“Ma, can I have a dollar”
“So I can go to the sherbet lady”
“Da, can I have dollar?”
Here, where you going?
To the Candy Lady truck.
Between the candy lady, sherbet lady; YES Sherbet (not Icy cup, Dixie cup, sugar cup, or whatever name y’all made up, don’t debate me) the boys on the block, the airbrush guy & the girl that kept all the project girls hair braided, more than half of them collected my coins at one point or another. I remember I legit used to spend all my money with the sherbet lady just to share with others how delicious they were. I was a baby brand ambassador and I didn't even know it.
My sister and I used to follow my dad to work at the flea market all the time and pretend to be his receptionists. I say pretend because we started out working pro-bono until we learned the power of negotiation. Lakeisha and Shania used to stop by my dad's booth once or twice a month to get their club outfit painted in exchange for doing my sister and I Hair. Despite us living in the ghetto, we never really looked it. Everybody wanted something spray-painted whether it was the guy that took the pictures in the club that needed a backdrop, the DJ that wanted to rock his DJ name on his shirt or the hairdresser that was also a waitress on Fridays at Friday’s. My father was far from rich but his hustler mentality was the richest I’d ever know and soon to take after.
"Where we lived in the hood, everybody had it but didn't have a job. Where we lived in the hood, everybody had a shoe box full of money and no bank account. Where we lived in the hood, everybody was either on hud, government assistance, dope boy assistance or hustled to pay their rent; therefore, when it came to paying for things you want rather than need everyone attempted to get it free, especially if y’all were from the same project."
“We family right?” As soon as that question started formerly with fam, you knew they were about to ask for something. My dad was all about making money but he also loved the kids and was all about doing for others and if he couldn’t make money for his services he got something that was of value. He’d exchange his services to get our hair done, nails done, an outfit, pair of shoes or if it was around the time school started, a whole wardrobe provided by the neighborhood boost. It was days we’d say cash and days we’d see bags of clothes, regardless we never went without. Even when we didn’t have, we had a dad that had no degree but a talent that people would pay millions to have or utilize and thats the power of talent with a little hustle.
My dad was a little strict with us but he never limited our time with others. He would rather us stay in the house write, read a book, watch tv or come with him to work. Even though it wasn’t for the money, I would always prefer to go to the flea market with him. But on days that I wasn’t in the mood to hang out with a parent, I would pass and choose my brothers and cousins to hang with. I remember I used to beg my older cousins to hang out with them. Then, they thought I just liked their presence and wanted to annoy them, today I realize it was more about being nosey and analyzing their hustle. Cause boy was I one nosey kid but boy they were some hustlers. Whether we’d go to McDonald’s for an order of fries and an ice cream cone, the park to watch them play sports, other apartments to play nicka-knock or to the school-house when they had practice, somebody was always exchanging something for a green bill. I honestly didn’t care what the exchange consisted of, all I knew was they had money, I didn’t, and I wanted some. I remember one morning my brother got up early in the morning and left the house, I knew this because I heard his phone ringing loudly in the room next to me and next thing you know the door was slamming. I thought to myself, either he was going with a girl or to work, and the fool didn’t have a job or a girlfriend so I really didn’t know where he was going but I wanted to. When he came back in the house he was counting money and placing it in his pocket. Now that I think about it they would always come in the house counting money and I'm sure it wasn't about seeing how much money they had rather than showing they had it. I wasn’t sure where all this money was coming from but where ever it was coming from I needed in.
Fortunately but unfortunately for me, I was in middle school when I re.alized I may also be a hustler. It was unfortunate because when I actually started hustling, my elementary school little cousins acquired the same hustle therefore if I’d known better, I could’ve started sooner than later.
"Contrary to white beliefs... I mean popular belief, parents in the ghetto did teach their children a little bit about money. Maybe not the accounting side of things because I mean who really likes math anyways unless it meant you were counting cash; however, they definitely taught us if we want it we had to get it because we didn’t have the luxury of having it easy."
When I would see the other kids passing around catalogs and giving out cookie boxes I always wanted in. But I wasn’t about to be no damn Girl Scout. On the other end, I did all the fundraisers from selling candles to selling flowers and candy. If they gave us catalogs I eventually gave them money and now I see, I was good at sales because the hood taught me how to hustle.
To their demise I was no longer in a charitable spirit. It took everything in me to not turn in the money.
“I could take a dollar, they wouldn’t be able to tell.”
“Don’t do it.”
Now I know, I had an admirable trait, that is, an ounce of integrity and that had everything to do with the fact that one thing we hate.... is people that lie and people that steal.
"Cause if you'll lie you'll steal and if you'll steal you'll kill and I personally ain't no killer"
I got annoyed with asking everyone and their mothers for money, yeah I know I was that kid; and it wasn’t because I went without because like I said, my father made sure we had; it was just that, the hood taught me how to hustle. I grew broke, well I was already broke; I grew tired and decided that I needed to figure out how to make my own. Seeing as how it takes money to make money, I had to figure out how the hell I was going to get ahold of some money so I can start making money. Oh, the irony!
