Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jump Jump

First period, the students are animated as they squiggle back and forth in their seats, excited to spew street bravado and yesterday's malicious gossip.

"Fool, I almost got jumped yesterday. Those homeys wanted to get down."

"Did you hear Junior got hit! I mean that fool got f---ked up."

I mark the student's name on the board. "Twenty five cents." I state laconically.

"What, I didn't say nothing! That's f...that's messed up."

I turn to Javier. "Why did you almost get jumped?"

"I don't know, those fools don't like me. Have you ever been jumped, Leiken?"

The class quiets to a hush as a dozen eyes face forward, directed with pin point accuracy on my face like a quantum laser. I pause for dramatic effect. "No."

The class is stunned. What, you never been jumped? I've been jumped like twice, once with my big sister. That's nothing fool, I've been jumped like six times, I was even robbed at gunpoint. I was like, take everything, and they did, even my cross. You know what really sucks, Mister? When they point the gun at your head! Yeah, I had one put in my mouth! Did you hear they're trying to get Robert! Man, that fool is always getting in fights.

The cacophony washes over me as I remain rooted in place, stupefied. For boys, fighting is a traditional right of passage, but the students aren't talking about fisticuffs, they are bragging about surviving a storm of fists, knees, feet and elbows. Nearly all of them have been "jumped" once, even the girls.

The ghetto is an embryotic vat that nurses children in a womb of violence and disgusted apathy, a viscious bile that is five parts blood mixed with one part tears. If you listen carefully, sometimes you can hear the ghetto emit a wordless scream.

As the students relate the times they've been jumped and brushed death's robe, I can hear the ghetto scream.

Teaching them how to write a research paper has never seemed more irrelevant.

I should be teaching them Joon Re, Self Defense.*

*Tae Kwan Doe School in Northern Virginia

When you take Joon Re Self Defense,
Then you too can say,
Nobody bothers me,
Nobody bothers me,
Call Joon Re 9000,
Joon Re means fight for right!

Nobody bothers me!
Nobody bothers me either!

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