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Perfect for Mother's Day
Enjoy the realness and reflections of our streets and childhood with writer educator Changa Bey recalling "Getting Jumped"
"After Reading "Beyond the Code of the Streets" by Ta-Nehisi Coates, I felt compelled to write this. I've never written about this or talked about since it happened. The process was somewhat painful and it felt good. It was like a good cry."
It was the summer of 88. The memories of that summer have been deeply entrenched in my brain and seem to be winning the war of attrition. That summer was the last one where my family would live together under the same roof. With my sisters in Chicago for the summer, I was left with my parents. My mother and father were on the verge of divorce due to my father’s drug addiction. That summer had been the worst.
In the midst of this crazy situation, I had managed to save up enough money working up at my uncle’s car shop and doing odd stuff to put together enough parts to build a bike. I took a Huffy BMX frame that was lying around my uncle’s shop, stripped it down and finished it in a mirror black. I bought some peddles, handle bars, and a bunch of bungee cords (we used to hang them from the handle bars to the front fork). But, the crowning feature on this bike I built was the rims. I found a set of brilliant blue MAG wheels and set them off against the black bike. This b###ch was sweet!
Now, in my neighborhood (Edison between 3rd and the John C Lodge service drive), this bike was one thing… the next thing stolen. But, I was young, worked hard on it, and was proud of it. And during this summer, it was the one thing that was making me smile. So, when I brought it home in the early evening, I wanted to ride it. My plan was to do laps around the block and take it in and wash it.
As I left the house, I turned right on the service drive, passed the alley and was on the next block as fast as those MAG wheels could turn. It was evening. So, as the sun was setting, it was light/dark outside. I could see some boys in the alley as I passed. However, I couldn’t make out who it was. They were in the middle of the alley. So, once I hit the next block on my Major Taylor (legendary Black cyclist) flow, there was no way that they could make it to the other end. As I made that next right on 3rd and passed the other end of the alley, my estimations were accurate. They hadn’t made it to the end yet.
That first lap felt so good, I decided to do another. Once again, I saw the guys in the alley. By now, I figured out it was Mike, Fats, and some other kid, most likely one of their cousins. In the hood, everybody had cousins. I stopped being worried about the guys in the alley and figured that I was safe to go around.
When I hit 3rd again with my legs burning, Mike jumped out of the alley right in front of my bike. Fats came from behind the dumpster with this other kid. Fats’ first words were, “my cousin likes your bike.” Yup, I knew they had to be cousins. Well, that was all code for, “we’re about to take your bike.”
Now at this age, I didn’t curse much. However, I do remember saying, “f##k” to myself. If you weren’t there, it is difficult for you to appreciate the situation. Here I am, 11 years old, these guys are like 14 or so. I was always little for my age. So, that made me like 9 compared to these guys. Mike was tall, skinny and had this dingy brown skin that would never come clean. His wirer frame was like a hanger that his clothes just hung on. He walked sideways and on his toes like cats do when they get cornered to try and appear bigger. Fats was the opposite. This dude looked like Bushwick Bill from the Ghetto Boys. He was my height but thick with no neck. His skin was grease black. At 14, he used to walk down the street drinking 40oz. The cousin… I never really got a good look at him. Interesting enough, later that year, in the winter, I would witness Mike get jumped. Perhaps his accounts of that day would be similar to mine on this day.
Mike had grabbed my handle bars and was trying to pull the bike from me. I tensed up. I clinched my hands around the handle bars and could feel my heart pounding inside my palms. I was trying to keep everyone in front of me. But, there was no way to do it and still stay on my bike. It was one of me and three of them. They were bigger and older. They wanted my bike. The only thing I knew that night at that moment was, I wasn’t getting off my bike. F##k them. I worked for a week on that bike. I spent my money on it. It was mine.
It started with a pull. Then a push from the side from Fats. They saw I wasn’t budging. I still couldn’t see the cousin. I pushed back at Fats. His short stout frame didn’t give a bit. He knocked my forearm down. It hurt. Mike went to punch me. He hit my shoulder. First blow… first blood… it was on. I let go of the handle bars and began to swing. Now, a little background here is that I took Kung Fu. Yeah, this is not about to turn into some Kung Fu flick with me flying off the bike like Crouching Negro Hidden Knife. But, I did know how to throw a good punch. I landed a nice one on Mike as the bike fell between my legs. I lost my balance. But, I knew if I fell down, it was over. I had seen my first “stomp out” when I was sitting in the car while my father was in a crack house. I knew how it ended. I knew I couldn’t hit the ground. So, I stayed up.
Fats began his assault. He charged into me hitting me in the stomach. Everyone thinks that the face shots hurt the most. They just leave the marks. But, anyone that's been in a real fight knows that the body shots are what really take the life out of you. Fats was going for my body. I punched him in his shoulders where the average person has a neck. Mike began to punch me and started screaming, “hold his a$$”. The punches hurt. I know you’re asking…“where’s the cousin?” I never saw him. But then, I felt it. It was sharp in my right shoulder. The pain made my arm go numb or so I thought. I felt everything. He must have hit me in the arm and shoulder about five times. A few years later as I was doing some carpentry work with my grandfather, I would find out that they were called furring strips used to hang drywall on. They are the thin pieces of wood you see in your wall. They have little nails in them. Alleys in the hood always had piles of them laying around. That’s what was hitting me on the shoulder.... repeatedly.
I don’t remember much beyond that besides just sweating through my t-shirt and feeling a tired that I had never felt before. I got some hits in. There were cuts and blood on my hands. Scars I still wear with pride til this day the way war veterans wear their field jackets.
Something made them stop. I don’t know what it was. There was no police or neighbors coming to my rescue. They just stopped and ran off. Perhaps they got tired. Perhaps they felt bad about what they were doing. Perhaps they found a better bike to take (Highly unlikely. As stated... THIS B###H WAS SWEET!). I don’t know why they did and to this day I don’t care. I honestly thought I was going to die. It got quiet. And I laid there in the alley way between Edison and Boston on 3rd. My face hurt, my shirt torn, my shoulder bloody, I lay there… On top of my bike. They didn’t take it. I took everything they had to give me, gave a little, and kept my bike.
When I made it home, my father and mother came to help me. My father went out looking for them. He didn’t find them that night. My mother was crying as she saw the blood come from my shoulder. I don’t know what I felt at that moment. But, it hurt like hell. But, I still had my bike.
Now, I go through this story and it seems to have a happy ending. You’ll see stories of bravery, and determination…. Me against the world. This is supposed to be a defining moment in my life. It for sure wasn't my last fight. I was introduced to the Code of the Streets… Never be Punked…..
Yeah…… A few weeks later, my father stole my bike and sold it for money to get high. The streets always win.