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I came into this world as a baby who would never cry. Instead, I would stare and observe everything around me. Even now as a 24-year-old Black man, I never cry around others. I don’t have that luxury. Being Black in America often means that we’re not afforded the same luxuries as everyone else. From slave shackles to prison cells, our light is boxed in, and our reach is limited.

My mother, Brenda, was born and raised in Gary, Indiana, once the home of Black prosperity and the Jackson 5. My father, Ronald, was born in Oakland California, the city that my grandparents and many other Black people fled to during the first and second Great Migration.

Both of my parents faced hardships throughout their lives. By the time my mother was 16, she had lost both of her parents and has been working ever since to provide for her 3 younger siblings.

My father had his own demons to deal with. He never explicitly told me, but it was my understanding that his father was hard on him, and that they had a strained relationship until my grandfather passed away in 1993.

My grandmother was the sweetest little woman you could ever meet, she hailed from Little Rock, Arkansas. Now that I’m older, I regret not spending more time with her, or learning more about her life while she was here.

I was born and raised in Hayward, California, just 15 minutes southeast of Oakland. Hayward, (also known as “The Stack”, or “Haystack”), is a special place to me. It always represented what the Bay Area looked like to me. It was a melting pot of poverty, real diversity, middle class, and hard workers. Hayward is where I met all of my childhood friends. It was the city where my parents found each other and eventually got married. It’s the only place that I’ll ever truly call home.

We had a nuclear family: A mother, a father, two children, and a dog. The hard
work my parents put in provided me with a real childhood. That was all but taken away from me on October 5th, 2010.

I wasn’t supposed to be here. Everything that I’ve lost on that day should
have sealed my fate. On that day, My childhood was ripped away from me, along with my happiness. Everything that gave me joy disappeared.

So there I sat; heart racing, gasping for air, tears running down my cheeks. My head was lower than it had ever before.

For the first time in my life, I felt alone in this world. I had never known pain before until that day. That day was the day of my father’s funeral. That day lead to many more painful days which has shaped so much of my last 11 years on this earth.

I was just 13 at the time, still innocent enough to not know the faults and failures of society, yet old enough to realize that I would have to raise myself.

My mother could only do so much. She was now a single, widowed, mother of two teenage Black boys. She was always the breadwinner in our family, and she worked long hours to continue to provide after my father passed.

There wasn’t a day from age 13 to age 20 where I wasn’t on the losing side.
Losing faith in God. Losing faith in my so-called friends. Losing faith in myself. Then losing faith in family.

I mentioned earlier that we were a family of four. The last of the four was my mom’s other son, who will go nameless.

The word brother/brudder means something to me. It means that through
thick and thin you will be there for me whenever and that you can hold yourself accountable for your actions.

As if the loss of my father wasn’t enough, I then lost my sibling to laced drugs in 2013. I was 15 at the time and in my sophomore year at San Lorenzo High School. He was 17 going on 18 in his senior year of high school with a promising future. Prior to that point, he was someone I looked up to….someone that I leaned on. Someone that I learned from. That day in September of 2013, he left my life as he was beating the shit out of me for reasons I still don’t understand to this day. The next year he stressed my mom out to the point where she had to be taken to the hospital for a cardiac event.

I’m not traumatized from the times he popped my car tire, nor from the time he broke into my room and smashed my personal belongings. I’m traumatized from the multiple times he put his hands on my mother, always because she would refuse to give him more money to spend on drugs.

I wish it didn’t take a toll on me. I wish that I didn’t feel like I had to pick up the pieces every time. I wish I didn’t lock myself away in a box in my own home over the last 8 years, because I could never forgive myself if he caused my mother harm and I wish there to stop him. I wish that this pain would stop following me. But I know that if I don’t do some self-healing of my own, this trauma will consume me.

There are still days where I can’t breathe. I still find myself crying to sleep
because I have no one to turn to, and I’m alright with that. I’m quite alright with the fact that no one will fill the hole that was left in my heart from losing my father. More importantly, I’m alright with letting go of my trauma, which is a necessary step in my recovery.

My path is far from ordinary. My journey is far from complete. My life is far
from perfect, but my story shows that you can pull yourself out of any situation, even if you don’t have a support system.