I’m sure many of you all have seen the videos on MTV of them talking to celebs about what their life looked like at age 17. And recently I was listening to the radio here and DC and heard a conversation that centered around people being nearly polar opposite of who they were in high school.
That piqued my interest since, well, for me, being in high school was at least 16 years ago. What a difference a day makes. This tripled with the uber entertaining concept of Throwback Thursdays on Twitter/IG got me to thinking about, well…who was young Panama Jackson at 17.
Glad you asked.
Let’s talk about that one for a second. In my high school – I went to one of those Blue Ribbon high schools that also happens to be the largest high school in the state of Alabama at this point – we were required to take French or Spanish. None of those fancy ass languages like Latin, German, Russian, or Ebonics were taught at my school. Well, if you rememeber, my madre is French, so I just decided to take the easy way out and took French for all four years of high school. (This would eventually lead to me testing out of taking any language classes at Morehouse, though I still decided to take enough French classes to minor since 75 percent of my French classes were at Spelman College. #spelhouse)
My high school participated in the state-wide French competitions in chorus, extemporaneous speaking, reading, etc. My senior year we decided to to sing “A Whole New World” for the French choral competition and I got the lead solo singing part of Aladdin…because I was colored. It was really on some, “hey you’re Black, all you Black folks can sing.”
I can’t sing by the way. The teachers rightly decided we didn’t need any lead singers at some point before we got to competition. The point of this all? Young PJ was Aladdin for a short time in high school.
I was in Theater, performing in two school plays that year, “Sarcophagus” and “Up The Down Staircase” where I played the role of Edward Williams, a young urban thug who liked to be referred to as “Esquire” because it sounded regal to him. From the time that “Up The Down Staircase” wrapped, my school principal always called me “Esquire”. I was in the Future Business Leaders of America, voted Most Likely to Be A Millionaire by 30 (FAIL) and was a whose who amongst our high school. I was on the Homecoming Court and my girlfriend was the drum major, a star track-and-field athlete and ended up receiving a basketball scholarship. We were a TERRIBLE couple by the way.
I was also EXTREMELY active in church. Believe it or not, but I was being groomed to become a pastor. I was the president of every youth church organization, was on the Pastor-Parish relations committee, had a brief stint as our youth choir director (they never should have gave me access to the piano and free reign…let’s say, “The Symphony” made it into one church service), and I was the 2nd Sunday Lay Leader, meaning I led the service. I also gave a few guest sermons.
On my downtime, I worked at Sonic, and then I worked at Papa John’s pizza, a job I really loved. Which reminds me of one of the things that affected me most in life to that point and even 17 years ago still resonates…we had a blood drive at my school where lots of us gave blood.
Well, three weeks later, a really good friend of mine found out that she was HIV-positive. That was the first time I think any of us had come up-close-and personal with the idea that HIV was real. It hit as close to home as possible. We lost touch and I have no idea if she’s alive at this point. I’ve googled her plenty of times but her name is so common – she was white and had one of the THE most common “white” first and last name combinations in history – that I never found much.
I also graduated when I was 17 and of all the gifts I received, one came from another close homegirl of mine named Shannon who gave me one of those stylized poems that you can put on your desk of “Don’t Quit”. My father told me that was the most important graduation gift I received. I still have it and it sits on my dresser right now.
Oh…here’s something very fun, I had two really close friends in high school, Julie and Carrie, and they used to walk thru the hallways with me arm in arm, singing my name. My girlfriend HATED them. HATED. THEM. All of the women I’ve mentioned were white by the way aside from my girlfriend. Strangely, this is the last time I could seriously count a significant number of white people as friends. This saddens me a bit. I need to do better.
Speaking of friends…my best friend? This guy.
Oh, and because I’m humble bragging, in my senior year, I think I took nothing but AP classes…Calculus, English, Physics, History, and Economics. Well, those and my theater and French classes.
This is getting long. THATS WHAT SHE SAID. I had a great senior year as I prepared for college…I beast-moded my ACT and SATs and got a few full rides to a few big named schools that you may or may not have heard of, but one of my (current) best friends told me he was going to Morehouse and said I should apply. I said cool. So I did…got a scholarship and the rest is history…
Oh, and one last thing about my high school…this is how competitive it was. I graduated with a 3.97 GPA. I was number 30 in my class. We had a kid get a 1600 on his SATs back when the highest you could get was a 1600. That year, we broke a record in the state for most scholarship dollars offered….those were some good times…
…when I was 17. I’d tell you all who I am now…but I think if you’ve been reading VSB long enough, you’ve got your own opinions on that…no need to re-invent the wheel.
So…what where you doing and who were you at 17?
It’s Friday VSB…let’s have fun today!
-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka lower.case.p aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3