Dead or In Prison

Dead or In Prison Promo


Dead or In Prison;

By: George E. Duvall

with Derek D. Humfleet

“You will be dead or in prison by the time you’re 13!” were my uncle’s words. In the summer of 1982, I was 7 years old and at the time, his words would come true.

I was a bad kid and thief who robbed people, but I didn’t care.

I clearly remember the day it happened, when my uncle told me I would be “dead or in prison.” It was a Friday, almost dusk. I wanted to go to my grandparents’ house, about two miles away. Along the way, I would pass drug dealers, thieves, thugs, players and pretenders. These were my father figures and I their entertainment. They liked me and called me “Hard Lil’ Nigga!” as they watched me dance and I made them laugh. As boom boxes rocked 80’s rap, I listened to the music as well as my role models. They made me promises that I was going to be “the man” one day. They were cool. They gave me attention. They built a relationship with me.

Flashing my broad smile, with the gap between my front teeth, I charmed them so they would give me dollar food stamps and food stamps meant I could buy candy: Boston Bake Beans, Lemon Heads, Chick-O-Sticks and my favorite, Now & Laters. That night, I stopped at the store on the corner of Fourth and Ohio Streets. Using the food stamps my “fathers” had given me; I loaded up on candy and was off to my grandparents’ house.

I was one of five kids living in the projects on the east side of Lexington without a father at home and I loved to escape to their house. Being the youngest grandchild, they gave me special attention. Even at the age of seven, I was getting into a lot of trouble; however, I was a hard worker and I helped them out even when they didn’t ask. The special attention was my drug. Attention was what I craved, but I didn’t get much of it at home.

My grandparents were great people. Grandmamma was about four foot eleven. She cooked, cleaned and kept their house nice. For a while, she was a preacher. Grandmamma would read the Bible to me and she told me I was beautiful. My granddaddy was a big man and he took his Second Amendment rights seriously. If you crossed him, he was not afraid to straighten you out. He talked to me as well as listened to what I had to say. He let me help him work around the house. Neither of my grandparents took any insubordination from their kids or grandkids, me included.

Finally reaching their house, that night, I opened the wrought iron gate and yelled for my grandmamma like a celebrity announcing his appearance. When I walked through the door, I saw my uncle. Friday was payday, so he had picked up a bottle of liquor after he got off work. He was probably twenty-five years old and he worked for a living. Now, he was passed out, face down in the middle of the living room floor, snoring. His wallet was sticking out of his pants with a chain connecting it to his belt. As he snored and snored and snored some more, I saw an opportunity.

I waited, watched and listened. Then, I tiptoed across the linoleum to where he was sleeping. Slowly, I bent over him and gently tugged at the leather wallet in his back right side pocket. I almost had it.

Suddenly, there was a violent swing! My uncle had reached for his wallet, but he grabbed my wrist.

Oh boy!

“GRANDMAMMA”, I yelled and she came running into the living room. There she saw my 6’3” uncle whoopin’ on me. He shouted in his Mississippi drawl, “You ain’t no good boy!” He hit me on my back, legs, butt, hip and whatever he could reach. As he yelled, I tried to jump away from each swing.

“Keep doin’ this here! (Whop!) Keep on doin’ this, you hear me! (Whop!) You too old for your age boy! (Whop!)”

I could see the anger, the frustration and most of all the disappointment in his eyes.

“Keep on George! (Whop!) Keep on doin’ this and you will be dead or in prison by the time you’re 13!” (Whop! Whop! Whop!)


By George E. Duvall

with Derek D. Humfleet