the red backpack


matthew ramirez. houston. ramiremj at gmail dot com.


One year, I spoke at a Career Day, I forget what school it was, but Yung Joc was the “headliner” much like the same way Gucci was. It also happened to be the week that the cover story I wrote on him for RIDES Magazine came out. Of course, all of the kids were excited to see and hear from Joc, he was really popping at the time. Joc has good sense and told the kids some great things. But one thing he did really surprised me that I’ll never forget.
While he was speaking in the auditorium, he called me out and brought me to the stage like I was some kind of star. Some of the kids recognized me as the kind of “cool dude” who spoke in their class earlier. The others were just like “who this dude in the sweater and tie?” Joc pulled out the magazine and told the kids that I wrote that story with him on the cover. Then told the kids not to be like him, but to be more like me. He also lied and told them that I was a millionaire “but he don’t want nobody to know.” But, he told the kids something to the effect of “hey, this dude is cool too, and if you want to be cool like him, you have to go to school, do good in English class, read…etc etc etc.”
After that, he signed a few autographs and left. I was still there, and some of the kids ran up on me like I was “cool” and asked for my autograph and picture. It was a pretty special moment. Not for my ego’s sake, but for seeing that kids are still very impressionable and are just looking for any kind of positive example to follow.

For literally months now I’ve had this eloquent and tear-jerking Maurice Garland piece bookmarked because I was planning to write something longer about it, but that’s never happened and I don’t think it will. Everything there needs to be said is in the text itself.

Every time I pull my phone out people ask me what is Gucci Mane doing in a classroom (the photo is my background) and I find myself laughing and saying “oh he’s giving a talk for Career Day” and then I get mad at myself for laughing lightly because in reality I think about everything Garland says in this piece but especially these paragraphs and I feel moved, but I can’t express that in a quick social Q&A.

It’s like when I tell people I went to Eisenhower High School and they say “oh did you ever get into a fight?” and I laugh and say no but the reality is no, I didn’t get into a fight and no, fights were not rampant every hour of every day. The perception of schools is as skewed and ignorant as the perception of certain neighborhoods and of course, this skewed perception only perpetuates itself and denies not simply the reality but the ability for the reality of the environment from ever being heard/understood. The type of interaction above is nearly impossible to witness and even harder to write about. Garland is the type of writer politically-correct white head-nodders will claim to “like” but without knowing how his writing works and what makes it great. These paragraphs say it all. You simply can’t understand this type of school environment without having lived it, or at the very least, having an open mind. My least favorite thing in the world people say is, “public schools are broken.”

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