Today I am interviewing Terrance W. Hawkins, but I am sure you know him as the always present, and always helpful, Mayor Woody. It is our hope to find out from the ‘Man’ himself if he feels he was portrayed fairly by Brian Cook, or if this is his way of setting the record straight.
1. So Mayor Woody, is it okay if I call you Mayor?
For familiarity sake you can. Before we get down to this little Q & A of yours, be forewarned that I’m not one ta run my mouth wit a suspect’s chin. But I’ma accommodate you as best I can as a solid ta my man, Brian; I owe him one.
2. Haa, haaa, believe me, I understand! I’ll only share this with a couple hundred of my closest friends. In your own words, who are you?
Me? I’m just a guy from ’round the way makin’ it through life da best way I know how. I give a good goddamn about da folk still down here survivin’, Lord know the suits uptown could care less than a damn about them unless it fits in they world…
2 Where do you live?
See there you go…, startin’ off on da wrong foot! Dat be one of those questions I can’t offer up ta just anybody all willy-nilly ’cause ya nevah know who’s keepin’ tabs! I’ll put it like this, I rest my neck where I don’t hafta look over my shoulder. Ya hafta protect yo’ neck down in da Flatlands or you can become anotha statistic.
3. I got you, but I have to ask the hard questions, so bear with me, okay? Before there was a ‘Mayor Woody’ a young man named Terrance W. Hawkins grew up in an era where anger and violence was the norm. How did those days mold you into who you are today?
You talkin’ about when da police wouldn’t hesitate ta use fire hoses and sic German Shepherds on folks ta exact justice, huh? We was all fightin’ for civil rights back then; ta be recognize as human beings. Folks was angry and they had a right ta be. My folks supported da struggle, but had associates that was doin’ a little too much. I got exposed to it and ya can’t help but carry some of dat rage inside, but it kept me alive ta watch out for suckahs. Picture getting pushed inta da deep end of the pool. You can get out and dry yo’self off, but ya can’t dry off da experience; it changes you fo’ever.
4. At what age did Terrance realize that what he was going to get out of life, he was going to have to take it himself? And what was the event that got you to that place?
Hmmm…, I nevah dwelled on dat before, good question. I’d say I was 10 or so. My folks had taken themselves outta da life by then, but I learned ya nevah really out; ya still got a debt ta pay ta somebody. The Feds were always tappin’ our phones and there’d be strange cars parked in da neighborhood. It was funny seein’ cars in the neighborhood dat only undercover cops drove. My dad was always posted up lookin’ out da front window so he wouldn’t get caught slippin’, but when he and my mom got out, they weren’t as diligent, ya know? Then it happened. Da Feds kicked in the front door and stormed inside before sunrise, yelling with guns drawn. My folks didn’t get rattled and did what they was told. I was in the back bedroom with my brother and he was so damn scared, I had ta settle him down. This one Fed snatched me up by the collar and stuck a gat in my face, I’ll nevah forget dat motherfucker! He didn’t hafta do me like dat, and he looked like he enjoyed every minute of it, jackin’ some Black kid around. It was no Road To Damascus moment, per se, but it set in motion dat nobody was ever gonna manhandle me ever again. Nobody!
5. Whoa…, that was intense, let’s change the mood to a lighter note. So I’ve heard that you can carry yourself around like, and I quote, an old-school player sauntering the boulevard in high-rise boogie shoes, sporting a flashy lid and accessorizing your threads with a couple of bad mamma-jammas on each arm like cufflinks. Is that Terrance still inside? Or is what we see on the surface the same as what lies beneath?
Heh, I see Brian’s been runnin’ off at da mouth again. He’s a solid dude, but he can tend ta be one of those kinda cats who doesn’t know when ta use his inside voice when it matters and dat can rub folks da wrong way. But ta answer ya inquiry, we all keep bits of ourselves inside ta get through da way da good Lord intended us ta. Dwell on this a few ticks, whenever ya encounter somebody grown, ya not dealin’ wit dat person in they present state. Ya also dealin’ wit they 5, 13, 18 states too…, ya know, da formative years. Dat Terrance will always be a part of me, but I’m more than what ya see in front of ya now.
6. Mayor, there is no doubt as to your influence in the Flatlands. What do you think is the biggest contributor that grips the neighborhood?
Haa, dat’s easy, it’s these young’uns nowadays. Back in my day, if ya had beef wit somebody, ya took it behind some building after school, ya know, the 3’o’clock extra-curriculums? Kids would know where ta meet and flock ta see da squabble play out. They’d push and tussle, maybe even throw down, but nobody broke out guns and shot folks like today. Kids these days ain’t shit, just a bunch of cowards with steel, they just wanna shoot it out like they in the Wild West! They treat life like a video game, only they ain’t no extra life and when it’s over, so are they. They wind up either toes up or doin’ a bid. Anothah life wasted and da kids comin’ up see it too, and da cycle continues. It’s sad, man, so many good Black lives wasted and don’t get me started on da innocent bystanders who might catch a stray. The community and the ministers get propped up on da TV cryin’ about how they sick of it, and don’t a damn thang gets changed, ’cept the calendar.
