Monday, May 22, 2006


I never met Tiesha Sargent. I would have walked right by her on the street. No, I never knew Tiesha Sargent. But I feel as though I knew her all too well.

Though she was considerably younger than me, we probably bought Jolly Rancher stix from the same candy stores. I'm guessing she may have played double dutch like the girls I knew. She only lived a block away from the apartment where I grew up, the building where I grew up, the block where I grew up. Yeah, she probably played double dutch or freeze tag or, my personal favorite, “run, catch and kiss” on hot summer days. She probably threw snowballs at her friends on the way home from school during the cold-ass winter. And if she grew up at the address I saw for her parents she may have even gone to PS 92, where I went.

I used to fight all the time at 92. I remember one day, walking back from the coat closet, Jerry pushed me. I don't remember if we had been arguing or fighting earlier in the day. I don't remember if I was in a particularly bad mood. I don't remember very much about it. Fourth grade was a long time ago. But I do remember this. I remember spinning around, without missing a beat, as soon as I was pushed, and punching that nigga dead in his jaw. FIGHT!

I recently described that scene to someone and joked that it was like something out of some "Bugsy Malone" version of "Oz." No words were spoken. Things were that volatile. We were always one push, one dis, one hard stare from two niggas going at it like dey was fightin' over the last pair of Air Jordans on God's green Earth. So much anger. So much violence. And we were the top class. We were the smart kids. It must've been a real fucking zoo in those special ed classes...a Brooklyn Zoo.

BROOKLYN ZOO! Ol' Dirty Bastard coined the phrase. It was chilling how accurate it felt when he said it. It's a place I love. It's a place I claim. But sometimes in Brooklyn you are reminded in the most painful ways that human beings are animals. You are faced with the feared Niggers (Africanus Ignoramus). And as Tiesha saw, those muthafuckas eat their young.

A few years back my nephew came to visit me in LA. We went to the beach. There he was, a boy, skinny as J.J. Evans on Dexatrim. He braced himself as a big wave came in and screamed, "FLAAAT-BUUUSH!" I laughed. I knew what that meant. He took on that wave. Like any kid from Flatbush or Brownsville or Bushwick or "Do or Die" Bed-Stuy he knew in his gut that if he could face the Brooklyn Zoo, no stupid ass wave was going to knock him over. Fuck the physics! The little nigga knew the math.

I wonder if Tiesha felt any of that as she went to Brearley, the independent school that Prep for Prep sent her off to after she did her 14 months of hard academic time. I wonder if faced with the challenges of a college like Wesleyan, she ever stared down a final or a paper or a possibly racist professor and yelled, "FLAAAT-BUUUSH!"

Once when I was a teenager, I was in a corner store. A guy came in with his girl and bought a fifty-cent pack of cookies. As he left the store he stopped and turned back. He held up the cookies and said, "This pack is open. I'm'a get another pack." The store owner shot back, "No. You open it." At that point the brother did the only reasonable thing to do in a conflict over a fifty-cent pack of cookies. He pulled out a gun and started waving it.

He said a lot of things. He generally seemed to be commenting on the customer service at that particular establishment and his desire to address the return policy. There was also something about "shootin' a muthafucka" in an attempt to make his position clear. At one point, I saw down the barrel of that waving gun. I thought, "Oh shit. I'm gonna die this store...over a fifty-fuckin'-cent pack of cookies."

I chimed in. "Look, man. As far as I'm concerned you can have another pack of cookies. Can I go?" "Yeah, go ahead, shorty." I calmly slipped between my new best friend and the store owner and out of the store. As I walked back up the street to my building, I laughed.

I remember one day sitting in the Chinese restaurant that was on Bedford, about a block from my house. My mother had sent me to grab some dinner. My buddy, Dwayne, was with me. Then we heard a commotion. It was Liz Kids, a gang of girls who were a lot like the Girl Scouts of America, except they got their merit badges for "stompin' bitches."

Anyway, that kind of noise from that group of girls meant one thing...GIRL FIGHT! We followed them down Parkside. Dwayne and I laughed as we went. Girl fights were great. Eventually somebody always ended up semi-naked…usually titties out. Violence and sex. Sweet.

