By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
I remember being very upset and scared, I screamed “where the fuck did you go bitch”.
Well, not exactly, but I thought that in my head.
“How could she leave me so easily after ten years. Just one day get up to never return.”
That’s what my 30-year-old self, thought about saying to my 20-year-old self, on my 30th birthday.
Sure, I knew this day was coming for a long time, but when it came it still sent me through a little midlife crisis.
Sure, I was only 30-years-old, most senior-citizens, living in a retirement home somewhere in Middle-America would of given their right arm and possibly also their left leg to change places with me. But I was not looking at the world through the eyes of a 70 0r 80-year-old person, on their deathbed, I was looking at life through the eyes of a man who thought he would have been at a more successful stage in his life than I was at the time.
When I was still an adolescent, 30-years-old, always seemed like the age when most people started to get married, have kids, buy a new family car, buy a home, maybe start a business or get a promotion at work and then prepare for the next two decades to take their kids to elementary school, then high school and then hopefully a university somewhere.
Not only had I not done any of the previously mentioned, but I was nowhere near accomplishing those goals. I still lived in my apartment in the Sunset district of San Francisco, which is owned by a slumlord, I had yet to start a business and most of the women I met were far from wife material. They were usually women I encountered working the door as a bouncer at various nightclubs in and around the Soma area of San Francisco, and they usually only talked to me because I was a bouncer and had some form of influence at the club, but I was not offended, I had my own reasons for talking to them, both on and off the job.
I soon would start to look at my co-workers differently. Mostly men, but sometimes women who had worked in the security and nightclub industries for decades. Some of these men and women were old enough to be my father or mother, or in some cases my grandfather or grandmother. After working with them for years, after the excitement of working at a nightclub, around beautiful women and good sounding music had faded, after escorting several aggressive and or touchy-feely guys off the dance floor and escorting countless hookers from the bar, after they attempt to solicit money for sex, from one of the many corporate bigwigs, out of town on a business trip, who was attempting to have a little fun behind his wife’s back.
I would wonder to myself, did they envision this life for themselves.
When I would ask them what did they see themselves doing in the next ten years, most of my elder bouncer buddies had no idea or said “probably still bouncing”, with a couple admitting to seeking work in law enforcement. Where I am sure their sometime over-aggressive and violent behavior would be rewarded with a high salary, with great benefits from one of the local police departments in the Bay Area.
On the other end of the spectrum, I knew other bouncers who had nothing planned for the future, except it would seem to work their 12 to 20 dollar an hour job, dealing with aggressive drunks, rude promoters and seemingly clueless and or careless club managers. With the hopes that no one, or specifically no new club owner would come in and take over the business and decide to hire lower priced security guards to deal with higher amounts of physical danger.
One of those men was my friend Stefan. One of my family members, who was smart enough to leave the club bouncing industry to join one of the high-salary paying police departments in the Bay Area, once told me: “Stefan has an almost genius I.Q. and believe it or not, he used to look like a supermodel”, he later said: “I don’t know what happened to him, he just lost it one day”.
When I first met Stefan he looked like an unwashed homeless man, that security would sometimes have to ask not to stand in front of the main entrance before the club doors open. Far gone were the supermodel looks and whatever he had of a near genius I.Q., he never showed any signs of it. Even though it was obvious he was far from an idiot.
Where I ate my stresses and depression away from the job and life in general, Stefan drank his away. After the nightclub hours ended, Stefan would stay after and drink with the bar staff. I would usually joke back-and-forth with him and other staff before I left to catch my bus home.
After several months had passed since I stopped working as security at the same club as Stefan, I read on a Facebook post, posted by several mutual friends and former co-workers that Stefan had died of alcohol poisoning. Apparently the giant 6ft 5in tall “big bear” of a man, who was more of a “Teddy bear” on the inside, than “grizzly bear”, had drank himself to death.
Several months later I was hit with another loss, when a mutual friend and former co-worker of Stefan and I, hung himself. This was far more surprising than Stefan, because my friend Jon always seemed very stable. He was handsome, he was working towards his Masters Degree at San Francisco State University and even had a girlfriend.
When I spoke with several of our mutual friends, I would discover that Jon had apparently killed himself after his girlfriend broke up with him for another guy and was heartless enough to bring the new boyfriend to the bar he worked at on multiple occasions. I would only assume to make him jealous. It would seem whatever little bit of stability many people, including myself believed he had in his life, she broke it when she broke his heart.
Over the next few years I would not only have my friends, but have friends and family members of friends commit suicide, not only that but my father, who was sick for a for a long time, would finally pass away.
One of the things I remember the most about my father’s last days was how he regretted the things he never did or tried to do, he seemed to regret that more than the things he tried and failed at. I guess the hypothesis he had about his life, he knew he would never be able to answer.
That was the final shot in the arm of motivation that I needed to decide to attempt to conquer the world I always dreamed about, since I was a kid, I wanted to be a best-selling author, make documentary films and start my own progressive news network.
The opinions of friends and classmates telling me “You can’t do that, you’re dreaming” or heartless teachers telling me “you will not be successful” or well-meaning teachers telling me “be realistic, go for a city job”.
Some of their opinions were well-meaning and they only wanted to protect me from failure and letdown that occurs way too often to kids from economically disenfranchised hoods like Detroit, with its failing education system, high crime-rate and poor economy. Still there were others who wanted to inflict the pain on me that they probably had inflicted on them at some point of their life, when in their minds, their high-flying dreams of success came crashing down in flames like the Hindenburg.
The last few years, but especially the last year after my father passed, I acknowledged that the fear of failing has kept me alive, but perversely had kept me from truly living.
After my father’s death and years after the deaths of several friends, I decided I was going to go for my dreams. Yes, I am afraid to fail, but I am more afraid of failing to try, which is the worst type of failure one can commit.
