The Brooklyn Renaissance (Part 4)
Darkness was coming. The sky was quickly turning dark blue and the clouds overhead smelled of dampness and humidity in the air. A storm was underway.
A lot of the gang members were down for the count already, just in pain or knocked by the strength the three of us were able to pull off, as they laid around us. We couldn’t hold out for much longer though. The remaining men still had pipes, clubs, and knives and while we had the same, we were exhausted; plus DeAndre was one blow away from getting completely wrecked (rekt). He was sweating and bleeding heavily; panting non-stop. He didn’t have much left in him. Mike and I had to hold our ground.
The one gang member walked up to the front and tried to stop the action, removing his hood and feeling all too conflicted. “Yo, you two are...you’re part of that pop band,” he recognized us.
“Yeah?” I didn’t bother with any praises.
“Why are you here?” he asked us.
“Not to pick a fight, but to defend this man right here,” I pointed behind me with my thumb, still looking forward.
“Why me?” DeAndre was asking us. “When have we met before that I asked you to save me?”
“At least be courteous that we’re sticking our necks out for you like this,” Mike told him.
“We’re doing this for your girlfriend. We called the cops already but they weren’t going to be here in time, so we jumped in,” I answered him. DeAndre couldn’t believe it.
“You two know Leanne?” he asked us.
“Yeah. Yeah we do.”
Flashing cop lights started appearing out from behind the street curbs as the rain started to fall. The remaining gang members who were still on their feet started running frantically out of sight, and into the alleyways and shadows of trees and apartment structures. On the other side of the buildings, the street side, Princess and Leanne were running towards the three of us, hoping to regroup and help. DeAndre dropped to his knees. We came to his aide. The cops pulled up by the sidewalk and strolled outside to the ditch where we were with guns and radio COMs in their hands. We dropped all our weapons.
“DeAndre!” Leanne called his name while running down through the now muddy basin area to meet her boyfriend who had been covered in battle scars. Leanne slid and fell from the muddy surface and landed on her butt, distraught. Princess helped her up by her arm. She thanked her. DeAndre saw her and mustered the rest of his strength to return to his feet.
Leanne ran up to him and the two of them collided in a force of love and sadness, embracing one another in a hug that conveyed every emotion of relief, fear, horror, gladness, worry, faith, and love into one. They held each other still with a while and barely even said a word while hugging and caressing each other there in the rain. Not any of us interfered. We let them have their moment. The cops approached me and Mike.
“Any account about what happened here?” asked the one officer. The other one examined the area, finding all the beat up gang members there unconscious or writhing in pain. They searched them and found their weapons and even some dope left in their pockets.
“The man over there was getting ambushed by 15 or so gang members that were trying to beat him. We intervened to help him after calling you here and all. We’re uhm...” I tried searching for the right words. He just kept on taking notes underneath an umbrella he also held.
“Any idea where the rest went?” he asked.
“They disappeared that way,” I pointed toward the trees. “We were too tired to follow after.”
“Thanks for the report boys, but we may have to have you boys stay with us the night. We’re going to need a more in depth report and will have to see footage from the street cams,” the cop told us. That didn’t sound very appealing. So much for Leanne’s romance night.
Still, Leanne and DeAndre were standing before each other, holding the hands of the other, and looking into their eyes.
“DeAndre, what happened?” Leanne asked.
“I was on my way to see you, cause of what you suggested. Yeah, we did need to be together more, but I knew if you came here, you wouldn’t stand a chance against those guys. But if I went? Well...” he stared below at his body which was still recovered even after all the damage he had received. “I stood a chance. And I won.”
“DeAndre, you didn’t have to do all that for my sake. I didn’t know how bad this would get,” Leanne felt like crying.
Princess came up to me and Mike and hugged us, seeing us also bruised and cut up.
“You poor things,” she said, awfully worried. The officer actually recognized her right away. “Hey, you’re Princess, the hit singer everyone listens to.” Princess blushed. After further examination, he realized the three of us were part of ‘The Revolutionaries’. “What brought people of your prestige here into a drawn out gang fight?”
“Young love,” Princess clasped her hands. “Those two over there,” Princess pointed over to DeAndre and Leanne who were still sharing their moment. “Well, we had this romantic night planned out, but the man over there got rushed by those scary guys who came here. I don’t know the details, but...uhm..”
“We fought for him,” I concluded her sentence when she stumbled.
“Yeah. If you gotta do what you gotta do officers, do it. But just know we had the best intentions in mind,” Mike said.
The officers found our answers genuine, but still they had a job to do. The 5 of us got taken down by the Brooklyn departments of criminal justice. We were supposedly going to stay there for a night.
