When someone from Sox Place is offered a volunteer or internship position it might be a way to get work experience, other times it might help them stay focused on their goals. Sometimes it’s a way to turn a new leaf.
Solomon is a 27 year old man with a soft spoken voice and relaxed demeanor who has been serving at Sox Place. He can come across as a big teddy bear, and yet, around here he’s known as Chicago for his hard background and even harder reputation of being a fighter.
“Growing up in Chicago you gotta fight,” said Solomon. “Everyday you come home from school, I didn’t have no bothers or sisters so most the time I was fighting by myself. When I did get a friend I would go all the way for them no matter what,” he said.
“If I’m fighting someone I’m just teaching them a lesson. If I see blood I always stop,” said Solomon in a raspy voice that you had to lean into, in order to hear what he was saying clearly.
He grew up in Chicago with his Mother and Grandmother although he’s lived in a handful of places including, New York City, Savannah, Tennessee, Atlanta, and Texas. Spending the majority of his childhood growing up in the rough neighborhoods of Chicago. He adapted to the way of the streets in order to make a living.
“I consider myself a hustler, I would never sleep on the street, I always make enough money to at least get a motel room everyday,” he said. This way of life was instilled into Solomon from his Mother. When times got tough, she showed him how to hustle.
“She’s really good at sewing and different arts and crafts,” said Solomon speaking of his Mothers skill. “When we got broke she would go to a little arts and crafts store and buy picture frames and she would glue sea shells, flowers and put little poems in them, and then we’d sell them on the street,” said Solomon pretending to delicately place imaginary little flowers with his large fingers.
Hustling to make a living doesn’t have to mean selling drugs. Although his Mother hustled by selling arts and crafts on the street, Solomon found his hustle by becoming involved in the gang culture of Chicago at a very young age. “I sold crack for the first time when I was 11 years old just to help pay bills and save my money up,” he said. “The only people you see doing good are athletes and drug dealers,” Solomon said with a pain in his voice that could shatter The American Dream.
As a kid, he began to notice kids making a quick dollar and buying new shoes among other things. Sparking his curiosity, he wanted to know where and how he would fit in to this world. His first position was to watch for police acting as a security. However without this type of experience, he recognized that he wouldn’t have been able to adapt to his constant changing environment. Even though he was selling crack at a young age, he didn’t dabble with harder drugs until he found himself on the streets of Denver. In Chicago he became apart of an organization called the Black P Stone Nation, where they would punish their members for doing anything harder than smoking weed.
The Black P Stones were an organization founded by Jeff Fort when he brought twenty one different gangs to come together and act as one. For many years they ran and controlled the streets of Chicago and ran much like a small army. Although they claim that more than 20,000 men were involved in the organization at it’s peak.
Solomon’s Father stepped into his life for the first time when he was 24 years old and realized where a lot of his natural ability for hustling came from. Immediately him and his Dad bonded over their ability to sell anything. Looking for a way out of Chicago, Solomon ended up leaving with his Father and landed in Texas where he attempted to ditch the Chicago mentality and all that it lacked to offer. “Survival of the fittest is the Chicago mentality, it’s bad for life,” he said, “When you get out, you sorta lose that mentality.”
After moving to Texas with his Father, Solomon was convinced to come live with his uncle who had been a professional football player and had a baby on the way. Solomon was soon introduced to a girl, the girl that eventually invited him to move to Denver. Unfortunately while living with his Uncle, Solomon recognized that he was becoming a person he didn’t want to be.
“My uncle had just gotten his lawsuit money back from the NFL for a concussion. He was throwing his money around tried to turn me into something I’m not,” said Solomon. He knew he had to get out before he lost himself completely.
Eventually the baby that belonged to his uncle arrived and things began to change. Just three or four days after the Momma delivered her child, Solomon’s uncle was pushing and demanding things from the new Mother and everyone around him, including Solomon.
“I’m a person that can’t take constant pushing. We just ended up clashing,” said Solomon. He recalled the police being called one night after an argument, “He won’t fight me he’s scared of me. So when he called the cops he told them I’m a Black P Stone from Chicago and that I got P Stones on the way down to kill him,” said Solomon laughing with a raspy laugh that sat in the back of his throat.
After the confrontation with his Uncle, Solomon began considering on making the move back to Chicago, even though he had just escaped. Then a new opportunity arose. Solomon was offered a one way ticket to get him to Denver by the cousin of his Uncle’s baby mama. However when he arrived, the girl that got him the ticket had stopped talking to him in fear of her boyfriend. So Solomon started over. Hustling.
“The first day I got off the bus I had nobody, but I did have a pair of headphones. I sold them to a guy selling weed at the Greyhound station,” he said. “I figured I might as well sell stuff at the station because the people arriving are here for weed. Later he ended up selling weed at the station and making a profit that would allow him to get a hotel room.
A few weeks passed and Solomon was getting the hang of hustling in Colorado. Right when things seemed to be going right for him, the girl that bought his ticket here invited him to live with her and her boyfriend. She drug him through the mess of being a “side dude” and messing with his emotions. “The moment sex got involved between us it just…” he lets air pass his lips that sounds like a train letting off steam as he shook his head. “…It got crazy, I can’t even explain it,” said Solomon.
The main boyfriend went snooping through her phone and wasn’t happy to find the secret relationship that she was having with Solomon. “I woke up and this guy was screaming. Waving a 45 around. Straight out of the movies,” recalls Solomon. Time passed and the unsteady relationship between this girl crumbled after she admitted to being pregnant with her original boyfriends baby.
“Me and her got into a big argument on I-25 and she pulled over and told me to get out. I hopped out dodged traffic and again I had nothing. No place to stay no money. I started from scratch all over again,” said Solomon. After that relationship fell apart he fell into the hands of doing harder drugs. Harder than he had never done before.
One day while he was selling weed at the Greyhound Station he met a guy from New Orleans that was on the run. Solomon showed his new acquaintance around Denver and within a couple months they were selling coke together. “I was so lost and I was on coke real bad. That wasn’t me though,” he said.
When hustling, Solomon always made a rule for himself that he would sit on his money, but his new found acquaintance wanted to spend the money. “Next thing you know I’m rocking $500 dollar shades and poppin’ pills. That wasn’t me either. My mom never raised me like that,” said Solomon. And after numerous nights of gambling, partying, and blowing through money Solomon realized just how lost he was.
“I completely went downhill,” he admitted, “but I was lost before that. The situation with the girl, she made me go crazy for a second.”
When Solomon first arrived in Denver he had been introduced to Sox Place within only a few weeks. He always saw it as a great place to get free food (because when your hustling you don’t want to spend money) and a place to unwind and play Call of Duty with Jordan. After Solomon got out jail for a trespassing charge he thought of Sox Place a little differently.
“I always knew Sox had volunteers and interns so when I got out of jail I wanted to start off on a new foot and that’s how I started here,” said Solomon. His hard work ethic and tough background has earned him the respect of Sox Place both the staff as well as the street youth and young adults that find themselves tapping into Sox Place’s resources.
The road from his youth to where Solomon stands today has been long and it’s certainly not over. However after living in Denver Solomon said he has a different outlook “I’m more humbled now,” he said. So for now, Solomon stays grounded at Sox Place.