You always come across those students who will forever stick to your brain. For me this is definitely one of those students. Traveling back in time, he was in the 10th grade and he really stood out from the group. He was slightly reserved and I remember his wild haircut and red hair.
During the first day of the summer program we were running, I introduced myself to him. He introduced himself to me as Ahi, and that was pretty much that.
During the program we were getting notices that someone was tagging a number of buildings on campus. With the high expectations I put on our students, I had no reason to believe that any of our program's students was any part of the tagging that was going on.
Then things were getting a little too close to home. Tagging was starting to appear in areas frequented by our students so I had a change of mind. In respect of muralists, taggers, graff heads, etc. I won't announce his tag name, but being involved in the urban world that I'm in outside of work, I figured it out that it was Ahi.
I made some calls to my staff; his teacher, our head residential counselor and my coordinator and him. When they stepped into my office, I remember it clearly, Ahi had the sheer look of panic in his face, lol. I sat everyone down and presented some "research" that I had acquired on Ahi, and then asked him if he was the undercover tagger.
Mad respect to him, he stepped to the plate and admitted he was the guy who did it. I then went into the entire history of our program, in a nutshell to inspire Hawaiian students like himself to take our people towards a positive direction through their education and/or career pathways. I also spoke about the genealogy of a 20+ year program started by an individual, an educational guru who had and still has high hopes for the work that I and others do, and jus' from this one not so good move, it can all be gone.
You can only imagine how bad he felt with the tears that flowed from his eyes. After my talk with him and the rest of my team, I left things like that and had everyone return to their work, and Ahi back to the program, and before doing so I let Ahi know if I would decide to continue to keep him in our program.
Before leaving my office, I asked him, "Hey, you got a blackbook?" And wiping his tears he told me, "Ya I do." "Bring it." I responded.
Came the next morning, I had made my decision, and I had Ahi return to my office. I know he was prepared for the worst. I sat him down and revealed my "urban" persona. I let him know that in my "other world" I'm HaynMade and I schooled him on the art movement in urban/hip hop culture. For hours we browsed the internet and I gave him the history of the many 808 n beyond graff/muralist heads, and he jus' sat there trippin' out that I knew what I knew.
I also schooled him that many of the graff n muralist heads were taking their work from the walls and putting into a form that would be able sustain them and their families. I shared how many of the graff artists n muralists were turning their 2D characters in three-dimensional form in the urban vinyl world, how they were turning from concrete to canvas and holding exhibitions known, respected and admired by people throughout the world, and getting the well deserved credit in the art world as a style that holds up to that of pointillism, abstract art, surrealism, etc. I jus' threw a whole bunch of ish at the guy and he jus' sat there trippin' lol.
I then asked him for his blackbook. It was tattered (like many of the artists I know) and there sketches that absolutely floored me. This young prodigy had sketches of "tribal" patterns, comic characters, portrait sketches, lettering, etc. etc.
I then told Ahi, "Come with me, we're goin on an excursion." His shoulders hunched forward and he followed me. I could only imagine what was goin' on in his head and he probably thought he was goin' back home and kicked out of the program, lol. I didn't say a word while we drove in my car to the location that was merely jus' a few minutes away from my office, the Bookstore, lol. When we walked in, Ahi seriously had no clue what the hell was goin' on, haha, and I took him to the Art department of the Bookstore.
I began hooking it up with Ahi, I grabbed Prismacolor markers of nearly every shade, canvases, Sharpies, a blackbook and a set of professional graphite pencils. I piled the supplies in his arms and told him, "Here, take your talent off of the walls and onto paper n canvas." He stood there shocked and we walked over to the checkout area, expenses paid on my behalf. We had lunch and after that was done, I dropped him back off at the dorm where everyone was staying, shook his hand and that was that.
I heard through his roommate "C" who spoke with me during the program who was in his room when Ahi returned. He told me that he too was eager to find out what was gonna be Ahi's outcome,
"So what Ahi, what happened?" Ahi replied to his roomie "Brah, I think my life jus' got changed." "C" told me what Ahi had told him about the day. As he retold Ahi's experience, I stayed silent n jus' grinned, lol.
Throughout high school, Ahi and I kept in touch and he let me know what he was up to and he continued to participate in the program I manage. From his continued participation he attended numerous conferences, built up his leadership capacity and even interned with one of the top graphic artists and fashion gurus here in the 808 with Sig and Kuha'o Zane, two very good friends of mine. He was also the guy behind the shirt I wore at the very first "Feed My Tummy" show I curated for my buddy Marine.
After graduating, Ahi went to college for a bit, and continued refining his art skills. He landed a job as a tattoo artist. The man's work is ridunculous.
Well fast forward to today, I got a text message from Ahi and he let me know that he's moving back to his hometown on Hawai'i Island, and that he wanted to give me something. Being that I was still away on vacation I told him to jus' leave it on my office desk.
To my surprise, he left me this...
A pair of one off kicks designed by the one n only Ahi, along with a letter he wrote,
"...I just wanted to leave you with something. If it wasn't for that one summer when I thought it was cool to write all over stuff and you figuring out it was me, I wouldn't be where I'm today. That blackbook in a way, saved my life. O'ahu has been hope to numerous opportunities and it was all possible because you saw more in me..."
How's that for a friggen tear jerker?! Lol. I quickly grabbed my phone n texted Ahi thanking him for the gift he left for me, I'm still floored.
In case you're wondering about the design, here's the lingo straight from the artist himself,
"The design is basically about (Hawaiian chief) Kahekili, in my mind, one of the most important people in regards to tattooing in Hawai'i. Also the duality of his life being both a warrior chief, as well as an artist."
In the society we live in today, many are quick to judge, and many are quick to turn their backs to those who go against the grain and standout amongst the masses. But what if, just what if we all take the time to mentor, guide, lead, whatever you wanna call it, those individuals who hold great potential and jus' need it channeled in the right direction?
Like the many Ahi's in this world you jus' never know the difference you can potentially make in someone's life if you jus' lend a hand, or in in this case hand off a blackbook.
Continue to inspire...werd...