Ch 1: Monster

Today, was just like every other day in South Dallas. While the world fantasizes about stepping foot in AT&T Stadium to see the Cowboys play or bringing their kids here to enjoy a family day at Six Flags, the Dallas I know has a totally different appearance.

People love the glitz and glamour of any city they know nothing about. The reality is, every rose has thorns and it doesn't matter how much you pray for rain to cool off the Summer heat, rain leaves mud. For me and my family, we live in that mud.

Yesterday, they let me out of juvy. As my mom drove me back to our home, the city still looked the same. Nothing had changed. When I stepped out of the car onto the cracked concrete of my mom's driveway, the hot Texas sun beatdown on my scarred brown skin. It was a neighborhood filled with struggle, where poverty, crime, and heavy drug influence loomed over the residents like a dark cloud. Rows of worn-down houses lined the streets. Broken glass littered the sidewalks, evidence of shattered dreams and lost hope. Even with all the brokenness, to be with my mom and my little brother again felt much better than the cell I have had to sleep in for half the year.

Coming To America

My mother named me Miguel after my grandfather, Miguel Garcia. He came to America with hopes of building a better life for his family. My grandfather went through a depression when my grandmother died. Then, my grandmother's sister, Isabella, was deported one week after my grandmother died. They didn't even care that she was grieving the loss of her sister. She wasn't born here and they took her. One minute she was burying her sister and the next minute she was being sent to a country that she honestly knew nothing about. She had been in America since she was a child but she wasn't born here and never handled her paperwork properly.

My grandfather ran a garage. He fixed cars. My dad, Andre, worked for him for years. That's how he and my mom met. They were High School sweethearts. My dad, a Black man, was killed in active duty when I was in Middle School. He was our hero. He grew up in Foster Families and never knew his real family. He said my Grandfather became the father he always wanted. My grandfather taught him business and kept him off the streets. Without him or my grandfather, my mom has been raising us alone.

My Mom Is A Fighter

Raised by a single mother, I know the harsh realities of this neighborhood all too well. My mom, Maria, works two jobs just to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. She is a resilient woman, with a strength that seemed to defy the odds stacked against her. But despite her best efforts, the weight of the world seem to rest heavily on her weary shoulders. It is common to walk down our street and see discarded needles laying in the gutters, a reminder of the heavy drug influence that plagued the community. The sound of sirens fills the air, a constant reminder of the crime that seems to seep into every crack and crevice.

Growing up in this environment, I have seen friends and neighbors succumb to the temptations of the streets. Two of my childhood friends were killed before I even made it to High School. It was all too easy to be drawn into the web of gangs and violence, a path that could easily become a one-way street. The allure of money and power, even if only temporary, was sometimes too strong to resist.

After I brought my things in the house, I told my mom I was going for a walk. "Be careful, Miguel. Don't stay out too long. You have to watch your brother while I go to my next house," she said. My mother worked at a diner most of the day but on her off shifts, she cleans houses.

As Miguel walked past a rundown basketball court, he couldn't help but feel a sense of belonging, a temporary escape from the harsh realities of his surroundings. Basketball had become his sanctuary, a way to channel his emotions and escape the troubles that plagued his mind. He had a natural talent for the sport, honed through countless hours of practice in his neighborhood and on makeshift courts.

Miguel's athletic abilities had garnered attention from his high school basketball team, earning him a reputation as a rising star. But his dreams of a successful sports career came crashing down one fateful night. Caught in the middle of a gang fight that erupted on his way home from practice, Miguel found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite his attempts to distance himself from the violence, the authorities didn't see it that way.

He was suspended from his high school basketball team for a whole season, a punishment that felt like a betrayal. The basketball court, once a refuge, now became a reminder of the opportunities he had lost. The dreams that had burned bright within him now seemed distant, almost unattainable.

The consequences of that night reached even further. Miguel was sentenced to a year in juvenile detention, his freedom stripped away. The walls of the detention center closed in around him, a stark reminder of the consequences of his actions. He wrestled with guilt and shame, grappling with questions of self-identity. His family didn't have money to hire a good lawyer and in Texas, the Hispanics and the Blacks all have a few things in common... both communities are underserved, overlooked, unwanted, and seldom given a voice. Nobody ever gave Miguel a chance to share his testament of the events that sent him to jail. All he wanted now was a chance to be heard and the opportunity to redeem himself.


Steph Curry was the piston in his engine. He had studied Curry's every move. In fact, his nickname on the basketball team was "Baby Steph". Nobody could hold him. During a battle with their cross-town rival, Miguel scored eight three pointers in one game, leading his team to the playoffs. He played Varsity when he was only a Freshman and no team knew how to defend him.

His jumpshot was like lightning. His release was so clean and effortless. It was as if the nets were under his spell. He learned very quickly, as long as the team is winning, people will love you. However, as soon as you make the smallest mistake, they will wash their hands with you.

Later that night, Miguel's younger brother, Carlos, went into one of his tantrums. He started throwing books at the wall and repeating the same words over and over. "I be black. I be black. I be black. Yea. I be black. Yea. I be black." It was a phrase he often repeats. No one in the family understands what he is trying to say. "Carlos! Carlos! Calm down," I told him while stretching my arms out to provide a visible border around him without touching him. Touching him during these moments cause a higher level of reaction that can be hard to minimalize.

Having an Autistic brother comes with it's challenges but I learned a long time ago, I... am my younger brother's Steph Curry. He comes to every game and he is my loudest fan. When we win, he runs to the floor to hug me and he loves to announce, "Miguel my brother. Dat my brother. He my brother. Dat my brother."

Everyone understands my brother and most of the kids at my school are cool with him. In fact, he is such a supporter of the basktetball team they made him an honarary member of the team. In between the quarters, Coach lets him push the mop up and down the court to wipe any sweat or particles from the court. Carlos does this job with pride and he takes it seriously. High fives are his thing. He gives everyone a high five. Even when we are losing in the game, he gives the players a high hive and says, "It's ok. My brother gon' make us win. My brother-Baby Steph. My brother gon' make us win. My brother-Baby Steph. My brother gon' make us win." He'll say it over and over.


The only thing that can bother me or my mom is to see others picking on my brother. I have to protect him. My mom can't do it by herself and I know it is what my father and my grandfather would expect me to do. They say I am a monster on the court but I learned myself to be a different kind of monster that night after practice when my brother and I were walking home. Even though I have put it behind me, I don't regret what I did and I would do it the same way if it happened again.

When I spoke to the officers of the juvenile detention center petitioning for my early release, Officer Howard asked, "What is going to motivate you to stay on the right path this time if we decide to release you early?"

I looked at each one of those board members and I told them. "My grandfather never went to college and never got to see his business flourish. My dad never went to college and didn't get a chance to see his dreams come true. My grandmother never went to college. Her sister was deported when all she was doing was trying to work to one day become a nurse and she never got to go. My mom works two jobs. All the support we get from the military is to help with rent and expenses for my younger brother. She never got to go to college either."

As a tear worked its way to the corner of my eye, I stood with confidence and spoke with assurance. I told them, "This time I know what's at stake. I know what I have to do. Nobody in my family ever got a chance to go to college and follow their dreams. This time I can't mess up because I have to be the first."

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