The Rat that Got Away

Images The Rat that Got Away is a memoir by Allen Jones.  Jones grew up in the Bronx, in the Patterson projects, during the 50's and into the 70's.  His story is extraordinary as he is the rat that got away.  

What is inspiring about this story is Jones transparent voice about the realities of living in the Bronx during these times.  I have read so many books on this particular subject, inner cities that pull you in.  A social problem of drugs, oppression and lack of hope that has been repeating itself for decades.

The Patterson projects were originally supposed to be havens for middle class families.  As time went on, due to what was happening in the world (JFK being shot, MLK, etc), the economies for black men became more and more difficult.  Kids that were living with even solid families who wanted to support their children as all parents do were losing their kids to the streets.  The pull of drugs, money, power.  Jones who was an incredible basketball player found himself living 2 lives.  One life, the one that was dealing heroin stayed swept under the carpet until he was arrested and found himself at Rikers Island.

He got a second chance because the judge released him to his parents to try and straighten his life out.  He soon realized that the key was getting out.  Jones found a way to get himself a scholarship to a private HS school in Connecticut which led to college and eventually to playing ball in Europe. 

If Jones had even a little more guidance (as you read the book you realize although his parents wanted to do right by him, they really let him figure out his own way) he probably would have ending up playing at better schools and eventually for the NBA but bottom line is, he got out and still lives in Europe and is a productive human being with 2 kids.  That is beyond commendable.  He is fully aware that many of his peers who he grew up in the projects never got out dying young through violence and drugs.  

I am a liberal out of the womb but there is something to said, as Jones said, if more kids found themselves pulled out of inner cities, put in a private schools where teachers actually cared about them, we'd find less young black men in prison.  I believe charter schools are attempting to do that but they are still sitting down the street from areas that pull you in regardless of your intellect.  It gets harder and harder when you become a teenager and are dealing with the peer pressure.

A wonderful book, really interesting life.  Mark Naison who wrote the book with Jones, wrote his own memoir of growing up in those times called White Boy: A Memoir which I am going to pick up.  The Rat that Got Away is a book about hope and should be read by everyone particularly those who are working with families in inner cities to try and figure out how we stop the endless cycle of drugs and despair in our country. 

Jones is a role model to kids in these communities but unfortunately these role models leave in order to find their own sanity and success. They never come back because if they came back, they'd never get out.   That is what Jones figured out.  He had to get out or he would find himself in the exact same situation as his peers, dead or in jail.

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