Dec.2005 - Jul.2007
004. Experiential Learning
I was living in the east side of Bed-Stuy, around Fulton St. and Howard Ave. All my neighbors were black people from Caribbean islands and Africa. My apartment was a typical Brooklyn apt called coop. Landlord from Guiana, roommates from Niger, Jamaica, and me de Japan.
People in my block were so chill. Hanging out on a sidewalk, people watch, chat, was like third world vibes I liked. However, there was like a tension/unspoken rules that not to invade other blocks... locals seem to protect theirs from outsiders or something. So I didn't become too into an neighborhood exploration. Even though there was an outside dance, perhaps by Jamaicans, begins midnight till the morning every other weekend in the backside of my block, I didn't get involved with them simply they were in other block.
In my hood, I spent lots of time hanging out at a tire shop owned by this big rastaman Wanki. Most of the shop crew were southern Caribbeans from St. Vincent, Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada. They all loved machines like dirt bike, racing bike, buggy, 50cc mini, Scooter, you name any kinds of wheels with engines. I loved riding them too, specially the dirt biker, woow so powerful and so much fun to ride. Thanks Wanki. Anyway, so I was there almost everyday, so most of the crew got to know me a bit. They called me Nochi, it was good feeling that I felt I was accepted. But sometime they friends stopped by, saw me and said "yo Chino" or "whagwaan Chinaman"... oh well.
An interesting thing I found around my block was a church issue. Yeah, religion, Christianism, hard core, you know. I don't care what you believe. But what I saw in the hood was something sketchy. This white-wall church right in front of my apt seemed "doing good". The bigman of the church got two rides, Mercedes and Range Rover, and everybody stopped by this church got nice cars like Lexus, Cadillac and so on. And about 20m apart, there was this brown-wall church that seemed to be doing "good". They give away boxes of carrots, onions, potatoes and so on to those in need. They live on the same block. And both of them are Christianism yet showing super interesting contrast. Yeah, it was def, capitalistic reality.
In addition, there were more than a couple of organizations around my block that give away free lunch for poor and hungry people. And actually me too got the free lunch once. This guy Steve one day took me there with him. It was like, "yo Nochi, you hungry? Lets go get a sandwich." And I waited in line. Obviously I was the only Asian in the place. Even this organization guy, when my turn he caught my eyes and had a moment. Was it the first time for him to hand a lunch bag to a Chinaman? Well eventually I got handed a brown bag.
Inside of it were a sandwich with bleached bread and yellow colored American cheese, crackers and apple juice from concentrate. Steve had a big smile and said to me, "yo Nochi, now you know. You ain't be starving." It was all good.
What I learned the most in Bed-Stuy with black people was vibes. No matter what you are, you gotta be genki to survive to live up. If you got a miserable situation, you gotta make your own bottom up. Hiphop made it to the world. Of course I met someone who said "I can't do anythings bout it cuz I'm black and fuckin poor. You don't know". Well, I never know yet I also met lots of energetic black people who move forward with positive vibes while struggling. I liked that and respect him.
I am somehow optimistic. I am also aware of the majority of people don't give a shaitze. That's why I feel strong vibes from those who have struggled. Everybody had to go through that at some point. It's like a foundation of life. Jewish people, African people, Asian people, Caucasian people too, everybody, and now it's my turn.