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Me, Junior and the West Village
Published:
4/6/2016 2:41:06 PM

By Hakim Abdul-Ali 


Many years ago, I wrote in an earlier article about a "brotha" who I met once, leaving a powerful vibe with me. His name was Junior and he was homeless; living in and around the Washington Square Park section of Manhattan. 
     
This popular and famous park is located in what most New Yorkers called the West Village, a scenic destination for any and all who wanted to just hangout in "The Big Apple". Back in the day, "The Village" was the hip spot where you could see anyone, from the wealthy and famous to the down and out, just casually "hanging" out doing their own things, oblivious to everyone on a daily basis.
     
It was in this arena where I first met Junior, a homeless body, but an ever-so-wise street aware griot, who became my good buddy. I've haven't seen him in almost twenty years, but he's always been in my thoughts and my prayers because he was simply a dynamic and jovial soul.
     
Junior's homeless state back then makes me think of the realities that an increasingly number of "hue-mans" face presently. From the rich, if there are any still existing in the today's flip-flop economy, to the growing disheartening number of current homeless folk, it's not hard to detail with lucidity what the differing economic disparity among so many of "The American People" existing in the fiscal bald eagle's domain can do to one and all on a diurnal basis.
     
If that is clear, I'd like you to focus on the homeless problem and plight in this country and throughout the world, because it's as real as real can be for so many challenged and neglected "colored" folk until living for them has become an abject scenario for many. So, I ask that you don't toss aside the quandary of our national and international bothers, sisters and children of humanity from your mind-set because it's real and dire.
     
That's why I have to share my story with you about Junior and how we met. It's about homelessness wrapped in a package of survival and endurance.
     
I met Junior more than thirty years ago when he called the streets of lower Manhattan his estate. To call him remarkable in what he dealt with is to deny him his courtliness and regard.
     
Believing that Junior was originally from Brooklyn, another one New York City's five boroughs, I knew him to be the unofficial street mayor of "The Village" among the collective street people, many of whom were homeless. Junior's main office was any available park bench in Washington Square Park, and he told me that "life is a journey from here to there, and no one knows for certain the in betweenness."
     
He was a profound soul, and like I said, I first met Mayor Junior during the mid '80s while I was looking for a job in the corporate sector in New York after having being fired from a job in Newark, New Jersey. I hope that you're not surprised that I told you that because life is an adversity litmus test for all aware folk. It was, and is for me. Is it for you?
     
Moving on, one day after having received another promissory "l'll call you back" letter from a Wall Street firm I had applied to, I stopped by Washington Square Park to "chill" before going to another nearby interview and heading back to my abode in Newark. On this day in September 1984, I was sitting on a bench in the park, trying to regroup my wandering thoughts, and I witnessed an Afro-American (Junior) going through the trash bins near an adjacent bench from where I was sitting. He was intense.
     
This "brotha's" actions amazed me because, at first appearance, I thought he was scavenging for food, which so many homeless folk in "The Village" did, but to my shock this was a different occurrence. 
 
You see, this curious "brotha" was only pulling discarded newspapers from the bins, and he sat down on the bench next to me and he read them with acute scrutiny. 
       
Just then a neatly dressed, Wall Street business suit type Euro-American approached this "brotha" and asked him what the stock quote for the day was. Their interchange floored me as I watched for more than a little while as the "brotha" began rattling off statistic after statistic.
         
Somehow, in that moment of startling awe, I felt humbled by what I was observing. I was about to learn a most valuable lesson in that you should never judge a book by its cover, and there, right before my eyes, was an unfolding lesson from life that I would never forget, and it stands firm in consciousness until this very day.
         
That moment in "The Village" helped transform me into being a more objective, caring soul about "hue-mans"' in general thanks to the Creator Alone and this homeless "brotha" named Junior. After initially introducing myself to Junior, he and I, over time, became good buddies.  I often checked on him, even when I moved to the Lowcountry, and I would return to Newark and NYC many years after our initial meeting to see how he was doing.
         
Sadly, I've lost contact with him in the last fifteen years or so. I really do miss him because I was captivated and enthralled by his genuine, free flowing charismatic knowledge about so many things and his tremendous sense of being, even though he was homeless, an issue I never found out why he was in that state of existence. I often wondered what happened to him.
         
He was a friend. Knowing him as I did taught me so much about caring, humility, sharing, respect and handling life's uncertain trials and unpredictable tests as we all go from moment-to-moment. This "brotha" taught me to never look down on anyone and to realize that every human being has dignity, pride, meaningfulness and self-worth, in spite of financial limitations.
         
Junior, my beloved dear buddy, made me respect the homeless everywhere without prejudice. That's a powerful lesson we all should remember and, that's, "As I See It."

 

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