7. So Mayor Woody if you could solve one problem, and one problem only in the community, which problem would it be?
Investin’ in da kids. Like Whitney sang, they are our future. They still moldable and worth savin’. Ya gotta get to ’em when they young and start ingrainin’ in them dat they future leaders and they lives matters. Can you imagine the thousands of Black lives lost one way or anotha already and what potential left wit them? One or one hundred of them coulda been the next Nobel Prize winner, world leader, inventor, but we’ll nevah know, will we? Yeah, investin’ in the youth…they worth it.
8. How did (and does) your exposure to the Black Panthers back in the day help you to stay focused in a world that almost never is (in focus)?
Ya know, Mr. Brian wasn’t supposed ta write on that. When I first read it, I was ready ta go back ta my unenlightened days when I used ta keep my li’l brotha wit me, and I don’t mean my blood brotha either, and have some meaningful dialogue wit him. He said ta trust him, dat da people needed ta read it, so I trusted him and it worked. Ya gotta remember, Dr. King, Malcolm X, and Medger Evans were assassinated in my lifetime… that’s three generation of voices snuffed out. Those were dark days, man. Black folk was angry and wanted somethin’, anythin’ to rally behind. But I knew in ordah to be takin’ seriously, we as a race couldn’t go around tearin’ up our community ta be heard – makin’ a lot of noise and sayin’ nothin’ – but we couldn’t cowtail either and eat a bunch of shit just ’cause somebody’s handin’ it out. I learned ya hafta know how ta say fuck you politely. Look at Obama…when he’s out in front of da cameras grinnin’ like a Cheshire Cat, he has that manner about him. Ya just hafta know how ta navigate it so it don’t come off all phony.
9. Tell us, Mayor, how do you think your friends see you?
Wit they eyes, haaa, haaa! Ya didn’t know I could be funny, huh?! They have respect fo’ da thangs I done, but the neighborhood’s changin’ everyday, so da ones comin’ up don’t know a lot about my history unless they ask somebody.
10. How about your enemies? Do they see you in the same light?
There’s a sayin’: game recognize game and you look real familiar. There ain’t many enemies down here unless ya crossed somebody or pointed a snitchblade at ’em. I nevah went head-up wit nobody unless they had it comin’, and those kinda people already made enough real enemies that they ain’t around no more…, if ya know what I mean?
11. Ahem…unfortunately, I do.Terrance, you obviously opened up your life to Brian knowing he intended to share your story. How in your mind does he see you?
Ya need ta make up yo’ mind what ya gonna call me! Choose one: Mayah, Mayah Woody, Terrance… I haven’t gone by that name in years and most folks around here won’t know who that is! I got somethin’ he needs and he got somethin’ beneficial for me. He respects my gangsta; I respect his. I think that’s why we get along so well. I’m not one to make assumptions, but he knows I have a backstory and feels it’s one folks may be interested in perusin’. I give him credit fo’ showin’ some tact when it’s called fo’ and bein’ blunt when it’s needed.
12. And do you think he portrayed you accurately? Or is this your way of setting the record straight?
Ya can’t make this shit up! Da brotha did a great job, but ya can’t get a true sense of who I am unless ya seen what I saw. I got anotha sayin: ya don’t know where I’m comin’ from unless ya been where I’ve been, dig where I’m comin’ from?
13. I like that one! What do you think of yourself?
I’ma man who cares about da folks livin’ here. I walk it like I talk it, my man. I started a non-profit here awhile back, but because da economy took a dump and donations dried up, I couldn’t help da way I wanted to anymore, but I did my best ta do my part anyway. I mean, if I don’t help my people, who will?!
14. Growing up did you have a hero?
My folks were my heroes, the only heroes dat were real and mattered ta me. They raised they family, took care of they friends, and loved they community. They passed they values down ta me and my brotha to pay it forward ta da ones comin’ up who wanted ta pay attention. Da game’s ta be told, not ta be sold!
15. What does Mayor Woody want out of the rest of his life?
I want what everybody should want. Ta do what I damn well please and if somebody takes umbrage wit it, they don’t hafta look and can keep it movin’ down da road.
16. And what do you need?
I don’t need anythin’! Whatever the good Lord has blessed me wit is all dat I must need. Sometimes havin’ too much of a good thang brings about its own detriments.
17. Can you tell us what makes you the happiest?
Makin’ a difference in folks’ lives. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t give ta make myself feel better, I give ta see what impact it has in they life. Like when I give a young mother a few bucks ta keep da utilities on or buy some Pampers fo’ they baby and see the relief in her eyes…dat’s a payback I can’t describe, man…and I do this 365, 24/7.