asian…hip, goth, awkward, confident, unsure, trouble makers, scholars,….we were brought together, and together we fought other towns, took home tons of trophies on the band trips, had soccer stars, actors, wrestlers, football players, and basketball ballers. This diversity has allowed us to not judge others as quickly as we otherwise might have…to realize that a lot of our differences are only skin deep. Most importantly, we had a ton of brains. Maybe we didn’t know it at the time, but if we look at where we are now, and see where our classmates are now, we made it…we did it. Not all, but most. It’s funny, if it were a reality show, you would have found it compelling, humorous, and inspiring. You’d watch it, I promise you that.
This is just a small part of what my school was, and just a vision of it from my narrow perspective. My school had a lot going on, but over the years I’ve learned that all of that gave us an unbreakable bond. We all shared these experiences, and people who otherwise would have never interacted, have memories of one another that will be there for a lifetime. Most of us aren’t the best of friends…shoot, we’re probably not friends at all anymore, and never will be. But we have that relationship, assisted today by social media outlets, that allows us to check in on one another from time to time. To give the little head nod of acknowledgement. To say, yeah…I remember…..and I won’t forget. Maybe all other schools are like that, but none are like mine.
Through the years, I know we’ve lost a handful, and I pay my respects to all of them, as well as the recent passing of Greg Watkins. May you all R.I.P….I remember….and I won’t forget, and I know I’m not the only one.