For the past several weeks I've talked to my friend's kid about doing something to help him promote his business, a shop on Spring Street called Life Central: Oils, Herbs, Teas and Tees, where you can buy anything from artwork, candles, soap, jewelry, books, and music and find DJ and music production services.
Travis Green co-owns the store with his cousin Montye Green. I've watched Travis grow since he was a seed. Now he's a 30-year-old business owner. We're sort of family since his uncle was married to my second cousin.
Travis' family and I started out on the peninsula's East Side, an area now being emphasized as a drug trafficking center. In the midst of that neighborhood, where drug deals happen and the unemployed and disengaged hang around, good kids train and compete at Martin L. King Jr. Swimming Pool, the city's only Olympic-sized pool. It seemed as long as the illegal drug deals were going on outside the fences of the swimming pool, the residents from Mt. Pleasant, James Island, and West Ashley were happy to hold practices and swim meets without direct contact with the disadvantaged community surrounding them.
That changed when a West Ashley swimmer was robbed at gunpoint while waiting in the parking lot for a 6 a.m. practice to begin. What were the parents or coaches thinking to let a kid wait for practice before dawn in a parking lot in that neighborhood? Now those parents and some others want a greater police presence.
Travis and the boys he grew up with in the East Side may not have had many of the advantages of the swimmers, but they had committed parents. Illegal drugs and crime may have flourished, but the adults in their lives taught them the values and skills needed to overcome the negative influences.
Travis attended Sanders-Clyde Elementary, Rivers Middle, and Burke High schools on the peninsula. He and his friends, Christophus Powell and C.J. Brown, shared a love for music.
The boys were introduced to singing by a group of ambitious singers called the Block-Six, made up of Travis' uncle, Chrissy's father, and four of their other friends. Though they never had any major performances, Block-Six would sing any time they were given the opportunity — at neighborhood parties or amateur competitions.
Travis says the constant exposure to music and the tenacity of the group influenced him. He played French horn in Burke High's marching band and sang in the choir. So when he graduated Burke High School, he went on to St. Augustine College in Raleigh to study music and communications. While there, he met Dr. Nat Fulwood, a blind musician and music producer, who became his mentor.
As a sideline, he's learned to produce handmade jewelry and body oils. He was taught by two other men in the community, jeweler Eugene Jenkins and incense and oil peddler Brother Apple. In 1998, he started Dynasty Aromas in the Market and opened this new store in May.
In the 10 years since Travis came home from college, I've seen him grow into manhood. Sometimes I'd hear the music emanating from his downstairs apartment. The kid always has manners and always seems to stay busy doing something productive.
Travis' story is one of many about young black men who are making it out of disadvantaged neighborhoods without getting caught up in the traps of the crime that surrounds them. They do it quietly without fanfare in a world where they can't expect help from the outside.
Travis says young men need to know they can make it past the bullcrap even though it may be difficult to see any other answers. There always are options. Young Blood, I'm proud of you.