Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Hate Religion!

I really do! Now, before you punch a hole through your computer screen, cursing me and condemning me straight to the pits of hell, at least hear me out. Then, if you still feel like doing that, you can tell me to “go to hell” and I will take it like a man.

When I was in Germany many people asked me if I am a “religious person”. I would shudder at the thought and answer that I am not, or at least I try not to be, religious, but follow that by saying I am deeply spiritual and believe in Jesus, and much of what I do is rooted in that belief. But I also feel that many people who call themselves followers of Christ are not as much following Him, as they are following a system which was created to follow Him; a system that gives size, shape and color to a seeming invisible God. Much like Bill Maher, and his anti-religion documentary Religulous, I hate religion for the division it brings to the world. The difference between me and Bill however is he does not believe there is a God and so he finds religion absolutely ridiculous and absurd, but I believe there is a God and believe that religion (and much of the harm done in its name) is man’s feeble, flawed attempt at following God. But I hate religion.

I do not hate God. I actually love Him a lot. I just hate religion. By religion I mean the practices, traditions, buildings, rules, regulations, legalism, sects, denominations, and so on we create to try and follow God. The man-made stuff. Our means to the end, the end being God. I guess as humans we need a certain degree of it, because we are simple creatures really. Like the Israelites who created a golden cow while Moses was gone for a few days, or Thomas who checked the resurrected Jesus’ scars for proof, we like to see things. We want the tangible, not the mysterious. We want an instruction booklet and a warranty, not a choose your own adventure book.

We like to build safe boxes, with as few questions as possible, to make our experience of following God easy, human-friendly and safe. In the process, we often leave God behind and passionately follow religion; because religion is easier to see (for those who do not have time to look deeper) and much easier to follow (for those who want more answers than questions). Unfortunately, in our quest to follow God, we make a lot of user-friendly practices, regulations and steps in order to help us better follow God, and those very religious things are what end up causing much harm and discord in the world. We hurt people, push them away and the “religious” fight amongst themselves, battling to prove who is more “right” and superior, often forgetting that God is the only right and superior one.

People who speak hollow religious words with actions that do not match are following religion, not God.

Denominations and church splits are of religion, and not of God.

Radical extremists bombing abortion clinics or flying planes into buildings are radically following religion, and not God.

The Crusades were led by religion, not God.

Slavery and oppression throughout the world was justified by religion, not God.

When I look at Jesus’ life of activism, I see that much of what he did in His walk on earth was break down religion, because it was being used to oppress people and hurt them. He came to uncomplicate things. When asked what the most important commandment is, He said “love God and love people”. Anything else is complicating the situation. If we love God and love people, other important stuff will follow, and the negative behaviour (through judgments, condemnation, practices of exclusivity, aggression, etc.) will fall away. Let’s face it, we often treat people really bad in the name of religion posing as the “name of God”! I do not think He likes that very much. As a matter of fact, when Jesus was on earth, the only people He spoke harshly to were the religious leaders of the time, and people bringing violence and greed into the place of worship. Jesus hated religion, but He wanted people to meet God, feel His love, and love each other. Because religion of the time was causing harm to people. Jesus wanted people to be free, not live in bondage. Today we see the same things happening in the name of religion. And people are so busy spreading ”religion” many have left God behind, and those recipients of the dished out religion, and the Kingdom of God itself is suffering because of this. That’s why I hate religion.

Feel free to swear and throw your computer at me now!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Searching for Truth

Part of this journey I seem to be on is for me to learn about truth. This theme has come up in both books I am presently reading (Velvet Elvis & The Shack), and indirectly in the many conversations I am having with Anne. In Velvet Elvis Rob Bell writes an entire chapter on Truth, and how Christians have been historically bound and limited to what they believe is truth, but are not able to see it in other things, teachings and people outside of their small spectrum which they consider to be "Christian". But Bell argues that all truth comes from God and no matter the source, it can be claimed and used in the life of a believer.

I have, for instance, experienced this when listening to Jay Z, when he says something like, "Fear not when nor fear not why. Fear not much while we're alive. Life is for living not living uptight. See you somewhere in the sky. Fear not die, I'll be alive for a million years bye bye." He may not claim to be speaking the word of God, he may not even claim to believe in God, but there is no denying the truth which is found within those words, and I can claim them and believe them for myself. That does not now mean that everything Jay Z says becomes truth and applicable to my life, and so when he raps, "You know I thug 'em, f%@#! 'em, love 'em, leave 'em, cause I don't f%@#!in' need 'em." I do not have to accept that belief about women as truth for my life.

