I was born and raised in the great state of North Carolina, USA. Being a black child in the southeastern section of the United States, or as we simply call it “The South”, I was exposed to many different experiences in my youth. I remember growing up in the 1980’s in my hometown of Winston-Salem. My family would ride down the streets and smell the scent of southern sweet tobacco from the R.J. Reynolds factories. Summers were hot and humid. The city was bustling back then, with one of the most gleaming skylines in the state. When my father decided to move in the late 1960’s from Danville Virginia to seek better opportunities, he decided that Winston-Salem NC was the place that he wanted his future family to call “home”.
Growing up in the eastern section of Winston-Salem in the 1980’s and 1990’s was not easy. Some called it “the hood” back then. We did not live in public housing, but in a high crime neighborhood of single family homes. Sure we heard gun shots. There were no known organized gangs that I can remember, but plenty of smaller “cliques” of young men and women trying to “prove” themselves. As a young man, I saw my share of drug activity. We saw plenty of fights and were involved in some as well. My father and mother worked hard to provide the best life for our family that they could, but opportunities were limited like it is in many inner cities in the United States.
As the youngest in my family, I have always respected and paid homage to my older brothers and sisters. I knew what some of them were doing, but they did their best to shield my innocent eyes and help mold me into something great. Since my father worked so much, my mother took care of us and tried her best to keep us out of trouble. Even still, we were a hard headed bunch. Our family was so large, we ran the neighborhood. I don’t say that lightly. My dad was well respected in the streets and everyone knew Edward Price aka “Dino” aka “Lil Dintsy”. My dad had rules for our family when it came to the streets. He stressed things like “If one of you fights, all of you fight” and “Take God with you everywhere you go.”
Although there was bad, I honestly saw a lot of good in our neighborhood though. It was truly a community, where neighbors looked out for one another. Many families in the neighborhood may have had a lower income, but the camaraderie that we shared with other families created so many positive memories! You haven’t played basketball until your hoop is made out of a clothes hanger! 🙂 Other parents looked out for us, and our parents looked out for other kids all of the time! We would walk to the candy house and played football in the street. It was a great time and place to live, to be honest.
My brothers had the big flat top haircuts with the sharp part back then. A couple of them had the gold chains and nice clothes. I knew that my parents couldn’t afford those things, so as a kid I asked myself questions like “Why did mom and dad get that stuff for just them, and not all of us?” I started to figure out that a couple of my brothers had other sources of income, lol. You can read between the lines. I didn’t fully understand until later on in life the reasoning behind my brothers doing some of their extracurricular activities. They grew up in the 1970’s, so they had a whole different experience that I secretly envied yet admired.
Yet I can truly say, they always did their best to shield me from the streets, and I appreciate that so much. A large part of why I fell in love with video games back in the 80’s was the fact that they used Nintendo to keep my focus away from the outside world. My brothers would play Megaman, Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, and many other titles with me and I loved it. I didn’t know that secretly, they used gaming to keep me in a child’s place. I also believe that it helped them remember that life is not supposed to be serious all of the time as well. My brothers and sisters were some of the most hardcore NES gamers that I have ever met! Double Dragon and Contra, you don’t want to challenge my brothers Tim or Julius, trust me! 🙂
As I got older, in particular my pre-teen and teenage years, my siblings exposed me to more. I remember around 1993-1994, they took me out riding around the city and introduced me to different people and experiences. Siting on housing project doorsteps of friends and cousins that lived there at that time, I learned some of the most valuable lessons that stick with me to this day. I also fell in love with Hip-Hop music during this era. In that big yellow “hoopdie” car, my brothers would listen to everything from OutKast’s “Southernplaylisticcaddilacmusik” to Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic”. I was young, and although it wasn’t the best music for a young man’s ears, it was part of my experience that I learned many things from through those songs.
By the time I reached 13 years old in 1996, my parents moved out of East Winston-Salem to the Ardmore neighborhood, which was a nicer mixed family middle class neighborhood. Lower crime, better schools, and more opportunity which are all great things. One thing I noticed though, was that the sense of community was very different. Most people in the neighborhood were very individualistic. Parents really did not want their children to come out and play. People were relatively nice, but more distant. This is where I learned that racism and class warfare still existed. It was not out in the open like it was back in the 1950’s, 1960’s,and 1970’s. It was very subtle and discrete, but I felt it and experienced it. Yet still I was blessed because I had a mother and father that were actively involved in the civil rights movement decades before, and they taught me that love and communication changes environments, not hatred. They also taught me how to handle myself and not be weak, timid, or naive either. It was a good mix of the two.
These are just a few experiences that helped make and mold me into the man that I am today. I am far from perfect and I do not pretend to be. Yet I wrote this as a reminder to find the beauty in your struggle. Coming from where I’m from, I learned many things through bad experiences. You never want to denounce the negative experiences in your life. Think of where you would be and the wisdom you would have missed, had you not gone through your negative experiences. Find the beauty in your struggle, because as my favorite North Carolina rapper J.Cole correctly stated, “No such thing as a life that’s better than yours. Love yours.” Signing off for now…………….