[Singing Stand By Me by Ben E. King}
JONATHAN GARCIA: If the sky, that we look upon. Should tumble and fall. All the mountains should crumble to the sea.
(Begin looking at the ground. Give two measures of the beat you're rapping to, and then look up and proceed.)
I live in South Central, the gangster’s metropolis. It’s a poet’s apocalypse. Just a sixteen year old boy, with a glock in my sock. But I'm not one for Capone. I be chillin, with Whitman. More kindred to the words of Buddha. Cuz when I look in the mirror all I see is Neruda. While the rest of the homies, roll up blunts to blaze. I'm watching the Tonys, cuz I want to write plays. Me and my blokes, we slingin coke, that’s no joke. I just do what I do, cuz you survive with a crew. I'm not hard thru and thru, but I keep a gun in my shoe. Don't think me Gestapo, I'm one for Picasso. Langston Hughes is my muse. It's Plato, I'll choose. Though I'll go for some Homer, and soft rock blues. I think Rob Frost is my boss, in Poe I get lost. When you lower the curtain, the page is my purpose. The pen makes me Zen. And I'll keep rapping and rhyming, again and again. To shove off the pain, and break from these chains! I'm not some crook. I'm just a kid in need of a new outlook. I don't know what you heard, but it's not all sun and smiles in the San Fernando Valley. Gangs and drugs, it’s just the culture of Cali.
(Light a blunt while you narrate this; gesture to it when you say 'couldn't live without 'em.)
I don't go through it alone, though. Me and my friends have sort of formed our pact—to survive, you know strength in numbers and all. And sure, we tag and we sag, but we don't mean to hurt nobody, we just like to party with our shaddys. I mean, man, we own these streets. And when someone tries to come up on our territory….which they rarely do….we take care of it.
(A chilling stone cold tone when you say, ‘we take care of it’; it comes off almost a bit frightening. As the scene transitions to you in bed, your mother is calling to you from the kitchen. Jonathan’s blunt becomes the mother’s cigarette.)
MOM: Jonathan! Get your ass down here! The cops are here again.
(Jonathan enters the kitchen; notices Detective Webber, a familiar face.)
JONATHAN: Detective Webber, didn’t think I’d be seeing you again so soon.
DETECTIVE WEBBER: Stop getting yourself into trouble, maybe I wouldn’t have to.
MOM: What’s this all about officer?
DETECTIVE WEBBER: Well Ma’am. There was a shooting in this neighborhood just last night, and we know it was the Alley Locos, Jonathan.
JONATHAN: Nah man, you got it all wrong. Those Radford Street Boys are all over this one. I know it.
DETECTIVE WEBBER: Is that what Emilio told you to say?
JONATHAN: Man, Emilio may run the crew. But he don’t put words in my mouth. I ain’t his lap dog. I’m just telling it to you like it is.
DETECTIVE WEBBER: Look son…
(Tries to put a hand on Jonathan’s shoulder. Jonathan shakes him off.)
JONATHAN: Don’t touch me! And I ain’t yo son, man! So why don’t you stop calling me that!
DETECTIVE WEBBER: (Sighs; Turns to the Mother) Ma’am. Do you mind if I have a moment alone with Jonathan?
MOM: Of course, Officer…Just wait till you father hears about all this nonsense.
(Webber calms himself; he speaks with a warm demeanor)
DETECTIVE WEBBER: You got some new art there on your neck. What is that a Hamlet quote?
JONATHAN: You know your Shakespeare, Webber. Didn’t know you blue bloods had any class.
DETECTIVE WEBBER: You know you could do a lot with that head of yours, I hope you know you deserve better friends then the ones you keep now.
JONATHAN: Man, you don’t know the first thing about me! So stop trying to pretend like you got me all figured out!
DETECTIVE WEBBER: You’re wrong Jonathan, I do know you and I know when someone’s pretending to be something they’re not.
(Pop into the Father; stern, tall and aggressive. Holding a beer bottle as he reprimands his son)
DAD: You did what!?! You think I want to hear about my son…Mister Jessie fuckin James going around, like he’s some tough guy! I’mma tell you right now Jonathan, when your ass is sitting in some murder trial, I’m not hiring some fancy Jew lawyer to bail you out of all this!
JONATHAN: Dad, it wasn’t like that…
DAD: (slaps Jonathan) Don’t lie to me boy!
JONATHAN GARCIA: Dad, how much have you had to drink?
DAD: None of your god-damn business! That's how much!
(Mom lights a cigarette and takes a drag as she speaks.)
MOM: The kid's right, you know. You shouldn't drink. Alcohol can kill you.
(She goes into a coughing fit)
JONATHAN GARCIA: Mom? Are you seriously smoking again?
