• J. Jamal

Unity Heights vol. 2

Updated: Jan 6


Welcome to Unity Heights. We’re a small subdivision of downtown Los Angeles, and uhh...a side of town that you don’t hear from or about much. Well, the name came from this intersection right here. We’re standing at the point where Union Street meets Unity Hills. Yea, the make up and ideologies of these 2 respective areas are as different as the Apple Store and the liquor store on these opposing corners. Yea, you’ll find me in the liquor store often, but don’t tell anybody about that. I mean, what do you expect? Unity Hills doesn’t exactly welcome us with open arms out here, you feel me? So we stay to ourselves, stay with our own. Other than school, you’ll always find me on the block. This is home. The OGs won’t let me leave school, but I don’t see a point in it. They know I belong to The U. Only good thing about school is football. I get to legally hit these fools that get in my way? Sign me right up coach. But two more years and I’m outta there. Can’t wait to run the block then. Til all of Union Street is mine.

The names Niko, by the way. On the block, they call me Nik the Quick. Why? Cuz I’m fast and my hands are faster. So if I have to draw quick....just playing man, calm down. Show no fear in these streets, or they give you a reason to. There’s always work to be done on the block, always somebody to be dealt with and handled. A few weeks back, we figured out who it was behind that cocaine warehouse that got raided, and got them outta here. We don’t trust outsiders, and we definitely don’t trust em to be our suppliers. They knew what was coming to them. If you’re gonna be around, I suggest you learn and respect the code. The gym and parks are off limits. Libraries and schools are too. And we don’t hit women, babies, or old people. Any offense can get you popped. Stay out of neighborhoods you don’t know. But if you go looking for trouble, it’ll find you quick, fast, and in a hurry. The U ain’t for everybody, and we respect that. Ain’t no college boys of use around here. You’d be better off hitting the library with Prince. Oh, he’s my best friend. He’s on his way outta here, so we don’t chill too often, he stays outta my way. You should too. Life keeps me pretty occupied, you know what I’m sayin?

Excuse me for a second. That’s my OG right there.

All good, where were we? Oh, yea. Union Street is always busy. We’re not quiet and serene like The Hills. I bet they don’t even hear the ambulances and helicopters flying around down here. They swear they’re better than us, til we run em in sports. I’ve never seen Union High lose to them boys, and it’s not starting on my watch. Then they talk big, and before the fight starts, go running behind their daddies. Pretentious punks. No offense. But they’re all you hear about, all you see on the news: Unity Hills this, Unity Hills that, look out our pretty little lake. Nah, you want reality? Bring the cameras down here. Look at the lil homie Jerrod’s candle light vigil. Look at the Johnson Family and pray for them. Look at the community center we built to keep these little kids outta this as long as we can. They don’t have to worry about community centers, schools being shot up, candle light vigils. Pretty boys up there can’t even handle a gun. Speaking of which, don’t move. Stay behind this car.

“You know the code, playboy.” POP “Come around Ms. Johnson again and the next shot won’t be a warning.”

Sorry about that, these new kids don’t respect the code. But they will.

I’ve got plenty of bullets to make it happen.

Welcome to Unity Heights


__________________________________________


“What’s up Nik? Was that you?”

Backing into the dining room, I smirk seeing some of my boys from the block. We shake hands, exchange pleasantries, and sit around the table, Godfather style.

“Yessir, she’s loud, ain’t she?”

“You a fool man, that little kid probably pissed himself on the way home.”z

“At least he had some time to walk it off”

They burst out laughing, so of course I had to join them. I love my guys. We got on U Street at the same time, and we grew up in this. With respect to the OGs, we’ve been carrying these bloods for a long time. We’re the future of the set, and they know it. These sit downs always end up looking like business meetings, the three of us coming together, discussing the future of our organization, scheduling meetings with the OGs, events, plans, anything we can think of. I bet organization and future aren’t words that you expected to hear about The U Street Bloods, but that’s what separates us from the rest of these clowns. They act, they don’t have time to think. So by time we come in contact, we’re five steps ahead of em.

“Bro, are your parents ever home?”

“You’re always here, you know that answer. Why you even care? Now we can take care of business.”

“Speaking of business,” Markell chimes in, “the Community Center is looking hella good right now. That’ll give us five straight blocks, all our territory. I’m tired of this dead zone stuff, we need to take this. We’re too strong not to. “

He’s got a point...but he can’t. The library, the church, the community center, the schools, all these are no fly zones for a reason. They’re filled with women, old people and kids, we don’t deal with women, old people and kids. One of Mack’s crowning achievements was getting that no fly treaty agreed to, then dedicating the center to commemorate that. That’s one thing about him that I could say he’s done 100% right, I’m not about undoing the positive work they’ve done in the community. But Kel is a livewire. I’ve had to walk him back down from this hill many times. Seems he’s only comfortable or happy talking about bullets flying.

“We’re strong enough without it,” I look both of them in the eyes, my passion bleeding through with every word. “Who’s stepping to us, blood? The U runs everything around here, and nobody’s challenging that. When we need to show who we are, we will. But this ain’t it. It’s real quiet out there right now. We wanna keep it that way. You wanna wake Mack up? You want the OGs at the door? Cuz that’s all we’re gonna get if we make a move on the Community Center and break the truce. You think Mack wants his building shot up? You serious right now?”

I can tell he wants to respond, but Kell chooses not to. Not really unsuspected, that’s just what he does, talk impulsively but he gives way to the voice of reason. He’s gonna be a leader someday, he just has to get his emotions in check. Kinda like his brother Marshon. I don’t know how that guy’s so mellow, when his brother has the attitude of a land mine. When you’ve got a nickname like Sleepy, that says a lot about your demeanor.

“Sleeeep, what up? Talk to me.”

“It’s all good with me man, what about you? You been in the gym yet? Junior year, I know you’re going for varsity this year.”

“I mean, that’s the goal, but I’m not really thinking football right now.”

“Why not, what you waitin’ on? Get big and start throwing your weight around a little bit.”

“That’s mighty aggressive of you, Sleep”, the irony of the most mellow man I’ve met telling me to go hit somebody cracks me up.

“I’m just saying...you know they’re saying Prince is gonna bring all the scouts out this year bro.”

“What’s that got to do with me?”

“What you want it to. The eyes are gonna be there, bro. You want ‘em on you, or not?”

“It doesn’t matter, they’re coming for Prince-“

“They’re coming for ballers. You’re on the opposite side of the field, what, you think they’re gonna close their eyes when the defense comes out?”

“They don’t want guys like me. Prince is the college boy, Preach is a pastor or something. That’s not my life.”

“Then what you here for? For real. You don’t think you can ball, you don’t think you’re gonna get that education, why go to school? You’re that scared of Mack? Nah...but you know what else Mack said. If you gotta chance to get outta this, get outta this. Football ain’t just here for Prince, it can be your get outta jail free card too. If you’re that baller, that is.”

A few minutes of silence gives way to a bit of a staredown. Am I that baller? Can I be anything more than a Blood? Can I really get out of the U, alive? I can’t pretend like I’ve never thought about. Or that I don’t care about the fact that somebody else thinks about it on my behalf.

“Then let’s ball.”


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