The Bullies You Never Forget

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Maria Broom

Last weekend I received a phone call from my parents encouraging me to take the boys to Druid Hill Park to attend the 2nd Annual African Griot Book Fair. It was a nice family event. The highlight was listening to Baltimore’s own, Maria Broom, narrate her children’s book, “The Village Bully”. I sat with my boys as Maria took us through the heartwarming story of Michael Jose Jamal, a young boy, larger than most in his class, who had suffered great lost and lashed out in school.  I reminisced over my own childhood, coming up against many “Michaels”. When the story was over, we began walking back to our picnic blanket. A young lady from a nearby vending table touched my arm and asked, “Excuse me, what’s your name?” I was taken aback, but answered, “Dionne”. “I knew it when I saw you!”, she replied excitedly. “I’m Tekeya…Tekeya Mayfield”, she continued. Now, we have all been in those awkward situations when we are stopped by a stranger who claims to know us, but we have NO idea who they are. Ironically, this was not one of those situations, because just three minutes ago, I was listening to Maria Broom, thinking about Tekeya Mayfield.

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Maria Broom reading to the children at the 2nd Annual African Griot Book Fair.

Tekeya saved my life! See, I attended West Baltimore Middle School better known to real Baltimoreans as, “Rock Glen Middle”. I was 11 year’s old, in the 6th grade. I had just won a gift basket full of assorted candy and treats from my art teacher for a project I had completed. Most of the class cheered for me, except for Brandon Thompson (I changed his name, but best believe I remember it). Anywho, Brandon wanted my basket. I told him, “NO”! He tried to snatch it, and I swiped it back. Just before the bell rang, he stood across the table from me, and I raced out the back door of the classroom. All I had to do was make it to my locker, grab my things and head for the bus.

I was tall and slim…90 pounds wet… but FAST! Brandon was always in trouble for fighting. Because he started school late, he was a BIG boy (a helluva lot bigger than me). He always appeared dirty and his hair was constantly matted with lint. He had a heavy tongue which made him sound slow. Not many people liked him, aside from a few boys who followed along because of sheer fear. I didn’t realize it then, but I understand it now, that Brandon had been through a lot as a child.  I zoomed down the hallway with him trailing behind me.

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Tekeya saved my life!

There was a side door that students weren’t supposed to use because it allowed you to cut across the outside field to the side of the school building. I made a beeline, trying to lose him. I had just made it to the adjacent building before Brandon grabbed the back of my shirt, stopping me before I could open the second door to enter the main hallway. I was trapped. And, with the day ending and teachers preoccupied with dismissing students, the likelihood of anyone coming through the side door was slim.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I was 11 years old face- to-face with a boy “everyone and their grandmother” thought was crazy. He went to snatch for my basket and I pushed him. He pushed me back…hard. I swung and he grabbed me by the neck and pinned me against the wall. I kicked and punched him as if my life depended on it, which is how I felt. As a child, my grandmother always told me that when you fight you better mean it, “Hit’em in the name of Jesus!”, she would shout. At this point, it was a losing battle. As the basket dropped from my hand, the second door swung open and it was Tekeya.

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Over 25 years later…My MOD Crew!

Tekeya and I were cool in school. And, like we did in West Baltimore, if you were cool, you became “play cousins”. She was much shorter than me and thicker. As a 6th grader she had developed much faster than most and I envied that. But, Tekeya also had the emotional and intellectual maturity to match her physique. I respected her. Before, I knew it, Tekeya had taken her book bag and swung it at Brandon’s head. He let go of my neck and I fell to the ground. As he rounded on her, we both “went off”, punching, kicking and screaming at him. Other students could now see us from the open door and the teachers started running towards us. That’s all I can remember.

As I now stood in front of Tekeya over 25 years later, I was reminded of how the universe works. There are some people you will never forget, like Brandon, who reminded me of Maria Broon’s misunderstood character, Michael Jose Jamal…a child who was in need of love and attention. And then there is Tekeya, a girl who demonstrated a character you would never think possible in a 11 year old. These people shaped my life and forever altered my perspective.

My diary entry is this, “the truth of your character is expressed through the choice of your actions.”

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