2pacpray

Jail’s a Revolving Door; The Casket’s Not

Jose 16 Comments

There I go, quoting another rapper again. I consider myself a rap fan by most standards, but today especially, I recognize the power of their words. When Jay-Z speaks of the “genesis of a nemesis” when telling of the birth of a drug dealer, when 2Pac speaks of hopelessness throughout most of his records, and when Joe Budden points out this blog’s title, discussing just how hard it is out there for people who don’t see a way out, I hear it and have been exposed to it for decades. Yesterday was the first day, though, that a foregone conclusion of the street soldier / thug lifestyle hit this close to home.

My cousin Richard was a young, handsome, charismatic man who frankly got caught up in the life. I don’t want to put all of his business out there, but over the last 10 years, he’s spent more time in the clink than out of it, and in some ways, it hurt. It’s family that’s in there. He was the first guy who made me a Yankees fan before 96, teaching me about Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, and Jim Leyritz. He made it cool. He was always winning the sports trophies at the local Boys’ Club, and he always had the hottest girl in the class. He had a drive and a way of selling himself that made you an instant believer. And of course, he always had the latest rap mixtape in his crib.

But I also know of the fights we got into in our youth, the trouble he constantly got into, the secrets he told me that shook me for almost a week, his 2 daughters by different mothers that he loved but he couldn’t always keep up with, and the habits that he got caught up in were hazardous for his mental and physical health. Despite the disappointment I felt about how his life turned out, seeing his cadaver yesterday reminds me why I do what I do. He had just gotten out of jail, but like so many of our troubled youth, he predicted his own death, and in timely fashion.

I’m loath to call him a rat, a piece of shit, or a worthless vagabond, terms that have been used for him. That was my cousin. I knew something was wrong with him when I felt my heart tighten up the night before. He’s one of the primary reasons I do more than just worry if my kids are scoring high on their state tests. In the position I’m in, I find myself conscious of the effect I have on some of my own children, especially when I already see some of them turning into my cousin. When your life expectancy is “any day now,” investing in your own life is really about the short term.

And the rain yesterday washed over us like a baptism, carrying his soul to a place where he doesn’t have to worry about these Earthly things …

RIP my cousin Rich

jose, who has no idea how he’s getting into school tomorrow like this …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonJail’s a Revolving Door; The Casket’s Not

Comments 16

  1. NYC Educator

    I’m very sorry to hear about your cousin. By the way, of you really don’t feel like going to work tomorrow, you are entitled to take a day that doesn’t come out of your bank for a death in the family.

  2. Frumteacher

    I am so sorry to hear this sad news. I hope you will find the strength to deal with this. Maybe, when time moves on, you will be able to talk about it with your students and his life can teach your students about decisions they need to make in their own lives. But for now, take the time to give this loss a place.

  3. Jonathan

    Feel for your loss. And I get how teaching does something, one little kid at a time, about the bigger picture. That matters.

    Same time, NYCEd’s right… if you need the day…

  4. tracy

    Nothing much more to say than peace and strength, especially for right now.

    I understand your wanting to going to work. The kids have a way of helping to heal.

    At the same time it is important to take care of yourself, and it is no better put than when Frumteacher writes, …take the time to give this loss a place.

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  6. Hugh O'Donnell

    Jose, I’m saddened with you. Bless your cousin, and bless you for caring. Who’s to judge? Not us, that’s for sure.

    May the Lord be with you, and with your spirit also.

    Dominus vobiscum, et cum spirtuo tuo.

    Hugh

  7. Anna

    Jose,
    Just found your blog through Tahari and am catching up on your posts.

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I hope that you and your family are able to hold on to the good memories as you deal with this loss — just as you have in this post.

    Life is precious regardless of how it is spent and our world is dimished by each loss.

  8. Pre_k

    brother like me haven’t been commenting on too much of anything nowadays.. sorry to hear about your cousin. I hope all is well with you and the fam.. as always if you need anything you got the number.. piece and blessings.

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