Working as a security guard at John O’Connell High school has taught me more about American schools, kids, and violence than any book. Sometimes 90 percent of your day is boring beyond words, but those last 15 minutes of school can keep you up at night.
SEE ALSO: Justice For Jennifer Hudson
Yesterday was one of those days. Super mellow, we had just finished a few weeks of end-of-the-year testing. A strange kind of stress takes over the school in the last month. Kids who are not graduating start acting out. Some of the teachers are running on fumes just trying to get the more studious ones to the graduation stage. It is an odd transition into the unknown summer that lays ahead.
LIKE NewsOne On Facebook To Stay Up On Black News Worldwide!
Things were pretty quiet, after walking the hallway once the bell rings. All of a sudden, a call came over the radio for an administrator to come outside as a situation was escalating. I bolted outside and ran around the corner to see four of our students flat on the cement getting cuffed. A neighbor had called in, saying kids were outside playing with a gun. The police response was instantaneous. The gun was fake.
The cool mind of John O’ Connell’s school resource officer is the only reason one of these kids are not dead. Apparently, before I got there, the situation was intense beyond words. Any one of these kids could have gotten shot over a plastic pistol (that looked very real).
The one holding the fake gun was a kid I mentor for the Hip-Hop Chess Federation. When I asked him why he had it, he said he didn’t know. He was mad, embarrassed, and clear he had made a near-deadly mistake.
But I know.
I know for many African-American males, the litmus test for manhood is a blurry path. Most of the kids I see personally seem to seek it through hollow sexual adventures and violence. Many blame hip-hop for the way the kids act today. But it cannot be that simple.
Still, we cannot ignore the impact of gangsta rap. I was raised on it, and I still listen to it — probably more than I should. It was part of my ascent into manhood in some ways, but I had two parents who never hesitated to remind me that what I was listening to was a song and that life is real.
One of my favorite artists from those times was EA-Ski (pictured right). It’s impossible to do an accurate history of gangster rap in America and not mention EA-Ski. He is a platinum producer from Oakland, Calif., who produced music for Master P, Spice-1, Luniz, Ice Cube, and many others. His beats and rhymes in many ways helped define The Bay Area “mob music.”
Listen to “Blast If I Have To” here:
Recently, footage of EA-Ski was released showing him doing a serious workout, displaying crispy kicks and punches from all angles. For a lot of people in hip-hop, it seemed odd. I mean, this was the same guy from Friday that set the streets on fire with “Blast If I Have To.” So what, how he’s supposed to be a fighter?
What nobody realized is that EA-Ski was always a fighter. Only some of the realest folks from Oakland knew he was a martial arts champion before he rapped. I was able to sit down and get the scoop of how his martial arts shaped his music as well as his thoughts on how the youth see manhood.
NewsOne: How long have you been in martial arts and what has it taught you?
EA-Ski: I’ve been in martial arts since I was 7 years old. I’ve trained religiously. I always had that fighter in me. From being a kid, growing up in the era of martial arts movies. I thought martial arts was just about kicking ass because of the movies. From training, I got the knowledge and the discipline to push myself to beyond physical levels. Meaning that you go ahead and do things you really don’t want to do because of the benefits that you get from it later on. [Later,] I was a junior world champion around 17. I was a three-time heavyweight champion in point sparring.
NewsOne: I work at a school in the Mission District in San Francisco, Calif. It’s mostly Latino, but we got brothers from some of the coldest sets, like Fillmore, Lakeview, HP, Double Rock – all over. I realized early on that a lot of these kids can’t fight. Which is a good thing. Because really, I don’t want them hurting one another.
You and I come from the generation where if you had a problem with someone, you knuckled up. Somebody won, somebody lost, and if it had to happen again, it would happen again. With this generation, it seems like the kids are afraid to get knocked out. Nobody wants to look bad. So altercations might escalate to the use of guns and knives early because nobody wants to look bad. What is going on?