To ensure that 826LA will remain a safe and brave space for all young people, please donate now. Thank you for supporting this vital work in our community!
Each year, 826LA partners with one Los Angeles public school for the Young Authors’ Book Project (YABP). Volunteers work with students for seven weeks to write pieces around a central theme. In collaboration with students from Alain LeRoy Locke High School, the 2017 YABP publication, When the Moon Is Up, contains stories from young people in South LA, inspired by the 25th anniversary of the 1992 LA Uprisings. The book’s 61 student authors depict the modern lives of youth in stories about responsibility, family, loss, courage, and favorite pairs of sneakers.
Janae’s “Poom Poom”
Hearing a soft voice sing, “Love and happiness, something that can make you do wrong or make you right, love.” Seeing pearly white teeth smiling back at me, making my heart feel happy like a child getting candy. Being able to smile every day feeling protection. Beautiful afternoons full of bonding, soul singing, and dancing. Every Sunday morning going to Magic Johnson Park, feeding the ducks, watching the clouds move in different directions.
“Beautiful afternoons full of bonding, soul singing, and dancing.”
Being with my dad brought a joy to my heart like winning the lotto worth unlimited trillions. Always being under the heart and glue of the family, keeping everyone together and in unison. Being two peas in a pod. I was his baby girl. I went from hearing, “You okay, poom poom?” every day to not being able to hear or see him at all. The fight and struggle of not being able to sleep normal anymore. Things changed for the worse.
It was a hot Thursday afternoon and I was at school, and around 3:00 PM, I started bugging him like flies bug people because I was hungry. I could tell I was bugging him because after a while he started answering the phone saying, “What, poom poom? Daddy tired.” I was calling my dad bugging him to make me food. He got tired of me nagging so he started declining my phone calls. He told me after my dance practice my food would be done. It was around ten in the evening and my mom and I just got home and realized something was off. When we get home there is usually a routine the house goes through, and that time it didn’t happen. Soon as I would step in the house I would hear my dad say, “My big baby home, any problems today?” I didn’t hear that so I started to feel something wasn’t right.
“After a couple of minutes, I called my dad waiting for a response, but I did not get an answer.”
After a couple of minutes, I called my dad waiting for a response, but I did not get an answer. So I started to ask my mom why my dad wasn’t answering me and she told me that he’s probably asleep. My father was the type of person that if you wake him up out of his sleep, be ready for world war ten. So me being sensitive, I avoided trying to wake him up so I wouldn’t get yelled at. As time progressed my mom was making noise and yelling to try to wake him up but still no movement, no sound. That’s when we knew something was wrong. I tried not to think so much or disturb him, so I got in the shower and continued to let him “sleep.”
“They walked up to me and said, ‘You were his baby, huh?'”
I got fed up and yelled at my mom and told her to check on my daddy because, me being his baby, always under him, I knew something wasn’t right. Soon as I lay down and got comfortable here goes my mom screaming, busting in my room yelling, “Poom poom, call 911! Your daddy is gone.” It didn’t hit me. I didn’t understand what she meant or what she was saying at the time. All I could do was listen to my mom. It didn’t hit me until I walked into my mom and dad’s room and saw my father’s body lying there. It happened too fast; all I kept saying in my head was, “This is not supposed to happen, it’s not true.” When I walked in the room there was a smell I couldn’t describe. It’s like his whole scent took over the entire house. Looking at his pale stiff face I noticed that when his body shut down, some mucus had discharged from his nose. I was the only brave enough one to clean his face up, and as I started to clean up the mucus there was blood coming out of his body as well. It felt like I got stabbed in my heart. I wanted him to just open his eyes and just say, “Poom poom, I’m just playing. You know daddy not going nowhere.” It didn’t happen. In that moment I knew my heart was gone. I went outside and I sat down on the curb and prayed everything was a dream. I waited outside and the ambulance and police pulled up. Ten to fifteen minutes after they walked in the house they walked up to me and said, “You were his baby, huh?” After I heard them say that, I broke down because it hit me that my everything was gone.
“Seeing her scrape up coins trying to help us get through the day, I knew she needed my help.”
The morning after that, I went to school. My mind and heart didn’t let me stop, it made me go even harder. I had to get out the house because things were hard to stay there. I kept hearing his voice, I kept seeing him walk in the hallways, and it was affecting me. I had many things change to where it was hard for me to keep going day by day. Certain things we ate I couldn’t eat for a while. We loved boudin: a type of sausage filled with meat, rice, and spices. We would buy it out of a meat market on Alondra and Wilmington. Certain places we went to together, people started asking where he was, and it was just hard to keep trying to tell these people my dad had died. I had to let it sink in that I will never be the same. I couldn’t even sleep at night. I then figured that I had something called “sleep paralysis.” It’s something you feel when you’re in your sleep and it’s scary. When I fall asleep and the sleep paralysis hits I see a dark body figure and face. It feels like someone holds me down and it’s a huge weight on my chest. I have it constantly and I don’t understand why. I don’t want to say it feels demon-like but it does not let me sleep. I usually stay up to four o’clock in the morning because it gets that bad.
“I started selling candy and chips to bring income into the household, and to help my mother clean up so she could have less stress on her shoulders.”
In the months since then I have been focusing on positive things and thinking about how proud I’ve made my father. Also, his love that he has given me helps me get be through day by day. Just thinking about the things he would say when I’m stuck in certain situations helps me get through lots of things and make better decisions. The situation has most definitely made me realize a lot about myself. I noticed I was way stronger than I thought. An epiphany that led me to realize I was strong was seeing my mom struggle.
Seeing her scrape up coins trying to help us get through the day, I knew she needed my help. I would watch her go through a piggy bank she and my dad invested in to try to get change for water and other things she was able to purchase. I would watch her every second of every moment crying because she wanted my dad back. I knew I had to be the support system my dad once provided her. I started selling candy and chips to bring income into the household, and to help my mother clean up so she could have less stress on her shoulders.
“Every day I grow and realize I have to keep my head on the swivel and beat the person I was yesterday.”
The biggest and hardest experience I’ve been through was losing my dad. Having him pass away at a place I lay my head at every night definitely has taken a big toll on my everyday life. I learned how to keep my head up, heart up, and guard up. Even though it hurts like hell it has molded me into a bigger, better, and stronger person. I’ve noticed I’m human: I feel, I hear, I see, and most importantly, I understand. Many people don’t have the ability to be different and keep rolling with the punches, but I do. There’s never a day that goes by that September 29, 2016, doesn’t occur in my head. I got the ambition, drive, and determination from him. He’s instilled this in me and I’m so grateful. I also know that he and all of my other passed-on relatives are really proud of me and that’s what I want them to be. Every day I grow and realize I have to keep my head on the swivel and beat the person I was yesterday.
About the Author
Janae was born in Long Beach, California. Her position in basketball is the power forward, middle player at Locke High School, where she is also the captain of the drill team. She is also the captain/coach of the dance and cheer department with the LA City Wildcats organization. She believes wisdom is the key to get where you need to be. She loves music and embraces struggle. Her motivation and determination is very high. Lastly, she is the baby/last child of Johnnie Ray, Sr.