Rob Bell speaks about how even Paul often quoted prophets of other gods in his letters to certain churches, because he saw truth in what they said, and knew that that very truth spoke to the people (the followers of that god) and it was even familiar to them. That did not mean he had to prescribe to every statement or belief of that particular prophet or god, but he was able to sift through the words, find the truths that stood out and use them in his own life. I like this. Because so often, especially when it comes to religion, we humans use our differences to push each other away, rather than finding similarities that can bring us closer together. We do this with religion, the color of skin, the type of music we like, political views, and pretty much every aspect of life.

It is interesting spending so much time with Anne, because she has lived many more years than I, and she is an extremely wise and deeply spiritual woman. I imagine that many Christians would spend time trying to "convert" Anne, or prove that her beliefs are wrong, or try and show how what she believes does not fall in line with what they believe or claim to know. The interesting thing is, in my short 48 hours in Germany, I have spoken with Anne more about God and spiritual things than I have in the past few months with my Christian friends. And these conversations have not been me trying to convince Anne about what I believe, or her trying to convince me of what she believes, but rather meeting in the middle on certain spiritual truths that we both believe, and not feeling threatened by the differences in beliefs when they do arise. We both believe we live in a natural world with spiritual forces that are active in our lives and an entire unseen spiritual realm which exists, leading, guiding and affecting human interaction and behavior.

Though we may view it in different ways, we both acknowledge that there is much more happening, behind the scenes, than what our mere eyes can see or perceive. And we meet together and agree on this common truth. It is actually so freeing, and so wonderful. So we can speak about being able to see the "light" in certain people, and though we may use different terminology for it, we are really speaking about the same thing. Or we can speak about Jesus and though Anne does not believe He is God and I do we can agree that the life He lived was that of love and activism, Anne also believing that He had more "light" in Him than any other person to ever walk the earth. Or we can speak of Buddha in the same way, and I do not feel the need to follow him, but I can see and believe the truth in many of his life and teachings, especially those regarding the poor.

This all feels so refreshing and I wonder why so many people are scared of these types of interactions. Maybe it is a fear in them to question, maybe it is shaky beliefs of their own, or maybe they are not completely convinced about what they say they believe and therefore rather stick to simple, surface clichés, phrases and conversations; conversations that are safe and do not pose a perceived threat to their belief system. But what amazing interactions we can have with one another when we choose not to try and use our differences to push each other farther apart, but rather look at the good and truth within one another, and use that good, and truth, and similarity to bring us closer. This way seems more right. This way seems more Godly to me. You do not have to accept it as truth for you, but it is a truth that has recently set me free.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Year of Living Biblically

I love it when I come across an unexpected treasure! The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs is a recent example of one of those “treasures”. A friend of mine gave me the book for my birthday, and I had it polished within a few days of receiving it! I found it hard to put it down. Before that I had neither heard of the book or the author, but apparently his first book The Know-it-All was quite a success, as he read the entire encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z and wrote about his experience and the new knowledge gained from his exercise. After taking on such a big project, A.J. says he knew his next book would have to carry equal or greater clout, and that is when he decided to spend a year reading, studying, and immersing himself in the number one seller of all time, the Bible. He decided to try and literally follow each and every commandment as close as possible, especially looking deeper into the more mysterious, questionable ones.

Though A.J. is Jewish by birth, he says his nuclear family’s religious interactions went about as far as having a Star of David on the top of their Christmas tree. A.J. considers him self an agnostic. I am sure many Jews and Christians alike cringe at the thought of a “nonbeliever” reading and trying to follow the Bible literally; we’ve got enough bad press out there, right? But in reading, time and time again I was amazed, and at times taken aback, by his approach. He seemed to really take on the role of a seeker and, for the most part, he managed to behave in the humblest and nonjudgmental ways possible. He was often more focused on his own reaction to the laws and traditions that are stranger in nature, than focusing on the strange laws and traditions themselves. Much of the time he was far less judgmental and condemning than an average “religious person” would be if they came across some of the people and things which he experienced in his quest

His wit and humor mixed with brutal honesty and sincerity were absolutely refreshing to me. Naturally, the book being labeled in the “humor” category, I expected to laugh! And laugh I did, often, sometimes out loud, but the more surprising moments for me were when A.J. got an epiphany of some sort, something that really touched him, or caused him to ask him self deep, reflective, scary questions about his beliefs, morality and even child rearing (as a fairly new parent). This book coming into my life at this very point in time was truly God sent; no pun intended! It in fact spurred me to ask more questions about what I believe and why, but also inspired me to be more acceptant of things I may not agree with or fully understand. Though this self proclaimed agnostic author’s book is found in the humor section, I would go as far to say that they should move it to the spiritual section of the book shop, because it healthily pushed me further into my faith and what I believe.

