Rico Blevins, Long Beach, CA., is a member of Men Making A Change at Long Beach Community Action Partnership and was a participant in a Media Boot Camp in San Diego as part of VoiceWaves. This story is from the blog he produced as part of the training.
Byron Wilson is my best friend. He is 20 years old and has three sisters and an older brother. His mother is single, and his father passed when he was 18. His mother was unemployed, so it was up to his big brother and him to provide for the family. Byron and I grew up in the same neighborhood so we witnessed all the harsh realities of neighborhoods with high poverty rates, gang activity, drug activity and racial tension between Blacks and Mexicans. Although he saw these problems everyday he did not let it negatively influence him. Instead, he took it all in and turned it in to motivation to do better than what he was expected given the statistics about minorities in my neighborhood.
He is one of my greatest influences. Not only did he provide for his family in all ways he possibly could, but he treated me like I was his brother. He had my back no matter what the situation, and he made sure I wasn’t going down the wrong path. He taught me how to skateboard, gave me skateboards when I couldn’t afford them, and he and I would go to the local skate park and skate all day. Skateboarding is Byron’s outlet, its what he loves to do and he uses it as a way to stay out of trouble. He rose above the influences by staying focused on his dreams and goals.
No matter how bad your situation is, no matter how negative your neighborhood is, there are ways that you can stay strong — whether its skateboarding, or in my case, making videos. It’s up to you. No one is going to hand you anything. You have to strive to do better everyday and not let the community you live in negatively influence you.