My old friend Mitch K. had come back from reform school and because of the stigma attached, he was always harassed by teachers. I overheard them in the hall congratulating themselves on being apart of the reason he was given repeated in-school suspensions.
If school was jail, in-school suspensions were solitary confinement. I had been tossed in there too many days to count. There were two desks in the back of the library, each closed off in a wooden box, no one could see in or out. The prisoner was forced to sit there alone all day. When teachers would bring their classes to the library, they could see the prisoner’s legs below the desk/box/cell. The prisoner could hear everything going on but wasn’t allowed to interact. Usually students would snicker and throw spit balls into the box/cage as if it were a basketball hoop.
One day, in between classes, I walked through an eerily empty hallway and headed to my locker. I was frantically scribbling together a forgotten homework assignment that was due. I witnessed Mitch being verbally accosted by the visibly enraged Principal who assumed no one was around.
I jumped in and said, “Hey Mr. Oglebay, why don’t you chill out? You’re a grown ass man, how is it even possible a twelve year old is making you that mad?”.
My plan had worked, he left Mitch alone. The only problem was he was heading towards me, at full speed. I wasn’t afraid. I stood tall ready to embrace my fate. Mr. Oglebay made a fist. A punch to the face from him might’ve killed me, he was a huge white man, at about 6’3 220 lbs. He grabbed me up by my shirt and slam-punched me into the locker. I stared at him dead in the eyes the whole time. I was furious. I was in pain. Just then the bell rung and all of the students flooded into the halls. The principal walked off and Mitch came to see if I was okay.
I created a petition that my classmates were afraid to sign and gave speeches that went over their head. I was trying to explain to them that we deserved a faculty that wouldn’t threaten it’s students with physical abuse. They didn’t understand what I was doing, they still don’t. That’s the beauty of pain, it forces you to evolve. When things seem to be going okay, you can become soft, ultimately vulnerable. The captain who’s steered the ship through the storm is going to be more skilled than the captain who only known smooth sailing.
Eventually the whole school knew what happened and by then my parents had found out. Files were charged against the principal so now I had another court date looming. If this wasn’t enough, the school had filed a counter suit against me – claiming behavioral issues. Their futile attempts to control me were utterly hopeless. I just wouldn’t shut the fuck up. I had too much to say. The world around me was going to either love it or hate it, but they’re were definitely going to hear it. I can only recall one piece of advice my father would always give. All he told me was this, “Arthur, you’re mouth is going to destroy you.” . What also didn’t help is that I was always getting into fights. The brawls with Craig over Alexis, the continual altercations with the C brothers, the school saw me as the common denominator.
So let’s recap. That’s 2 assault cases where I’m the victim yet both adults would be found not guilty. Another where I was the defendant but the judge threw the case out because of the absurdity of prosecuting a 12 year old over shenanigans. After court my dad jokingly told me that my next court case would be for murder. Deep down I believed him.
I had made enemies with every bully on every spectrum of the social ladder, and where had my father gone? He left to go to Harlem, where he became addicted to cocaine, or so he said.
The male figure I had to look up and relate to was Tupac. Every time I turned on MTV I would see him in and out of court, just like me. And like I was assaulted by teachers, he was assaulted by cops. I would tweak the lyrics to his songs in my mind. Where Tupac would say ‘crooked cop killing gloc.’ I would hear ‘crooked teacher killing feature’. When Tupac would say ‘running from authorities til they capture me, I would hear ‘running from Will Ogelbay til he captures me. I wasn’t allowed to listen to him even though years earlier my dad took me, Brian, and even my then baby brother to see Juice. It was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. I didn’t even know who Tupac was then.
Every once in a while I would get a call from my Dad. He’d tell me he was bringing me gifts, like Mortal Kombat for SEGA, but never would. On the rare occasion he would show up at home, he would bring me cassette tapes that my mom wouldn’t let me listen to. Albums like Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle. I’d hide them from my mom and she of course would find and take them. Having my father there full time would have been helpful, considering I had beef with so many students, teachers, and principal.
But we were about to find out what had been taking up his time.