Chapter Six – Juniors High (Autobiography Book by Mynzah)
~ Juniors High ~
Returning to Exeter in 5th grade and living my mother was a blessing. Once I was back, I was able to become more grateful for the environment I was being raised in. Everyone has hardships throughout life but I knew the hardships would be substantial if I remained in East Palo Alto with my father. It was an entirely different reality than Exeter, literally black and white, and I was becoming to see things this way as well.
Leading up to my junior high years, I spent much of my time with different friends in town and played a lot of sports. Music was starting to have more of an influence on me. Sex was being presented to me by adult men, introduced to me by people I thought were my friends. I was becoming more of a hell raiser but I remained nice to people. Authority I didn’t respect that much and I didn’t like to be told what to do. My friends would ask me to go to church with them or youth groups and I would go. I didn’t really want to go because I still viewed church for what it is. I went so I could hang out with my friends but while there, I was always acting up and making my friends laugh in church, especially my best friend Jeff.
During the period from 5th grade to 7th, I learned more about my little town and that I needed to protect myself from adults and as well as some kids I thought were my friends. For example, my mother and I were still living in a one room house and I slept on the couch. This was the first house we lived at in Exeter and down the road from us was a friend I played with once in awhile. He was older than me and their family had a house that had mentally challenged men in it. I would get invited to his house to play in the front yard but was never asked into the house. They had a two story home and I always wondered what it looked like inside, it was clearly much more than our home and I knew he had his own room as well. They also had men that stayed there and you would see them now and then outside but you could also see that they were a bit different and didn’t act like others. My friend who lived there referred to them as mentally ill and retarded.
One day I was headed to play with another friend but walked by this other friends home, the one with the mentally ill residents. I waved at him and there was another kid with him in the yard but I didn’t know him. They waved me over so I went over to his house and he asked me if I wanted to see the inside of his house and I said sure. I was excited to finally get to see this huge house, and the three of us went inside and directly upstairs. I thought we were going into his room but instead we went into the room of one of the men who lived there. I was a bit bewildered why we were there so I looked at my friend and he was just smiling. Then I looked at the man standing in front of me and he started to unbuckle his pants and zip down his zipper. I looked at my friend again for a reaction but he still just stood there with a smile. I look at the man zipping his pants down and reaching in to his own pants and he’s smiling as well. Next thing I know, the man has is penis out and it aiming it at me and gesturing to me. I look at my friend and he says for me to put it in my mouth.
I couldn’t believe what I just heard and stared at him, wondering if he was joking and he was just smiling. I look back at the man and clearly he’s serious, so I ran for the door and flew down the stairs and out the front door and ran back to my house. That was the last time I played with that friend. He was a couple of grades ahead of me and I kept my distance from him and his home. I wondered if it was just me he tried this with or were there other kids they were taking up there to that room. I never told my mom about it because I felt like I did something wrong and I didn’t want to get into trouble. This wouldn’t be the last time I would be put into this type of situation with an adult in town.
Not long after this, I wanted to learn more about the Native American culture because that resonated more in me than being black or white. I don’t remember how but I found out about a dance group that did Native American dancing. We would have practice at the home of the group leader and his son. They were both old to me and didn’t look Native American to me but I probably didn’t look Native to them either. I enjoyed practicing at their home with the other kids and we would also make our dance outfits. We had a performance coming up and we were going to do a dress rehearsal at the house we practiced at of the two men. The son of the person running this, was I believe in his 20’s or 30′. He told me that I needed to try on my outfit and I said ok. He took me into a room and sat down in a chair across from me and told me, “Take off your clothes.” I hesitated because he was in the room with me and I had never taken my clothes off in front of an adult. So he tells me again but this time with agitation in his voice. I had already experienced an awkward moment alone with an adult and didn’t want a repeat. I always got a weird vibe from this guy and his father, but I thought maybe I am overreacting. So I took my shirt off and then he said for me to take my pants off too.
