”I started working for the city of Mobile two months ago and have a place for my drive and energy and can be successful every day. Right now, moving barricades for Mardi Gras is the one thing on my mind. I can pull eight of them at a time. Some say tell this kid to slow down. They gave me more and some days they have to tell me to stop. This is the best job I have ever had. It is like being on a football team and we push each other. There is some competition and a few have had to step up their game. Police officers have told me that I am the hardest working man in Mobile. I wake up with a smile on my face and work hard. I got a whistle yesterday. That was a big deal because now I am a leader. The crews have been loading barricades the same way for the last 20 years. I came up with a new way and we load three trailers within 30 minutes. That is the time it used to take to load one trailer. On the last two days of Mardi Gras, we will go in for our normal times from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Then we set up barricades before the parade and block off the roads. We close them up before the parade starts. We can mingle with crowds during the parades and I get to make people feel good. This doesn’t feel like a job. After Mardi Gras is over, it will be back to asphalt and filling potholes. My grandad is 80 years old, has retired five times because he can’t quit working. I get my drive from him.
This job has been life-changing and given me something positive in my life. In my world, if you aren’t doing the same as everyone else, you are strange. Every day I walk out of my door, block out the negativity, and stay in my own zone. I have learned about personalities and how to work with them. When I was in eighth grade, I did power washing and other jobs for a neighbor. I earned $40, and bought his lawnmower. I cut everyone’s grass in our neighborhood. I came home with money and my mom stopped paying for my haircuts. I wasn’t going to pay for them, so I bought clippers and learned how to cut hair. I also started cutting other people’s hair. Now I have customers and cut hair on the days I am not working. The dream is to have my own barber shop. I also rap and sing. I write songs about my life. You have to think about the worst so you can avoid the bad situations. Writing songs helps me do that.
I have been told I am an old soul. I was born from young decisions from my parents. My grandmother stays in Spanish Fort and that has always been my escape. It is birds and woods and I ran free and drove my go-cart and shot my pellet gun. I was an energetic child and it gave me another option than the streets of Mobile. My dad went to jail when I was two. My mom always said I was my dad’s son and I was going to be just like him. My family thought I was a menace to society. My mother showed me tough love and kicked me out when I was 17 because she was zero tolerance. That made me grow up. I can’t blame anything on my parents, but I want to break the cycle of prison and domestic violence. I didn’t have many male role models growing up. I needed people to ask, how do I go about life? I used to be a know it all but I learned a know it all doesn’t get anywhere. Be humble, pay attention, and learn. I try not to dwell on my past or use it as an excuse because many people grew up just like I did.
My first tattoo was my mother’s name, Charlotte. I was working at McDonald’s when I got it. She caught me in the middle of me getting it and I told her it was a rash. The tattoo on my hand says OTF for Only The Family. I have MOB on the top of my arm because I love this city. My grandmother’s name, Pauline, is on my other arm. I also have tattoos that say Jesus and Lord Forgive me. They all mean something about who I am and I am not ashamed of it. Family is important to me and one day I want to be a good father who can nurture and teach my kids. That is a long way off.
I am learning financial responsibility. I wasn’t ready for college because I knew I was going to party. I needed to go to work and grow up. I have been through ten mindsets in my adult life. The last nine didn’t work. This one is. Every day I wake up focused on doing something productive. Right now I am paying people gas money for rides, but I will have a car soon. I have had cars, but they have all been pieces of crap. I bought them at buy here, pay here places, but they broke down and were worthless. I have pushed them down the road because I ran out of gas and couldn’t afford to put more in. Sometimes I had to walk to work, but I got there. I am paying cash for the next car so I don’t have to worry about a car note or paying for a ride. On Christmas, I didn’t have a job and spent my last $5 on a homeless guy to buy him a cup of coffee and hotdogs. I was stuck at the gas station with no gas. I want to be able to help other people and have money for gas.
You can’t judge a book by its cover. I know what people think of me because I am a young black man and I look the way I look. The attention I get is usually not good attention. I recently got off work and started walking home. I was looking down at my phone trying to find a ride and stopped in front of a gas station. A cop pulled up and told me to get the hell out of the way. I was puzzled, but I have learned to be learn to be calm in situations like this. You make it worse or being defensive and overreacting. I asked him, ‘What am I doing?’ He drove off.
When you started looking for me, I thought I was in trouble. The only phone calls I ever got like this were to send me to the office because I was going to be suspended. I made A/B honor roll once and that wasn’t enough for my mom. I have been a disappointment to my family, but they are starting to see me differently from watching me work at the parades. I don’t need a pat on the back, but someone caring about me is big in my life. Most people don’t pay attention to city workers or what we do. Thank you to the ones who care.”