Zennie Abraham with giant burrito at Oakland Connies Cantina On Grand Ave

Today Is My 59th Birthday: Zennie Abraham’s Take On His Day

This is going to be a video-blog, so I suppose this will serve as a kind of script for it. I say that because I always have some other thing to say other than just what I planned.

I was born August 4th, 1962 in Chicago, Illinois to my parents Zenophon Abraham, Sr., and Earline Patricia Abraham, formerly Hines. We lived in and owned what was called a two-flat building at 7427 Wentworth, right here:

7427 Wentworth Chicago
7427 Wentworth Chicago

Yep. We owned that.

I’m not going to go on a line-by-year review of my life. I am just starting here because it’s where I started. And, after years of caring about what some folks thought about me, then accepting the fact that I was different, then realizing we’re all different, then wanting a wife and family, and my own company to run, I now realize that I just can’t freaking control everything. And that’s a scary realization, but it’s true. You really have to have faith in God, and give thanks for what you have and what you’ve been able to do.

One thing I have is my dear Mom. She managed to figure out creative ways to show me the world in a way that was, at first glance, beyond her station. She worked for United Airlines and so we traveled and I got to visit and see places and meet people that a person who did not have a Mom with that kind of access would not have. Plus, I’m black. In other words, United Airlines helped her overcome the racism that would normally block her kid from experiencing what he did.

We traveled First Class a lot, on United. And so there I met a lot of white people, as they say, who were nice to me. It was a dramatic counterpoint to growing up in a Chicago where, as a black kid, you had to fight or play basketball well to be happy in. Me, I was an only child who developed a stack of magazines like Popular Science and Aviation Week and Space Technology – especially that last one. I loved reading about cities, cars – well, mostly about those things.

But the bottom line is United Airlines, in a way, raised me. In the Friendly Skies I was valued by older folks who were of all colors, but mostly white; in Chicago, I was devalued by younger folks, all black. That’s just a painful fact.

In school, in Chicago, for the most part, the friends I had then were not a lot. There was Ralph Allen, who was into being a kung-fu master and brought his home-made noon-chucks, or whatever they called them, to school. But that was at Avalon Park and after we moved from Wentworth, over to 7908 B South Kimbark. We moved because my Mom divorced my Dad. It was a move that saved my life. My very condition was harmed by him. not treating my Mom right. I wound up in the hospital under a tent to breath in because of asthma. When we left him and Wentworth, I got better, fast.

But, I’m not going to dwell on that, and I will pivot to go back and say that I was what you would call a nerd today. It was the pre-tech-era, as I will call it. I could not learn at Avalon Park, had my money taken from me by a group of kids I knew who was led by a guy named Arthur who had a bad body odor problem (and who did make amends for his action), and was eager to get out of the school. We did. We moved to California. To Oakland. That was April 8th of 1974.

I remember the day because I did not want to move. I was excited about attending a lab school in the Chicago North Suburbs, but Mom thought I would not relate to others well if I went. But the reason I wound up in that position was one of my teachers at Avalon Park decided to have me tested. I had went to the principal of the school and told him I could not learn there. Yep, I did that.

Anyway, it was an IQ test, and my first result was 156. The teacher could not believe it. I did not understand why. I knew I was pissed off with her, and it to this day feels bad. It was racism. She was white. She all but said it was because I was a black kid, but she did not let that slip out. I was too young to know what racism was, anyway. But I was pissed.

She re-tested me, and I don’t test well under pressure, so the result was less: 131. She went with the low score. Talk about fucked up. She could not handle that I scored out at 156. Here is this chart I just found to show you where I was at:

  • 1 to 24: Profound mental disability
  • 25 to 39: Severe mental disability
  • 40 to 54: Moderate mental disability
  • 55 to 69: Mild mental disability
  • 70 to 84: Borderline mental disability
  • 85 to 114: Average intelligence
  • 115 to 129: Above average or bright
  • 130 to 144: Moderately gifted
  • 145 to 159: Highly gifted
  • 160 to 179: Exceptionally gifted
  • 180 and up: Profoundly gifted

So, I was either “Moderately gifted” at the low end, “Highly gifted” at the high end, or some where in between. But the bottom line I personally see now is that I was and am gifted (assuming I can still use those scores). All I know is that episode charted our course to Oakland. Why? My Grand Dad was in Oakland, and Mom wanted to get me out of Chicago.

I look back at all of that, and think of the good times and the places Mom took me to. I also think that my mental state of being whatever level of gifted I was caused me to be ostracized at the time. It also, painfully, may have caused me to be in a situation where I should have been around my true peers. The fact is, my true peers were mostly white, some black and other minorities, and all creative. But as I think about it, I managed to meet a lot of people who fit that bill, anyway. And when I think about friends like Bill Boyd and Lars Frykman, then it all makes sense.

The point of this is you have to build a life that’s right for you, and what happens is that the Lord has a way of building that life for you. That’s what I realize as I write this.

I was never a person who joined the black student union because I wanted to be part of the world, and not hidden from it. That was a choice that was made for me by my black peers at the time as a kid in Chicago. I talked white and they let me know it. I was a Star Trek Fan, too. Yes, The Original Series. So, you go where you think the world’s better for you. The fact is, the best world for me was not really about race so much as friends who like me and vice versa.

Oakland really let me be me. That’s what I love about Oakland. I could build my world – a world where I was accepted for me.

But the fact is, in this post George Floyd World, there seems to be this silent push for black folks to segregate. You know, I realized I am just not that person. As much as I point out racism, it’s because racism is a crime and it harms me and you. So, don’t do it. And there are some in Oakland who are black and do a good job of reminding me of that – that I am not in their group – in their way. That’s OK. I got my own private Idaho, it’s a company and a Delaware c-corporation I call Zennie62Media, Inc. and you know what?

I like it just fine.

Happy Birthday to me, part one, is done.

Stay tuned. And visit Connie’s Cantina at 3340 Grand Avenue, and then walk over to The Alley Cat Bar at 3325 Grand Avenue.

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