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“I’m So Hood!” — A Mindset Of Black America And A Preservation Of A Culture

The "hood" isn't at all what you make it

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Think about it: Why is it that all things “hood” give you vivid imagery of rappers, drug-ridden communities, tennis shoes wrapped around power lines, flea markets and the staple of each ‘hood—the “weed man”? More importantly, why does that word bring to mind a black community? To be blunt, we can probably all agree that the word “‘hood” is synonymous with black communities.

Black neighborhoods were originally white neighborhoods. It wasn’t until blacks began migrating from rural areas to the city, a few at a time, which resulted in a “takeover” of these white neighborhoods. As a result, whites fled from the inner city and retreated to the suburbs. We took pride in our ‘hood. Slowly but surely, we are losing our land again and our infrastructures are dilapidating. And slowly, we are losing our culture.

Gentrification has made its way into the “‘hood” at lightning speed and let me tell you, they are not making it easy for people of color to stay there, thus allowing for the ‘hood and our culture to disappear. Blacks are desperately trying to preserve these communities, and people cannot understand why. 

But the underlying question here that no one is asking is, what makes a ‘hood the “hood”? Is it a mindset, or the actual physical structures of a community? Answer: It’s both! It is the preservation of our culture and our heritage we are seeking to preserve.

The hood is the gathering of people where Mrs. So-and-So sat on her porch as the matriarch of the neighborhood (she was the one who, if you got out of line, was coming for you—and when your parents got home, they would too) and the girls playing hopscotch and jumping rope to the rhythm of the beads on their braids hitting their shoulders.

It's beautiful brown-skinned babies eating “cool kups” (frozen Kool-Aid in styrofoam cups), on the sidewalk while playing Uno, and the sound of Sunday morning choirs singing praises to the most high. This is our “‘hood.” This is what we are seeking to preserve. Not the images the media carefully selects as a means of propaganda to continue the legalized lynching of black bodies. The comfort in knowing that there were eyes on your home when you weren’t there—the concept now known as the "neighborhood watch." The hood is the churches—which were pillars in our communities for weddings, a good fulfilling word and funerals— and the excitement and pride the neighborhood had when one graduated from high school, came home from the military or had a baby. As time progressed we developed a sense of mistrust within our own communities, and quickly stopped being a neighborhood, and became a ‘hood.

Like the age-old adage warns, “You can take the person out of the ‘hood, but you can’t take the ‘hood out of the person.” It’s pretty self-explanatory in nature, however, the ‘hood is more of a symbol, or a piece of our culture now, because what once was, no longer is. It’s not the “‘hood” that we are preserving, it’s our culture—our history.

What outsiders fail to realize is that the “‘hood” is a mindset and not necessarily a place. In fact, it is the preservation of our culture that is through our “‘hoods” that keeps our stories from being erased. 

We're remembering plenty of summers with our “cousins” and extended family where we would walk to the “candy lady’s house” (a neighborhood retired woman who sold candy to supplement her income) and bought grape Now-and-Laters, or sour pickles and jolly ranchers. Then, taking our treasures to the neighborhood recreation center, where we would watch our cousins play dominoes, and if we were lucky, we could sneak into the rec center’s pool and cool off.

Of course, we all know that no self-respecting member of society would have a “kick back” without dominoes and spades or without BBQ or fried catfish. These “kickbacks,” or gatherings, in our neighborhoods were symbolic in nature. It was a time for food, fun, trash talking and catching up—all of which were an ode, so to speak, to the plantation culture where we would cook the scraps we were given to make a meal—soulfood. The sounds of bones (dominoes) slamming on the table, and folks yelling, "BOATS” (meaning twenty points), or the arguing over a heated game of Spades because you underbid your possibles, or you overbid and you and your teammate were set. These were some of my fondest childhood memories, and it is these memories which made me. For those of us who were able to leave the ‘burbs for a few weeks to really live and enjoy our childhoods—this was the ‘hood. These are our memories. 

We find purpose in preserving the history of our cultures through our ‘hoods. All of which is necessary to the survival of our race—the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s ours and we are proud of all it because we wear our melanin, and the stories of our ‘hoods, with honor.

To those who have bought into the idolized Jefferson “moving on up” way of thinking, think about this: The fact you are able to “move on up” is a blessing from the universe. But what is left of us after we have sold it all to the ones who stole it from us in the beginning?

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G. Paris Johnson is a freelance writer and graduate of Texas Southern University.
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