I thought no way am I taking off my pants, then he tells me that I have to because it won’t go over my pants. Even though I didn’t want to believe him, it did make sense but he didn’t have to be in the room with me, I thought. I can put the outfit on myself, I’m telling myself but was afraid to say that to him because he already seemed agitated. So I took my pants off and stood there in front of him with just my underwear on. I covered up my genital area because he was looking in that direction, and then he said I needed to take off my underwear too. I pulled my pants up, put my shirt on and while I did this he was getting upset and questioning what I was doing and trying to explain to me that I had to. I told him he doesn’t have to be in the room, I know how to dress myself. The more he tried to convince me, the more I knew what he wanted. I got all my clothes on and ran home. I didn’t tell my mom because I was embarrassed and scared again. I just kept it to myself and told my mom that I didn’t want to be in the dance group anymore. She knew something was up because up until that experience, I always enjoyed and looked forward to my Native American Dance class. After this event, I wondered again if this was happening to other kids as well. This was the last time this type of event would happen to me in my life.
I had already known before moving to Exeter that I couldn’t trust adults but I didn’t know adults tried to have sexual relations with kids. I also didn’t know that you had to be watchful of your friends as well. I didn’t agree with that entirely though. I felt there had to be someone in this world whose friendship I would never question.
These sexual encounters I had as a child would cause me to question sexual behavior. As a “Walk-In”, I didn’t identify with boy or girl, black or white…I didn’t even know my name until my mom said it the first time. Over time I would eventually understand that I am a boy and not a girl and also what the difference meant. So I totally understand when children or even adults are confused about their sexual orientation, whether gay or straight. To me it was all the same and there is nothing wrong with boys liking boys and girls liking girls…you like who you like but within that, adults trying to pressure sex upon kids is for me an issue. I was fortunate to escape adults attempting to violate me but I am also aware other children have not been so lucky, including some within my own family, I would later learn. In hindsight I do wish I would have spoke up instead of allowing fear to silence my voice. I had always wondered if I was an isolated situation or has this been ongoing with the individuals I had encounters with.
I ended up just sticking with whom and what I could depend on and that was my friends and sports, occasionally my mom, my brother and sister. In junior high I became interested in the opposite sex and I began losing interest in school and becoming wilder. I maintained playing sports and did fairly well and was chosen for the All Stars in baseball and also for the Baseball Traveling Team.
In 7th and 8th grade I had a couple of events that stood out to me, it was a big transition stage for me I felt. I began playing the saxophone and singing in choir but I really didn’t like either one so in 8th grade I switched to drums. I played the snare drum and bass drum with another friend, her name was Julie. Both of my best friends, Scott and Jeff were in band with me and played trumpet. One day, we had a concert to perform for the entire school in our 8th grade cafeteria. The entire school band was on the stage and Julie and I would switch playing the bass drum between songs. I got bored easily as a kid and I was always a clown and loved to hear and see people laugh. While Julie and the rest of the band played I just sat there tapping the bass drum stick on my leg to the beat Julie did on the drum because I knew the song. Then I saw a vision of me pretending to hit Julie’s butt as she drummed because I knew the song. Julie and I would constantly get into trouble with our band director because we were always clowning around with each other and others. Well this day was no different, so as she drummed, so did I but I didn’t hit her butt, I just pretended. I then realized that the audience can see what I am doing and I see them laughing, including the teachers. I can’t see the music director so I know he can’t see what I’m doing. Julie knew I was doing something behind her back as well but I would stop whenever she looked at me. I kept doing this throughout the song and more people were paying attention and trying to see what I was doing that was so funny. Next thing I know as I am sitting in my chair playing Julie’s butt, I feel someone grab me from behind and pull me off stage with both hands and takes me outside behind the theatre. It was our band director and he left the band playing and snuck up behind me and took me off the stage.
I liked this teacher, he as my best friends uncle by marriage and has always been cool to me. I felt bad that I embarrassed him but it wasn’t intention. I knew he wouldn’t understand I was just having fun and more people seemed to enjoy what I was doing rather than what he was. I added humor to the boring event. I know he didn’t see it that way and so I apologized and told him it wouldn’t happen again and it didn’t. I wouldn’t play in band anymore even though my friends went on to play in high school, I lost interest and thought the songs were boring anyway. I really wasn’t into christmas songs, I was into bands like KISS, AC/DC, Hank Williams Sr., Al Greene, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Elvis Presley…Devil or evil music some would think of it but I enjoyed listening to it and would imitate playing the songs using my air drums and air guitar.
My theatrics for making people laugh didn’t end that day. The school announced that they were going to hold a costume contest for the students. They called it “Freak Day” and the costumes would be judged and whomever won would be crowned “King Freak”. When I first heard about it I knew I wanted to be part of this but had no idea what I could possible use for a costume and win this. My friends were excited to participate and so was I but I didn’t know what to do. My friends knew I was going to be part of this and wanted to know what I was going to come as but I honestly didn’t know. The event was going to be the next day and when I went home I told my mom. She asked me the same question as my friends, “What are you going to wear?”. I told her I didn’t know and she didn’t give me any ideas.
