By: Bobby X (Green #210296)
The most influential Black person to me was a man that I met in my youth. He was my middle school music teacher at Tappan Middle School. His name is Mr. Hambrick.
Growing up, I had a lot of anger problems. I felt unloved. I felt unwanted. I felt misunderstood. Add to that the fact that school was always extremely easy to me, thus leaving me bored and mischievous. As a result of these things, I was a management problem. And no one wants to deal with a management problem.
It takes an exceptional person to embrace the child that no one else wants to deal with and spend time with. It takes a compassionate person to take the time to listen to that child and seek solutions to the issues that led that child to be troubled. And it takes a strong and confident person to invest their time and effort into teaching that child instead of giving up on them like those before them did…
For me, the person who encompasses these traits was Mr. Hambrick.
In the beginning, teachers would send me to him for disciplinary purposes, as he was tall in stature, and it was believed that he could deal with my size and aggression. And he had a large wooden paddle with three parallel holes in it that got to know my behind very well! This was the alternative to kicking me out of school. But eventually, he got tired of this form of discipline, and sought more effective means of getting through to me.
Mr. Hambrick realized that a lot of the problems that I was having in school was due to the fact that I was bored. School was ALWAYS easy to me, and I would do all of the work for the semester in the first few weeks of school. While this was a great feat, it left me bored and the friend of boredom for an overachieving troubled child is mischievousness.
Mr. Hambrick realized that there was a root cause for my anger and subsequent behavior, and he would actually ask me questions to allow me to vent my frustrations. He became my trusted confidant. In the interim, he also realized that I was bored in school and that I needed to be challenged. That when challenged, I focused in on the task and excelled. So he set forth to teach me to play the piano.
Soon, I would look forward to my time spent in Mr. Hambrick’s classroom, learning to play the piano and letting go some of the things that upset me. There came a point in time when my homeroom teacher would let me go to Mr. Hambrick’s class without me having to get in trouble, and I always looked forward to that opportunity. He’d become my mentor.
In addition to giving me a constructive outlet for some of my feelings and emotions, Mr. Hambrick was only the second man that I ever felt that I could trust. He was a positive example of what a black man should be after my father, and the two of them were two completely different examples. His patience, peacefulness, and compassion remains this day the standard that I try to emulate, and I will forever view him as the most influential person to my growth and change.