Violence is the answer in the hood
Violence is the answer for many dire circumstances. Learning this early can be the difference between being a victim and being a survivor of assault. Growing up we are told that violence is never the answer to our problems. Unfortunately, this approach to life would only work if everyone follow suit. In the hood, this is never the case. Being surrounded by gang violence, poverty-based crime, police occupation, and drug addiction sets up a dangerous race where the nice guys finish last. In this second installment of Almonte’s documentary series, artist Deebo Dioso takes a nostalgic trip to #thenexus to reminisce about his uncle’s lessons about violence – a necessary evil crucial to his survival as an inner city kid.
Deebo Dioso’s first fight for his ball back
While Deebo Dioso doesn’t believe violence is the answer, it was a way of life all too familiar for him growing up in East Harlem, New York City. Upon arrival at #thenexus, he recalls his very first fight on a basketball court at just 7 years old. A kid who ‘borrows’ his ball doesn’t plan to return it until Deebo’s uncle approaches them both to warn Deebo, “you fighting him for the ball; if not then you fighting me!” He never mentions whether he won or lost the fight (is there really a winner in a fight over a basketball?). Regardless, the kid gives Deebo back his ball as his uncle chimes in, “See? You got your ball back though, right? That’s all that matters!”
His second story, however, was a time that he didn’t fight back. Similar to Almonte’s Fight, Flight, or Freeze hood philosophy in the first episode of #thenexus, Deebo found himself in a position where he didn’t think punching someone in the face was worth it. Deebo explains, “I overthink sh*t sometimes. And when I overthink while the situation is happening, I’ll just wind up standing there… thinking mad shit like, if I hit this nigga, will the other 5 niggas he’s with start joining– stomping me the f*ck out?” This, Deebo declares, is the last time he would have let something like that happen to him. And setting up such a standard can be a lot of anxiety-inducing pressure.
Almonte and Deebo’s shared trigger into aggression
Deebo Dioso and Almonte shared a potentially-hostile situation in a part of the hood coined K25th or K2 Island – a street in East Harlem dense with victims of the drug formerly known as ‘synthetic marijuana,’ now K2. One of the main effects of this drug is delusion. And the neighborhood is also notorious for struggling with addictions to other narcotics. So when Almonte one day complains, “Damn, I dropped my keys in the sewer!” a local lurker comes along thinking Almonte meant ki’s instead of ‘keys'(a ki is short for kilos… as in kilos of drugs like cocaine). Under the influence, the man snaps out his wallet saying, “I’m a cop! Stop right there!” Except the wallet contains no badge. This joke immediately puts Deebo on edge. While the man laughs in attempt to induce a smile in Deebo and Almonte, they weren’t buying it. For them, this could easily be just another charismatic tactic that both were all too familiar with, being assaulted in the past. While the hood anxiety is through the roof, it really does turn out to be a seemingly harmless joke from just another guy high on K2 living his best worst life. That’s all that happened. At least on the outside. Deebo explains that he was always skinny so people in school would pick fights with him. So the man’s size made him very defensive. Both Almonte and Deebo share the experience of having a much smaller frame than their peers, making them feel the need to learn martial arts to feel safe in their volatile environment.
Does Deebo Dioso think violence is the answer? No. But…
“It’s rules for survival. The places that I come from? You aint gotta choice, my n*gga. If n*ggas know that you got robbed up the block? N*ggas is gon’ keep trying you.” Deebo Dioso explains how violence is a defense mechanism for many like him that feel so unsafe, they feel the need to put on what he refers to as ‘a mask.’ A dual consciousness. The opposite of the Black man’s “customer service voice.” People in violent neighborhoods are prone to dissociating into an alter that is more aggressive that no one will dare pick a fight with.
Watch Deebo Dioso talk about his relationship with violence growing up and how he learned the streets didn’t love him by clicking here.