My mother was an avid yard sale and garage sale shopper and she would buy things and never use them, just store them. I always gave my mother a hard time about that but this day before the freak show, I was glad she collected the junk. I started going through the stuff she had stored up and I saw something shiny, shimmering and noisy. I pulled it out and it was a belly dancing suit with the top and the bottom. I took it to my mom and asked her if I could wear this and she didn’t believe me. It was a two piece belly dancing suit so she gave me some black leotards to wear underneath. So the next day before school, I got dressed in the suit and put on my regular shoes and socks and walked to school. She didn’t believe that I was going to do it but I did.
I was starred and laughed at of course as I walked to school but I could tell everyone was amused, I just hoped that the school and students would be also because I wanted that crown. When I got to school, everyone couldn’t stop laughing. People were taking pictures of me and I would pose for them and with teachers. I noticed that the costumes of my peers were really reserved compared to mine, I seemed to have gone over the top.
The school gathered all the contestants and we lined up on the cafeteria stage and our 7th and 8th grade classes filled the gym. Then the judging began and as each person was introduced they would do something related to their theme. Well when my name was called, the gym erupted and I put a show on for them and it got louder, I walked away with the crown. That day they put a tall silver crown on my head that said “King Freak” on it. I wore it all the way home and my mother couldn’t believe I actually did what I said and won on top of it all. She had me pose in front of the door and took a few pictures of me and that was the last time I would wear or see that belly dancing suit. That day forever memorialized in my Jr. High yearbook where there is a picture of me in full regalia of that day.
Other events took place in junior high that were significant to me, like when we a new student came to town and the Ku Klux Klan. I noticed a new kid at our Jr. High school sitting alone at break. He had a broken leg I assumed because he had crutches and a cast. Ever since my own experiences here in town as a new student, I wanted to always let the new kids feel welcomed because I would have liked to have felt welcomed my first day.
I approached him and introduced myself to him and sat on the bench with him. He seemed kind of shy and of course that is understandable…been there. So he tells me that his name is Brent and he and his family just moved here from Rancho Cucamonga. He and I didn’t become best friends but we became, in my opinion, very good friends. Later he would introduce me to a band called Suicidal Tendencies, which led to other great music I would enjoy. His father would ended up being my baseball coach a few times and was one of the best coaches in any sport that I have played. His mother played and coached tennis and she was just as beautiful a soul as her husband. Both of them I had great respect for…their whole family was that way. I of course new his brothers as well and I enjoyed and respected each of them tremendously.
One day the Ku Klux Klan was coming to a town about 9 miles away in Visalia. I had heard about it when I over heard my mother speak of it. I didn’t think anything of it other than they probably would not come to Exeter, I’m the only one here and I’m no harm to anyone. People were protesting against them coming and my friend Brent pulled me to the side to talk to me one day at school. He asked if I knew about the KKK coming to town and I said I did. He then went on to tell me that he wanted me to know that if they try to do anything to me that he would get his gun and protect me. We were in 8th grade and I knew that his whole family were hunters and I watched them load there own ammo in their living room before one of their hunting trips. I am happy to share that the KKK never came to town and Brent and his family never had to protect me. Yet this event really showed me that the color of my skin nor my social economic status mattered to them…I mattered to them.
Another person that I had an interaction with that stood out to me was with a friend named Ray Dean. This guy was one of the toughest guys in town and spoke openly of his feelings towards blacks and other races but you could tell he had a special dislike for blacks. I had known him since we were kids but he was never that way towards me. I always enjoyed being around Ray Dean when we did hang out. We were on the same baseball team as kids, my first baseball team to be exact. Growing up in this town I didn’t know anyone that would want to fight Ray Dean, everyone seemed to be fearful of him. One day he and I were hanging out and out of nowhere he has this realization and says, “David, you’re the only black person I like…you’re the first and only black friend I have. He went on to say, “Let me know if anyone fucks with you because of the color of your skin or for any reason”. I appreciated that he expressed his care for me in his own way. I knew he was a good friend and I hoped that our friendship would open him up to others of different color. We’ve remained friends till the day he died.
