Baseem S. Gregg
The Man, The Myth, The Legend (Part 1 of 3)
Part 1 – The Man
I often joke with people that when I was born “Joy to The World” played throughout speakers everywhere. The joke lies in the fact that my birthday is in May; not that I am not a joy to this world… because I am! Yes, I give myself positive affirmations. Yes, I think highly of myself. Yes, I love me some me. Shouldn’t we all?
Statistically speaking I am not supposed to be here. Statistically speaking I am not supposed to live the life that I live, or for that matter, be alive. I was born in one of the worst cities of America, Camden, New Jersey.
My parents had me young. They were unmarried. My father was not in my life. If you were making a gumbo of failure, I was born with all the right ingredients. However, what the world has planned for you God can make other arrangements.
My mother didn’t go to college. My mother didn’t come from college-educated folks who walked a path of success that can be followed by their offspring. Yet, she had the wisdom and foresight to get her baby boy OUT of the “hood.” At the tender age of 5 years old my mother did two very specific things that has molded my life ever since. She moved us to a neighboring suburb (Cherry Hill, NJ) with the hopes that I wouldn’t fall victim to all the traps the inner city happily provides. She then told me that I was going to become a big brother and that I was a man.
Do you have any idea what that anointment does to a child?
I walked different. I talked different. I thought different. My friends wanted to play go fish while I wanted to play spades. My friends laughed and enjoyed cartoons while I thoroughly and secretly laughed at Eddie Murphy’s RAW. In my young mind I was an adult, I was a man. I bypassed my youth because in one word my mother told me it was time to grow up.
By the time I reached the 6th grade, I’ve had every teacher inform my mother that I was different. “Baseem doesn’t talk like the other kids.” “Baseem isn’t afraid to speak his mind.” “Your son knows exactly what he wants.” “When he grows up, he’s going to be the boss.” Those are just some of the quotes my mother still mentions during random conversations. I guess you can say I’ve always been strong-willed.
When I first began driving, I was like any other teen. Random joy rides with my friends. Happy to run errands for my mother just so I can drive. But I was also still the young man who was told he was a man at age 5 years old. Monkey see monkey do and peer pressure was not my cup of tea. I was that friend who didn’t have an issue staying behind or not participating in anything I wasn’t interested in. Interestingly enough, my friends would normally concede and do whatever it was that I wanted at the time. This was not being a bully, or using my car as leverage. To me this was me being a man and leading them the right way. If I didn’t want to go, I’m not going. If I wanted to leave, I was leaving. This supposed show of manhood had me literally abandon my friends at parties and events. It was not uncommon for me to be ready to leave while others who came with me were not… they were left behind.
“Being a man isn’t always about doing what you want. It’s about doing the right thing, at the right time, all the time.” At 21 years old I bellowed those words to a friend of mine who was a new father. Those words took him off the path of being an absentee father to becoming the amazing dad he’s been ever since. Little did he know I was speaking to myself. I had finally come to realize that my skewed version of manhood was more about being standoffish than leadership.
I heeded my words. I began to separate myself from the people, activities, and very environment my mother moved me away from and started building the foundation to the man I am today. It’s also when I discovered Def Poetry Jam. On the inaugural episode I sat in my mothers house and watched a man deliver a poem in a way I never knew poetry could be written or delivered. “… get back, sit back, and rediscover how to be an honest father, loyal lover, righteous brother, and not just another, mother, f******, ni***!” Those were the words that ended Black Ice’s poem “Bigger Than Mine” and which led me to pick up the pen and create my first poem “Street Dreams” and the penname Tha Poetic Son.
That was the day I became a man. That was the day I opted to show every part of me. It was one of the only times I looked in the mirror and told myself to do better. No more living for the moments. No more being selfish. No more blaming others for my short comings or failures. No more excuses! Because when I became a man, I put away childish things.
To be continued…
Note: This is part one of “The Man, The Myth, The Legend” title given to me by Bilal Benjamin