December #150 : Knights in Crown Heights - by Jesse Cameron Alick

POZ - Health, Life and HIV
Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join

Back to home » Archives » POZ Magazine issues

Table of Contents

Gimme Shelter

The POZ and AIDSmeds Drug Chart

A Porn Star is Reborn

Rest for the Weary

A Herpes Drug Takes on HIV

Popping "the Pill"



Med Alerts

B Sharp

And We Quote

Kids Meds

Positive Thinking

Credit Karma

Strike a Pose

Back to the Future

Knights in Crown Heights

Reciprocity Is Real

MSM Unite!


Wolf at the Door

You Said It...

Editor's Letter-December 2008

Your Feedback-December 2008


GMHC Treatment Issues-December 2008

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

Scroll down to comment on this story.

email print

December 2008

Knights in Crown Heights

by Jesse Cameron Alick

Jesse Cameron Alick mentors his young, black padawan in the ways of the big bad world.

Five years ago I moved to the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. The first thing I noticed about my building was a sprinkling of blunt wrappers in the hallway outside my apartment door. I’d clean them up—they’d reappear the next day as if by magic.

Finally one evening as I was sitting in my living room, I caught the scent of marijuana wafting in from the hallway. I opened my front door and saw an 18-year-old black kid sitting on the stairs smoking weed.

“Julian” (not his real name) lived downstairs with his parents. Since they didn’t like him to smoke weed in the house, he made a habit of going into the hallway. I invited Julian in and told him never to hesitate to knock on my door.

Three years later, Julian still knocks on my door every night. We’ve developed a sort of unofficial mentorship program. We discuss women, business, religion, the merits of capitalism versus socialism. I’m his older Scorpio brother, and Julian is my padawan (for those of you not hip to Star Wars lingo, a padawan is a Jedi Knight in training).

Despite Julian’s obvious intelligence, he lacks some basic information about the world. During a heated discussion, he stopped me for clarification about where Mexico was in relation to Canada. I just wanted to scream, “Who were your teachers?” ’Cause they failed him.

Julian is one of the most curious, insightful people I’ve ever met—so why is he woefully uninformed? Because some adults discounted him as a failure from the beginning? Because they couldn’t “speak his language”? Because they just didn’t have the patience?

I learned the most important things in life from conversations with my father, weekly coffees with a 40-year-old musician and lunches with my elderly neighbors. I learned that in this world, we live by rules. Although you don’t have to—and shouldn’t always—obey these rules, you must learn them.

I can’t imagine what would’ve happened to me if older people hadn’t taken an interest in the foundation of my education. It’s not easy being a black man in 2008, with violence and disease threatening to crash into my life from all directions. Sometimes I think it’s too late for me and my young brothers—society has already done all the damage it can do.

Finding a vaccine for HIV is less about making our own lives better than it is about improving the world for the ones to whom we will bequeath it. In a time when many young black men are growing up with absent fathers, it’s important for role models—and for me as an HIV-positive black man—to step forward and talk to them about HIV prevention and the realities of living with HIV. It’s our
responsibility to connect with young people and to discuss with them the journeys we’re on, the opportunities we take and the risks we face in the big bad world.

I bring up HIV with Julian every so often, usually when he’s talking about a girl. I say, “You’re wearing a condom, right?” He says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I say, “Don’t yeah, yeah, yeah me—you gotta be safe.” It’s not easy, but I keep at it.

Julian and I sit in my living room—he’s listening to me ramble about U.S. politics, emotional discipline and the notion of time travel; it’s just another night in Crown Heights.

During a pause in my rant, Julian poses a question: “Have you ever considered becoming a teacher?” I shrug and respond, “Why do you ask?”

“You speak in a way that makes so much sense,” Julian says. Then he becomes very serious. “You know why I come up here every night?”

I suggest with a smile, “So you can smoke?” He says, “Man, it’s to talk with you. I appreciate our talks.”

I think about another lesson I could teach him—about how none of us would be here without the generosity of those who came before us and how it’s our spiritual duty to help others in the same ways we’ve been helped. But I decide some things are better left unsaid. Besides, I’m sure he’ll learn that lesson on his own one day.

Scroll down to comment on this story.


(will display; 2-50 characters)


(will NOT display)


(will display; optional)

Comment (500 characters left):

(Note: The POZ team reviews all comments before they are posted. Please do not include either ":" or "@" in your comment. The opinions expressed by people providing comments are theirs alone. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart + Strong, which is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by people providing comments.)

Comments require captcha.
Please enter this number for verification:

| Posting Rules

Hide comments

Previous Comments:


[Go to top]

Facebook Twitter Google+ MySpace YouTube Tumblr Flickr Instagram
Quick Links
Current Issue

HIV Testing
Safer Sex
Find a Date
Newly Diagnosed
HIV 101
Disclosing Your Status
Starting Treatment
Help Paying for Meds
Search for the Cure
POZ Stories
POZ Opinion
POZ Exclusives
Read the Blogs
Visit the Forums
Job Listings
Events Calendar
POZ on Twitter

Ask POZ Pharmacist

Talk to Us
Did you participate in an event for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2016?


more surveys
Contact Us
We welcome your comments!
[ about Smart + Strong | about POZ | POZ advisory board | partner links | advertising policy | advertise/contact us | site map]
© 2016 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy.
Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.