Wu Wisdom: Lessons From The Projects

The following is an excerpt from RZA's "Tao of Wu."

If you live in the projects, you don’t leave them much. Everything is right there: laundry, grocery store, check-cashing place—all set up so you can live your whole life in a four-block radius. I’ve lived in at least ten different projects in New York—Van Dyke in Brownsville, Marcus Garvey in East New York, Park Hill and Stapleton in Staten Island—and they all taught me something, even if they were lessons no one would choose.

Imagine you’re eight years old, going to the store with thirty-five cents to buy a pack of Now and Laters and a bag of sunflower seeds. You get there, three teenagers choke you with an umbrella, take your thirty-five cents, and buy cigarettes. That’s the projects—math and economics class on every block. Imagine you live with eighteen relatives in a two-bedroom apartment across the street from the courthouse and county jail. You wonder why the jail and courthouse are so close to the projects; when you get locked up there a few years later, you learn. You learn civics, government, law, and science every day—especially science. Because the projects, like jail, is a science project. One no one expects you to leave.