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“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” - Carl Jung
Dolla Hill Playaz. That was the name of the set that represented our neighborhood. My friends and I went to James Lick Middle School together, but we were parting ways for high school. They went to McAteer High School and I went to Thurgood Marshall. Over the course of a summer, it seemed like we went from playing basketball at the Glen Park Rec Center to smoking weed, chasing girls and stealing cars. We wore bandanas with dollar bills on it around our necks and Nike football gloves in case we got into fights. It felt good to be a part of something. I really thought I wanted to be a gangster until I met some real gangsters.
At that time, everyone knew the most dangerous neighborhoods were Harbor Road, West Point, Sunnydale and Fillmore. Being from Diamond Heights, we felt like we had something to prove. What exactly we were trying to prove and why it was important doesn’t make any sense to me now. But back then, we wanted respect.
This was a far cry from the Baptist Church teachings my grandparents worked hard to instill in me. I moved into my grandparents’ home in the fifth grade, but my friends were near my parents' home in Diamond Heights. The move into my grandparents’ home allowed my sister and me to escape the struggle. There was always food in the kitchen, lunch money for school, after-school learning programs and summer trips across the country.
I felt out of place in this newfound security and stability. I wanted the dysfunction of my old neighborhood to be embraced by my peers. I wanted to be strong, tough and feared. So I wore my bandada proudly through the hallways of Thurgood Marshall High School. It was a Bayview school and I wasn’t with my friends, but I wanted to make them proud.
“Where you from, nigga?” I heard the aggression in the voice of the young man behind me. It was JT from Hollister, he walked up to me with Gabe from Harbor Road.
I stood there with shock and fear in my eyes. “Dolla Hill.” My voice cracked and my palms began to sweat. These guys were always in fights and I had heard several stories of them beating up whoever they faced.
JT saw the fear in my eyes and knew immediately I didn’t want the problems he was prepared to give me. He shook his head and looked at me with pity. “Man, this nigga a sucka. Leave him alone Gabe.”
“Dolla Hill? Well, my niggas don’t like yo niggas, so don’t wear that bandana to school no more.” Gabe told me. He patted me on my chest and walked away.
That was my last time wearing that bandana, but not the last time my courage was tested. God kept presenting me with this challenge, until the day I finally overcame it.
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