(This article is about my truth and is not completely appealing to the public with that being said if you aren’t prepared for some heavy stuff stop here)
Born as the only male in an incomplete family and viewed as a threat from a young age despite posing no threat to others around me. Here it’s easy to die and I don’t wanna see that for myself or anyone at all.
I’m Angel Flores and from humble beginnings as well as having grown up across a wide range of areas in NYC, I’ve learned that I’m very lucky and grateful for everything that I have. Life in the projects is very violent depending on where you live. Born in 2002, I was sadly exposed to these horrors from a young age in life. This article is about my experiences in the projects of NYC. It’s important to know what’s happened and is currently happening. There is currently a lot going on between the corona virus turning the world into a panic and the nationwide riots triggered by the death of George Floyd, but we can’t just pretend that nothing is happening.We have to acknowledge it and find solutions for these problems. I’m here to share what many individuals that live in these projects go through. It’s important to remember not every experience is the same, but I want to show the public how individuals are forced to tackle these hardships and although we’re all different we’ve all been put through the same hardships.
From an early age I knew my family was poor. Coming into a family with no father around and an immigrant mother struggling to provide for her children, life was as kind to us as a razor blade is to skin. All I had was my mother and my sisters Chirly and Julie. Each of us had different fathers so all those men who came into our life gave me examples early on in life of what I don’t want to become. Eventually after a few years of living in the very poor conditions of a strangers basement in Flushing we were given the opportunity to move in with my godmother in the Bronx. There I was with my god brothers who always included me and my siblings with everything. I was finally allowed the privilege of having a bed that I could sleep on.Even though I shared it with others, I was and still am grateful for their hospitality. At this point in my life I’ve never been allowed to go outside on my own unless I had family accompany me and even then I never went out much. In fact,that didn’t change until I became 16. I didn’t learn that this was forced on me because we lived in a very bad area with extremely high crime rates. My mother and sisters were employed and they eventually saved enough to move to our own apartment in Queens, which is where we still live.
Eventually going to school and attending classes became hard for me because my sister Julie had been diagnosed with cancer. My goal in school had now changed to not learn anything, but just to keep my grades high enough to pass and continue on to not cause my family any stress. Having been handcuffed in my own home by the age of 8 set my path towards my social paranoia. At this point in life I was 12 and death wasn’t a stranger to me. Many individuals around me had been wronged. I had seen quite a lot of death and tragedies because I was finally becoming self aware of the situations my family had been put through and how things were at that time and what it meant. Now I suddenly had this huge pressure on my shoulders. I realized how the world viewed me. My mentality at the time wasn’t healthy for a child. I started to get white hairs on my head and my health also started to decline as a result of me stressing at the time. It was hard for me at that time because I didn’t know how to express these emotions so it all bottled up.
At school I would get insulted by other students because of the way I looked and at home my family would always fight. I was about 12-13 my oldest sister Chirly had gotten into another fight with my mother and left with her daughter, which was sad because I wouldn’t reconnect with them for another 3 years. My mother would then lash out at my sister Julie. I became a shoulder to cry on for my sister. Even though my mother was always supportive she was never really there for me because she always had to work to provide for us. It’s sad to say and admit but I never had a complete bond with my mother and my sister Chirly. In my eyes, my sister Julie inherited my mother’s bond. I viewed her and loved her like she was my mom. Months had gone by and I felt like a broken shell with many pieces missing from me. Julie was getting much worse. She was pale and started to lose weight at an incredibly fast pace.The more I saw her lose herself, the more it hurt to still be her shoulder to lean on. Eventually, my sister finally got the care she needed and was able to overcome her cancer. When she walked out of that hospital and gave me a hug I broke into tears. On the cab ride home she held me so tight and I held her back.
At this point I’m 14 and entering Freshman year of high school and I’ve been transferred from five different schools. Life at home is finally becoming stable. My mother is now able to spend more time with us and I’ve begun rekindling my relationship with Chirly and her daughter Angelica, who is named after me. Julie is now adjusting to life again and looks healthier. As for me, it’s hard to attend school because at this point school has been my last priority for the past four years. I had been mocked for my looks, my body, and my family.The society we lived in had marked me as a threat even though I don’t pose any threat to others around me. I developed social paranoia, anxiety, and depression. My health became worse. My back had started to hurt and I was diagnosed with scoliosis. My liver had started to fail and my body had started to develop allergies to things I would eat on a regular basis. I felt like my world was slowly starting to crumble. I was taught that a “man” isn’t supposed to cry or generally show feelings so my emotions became bottled up and as a result, I attempted suicide multiple times. On my last attempt, I ended up spending almost 10 hours in a hospital recovering. I eventually overcame my depression and learned to control my anxiety and social paranoia.
