They seemed untamed and in need of a ring master.
She was tomboyish and tough, with baggy blue jeans, wheat-colored timberland boots, and a hooded sweater, of course. A high-school dropout, she learned how to hustle coke, working eight-hour days, sitting on a broken bench in the projects, selling crack to the same customers all day long.
Summer days were the best days. We gathered at the center of the projects. Children played in a pool surrounded by the debris of abandoned buildings and the glass of broken windows. The Latino kids played Frisbee with old tile from a kitchen floor. The high-rise brick buildings blocked the bright, shining sun.
But we loved it. It was community without organization. It was our community.
Sometimes I have to remind myself of what I loved about growing up in the projects. It sure wasn't conventional. Was it the mortar that holds together the bricks? Yes.
Remembering helps me stay relevant to why youth respect their neighborhoods. They feel a personal connection to that great line from New Jack City: "We all we got."