Yanier Franklin Donald Moore(YFDM)
YFDM: My uncle was a pimp, my mother was murdered, and my daddy died a dope fiend
Tell me, with family values like this, from where should my hope spring?
My name is Yanier Franklin Donald Moore, but everybody knows me as Blak.
I was born April 24, 1971, in Cooke County Hospital, in Chicago, Illinois. I’m 31 years old approaching 32, and there were times I didn’t think I would live to see the age of 16 or 18 or 21, but here I am. I’ve been an orphan, a thief, a gang member, and a drug dealer. I’ve shot people, and I’ve been shot. There were a lot of times I came real close to giving up, but something inside kept that little candle of hope still burning, and now I’ve lived long enough to tell you my story.
Pops sitting on the toilet, needle in his arm,
Spoon still warm,
Full of heroin and charm . . .
My father’s name was Franklin Moore. They called him Black Frank. I know that he was a dope fiend or a heroin addict. I know that he was a thief, a liar. I was two when he died. He got killed breaking in somebody’s house. He stuck his head through the person’s bathroom window, and they shot him in the face.
My mother’s name was Betty Moore. She was murdered by her boyfriend with a butcher knife right in front of me when I was five years old. He stabbed her in the heart, so she was just bleeding to death. She wanted to reach out to me but couldn’t. All her blood was just like covering the ground. I’m talking about a big puddle. I watched her, you know. I looked in her eyes, and, I mean, just watching all of that life just disappear. And you just knowing this woman ain’t gonna never hold me again. This woman ain’t gonna never, you know, rub me or kiss my jaw or nothing, or talk to me, make me laugh, tickle me. You know, whoop me when I’m bad. You know, none of this. She ain’t gonna never fix me another egg sandwich. You know, just none of that. She . . . she died. It’s the end of love.
And the butcher knife of a drunk boyfriend
Ended the life of my mother . . .
Reading helped me to survive through a lot of my childhood. It was a place to go when I didn’t want to be where I was at. You know, I could open this book and climb into the pages and disappear. You know I might have been laying on my blanket, or whatever, but I wasn’t there. I was off chasing a villain through the cosmos or slaying a dragon.
My baby rattle was swapped for the shaking of dice
ABCs were substituted by the elements of vice . . .
After my mother got murdered I got passed around from relative to relative. They only kept me around for the death benefits check. Sleeping on the floor, no food, they beat me in every way you could imagine. Love? Forget about it.
And the places you will hear called hell
Those are the places I’ve stayed in.
And places where you won’t ever have to sleep,
Those are the places I’ve laid on . . .
I could deal with the beatings but to get beat and not eat, that was too much, so I started stealing. It became like this way of life almost. I could stand in line, at the grocery store, with you looking at me dead in the eyes and be sliding candy bars up my sleeve. I could walk in the store and come out with a meal, you know.
When I was about ten years old I started sleeping in vacant apartments with a bunch of other little outcast kids. What we would do is just take the boards off the vacant houses. They had electricity, running water. You know, walk the alleys or whatver until we found us some mattresses or we would break in a house, get a TV or something. We would have our own little house.
I actually remember finding a guy in the bathtub that had overdosed. We broke the window, climbed in, smelling this smell. And this guy’s in here, in the tub, with a needle sticking out of his arm, like black, with his tongue sticking out of his mouth. So you seen it, you know? I remember watching a guy get his throat cut playing dice. Everybody bent down over the dice and the guy just walked up behind him, just cut his throat with a razor blade and walked off, while this guy on the ground emptying his blood out, so it come pretty quick the lessons.
I loved to read. It would just like take me away from this harsh reality I was living. And that’s all I had. I mean, it was to the point where I would just go to the library and steal books. I was sliding, you know, two, three books up my pants. I used to put stuff down the sleeves of my jacket, paperbacks I could put ’em in my socks. I might be leaving out the library with three, four books at a time.
No matter how I had to get the light, I mean I would read by the light of the street light, streaming through the window. I would read by candlelight, by flashlight, however — it didn’t make a difference — I was gonna read.
