By Lucky Colter
The human body is a complexed organism. There are a multitude of varying mechanism working together to give life to each body part that will allow it to function. The role of each spur is no less valuable than the other, the capacity to which it functions is particular to its purpose. It is the heart that keeps the body functioning, if you remove the heart the human body will collapse. Metaphorically speaking Justin Harvey was the respiratory system of the Harvey family. The respiratory system’s primary instrument is the lungs, its purpose is to provide oxygen to ALL organs within the body via the bloodstream giving each body part the ability to carry out its objective.
Justin Harvey was a man of courage, character, love and he would have an entire room of people laughing hysterically. After moving from Orangeburg South Carolina to Brooklyn New York at a very young age it was not long before Justin would meet his future wife. Jessica Jones is a fierce, loving mother with a zero tolerance for bull. Jessica Jones and her siblings were raised in the Ocean Hill section of Brooklyn. The two families met in the late 60’s, introduced by her older cousin, Jessica at the tender age of thirteen and Justin was fourteen. Back then it was not unusual for children to develop a strong friendship with someone they met at the playground. If you were lucky you would meet a family with common interest, beliefs and/or have similar situation leading to best friend status. Eventually, these two families would become extremely close and become an extended family. The Jones’ and Harvey family were intertwined like such, relationships were cultivated between the two families. Some resulted in marriage, some created offspring, others entered into troubled relationships that did not end well.
Jessica was not at her best when her and Justin met, she was grieving the loss of her mother and being the youngest of eight this hurdle was strenuous for the teen. Shortly after becoming acquainted, the two became inseparable. For the next few years Justin would be her outlet to heal from her loss; while Justin would dodge the chaos of his family life. To this day our family would discuss the Harvey children’s disunion as a family. Their family unit was not fully intact, and the siblings were separated at an early age due to family drama. Their aunts and uncles would come and take one or two of them and unfortunately one of them was not Justin. It made it extremely easy for Justin to leave home at a young age. Justin and Jessica found a peaceful serenity within each other. For several years they went on to do all things that made them happy. In 1971 they welcomed their first bundle of joy, Justin Jr and when his son came into the world, he decided that he would search for a career that would offer security.
He continued to work odd jobs to support his family however his fondness had always been for cars. He would find torn down vehicles and spend his free time developing it into his very own masterpiece. His love for restoring cars made him an excellent mechanic. His work ethics resembled those of that era, work hard in all that you do, be sure to take good care of your family, provide for them, love them, teach them all that you know and most of all protect them. Justin had surely proven that ones up bringing does not have to define all that you become, it could very well make it challenging to navigate through life but the choices you make are your own.
For the next eight years Justin and Jessica would bear seven more children, five boys and three girls. Winter of 1979 our parents moved from Ocean Hill in Brooklyn to Borinquen houses in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. Five children in tow and one in the oven (the one bun in the oven was yours truly). Being in their early twenties at this point they were an attractive pair, Justin’s physical appearance was intimidating, he stood at approximately 5”11, skin of that special kind of dark chocolate, 230 pounds of solid man with hands the size of a newborns head. He did not start confrontations, however he had no problem finishing one. Jessica was 5”2, 130 pounds, caramel brown skin with big beautiful bright eyes. She was a natural born fire cracker, she was with all the smoke at any time, any condition or any place. Jessica was overly excited to move in to their new four bedroom, one and a half bathroom, huge living room, large kitchen and a separate dinning area.
She could not foresee the struggle they would face due to her excitement; being one of three African American families in a predominantly Latino community that alone would be a recipe for chaos. Justin Jr. would love to tell the stories of how they paved the way for us to go outside freely and to some degree enjoy safely. When we first arrived to the neighborhood my brothers would go outside and have to fight their way to the local bodega. He mentioned that a large amount of Latino families in that area strongly felt that we did not belong there because of our ethnicity. The triumph was the day Justin Jr had enough He convinced the second oldest, Jamel that it was time to prepare for war. Finding objects around the house to assemble homemade weights they began to workout day and night, this went on for some time. They refrained from going outside for a long period of time before it finally happened. Justin Jr stood in front of his little brother and said “today is the day, we are going outside and whoever wants to fight we fight and we gonna kick each one of their ass” and it was so. Their walk to the bodega was different that day. As they approached the store they observed several boys standing in front of it. The boys in front of the store began with their nonsense as the two brothers expected and Justin Jr said “lets go” he looked over to an older guy who stood nearby watching. The guy took one look at Justin and asked “you really want to fight all of them” Jr. replied “yes and I’m gonna beat them all”
“Alright young blood, you can get a fair fight with each of them” the guy said
He then commenced to whooping all they asses one by one until there was none left. That day Justin Jr. turned things around for all of us; not that we did not have any issues when going outside but all who tried it thought twice before they tried it. Ninety percent of the time when any of us were done fighting the opposer, they immediately wish they hadn’t.
