Excerpt 1

Street Cred

Growing up in the suburbs is hard on street cred.

Growing up in Jersey suburbs is even harder.  And even though i try and tell fools the suburbs is home to some of the world’s biggest gangsters and hardest thugs who steal entire continents, it doesn’t seem to be a particularly convincing argument. Try as one may, this just ain’t enough collateral for no kinda street loan!

Another thing hard on street cred? Enrollment in an Ivy League university.

Picture me: a 17 year-old tryna front cause i got peach fuzz, yellin ‘bout “Uptown, sun! 114th and Amsterdam, what?! Harlem World all day, kid!”

May’ve worked, except everyone i was yellin that to knew that, technically, 114th and Amsterdam is not really Harlem, but Morningside Heights, a quaint little neighborhood filled with dog-walking white folks, French cafés, and high-end grocery stores.

But, i mean, honestly, does it really not count? Two blocks over and you in Harlem. i could throw a football that distance…well, maybe not me. My mother wouldn’t let me play football. She said soccer was safer more globally recognized. But you get the point. It was mad close is all i’m tryna say.

Curse this hip-hop generation convincing Black boys they only Black boys if they got some affiliation to the hood.

“i mean, my cousins n’em is from Brooklyn. We be out there almost every other weekend. Church and Utica, sun! BK all day, kid! What?!?”

Yeah. Yeah, yo. Forget Harlem. Brooklyn is where it really be at. Ain’t nobody talked about Harlem since the Renaissance, anyway. Brooklyn be the true home of street cred.

Ok, ok, slow down. Let’s see here. If two Italians have a baby in California, the baby is American by citizenship, but Italian by ethnicity. And seeing as how nation-state boundaries ain’t nothing but imaginary lines, can’t city boundaries function the same way? That is, can’t the city-ethnicity of the parent be passed on to the child? Like, you know when somebody is from New Orleans. It permeates they whole being. They inevitably gonna pass that on to they child even if that child is born in Atlanta or Dallas or wherever.

See where i’m goin with this? No? Allow me to break it down.

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© amari johnson 2011