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Childhood in the Dead Zone

Originally Puerto Rico was my first home up until I was 8ish. I still remember getting off the plane and immediately feeling Chicago’s disrespectful ass wind smack me across the face.  I went from being a 5 minute drive from the beach to not being able to walk more than 5 minutes outside without seeing a crime being committed. Talk about a mind fuck of a culture shock!

Ladies and Gents let me introduce you to my love hate relationship with an area in Humboldt Park called the Dead Zone.  Let me break this down real quick, Humboldt Park is a neighborhood in Chicago that had an even a smaller section called the Dead Zone that was ran by the Maniacs or better known as the Latin Disciples. This piece of information was very important to know even as a kid back then.  Yeah I know!

Humboldt Park in the 90s early 2000s was bitter sweet growing up. Obviously, growing up in a hood called the Dead Zone would impact your outlook on life and it sure did with me. Um, maybe seeing bangers getting shot at on the regular or always having to be on edge as I walk down the street did it, but I can definitely say my up bringing contributed to my rough jaded edges. Don’t get me wrong I appreciate the lessons I’ve learned from my hood.  I have great streets smarts (which is a must in Chicago), I’m resourceful (because we were so broke), and I’m always two steps ahead of the game. However, I’ve noticed always feeling the need to be ahead of the game has evolved into it’s own monster. My need to be ahead has somehow robbed me from good relationships, I’ve made it a habit to make assumptions on someone inorder to “protect” myself, when all along it wasn’t even needed to think that ahead. Now I see that after alot of mistakes and lessons,  being ahead of the game isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be. I’m finally learning to balance that mindset.

The Dead Zone wasn’t all bad either, I’ve had a lot of good memories in my old hood. So many games were played in the buildings backyard with the kids, I honestly feel we were the last age group of imagination.  Had my first kiss in the Dead Zone to a kid named Jesse who had a very high pitched voice and a fro. Most importantly, that was my home for a decade of my life and I was able to grow up among my Puerto Rican people. Looking back I loved growing up where I grew up. Yes, growing up in a rough neighborhood isn’t ideal but it’s what I had.  Yes my Outlook on life at times can be aggressive partly due to my up bringing but I wouldn’t change it now I  only want to change and acknowledged that I have to soften up a bit.

To my hood, the homies, and le moyne and Rockwell, thank you.

-ZaiOhmy