Interviews

When I Was a Kid

Lyk Singleton, age 13

William Camargo

I‘m not gonna lie, I pretty much hate math, I really do. Well I tried my best, it was one of the big tests, that if I passed I would have been gone, but I had one more point to go. It was one question that pulled me down, it was algebra—one question that made the difference. My math class, it went well, a little bit hard, but I had tutoring every day afterschool to help me understand. I understand some things, but when you start from the bottom and try to get to the top, the top is way too hard. I tried my best.

Malyk Singleton, 13, lives with his grandmother and four of seven brothers in Washington Park. His grandmother says that the people in their building call him the “Little Pastor.” “You can call me Lyk,” he said when we first met. “Stands for Love, Young, King,” pointing upwards on “King,” towards God. We talked over pancakes at Currency Exchange Café on Garfield Boulevard. He wore a light blue windbreaker he had covered with drawings, and a pair of blue, round glasses. When he reads the menu, he adjusts the glasses as if he actually needs them to see, though he admits that he wears them because he thinks they look cool.

I really like Social Studies because it teaches you about the culture, what’s happening in our neighborhood now, the history of what happened back then—it tells you so much about many things. We talked about how Martin King fought for us, how this all happened, why did they do it, how, why did he die, why would they do this. Without him, we just would have been down all the time.

Who’s we?

People, all kinds of people. Martin Luther King said he would die for this world if he had to, he would go to the place where black people could be free, where we can do what we want to do, so Martin King taught me a lot about what’s going on in the world right now. I learned a lot from him.

I got like a hundred comic books. I look at them to get ideas to make up my own. I make my own comic books. When I was a kid, I used to like to draw a lot. I would make up super heroes. So I said, well I can make comic books because I know how to draw stick men, but my brother said, “Don’t draw stick men, draw real people.” And he said he would teach me how to do it.

“Fist Builder” is about a man named M.J. Smith. He lives a very hard life so he lives in a basement. In Arizona. I’m trying to make up a new city name, maybe like Robin City. But I chose Arizona because it’s my favorite drink. I’m like, “Arizona, why not?”I just love it. Do you like Snapple?

In MJ Smith’s story he sees a big explosion, it’s like a meteor hits earth so the river explodes in the background, it’s gonna be green. He’s been on the way to school, but he’s too late to go to school so he has to go to detention. He ditched school to go home, he stopped for a minute then buildings started falling, there’s bricks everywhere, and he falls out for a minute, but the doctor finds him, Professor Johnson. Then there’s the first villain, his name is Randall Sacks, aka Stone.

I made like three of the books. Six pages each. There’s an event I think next week at the Arts Incubator, so I might put them out by then, let people look at them, tell me what you think about them, what I need to do, sell them. I gotta make copies, though.

There’s this new high school my friend told me about. It’s called ChiArts. It’s a good school, I like it. There’s art on the walls, you can design your locker, I’m like, “For real?” There’s art, music, studio, I’m like “For real?” So I’m gonna check that out. You have to audition. I’m going to audition for music, with my guitar I guess.

I want to be famous for rapping, for making music. There’s a studio that my friend said we should go to. If we pay $300, the studio would be ours. So I guess we’re gonna save, I’m like, “How we gonna save $300?” It could be right now if I just keep saving. Right now I have $50. It’s a start.

And if music doesn’t work out?

Comics, cartoons, art. That’s about it. My heart says never give up, so if I can’t do that, I’ll find a job, be a waiter or something. Do you have to pay money to be famous?

I think so.

Really? I thought you just show your talent to the world and you just become famous.
Famous, what I’m thinking of is writing and being what I want to be, having a family reality show. Well, I watch a lot of them, some of them good, some of them bad, but I want this reality show to be about how my family is. Because when I be famous, they’re not gonna notice my family, and I want them to know my family, how they is, so everybody can know what’s good. Less drama.

I want everybody to say, “I think I know that kid! We was friends!” I want girls to say, “Hey, he asked me out once.” I want to be famous beyond Chicago. If no one notices me it’s ok, but if I show them my talent, they gonna notice.

This is a rap I made like three days ago. It goes like:

I’m a superstar, riding in the hood I got a fresh car
Call me seven, seven cookies in the cookie jar
Everybody look I’m finn’ to jump off of Mars

Look at my dream, my memory, I went too far.
When I close my eyes, I’m dreamin’
Open my eyes, I’m believin’
When I rap I be saying what I’m meaning
You gotta take responsibility,
Rap ain’t all about rhyming, it’s about the history
I’m like Scooby Doo looking for a mystery
Mom was callin’ me seven when I was eleven years old
Grew up on the streets, it wasn’t funny when I was poor.
Seven.