That being said, I think religious or not, God fearing or not, everybody can benefit and enjoy this book. Whether you are a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, Agnostic or anything else, I believe there is something in it that everyone can relate to on a mere human level. I suggest you do yourself a favor and go buy or borrow a copy and give it a read!

Oh, and A.J., seeing that you always talk about Googling yourself, if you happened to stumble upon this blog, leave a comment and let us know you were here!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In My Mouth: Two Feet and the Best Latte I Have Ever Had

I am pretty jaded when it comes to the Church. I guess, in general, I just feel like we as Christians have lost the plot in many ways; so caught up with programs, and big buildings, and tradition, and money, and legalism, and laws, and judgments, and so on, that we often neglect the simple, basic things like love of God and justice.

I have a friend who is faced with a challenge. It is not just any “challenge”, but it is one that will lead to many of her Christian friends judging her, treating her different, not being nice to her, and being generally self righteous towards her. I am not a psychic, profit, or meteorologist, but based on my previous experiences with friends who have been in the same, and similar, situations, I pretty much know Christian people’s responses. And those responses are what my friend is very scared of.

I have seen Christians treat people different in church because they are smelly, dirty and wear raggy clothes. I have been told by a young “street kid” that a particular church will not let him come in because he is black. I have seen a friend dealing with homosexual feelings be totally shunned and wrongly treated. I have seen how many churches are more concerned with numbers than they are with people. I have seen people put legalism over love. I have seen people be judged and condemned, rather than cherished and embraced.

So tonight I was speaking with my wife about the situation of our friend. During the conversation I said something harsh and judgmental along the lines of, “You know, most Christians are really horrible people when it comes down to the things that really matter, like how we treat each other.” I went on to talk about how judgmental Christians can be when they think someone is “in sin”, and usually when a person needs them the most is when that person is met with judgments and condemnation.

Though I have indeed experienced this, many times, it was a blanket statement I was making.

So my wife and I went on to get some coffee at Vida e Café. She waited on the side while I went to the register to order and pay. Just as I pulled my money a guy appeared, seemingly, out of no where.

“Mr. Brown, can I pay your bill?”

I said, “Yes?”

I don’t know who was more shocked: me or the guy behind the register. I didn’t really know what to say and I looked at the guy to see where I knew him from. He said, “You don’t know me. I just know who you are.” He paid for my latte and my wife’s hot chocolate. He didn’t cause a scene, give an explanation, clang a cymbal, or even tell me his name. He took his change from the man, handed me the slip, smiled and told me to “be blessed”.

I was still in shock. I asked him where he knew me from. He said Life Church, a church in town that I often perform at. He then smiled, told me to have a nice evening, and disappeared as quick as he had popped up. I was blown away; a total stranger coming up and paying my bill, remaining nameless, and so humble. It may not hit you on the level that it hit me, but I stood there stirring sugar into my latte, fighting off tears.

A guy who, by nature of his belief system, I had just included in a negative statement about the group he belonged to, came up and performed a selfless, anonymous, and random act of kindness that made me feel really good about myself, God and that guy. I had thrown the baby out with the bath water, and the baby stood up and bought me a latte.

It was refreshing.

It was a reminder to me of how one fairly simple act can positively change the course of a person’s day.

And as I walked out of the Waterfront with both of my feet in my mouth, drinking a latte, I was also reminded that in seeking justice for those that are being mistreated, I can become just as judgmental as the people that I am upset at for being judgmental.

I gotta watch out for that!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Plastic Fruit

Yesterday I got pelted in the face with plastic fruit! “Plastic fruit???!” you say? Yes.

A Christian guy I have never met before approached me and started a conversation. A guy who has no clue who I am, where I come from, what I have been through, what makes me “me”; someone who doesn’t know me from Adam. I could tell by the way he started the conversation that the guy was slightly out of touch with the “real world”, and yet I had the sinking sensation I was about to receive a sermon of some sort. That sensation became a reality within minutes of him talking, questioning, prodding, and preaching.