I have since published several of my own books, which I have published independently, I have started my own progressive news-blog and I have started to further my higher education. I have taken several film classes and I have started work on my own documentary. I have completed the International Business Accredited Certificate Program at City College of San Francisco (CCSF), I have finished the Creative Writing Certificate Program at CCSF this past semester and I have signed up for classes in the Web Application Certificate Programming and Business Marketing Associate Degree Program at CCSF.
My objective is to transfer to a four-year university, most likely San Francisco State University, where I will earn by B.S. in Business Marketing.
Far too long and far too often, I must sadly admit, I have thought more about my limitations than my abilities, I have wasted too much energy focusing on what I can’t do versus what I can do, which usually takes up about the same amount of energy if not more and is so much less satisfying and so much more depressing.
I have accepted that fact that I can’t correct the mistakes of my past or makeup for loss time. I can only learn from past experiences of myself and others who came before me. And go out to conquer my dreams, so that when I am on my deathbed I will know I gave it my all and lived my life to the fullest extent. Because I do not believe there is a sequel to this crazy thing we call life, so I must live this life to the best of my abilities and accomplish as many of dreams as possible, before they turn into nightmares on my deathbed, I have seen more times than I would like to admit, what the pain of living in regret can do to a person.
Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
POEM: A CONVERSATION WITH MY FATHER!
Today, I am going to share a poem I wrote and published about my late father, the poem is titled: “A conversation with my Father”.
“Kum Apem A. Apem Beba”
That is the exact Asante proverb, I said while speaking to my papa
translated from our Asante Twi, those words mean “Kill a thousand and a thousand more will come.”
Those are the exact words that our ancestors spoke when they went to war with the British Empire and won in 1823
So what that means to me is when I was a child and witnessed you get shot, while closing our family’s shop
That was in one of Detroit’s roughest spots
Yet you still went to work the next day
The only thing left for me to say, was that Asante warrior blood, is not just something that was passed down in our family DNA
But a code you actually live by day to day
As my father started to beam and smile at his proud son
I asked him to stay sitting with me, I will be finished in a little while
He said: o.k. Nana
Which is a word given to kings, Queens and Elders
But he calls me Nana, because I am named after my mama’s papa
I said “ you know what papa?”
Mama reminds me of the Asante Warrior Queen mother Yaa Asantewaa, who led the Asante Kingdom In a War Against British colonialism
I mean they both are strong beautiful queens who would go to war to protect their family
My father looked at me and smiled, giggled and kissed me on the cheek and said: Yes son I agree.
So why in the hell papa do you verbally demean and sometimes physically abuse mama, if she is supposed to be your queen?
My father knew there was nothing he could say to justify his sometimes explosive acts of violence
So, he said nothing and just looked at me very sad and silent!
As a kid like a lot of kids who grew up with an alpha-male and charismatic father in the house, I worshipped my father. To me he was a black Superman, an African Hercules, I seriously believed there was no one or nothing on earth he could not defeat if he had to.
I remember being next to him when he got shot in his head closing our family’s store in an extremely dangerous area of Detroit. A city he came to as an immigrant from Ghana, West Africa, to look for a better life for his family.
His idea of the American Dream was to open several liquor stores, all over Detroit and beyond, that we locally call “Party Stores”, that my father intended for my brother and I to inherit.
At one of those stores, I remember my mom walking in one day, it was after school, so my brother and I were in the store stocking shelves, when my mother walked in after her work, looking beat up and bruised like she just went 9 rounds with Mike Tyson.
She claimed she had gotten robbed, I believed her immediately, I had no reason not to.
At that time as an adolescent, I had seen another one of our family stores get burnt down to the ground, I had seen my father get shot and our family’s home get shot up after being mistaken for our drug dealing neighbor’s home. And at this time, Detroit was one of the most dangerous cities in America, if not the murder capital.
It would be years before I discovered my mother was not robbed and that she was beaten by my father after a hostile argument about his many affairs and financial issues. I would find out even though my father was far more verbally abusive than physically, there would be a few times in my teen years I would have to pull him off my mom. A few times I almost came to bloody blows with the man whose blood coursed through my veins; if it was not for my mother’s interventions, there is a good chance that one of us would of killed the other one.
I would go on to hate my father for years until I discovered that he was suffering for years with depression and suicidal thoughts, dementia and he was also dealing with various other mental health issues.
The hate I had for him would soon turn into a deep sadness and for the rest of his life, until his death last year we shared an improved relationship.
Fast forward two decades, I get a call from a “loved one”, late in the night. Despite the fact he works in law enforcement, he calls me for advice. He tells me his wife just snapped and battered him and their daughter.
I tell him to call the cops. Even though he knows he should, it takes me a while to convince him, he does not want to breakup his family and he does not want it to cost his wife her job.
Finally after his 5 year old daughter also tells him to please call the cops on his wife and her mom; who had this point had stormed out of the house, he eventually calls the cops.
After she finally was arrested a couple dayd, it would be discovered that she had stopped taking her anti-depressants medications, which made her go crazier than a cat on catnip.
Since them his wife has been taking better care of her mental health and they are now a relatively stable family.
You should learn that domestic violence is a lot more complicated than we’ve been led to believe.
Like the old saying goes: Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
Yes, people who commit domestic violence must be punished, but within that punishment, they must also be given the proper psychological treatment.
Too much do we as a society look to label people for life as evil and bad, without looking to see what they are going through to make them act that way.
We have to keep in mind that hurt people hurt people.
By: Leon Kwasi Kuntuo-Asare
A small protest on front of the Valencia street police station in the Mission District of San Francisco.
The people peaceful gathered to demand justice for Amilcar Perez Lopez, who was an 21 year-old immigrant from Guatemala.
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