Before Wu Tang, before I even knew anything about the concepts of God, religion, a system of beliefs, I knew that my mother was a G.
G is the 7th letter of the alphabet. God is the 7th principle of Supreme Mathematics. “God sees with all seven colors and hears with the seven notes on the musical scale”… 7 is a combination of the 3rd principle, Understanding, the highest level of which is LOVE and the 4th principle, Culture, the highest level of which is FREEDOM!
They say Gangstas don’t dance, they boogie… if you know anything about the boogie… it is a culmination of love and freedom. My mother taught me that love was an action towards self and others and freedom was a state of being based on how we internalize our experiences and express our feelings.
Lemme tell y’all a story…
My mother wrote her masters thesis off the dome. She could shop a sale like no other. She knew a good shoe and a better handbag. She was generally as cool as a fan… well there was that one time she threw a plastic cup at my head because I said something out of order under my breathe. But being on time was never my mom’s strength, so I was late to school 5.3 days of the week on average. All through elementary school no teacher cared. I got straight As, I was first to finish my work, I got up to show my work on the board, and I volunteered to go first during the recitation from memory of the Book of Genesis Chapter One. I got no static.
But high school was different. My ninth grade Algebra teacher, we’ll call her Dragon Lady, the second or third month of school, stopped her lesson when I walked in a few minutes past the bell to announce to me that every time I had her class I was late, I needed to tell my mother that was unacceptable, and I couldn’t come back to her class until my mother came in to talk to her. She proceeded to hand out a quiz, that I blew outta the water. She had no CLUE what she was asking for. The kid to my left said… your mom is gonna whoop her ass.
Something like that…”Gangsta ass niggas don’t start fights”
I knew lines from Scarface, the movie, better than I knew the songs on Sesame Street. I could name the Corleone children in order, and pronounce consigliere. I knew not to let a Moe Green ass nigga ever get me in trouble with the family. I knew I didn’t have testicles, but my balls and my word were all I had. Gangster movies and soon gangsta music. We listened to albums in the living room, so I could identify that Isaac Hayes beat in the Geto Boys song. As I listened to more hip hop, my mom started to… and soon it became the hype music in the car on the way to school. So by 1991, the Geto Boys was often bumping loud out the speakers as she pulled up on Outer Drive at least five minutes after the bell rang for class. In later years Cube and Pac dominated the ride to school. Needless to say, DL had heard my mom… but she was about to meet her.
The next time I had her class, it was a Monday. Dragon Lady was there at the door. My mom said goodbye to me, as I slowly disappeared up the stairwell to my locker.
My mother turned to her…
and handed her an envelope. From the landing I could hear no words although my mom’s mouth was moving. As I proceeded up the steps and in my mind played…
Shug Avery: Where Miss Celie?
Kid: Home fixin ta shaaaave Mister… I was praying no blood would be shed.
I didn’t know what the letter said, but I was sure it was some scathing set of syllables strung together in staccato syncopation, no curse words, but a cursing out. A perfectly professional and surprisingly poetic murder by letters. I also knew a verbal discussion on a Monday might have meant I’d have to find another school… so I wasn’t surprised by the exchange of paper. I imagined it said…
“I, like you, have a job. When I need to correct any behaviors or actions, outside of my department, I go to the manager of whatever process that needs correction. Karyn does not drive. I’m the manager of transportation, so your conversation should only be with me. You manage your classroom. If your policy is to attempt to embarass children in front of their peers, I’m putting you on notice, that policy won’t be tolerated. If this happens again I’ll assume it’s a policy set by the school and address the individual who manages the school. If that doesn’t solve it, as the Manager of Transportation I will drive my Volvo through the front door of this school…”
The pen and her Volvo were her weapons of choice.”Hit the pen and let a muhhfukka shank ya”
I walked into algebra, that morning, sat down and pulled out my book. As students mulled around, DL walked over to me. She apologized for embarrassing me or speaking to me about anything private in front of the class and “overstepping her boundaries…” I knew those words, usually with a necessary muhfukka before the word boundaries. My mom had clearly read her her rights. I saw the letter sitting on her desk, and I wanted to run over and grab it and go read it… it sat on that desk like Whites only pie. This woman was different than any teacher I’d ever had. She was mean, but put on the kind teacher face beyond that heavy wooden door and brass knob. I’m sure she went on to overstep her boundaries again. But in that moment, I felt like Scarface, the rapper not the character as the Dragon Lacy bent the knee… “Damn it feels good…”
That day, I got my gangsta in training wings. I knew the time would come when my own gangsta would be tested and has it ever. My college counselor once questioned my decision to take a high level math class, mansplaining to me that it wasn’t a straight grading system, it was graded on a curve.
I set the curve sir. Ask about me. (I got an A+ in Calculus II)
I don’t know what his mother taught him, but mine taught me:
1. to get people up off of you;
2. that I could do and be anything I wanted to be, except if I wanted to be a pole dancer, that I couldn’t be;
3. use your words;
4. be good to people;
5. math and cursing were an exact science;
6. always choose to boogie over dancing; and
7. to always, on all days, be a G!