Mos Def, "The Ecstatic"

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Jose Vilson Jose 2 Comments

Mos Def, "The Ecstatic"

“You can’t catch me! HA!”

At first, I assumed it was just another one of those random dudes pranking another guy, running away from him and eventually laughing, getting caught intentionally, and going back to normal. This wasn’t it. As the young man, no more than 20, ran away shirtless, another man in a hoodie and a bookbag held in front of him, presumably the shirtless guy’s. As another man in similar garb started chasing them, I noticed they darted past the crowd of kids sitting down next to a truck playing Christian tunes and presumably preaching the Good Word. (Define that as you will.)

Only a few feet away, I saw an 11-year-old boy who was also running, this time towards that truck in hopes of joining his friends. As I kept my eye on the two prevailing scenes running simultaneously, I also paused to think of all the running that happens in the Lower East Side. Kids run all over the basketball courts placed in patterns around the project complexes. In the evening, I see construction workers running out of their work to their families.

While none of this is new, I’ve seen this type of running melded with other types of running signaling a change that’s seemed permanent. Key grips run back and forth trying to make sure the sets for Raegan’s Law and the latest independent movie, blocking cars from running anywhere near them. Joggers who’ve become fearless of the hood jog through the red bricks and into FDR Park past knife-flippers and police alike. Girls with next to no clothing run up and down Avenue C, hopping on a nasty heel from block to block, puking on the next available sidewalk.

But anyone who’s been in the neighborhood long enough can tell you, the running eventually stops. Only the freshest, the most perilous, or the more naive still run here. Come to think of it, very few people in the Lower East Side actually care about destination of the running.

It’s the intricacy of complacency. No one cared where that first young man was running. People either settle or disappear.

Jose, who feels like he’s running, even at a tepid pace …

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.

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