That word, competence, came to me after my six-year struggle; it came as an alternative, if not an outright escape hatch, to the daily grind of despair.
My sister Nell and I were standing on the banks of the Duvallis River, waiting for a man to float down it.
The next two hours are the most precious I will ever spend with my father. He is alert and not visibly suffering. Though not a chatterbox, he converses with us all.
It was the last day of school, and I was walking with my dad. . . . Suddenly, he paused, looked at me intently, and said, “Son, you’re a black male, and that’s two strikes against you.” To the general public, anything that I did would be perceived as malicious and deserving of severe punishment, and I had to govern myself accordingly. I was seven years old.