Coming from Where I’m from by Jerry Gray

Growing up in the Greater Fifth Ward area, you see and hear about a lot. I can guarantee you, success was the least of them. Seeing everyone around you struggling, failing, and dropping out is hard when you’re trying to keep a level mind. I decided I would try my absolute best to beat statistics. Even though I did my dirt while it lasted, I’ve always gone to school and given it my all. I was good in all subjects other than math. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried or studied, I still failed miserably in math. I started to doubt myself to the point I was giving zero effort. For example, when I didn’t know an answer I would close my eyes and guess the first one I’d see. I know, that’s horrible.

I grew up in a single parent household, because of my father passing when I was only eleven. This sudden and unexpected death left my mother to raise six kids on her own. I’m the third eldest out of six, and I can tell you things weren’t always all smiles. Couple of years go by and I’m getting by in math class barely. I was trying to study and do the right thing while watching my mother struggle. The lights were getting disconnected, and eating noodles and cold sandwiches daily became almost unbearable to me. I started hanging with a couple of friends that were already in the streets doing wrong.  Hustling, gambling, robbing, etc., they did almost anything under the sun for money. My father was one of the well-respected dope dealers in our neighborhood, so hustling wasn’t new to me. I’m fourteen now and I’m in the game to win. I started hustling to make ends meet but continued with school with dreams of being a firefighter.  I continued to go to school, studying, not missing any days or class periods. I juggled school and hustling back and forth for quite a while. By the time I was sixteen, two of my close friends and I were running our own trap house. We’re in the eleventh grade now with fully loaded Lincolns, Cadillac, SS impalas, Jordans, jewelry and top of the line clothes. If they could name it, we had it. The end of the school year was finally here. This is when all juniors face reality.

We all received our report cards; these two didn’t really care for school. Unsurprisingly, I was the only one who would become a senior starting the new school year. One of my friends acted as if he failing didn’t affect him. But my other friend was in a bad mood. Later that summer, they both decided school  wasn’t for them. Now they’re really in the streets full time. I stuck with school, kept my head in the books and studied the best way I know how. I continued to hustle on the weekends and with whatever free time I got. We all ended up getting into a fight over gambling, and this resulted in us not hearing  from one friend for months. Roughly three months later, I learned that the friend who didn’t show any emotions towards school was convicted for first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole. We tried our hardest to continue with life and not let the bad news interrupt our future. I and the friend that survived me in the free world agreed on a big drop to Louisiana. If this was successful we would profit around 39,000 a piece. We promised each other this was our last time; then we would be through with the game. Before we got on the road, I got a phone call saying, “Come to the hospital, your son will be here any minute”. I was excited and confused at the same time. For one thing, I didn’t know anything about a baby so I was curious to see. When I arrived at the hospital I saw a girl I messed around with one time with no strings attached after whatsoever. “Damn,” I said as I thought to myself, remembering the condom popping. I decided to stay and go to the hospital, of course. My friend decided to go along without me. I didn’t hear from him for a couple of months and I became worried. I learned later that week that he was stopped on I-10 better known as, “The Dope Zone”. He fought the case from inside and ended up with 13 years in a Federal boot-camp. My heart dropped, my soul felt cold, and I was mad at the world.

Months later I got kicked out of my school district with only a couple months to graduation. Stressing about everything, I started fighting, class disruption, and simply not coming at times.  I got accepted to a good district by the grace of God with my school record. I promised myself from that moment on I would do right and finish school no matter how hard it was. I ended up with 8 classes in credit recovery along with the regular 7. I got a little better at math but still struggled. I wanted to give up, but then I thought about where I’d been and where I’m trying to go. Sometimes it gets rough, other times it’s almost unbearable. I just think to myself, “I’m a man now; I have another man to raise.”

Coming from Where I’m from by Jerry Gray

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