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June 20, 1993|M. HARRIS

"You don't hang with us no more," one of my homeys said the other day.

And I go, "I been busy, man. You know. Like my Big Brother and me, we got things to do. Just kickin' it on street corners, man--that gets old."

And my homey goes, "What big brother? He's still in the slammer, last I heard. What you do in visitin' hours that's so special? Huh?"

He's right. When I go see my real brother, it's sad, man. He says: "Stay out of here. Even in prison there's gangs. There's no gettin' away from it--somebody's always ready to stick a knife in you. So I don't hardly sleep." He tells me: "You're just 11, though. You still got a chance."

But when I ask him what I should do different from what he did, his face kind of goes dead. Even out in the prison yard, where we can talk at a picnic table, it's like he's behind this thick glass. I can't touch him, somehow. And I know he doesn't know the answer.

But my other Big Brother-- he knows.

He's this dude lives out on the Westside, man, but he comes over here all the time to hang with me--you know, take me places, help with my schoolwork. "Stay in school," he keeps telling me. My real brother tells me that too, sometimes, but he didn't do it. My Big Brother did. Maybe that's why it sounds so different when he says it. He goes, "Don't you dare quit," in this Big Brother voice of his--real serious. And I don't.

It's made my mom happier than anything that's happened since my dad died. "If your father was here," she says, "maybe your brother wouldn't be in trouble. And then maybe he'd be around to help you. The way things are. . ."

Mom means the neighborhood. The drugs, the drive-bys, even the school falling apart whether I go there or not.

"I just wish your brother had a friend like you've got," she says, and cries a little.

It was hard to explain all this to my homey.

"Street corners?" he goes. "If you was still hangin' with us, man, you'd know what's happenin'. We got a little hustle goin' now, pays more than books do." He grins at me. "You want in? Meet me here Sunday."

And I guess I might have thought about it--if I didn't have my Big Brother, that is. Sunday is today, and we're going to the Big Brothers of Greater Los Angeles' second annual Hero Roundup from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Calamigos Ranch, 327 S. Latigo Canyon Road, Malibu. The public is invited. It costs $20 to get in. That includes food, drinks, games and door-prize tickets. Information: (213) 258-3333.

My Big Brother just might get a White Hat Award for all he's done. He deserves it, man.

"You could come too," I told my homey.

And he goes, "I got better things to do."

And I go, "That's what you think."

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