There’s a popular saying that was really popular in my life growing up. “You can take the man/woman/boy/girl outta the ‘hood, but you can’t take the ‘hood outta the man/woman/boy/girl,” was something often said in various forms depending on the geographical location of the man/woman/boy/girl being discussed. So ‘hood, as in neighborhood could be easily substituted with words like the country, the ghetto, the projects (of which my daddy was particularly proud), Alabama, the Gump (as in Montgomery, my place of birth) and so on and so on.
While designing my meme anticipating the upcoming Straight Outta Compton Movie and proudly blasting the West on my chest (as in West End, as in West End Manor, as in #35211), I thought about the fact that I’m glad the ‘hood remains in me. Now, don’t get me wrong. My “hoodocity” pales in comparison to some, probably most, as I’ve always been a bit genteel, and sure, it has been buffed, polished and shined up like an Italian leather Easter shoe, but believe me, it’s still there. And I’m proud. My ‘hood has helped me so much. It’s helped shape a little girl into a culturally rich, people sensitive, genuinely caring, grown woman.
Nowhere else can you learn creativity and ingenuity like the ‘hood where you took a cardboard box and made a full-fledged dance floor, or turn Jolly Rancher and pickle selling into a thriving business. Where else can games like Four Square, Double Dutch, Hide and Go Seek, Dodge Ball, Old Mary Mack, Red Light/Green Light and Hands Up for 85 give you eight full hours of absolutely free fun, and teach you the art of improvising, teamwork and how to refresh yourself from a water hose? Where else can you have your summertime hair stylist live right across the street and she hook you up with braids and beads so colorful and plentiful that they would have made Bo Derek jealous? (Shout out to Carol!) Only the hood could provide the luxury of a wintertime, springtime, and falltime hair stylists who lived two blocks over and had burnt fried bologna, homemade biscuits and Alaga Syrup waiting for you when you walked to her house ALONE as a six or seven year old with $5 in hand to pay her to press the mess out of your hair with Queen Helen or Royal Crown Hair Dressing. (Thank you Mrs. Feagins.) The ‘hood taught me my signature picture pose and how to do it in a way that was real sassy, but still classy. (Take a look at any of the many hundreds of pictures I take today and that “hand on the right hip, head slightly tilted, smile straight at the camera” pose remains the same. As it shall. #35211ForLife) The ‘hood taught me event planning the time my Mom and her friends shut down our entire street, with permission from the city, to host a block party that rivaled one from NYC. Nowhere but the ‘hood would have an unofficial, organized “hospitality committee” comprised of the most loving and caring neighbors who would canvas the street day or night, going from house-to-house to take up donations of funds or food if anything happened to one of their own, or would call for prayer in time of tragedy (Kudos to the 19th Street caring crew like my Mom, Mrs. Mary, Mrs. Long and the rest.) My ‘hood also had loving fathers like my own and so many who wouldn’t mind breaking up a street fight (Gasp! Yes, we did have those) then calling us all to the front porch to break down some common sense (or break out a belt), reminding us, especially the young men who might have been involved of how loved and valuable we were.
My ‘hood taught me about love, respect, courage, confidence, support to and from others, community, fun (for free) and so much more. None of that do I wish to depart. So yes, the saying is true. You can take the girl outta the hood, but you can’t (and shan’t) take the hood outta the girl, at least not this one.