Those are two experience I had that showed me that no matter the color of my skin or the strongly held prejudices of a person, there is a place of Love and compassion in each of us. It’s just a matter of recognizing it within us and expressing it outwardly to others in a positive manner that is beneficial for all involved.
In this town I grew up in I played sports such as soccer, track, football and baseball. I also did other things like skateboard, shoot bb guns, listen to music and I raised a lot of hell. Some may think of me as this nice little child and I was, but as time went on, I became more destructive. My friends seemed mild compared to me, I would make them laugh like I use to do with my cousins. It was another way for me to connect with other people, I wanted to erase my color and have them see me beyond my body. It has always been very easy for me to make friends and I had a lot of them in high school. But there were a closer circle of friends that I had within a larger circle of friends. I feel that we all do that to a degree, certain friends you allow closer than others.
There are a number of stories I could share about the people of this town being protective of me but it took them getting to know me first. I was never a fighter at first in school and I never liked violence, especially directed towards me. I was protective of my friends as they were of me and I never got into fist fights with anyone of them. In eighth grade I broke up a fight between two friends by jumping in between them and making everyone laugh, who had gathered around. It broke the tension and everyone went their own way.
Another moment of transition in Jr. High for me came in a wood shop class. I had a drawing class for wood shop and the teacher had us create any floor plan of house we wanted. I didn’t want to just draw up any floor plan, I wanted to create something different that I would like to live in. I didn’t like square houses with corners, it was too plain and boring to me. Since he had given us free will to design whatever comes to mind, I decided on a circle house. I was very proud of this house I created and it was one I would like to live in. After completing my project, I never got a chance to show it to my teacher. Part of me was embarrassed to show it to him, because I thought he might laugh at what I created and then show the class and then they would make fun of me. But Mr. Scott wasn’t that kind of a teacher, he was nice to all the students and respected us. He had told us at the beginning of our project to put our names on our work but I had forgot to do that and then my project ended up missing. I was sure someone would find it, look at it and then just throw it away.
Not long after this event but long enough for me to forget about it, I went to our Jr. High assembly, it was like a back to school night. Parents came to see the work their children were doing in Jr. high. I was with my mother and as we looked at the displays of the students in the auditorium, under the glass I see the drawing of the floor plan that I had created and it had won an award. I tugged at my mom and pointed at my floorplan and told her it was mine and that I had won. She didn’t believe me and I went to show her my name on the paper but realized I had not put my name on it.
The teacher for our woodshop class, Mr. Scott, was standing near us and I got his attention and told him that he had my floorplan displayed. He looked at it and said, “Oh yes, I remember this one, didn’t I tell the class to put their names on their work?” I said, “Yes, I thought I had but realized I didn’t and when I looked for it in class I couldn’t find it”. He went on to tell my mother and I that the floorplan was very unique and out of the box. Then he said, he picked up the floorplan and realized the student who made it, left there name off of it. It was so unique to him that he kept, so it wouldn’t get lost. He displayed it for everyone at school to see and thought perhaps the student who created it would recognize their work and claim it. That’s exactly what ended up happening and I didn’t know I was going to be recognized for my floorplan. I didn’t make it to compete because I didn’t know there was a competition, I created it the way I did because it was something I would like to live in. This is when I realized it’s ok for me create from my imagination and not just do what everyone else does, I can actually think for myself and create for myself. Abstract thinking is how he described my floorplan.
Sports in Jr. High became awkward for me, especially when we began taking showers together in school. I had grown up with most of these guys and we didn’t take our showers together when we were growing up. In Jr. High, they made us take showers after gym class. It was an embarrassing time for most of us because some were hitting puberty and others were not and that was evident. Us boys were mean to each other and constantly teasing one another about our body parts and lack of bodily hair. We were all going into High School soon and for those of us that played sports, jr. high showers was just preparing us for High School and showering with each other all the time. Being naked in front of each other just became a normal event for gym and those who played sports. Not all the kids adjusted well to it though. For me it continued after high school and into the Marine Corps.
I played primarily after school sports in Jr. High. I did play on the school flag football team and did ok and I also wrestled because my best friend convinced me to. I didn’t do all that well in wrestling, I just wasn’t aggressive enough and I didn’t like the uniforms. Wrestling was too violent to me also, it felt more like fighting and I wasn’t into that yet. By best friend however did very well wrestling and always tried to get me to do it again but I refused.