When I was about ten or 11, I was sitting in the playground in the swings, reading — I think it was The Hobbit. One of the older cats walked up to me. He snatched my book out my hands, and he looked at it like, Nah, you need to stop reading this garbage, man. And he pulled a Donald Goines book out of his back pocket. He told me, You need to read this. He kind of walked off to the side with his buddies. I’m sitting there on the swing, so I got back into my book. He looked over at me and let me know, Man, jus check that out, what I gave to you. I opened it . . . and it was like with me first opening that book, I mean I couldn’t stop reading this because for the first time I ever read something — this was my world, this was where I lived. This was what we were living, this is what this book is about. And I ain’t never touched something this close to what I know and what I’ve seen in my life. I didn’t believe nobody could even write down what we were living. I didn’t even know what we were living wasn’t supposed to really be.
It actually did something to be that I’ll never forget. The words were so powerful that it made me like wretch. I’m talking about a book did that to me and it’s like — that was so incredible to me.
And I was the type to sell dimes and nicks to cop the new kicks before they hit the bricks.
And when most shorties had to be in the house before six, I was hanging with the older cats . . .
When I was 12 years old I found out that reading wasn’t the only way to escape into another world. Drugs took me farther away than books — and faster.. By the time I hit 13 all I wanted to do was get high. At 14 I became a gang member — a Blak Gangster Disciple. At 15 it seemed like my last flicker of hope was gone.
You know you got this little candle in this tornado. You trying to keep this little candle lit. And, like, it’s not working. And when that light is finally blown out on hope, that’s pretty much just the end of it. What do you do from there? You just walking dead now, anyway, just waiting for them to put the dirt on you.
Sixteen, 17, 18, 19 — the whole time is like a fog. Shooting at people and getting shot at, hustling every waking moment, back and forth to jail. Love? That died with my mother.
At the age of 20, my first daughter was born. The second I looked down on her, I learned to love again. I actually felt a wall coming down in my soul. I got off drugs, and even tried to find a job. I couldn’t find anything, so I went back to the only way I knew how to feed my family, and that was selling crack. Between sales, I wrote. When I was 25 I started my first novel.
I was writing this book and, you know, people would knock on the door for crack. I’m going to the door, serving the customers, you know, How many you want of this? Sell them whatever they want, then go sit right back down and write, and finish working on the book. A guy came by one night and was like, I got something you probably can use. And he had a word processor, a Brother word processor. We haggled a little bit and I ended up giving him four dime bags of crack for the word processor. I sat down and wrote.
I’d finished two novels by the time I was 26. I sent the manuscripts off cold to a publishing house and got rejected. I just gave up and started dealing again.
But everything changed on December 28th, 1998: I got shot in a drug dispute. The bullet clipped a major artery, and I thought I was gonna die.
I was bleeding real bad. It’s like, I’m getting weaker, and it start getting dark. I’m thinking, I’m finta die. And then as confusing as stuff is and people running around screaming, Where the ambulance at, and all that, everything really do become crystal clear because what the hell have I done but gang bang and sell drugs? I’m talking about nothing, I haven’t accomplished anything. What was they gonna have? A couple of my guys was gonna dress me up for the funeral, they was gonna write RIP on the wall, Rest In Peace Blak. And then maybe every now and then on my birthday, somebody would remember ”This Blak’s birthday. Other than that, nothing. It’s like I went through all this shit to die like anonymous and broke. No legacy, nothing. I always dreamed, I’m going to have this legacy. And I don’t have this. And I’m talking about, this is all in a space of minutes before the ambulance even came. All this is running through my head. And it was like, kind of like reaffirmed to me that I’m not finta die right here. It ain’t over for me.
When I got out of the hospital, I quit selling drugs and started working full-time mentoring kids in the Ida B. Wells. Last year, I tried getting my book published again. I don’t know if it’s karma or the laws of the universe, but this time it worked.
And that flicker of hope? It was like a little birthday candle in like a tornado. But now it’s like a bonfire. I got high hopes now. If I was to go penniless tomorrow or today, my book would still be there for them to say, My daddy did something! They can’t say, My daddy never did anything but sell drugs or gang bang. Now they can say, My daddy had a book out. He did something!
When I was a kid and I was reading these books, these fantasy books, I always imagined that I was the hero and fighting through all this adversity, then slaying the dragon in the end. Now I’m looking right at that dragon.
This is Blak.