So they got to the building of the girl who they were going to jump. They were screaming for her to come outside. A crowd was forming. Somebody came outside...but it wasn't the girl they were looking for. It was some muthafucka with a gun. He promptly busted two shots in the air. NIGGAS WAS OUT!

I ran. I hurdled the hood of a parked car. I was passing muthafuckas like they was standing still. My guess is that before those bullets came back down, I was back in the Chinese restaurant. I realized that I wasn’t so much afraid of getting shot because I might die, but because my mother would have wanted to know what the fuck I was doing down Parkside when she sent me to the Chinese restaurant. Dwayne showed up moments later, imitating how fast I ran when the bullets started flying. We laughed.

Once when I was a teenager, I was in Linden Houses, a project in Brooklyn. I was there to see a girl from my school. Some brothers started following me and I was pretty sure it was about to be on. My cousin, let’s call him “Shabazz”, lived over there. I turned around and said, “I’m Shabazz’s cousin.” Those niggas backed away like I had called the name of the Devil himself. Months later, when I saw Shabazz, we laughed about how his name saved my ass. Years later, Shabazz was shot to death. I guess you earn a name like that.

I once heard a woman who was upset about something that someone else was not taking seriously say, “It wasn’t not funny.” I loved that shit. Somehow the fucked up grammar helps to express how “not funny” she found that shit.

I think of Shabazz and I think, "We laughed. But it wasn’t not funny."

I think of our neighbor, Miss Rosa, being stabbed in the elevator. I think of how my teenage sister was the first person Miss Rosa saw. I think of the horrified way my sister described the blood. And I think, “It wasn’t not funny.”

I think of my cousin who was shot in the head in a fucking card game. And I think, “It wasn’t not funny.”

I think of Tiesha Sargent, who I never met. I think of Tiesha Sargent who I would have walked past in the street. I think of Tiesha Sargent, who I never knew. And it makes me sad that I feel I know her all to well.

Tiesha Sargent, a young woman, in her twenties, was killed last Sunday morning. She was shot to death. And it most muthafuckin’ definitely wasn’t not funny!

It wasn’t not funny that after getting through Brearley and Wesleyan, Tiesha Sargent could drown in one of the waves of violence that washes over neighborhoods like Flatbush every day, all over this country.

It wasn’t not funny that we grew up in Flatbush seeing so much violence, knowing so much violence.

It wasn’t not funny that I grew up believing that I probably wouldn’t live to tell the muthafuckin’ tale.

No, none of that shit wasn’t not funny.

So, though I’ve chosen to make violence the subject of a Musing, these days I don’t find it very amusing at all.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just got to read this one bro. Poignant, as usual.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

I did know Tiesha. She was my friend. Actually, she went to Mark Twain--before that, I don't even know. In some ways you probably know more about her than I ever did.

I think she would have appreciated your words. She placed a great value on people who though creatively, felt deeply, and spoke honestly. Thank you.

10:39 PM  
Blogger Dick Von Blogger said...

Love your stories. I'm another kid from FLATBUSH but from a different time and place. The only violence I ever saw was when the nuns at Little Flower were slapping the shit out of us because they were suffering from acute Lesbian Guilt Syndrome. My old man was a New York cop. That might have had something to do with being somewhat sheltered from the HARD CORE ELEMENT. Being from Brooklyn forms a bond between people that transcends all ethnic differences. Dick Von Blogger

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Sam said...

I knew Tiesha as well. I just found out about it tonight. Somebody told me that two people we know from this program we had been through together had died. So I asked who they were and she said one of them was Tiesha. And that she was murdered and this this and that and all the circumstances of it. It all sounded pretty horrible. She was such a nice person. And soooooo beautiful. She had a face like a supermodel. I haven't seen her in a long time so in a way she almost feels me to like a statistic now. But every now and then I would think about her and wonder how and what she was doing. Now that I think about it, maybe she even thought the same about me from time to time. But not anymore. I wish that asshole had died in her place.

10:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am her younger sister. A couple years later, and I am reading this now.... If you see this, I want to say thank you.

3:46 AM  

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