“I knew inside when I was outside on the south side
Had to take it a step further the way that Ralph tried
Oh that’s my stepfather
He stressed harder to make that bed and lock them doors
For the perfect picture, I forgot to pose
Used to rock Girbauds and go out with bros
Tryna get lots of hoes ’till I got exposed
To a bigger picture called free, in the picture, it was me
Al-Hajj Malik Shabazz, Muhammad, and Noble Drew Ali
A side of Erykah Badu and Andre 3000
Telling me what I can’t be
But you can’t paint me
Black is the color of my true love spirit and I do love lyrics
And I used to love Harold’s Chicken and I dance pretty good
And I feel at home in the hood and I get lit in the club
Still I love.”
It is 1am in the morning and my heart is weary. I knew the moment I decided to set the events in motion that would become the Blue Collar Hustle web series my life would change forever. For most of my adult existence, various family and friends have been asking me why I do not embrace my talent as a writer and pursue it seriously. I worked at Best Buy, climbing the economic ladder of retail leadership. I joined the Army, serving in Korea and Afghanistan with distinction. I got married, got divorced, returned home and started over right back at Best Buy. Going from a part time salesman to an Assistant Store Manager in little less than two years (with 4 promotions in between) I always kept writing as a hobby. Utilizing it only when I was inspired by something or someone, it was a fun little toy that I played with when impulse suited me.
The day I called over Quentin Williams, Roberto Cruz, and Howard Woodburn to my apartment in Newnan, Ga to discuss the script I had written for all of us was the day I put away the plaything that was whim and grasped the responsibility that came with the written word. There would be no hiding behind an internet screen name. There would be no critiquing of other artists work. There would be no barrier between the world and myself. This would be my thoughts, philosophy, outlook, and vision presented for the world to see. I wasn’t afraid the script would suck. I wasn’t afraid of recruiting three other first time actors. I wasn’t afraid of all of this being one big colossal failure. I was afraid of the one thing that I had been avoiding since the moment I first put pen to paper.
I was afraid of my own obsession to be great.
Being great at Best Buy was easy. You work harder than everyone else, for more hours than anyone else, and someone will promote you. Being great in the Army was easy. You stay out of trouble, show up to formation on time, and your superiors will appreciate simply having one less grown ass man to babysit. Being a great writer is anything but easy. Being a successful writer is rare. Being a great writer who is successful at penning his first script about black millennials looking to live up to the legacies of their ancestors, which includes no gratuitous sex, drug dealing, or stereotype? That’s a rather steep hill to climb….
So I knew that to have any chance whatsoever of being triumphant in this endeavor I would have to be determined to the point of obsession. I would have to live, sleep, and breathe Blue Collar Hustle. A web series with no guarantee of anyone besides my mother and father watching it, patting me on the back, and telling me they always believed in me. I left Best Buy, a job that was paying me good money to simply sell phones and laptops, for a much lower position at a different company so I could have time to rehearse and strategize. I took my entire life savings and put it into hiring a fantastic black director with his own production company to make this happen. I stayed up late sending emails, reaching out to blogs, and building a fanbase. I played mediator, brother, advisor, and leader to a group of talented individuals who came together because of their belief in me, and who yet still had their own opinions and viewpoints. I neglected family, I was a distant father, I wrapped myself in a cocoon of my own self-importance and rationalized it with an excuse called artistry.
And yet I couldn’t stop. My obsession was an inferno that fueled my spirit, fed my soul, and engulfed the entirety of my being. Going into debt was a small price to pay if it meant filming another episode. The twelve hour shift working, thirty minute lunch taking, paycheck to paycheck existence ceased to be a focus of mine. Now that I was taking my gift seriously, I’d write my way out!
Reality says otherwise. Bills don’t go away because you’ve found your calling in life. Sick family members ailments don’t mystically get better because you took destiny into your hands. A baby’s cries don’t go unshed because she suddenly understands that daddy’s doing something important. The people around me who encourage me, believe in me, and continually support me, are the ones who suffer most from my selfishness. Reality is the angel on my left shoulder, urging me to look around and appreciate that which is truly important. Obsession is the devil on my right shoulder, pushing me to leave no stone unturned in my endless quest to gain one more viewer, one more subscriber, one more interview.
I wrote every single word. I created every single character. My entire sense of self worth has been infused into these six scripts. I am completely and utterly fixated on joining in league with those who are rewriting the black American story. I am devoted to the mission of bringing intelligent, upwardly mobile black youth to the screen. I am committed to the portrayal of African Americans as a group of people who can successfully balance their personal responsibilities with their creative yearnings. I am in a sense tirelessly striven to portray people who are the opposite of myself. It is unexplainable, the feeling coursing through my veins—the freedom that comes with chasing a dream. of allowing yourself to be uninhibited by the problems present right outside your world of imagined literary genius. I make no excuses, I make no apologies. Whatever legacy born of this endeavor will be characterized by pure self-indulgence and a desperation to create something defining. There is an old adage that states, “when making life altering decisions, one should not ask permission, but for forgiveness.”
So forgive me now. For walking towards a dream called Free.
Blue Collar Hustle is a web series by Alonge Hawes, about young black millennials in Stone Mountain, GA attempting to rewrite their destinies. The series explores the stories of those who stand in defiance of racist expectations, fears, and legacies—we are rewriting the Black American story. Subscribe via email here.