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The Life and Times of Keenan LeNoir
I was asked by my cousins to write a short autobiography. At first I wanted to know why he chose me and after a couple of minutes of questioning he broke down and told me that the purpose of the assignment was for non-college graduated to tell of their life experiences. Now I knew there was a catch and that being some type of correlation between college graduated and non-college graduated. So here I go on my young journey of my life.
"What's the deal people," my name is Keenan Brock LeNoir. My name is a combination of my grandmother's maiden name and my grandfather's surname (my mothers' father and mother). I was born on November 16, 1975 in Maywood Illinois at Loyola Medical Center. Growing up I spent time commuting from the Westside of Chicago to Maywood were my mother and I finally settled down. Now my time on the Westside or the "inner city" (as the man puts it), prepared me for a lot of childhood and adolescent experiences that others have proven they can't face or deal with.
My moms made sure I had whatever I wanted as well as needed. She was a single parent who worked long hours as a beautician at Mrs. Moore Beauty Shop of Fifth Avenue in Maywood. We lived on Sixth Avenue around the corner from her job, which was convenient for her, and I went to grammar school at Saint James Elementary also located down the street from our apartment. By the time I was five, my moms and one of the other ladies that she worked with at the shop formed a partnership and opened their own beauty shop affectionately know as "Hair & Company" (that is still open for business today and that makes me proud).
Growing up in Maywood (suburbs) and the Westside (inner city) there wasn't of a difference; for example, Maywood had gangs and drugs in the Westside had gangs and drugs. In school I never felt completely comfortable. The subject that the teachers begin to teach kids in 3rd grade is designed to demoralize the psyche of young black males. See 3rd grade is when kids begin to realize that they are a man not just any man but a man of your nationality. I was a "BLACKMAN." You start to notice your strength both psychologically and mentally. The mental being a subconscious level.
The next thing I knew, I began to read in history class about how blacks were not allowed to read, write, drink out of water fountains, eat at restaurants and (basically not live the way that I was living in the middle eighties) significant change to come until early to middle seventies. From the third grade until the present day something the cracker had to tell me about education was null and void. I challenged them on every level. My behavior was uncontrollable to them, but I was aware of everything I did. I was able to do the so called "homework" with ease and since my moms paid tuition on time I guess that's why I was never expelled from St. James. Although school officials did try to make me take the drug given to kids today for attention disorders. Luckily I had a mother who was semi-conscious to the plight of the young black male. It wasn't until 8th grade that I got a teacher that I respected. Mrs. Sutton, I respected her not only because she reminded me of my mother but she also taught beyond the book. She gave us lessons in life history I didn't realize until I was a sophomore in high school.
To compound everything in my adolescent years, I started Pop Warner Football and my team would travel to different neighborhoods to play other teams. The beliefs that while folks teach their children is ignorance; for example, we had 8-10 years olds calling us "Niggers," cursing us out, and telling us after we beat their asses "That's alright, that o.k. you'll work for us anyway!"
I attended high school at St. Josephs College Prep. In high school I learned about segregation although I already had first hand experience. Without segregation the capitalist system would not work. The subject is so deep no one would touch it, so back to the move. High school was cool we had our clique, went to the parties, had fights, you know the whole nine. Racist views were becoming clear to me. I was at St. Joes when Hoop Dreams was being filmed so everyone knows that we were a basketball school that got a lot of kids from the inner city (Westside) to attend school their. So other schools like Marist, Joliet Catholic, Fenwick, and so on would use those same tactics that were encountered playing Pop Warner. You the reader have to understand, just like in college, when kids are recruited the same thing goes in high school whether it's doctored grades or discounted tuition. So more than 80% of my athletic club teammates went to St. Joe's. As a whole we have been through the same experiences most black males have experienced "do you job and keep your mouth shut!"
As far as college was concerned I didn't apply to a college until my last semester in high school. Regardless of all the invites to college open houses I was receiving from colleges from the east to the west coast, I wasn't as enthused s most of my classmates. The reason for this is my counselor didn't talk to me about college and neither did my mother. College was a last minute decision for me. I filled out one college application and got accepted. I got accepted to Grambling State University in Grambling, LA. I was so pumped about going to Grambling anxiety had me fantasizing about some African American euphoria. "Beep Beep" wrong answer, I never seen so much love and hate at the same time. I love you because you are my brother, my sister, but I hate you because I don't want you to know more than I do. Know I know our attitudes have been conditioned by the chains of physical slavery, then mental slavery through Jim Crow laws. That's a whole other story. Even though I attended Grambling for a year, I need that experience so that I could get to the point where I am today. "As self-employed black man who educated himself in order to educate others!"
This brief life history was narrated by my cousins Keenan LeNoir who I am proud to have as family member. I am constantly amazed by his dedication to educating himself through books (that I or others recommend), attending lectures in his community, and providing for the prettiest little girl (outside of my two daughters Najah and Maia) that I've had the pleasure of meeting two years ago "Keenan LeNoir". I know that some of my cousin's language is either offensive or confusing but you the reader must understand the psychological standpoint of his whole life experience. My cousin has endured a lot of racism, repression, and oppression in his mere 25 years of existence. So you must feel that anger and determination in order to be heard so that the level of consciousness for racial attitudes is raised.