My “Something You Didn’t Know” Blog-Share: Memoir Sample

Something You Didn't Know-PBSSince I’m currently researching how to write a memoir and am prepping myself for writing my own one day, I have prepared for you a mini bio. It includes information about me I have never shared on this blog.  I think this will help me to access how to go about the memoir writing process and to also see if I have what it takes to bring my story to life. Ready? Here we go:

Concrete Children – Life inside the Robert Taylor Projects

My name is Yecheilyah Ysrayl, also known as “EC” but a lot of people don’t know that I was born Stacey Hereford on May 26, 1987 at Billings Hospital on the south side. I actually changed my name back in 2008, a year after my road to self-discovery and identity had begun.

The unique thing about my birth is that I was not born alone but I have a twin sister as well, but I will not reveal her name because I did not get her permission to do so. I also have two other sisters and three brothers but my twin and I are the youngest. So total, between my mom and dad there are seven of us. We grew up in the Robert Taylor Projects on Chicago’s south side. When it opened, The Robert Taylor homes housed up to a peak of 27,000 people, although they were built to maintain only 11,000 and comprised of 28 high-rise buildings; with 16 stories each, and a total of 4,415 units, mostly arranged in U-shaped clusters of three, stretching for two miles. It was located in the Bronzeville neighborhood of the south side of Chicago, on State Street between Pershing Road (39th Street) and 54th Street alongside the Dan-Ryan expressway.

“If yo mama’s on dope and yo frigerator’s broke go to chokes! Go to chokes!”

I didn’t make that up, it was an actual song. We sang the hood hymn down the hall of the largest housing project in the country. We sang from the eighth floor to the first every chance we got to make it to the free breakfast program offered by CHA, or Chicago Housing Authority. It was nicknamed chokes because the sandwiches were so dry we were sure to die of thirst if water didn’t deliver us. Yet these raggedy choke sandwiches erupted inside of us a sense of excitement every week, surely preferable to the empty air soup available at the moment. Like most of the families who resided in the buildings, our mother’s twitching mouth and search for the white stuff on the floor proved that the 1980s crack epidemic had taken root especially well, and was a normal scene. For a while I didn’t understand why they bent so much so, wetting their finger slightly before placing it back in their mouth after its short journey to the floor. What they tasted I did not know, but became used to seeing their backs bent in anxious investigation of the corners of the house. I didn’t understand then about the invisible shards of cocaine embedded in the cracks of the floor or the disappointing realization that it is just white paper. But since many of the people who hung around were drug addicts, I became accustomed to such behaviors and could tell at an early age when someone was high. It was not splinters of judgment coming from the walking planks of my childhood perspective; it’s just that to us it was normal. Their faces contorted as their entire presence was invaded by an outside force they could not control. It was more than a decision to get high, it was a need. I imagine the ecstasy of it all took them places, sat them on the tops of clouds and let them see the room spin. They picked imaginary lint from their clothing and laughed at jokes only they were in on. I imagine worry lifted itself from their shoulders piece by piece until peace descended like nothing before and everything was right in the world. At this point nothing is more important than getting back the feeling of the first hit. Every other moment after that is a quest to repeat the trip to the moon the demons took them on. Not even food was more important than feeling that same feeling again. It’s not like they were in their right minds; it is taken out of their heads and resting somewhere in another dimension. They steal and sometimes kill to be taken to this place and they don’t see you. There is no focus on anything but the next hit until they come down from the clouds they’ve been riding. But the urge and thirst of it makes them want it again almost instantly. They are walking zombies, vampires seeking to do whatever it takes to draw blood. It is the price of being hooked, and if they could, they would sell their soul to the devil for a chance to get high. Everything is happy and forgetful all at the same time. They scratched, laughed, talked, and from my naïve perspective they even seemed to love better.

The Robert Taylor Homes faced many of the same problems that doomed other high-rise housing projects in Chicago such as Cabrini Green. Whether it was drugs, violence, murder, disease, you name it, it happened here. The dull, concrete high-rises, many blackened with the scars of fires, sat in a narrow stretch of slum. It seemed the wind carried us to the next step one 4th of July weekend where the wrong turn can be the epitome of a beat down or casual robbery. The tall narrow hallway swallowed us down pee scented stairways and rat infested incinerators. The floors loitered with crack vials, weed and potato chip bags, and walls covered in the scars of spray painted names, profanity, and other scars of wear as we zoomed throughout the building. An explosion of innocence resurrecting our footsteps; unaware of the war taking place on the exterior of where we found hobby. At a time where children had nothing important to ponder except penny candy, concrete children were rocking themselves to sleep on burnt orange sofa’s while their mother’s roamed the streets for the next hit. Fathers were non-existent since their mother’s couldn’t get welfare without them. They were around though, standing on the corners or hiding underneath the beds of women. They were the Uncle Pookie’s and Cousin Ray-Ray’s of hundreds of children who knew them as nothing more than the Big Mike’s of the block. My father wasn’t around either in those early days, at which we’ll explore more deeply later. But today, like all Holidays, was an exception. Our mother’s had sacrificed Food Stamps so that we may take part in the energy of the gods. Today we were sacrificial as a lamb, but tomorrow no one will eat.