MOM: After what you put me through with that cop, I need a cigarette.
DAD: See, this is what you do to us! You and your little boyfriends in that gang are tearing this family apart! It's time to grow up and be a man. You can't live here no more!
JONATHAN GARCIA: Dad, please! Let’s talk about this later! When you've sobered up!
MOM: No, your father's right. You want to go be a big strong man, killing people? I don’t need that in my life.
JONATHAN GARCIA: Ma, it wasn't like that!
DAD: No, she's right Jonathan! You wanna go be a gangster?!? Go be a gangster somewhere else!
(Follow Jonathan with your eyes as dad, and move to intercept him.)
Hey! Hey! Where do you think you're going, boy?
JONATHAN GARCIA: I'm just gunna grab some shit!
DAD: Ah, stuff I bought yah, right? No, a man buys his own clothes! Pays his own rent! And doesn't go begging nobody for nothing!
JONATHAN GARCIA: Dad, please! I have nowhere to go!
DAD: Not my problem!
JONATHAN GARCIA: Not your problem?!? I’m your fucking son!
DAD: You are sure as hell no son of mine!
(Pop to Jonathan for his silent, teary reaction. He turns around, and halfway through the turn, begins rapping)
JONATHAN GARCIA: I'm a sinner, I'mma a saint. Whatever picture you wanna paint. But anyway you figure, I'm not the boy who pulled that trigger. But oh well…Cause the father has already condemned me to hell. While I'm reading the words of Aristotle, you’re off dancing with the bottle. And this friend of mine named fate, has shut the doors of the Pearly gates. Though I’m not the one who took the kill. These forgotten nightmares haunt me still. And Dad….I'm scared. And completely unprepared. For the world out there. So please … Dad …tell me you care. And I’m sorry for my sins, I promise I’ll atone. But I’m still you’re kin, don’t leave me alone. Can I sway you from this volition? To give me abolition, remission, nutrition, condition, emission. And your ammunition of acquisitions, is a mortician of demolition. You’re slated with hatred that’s sedated my ambition. But maybe….You still see me as your baby. I don't know….is that non-sense? Am I wasting my breath with every protest? Maybe my wrongs have cut too deep. And a father's song has been put to sleep.
(He turns around in the other direction. Pop into the teacher's posture—
flamboyant, enthusiastic, a little dorky.)
TEACHER: Jonathan, you’re quite a talented poet. Is that true, are you having problems with your father?
JONATHAN: Nah, course not Ms.B I was just fooling around.
TEACHER: Okay, well you know you can always come to me for help.
(Teacher extends her hand; giving Jonathan a journal)
TEACHER: Here, I want you to have this.
JONATHAN: Thanks but I got my own notebooks Ms.B.
TEACHER: This isn’t a notebook Jonathan. It’s a book of poems.
JONATHAN: Who’s the author?
TEACHER: You’re looking at her.
JONATHAN: You write poetry?
TEACHER: When I was your age I did.
JONATHAN: Why are you giving this to me?
TEACHER: I’d be honored if you would read my work and tell me what you think. Would you do that for me?
JONATHAN: Sure thing, Ms.B.
(As you pop into Jonathan Garcia, pushing yourself up, reaching to grab your bag, and starting to walk out of the classroom. Emilio stops Jonathan as he exits the classroom. Emilio has a slightly raspy Latino accent; this'll set him apart from Jonathan.)
JONATHAN GARCIA: Hey what’s up Emilio?
EMILIO: I heard the popo was at your house, man. You didn't tell 'em nothing did you?
JONATHAN GARCIA: No, no of course not man. We’re in this together. Brothers for life, homie.
EMILIO: Yah, that’s all well and good till someone starts thinking they could make a little deal with the PD.
JONATHAN GARCIA: Look all I did was drive the car, man.
EMILIO: And you think that makes you any more innocent? Just cause you didn't pull the trigger cuz, doesn't mean you gunna walk away from this.
JONATHAN GARCIA No, I know that. Trust me, I know. But listen I'm going through my own thing right now with my parents.
EMILIO: Hey we all got our problems man.
JONATHAN GARCIA: You wanna talk about problems? I’m just tryin to keep my head held high. Not cryin about this pain stained lie. Just got thrown out of the only home I know. And truth is I got nowhere to go. Who made the clouds rain red and left a young boy dead? This scenario’s come over me like a catastrophic wave. I’m lost, and don't know to stay brave. When all that I see is this hollow shamed cave. And Emilio, can you hear my Harlem Blues? Cause the road that you choose. Leaves me battered and bruised? Painted as…one of the accused?
EMILIO: Hey man, did you hear me?
JONATHAN GARCIA: What? What was that Emilio?
EMILIO: I just said, I need my gun back homie.