I did however attempt to play tackle football again. I felt I was ready and many of my friends were going to play as well. I didn’t do so good again. I was a skinny kid and had to weigh at least 95 pounds to play. I knew I didn’t weigh that much so when my mom took me to go get a physical, while they weighed me, I pulled up on the bar behind me. It added enough for me to pass the weight limit and play. My coaches called me “Sticks” but not because I could hit people hard but because I was a twig. They had little nicknames for all of us. I was in the eighth grade and had never been in a fight, I wasn’t aggressive and I was usually afraid of hurting myself. When I attempted tackle football again in 8th grade, I was a tackling dummy for everyone, I was absolutely terrible at football. After the football season I wouldn’t play again until my sophomore year in high school and the results were pretty much the same, then things switched entirely my Junior year in high school with regard to tackle football. Violence started to settle in.
My last highlight I’ll share is sports and relationship related. This event was and still is important to me because it taught me something I would understand about coaching. I was a good baseball player, I wasn’t great but I could definitely hold my own. My second year of little league, I was on a team with two of my best friends and another really good friend. One of the coaches of our team was my best friends dad and he was also our English teacher in Jr. high. We had a really good baseball season that year and there were 4 of us that stood out on the team and that was Me, Scott, Jeff, and Eddie. The year before, both Jeff and Eddie went to the All Stars and they had a great season this year as well so to me they were in. It was also their third and final year of little league. Myself, Scott, and Jeff are best friends and have been since 2nd grade. We are great friends with Eddie as well but us three referred to each other as best friends.
For me and Scott it was our second year of little league and we would have another year after this season. It was considered an honor to be selected to play in the All Stars. Every year it was played on the 4th of July and still is and the community comes out to support it. Following the game and the issuance of trophies, the city puts on a fireworks display and that is what I enjoyed most.
The more I played competitive sports, the more competitive I got, in general. Winning and losing didn’t mean as much as being recognized for my contribution. I never cared to have attention directed towards me or adorations, but I appreciated when I was told genuinely, good job. I always appreciated that.
This second year of baseball with my friends was difficult for me. We had all did well but we all knew that they were only going to take 3 of us from the team to play in the All-Stars. We already knew that Jeff and Eddie were going and so that left the two best friends, me and Scott but it also included his dad, our assistant coach. Us four wondered who it would be and we would compare how our season was. For me it didn’t matter, either way, I get to go to the game, I get to see my friends play and I get to watch fireworks, I’m good either way. Then they started pointing out our statistics and Jeff tells us that I had the highest batting average on the team. I didn’t know that until Jeff shared it with us. I knew I did well and I did much better than the year before. They also pointed out that Scott was fourth in average, Jeff was second and Eddie was third. That seemed to seal it for them that I would be selected.
I wasn’t as confident as they were, Scott was more confident for me than I was. I was known for my theatrical catches. I would make diving catches but I would also lose some catches because of my aggressiveness. I know that I had missed some key catches and that could keep me from going but I continued to dismiss their claim that I would go. When the selection came, it was Jeff, Eddie, and Scott. When we found out, Jeff and Eddie told me that I should have been selected. They went on to say that Scott was chosen because his dad was the coach. I admittedly was hurt that I wasn’t selected and I began to buy into the idea that it was because they were coach/father and son. Yet I also knew that Scott is a hell of a baseball player and that is a very tough position for a coach to have to choose. I loved both of them so much that I refused to think of it as favoritism or anything else other than Scott’s ability. Later in life I would become a coach of various sports and if I had to make the decision that Scott’s dad made, I would have made the same choice. Scott was more consistent and I am glad that I never harbored anything negative regarding that event. I learned many things but the most important for me was to not choose a game over my friends or anything else that I Love. Since that that of choosing the All Stars we all jokingly tease each other about it and well tell Scott that I should have went instead of him. It’s beautiful to be able to joke like that about the event, were some would have ended relationships over it.
I went to the All Stars that year and watched my friends and teammates play. We all hung out with each other after the game and watched fireworks together and to this day, we are all still best friends. The next year, Scott and I both played on the same team again and were selected to go to the all-stars and traveling team. That year was our first year playing in the All-Stars together and still best friends.
We have all had our Junior High experiences and some of them good and others bad, but everything helps us grow and expand. This is why it was important to me to share this period of my life. I know I am always transitioning and looking back I can see the stages of growth and understand why. It helps me to make sense of so many things that I have held on so long to. My next transition came sooner than I expected or wanted.