“I think our Brooklyn adventure... hasn’t been a disaster,” I said to everybody as we sat in the lonely department rooms just left to think over things. Everybody was, well, not in the best of moods being there, so I was trying to lift up spirits. “We lifted up the spirits of both the poor and needy, and children of these streets. They may only know the slums, but today we showed them a hell of a time,” I bragged. “We fought off a gang and bonded a bit too, right? Got to listen to Alicia Keys, visit Central Park, I think it was success.”
“Such an optimist,” DeAndre rolled his eyes.
“I know we ain’t in Harlem, but Langston Hughes, one of the greatest writers I’ll ever know, once said that ‘when a man starts out to build the world, he starts first with himself.’ Now you can take how you want to, but I decided I’d consider it means that it’s best to look at the good side of things. Improve yourself, improve the situation,” I gave my Dollars' salute. Princess smiled and agreed with me, even after feeling down about it herself.
“Langston Hughes,” Mike laughed. “It’s like High School English. What was that? The Harlem Renaissance?”
“Call it the Brooklyn Renaissance now,” I joked. Everybody laughed.
After some brief silence, I turned over to Leanne. “Hey Leanne. Sorry your romance night didn’t quite go as planned,” I scratched my head, feeling sorry.
“It’s okay,” Leanne said, shyly crossing her legs. “I think I’m alright with how things turned out. Princess over here, she...She said some things today that really opened my eyes.”
Princess and I exchanged glances. “I did?” she said, blankly.
“Yeah. What you said to my mom about what it means for someone to be important to you. Everything you said put my relationship with DeAndre into words, and now I think thanks to you, my mom finally understands us,” Leanne explained.
“Awhh,” Princess felt touched. “I was just speaking words from the heart.”
“Well, I think that’s all it takes,” Leanne mentioned.
DeAndre looked over at all of us. “The three of you are different than anybody I ever met,” he told us.
“How so?” Mike asked.
“You fight for people you don’t even know, and you talk and act so honestly. It’s kind of weird,” he said.
“I prefer the term badass,” I stretched my hands out.
“Well, however you guys describe it, I’m gonna be thankful,” Leanne admitted. She then held DeAndre’s arm to hers and snuggled into him. “You and I,” she starting speaking to DeAndre. “I think we’re so much closer now than we ever were.” She was smiling. DeAndre was grateful. They achieve what they wanted, but not through some romantic night, not through some music party, but when things fell apart, and all of us were at our worst, we showed the best parts of ourselves and made this adventure what it was.
After spending the night at the station, the cops also bothered to relay all the information over to Leanne’s mother, who was just glad her daughter was safe, and to Mitch and Rebecca, who were surprised to know such an event was happening with our crew. However, the police found no fault in us after reviewing the tapes, and let us all free to go the next morning. None of us were charged, luckily. It all got recorded under self-defense rather than gang warfare.
We all stood up and stretched after resting on the cold, harsh surfaces. DeAndre got a lot of his injuries treated last night by a nurse at the station and he relatively just has bandages all over him but feels none of it. Me and Mike felt okay, just limping from bruises and also sores around our faces. We started walking back and trying to stretch the pain away as we did.
“Hey, that normal?” Princess pointed and squinted down the road seeing a slight crowd before Rebecca’s apartment. Definitely not normal.
“What do you think’s going on?” I turned my head over to Leanne.
She shook her head, confused and a little nervous. “I-I don’t know. Is it-Is it the gang again?”
“Couldn’t be, it’s broad daylight,” DeAndre said.
As we approached closer, we noticed a mixed crowd. Some were young kids playing and running around next to their parents, and some were mothers holding babies, and others were grown bearded men sporting Mets or Knicks gear, and flashing street fashion and others were teenagers on skateboard; others were Chinese-American dressed in western kicks, aeropostale, urban wear; others were Latino-American dressed in Yankee gear and slurping BK drinks, and some were Italian-Americans just chilling and talking with their hands. Some had tattoos, some had piercings, some had dresses, some had clarity, some had tattered clothes, some had suits, but this was New York diversity in a single frame.
“Protest?” was Mike’s next thought.
“Don’t see anybody yelling or holding equality signs,” I scratched my head.
Princess, being the pop culture idol she adjusted into being, knew how to please the crowd and waved, cheered, and blew them kisses into the air, running up to them. They cheered as they saw us, and made a ton of noise out in the middle of the day, a workday too, just for us who were walking down the street side. I was astonished.
Princess twirled her way into the crowd and was met with loads of fans and supporters who complimented her left and right, and complimented all of us, calling us “New York heroes” or “selfless celebs” and honorary terms like “brave”, “courageous”, “amazing”. We felt so honored by it, but we had no idea why. I kept asking what was going on and finally Princess got the crowd to be quiet.
