Growing up the youngest of four kids, not once did I ever see my older siblings study or concern themselves with school. In fact, it was the reverse. One of my earliest memories is of my brother and sister cheating their way through a summer reading program at the children’s library (while I took pride in reading and completing the assignments).
So how did I become a UCLA grad in 1985?
Despite my siblings’ efforts, my parents did emphasized the importance of education. And of not being just another statistic, e.g., another black man wasting his life away. My father was a reader and a thinker who encouraged me to be a thinker. My mother went to college in her 40s and earned her BA and Masters.
Once, my parents tried to enroll us kids in a private school. My older siblings laughed their way through the admissions exam while making fun of me, the nerdy little brother taking the test seriously. Since I was the only child who passed, my parents decided none of us would attend Heritage Christian.
Their next move: moving us from the decaying inner-city of 1960s Indianapolis to the suburbs, specifically Washington Township, one of the finest school systems in the country.
You might say, I benefited most in the timing department. I was only age seven, still impressionable, still ready to be molded and eager to assimilate. Whereas my older sibs were already entrenched in their ghetto state of mind, I adapted to my new world much more easily.
“For two years of junior high, my father sent me to an all-white private school.”
I also had some serious motivation: my rebellious sibs caused beaucoup de hell with my parents, giving me a steady course in how not to act if you want to avoid trouble. They became my reverse role models. I embraced the role of the good guy and made a conscious choice not to be like my disobeying, non-studying, borderline juvenile delinquent siblings, who earned the ire of parents and teachers alike. No thank you very much.
For two years of junior high, my father sent me to an all-white private school. At Park-Tudor, I was a fish out of water, acting out due to my parents bitter divorce. However, upon returning to the public school system, I found myself near the top of my class.
When my counselor broke the news that I was ranked 35th out of over 1,000, mostly white students at North Central High School, I privately relished the fact that my fate was sealed. There was no turning back. I was going to be a proper-talking, good-grade getting, over-achieving Negro, who was a college graduate and thinker, for life.