A Salute to Mr. Pauline, A Hood Hero
This year for Black History Month, I dedicate my respect and honor to unsung heroes who do not receive national attention, but are legends in their communities. On January 11, 2019, South Jamaica Queens, New York, lost a legend and a hero in the person of Alex Pauline, a.k.a., Mr. Pauline. Mr. Pauline was a tall, husky, built gentleman whose appearance was that of one who was to be taken seriously, but would often showcase a friendly smile. Mr. Pauline was a husband, father, uncle, basketball coach, educator, and mentor.
Mr. Pauline was my elementary school teacher who unapologetically incorporated Afrocentricity into his lesson plans. He taught his students the rich stories of success through adversity that rested within African American history. Mr. Pauline inspired his students and basketball players to be Black and proud. Mr. Pauline was passionate about raising a nation of young people who were smart, disciplined, and self-aware. He was from the old school in believing that it takes a village to raise a child and embodied that mantra with pride. So much so that he was known for throwing the eraser or a piece of chalk at his students for being disruptive in class. Meaning, Mr. Pauline wasn’t a teacher who would “write you up” or report you to the principal or your parents; rather, he invested more energy into his practice by personally disciplining his students. The student who had an eraser or a piece of chalk thrown at him or her would earn the name “chalky” from their class.
During the late 1990s, Rochdale Village, a co-op in Queens New York, was forgotten by city officials. However, Mr. Pauline, alongside many others, ensured that the kids living in the hood had hope and were exposed to the endless possibilities of greatness. Mr. Pauline was our Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. He was our leader, teacher, and coach. Mr. Pauline was our hood hero.
As I reflect on the impact Mr. Pauline had on my life, I am challenged by his death. His death brought many people, both past and present, to his homegoing service to remember that life is not only about the success you receive but the legacy you leave behind. As I reflect on legacy, I am challenged to reflect on what legacy I would want to leave before I breathe my last breath. What kind of hero do I want to be in the lives of the people in whom I am privileged to invest?
Mr. Pauline, like many others, now joins the chorus of ancestors who have transitioned from labor to reward and are now cheering us on. So to those reading this, may we all live life with much purpose and delight so that, when it’s time for us to lay on our deathbed, may the death be the only thing we have left to do.