I don’t want to judge the guy, and I hope his intentions were good, but I do not understand where Christians get the spiritual arrogance to think that they can go up to complete strangers and force their views and opinions on them. I just don’t get it. I am a Christian and it makes me not want to be a Christian. I can’t imagine what it does to those who are not. I don’t want anybody from any religion to come up and start forcing their view on me out of the blue for that matter!

I would go even further to say that I don’t even want basic advice from complete strangers. Imagine the absurdity of a complete stranger coming up to you at a restaurant and saying, “Um, hey, I noticed you were talking with food in your mouth, and you also have elbows on the table! You really shouldn’t do that!” That would be strange! But for some reason, some people do not see it as strange to go up to complete strangers and force their “spiritual manners” on them.

I hate it when people feel the need to awkwardly force God into every conversation. To me, that is not fruit of a true and genuine relationship with God. Again, I am not trying to be judgmental because I don’t know these people’s hearts, but I feel like if someone’s relationship with God is real and true, there will be little need for forced words, because the actions and aura (Yes, I said aura!) of that person will naturally reflect the light and love of God.

If someone has a real connectivity to God, like any good relationship, that relationship will bear luscious, beautiful, juicy fruit!

People will see it.

People will feel it.

People will taste and see that it is good.

People will talk about it.

But only if it is not forced, fake or plastic.

It has to be real.

I do not believe God is sitting up with a notebook marking down how many religious conversations we have with people, how many times we are able to force His name into one conversation, and how many people we manage to “get to” in one day with forced banter about Him. When I read what James says about pure and undefiled religion, what Matthew 25 says about how we will be judged, what Isaiah 61 offers a hurting world, and what God sees as the fasting acceptable in his eyes in Isaiah 58, I see that God is more interested in how we behave, how we look after each other, how we support each other, how we let Him naturally shine through us, how we treat those that society considers “less” than us, if we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, speak out for the oppressed, look after the orphans, take care of the widows, invite the homeless into our homes…

Not if we merely speak hollow, empty words about Him, but rather if, like Jesus, we are living, walking, talking versions OF Him.

I love real fruit!

I hate being hit in the face with plastic fruit!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Let's Make a Movie

I know I have been quiet for a while, and I am sorry for that! Things have just been busy! But a good kind of busy. I am trying to get the word out, in as many ways as possible, that it is child abuse to allow children to live on the streets. A while back I wrote a book called Life Under the Table about my experiences (from the first few years of living in Cape Town) in working with the kids. I have posted it as a blog, for those of you that would like to read it just click on the title. While writing that book I was struck with a harsh conclusion: many stories I would like to tell would not fully be “understood” unless the reader has walked a long road with the individual. So if I told stories of hectic crime or drug abuse that the children partake in, I fear the reader might tend to feel negative feelings about the children, without truly understanding the fullness of the situation and reality with which they live. To remedy that, I decided to write a fictional series, based on a mixture of real experiences of real children, combined with my own imagination and story telling liberties.

The idea for the series is to focus on one “character”, tell the story from his point of view (taking him from his community to the streets to wherever his path takes him), and allow the reader to build a relationship with him, so that when he begins to participate in “questionable” behavior of street life, the reader is on “his side”. I have finished the first book of the series (though I have not approached publishers yet) and am working on the second. As I was writing the first book, which I titled Out of Manenberg, I often pictured it as a movie and dreamed about seeing it one day manifest itself in “film” form. I want to make a proper, great quality, feature length film of Out of Manenberg, and though I realize this is extremely ambitious, I know that dreams have to start somewhere. So I have decided to pursue this dream with a little more aggression and I am trying to raise funds to actually MAKE the movie! I have a very talented director friend who is excited and willing to work on the project. All we need is money.

I am trying to raise 1 Million Dollars, which sounds like tons of money but for a feature length film it is merely a drop in the bucket. I started a group on face book “I hope to find 1 million people willing to give 1 dollar each, to make a movie” and I opened a Pay Pal account so that people can give. If you are interested in giving you can click on the “donate” button on the right hand side of your screen or click here. If you want to give but do not wish to use Pay Pal feel free to contact me at It only takes 1 dollar to become an executive producer of this film! Please help spread the word, even if you can’t give 1 dollar you can help by telling all your friends! As a little incentive, here is the first chapter of the book:

OUT OF MANENBERG - Chapter 1: Learning To Survive

I can’t sleep. Its nights like these where I lay and think. All of my shattered dreams, aspirations, and hopes, of what I could have done, of what I could have been, swirl around in my head like a raging storm. I lay here on this thin mattress with nothing to drown out my loud thoughts except for deafening silence and the sound of rats scratching around the prison floor. Yeah, I have had a rough life, but I truly have no one to blame but myself for the place I am in now. I had an opportunity to make it out of my life, that was destined to go nowhere, and then because of one stupid choice, I threw it all away. I will spend the rest of my life behind these walls, encaged within these bars. How did I get here? There’s no simple answer, but the best place to start is the beginning.

