Breaking Through Adversity, Trauma and Generational Curses

On my 17th birthday, I took 18 shots of vodka, smoked 2-3 blunts, got behind the wheel of a car illegally without a license, drove to a football game, and then to a friend’s house. – Little did I know what was to come after.

Shortly after hanging out at a friend’s house, a minor altercation happened, and the neighbors called the police. When I heard the police sirens, I ran into our friend’s house, trying to find a way to hide and escape the police. To no avail, I ended up hiding in the shower in the upstairs bathtub.

Why was I hiding? – I already had two minor possessions (MIPs) of alcohol, did 40 hours of community service, and had been in and out of court for a year and a half. I did not want to get caught again.

As I waited in the shower for what felt like 20 minutes, I decided to get out. As soon as I was heading to come out of the bathroom, I heard the cop’s radio go off. I tried to sneak back into the shower, and one of the cops heard me. He snatched me out, threw me against the wall, and then to the ground. Mind you, I did not have much control over my cognitive ability, so you can imagine how my body was flopping around. He was yelling at me and asking me why I was hiding. He eventually said I scared the f*** out of him. (Looking back now, this could have gone bad)

He handcuffed me while on the ground, walked me out of the house in front of my friends, placed me against the police car, put me in the car, took me back out of the car, etc. – I cried, I lied, I cried and then I told the truth.

I kept telling the officers that I was a good kid, it was my birthday, I was captain of the basketball team at Belleville High School, and I just wanted to go home and not go to jail.

Eventually, they took the cuffs off of me and released me. Before they did, they took a polaroid photo of me and told me that they would constantly be on the lookout for me, that they would be driving through my neighborhood and be at my games the upcoming year.

Why do I share this story? – I watched the video of Emoni Bates being arrested. It took me back. I had to pause the video of him crying as tears came to my eyes.

I know those tears very well. I know that cry. That cry was from the soul. It was a kid wanting his mom to rescue him. It was a cry of regret and wonder. How did I get here? Why am I here? Why did I allow myself to make the decisions to place myself here in handcuffs in the back of a police car? I’ve been there. Many haven’t at that age. Regardless of the sport and who knows you, there’s an internal battle and demons we all face.

At 17, I could not name mine and label what they were. I thought I was cursed and the devil wanted to destroy my life. I realized I was fighting the enemies and generational curses of my family, my environment, my city, my friends, and my own.

At 17, I did not know how to ask for help. I thought my friends and some of the OGs had the answers. I thought weed, drinking, partying, and having sex would help solve my internal battles. They did not. They left me empty.

What I do know is, on August 21st, 2004, I made it home that night. I cried. I pleaded. I made a vow to change and walk away from the life that I was living. I knew it would not be easy, that life would still be bumpy along the way to a better life, but I was out of options. I needed to turn my life around. I felt like death was near, but from what I had learned about God up to that point, I knew He was closer to me than my demons.

I am not trying to turn this post into a sermon, make this about me, or compare experiences. I share these words hoping someone would find empathy for young people, put their arms around our young black men and women, listen to them and help them open up and share their battles.

Our community has to be better. We have to do better—accountability matters.

It is a lot easier to judge than uplift. Fight for people to win and overcome. Many black men and black women do not “make it” out of their circumstances and inner cities and overcome the battles they face. Let’s continue to change that narrative. The change starts with each of us doing our small part every day.

P.S. Emoni, you may never see this post, but I love you. I pray for you. There are people out here rooting for you. Not for what you can do on the court but for who you are as a human being. You are valued with or without a basketball. Your story is still being written. This season of life is a chapter. A great thing about stories and books, there are more chapters ahead. Continue on your path toward greatness.

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