I started out going to the flea market with my dad every weekend. I did everything from helped him set up, held on to the shirts as he painted, fetched him coffee and monsters, and my favorite part was taking customer orders and collecting money. Seeing as how I needed money, and my father was always in a charitable spirit I got up this idea to add on a few dollars to the invoices. This worked for a while. I was legit bringing home the bacon, turkey bacon that is. It was all fun and games until I got too money happy and got a declined order and my dad noticed. Although he had to come to the rescue and I thought he would be angry, he was actually flattered. He knew I always felt like he should charge more for his orders and since he didn’t do anything about it, I decided I would. Even though he got a declined order, he was actually happy because that’s the moment he realized, he taught me how to hustle.
By this time I was hip to my brother and cousins employment, but unfortunately, I couldn’t buy into that industry at the time. Instead, I got the bright idea to invest my money in candy, cause I mean... What middle school kids don’t like candy? I knew it was a market for it because I was already selling chocolate and candles and if I could sell candles then I know I could make a killing selling candy. By the time I grew out of that market I was able to drive. I was lucky to have a cousin that had two vehicles and would let me borrow one. One thing that’s pretty common in hoods is there is always someone that wants a ride. I would literally borrow my cousin's car to give rides and request gas. I did not play with the gas because well... the hood taught me how to hustle. I used to do my sister hair all the time, then her friends started coming to me to get their hair done too. I was pretty decent at doing hair and I used to make about $30 dollars per head for what is now no less than $180.
I remember when I graduated from high school and I was awaiting departure for boot camp I decided to adventure to Delaware to a camp to work. All the girls and guys from around the way went every year and came back paid! Since I had nothing else to do and it involved money, I decided to go. At the camp, we picked potatoes, yes potatoes, and we made good money doing it. We used to go to the Dover Casino on the weekends to gamble and even though I wasn't old enough we found a way to get me in and that was because.. the hood taught us how to hustle. Between the money I was making from blackjack, picking potatoes and my lil boo I had at the camp I came back after a couple of weeks with at least a band if not more. It would've been way more but you see, Dover didn't have any taxes and being from the hood one thing we love is shoes and I bought a pair of shoes every weekend since we got paid once a week.
During my time in the Navy as a ships-serviceman I soon learned that I really had a thing for sells. I used to sell stuff on the ship and all. I eventually learned about network marketing and made money selling health and wellness products. Your girl even bought sweet sweat wholesale and started selling those too. Between money I made from the Navy, selling sweet sweat, personal training, and network marketing I had a decent living. Decent enough that I decided it was time for me to acquire a new lifestyle outside of the military.
The point isn't to cover my background after my time spent in the hood, it was more-so what that lifestyle lead me too. When I joined the military I really started learning more about the view of the hood from outside the hood (cause when you spent all your time in the hood you didn't really know) and the view of "ghetto people"... I mean black people (cause you know to them folk that's one in the same) in general. For some reason, white people are convinced that because we come from the hood we're not hip to business and apparently we lack intellect or the ability to articulate professionally. But I knew that was a lie because every time my dad had a meeting or answered the phone he did not sound like himself. After my few experiences in the Navy and at job interviews, being asked about my past jobs and prior sells experience I learned that if it wasn't at a 9-5 it wasn't considered experience. But let me be frank, I don't know a hustler like the hustlers in the hood. You know the hustlers like:
- The dope boys on the block that stayed with rubber bands cause they couldn't obtain a job because you know, they looked like they were from the hood so they had to resort to getting it how they live.
- The girls that did hair on the back porch for little to nothing and made a killing doing it cause all the kids kept their hair braided.
- Your homegirls mother that everybody in the hood got food from who sold plates cause she was tired of feeding everybody kids.
Or the one that everyone call granny that sold candy and sherbets out her house.
Your brother that sold CDs and drugs on the side.
The crackhead that attempted to sell any and everything he found to everybody that graced his presence.
The guy that always popped up out the blue with any and everything in his jacket. Whatever you need I got.
The girl that sold her food-stamps for half off.
The list goes on....
The point is there is so much power in being broke. Just imagine if you grew up through life with everything handed to you and the moment shit went south you had to run back to your parents that now want to disown you because you didn't take the route they chose for you now you're depressed, suicidal or on drugs. Not making funny of this but we see this a lot, and not as much in the black community. See the difference between the two is because I was from the hood I had perseverance, pride, hustle, and no shame.
So next time someone attempts to discredit you, your experience or "lack thereof" because you're from the hood remember the hood is just a compilation of black wall street that was stripped from us therefore, we had to resort to other means of making money that brought out the true hustler in us. No, the lifestyle wasn't always pretty and you didn't live under the best circumstances but one thing no one can take away from you is the power in being broke. The fact that being from the hood made you the man or woman you are today.
My resume consists of an abundance of non-traditional work experiences because I refuse to allow their perspectives to discredit my background, because one thing about it and two things for sure is that, THE HOOD TAUGHT ME HOW TO HUSTLE!