Chess, Choices and Needles in the Park....


This morning I was at a park in San Jose with my students. They were playing tag, pushing one another on the swings and throwing footballs as kids love to do. Suddenly one of the boys approached me smiling, waving a hypodermic needle.

"Mr. B, what is this for? What does it do?!"

"Put that down right now!" I barked. "Right now."

He dropped it. Scared. I never yelled at any of the kids like that before.

"Where did you get this?" I asked.

"By the bench. By the baby swings." he said in a low tone.

"Did you poke yourself? Did you poke anybody? I need to know the truth." My voice had less traces of panic it.

He shook is head. "I just picked it up. I did not know what it was."

I called all the students over. I explained what the needle on the cement was often used for. That people use it to shoot drugs and you can get HIV, Hepatitis C or B from getting cut by them and how those things often kill people. I told them "When I was your age, I never played in parks with needles and stuff in them. You shouldn't have do. But this is real life. So, you have to know what is going on in this world. I know people say 'Say no to drugs' but you guys have to know this will cut your life short. Immediately. Cut it right off..."

I told him to go wash his hands then I had him see the nurse to look at his hands for abrasions or cuts just to make sure he was ok. He was.

I got rid of the needle.

Just as I headed off I saw a mother bring two 3 year olds to the area where the needle had been laying. My heart started racing. "What if one of them found it and scraped themselves or their brother or sister with the needle, not knowing?" I asked myself. "What if the mother never saw. She'd always wonder." They waddled past me, oblivious.

 I had the next few classes come out with me and clean the park. I told most of them why. I got exhausted emotionally telling 12, 13, and 14 year olds what happened. I had a cousin die of heroin at 19...I kept seeing his face....Sometimes I see people who look like, what I think he would look like if he were alive....Their faces stay in my mind.... I recently had a dream about a student I mentored who was killed a few months ago. In my dream, he was in a fight with another student. In the dream I watched the fight and did nothing to break it up. I awoke shaken.

Sometimes I rub people the wrong way. Don't get me wrong. I'm friendly, and silly. I watch cartoons more than anything, mostly to escape the pain of reality. However, at times, I can be short with people or seemingly lost in thought. I often am.

I feel like when I do my job wrong, death happens. I know we all die anyway. I know. But when I don't get through to my kids, I know a jail cell or a coffin is waiting for them.

When I started jiu-jitsu at Ralph Gracies' he used to get so pissed off if he thought you were doing a move sloppily or without passion and focus. It used to boggle my mind. "Why is he tripping?" I would ask myself. I understand now though. His fear, was that learning his teachings wrong you might find yourself in a real situation and you would lose. He took your loss personally.

"Didn't that guy train with Ralph? I thought they knew how to fight better." That was Ralph's nightmare and he still gives his all passing on the wisdom and the toughness of mind and body.

"Didn't he learn from Adisa.? I thought she played chess?" That, is my nightmare.

I take these losses personally. So if I ever seem like I take the methods of HHCF too seriously. If I ever come off like understanding Hip-Hop history and subculture matter a lot...If I ever seem like I take chess and life strategies too seriously. This is why.

Because kids bring me hypodermic needs in class and I'm trying to make sure they live. Not just today, but ten years from now I want them to be alive because I taught them how to survive.

Over the course of cleaning the park we found a bag of weed (with a little left in it), a weed pipe and a lighter. Gang tags were all over the park benches. Our kids deserve better. I will do all I can to give them better and I promise you. I will die trying.

I don't have any love for any gang. I don't have any love for dope dealers.


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