I was born in 1987 in Manenberg, a suburb of Cape Town that has a reputation for violence and gangsterism. I never knew my father, but from what I hear about him, I don’t really care to ever meet him. He lives far away or is dead by now. I don’t really care. I have three brothers and two sisters, all except for two are from different men. I am the oldest. My mom was as loving as she knew how to be. She also didn’t know her father. That’s because her mom was raped by a white police officer. She grew up during a hard time and the white people made it difficult for her to succeed. She had no education and she would try and drink away her problems with alcohol. She didn’t have a job but we never seemed to struggle too much for our basic needs. Well, that is if you consider water, sometimes food and shelter basic needs. Our neighbors would always give us rice and bread when we needed it.

I have always been a natural leader. I am small, but I learned how to use my mouth at a young age. I got into my fare share of trouble because of my mouth, but I also learned how to use it as a deadly weapon, when need be. I have also been in my fair share of fights, and though I am small, I am pretty tough. I remember my first fight. I was seven, and my brother, the second oldest, Andre was four. He came home one day screaming and blood was streaming down his face. Mom had sent him to the store to buy her a cigarette and on the way Melvin, one of the known troublemakers of our area, tried to take his money. Melvin was a thirteen-year-old bully and he got away with it because his older brother was one of the big shots in one of the prominent gangs in our area, the Hard Livings. When Melvin tried to take the money from Andre, my brother knew that the beating he would get from Melvin would not be nearly as bad as the one he would get from my mom if he returned home with no cigarette and no money, so he stood up to him. Melvin hit Andre so hard that he fell and busted his head open on the ground. Then Melvin sat on Andre and took the money from him.

I listened, as Andre stood there crying and bleeding all over the floor. After I had gotten the facts straight, I decided to go settle things with Melvin. No one messes with my little brother. I felt my heart pounding in my chest as I ran to confront Melvin. By the time I got to the shop, Melvin was standing there, smoking the cigarette that was supposed to be my mom’s and he was laughing and telling the story of how he had gotten it, to a group of about five of his friends. I felt a warm sensation all over my body and it felt like my heart was going to beat out of my chest. Melvin was twice my size and known for his fighting abilities.

I picked up a brick that was lying on the ground and started for him. Before he knew it, I had jumped up onto him and I hit him on the forehead with the brick. As he fell to the ground, I landed on top of him. The brick fell out of my hands and bounced as it hit the ground. My arms went numb as I punched him in the face over and over again. I could feel my knuckles being shredded by his teeth but I could not stop myself. I had never felt that kind of rage before. His friends stood there in shock, not really knowing what to do. When I saw that he was unconscious, I stopped. There I sat, on top of bloody, unconscious Melvin, with a group of kids standing there in absolute shock. I slowly stood up and picked the brick back up, in case some of his friends got any bright ideas. I looked at them and I could tell that I had a wild look in my eyes that scared them; a look of a wild animal on the prowl, ready to devour his next prey. They all just stood there like statues. I announced, “You tell Melvin, when he wakes up, that if he EVER touches my brother again, I will finish what I started.” Pretty big words for a seven year old! But I had heard the older gangsters in our block of flats say things like that before.

Then I remembered my mom’s cigarette and I searched Melvin’s pocket and found a whole rand. I went into the shop and bought the cigarette for my mom and two sweets, one for me and one for Andre. I walked proudly back to my house. I felt a sense of power that I had never felt before. I felt like I ruled the neighborhood. I felt like I could take on a whole army if I had to. When I got back to my house, I gave my mom her cigarette and I gave Andre his sweet and I sat down and told him the whole story.

Fighting was a necessity in my neighborhood. Those who couldn’t fight for themselves, had to walk around with those who could both fight for them and for themselves. The gangs ruled the area and they preyed on the young boys. They recruited from a very young age. If you didn’t join a gang, you were in danger. At least if you were in a gang, you would only have the threat of the rival gang and the protection of your own along with it. If you were not in one, you would have to watch your back all the time for all of them. I hated them. I decided from a young age that I was never going to join a gang.