Earliest memory I have…I was about eight years old finishing up with dance practice at the local community center, I absolutely loved dancing. This particular night we were preparing for a dance competition and boy oh boy I was super elated. As I sat and waited to be picked up, I could hear my dad coming. Remember his love for cars; apparently placing two mufflers on his vehicle made it even more enjoyable and extremely easy to hear him coming. We were able to hear the loud noise a block away while he drove, coming from the dual mufflers. I dashed to the front door while waiting intensely, he was taking my sisters and I roller skating. As soon as I got to the car I jumped into the back seat with my sister; anticipating an amazing evening.
Right before we took off he said,
“Change of plans we are going on a road trip instead”
This was turning out to be an awesome day for THIS little girl. Before we pulled off, he turned the music up extra loud, “Everybody’s talking all this stuff about me, why they just don’t let me live” Bobby Brown’s My Prerogative played in the background, at the very next light he jumped out the car, the door flew wide open and he started dancing. He must have thought he was an excellent dancer, maybe in another lifetime. My dad loved taking trips down south and frankly we did too. Although we slept most of the ride it was something about the music playing, dad singing, and the wind striking my face, the short hotel stays and the quick stop for grits with cheese that made this ride even better. For those of you who are not familiar with the south there is absolutely nothing better then a bowl of southern grits.
We grew up expecting my dad to have these sudden travels and outings. On a whim he would double us up in his car and take us to Coney Island, I cannot remember the number of occasions that we actually got on any rides, however, I can tell you that the majority of trips we took were for the succulent bright red candy apples. There were nights my dad would come home, sit in his chair, enjoy a bag of peanuts and chase them with a Colt 45…
…for those of you who don’t know who Billie D Williams is you are missing out!
My little sister and I were in the care of my dad’s brother Leon. I thought we were walking to the supermarket for my mother, however, half way there my uncle stopped to have a conversation with some guy that escalated. Not that long after my uncle raced to the pay phone and immediately got into a heated conversation that seemed intense. We stood by the pay phone for quite some time, then I heard it, the mufflers I knew my dad was not was not far. Justin jumped out of the car, whispered something to Leon. Then I heard the order,
“Take my baby’s back to the house”
We may have walked at least twelve feet before I heard the commotion behind us, as I glanced behind me I saw my dad in a scuffle with the guy my uncle was having a heated conversation with earlier. I guess there was nothing to talk about. I cried all the way home.
Jessica could not have been more pissed, the yelling coming from that little women terrified me, and she was enraged. Through the yelling I could hear her say “he was defending his brother as usual”. Being so young I could only remember the emotion of fear, as time went on, I realized that I was entirely too young to process much else. Although, the situation had me completely panic-stricken, in my eyes my dad was protecting his family.
From the end of 1990 to mid year of 1991, it was a time period that the entire family would like to completely erase from memory. Unlucky for us, it will become a timespan we will never forget. It was as if the universe was holding a grudge against the entire family. Within 9 months my two oldest brothers were hospitalized on two different occasions. They were both in critical but stable condition. I barely saw my mom because she was constantly on the go, running to and from the hospital. As I thought back, her physical appearance was a clear indication that she was in need of rest. She lost almost 20 pounds from her already thin frame, she had dark circles around her eyes and her skin had become pale. And just when things seemed as if it had eased up, the universe took one more swing. My dad came across some people he had once called his friends. Putting the pieces together over time I learned that my dad worked for a man name Big Ant. Big Ant was into a lot of illegal activity. He owned an auto repair shop and used it as a cover up.
My dads love for fixing cars was what landed him there. Apparently, over time they developed a decent relationship. They not only work with each other they also partied together. Somewhere in between the work life and the partying life, money had became an issue. Big Ant began to demand that my father should pay him what he owed him. My dad believed that Big Ant miscounted somewhere in the middle but Big Ant disagreed!
Right then and there was when the problem was born.
Big Ant decided that he would solve the dispute by physically harming Justin so he and another man drove Justin to a isolated area and proceeded to beat him with the gun; as if his size was not a factor they could not get Justin to weaken, he fought like an ox. My dad eventually fought both men off and managed to escape the vehicle. Big Ant not liking the idea of being defeated he extended his gun and shot Justin in the back of the head. Justin busted out the back seat and took of running, he ran for some time before he lost consciousness. All the commotion caught the attention of residents near by who ultimately called the police. When my mother arrived to the hospital, she could barely contain herself. The doctors explained to her that my dad was in critical condition and they had done all they could to save him he was placed on a ventilator and his condition was monitored daily.
Several months had gone by and my dad’s situation would worsen as time progressed. Jessica sat there day after day praying he would get better. My mother received the call she was dreading. If you never heard the cry out from someone one with a broken heart, take it from me you don’t want experience that pain. For the next several days, Jessica who would attended many functions, never indulged in any alcohol. She began to drown her sorrows into a bottle of Bacardi. I stood close to my mom even then, I would sit close by just in case she remembered and I was there. That day came, while I was passing the kitchen she called my name. I sat Indian style on the floor at her feet for hours while she talked, sobbed then talked some more… then it happen she said to me
“Your dad always said to me that he prayed God would take him first because he could not do what I do…”
While she spoke, I could see her entire body language change. Almost as if she had stepped into another one, one that was in a healthier place emotionally, mentally and physically. That is when I noticed the metamorphosis. That is when I realized she stepped out of her sorrow and took on her role as chief, Jessica is the heart of the Harvey family.