It’s not often that I decide someone can be called “my hero”. Growing up, television’s sad attempt to create role models for young girls proved to be just that, sad. While the overwhelming majority of women portrayed as middle-class ladies were suburban housewives, working-class women were likely to be the broken byproduct of some abusive past, mad as hell, walking around kicking babies and slapping kittens. If by God’s good grace there appeared women who weren’t subservient or constantly pissed, they were career women who had done well, only to find themselves desperate and lonely, waiting in some nice ass house for some other woman’s husband to stop by. Warning us not to focus too much on our personal successes, less you ruin your chances at love. If they weren’t subservient, pissed, desperate or lonely, they were likely to end up in one of two pink media ghettos: the poorly developed love interests of the man who would eventually save the day, or Disney princesses whose lives were only complete after finding a handsome prince. So, yeah. I decided that I needed to find my heroes elsewhere.
In 1989, my mama introduced me to what I believe was my very first hero, The Little Mermaid’s, Horatio Thelonius Ignatius Crustaceus Sebastian. Sebastian, a red anthropomorphic crab from the Caribbean island of Jamaica, was everything a royal court composer and loyal friend should be. Charged by his devotion to Ariel’s father to keep an eye on her as she frolicked around the ocean, that soulful, seashell playing, annoyingly faithful to Ariel’s daddy, all around bad muthafucka grooved his way down the aisle of my little heart. And I can’t even lie, the Grammy award winning “Under the Sea” still blesses my best playlists. That bass line though!
Then, there was this turtle. Our paths crossed when I was about five years old. My sister and I attended the lab portion of a science course at CSU Dominguez Hills. My mama being a single mother meant that my sister and I spent plenty time on the campus while she earned her degree. And while my mother probably deserves to be the hero (sorry Debbie) for being a single mother, determined to earn her bachelor’s degree almost 20 years after starting the journey, the turtle is still the stand out. I never got her name, but for the sake of the story let’s call her Agatha. That day, the instructor supplied the class with two tubs, one filled with a dozen baby turtles, and the other with just Agatha. As can be expected, everyone quickly swarmed around the babies. But I, for some reason, noticed Agatha, alone, unconcerned, and content with a fresh head of lettuce and her own thoughts. Agatha, reminded me of me a little of me. She taught me that I couldn’t help going unnoticed or underappreciated, but to be content even then. Agatha and I sat there silently judging the simple minded baby turtles and their onlookers. I never got that turtle’s name, but I hope she thought of me as much as I have of her.
Next, I decided that Dwayne Stafford was a national treasure and needs to be honored at the next BET Awards. Now even if you don’t know Dwayne Stafford, surely you’ve heard of Dylan Roof, the bitch with the bowl cut who, after being invited into the house of the lord, shot and killed nine worshipers at Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof was later apprehended (alive), treated to Burger King, and taken to be held in protective custody in a South Carolina jail (where he still resides, alive). So Stafford, being an angel sent from heaven, rose early one morning, determined to do the Lord’s work. Around 7:45 am one morning, Stafford, resembling Peter’s Acts 12 miraculous escape, exited his locked cell in an attempt to locate Roof. Stafford approached Roof just as he was about to shower, spoke a few words, then proceeded to issued a beat down that I’m certain Roof will remember for the rest of his days. I’d also like to give honorable hero mention to the thousands who, after learning of the slight justice Stafford bestowed on Roof, raised over $100,000 for his bail. Dope.
Now it’s probably fair to assume that most of you had never heard of New Orleans rapper Dee-1 until I just mentioned him name about seven words ago. That’s fine. It’s also probable that you don’t really care to add another rapper to that already overrun with garbage, leg day at the gym playlist taking up space on your iPhone. Also fine. No judgement here. What’s not fine, is that there is a good chance that most of you haven’t heard what this man has done. Dee-1, or David Augustine, is one of my new favorite people. Dee-1 has done what we’re all here to do. He finished paying Sallie Mae back! Dee-1, the New Orleans native, LSU graduate, middle school math teacher, and rapper, signed a record deal and did something interesting. Mr. 1 decided to use a portion of his advance to pay off his student loans and he did it in such a petty way. I’m sure we can all agree that tracks like “Loyal” or “Gold Digger” are petty and misdirected responses to heartbreak. It’s also fair to assume this chick Sallie Mae had been stringing Dee alone for quite some time. And yet, while Dee-1 could have given us a another hateful track, when the time came for Dee and Sallie to separate, Mr. 1 kept it classy. Dee’1’s ode to paying off student loans “Sallie Mae Back” is not only a classy type of petty, that shit is real! Dee talks about all the sacrifices made during repayment, including eating the poor man’s meal of beans and rice, to do what we all must, repay his debt. More than anything, Dee is my hero because he has also help me decide to launch a rap career, make mediocre music, get signed to a label, secure an advance, and hit NelNet in the neck with a balled up check made out to $105, 269 and delivered in a slingshot. I’ll let y’all know when the mixtap is ready.
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State of the Tyrone
My NelNet student loan statement as of 9/20/2016. It’s still not pretty. Tyrone’s total is now $105, 269.