A Class of Bullies
A Class of Bullies
(Surviving the Sixth Grade)
My sixth-grade year of school, of what I can remember,
was the worst year of school. In 1971 Public school number six,
was an elementary school. From kindergarten to the sixth grade.
Public school number six, was on south division street,
one block from my back door. I walked to and from school every day.
The class was taught by Mr. Benson. A young white guy in need of a tan.
In a classroom full of black children. We had a few girls, but someone thought
it would be better to move the three girls, and make it a class of all boys.
Now un-like other classrooms that may have a bully or two.
Our class with Mr. Benson had six of them.
I thought it was more bullies than the law allows…
Actually, there were five. One kid did the go along to get along thing,
just so he wouldn’t get picked on like the rest of us.
Darryl had some size on him he was just a little bit bigger than the rest of us.
And he was always wearing black leather gloves
with half of the fingers cut off and the knuckles showing.
The thing is that none of us wanted to be called a tattle tale or a snitch,
because it wasn’t cool. And we didn’t’ want to fight so, the bullying went on.
I lived in the projects, the Talbert Mall. Where I already have a number of bullies.
Up until now I didn’t have any of them in my class.
Most of the boys in my class were the younger brothers of bullies and gang members.
Doing their best to follow in their footsteps. One of the events not recorded
In black history is that from the early to mid-60’s to the mid 70’s
The Pythons were the largest street gang,
in the neighborhood and the city of Buffalo New York.
All with black jackets decorated with a large coiled Cobra on the back.
It was a thing; all the gangs in the city of Buffalo New York had their jackets.
In 1975 there was a black unity movement and all the street gangs
got together and burned their jackets.
But I guess that’s another story for another time.
I thought it was funny how the companies that made the jackets,
Sold them to every street gang in Buffalo. And managed
not getting robed by their customers.
Well it was one thing to have a few bullies in your neighborhood, to which I had a few.
But to go to a school, where I wanted to be cool. And have to deal with bullies
and gang member want to bees.
It was a daily challenge just make it to the 3 o’clock bell...
Most of the time right after lunch. When Mr. Benson turned his back to write something
On the chalk board that’s when the punching, ear flicking and kicking started.
Now he would turn his back for about thirty seconds.
So, the bullies had to do their dirty work quick and quiet.
We didn’t’ have assigned seating so, in an effort to stop the bullies from messing with us.
Each day we’d move to a different desk, it was like were playing musical chairs.
The next time Mr. Benton turned his back, a bully would move to a different desk.
It was like predator chasing prey.
One of my classmates raised his hand and said he had to go to the bathroom.
The teacher would let us go one at a time.
He was given a hall-pass a small block of wood with the word hall pass carved on it.
We carried that when we went to the restroom.
Only he didn’t come back, he went down the hall,
and walked into another classroom pleaded his case.
And the teacher let him stay. I don’t know if Mr. Benson didn’t know how
to deal with this or if the man was just slow.
It was a kid named Kevin, who also lived in the projects
He was sitting behind me, he poked me with a ruler and said in a low voice where’s my money?
You better have my money tomorrow. He was there one day when his older brother,
caught me on my way home from the store, and took fifty cents from me one day.
So, now its monkey see monkey do. Or at least he was trying too.
When we went to gym class, and that’s when the bullies had a free hand
To do they thing while we were playing basketball. Kevin tried to play the tough guy,
feeling on my pockets. But you can’t take what I don’t have.
Telling me that I better have his money tomorrow.
After seeing a few guys get punched and slapped and no fighting back.
The white Gym teacher saw what was going on and ask me,
What’s with all guys rough housing? I shrugged my shoulders because I couldn’t tell him that we were being bullied. Because it wasn’t cool to be called a snitch.
I came home a few times with a swollen lip, I lied and told my mother that I slipped and fell.
I was looking none the worse for wear. I wasn’t bleeding so my mother didn’t say anything.
But as luck would have it, I was walking home from school and there was a quarter
Laying on the ground like some choose that day to lose one.
I went on to school that day and waited until Kevin said where’s my money?
I gave him the quarter and we were cool after that. He didn’t try to get more money
From me, I think he was surprised that I gave it to him.
Mr. Benson caught on to this or he had had enough.
When he turned around one day and saw two of his students with tears
running down their faces. He had no problem figuring out that it was the two angels
complete with halos setting behind them. One kid began to whimper,
as his bottom lip began to swell. The angel sitting behind him started to grin.
He had just taken the kids money. So, Mr. Benson’s solution was to put all six angels
In a separate row on the right side of the classroom, with a row
of empty desks between us and them. For about two weeks, the bullies were bored.
Having only their classwork to do and no one to pick on.
We were starting to have some fun in class. The bullies actually had to wait for us after school.
Before they could do their thing. Fear being my main motivator,
My one block walk, became a three-block run. Needless to say, I had to go out my way,
Just to avoid bullies and a beat down. This was also the start of
my short career as a neighborhood track star.
What you have to understand is that the bullies came in a group, or a gang.
Whenever you got up the nerve to fight one. You’d never find them alone.
So, you couldn’t stand up to just one. This is about a year before
The start of America’s martial art movie craze. There were a few mornings
Where they caught me on my way to school.
And of course, there was that morning my mother caught me taking a different
route to school. The day came that some students fear and some
Teachers look forward to. At the end of the second quarter. Open House…
The day when everyone’s mother came to school, and had a chat with teachers.
The parents learned how well or how poorly their children were doing in school.
Because report cards didn’t tell the whole story. But for Mr. Benson this is a day
That will live… In infamy.
All six mothers and Mrs. Chelcy the assistant principal.
Had surrounded him in front of his classroom door.
They wanted to know why he was picking on the six well behaved boys.
Needless to say, he couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
The mothers who came to rise hell, called him everything but a child of God.
Hearing the colorful name calling in the hallway.
The angels were smiling, and giving each other a high five.
By the end of the chaotic huddle, which lasted all of fifteen minutes.
Mr. Benton was ordered to put the boys back with the rest of the class.
The assistant principal told the women that she’s going to have a long talk with Mr. Benton.
And then called out all six angels. And sent them home with their mothers.
For the next two weeks we had a parade of substitute teachers.
Who all learned the names of all six angels.
The bullies didn’t miss a chance to harass us and heckle
the substitute teachers. When Mr. Benson returned, wearing a very nice tan.
He got his hair cut and was sporting sunglasses.
The kind that flip up. We almost didn’t recognize him.
As he was standing in the back of the classroom with his new look.
Although for me it was the worst year of school. I know for a fact that all of the boys in that class passed to the seventh grade. By the time I was a senior in year of high school. Three of the bullies were in juvenile detention and two of them had died in gang fights.