Audie Mickens, that is. Name doesn’t ring a bell?
Mickens gained his 15 minutes of fame four years ago, when the Home Box Office documentary “Hard Times at Douglass High” was released. Actually, it was more like 15 seconds of infamy.
At the time the documentary was made, Douglass, yes, it’s named for the famed 19th century African-American abolitionist, journalist and statesman Frederick Douglass, was one of the many Baltimore schools where the majority of students routinely failed to cut the mustard academically.
A man identified in the documentary as Mr. Connally, then the head of the English department at Douglass, probably best summed up the reason why.
When “Hard Times at Douglass High” was being filmed, Connally said, only three out of 300-400 incoming freshmen at the school for the academic year 2004-2005 tested at grade level in reading.
You read that right: THREE, out of a total of 300 to 400. Most of the incoming class read at the fourth- or fifth-grade level, Connally said, then he added this comment:
“It’s almost as if no one wanted to admit that students were passed to high schools with third- and fourth-grade reading levels. And I’m not talking about special education students either. I’m talking about regular students in regular classes. It’s a crime. Been one for years.”
Mickens was a student at Douglass and, some 25 minutes into the film, gave the world his philosophy of education. Long story short: he was agin it.
“This what we do,” the ebonically-gifted Mickens said, cheesing into the camera as he and other Douglass students aimlessly walked the halls. “Just walking the halls all day, baby. (Bleep) class. That (bleep’s) for clowns, man. Don’t nobody go to class around here, man. Man, (bleep) academics. Academics? We gon’ leave that to them nerd-(bleep) (bleep) (bleeps). We gon’ keep (bleep) straight ‘hood. All my (bleeps) out here, we gon’ keep it gutter.”
According to a report in a Baltimore newspaper, Mickens hadn’t exactly distinguished himself – academically, professionally or otherwise – since he was filmed in 2004.
On Sept. 20, Mickens was standing on a street around 2 p.m. with a bunch of other guys. A man approached the group and pulled out a gun.
From the police account, it’s reasonable to surmise that the gunman had beef with Mickens. And we all know how way too many beefs in the city known as Bodymore, Murderland get settled.
Mickens went instantly into “Feets, don’t fail me now” mode. He took off running. But not even Usain Bolt could outrun bullets.
The gunman fired, striking Mickens. An off-duty lieutenant in the Baltimore Police Department witnessed the incident and saw Mickens run down one street, shed some clothes and then take off down a side street before collapsing.
The lieutenant stayed with Mickens until paramedics arrived. About 95 minutes after the shooting, the short life of Audie Mickens came to an end. He was only 24 years old.
Audie Mickens did indeed “keep it gutter.” Then he died in one.
Is that too harsh? Am I blaming the victim? If I were to dare suggest that Mickens might have done well to go to class, to learn those academics that he dissed so cavalierly when he was at Douglass, would I be “demonizing” him?
We hear that assertion all the time, don’t we? About how we mean, old conservatives and Republicans like to “demonize” poor black folks?
Let me tell you something, as a former poor black person who was probably much poorer than Mickens, and who grew up in an era when ALL black folks were demonized, regardless of class.
I’d rather be demonized and well educated, than patronized and poorly educated.
According to court records – yes, Mickens was what they call “familiar with the system,” running up an arrest record for drug possession, distribution and attempted murder – the young man was born in 1988.
So he grew up in an era when it came to be fashionable, and the very essence of political correctness, to patronize poor black folks.
Let an Audie Mickens show his ignorance on film for all the world to see? Well, that’s the system’s fault. A by-product of “systemic racism.”
All those black parents who, in “Hard Times at Douglass High” failed to show up on back-to-school night and get involved in their children’s education?
“Systemic racism” again. They certainly aren’t to be blamed for not being fully vested in their children’s education.
There are many who are guilty of patronizing Audie Mickens. They now have themselves to blame for patronizing the young man right into his grave.