BY Led Black (@Led_Black)
Even though I only met Claudio this year, I feel like I have known the man forever. He is, no lie, one of the coolest cats I know. Claudio is the type of dude that you can have a beer with at the bar as well as a deep conversation about any topic imaginable. He is able, smart and always ready to lend a hand. He has been a welcome addition to the team and has come through in the clutch many times, even though he is the Lead Editor at News One and also runs his own blog, www.liveabovemediocrity.com, which is a must-read. When I needed someone to do a story on Inwood’s sole Gay club, Le Boy, Claudio stepped up to the plate and delivered with a provocative post that was brave, honest and also quite vulnerable. The piece, The Night I Went to Le Boy, ended up generating a ton of traffic and comments but also a considerable amount of flack. Anyway, here is the homie, Claudio, in his own words.
I bought the ring in 84.
I lived on three blocks all my life – Arden, Academy, and Hillside.
Those are the three blocks that raised me. The three blocks that made me the man I am today. I could have easily been lured by the other life these streets enticed me with – but my parents kept me away – and so did my friends. The life that many young inner city kids strive to live. One where you don’t follow rules or adhere to laws. The life where you see what the money affords you – the girls, the nice clothes, and the luxury cars. Where you only care about yourself and not how the product you push is killing the lives of the people who look just like you.
But early on, I figured out that you didn’t need to stand on a corner and dodge cops to get all that. You didn’t even have to swing a bat, dribble a ball, throw it 80 yards like Vick or rap like Pun. You can get all of it by just being you. You can attain all that by just working hard.
Today, I am a product of those three groups – my friends, family and neighborhood. I gained inspiration from those who did good and those who did bad. I still do. I give myself very little credit for how I turned out, though people think I should give myself more. I don’t give myself as much because there’s still a lot to go. A lot I want to change; not just within myself, but within my community.
When I see the great progress these neighborhoods have made, I still see the areas where the communities can make change. I see the five on 20 fights in front of my building. I see friends I went to school with on street corners pushing weed and weight. I see the racism. I see the residents being pushed out because of increasing rents. I see the silent screams of battered women. I see the divisions. I see it all.
While I may not be able to change it all, I want to open not only the eyes of our neighborhood to our problems, but most importantly our city. The people that do have the power to act on it. The people who can add extra police, fix a train station, temper quality of life issues, and end the violence. While many of us have lost faith in these figures, with the right amount of pressure, our faith will be restored.
We have to continue to treat this place like our home. These are our neighborhoods. The neighborhoods embody us; and whether it be through our voices, written words, group gatherings, etc., we have to be committed to improving both Washington Heights and Inwood for the better.
I know I’m committed.