Te’s Corner: Waking Up, Staying Awake

Waking Up, Staying Awake 

By Donte Clark

I don’t remember where I was when the lights came on.

Can’t tell you my specific age or a line that was said to me, but suddenly it all clicked: I would never leave the ‘hood outside of a body bag before I turned 18. Maybe even 25.

I knew this by 15, having surfed rough waves from one age to the next. There was no survival kit for maneuvering through the streets of Richmond. Bullets know no names, only skin color.

Hours spent on street corners, backs against the store wall watching cars pass. Half-looking for undercover narcs, girls peeking but ain’t speaking, and differentiating our homies from those looking to catch us slipping on a drive-by routine.

Dozens of cars coming from each way on a four-way intersection. Neck turning, hands reaching underneath shirts. Some to hide the drugs in the drawers, others to pull out plastic barrels with extended magazines.

I remember watching the buses pass by, feeling like the world was passing me by and I was just standing there letting it.

I asked myself two important questions: are you waiting to die? Or are to dying to live? I answered yes to both, and that came with an obvious follow-up: if I live past 25, what kind of life would I be living?

Sitting with these questions for years to come, each one gave me new perspectives, starting with thoughts that wrestle with the heart.

I learned that anything done without love is dead.

That meant I had to start believing in love. That’s hard when your friends die at the hands of relatives raised as enemies or those niggas from over there. I have to live with love for all people.

Because love knows no fear, anything done without it is contaminated. I can’t be afraid to walk, drive, or go anywhere in my skin, no matter how dangerous it may be.

The idea of being alive and woke had new meanings.

As a youngin’ I wanted to live, but nowadays people want to be awake.

For me, being awake is being aware of what’s going on around you, but living is of the soul.

No matter how conscious your mind, if your heart and soul are not alive with love, being awake could drive you mad crazy.


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