Lamar High School, Houston

Long time followers of the blog are probably all too familiar with how often I changed schools in my teenage years. I’ll spare the recap. Yet, Lamar was the school I attended my sophomore year, trying to catch up from the destructive wake I had left in my educational path the year prior. Lamar was the school that I was zoned to, and as such, a school I routinely found myself walking to, whenever it was that I was still allowed in my home and decided that I would grace the staff with my presence. Truly, I held a certain level of content for Lamar because it always felt like a second choice from the opportunity I squandered freshman year.

In reality, Lamar provided a fresh start, if I was willing to accept the challenge. Yet, there was one thing that did distinctly catch my attention that year; the cafeteria. It wasn’t square pizza day, nor the sloppy joes that called my name. The cafeteria was a beacon of hope for me for another social reason.

There was a group of students who would gather to make a beat on the table and cypher rap battles. Race, gender, political, sexual preference nor socio economic status mattered as long as when provided the opportunity to speak you could bring the heat. We joked to eachother, sometimes joking about one another, but before any bell we would attempt to best one another with witty punchlines and double entendre as needed.

I remember the first morning that I actually stepped up to the circle as more than just a spectator. My words were powerful; they carried weight greater than the life experience might have otherwise conveyed. There was a bit of shock value that this quiet white kid could more than understand a cultural dialect but actually repurpose it. I wasn’t the most refined MC, but hip hop and cypher battling specifically provided a stage (however small) for a moment of time for me to be heard.

I remember at a holiday event at a family friend’s home, where the evils and disrespect of mainstream rap culture were discussed. I never wanted to be a gospel rapper, but I also knew that the perspective that was held by the person trying to convey their point that I wasn’t going to change their mind. Their opinion would not be swayed by any amount of persuasive discussion. So, to that end, my pursuit of the skill and knowledge of the genre was something tempered by containment in between the pages of my notebooks and mornings in the cafeteria.

I made it through Lamar that year, with more classes completed than my Freshman endeavor. I enrolled in the ROTC (Army green uniform that was frequently referred to as “pickle”) to escape gym credits, and struggled through a semester of German as a foreign language. I feel that my time was not wasted in completing that year, though I didn’t make up any real ground on the courses that I squandered the year prior. In detailed retrospect, Lamar felt more like a home in the social circles that I frequented than any other high school I attended, as much as I tend to overlook that fact.

So, the track this week, is Adam Sandler’s “Lunchlady Land”. As many classes virtually resume this week, the often overlooked individuals who stand on one side of the lunch counter line to serve students come to mind. May we recognize all staff that help our kids make it through the years. 2020 has thrown us many a curve ball, so Lunchlady Land’s reassurances come as a warm reminder. Everything is doing just fine.

In the years following my departure from Lamar, there have been quite a few changes; Mascots, addition of fencing along the outer campus (probably to prevent the truant kids like I was) and a brand new track. I hope that the legacy that the organization leaves on students will remain the same in that it serves through opportunities to educate and mobilize dreams. Happy school year, y’all!

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