Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY to illegal aliens, I’m what some people call an "anchor baby". But I'm an adult now, so I prefer anchorman. *silent laughter*
I have many beautiful, fond memories of my childhood, but even as a kid I had to make conscious choices not to join gangs.
I’ll never forget my classmate, Kareem, another Latino kid. We were in the same acting class in Junior High School. We both loved acting and used to talk about our dreams.
One day, while playing games in his bedroom, he suddenly stopped and said: “Let me show you something”. With the energy of an exuberant kid, he ducked under his bed, pulled out a suitcase, unlocked it and revealed guns inside.
Immediately, I froze and asked him: "Why do you have guns for?”
He replied: "I'm selling them to make money. But don’t tell my mom, cause she'll kill me“.
As an adult, I now get the irony of his words. But as a kid, I had no sage advice for my friend. I simply felt sadness and confusion. I knew something wasn't right, but all I could do was to get quiet, real quiet. Sensing my silence, I’ll never forget what Kareem said next. He said: "Johnny, I'm not gonna make it outta this neighborhood. But you, you got a chance with this acting thing."
Many of my friends and relatives either ended up in jail or dead on the streets of NY. But, honestly, they just wanted what I want too… a better life.
Experiences like the one above, and many other similar ones, are part of my life. They are part of my being. As such, for better or for worse, in one way or another, they make it into the work and the things I create.
Sure, I’m still struggling. Sure, there’s still tons for me to accomplish. But many folks (young and old alike) from within my community never found their alternative outlet and/or constructive self-expression. For me, storytelling is one of the things that helped keep me off the streets, and out of gangs. So, I do what I do thinking of them and of the generations to come.
I look forward to highlighting the stories I know, and I look forward to shining a light on the community I know and love.