The authority of drug dealers overtook CHA (Chicago Housing Authority) and they became the owners. As is common in any hood, dealers fought for control of the buildings. In one weekend, more than 300 separate shooting incidents were reported in the vicinity of the Robert Taylor Homes. Twenty-eight people were killed during the same weekend, with twenty-six believed to be gang-related. Running home from school to escape the presence of gun fire was common for children growing up in the buildings. I can distinctively remember Uncle Huey picking us up from school early as not to be caught in the fury of “wild bulls in a net”. The most noted case is that of little Vinyette. On June 25, 1983, an infant, Vinyette Teague, was abducted from Robert Taylor after her grandmother left her alone in the hallway for a few minutes to answer a phone call. An estimated 50 people were in the hallway at the time of the abduction, but police were unable to gather enough evidence to make any arrests. She has never been seen or heard from since, and her real name I use only because the Newspapers have long since made it public.

Vinyette’s disappearance and the people’s failure to assist in her return was due to the social system that burrowed deeper than the hoods ever infamous rule of “No Snitching”. But due to the extent of poverty, Robert Taylor housing projects developed a system of social welfare and reciprocity between the tenants and gang organizations such as the GD’s (Gangsta Disciples), and BKs, (Black Kings). The gangs protected the tenants and homeless people living in their territory. In return, the gangs were allowed to sell product (drugs) out of the Robert Taylor homes. They also negotiated with the Chicago Housing Authority (who were for the most part scared of the gang members anyway and had little desire to offer assistance to its tenants) for renters. Tenants often exchanged use of appliances for food, money, or services. A community said to have been built to counteract the Chicago slums quickly became an emblem of failure.

End of Memoir Sample

And this has been an EC Blog-Share…whose next?

Something You Didn’t Know – Open Invitation BlogShare

Something You Didn't Know-PBS

We had quite the drive to Chicago. As a result, my brother came up with a great road trip idea:

Go around the car and each person reveals something about themselves that they didn’t think anyone knew. It was a challenge because we all know each other pretty well but we managed to create enough laughs for memory sake. So anyway, I thought it would be a great idea for a blog-share. (I also want to do this because the internet is so filled with phonies and fakes, but here’s a chance for us to be real with one another. It is the only way to grow.)

So, on your own blog, create a post of your choice that tells us something about you that we didn’t already know. Try to be specific to what can’t be found on your blog or its about page. It can be a short story, a poem, a collection of pictures, or just a small paragraph.

Tag your post #SomethingUDidntKnow and

 
Pingback to this post so that I see it and can respond and tweet it for you.
Be sure to visit other people’s blogs, like, and re-blog so that others can get in on the fun

 
My own “Something You Didn’t Know” will follow this post. I first want to give you each the opportunity to understand the rules and tag your post accordingly. (*Try to limit your tags to 15 including categories which act as tags also. This will ensure others will see your post).

 
So, who’s up for a challenge? I know you’re not gonna leave me hanging here are you? C’mon! Tell us something we didn’t know!

#BeWoW Day – Ronovan Writes Weekly #BeWoW Challenge

So today I am a newbie participant in Ronovan Writes #Bewow Prompt; a weekly twitter Blogshare of positive posts. BeWoW is an acronym for “Be Wonderful on Wednesday”. Participants are supposed to compose a post comprising positivity, encouragement, motivation, or just something positive. This week, Ronovan suggested a topic where we write to our younger self: “Advice you would give to your younger self.” Of course, as he states, we don’t have to use this topic, but it is a prompt to help us to get going. I thought this was a wonderful post idea. What’s special about it for me is that last year I did a post very similar to this as suggested by The Daily Post, about when 27 year old me met 17 year old me for coffee. I’ll be 28 this year and this topic seems to have come up again. I think it can also be good practice for writing memoirs. So, let’s see what kind of advice I would give to my younger self:

be-wow-blogger

Dear Self,

Do not think that I am upset right now, though my speech is slow and my brow buried in my forehead. This is just my thinking face. We are actually pretty calmed right now, optimistic if you will. You see we’ve learned to be this way, content. I want you to know that it is OK to take your time. What you need is already prepared for you in the day that you need it. You’ve got some hard times ahead but some groundbreaking ones too. Your level of resolve will continue to be placed against your desire to endure, so pay attention then to the choices you make; they will bear fruit of whether or not you’ve chosen to be strong or held captive to your weaknesses. I want you to know that it is OK to acknowledge the good in your life; to seek good and to pursue love. The attacks to which you are set to receive are not small but they do have the potential to tear you down if you let it. But if you can instead, take the time to ponder all of the good things in your life, to notice the small progressions, these occurrences will not move you nor will they alter your desire to win. I know I know things are never easy for us, never have been. They are always hardcore, up front, and personal. I regret to inform you that this will not change and it will cause you to often, doubt. I would tell you not to doubt but you won’t listen. Experience will continue to boss you around and pain is still your teacher. However, love, joy, happiness, and contentment will not leave you. Like a mother, sister, aunt or a good friend they will not leave you. There will be temptations galore and they are not limited to the flesh. But remember that the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind. Hold on to your innocence but do not be naïve. Learn to understand the world that you live in, and how to properly navigate it. If I remember correctly, we have much more important teenage stuff to do than to sit here and talk about goals but one more thing before you leave. I want you to write this down and to remember it whenever you feel hopeless. Paulo Coelho, a Brazilian journalist, he once said “There are moments when troubles enter our lives and we can do nothing to change them. But they are there for a reason. Only when we have overcome them, will we understand why they were there.”

