“Every ghetto, every city and suburban place I’ve been, makes me recall my days in the New Jerusalem”, Lauryn Hill, “Every Ghetto Every City”
Yesterday as I was driving home from work, one of my favorite songs by Lauryn Hill came on. It’s always been one of my favorites because I always felt as if I’ve walked those streets & neighborhoods she talked about in “Every Ghetto Every City”, while growing up in New Jersey. Although technically, I wouldn’t call the area of NJ where I grew up as the “ghetto”, but I could throw a rock and it would hit Irvington & Newark, easily.
I remember how we would collect the change we found and walk up the hill to the bodega corner store and buy quarter waters, brown sandwich bags filled with candy and salt and vinegar potato chips. Back then a $1 went a long way. All of the kids on our block would flock to our porch & drive way to play games like Hot Peas & Butter, Hopscotch, and Mother May I. Being that tomboy that I was, it wasn’t uncommon to see me running up & down the street playing kick ball or football with the boys and my uncles. I didn’t have time for Barbie dolls and girly activities. I was the one black girl who couldn’t jump double dutch for nothing, but I had a good arm & could throw the football farther than most of the boys.
Of course not every day on our block was fun and games. There’s one incident that stands out vividly in my mind. It was the first time I learned about suicide. Kelly & Kendall were twins who lived across the street. Even though they were practically adults, they were always involved with the younger kids. Kelly, was very active in coaching girl sports and a lot of the other girls looked up to her in that aspect. Kendall was the cute one. I think every little girl had a crush on him. I remember the day Kelly killed herself, in her mother’s house. Gun shot wound to the head. I remember my mother walking up the street from work and someone telling her what happened and her bursting into tears. Not only was that the time I learned of suicide, it was the first time I heard of a lovers triangle between women, which caused her to kill herself. The eerie feeling lasted for weeks on our block. No one ever spoke of the incident, but we all knew that we were thinking about it.
I haven’t been back home recently, and listening to the Lauryn Hill song definitely has me waxing poetic about my upbringing. These past couple of weeks, I’ve been able to come across a few of my friends who lived a few houses to the right of me & a few houses to the left of me, one of which actually lives within a thirty minute drive of me now. It’s interesting to share stories and memories of our old block, and how living there shaped us and changed up.
“Hillside brings beef with the cops…Self-Destruction record drops”, not to many people know Hillside, but I”m glad to have known of it……