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DAILY PERIL! Getting an Education in the Hood

Let’s take a look at the process I went through to get to my old high school in the Bronx. Think about this next time you try to argue that I have had it easy in life. People assume that because I am doing “okay” today, that this was all gifted to me at birth. Some say that because I am “light skinned”, that I had it easy. Perhaps by reading some of my past stories, you’ll understand why I get so defensive when you imply that because I’m “white looking” I had an easy go at life. By saying things like that, you discredit all of my hard work, you negate all of the effort that I put in, and the obstacles that I overcame. You discredit how I very much literally survived past those days to be where I’m at today.

Some people say, “Angel, you’ll never understand what the struggle is!” Give me a freaking break! When I went to Dodge High School in the Bronx, I had to take a bus. Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate riding the public buses. I’d much rather take the train everywhere, but back then I had little choice due to the location of my train station and the school.

Usually, I would take the 1 or 2 Bus to Fordham Road, and switch to the 12 bus down towards Dodge. The buses presented a clear and present danger to every rider, and I’ll also be sharing some of those specific stories as well.

You could try and avoid the buses, but even if I took the treacherous walk towards the D train, which could replace the 1 or 2 bus ride for me, I would still have to take a bus down Fordham Road. Allow me to explain my journey and the thought processes back then.

The walk from Clarke Place, to the train station was the equivalent of the hobbit’s journey through Mordor! First you have to walk past Marcy Place, though not as terrible as Elliot Place, it was always a risky block to walk by. That was weird because on that very block stood a private Catholic School called “Christ the King.”

Now Elliot place, which came after Marcy, was one of the worst places you could walk by. Nearly everyone in that block was a criminal, and simply walking past the damn place was considered an offense punishable by death.

One time we got jumped by 20 guys, with knives, bats, chains, and Pitbulls simply for visiting a friend in the block. We had to call for back up from our own block to get out of their alive. Those guys literally wanted to feed us to their damn dogs! Our people came with guns, and their own arsenal to perform a safe extraction. The Elliot place guys saw that we could now fight back, and they held off on a full scale war, though they did follow us all the way out of the block while cursing and throwing crap at us.

I kid you not, this was literally a scene out of the movie Warriors. They were waiting for us in front of the building, it was so many of them, about three dogs, and lots of weapons. It’s bizarre how we survived that one. The way these people behave is ridiculous, I wonder how many of them (if any) are still alive, and or free men?

You could not walk from the train stop to the school. That was another mission into the belly of the beast. See, before reaching my school, you had to pass by the dreaded Roosevelt High School. This had to be hands down one of the worst high schools in the Bronx. I remember every time the bus drove past this school. The kids were partitioned into gangs and groups, this is the closest to the TV show Oz that I have ever come to in the civilian world. I mentioned before that going to school in the Bronx was like prison; Roosevelt was a perfect example of this. A perfect training ground for the future prison population of America.

Riding the bus didn’t guarantee you wouldn’t encounter violence during your commute. However, it was much safer riding the bus with a few of them, than it was walking past the blocks that they owned, or that horrific school! Anyone from the hood knows that you do not go to the back of the bus. The same applies to the very first, or last car on the train. As far as I have always known, that’s where all the hooligans and criminals would go to hang out. I generally stood in the middle of the bus, with access to the front and rear exits in the event of an emergency. I left myself two possible escape routes.

Sometimes the back of the bus comes to you, and you don’t have much choice but to deal with it. There I was, minding my own business. I could hear the guys in the back saying “Yo, let’s get that white boy and light his hair on fire.” Back then, I had one of those little tails on my head, and to them, I was a white boy. I guess they took offense with my hairstyle and they wanted to ignite it. I could hear them laughing, but I stayed away from them. When I heard them playing with the lighter, I moved up closer to the front of the bus.

Then out of nowhere this guy runs by and pops me in the face with all of his might. My legs buckled, but I shook it off, and maintained consciousness. His friends all began laughing as he ran off of the bus. They noticed me looking at them, then one of them took off his sunglasses and said “What? I’m not hiding my face, what you want?” At that point a bunch of them stood up, and started moving up coming towards me. I heard some of them making fun of their friend, who was by then probably long gone, “He didn’t drop, he didn’t drop! That fool is weak, son, he didn’t knock him out. Careful, white boy can take a hit!” Yes, this was my own personal, real life encounter with the knockout game!

I was greatly outnumbered, outsized, and still quite dizzy from the sucker punch. So I started backing away, and they continued following me towards the front of the bus. They continued threatening me, telling me that they were going to drag me off the bus and light my hair on fire.

I don’t know exactly how I got out of that one, I think that their bus stop came and they eventually got off the bus before I did. So I would live to ride another day. Eventually I made it home, and I could check off another day survived commuting to and from school.

Yes, I had it easy growing up! I don’t know anything about the struggle, and all that I have was magically gifted to me. Give me a break! That’s a peak into what I grew up with, think about that next time you try and claim that I had it easy.



Angel Rodriguez

Angel is a blogger with appearances on The National Geographic Channel, MTV, HLN, FOX 5, HOT 97 FM, NY1, Bronxnet and many popular online sites. He is a U.S Air Force Veteran, Political Columnist, Musician, MMA Fighter, Foodie, and the Host of The Hidden Report Talk Show. Follow Angel on twitter and most social media via @AngelRdotMe

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