The more i tried
It was time for recess. We were told to prepare to go outside for playtime. My classmates and I were instructed to gather at the recess equipment, so, my friend Ray and I were excited to be outside and run around as typical, rambunctious ten-year-old boys. After we were given permission to go, we gathered the equipment and headed to the playground. We ran straight to the softball field and sat out the bases.
Shortly after we completed the task, I was told by our teacher to go to another area of the recess grounds. Actually, what she said was "you colored kids go play kickball in that other area of the playgrounds." These instructions did not sit well with me as I recall. So, I ignored them and took to the outfield of the softball field and chased the softball.
After getting the first team out, I anxiously waited my turn at bat. When it finally was my turn to bat, I walked up to home plate getting ready to take a swing. Then out of nowhere I felt this sharp pain in my upper left arm. My teacher had sunk her fingernails deep into my flesh to the point of drawing blood.
I went blank for a moment, it seemed that everything was moving in slow motion. As the situation returned to reality, I could hear her screaming and shaking me, then the pain in my arm returned in full force. At that moment all I wanted to do was get away from her, but the more I tried to pull away the deeper her nails seemed to sink into my flesh.
In the self-defense mode of a ten-year-old child in danger, I swung the bat with my right hand and hit her as hard as I could. Now, Looking back on the whole playground incident, the most hurtful part was not the fact of her fingernails sinking into my flesh, though it was painful. It was her shouting, shaking, and the menacing expression on her face. "I told you Colored kids to go play kickball," as if my presence would cause some misfortune to fall upon the other kids on the softball field.
Shortly after the playground incident, I was unceremoniously escorted to the principal's office. I remember my head hanging down, chin on my chest knowing that there was going to be some serious consequences for my action. Even more so when I made it home.
Regrettably, I was not sent home, I was sent instead to the juvenile detention center. I was sent there because the School Administrators couldn't get in touch with my mother, who was at work at the time. The only contact they had for my mom was the house phone, and no one was there to answer. So, I pretended not to know where she worked.
Being escorted from school in front of my peers was shameful, and I was fearful at the same time. The most frightening moment of all was when I heard my mom's voice. Thankfully, the authorities calmed her down enough to explain what had happened and why I was sent to the detention center. When she came back to where I was being held, she started to examine me more closely, though she was still angry. I could not only see, but feel the concern and compassion return to her face. This for sure eased my anxieties.
The bus ride home was very intense to say the least. I attempted to explain my actions, but got a look that said this is not the time or place. The fear returned. The quiet before the storm you might say, but fortunately the storm never came, not in the form I was expecting.
A few weeks later, there was still no storm. I had to appear before the Municipal Judge. The Judge asked me if I knew why I was there. I replied no. He explained the situation that happened on the playground. He explained that what I did was serious and against the law. That what I did was called aggravated assault, and I could be sent away to the juvenile detention center as punishment. When I heard that I would be sent to the juvenile detention center, the storm was on cue, and I started bawling out of control.
I started clinging onto my mother, screaming and hollering to the point that I had to be taken out of the courtroom. Shortly afterward, my mother came out to comfort me and told me we were going home. This time, on the bus ride home, I sat so close to her you would have thought we were conjoined twins.
I learned later on, from a conversation my mom was having on the phone with her mother, that I had been expelled. I did not know what that meant. I remember smiling because I didn't have to go back to school for the rest of the year. Little did I know it wasn't for the rest of the year, but for the next five years.
I used this particular troubling situation as a catalyst to structure my entire failure at life. I blamed absolutely everything negative that happened in my life on that playground incident—my failure in school, as a teenager, as husband, as father, and as a member of society—everything!
My brothers and I would annually stay with our grandparents each summer, as would all my first cousins. Typically, my brothers and I would be dropped at our grandparents’ house by our mother and her friend. Visiting our grandparents was par for the course. This had been happening for as long as I could remember. So, the fact that we were there this particular summer was typical. What made this particular summer different was the end of summer routine. Usually, we packed our things and my mother would come and retrieve the three of us, and off we would go. What was so unusual about this summer was that my mother drove herself; apparently, she had learned to drive over the summer and purchased a car.
Their plan was to wait until the three of us had fallen asleep. When that eventually happened, someone carried my two brothers and placed them in the mother’s car. They left, and headed home without me. I was left in the den asleep until the next morning.
So I learned I would be living with my grandmother—whom I absolutely loved and adored. But I was separated from the only structured home I knew, which created even more anxiety. This set me on a road of internalizing everything. I thought my mother rejected me, because of what unfolded during the playground incident. I felt rejected, betrayed, and hurt, which caused me to become rebellious, destructive, unreachable, and unteachable.
In my young mind, I thought the more I acted out in destructive and rebellious ways, the quicker I would be sent back to what I was accustomed to. Needless to say, it did not work. Little did I know, my grandparents had a solution, particularly my grandmother. They were old school; they believed in spare the rod spoil the child mentality. I assure you, I was not spoiled. Any destructive or rebellious action I cooked up, they had a solution, and it was painful.
I had gone through life feeling defeated because I was afraid of not fitting in. My social skills were non-existent. I would have rather been alone then have one more person tell me I was stupid or dumb, so I isolated myself. I became opinionated and argumentative.
I would beat myself down with my victimized thinking. Then it happened, I figured out that I was living, I say living, but it was more existing in fear. I internalize fear! I feared not being accepted, because of that I developed a phony personality, I became extremely possessive and jealous. In that state I was not fit to be around. I would unintentionally sabotage relationships for fear of being rejected. The turnaround came when I surrendered to the Lord, and started living in faith instead of fear. The Lord revealed to me that fear involves torment. I learned that I had to break the power of fear, or it would continue to torment me. I no longer fear rejection because some people are only in my life for a season. I no longer fear failing, because fear of failure will prevent me from trying new things. After I received that in my spirit, life opened up for me.
Derrick Vincent, was born in Jackson, Mississippi in February 1961. He grew up in a single-parent home, raised by his mother. He was one of nine siblings, consisting of seven brothers and two sisters. Sadly, his educational journey took an unexpected turn when he dropped out of high school during his 10th grade year. Later, he enrolled in the Job Corps program, where he dedicated himself to learning and successfully acquired two valuable trades, electrical and carpentry. He is the proud father of three children, two daughters and one son. At the age of 33, his life took a tragic turn. He found himself serving a natural life sentence in prison. Despite this tragic turn, he was determined not to allow the circumstances to define him. He was determined that if this was the turn life had for him, he would display the strongest commitment he could to self-improvement. He obtained his General Education Diploma (GED), attended a Christian Seminary, and pursued an associate degree in counseling and a bachelor’s degree in Christian ministry. Currently, he serves his community as a tutor in Adult Basic Education (ABE) and GED Studies.