Have you ever found yourself in an area of the city where you don’t belong? It might be because of your skin color, your mannerisms, your voice, or your clothes. You may not have a choice about being there; perhaps you’re on business. Or maybe you live in a poor, urban neighborhood (hood) because of no money or bad credit.
How do you survive? What’s a girl who was raised in suburban Cleveland, Ohio (like me) to do? What’s a guy who was raised in Smalltown, USA to do when he finds himself sorely out of place in the hood?
When I separated from my son’s father prior to our divorce, I moved from the north side of Chicago to the south side for the cheaper rent; now, I’m back on the north side. While helping me move south, a friend of mine commented, “You look kind of nerdy, and people in this hood are gonna wonder why you’re here.” For a minute, fear gripped my heart.
After a moment of reflection, I remembered I had lived in the hood briefly as a teenager when my mother and father divorced. It all flooded my memory, and I thought, “I’ll put on my game face.” You too can put on your game face and survive. If getting out of the hood is your goal, you won’t thrive until you’ve met that goal, but let’s take one step at a time.
It’s challenging, and to be successful, you’ll need the following:
A fearless heart.
Ability to see the good in people.
Strong survival instincts.
Observe the locals carefully
If you’re passing through, pay attention to how those around you act and speak; now is not the time to use your vast vocabulary or your proper diction. If you’ve taken acting classes, it’s time to see how good you are! Speak and act like the locals; they can teach you volumes about how to survive in their world.
Do a test run
If you can plan ahead, drive through the neighborhood. Stop in a McDonald’s or some other relatively safe establishment. (I would not suggest doing a test run in the neighborhood bar.) Don’t speak except to order your food–listen and learn!
Rid yourself of fear
One of my techniques is to pray and quote scriptures. A favorite is, “For God hath not given me the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7, KJV); I use other scriptures too, because all battles begin in the mind.
Animals smell fear and so do people. Remember–if you have to do business or live in the hood, living in fear is unhealthy. It raises the blood pressure, causes stress and strokes, and often, premature death. You want to live to be able to say, ” I learned how to survive in the hood” and to overcome without too many battle scars.
Learn how to say no
Inevitably, someone will ask you for money or food. If you believe they need help, and you can, provide it. I would caution you not to open your purse or wallet to pull out money. Instead of giving money, you can buy a meal for the person. Give specific instructions, as in, “Please have a seat while I pay for the food; I’ll bring it to you.” If the famished person isn’t willing to do this, maybe he isn’t starving after all. Don’t risk having your money stolen from you!
When confronted directly, don’t back down
During the eight years I lived in the hood, people begged me for money, cursed at me when I refused, tried to intimidate me, and even threatened me. Just like animals test and try other animals to see who is the most dominant, so do humans. Watching a National Geographic film about how to survive in the wild may help you do just that.
Stare the “devil” in the face, and do not back down, do not retreat, and do not show fear. Be bold, be fearless, and be strong!
A young man once continually harassed me, asking for money and when I said no, he told me why I should donate to his cause. I looked at him sternly and said, “You should get a job–even if you have to create one. I can’t give to you, because I have to support myself and my son.” He kept asking, and I kept refusing, silently refusing, as I walked in the store. I didn’t turn my back on him though. Remember–you are a fearless warrior (but a wise, strategic one)! Yes, it is a daily battle to survive in the hood.
Put on your game face
Surviving in the hood is like surviving in the wild–only the strong survive. I learned not to smile all the time, to acquire a firm stance, to look serious, and to remain on high alert. In essence, I put on my game face, survived, and now I thrive in a more desirable area of my city. I won that battle and so can you!