Growing up in this urban jungle, young Latino men have to make their own way, somehow. The choices presented are not many, and unfortunately many choose what seems at the time to be the path of least resistance. More often than not, this path ends up being the path with the most resistance, long term. A path leading to one of two places, prison and or death.
Every once in a great while, a lucky person beats the odds. Enter “Rise to grace“, a ghetto rags to riches story, one that ends exactly as one would expect. Sort of. Rise to grace is a memoir, the author takes us through his story in a very casual manner. The book reads easily, it’s as if Angel Huertas is sitting down right next to you having a chat.
Huertas starts the story from the very end, a great strategy as a writer because right from that very first page the reader is left with the desire to know how Angel arrived at such a frightening ending.
You immediately discover as of chapter one that this young man was born a cub in a concrete jungle with the odds stacked against him. Like many young Latinos, he was lacking a father figure and missing the support and love that every young man needs. There was no Snoop Lion in this cub’s life back then. It’s no surprise that he turned to a life of crime. It’s like Tupac said in his song “Dear Momma”:
Now ain’t nobody tell us it was fair
No love from my daddy cause the coward wasn’t there
He passed away and I didn’t cry, cause my anger
wouldn’t let me feel for a stranger
They say I’m wrong and I’m heartless, but all along
I was lookin for a father he was gone
I hung around with the Thugs, and even though they sold drugs
They showed a young brother love
Question, when you think of Williamsburg, do you think of a living hell? A living hell where the streets force you to kill or be killed? Do you think of heroine, drug dealers and murderers? Odds are the answer to that question is a resounding NO. Unless you have been around for a long time, you probably think of a hipster’s paradise, an area filled with trendy restaurants and art galleries.
It wasn’t always like this, Angel Huertas speaks of a different era, a time when walking through the wrong neighborhood could get you beat down or worst, dead. He shares his journey from young drug dealer all the way up the ranks to top boss running most if not all the heroine game in Brooklyn. All this ending with 2 bullets in the stomach and one in the back, an experience that lead to his discovery of God and his “Rise to grace”.
This book falls in line with Piri Thomas’ “Down these mean streets“. This is not a direct comparison, however the commonality of these 2 stories cannot be denied. Ivan Sanchez’ “Next stop” also tells a similar story. Young Latino men on the road to death who were miraculously saved.
Pick up this book and share it with any youngster that wants to enter the drug game. It’s a great eye opener.
Angel Huertas is still very active in educating our youth. I have joined him and the rise to grace team at schools to talk to the kids. This guy cares and is really trying to make a difference. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
This is a poem that I wrote and performed that was inspired by the book. I was meaning to convert it into a song, but that hasn’t materialized. Never say never.
Rise to grace
A man is not defined by his past nor his present
You cannot predict your future where you going is never certain
I wanna talk about a man…
A man that rose through the ranks
of those nasty streets he ran
the power that he had most people just can’t understand
I wonder though, can you understand
No really.. Stop.. Think about this..
Can you really understand
I wanna talk about a kid that was surviving in the ghetto
from the moment he said hello…
to this World…
Now I’m telling you the truth
Just a classic case of youth
that the ghetto can produce
a crew of killers on the loose
dont provoke or they might shoot
little sister took the blame
for a provocation that he claimed
He saw her hurt at a young age
that’s when they start to feel the pain
By that homeless man that went insane
through the window then he came
He got away…
that man he’s gonna pay
yes believe he has to pay
But life goes on…
We all know the time will pass
carrying these burdens like a rock
but his brother recognized him in cell block
He got caught…
Violate a little girl and no forgiveness will be had
A man is not defined by his past nor his present
Cant predict your future where you going is never certain
In those days,
Playboy was the name, the girls heard it and they came
Now get your mind out of the gutter
This ain’t a love poem but you know he really loves her
Cause that woman held him down when the world would make him shudder
There was a time a “fearless” whisper it was all that it would take
Who’d think the day would come when they’d shoot at him instead
Ends up crawling on the floor
with no hope or life no more
he raised his eyes a final time and then he swore
he saw the Lord
he knew he had a chance but no idea what lay in store
As he lay there, he spoke with The Lord.
The Lord said I’ll give back your life, but there’s somethings you gotta do
Step back, give it back, you must reset and now it’s time to start a new
Step back, give it back, reset and start a new.. Zero…
It ain’t no silly joke when death is knocking on your door
Realizing you Can’t live your life this way,
you just can’t do this anymore
I need you to leave that life
Make a sacrifice, think it through
Then this, your 100th chance, is the oath I make to you.
Starting up from zero you’ll have nothing material left to show
But I’ll let you live another day, to love your wife and kids and watch them grow
His eyes were open, he took the offer and here he stands without a doubt
True to his word, found the true calling, and that’s what this life is all about.