Signed, Your Future Self

The Liebster Blog Award

liebster-award

Special Thanks to Lisa Tetting (again!) for nominating me for The Liebster Blog Award. This is now my 5th Award and I would like to take the time to first say that I accept the nomination. I am always excited to take advantage of the opportunity to reach as many people as I can. My hope is always that I can deliver someone with my words, to impart upon someone something of substance; something that they could use and expand on and to be a part of. While I do not strive to please everyone, I do hope that everyone who has found interest in this blog has been enjoying themselves so far. If not, well…now is not the time to be negative lol.

Here are the Rules:
1. Link the person who nominated you to your blog post and let them know you answered their questions.
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you by the nominator.
3. Nominate other bloggers for the award.
4. Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.

Questions:
1. What is your favorite color?
My favorite color is brown and anything else earth tone in nature, green, beige, orange, tan.
2. Why did you start your blog?
Well I’ve had a couple blogs in the past because I’ve always enjoyed sharing my poetry. But this blog was initially started because I had recently published a book and I thought starting another blog would be a great way to engage people with my writing. I also thought it would be a great way to measure the continual improvement of the skill. To have people to comment  and to share their thoughts with me, their perspectives, and to engage in challenges and blog awards is for me such an excellent way to gauge where my writing is going and the kind of messages that truly speaks to the people.

3. What is your favorite place to write?
My favorite place to write is at my kitchen table in the dining room at home next to the window.

4. Name your favorite person in the world and why?
Great question. My favorite person in the world is my husband. The reason I say my husband and not my mother or other close relatives is not to downplay their most excellent influence. I choose my husband because of the close bond that I have with him. He is a man filled with much understanding, much compassion, and much faith. I cannot say for sure if I would have been where I am had I not had him standing here to share in the trials that got me here. He is the other part of my strength.
5. Do you have a pet and if so what?
I do not have a pet but I am currently nagging my husband for a German Shepherd. We used to have a Rottweiler (Hubby’s Fav) but I fell in love with Shepherds because of my neighbor at the workplace. She works in a pool and spa place next door to our community center and recently acquired a puppy I have literally watched grow before my eyes. Extremely adorable, no joke.

6. Who is your favorite writer?
Funny I was just thinking about this. I love Terry McMillan and Toni Morrison’s books because they are such visual writers. I love the use of the poetic language and symbolism usually incorporated into their novels.

7. Who is your favorite singer?
My favorite singer is…I’m not sure that I have a favorite exactly. My taste in music kinda wanders over a large range of folks, some of which whose names I don’t know off hand but whose music I love. But I do enjoy some Stephanie Mills, some Whitney Houston, lil bit of Stevie Wonder, Anthony Hamilton, Toni Braxton, Sade, Bob Marley.

8. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Chocolate

9. If you could be anything in the world what would you be?
If I could be anything in the world I would probably be a butterfly if given the chance to turn into anything any second. A butterfly so that I can travel the world quickly and deliver  words to as many people as is possible in my lifetime. I would just say a bird but if I’m a butterfly I can be beautiful too, yesss.

10. What is your super power?
My Super-Power is probably Endurance. I’ve been through a lot in the short time that I have lived but I have not lost hope of everything good.

11. Where is your favorite place to vacation?
Jamaica. Though I’ve only been there once I had an amazing time and my husband and I are dying to go again.

I now nominate the following blogs for The Liebster Blog Award:

SeasonedSistah2

Lucile de Godoy

Wine By Ari

Fill Your Own Glass

Here are Your Questions:

1. Why did you start your blog?

2. What is your favorite city to visit?

3. If there is one post you think best defines your blog, which is it? Post the link too!

4. What’s your favorite color?

5. If there is one thing you’ve learned about blogging that has helped your writing or career, what is it?

6. Other than Writing/Blogging, how best do you like to spend your time?

7. How would you define happiness?

8. Coffee or Tea?

9. What is the one thing that keeps you motivated?

10. What’s your favorite movie and why?

11. If you follow The PBS Blog, what do you like most about it or would like to see more of? 🙂

As an added bonus, since this is my first Liebster award, I just wanted to share a cool definition I looked up that contributed to my choosing of these great blogs:

“It has German origins – the word “liebster” has several definitions: dearest, sweetest, kindest, nicest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, endearing, welcome, and sweetheart.”

And that’s it.

Wow, this post is way longer than I expected lol.