Why seven?

Well, I have seven brothers, so we go by one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. I always remember the name seven, cause my momma always used to call me that. Number Seven. She always said we’d go by name and number, so I said “Momma what do you think my name should be when I grow up, when I get famous?” and she said “Your name should be Powerful.” I’m like “What?” She said, “As a matter of fact, they should call you seven.” I’m like, ok, cool.

Right now, my momma is struggling, she can’t be in the house all the time. She got a good job so I understand. So my grandma says she’ll take care of us. The only thing my mom gotta do is pay the bills and grandma takes care of the rest. I see my mom every week. I think she works at the bank. We lived with her when I was a kid.

I’ve lived with my grandma for five years. We lived on the East Side and we moved here in 2010, when my grandpa died. My grandma had trouble with the neighborhood, she didn’t feel comfortable without my grandpa, she said “If I move to a new neighborhood I can start a new life.” So we started getting along with new people, so I enjoyed it a lot.

I got a lot of friends. I got at least one enemy. She’s a girl. Well she’s always picking on me. She’s just punching, hitting on me, talking about me so I talk about her, we be laughing a lot, so we’re like frenemies. She’s my age. Like my grandma says, if a girl’s picking on you, that means she likes you. So…

I learned how to treat girls from my brothers. My oldest brother, he’s cool. He teaches me about the world. He teaches me about how he grew up, what I should not do. He tells me to be careful about the girl you choose, because if you get a girl, it comes out to an endless ending. He had problems with his girlfriend. If we have problems, we talk first, because you know, fighting won’t solve nothing. That’s what my grandma always tells me. Talk first.

I got in one fight. Last year, with my best friend, we were fighting over a girl. The girl liked me and he was really jealous. The girl gave me a hug and she didn’t give him a hug so he actually punched me in my face real bad. I had to wake up and we just started fighting. We were best friends, so I talked to him, “Bro,” I said “We can’t fight like this. We like music, so we can’t fight, because we’re going to do music together. We can’t be fighting over one little thing. I mean she likes me, you know I can talk to her about giving you a chance, cause you know I barely even like her.”

But here’s one thing I could tell you, I tell him that there’s many girls in the world, you can’t just get this one. I mean it’s hard to get a girl, I can teach you some, because we’re always there for each other. Anything he need, I’ll be there and anything I need, he’ll be there for me. He’s like a brother to me. So we got over it.
How do you get a girl? Well I would say, “Hello, how you doin? My name is Lyk. I don’t even know you,” I might as a friend, but when I ask her to be my girlfriend, I have to get to know her first. So you know I say “You’re a good friend,” and then for three days we just talk about what’s going on, and then I might ask her, “Do you want to go on a date as a friend?” and you know, talk more and get interested.

I have a girlfriend right now. After camp was over, my brother hooked me up with this job and that’s where I met her. It was a lawn mowing job. She dropped a cutter in the grass and I had to help her out because there were a lot of bees so I got them real quick. She said, “Thank you.” “No problem.” And I said, “What’s your name?” She said “Aaliyah” and she said, “What’s your name?” and I said, “Malyk but you can call me Lyk.” And you know, three days, and everything was good. I took her out here and she liked it, so she said she liked me and she thought that I was cute, like “okay cool.” She said, “Do you have a girlfriend?” I was like, “No.” I said “Do you have a boyfriend?” She said “No,” but we didn’t ask each other out yet. We took a walk in the park then we asked each other out. And then it started.

To be honest, we went out for a month, so we said let’s boost our relationship to another level, so now I take her to a lot of places, so we spend a lot of time together. My grandma feels good about it. She thinks she’s a nice girl, I bring her to meet my grandma and my brothers.

Next year, I think my grandma says we going to move to Mississippi, but I’ll still miss Chicago. Nothing bad is happening in our neighborhood, the street is good. But my auntie lives in Mississippi. I don’t know why actually, grandma never tells me everything, just what we’re doing, what we should do.

I want to go to University of Chicago. Because you know, it’s good and it’s close by my house, so anything I need I can drive over to my grandma real quick, five minutes away. I really want to stay in Chicago. My grandma wants us all to go to college, to get it over with, to get a job, take care of her. Last year I took my little brother school shopping for school clothes, my grandma didn’t have to do anything. And my uncle, he helped out and bought us new shoes. Anything my grandma need, I will do.

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