Please take a ride to my block

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“But I ain’t givin’ up on the hood; it’s all good when I go back. Hoes show me love, niggas give me props. Forever hop ‘cause it don’t stop, on my block,” sings Tupac Shakur in a song titled “My Block” from the 2002 double album Better Dayz.

Whenever things got rough with classmates or I feel like co-workers don’t understand my frustration, I can always go back to my block.

Someone would welcome me with a drink, a dap, a hug or a simple “what’s up?” No teachers to contend with, no bosses to impress and no contests among classmates. I never feel like I have to justify anything. At the intersections of Chicago and Lavergne avenues, I’m not John W. Fountain III, just “John-John.”

I write social commentary on my neighborhood with a different perspective.

I hear the stories of struggle from residents I have known all of my life. They aren’t just statistics and data or brief sound bites for the evening news. They are real people with real stories. It’s one of the things that prompted me to be a journalist. The desolation is part of a larger issue worth addressing.

Bad things happen everywhere.

Misfortunes are not exclusive to Austin or the crevices of any other urban metropolis. What once was a thriving industrial suburb changed face almost overnight. Race plays an important part. Economics and crime also factor into it. Residents in Austin do what they can to get by. The same scenario is replicated across America.

Alex Kotlowitz writes about Chicago in “Never A City So Real (2004)”. He calls it “a place eternally in transition, always finding yet another way to think of itself, a city never satisfied.”

That’s what I think about Austin. It keeps finding ways to identify itself. Even today, with the foreclosure crisis, Austin is changing. The schools are different. Some of them don’t exist anymore, like the Austin High School that was notorious for gangs, drugs and poor graduation rates. The streets and sidewalks in North Austin are currently being repaved.

But through all of that change, there is camaraderie under the moonlight skies with frequent trips to the nearby liquor store. Contrary to popular belief, we discuss religion and politics. I get ideas for other columns. They give me their takes on the social issues important to them like employment, drugs, prison, parenthood, relationships and life in general.  I feel like my success is theirs and their hardships mine.

So, I wouldn’t feel right continuing to comment on Austin without shouting out my block. It just wouldn’t be “keepin’ it 100!”

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