Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Miracle on Dean Street

This past week in the news in NYC at least two kids were brutally abused by their parents. One little girl died. So this morning I get up. Finally eat early, made my bed and got to work. After a call with my business partner for, I sat at my computer in the three bay windows of my apartment. I live on the first floor of a brownstone in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. It's a predominately black neighborhood of working and middle class folks.

At about 12:30pm, I am surprised by the frictive cussing of a brother shouting down his girlfriend just outside my window on the sidewalk. He sounds big and massively hurt behind "this B*tch ain't gonna take my parental rights away with THAT nigga!" He was pleading behind RED anger and threatening words. Earl was himself feeling threatened and on the attack. I could hear EVERYTHING he was saying through the fan in my window like he was standing inside my apartment. The narration of a father wronged got so loud that I had to look to see what was going on.

He was a tall, broad nice looking brother. Fit, muscular and pretty hair. The sister he was ranting about--the B*tch--was getting in her car with her kids. He stood over the car door really threatening her physically while telling the sister's cousin that he was raised to never put his hands on a woman but "this b*tch has me feeling like I want put my hands around her neck!" He moved towards her in the car as he towered over the doorway of a small sedan. I picked up my cell and dialed 911.

The 911 agent answered. "There is a confrontation in front of my house involving parental rights and the brother is about to put his hands on her." Just then sister pulled the car out of a parallel parking space with door still open and drove off with her kids. "She just left." The agent said "OK" and I hung up.

The fury of his anger intensified. He had to tell her cousins blow-by-blow every detail of he-said, she-said in the matter. "I heard from someone who said they were there..." and "He don't even like my son!! and she wants to take my parental rights away?!!!?? I should be angry. This is RED!!! I ain't takin' this from THAT BITCH!!"

This went on for almost 30 minutes.

I sat there not able to focus on anything but his voice, his words, his pain, his anger towards the mother of his kids, and I started to think: How can I stop this? How can I make a difference?

The thought passed as I moved to finish cleaning my dishes but I still heard it all and it wasn't subsiding in the least. He was even more enraged and more arguing his righteousness in the matter. I thought why do black folks gotta put their business in the streets like that. Maybe I should go out an embarass his ass into submission. "You got your business all in the street. EVERY-one can hear what happened." But I knew that would aid fuel to his red flame.

I put on a skirt and left on my night t-shirt. (Oh by the way, I had foot surgery which has in part by why I've been absent from the blog. THe other part is pure procrastination at this time of year as a professor.) So I put on a skirt, grabbed my cane, and hobbled out the front door and the gated door. There was no turning back now.

He looks directly at me and stops mid-sentence. "OH, MISS I am making too much noise in front-a your house. I apologize." He lowered his voice a notch a bit. The cousin was now joined by another of the sista's family members, both of whom were trying to reason with him, talk some sense into him about his anger. He finished his apology to me, quite genuine, and turned back to the cousins full blast.

I interrupted. "Hey, brother. Can I share something with you? It's no coincidence you stopped here. I met my father 5 years ago for the first time in my life." I wait for it to register. He stops. Really stops and takes it in. "My father died last year." He came over to me and shook my hand.

I continued. "I heard most of what you said and I don't know all the circumstances but I can tell you that your anger is going to land you in prison. I almost called the cops on you. You gotta realize this is not the way to work this out. Your kids are seeing you like this and you're threatening to put your hands on their mother."

"Nah, I would never do that!"
"Well I say you almost do it and you said you are just about ready to do it. I didn't meet my dad til I was 40 and all the circumstances that led to that make perfect sense now but back then people didn't understand what was going on with him."

I wish I could capture all of our conversation. All I want to say is that my "intervention", my sharing what happened with my dad interrupted, no short circuited that situation. It wasn't going the way we ended it.

Five minutes later Earl ended up thanking me. We agreed that is was no accident it happened here. I appealed to him with that everyone winning had to be his intention esp. the kids. I invited him to apologize to his kids for the way he was today. I said if you died tomorrow that would have been the last thing they saw of their father. I impressed upon him that his reaction was correlated to the circumstance but it wouldn't get him what he wants.

He thanked me again. Thanked me, as a stranger, for making a difference. Sometimes it takes a stranger, he said. And really thanked me. I invited him to get another stranger to make a difference, to mediate between he and the mother of his kids. He said ok, could you do it? I got my cards and told them we could do it in my apartment IF she agreed and was ok with it.

This is not what I expected but it is what I wanted for this brother. When he walked away I said my father thanks you, all three of you good brothers. More as things develop.
I reminded him that they both feel threatened and that they both have feelings or this wouldn't be an issue.
They had a kid together and have to have feelings around this or it wouldn't matter.

I told Earl to make a list of what he wants for the kids something like:
1. I want them to feel safe
2. I want them to be taken care of
3. I want them to know their father and visit regualrly

I am going to ask the mother to do the same. Pray for my wisdom in this and my success with this pair of opposite sex.

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