What’s good world! This is a story about a young man some of you may know and others may not, but let me take you on a ride through my life. I was born in March 1982 and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas on the south side of the city. The middle child of three, I had an older brother named Chris and a little sister, Katheryn. My single mother, Wendy, was so beautiful, hardworking, church going, and could sing her butt off. She had one of the most beautiful voices you would ever hear. She took care of her kids on her own and made sure we had things provided for.
Chris had a different father while Kat and I had the same dad. Our dad, Ramon, was a preacher and was part of a gospel singing group. His side of the family was into church heavy and could sing very well. I guess that’s how my mother and father met. Just about every weekend, I would go spend time with my dad and my paternal grandmother, Mae. Kat was too young, so she really couldn’t come. Grandma Mae just loved the boys of the family, not really caring much about the girls at all for some reason. I recall going to be with my dad to watch him sing and play drums, and sometimes lead the group on a song or two. My mother didn’t really care for him, as she would sometimes prevent my sister and I from seeing him and often calling him “Reverend Low Down.” I’m guessing she had personal issues going on with him. Sometimes my dad wouldn’t show up when he said he was coming. I would just have a fit and cry often times because I loved being around my dad so much.
As the years progressed, the streets started taking a bad turn in the late 80’s. Drugs and gangs were on the rise and my brother Chris was slowly getting more involved in the streets. He was hanging with his neighborhood friends. They all went to Mitchell Elementary, hung out every day, and played for a little league football team called the Sunset Tigers. One day Chris and his friends got together and made up a posse. This was during the time that gangster rap was thriving. You had your N.W.A’s and other similar groups, etc. Chris and friends, Alex, Harold, T.J., Bobby, Frankie, and Ant used to hang on this corner called Shillier, and on this corner the street number was 23rd. They decided to take 23rd and make it into a posse. They were kicking people’s butts fighting, stealing, and they were even doing makeshift tattoos with erasers putting “23rd” on their arms. The click took a turn in the early 90’s however. Some of the friends went their ways, but the posse continued to grow, turning into “the Crips.” Alex, Ant, Frankie, and Bobby, remained “23rd” and my brother Chris, Harold, T.J. became “8ball Bloods.” Later through the years, the friends became enemies, and over time relations worsened.
During this time in the early 90’s, it was evident the streets weren’t safe anymore. You had “Bloods” around the corner, and “Crips” on the next. There was drive by after drive by, killing after killing, and violence was rampant. Seeing this, my mother moved around quite a bit, but never quite out of the area. Chris would go spend time with our maternal grandma, Henrie Lee, and our uncles Willie, Mooney, Kwanis, and Aunt Edwina to try to keep him out of trouble. But that didn’t help anyway. Chris was getting into a lot of trouble, so they moved to 29th and Summit in a big, beautiful house on the corner. Though the home itself was a nicer place to live than the last living environment, it was directly across the street from the Sunset Projects. The whole block was full of “Bloods” and “Vice Lords,” drug dealers, killers, and crack addicts. Anything and everything you can name was on that block. There was something peculiar going on. Chris started to really change, selling dope heavy, getting busted, and the streets just took him under. My mother, too, started to change. She was a janitor for the school district making good money, but lost her job because the streets were getting to her. Things just started to change for the worst it seemed as she later on became a crack addict herself.
My brother’s friends were serving off our porch, and serving my mother as well. I was finding crack pipes all around the house, seeing my mother sleep with all kinds of men, walking in her room and seeing her lie across the bed butt naked, sleep with a crack pipe on the side of the night stand. Winter came and we would have no lights, water, or gas at times. Roaches and maggots were in our food, and we’d only be surviving off of Faygo pop drinks and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Often times, we’d ask the neighbors for clean drinking water. Things were so bad, not only did we have pests and rodents living with us, rats would chew up our clothes. So one day, my Grandma Henrie Lee just got sick and tired, and came and got Kat and I while we both were still in elementary school. My brother, Chris, was in jail for beating up a teacher at Southwest Jr. High. Grandma Henrie made sure Kat and I were good, showing us how to respect others, and how to take care of ourselves. My mother continued to stay out in the streets. Progressively declining and starting to be more visibly battered, becoming very skinny, and not looking like the mother I had known. She looked like she could die any day.
As a young man entering junior high at Henderson, I also was straggling the line between being in the streets like my brother or growing up to be a good young man. One day I got caught throwing up gang signs. Somebody told my Uncle Willie, who was a police officer by trade, and understandably stern with me. My uncle got on me tough, put a whipping to my backside, and told me forcefully that he would not let me end up in these streets like Chris. He just didn’t want to lose another nephew, so he did what he could to influence and rear me. By this time it was the late 90’s, and I was entering high school. My grandmother sent me to live with my Uncle Willie and his wife because she felt that I needed a father figure in my life. After reviewing her options, she thought that Uncle Willie was the best fit, and I must say Uncle Willie did a good job at it. He took me in and showed me how to be a respectful, clean, and responsible young man.
While I was in high school, my mom went to prison. The drugs did her so bad, and she just didn’t want help. She was in jail my last two years of high school. Hoping she would get out by the time I graduated in 2000, when she didn’t, my mother sent me a letter telling me how sorry she was. I was just in tears uncontrollably. The slight bright side was that my brother Chris actually did get out of jail in time to watch me graduate. I don’t believe people in high school ever knew what was going on in my life because I never showed it. I would always dressed nice and kept a smile on my face. I would try to keep people smiling, laughing just to be silly, and enjoying being the life of the party. My Uncle Willie’s wife was trying to get me to go to college heavy. She had me applying for school after school. I loved drawing, and was looking at art schools, but there was something different I wanted to do. I wanted to cut hair though never in life had I picked up clippers. I told my uncle’s wife that I wanted to go to barber school and she just shot my dreams down. She said that I would never make it cutting hair since there’s no money in it. Because she came from a family that went on to school, she figured that’s what I needed to do.