School had been a separate issue. At this point I was 16 and I would constantly get into fights at school where I would have to defend myself. There were many times where I was followed home by other students that would continue to cause me problems in situations like these. It made me scared for my safety and my family’s. Until recently I didn’t learn that I was at a social disadvantage. That my height and looks would always make me the “bad guy” of every situation like that because it was assumed that I was the initiator of these disputes. Examples of this include one time where I was being assaulted in the middle of class and my teacher hadn’t said a word and turned a blind eye to me until I defended myself. Suddenly it was like I was in the wrong. Even classmates around me didn’t vouch for me that I was being attacked physically. I had been searched on multiple occasions despite not having done or possessing anything incriminating. This school tried to cover up every fight that I got into. I would come home with bloody knuckles and have to explain what had happened to my mother because the school would call home and lie to my own mother. Eventually the school sent child protective services to my home claiming the school had put in a report that I was being physically abused at home. This led to me dropping out of that school and enrolling in yet another. My stay at this second high school didn’t last long and I eventually settled for a high school equivalency diploma. At this point I am 17 and starting to realize that the American educational system has wronged me. I am now 18 and am sad to say that I have had to go through depression, anxiety, social paranoia developed by racial profiling, and constant physical assaults. It is heartbreaking to know that I was robbed of my childhood innocence and that I couldn’t live in complete ignorant bliss as a child.
Currently i’m working to move out on my own. I’m an artist and 3d model creator so I sell my work in commissions when I can. Finding work that pays decently and frequently is a struggle especially since work doesn’t come often when taking on commissions. My advise to others currently going through unfortunate events in their life is to actually speak to someone who’ll listen to you about your emotions without judging you.
I interviewed other individuals so they could share their perspective and emotions and asked them these questions.
1. have you ever had an attempted or actual physical assault on you? (doesn’t matter if it’s based off the way you look or because they just didn’t like you I’m trying to capture an image of how violent things can be but also do specify)
2. have you ever had negative comments based on your skin color or just physical appearance?
3. If you have a fear of the police please specify why.
4. if you have had any psychological problems develop because of how society views you please specify and explain how it makes you feel.
5. stories of any hardships can also be useful so if you have any that you are willing to share please don’t be afraid to go into extreme detail about how you felt at the time and how you had to tackle that situation at the time and also how you feel about it now. if it made you grow as a person please specify that also.
David Johnson, a 24 year old African American from the Bronx
“I try not to think about it a lot because there’s just so much I’d rather just forget about and to this day i’m just not completely comfortable with speaking out about it.” Mr.Johnson is currently working at Home Depot and has been for the past few months. His job currently requires him to package various items in an organized manner and bring them to his higher ups. He currently has 2 goals they are to move out on his own and to afford his own personal computer.
Elijah Rosado, a 20 year old Puerto Rican from Brooklyn
“I mean it’s a bit hard for me to talk about this because I avoid going outside in general now”
(in the following audio files Elijah answers questions 2 and 3 and talks about his fears that have manifested over time)
“As for the fourth and fifth question I don’t have much to say but I do try to actively stay home and shelter myself and younger sisters from seeing the dark nature of this world and to keep them safe and to not worry about their older brother.” As for Mr.Rosado he is currently unemployed due to covid-19 and is trying to find work. Mr.Rosado’s main goal is to fully move into his apartment as well as finding a long-term and well paying job.
Different individuals, different stories, and different coping mechanisms. That is what life is like in the projects of NYC.
I personally don’t regret anything that has happened because it has helped me become who I am today: A wise, humble, mixed race young adult, and, most importantly, happy. That is who Angel Flores really is and that is my experience as a youth of New York City. I do hope that life for the next generations to come isn’t as difficult and as toxic as it is today.
(Featured image credits to Kim Turner https://www.nakedapartments.com/blog/author/kimturner/)
(Red Hook image credits via