Editor’s Note: This is a piece written by fellow of The Restoration Institute and creative writer, Benjamin Case, who has taken artistic liberties with regards to style and language.  

Loyalty. Be true to your kin, your kind, your hood, your streets, your fam, your city.

The media don’t know loyalty. They spill blood by way of broadcasting a personified evil that they really don’t know or truly haven’t seen–only faint echoes and rumors of from the high in the sky.

Then bang!

The sky blows up like it’s the Fourth of July. Every day. They paint the picture of a modern Babylon–our cities blowing up every day. But this is nothing new. All my city people are used to this falsified reality.

In our world of reverberating pandemonium, I ain’t denying the wickedness of folk; the atrocities that occur every day by way of crime, abuse, violence, and killin’. This is life as it’s always been–every corner of the world. It’s everywhere, just blown up in my streets. Heard dat. Heard dat one too many times, matter of fact. My city folk know that–we live it. Every day.

The privileged, the rich and the affluent don’t seem to think much about our livin’–just the public symbol that made it big. He dribbles or fiddles with Mikes; she spits bars or holds a note. But y’all hold up and start to trip when anything gets a little different, uncomfortable or not your traditional cup of tea. Y’all don’t drink this kool-aid if it doesn’t yield profit- you spit it out. You spit us out.

But what if you took the time to sip. Sip with us. Sip and savor our stories of lives born, lived and died in the streets. Stay a while. Knowing the beauty, wonder and creativity that fill these streets would probably make you sing and dance, but for now you don’t know the melodic tune that moves us. You don’t know the rhythm that radiates hope. One day I hope you do, but that day is not today. Until you learn to die, you will still be moved by the monotonous murmurs of an age-old myth that says, “Nothing comes from the city except violence and death.” Yet the death I speak of is not physical; it is a death to the right of privilege.

I once knew a man that had everything–literally all of the riches and glory in and outside of this world. He flirted with divinity. This dude was everything–like nothing or no one I’ve ever seen. He was modest, meek, and kind–not like any of the homies that I’ve ever known that made it to the top. He didn’t have to come to our streets, but he chose to. No savior complex, no pitying, no ‘woe is them’ mentality. Just straight authenticity. There was a glow about him that wouldn’t allow me to take my eyes off him. A penetrating light that shone through and exposed the dark alleyways of our streets and my soul. His presence alone illuminated our hidden street corners as if they were always meant to be lit, unashamedly shining.

I didn’t know this cat, but he put a spell on me, captivating my gaze.

This dude defied my presuppositions, stereotypes and disdain towards outsiders. He himself was an outsider but loved like one of our own. His reputation preceded him, yet he considered himself lower than our bucket boys. One night I saw him outside the club just casually talking (with no crooked intent) with the neighborhood hoe and one of our dealers from the block. It was like he knew something we didn’t–about about our city, our streets, and are our very own selves. He stepped into our unique and often frightening world and offered each of us gifts.

I never had met anyone like him, and yet he held himself with no regard–low, so very low. He entered into our city, our streets and our lives and showed us something fresh, something new. This newness changed me, and showed me something greater. I would come to call it empathy. This same empathy the man showed me and my people washed over these streets and eventually radiated through me to love those I once hated. I would now come to see them as myself: new people with new destinations, all because a nameless man showed me who I really was and called me new.