“Quiet guys, quiet everyone! Hush! You’re all beautiful but quiet!” she kept saying over and again.
“Why all the praises? Don’t you all have work today?” I questioned. I stood on top of the staircase by Rebecca’s place, who actually had been watching everything silently behind her window without us knowing. She could hear us as well. “I praise all of you! So diverse a bunch of you are, but you’re here with such good intentions, to praise others over yourselves, I applaud you all.” Me and Princess clapped together, but they all gave us some different answers.
“We saw what you guys did yesterday.”
“You were brave to stop that turf gang all on your own because none of us would do it!”
“Our kids have been worried sick about running into the gang all year along on their way back from school.”
“We’re proud you ‘revolutionaries’ weren’t all talk, but you really do lay yourselves down for common people.”
“You’re making our town safer.”
“You give us a lot of hope, both in action and in your music.”
Princess was trying to control her emotions, but couldn’t help but cry these happy tears as she was so overwhelmed by the people who gathered here just for us, and the nearest person to her hugged her with such a heart-warmingly gracious hug that it allowed others to join in, and all of a sudden Mike and DeAndre and Leanne found themselves in there, and then I did, and our whole congregation here did as well. We brought the ghetto together. It was an amazing display.
In the end, they all returned to their regular, daily lives, but forever in their hearts they kept our message of love safe and sound.
We figured it was time that we all made our leave. We accomplished what we needed to in Brooklyn, and well, that’s all that really needs to be said. We said our farewells to DeAndre and Leanne.
“Thank you so much for everything!” Leanne exclaimed.
“We ain’t gonna forget you,” DeAndre assured us, in his deep, monotone voice.
“We’ll never forget you either, peace and love!” I said, saluting.
We entered back inside and figured we’d start packing up everything. Mitch and Rebecca were also saying farewells to us, hoping and wishing the best for our band and studio in everything going forward. We definitely thanked them and couldn’t have been more grateful for the opportunity. We rounded up our stuff and loaded it into the car.
After the final loading trips, I was taking my time retrieving my backpack which carried my laptop and other things. As I made my way down the steps, I was about to head out the front door from the hallway, but I hear a voice call behind me. I turn around and it’s the image of Rebecca coming from the bedroom doorway holding over belly and rubbing against it, just smiling and looking my way.
“Rebecca...” I said softly. The image of her under the light of the sun through the back door screens just looked so serene. Pregnancy and birth are such miracles of life, it’s unreal how God prepares these cycles of life day and day out in such fashion, and yet still it’s how we came to be.
“Dante, all of you did really well in this community. You blew away my initial expectations when I invited you here over the phone,” she told me.
“Yeah I think we out-did ourselves,” I scratched my head. I never understand how I find myself in these situations.
“Yeah...” she smiled, looking down and still rubbing over her stomach.
“When is it due?” I asked her.
“That’s coming up.”
“It’s a girl.”
“Got a name yet?”
“We were thinking about Jade. Jades are...precious stones.”
“Hope she grows up listening to our music.”
“I hope she has Princess to aspire to.”
“You admire her, huh?”
“She impressed me more than anyone did. Something is definitely special about her. She’ll go on to do great things.”
“All of us can do great things, together, by the One who give us strength and by the love we give each other.”
“Yeah. Go to them, Dante. They’re waiting on you,” she smiled as she commissioned me. I thanked her.
“Farewell, Rebecca,” I saluted.
“Farewell, Dante,” she waved.
Princess and Mike remained in the car still waiting on me, wondering why I was taking so long.
“Ugh, making us wait,” Princess said, irritated.
“What if he trip on his backpack and hit his head against the wardrobe and bled to death?” Mike pondered.
“Dark...” Princess said. She twiddled her thumbs, then turned on the radio to try and find some jams. “Least he kept the keys in the car for us.” She tuned the frequency to some of the old New York stations, playing Alexander O’Neal and other classics. She danced around a little bit, as much as she could in the cramped space of the shotgun seat.
“Hey Princess,” Mike called to get her attention. She looked back behind her seat. “What’s your aim, as a revolutionary like this one?” he asked.
“I just want people to love each other. Like what we saw together, with that crowd, I want the world to experience that,” she said, feeling love in her heart.
“I see...” Mike considered her answer. I came back finally.
”Took you long enough!” she was irritated alright. I put the backpack down in the empty backseat.
“Yeah, yeah, let’s just go home,” I laughed, and started the ignition, driving off away from the ever-expanding New York skyline.
“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”
- John Wolfe