“The Streetz R Deathrow”

Growing up as an inner city brotha

where every other had a pops and a motha

I was tha product of a heated lover

Nobody knew how deep it screwed me

and since my pops never knew me

my family didn’t know what ta do with me

was I somebody they despise

curious look in they eyes


Kenny, the younger of the twins, the shorter of the twins and the most guarded of the twins.

He, like his brother, grew up in Englewood, Illinois, separate from the rest of his siblings, away from me.  A place where people don’t live, they survive. After getting to know one another, it was important to my brother for me to listen to Tupac.  I wasn’t thrilled. I put it off as long as I could because I viewed him as a destructive, egotistical, angry black man who lived his short life dangerously.  Like many of my fellow whites, we avoided him and others who spewed their abhorrent rap.  I gave in and decided to start with reading Tupac’s lyrics.  Lyric after lyric my eyes started to open. What Kenny wanted me to know was just like country music, the blues and countless other genres of music – Tupac was only describing his environment through art and he didn’t create, nor did he perpetuate what went on in his own environment. Through his music he bled his pain of the horrors he saw everyday in the hood and at the same time, he wanted to give hope to survive an evil that didn’t come from one, but that which surrounded him.  Through Tupac’s eyes, he helped me absorb the monstrosities my brother’s had survived.

Finding Kenny after 31 years of separation and setting my eyes on him for the first time, I knew this was the grown-man version of my little brother.  His skin felt the same; his hair, his magnificent, beautiful hair was exactly as I had remembered it.  What I didn’t recognize was the deep, heavily accented voice. I had to strain to understand this strange new city dialect. When speaking, Kenny would patiently pause to explain what a word he was using meant or he would slow down his speech to accommodate my ignorant ears.  He held me captivated for hours as he tried in almost desperation to fill me in on what had transpired in our 3 decades of separation.  I may not have understood all of what my brother tried to communicate to me, but one thing was clear…Englewood stole my brother’s innocence.

This grown version of my brother is rough around the edges, but I still can see glimmers of my young brother I remember.  Even though I was just 11 myself and he was a tot, his deep thinking and compassion for those around him was evident.  If Kerry summoned him, he would reluctantly abandon the comforts of my arms to take part in a Kerry adventure.  He trusted easily.  I know this because despite my small hands losing control of his over-sized diaper pins, thereby poking him many times leaving a trail of small red puncture wounds, he would lie still so I could wrap the cloth diaper around his sweet little body.  It’s almost like he had a tiny-tot intuition that if he started to cry, my mother’s wrath would be upon me before I could take cover.

All of this is so crazy for me to digest, because I never saw color when I was a child, I didn’t know they had more skin pigment than us and I was confused by the reaction people had around the twins, this being the late 70’s. I only knew I had an intense need to protect the smallest of my 4 brothers from evil.  Unfortunately, the evil didn’t live under the bed or in the closet, but in the room next to ours.  The twins and I shared a room and I would try to cuddle them and hold them tight to me despite the noises coming from the other 2 rooms of our apartment – a small space which housed me, the twins and our mother. No matter what was going on, Kenny had a strange calmness about him. One particular night I heard a noise in the other room, so I jumped up out of bed to investigate with Kenny still attached to my body.  As my bedroom door swung open and my eyes adjusted to the light, I looked up to see strange men pointing guns at me and my brother!  There was my mother’s new boyfriend sitting in a chair, his legs open and his arms secured behind his back.  Little does Kenny know that his brush with gangs did not start in Englewood, but in a suburb of Chicago with Mr. Garcia.  

The First Time I Layed Eyes On Kenny After 31 Years of Separation

Watch 17 Year Old Tupac


One thought on “What White People Don’t Want To Know About Tupac

  1. Loved reading this, and also finding myself able to be a part of the story. Such an honor watching things unfold before my very eyes, and I look forward to getting to know our “new” family on an even deeper level.

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