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Muggings in Brooklyn

April 4, 2008

Reading the various neighborhood blogs and forums about the borough, you will notice a recurring theme…Muggings. Whether it’s inquiries about a particular area, specific incidents, or the logging of these incidents via “mugging” maps, it’s a topic that comes up time and time again. Unfortunately, it’s an ugly reality that we have to deal with, living in New York City or any urban center. As the father of three daughters, two of whom walk to school by themselves, I try to instill in them the skills that I’ve been taught to survive in this city. Things like walk at a steady deliberate pace, be aware of what’s going on in front of you and peripherally simultaneously, keep all your senses intact, your ears are the eyes behind your head, etc.  It’s important to be proactive instead of reactive, but even that isn’t an absolute deterrent as I learned first hand when I was a kid….

            My mother came to pick me up from the after school program located in Emmanuel Baptist Church about six o’clock. Upon sight I immediately packed up my books, greeted her with a kiss and off we went up Lafayette ave. headed home. When we got up stairs I informed my mother  that I still had homework to finish and my class was going on a trip tomorrow. She lightly chastised me for not letting her know when we were outside, so she could’ve stopped and pick up some cold cuts. No big deal I told her, I could run outside to the corner store to pick some up. After some quick thought she went to her pocketbook to retrieve some money. “All I have is a ten, this is too big of a bill” is what my mother said when she returned from her bedroom to which I replied “C’mon ma, how can I prove that I’m reponsible, if never given the oppurtunity…”(yes I was THAT type of kid lol).  I think I touched a soft spot in my mom so she conceded and let me go to the store. It was after work time, the streets being pretty populated during this period, plus nearly everyone in the neighborhood knowing me all contributed to my mothers decision.

                  “A quarter pound of turkey and a quarter pound of cheese”, was the order I placed with Poppo, who owned the bodega on Waverly and Greene ave.(now occupied by a cleaners); “No problemo pa-pa, how ju’ doin’?” he answered back, I told him I was good. After he finished slicing the meat, I was charged three dollars, I pulled out the “big” ten dollar bill and received my change. Walking out I noticed a guy coming into the store, I’d seen him a few times around the way but didn’t know him. I let myself in the building and was waiting for the elevator when the same guy came in. While we were waiting, he was looking at me; he said “beeee kayyy nestooo”, I politely nodded because although we’re all taught to not speak to strangers, I was also taught common courtesy and to respect my elders. Figuring, he knew me from around the way or knew my parents I didn’t give any real thought or realize the only way he knew my name, was by reading it on the back of my jacket. The elevators comes, I open the door to get in and as I’m stepping in, this man grabs one of my arms then went in my jacket pocket to take my mother’s change from the store. We both have our hands on the money and I’m putting up a pretty good fight for a nine year old, being the spit fire of a kid I was…I’m screaming “Get off my mother’s money, you’re NOT taking my mother’s money”. Finally he turned on his man strength snatched the money and flung my narrow behind in the elevator. As the door closes he says “Tell your mother a friend took it”. 

                  The ride in the elevator was longest one in my life….

Me:(frantically ringing the door & banging) Ma, ma…somebody robbed me!

My Mother:(opens the door) Baby, whats going on? Calm down

Me: This man followed me from the store..and..and..when I got to the elevator, he grabbed me took your money..and then..and then he said “tell your mother a friend took it”

Mother:(visibly livid) WHAT?! Did you know him?! You think somebody’s playin a joke or something….

Me: No mommy, I’ve only seen him around a few times…Mommy, I’m sorry I let that man take your money…

Mommy: No baby, don’t you say that, you didn’t LET anyone do anything, that bastard took it!

                After that exchange my moms went straight to her bedroom, reached in the back of her bookcase and pulled out this set of switch blades previously owned by my great grandma Caroline. She flicked it up to make sure it popped out quick enough, I pleaded with her, “Mommy what are you doing?”, she had this look in her eye I had never seen before, she was ready to hurt somebody. I told her to call my father but she told me, he was still in Manhattan at work, mother was ready to hunt this fool down right now! She ended up calling my Uncle H and by the time we got down stairs, he was there waiting at the b38 bus stop. Attired in a business suit, he jumped out his volvo popped the trunk and grabbed a baseball bat and said “let’s go”. We drove all around the hood looking for this guy to no avail. Now I know some reading may be thinking, why didn’t my mother or uncle call the police. From my mothers standpoint, it was personal. Someone hurt her baby and she wanted to hurt them, she wanted justice that the police or judicial system couldn’t provide and as a father I understand in totality.

                     Now the guy who mugged me that day didn’t just take the money, he took a part of my innocence with him that night. This was the beginning of the hardening of BKnesto. I went home, finished doing my homework, then the next day went to school and on my class trip like nothing happened; didn’t even mention it to a classmate. I would bump into this guy 7 years later about the time I attained some man strength. I won’t get into specifics but let’s just say we held court in the street, and I was judge, jury AND prosecutor. My feelings and sentiment over this incident hasn’t changed through the years, it can be summed up with one statement:

“Mommy, I’m sorry I let that man take your money…”

young bknesto 9 years old 

bknesto 9 years old


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