Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hard Times

by Glennwood Urbz

On a recent trip to New York City, I decided to take a walk and catch the soul of Harlem. I stumbled upon Marcus Garvey Park, where kids were playing in the water fountains and several games of intense chess were in session. There was a card game with money on the table and a young man selling freeze cups; I bought two. This was Harlem at its finest—electric and caught up in the energy of the moment. I flipped my camera out in true tourist form and begin snapping away. I was about to take a picture of several elderly black men sitting on a park bench until one of the men noticed me and alarmed the others. They pointed fingers in protest of my invasion of their privacy! So I asked “My brother what’s the problem?” He informed me in his Caribbean dialect that he and his friends were hustling up money for something to eat and fell short of the goal. The older one said it was hard times in Harlem and that I should go downtown and take a picture with the Happy People. Where’s my bailout?

The men in the park reminded me of a friend who told me he was tired of taking handouts. He had served several years in Alabama Corrections and was doing the best he could to avoid trouble. In his attempt to gain employment he put in a number of applications to no avail; nobody’s rushing to hire felons. I felt his pressure building and saw the tears in his eyes when he said his daughter called and asked, “What kind of father is that?” My friend said he was going to go and see the judge that sent him to prison and ask where felons can find work. He said it was hard out here for him and the monkey on his back was now a full-grown gorilla. He once told me that, believe it or not, he was doing better in prison than on the streets. They say, “It’s billions to be made behind bars!” I haven’t heard from my friend in several weeks. Last I heard he had some time on his hands. It’s hard times in Birmingham just as it is in Harlem.

They say the message is in the music so I asked Hip Hop what has happened to our song? Why are we leading these kids on in these Rap Video Universities? Our ancestors once sang songs that lifted our spirits beyond our conditions. Today the lyrics are intensifying the celebration of guns, sex, money, and violence, promoting foolishness and mental genocide, furthermore handicapping our conditions with a crab in the bucket attitude. Sometimes I wonder why rappers glorify bling and drug sales. They sell the youth dreams when in reality, the only thing waiting is a jail cell. So the seven year-old has his pants sagging because he sees Lil’ Wayne do it and thinks it’s cool. We as black men need to reevaluate or do a better job of raising our sons instead of watching them raise their guns.

Or we find ourselves in a compromising position with a gun to the rib cage and the youth saying it’s hard times. Give it up!

So you must ask yourself what kind of human being are you if you see wrong and don’t say nothing or turn the head? The same problem you choose not to correct will be sitting in your lap in the near future. What happened to the village that raises our children? At what point in time did we stop caring? My uncle sent a letter yesterday saying that the prisons are full of men 18 to 24 years old with lengthy sentences. It’s no wonder they are tearing down schools and building prisons. Economically depressed communities with drug addictions breed violence. So on 16th street in Birmingham, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once marched, an addict is crying for help. She says, “It’s hard times in Alabama.”


  1. Well said, Glenwood. Thank you!

  2. You made some valid points. We must all work to bring our communities to a higher standard. My grandson asked why we live in the hood? Why don't we live in a good neighborhood? I said we did its the mind set of some of the people that live in our neighborhood.

    The mind set of it's alright to throw paper/trash out the window. Or it's ok to trash a house, car it's not mine. Or it's my right to assistance. When you have never worked.

    I love my community and encourage others to do the same. We all don't want to move to the other side of town. But have the other side of town reside in our community.

    Glennwood continue to speak out and remind us of our past so that it can become our future.

    Mrs. B.

  3. Poetically spoken and gifted with truth. Thanks or your voice. :))