Andre’s dad was a gangster. He lived with us around that same time. The hatred that I had for that man is not describable with words. Every night, he would sit with his friends, in our kitchen, and smoke buttons until he could barely talk right. I hated him even more when he was in that state. He was an evil man most of the time, but when he was dik geroek , he would put the devil himself to shame. Sometimes he would even pass out right there on the floor. I preferred it when he would just kap om , which was only every now and then, because the other times, which was basically every night, he would end up beating my mom and then he would turn his attention on Andre. He hated Andre and always talked about how he was a “mistake”. He beat every bit of dignity and self-respect that was left in my mom, right out of her.

I remember her from a real young age. Even though it seems I was too young to remember things like that, I can still picture her beautiful face in my mind! I thought she was the most beautiful lady that had ever walked on the face of this earth. She was young, at the ripe age of 19, when I was born. When I was three she got with Andre’s dad and then everything went down hill from there. Their relationship was never that good but he only started really beating her like that when he found out she was pregnant with Andre. He blamed her for getting pregnant and some nights he would make her drink and drink to a dangerous point, to try and abort the baby. Some nights he would beat her and even hit and kick her on her stomach. I was young, and I would just sit there on the floor crying, but those pictures are still engraved in my mind.

When Andre was born, it got even worse. He beat my mom on a nightly basis. By the time Andre was three and I was six, my mom looked like a totally different person to the beautiful young lady that I once remembered. The beatings had added years onto her and she looked like a forty-year-old lady. She had also lost sight in her left eye from one of the more vicious beatings. Her eye was white and cloudy. Her skin was worn and looked like leather and her lips were always swollen. It broke my heart to even look at her because I loved my mom more than anyone else in the world. When I was eight years old, I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I came in from playing with friends one night and I found my mom, bleeding and unconscious, on the floor. Then I heard Andre screaming in the back room and I could hear his dad beating him and telling him to shut his mouth. His words slurred together, as they often did when he was dik geroek.

I felt that same feeling that I did in that first fight with Melvin. By then I had gotten used to it because I had been in many more fights over the years. I picked up a screwdriver that was laying in the kitchen and I ran back to the back room. I stopped in the doorway and saw the bastard standing over Andre with his belt in his hands. Andre was curled up on the floor and was crying and pleading for him to stop. “Jou ma se poes kind! Jy’s net soos jou ma!” He continued to hit Andre, with the buckle part of the belt. I could not take it anymore. I felt a rush of rage and then everything turned black. I jumped on his back and stuck the screwdriver into the back of his neck and he immediately fell to the ground. He fell on top of my leg and I had to pull it out from under him to stand up. I went over to Andre and helped him sit up.

His eyes were swollen shut from the beatings and he was bleeding all over. I held him and told him that everything was going to be alright. My heart felt like it was ripped into a hundred pieces. I loved my brother more than anything or anyone else in the world, apart from my mom, and it killed me to see him like that. I started to cry and I sobbed like never before. We just sat there on the floor and I held Andre until he fell asleep in my arms. I was in shock and I just sat there, shaking, crying and I held Andre tight until I eventually fell asleep. I was awoken by a loud blood-curdling scream the next morning. My mom had woken up and came into the room and saw her man laying on the floor in a puddle of dried blood with a screw driver sticking out of the back of his neck. She picked me up and started shaking me, screaming, “What have you done?! What have you done?!” I searched deep within for words, but nothing came out.

She collapsed to the ground and held me tight in her arms and began to sob. I could see that she wasn’t crying because she was sad, but because she was actually relieved. Andre woke up and came over and we all sat there on the floor for hours. Time passed by slowly and we all just sat there and didn’t say a word. Looking back, strangely enough, that was the best time I ever spent with my mom. For the first time ever…maybe the only time…we felt like a real family. We sat there until the night and my mom finally went out to a friend’s house. A little bit later she returned with some men and they took away the body and we never heard anything about it again. The police didn’t get involved and there wasn’t even a funeral. Of course the word got out in the neighborhood, that I had killed a man, which only helped my reputation amongst the kids.

I had killed someone. I felt no remorse, no grief, but that wasn’t the thing that scared me. What really scared me was that I knew if I were put in the same situation again, I would do it over again. I had to protect my mom and my brother. They were all I had.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009