I was Twenty-three with an attitude that could be described through the music I listened to; Gangster Rap. Rap was in entertainment’s forefront of lifestyle and I was proud to be a full fledge member of it. Then there was my daily, ghetto urban wardrobe. It consists of a wave cap with a white t-shirt that was two sizes too big coupled with a pair of blue jeans that was oversized. And to add to my hood attire, a fitted hat that I had to spend at least ten to fifteen minutes in the mirror fixing to urban perfection. The last piece to complete my style of wear was a fresh, crispy white pair of air force one Nike sneakers. There was only one way to ruin an outfit like this one; a dirt spot on my sneakers or on my pearly white t-shirt. And what clouded my thoughts even more was my regular precipitation of weed and alcohol. A daily diet of this paired with hood activity had my mind state shackled like a prisoner. At that time, the furthest I’ve been outside of the hood was North Carolina and Florida. A moment that best describes my mind state was when I went to my roommate’s family cookout. On the way to his family’s cookout, my stomach was having a conversation with me that could only be silenced by good food. As we get to the driveway leading to my roommate’s family backyard, a hunger satisfying aroma enters my nostrils. It activated my stomach like a lion seeing prey. The smell of barbecue chicken combine with collard greens and macaroni and cheese created a bright smile on my face. We enter the backyard as if we walked into a portal from our world to this one. It had a collage of past generations to present ones intermingled with future generations creating a backyard family tree. After my roommate introduced my friends and me to his family, his grandmother tells us something that is told at all cookouts. She says, “There’s plenty of food, help yourselves to whatever you want.” And boy did I do that. After I stacked my plate to my liking, I headed to the basement, where only in a good seat I could fully enjoy this plate. When I get down there my roommate’s cousin is sitting and eating. I say to her, “Hey what’s up.” But she was so into her plate of food that the best reaction I got from her was a wave. “Man, this food is that good? I can’t even get a word from you. Just a hand wave huh,” after my words, I give her a smile that indicates that I know exactly what she’s thinking. I sit down and start eating my food like a person who is reading a good book: full concentration. My friends come down the basement stairs with plates shortly after I settled in. The silence of the basement was interrupted with the sounds of chewing we produced from eating. No words were spoken until all the food from our plates was finish. Ten minutes after we were done, my roommate joins us in the basement. Then we all started to have a conversation about everyday events. The topics ranged from what star is dating who to who got killed and/or shot in the past week. But one topic that stood out like a pimple on prom night was when we talked about Jay-Z’s lyrics in one of his songs. I don’t have a full recollection of the lyric, but I do remember him saying something like, “I am a grown man, give me a fresh pair of jeans and a button up.” During that time white t-shirts was a uniform top I wasn’t going to change for anyone. So within this discussion, my roommate’s cousin was telling us how she likes to see guys in collared shirts and button ups. But my boxed thoughts didn’t have room for a collared shirt, especially when I felt like someone was telling me to do it. Using a vicious passion with my words, I said to her, “I will never change who I am! I’m not going to put a button up on because Jay-Z feels like putting one on. See that’s the thing, niggas are really doing this because he said so! To me, if that’s who you are that’s who you are, don’t change that because someone else said so. Basically, I don’t see me taking this white t-shirt off anytime soon.” Those words showcased my mind state in rare form at that particular time. The fuel for thoughts like this one was provided by the limits I held myself to at that moment. I didn’t understand that Jay-Z’s lyric only was his representation of him breaking out of the bonds of a limited world into a limitless one. But as time passed, new ventures in my life opened my mind like Malcolm X eyes after his voyage to Mecca. Years later, at the age of twenty-six, my perspective on the hood mind state was freed when I took all of my urban attire and gave them to a co-worker’s son. My change of clothes gave room to a mind state, now capable of shaping passionate limitless goals. Over that span of three years, my change of environment, friends, and conclusion of alcohol and weed usage developed thoughts that re-route my ignorance. I finally recognized, with the help of friends, that the world isn’t limited to the ghetto. And with this discovery, new forms of love were created for me. In so many ways environment, association, and even style of wear can shackle a person’s mind. It can be the difference between the future a person decides for themselves and a future determined by there limits. Critics say that hip hop is bad for this nation and should be banned. Well, I can reassure you that hip-hop is something that has helped to unshackle myself for a better living. If that lyric wasn’t used at that time, I may have never got the enlightenment needed for a better change. Breaking mental shackles is fight within itself, but when you finally break those bonds; your victory to mental freedom will open up boundless possibilities best described by the sounds of unshackled hands.

Written By: Q.Whitening

Posted By: Q.Whitening

Photo By: Q.Whitening


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