Hearing this, I decided to go and talk to my grandmother seeing that I knew she’d give me a different opinion. She told me to be whatever I want to be and if that’s being a barber then I should do it. She said she knew I would make it and be okay if I followed my heart. So then I had a talk with my uncle. He just kept it all out real, saying that college is not for everybody.
He advised that if I felt that it’s not for me, then I should just do something productive. That was like the best advice I’d ever heard. After talking with them, I applied to barber school and got accepted. After this, my uncle’s wife didn’t like it at all. We wound up getting into it and she didn’t want me living there anymore. She even went on to say that I was the reason that my uncle and her weren’t working out. After facing this news, I decided to bounce and go live with my brother Chris. He made sure I was straight, but I knew this new lifestyle came with other facets. Chris was then selling drugs really heavy, and most nights we had to answer the door with guns. There were drug addicts running in and out of the home, due to my brother selling everything you can name. With me responding to the cards I was given, everything came with a grain a salt. I was now pursuing my dream of becoming a barber, but things in my life were still becoming worse.
I ended up moving out of the apartment from my brother because of safety. By this time it’s 2001, and I had a girl by the name of Shae. She was fresh out of high school, and both of us got a place together in the same complex that my brother Chris was staying in. I was still in school, but after school I would drive her car around and cut hair for $5 while she was at work. She held me down, paid the bills until I was out of school, and worked long hours to make it happen. My brother was keeping the drugs and guns at our apartment so the cops wouldn’t know where to find it if they busted him. Chris was getting big time, making all kinds of money, and things just started to change in 2002. He started messing with more of the wrong people, and I watched as friends and family got jealous. People were getting over on him, yet Chris and some of our cousins had the city on lock. Things went sour, and Chris ended up catching an attempted murder charge. He shot a chick seven times, and got into it with more people. It got so bad that he told me and Shae to move somewhere else because he didn’t feel that we were safe staying there anymore. He told me to give the drugs and guns to our cousins so they can come up on some money to get him out.
Chris was later able to get out on a $250,000 bond. He was out of jail only three months when he and I talked, and he told me I’m the reason he sold drugs and did what he did. It was because of how he coped with how we were struggling and how he wanted to see the family bounce back. Then a couple weeks after this, Chris got killed. He was found shot dead in a ditch on July 4th, 2002. I had lost my only brother, and our cousin was killed the day before. Grandma Henrie Lee died a couple months later, then I lost my best friend Braylon that same summer, all in one year. Then, to compound this, I broke up with my girlfriend Shae after three years due to the pressure.
Despite this, I ended up getting out of school in 2003, becoming one of the city of Little Rock’s highly talked about barbers. I have traveled around the nation cutting all kinds of celebrities’ hair. I won the “Best Barber” award in 2006. As well, I also became a rapper and had one of the best songs that came out in the city, called “Do the Jump Rope.” The hit made mainstream, allowing me to perform on MTV Sweet 16, and opening up for various big-time artists. Then, however, I knew there was a bigger picture I had drawn out.
In 2008, my mom went back to prison again. I used to be so upset at her, but I learned to let it go, and allow God to handle it. She will always be my mom, and you only get one. For her to get better, she will need me and my sister to hold her down and be there for her when needed. I decided to move to Atlanta in 2008. I jumped out on faith, leaving everything behind. All of my worries, stress, my losses, and just started over. I haven’t looked back since. I’ve met and fostered great connections with people since arriving. In January 2014, I opened my own shop in Atlanta called Levelz Beauty and Barber Lounge. It was one of the most talked about shops in the city. But closed it down in July 2015 due to conflict of interest with my Business partner. Also, I’m glad to say that my mother is out of prison now and has been clean since her release in 2011.
This story is a testament of my life and its struggles. I understand I’ve gone through a lot to get where I wanted to be. It was nothing but the grace of God that got me through this. For the people who are always looking from the outside, you never know what the person you are viewing is going through on the inside. What I did showed people that no matter what happens in your life, it can get better. And I’m a witness to that. Now that I’ve told you, you can see why I’m blessed and why I draw people to me. That’s because I put my mind on being successful and to be the best I want to be. All the stuff I’ve been through in my life, I use it as motivation. I feel that y'all should do the same and stop making excuses. So to all of you that’s going through it, it’s up to y'all to get up and get it! Stop blaming the next man for your struggles. This is my story and I hope y'all enjoyed it.
SHOUT OUT TO MY FAM, THE DAVIS FAMILY, and HUNTER FAMILY. Also, my SISTER KAT. Baby I love you so much eeeeeeeeeeeh!!!!!! To my uncles WILLE, MOONY, and KWANIS. DADDY, FOR GIVING ME THAT CREATIVE SIDE. AND MY BEST FRIEND SHAE of course. I LOVE YOU GIRL AND I OWE YOU THE WORLD. AND ALL MY FRIENDS THAT’S BEEN THROUGH THICK AND THEN WITH ME. UNTIL THEN I’M GOING TO CONTINUE TO BALL OUT AND BE THE BEST! #POW!!!!! YOU CAN HATE ME OR LOVE ME!!!!