JONATHAN GARCIA: You gave me that piece, Emilio. You said it was mine.
EMILIO: Yah, and now the pigs are gunna be lookin for my gat. So I need yours, its only temporary bro.
(As you transition and Turn, beatbox; when you turn back around, you're the Dad. Same voice, with the drunken slurring. Jonathan is fumbling through his drawers. His Dad stumbles out in a bathrobe with a beer bottle in hand)
DAD: Looking for this?
(Pulls out Jonathan’s gun)
JONATHAN: Dad, what the hell were doing going through my stuff?
DAD: What the hell were you thinking, bringing a fucking gun into my house?
JONATHAN: It’s not even my gun. I was going to give it back to Emilio.
Dad: Ooooh it’s Emilio’s gun, huh? Well why don’t you show me what Emilio would do if he were here right now.
(Points it at Jonathan’s forehead)
JONATHAN: Put down the fucking gun! You’re drunk!
DAD: Tell me son, when your out their on the streets is this how you hold it?
(Turns the gun sideways)
JONATHAN: Dad, please…you’re scaring m…
DAD: What do they say Jonathan? You know…before you pop’em.
(Dad presses the gun harder into Jonathan’s skull)
DAD: Do they cry? Do they beg? Do they get on their knees and pray?
(Dad gestures him; using the gun as a strong motivator)
DAD: Come on son, why don’t you get on your knees and pray?
(Jonathan is on his knees; in the praying position. He closes his eyes and begins to rap. Get louder and more forceful as you rap—this should be the climax.)
JONATHAN GARCIA: Damn these cards that I’ve been dealt. Damn this hell that I have felt. Damn all these intoxicated intolerants that bother us. I'm riding the roads of my youthful revolution and the doctrines for my own constitution. I'm fatherin' my own resolution because here in these slums I won’t find my evolution. Why am I subjected to despair in a world of no opportunity? No fruition fossil’d in the 21st century. (Jumps back to his feet)
This society’s systematical, irrational, impractical, radical and tactical.
(Teary eyed; Take a few deep breaths as you regain your calm demeanor. Melt to a more relaxed, composed you.)
So, there I was. Out on my own at 16 years old. Who knew a father could be so cold? I struggled…No job, no money, no education, no diploma. And just like Romeo in fair Verona. I was exiled…my happiness defiled. And I was a child, who no longer smiled. And I became my own father, when my real one no longer bothered. I found work, and I made do. And I found an apartment on 6th Avenue. Eventually, I got my GED.
(Time has past; You are now adult Jonathan.)
JONATHAN: You know Ms.B once told me I’d make a great teacher. Turns out now, she was right. And now, a decade down the road. I run an outreach program for inner-city youth. And I see myself in so many of their adolescent faces.
(Beat-box those two measures before melting into the rap)
JONATHAN: Do you hear that? I’ve built an empire, out of the ruins of blood and fire. All these boys of battered homes, we walk the same roads. But I can change the pain, and my struggle won’t be in vain. And maybe my tribulations and tragedies will be their gain. The passion of this piece of paper is more powerful then the guns of yesterday. But years of tears have brought me nothing but friends in the tombs that lay.
(As you melt out of the rap; Transition to Victor, a soft adolescent voice with a Latin accent. He’s holding a piece of paper where’s he’s written his poem)
VICTOR: Mr.G, can you read something I wrote yesterday?
JONATHAN: Of course, Victor.
(Takes the piece of paper from Victor’s hand)
JONATHAN: This is really good. Can I give you some of my poetry to read?
VICTOR: You write poetry?
JONATHAN: Back when I was your age, that’s all I did. Here, take it home with you. I wrote a poem for you, it’s in the very back.
(Jonathan hands Victor his journal; melts out of the conversation as he transitions to a Narrator position, speaking directly to the audience)
JONATHAN: I was really genuinely excited to hear what Victor thought of my poetry, but unfortunately (Sound of a gun shot; in the background) Victor never made it home that night. This is what I wrote.
(Jonathan emotional and teary eyed: reads his poem from a piece of paper. We hear police sirens and helicopters as the song Stand By Me by Ben E. King begins to play.)
Just like bombs burst, turning the world to vapor, this pen will forever fix
words to paper. 'Cause I'm spreading the gospel of peace, sire. Heading towards the gang war's ceasefire. Because one day we may finally see. The end to this infinite fallacy. The long awaited day when the bullets are a relic. The tethered and torn cry for a day so angelic! A day when we can speak of great history. And look back on our glorious legacy. And with honest sincerity. I ask for everlasting prosperity. As far as me? I’m not some crook, I’m just a kid…who found his new outlook.
(Rap fades out; Along with the sirens. Though the song continues)