I'm a t-shirt fiend. I'm always on the lookout for something new and interesting. But also, I'm ALWAYS looking for shirts that represent a time in my life. In December, I was doing my standard holiday perusing and came across this online store selling a shirt that says, "Do The Knowledge" via Student Union NYC. What they don't even know is how this tshirt took me back to my wonder years.
I can remember that damn thing like yesterday.
I was fortunate to go to college in Atlanta, Georgia, in the late '90s. Because my mother and her family are from the West and SouthWest sides (SWATS) of the city (mom dukes is a proud graduate of Harper High School in Zone 1) I spent a lot of years playing and running around on Martin Luther King Blvd on the West Side between the Flatlands, near what was then known as the Hightower MARTA station (now H.E. Holmes), and Adamsville.
Despite all of that Westside time, Morehouse College seemed like a world away. Sure, it was a quick 7 minute drive from my grandmother's house to campus, but it might as well have been 10 hours. Nobody who lived around my grandmother, either on Peyton Place or Wisteria Lane, was from that same world that it seemed like as all of those kids at Morehouse and Spelman were from. And in 1997, I joined those ranks.
Now, the good thing about going to college in the A back then was that Atlanta was on total bubble status. This was right after the Oympics when the spotlight was placed on the city. Legions of people moved from everywhere it seemed to take advantage of Atlanta's Black opulence. Atlanta wasn't just a destination for Freaknik anymore, it was a destination year-round. People came to the A to take advantage of our good weather, low housing prices, and to see a city full of uber-successful Black people.
And it's around this time also that Atlanta became the Black Entertainment Center. It was nothing to see celebs walking around Lenox Square Mall. My college years were FULL of celebrity visits on campus for seemingly no reason other than to be there. Atlanta became Hotlanta in the late 90s, and myself and everybody who went to college with me during that time were front and center for it.
What Atlanta also seemed to become during this time was the Hotep Nigga Capital of America. I realize that hotep niggas thrive most in cold, angry environs like NYC and probably places like Baltimore and Philly, but in the late 90s, Atlanta was a city teeming with dudes chewing on those wood chew sticks, wearing their best clashing khaki ensembles with headwraps and ankh rings and Mountain Gear boots. My own sister, who experienced it all so I wouldn't have to, was right in the thick of it all.
She used to hang with niggas named Air (and probably Earth). No lie, this nigga Air sat me down one day to tell me the story of the Black man in America. I swear before God and three white men, that when his story concluded, this exchange occurred:
Air (I know his mother didn't name him Air, he seemed like a Brandon): So you see, that's the story of the Black man in America, young brother.
Panama: I don't mean to belittle your story, my G, or brotha or king, whatever, but nigga, did you just tell me the story of The Lion King?
Air: The story of The Lion King IS the story of the Black Man in America.
My sister took me to my first Soul Vegetarian restaurant where I was upset that I couldn't get cold water because it "constricts the throat from receiving its nourishment and nutritional knowledge". The West End in Atlanta was Hotep central.
Of course, I was in college at the time so I was open to hearing anything, but after I read The Isis Papers (RIP Dr. Welsing) I checked out on Hotepism. Let's put a pin in this.
I'd be surprised if there is a single soul who went to college in the AUC (Atlanta University Center - Morehouse, Spelman, Clark-Atlanta, Morris Brown, ITC), Georgia State, or Georgia Tech in the mid- to late-nineties who doesn't have a memory (and likely a fond one) of one particular location in Atlanta that closed in 2000:
The North Avenue IHOP.
I don't know if the folks from Emory or Agnes Scott ever made it that far down or over. But for the rest of us, that place was magic. You never knew who you'd see or what types of shenanigans would go down. One night, me and my friends stayed there for at least 6 hours. We had heart to hearts there, took bored trips there just because we knew SOMETHING would happen. That place was so beloved to me and my crew that during the summer before our senior year when I and a few of my other friends stayed in Atlanta over the summer, as my boy Barry and I drove to Club E.S.S.O. we noticed that IHOP was closed, and both felt sick to our stomachs as if a part of our youth had been stolen from us. We didn't go to the club that night. We just went home in silence.
RIP North Avenue IHOP.
Well, the North Avenue IHOP was the locale of one of the most memorable HOTEP ass moments I've ever personally experienced. That same night was ALSO one of the most niggardly moments I've experienced too.
I honestly can't remember who was all here with my group, but very few trips to IHOP were small. We typically traveled heavy. On this particular night, the wait for a table was long. You know how you go to some places and the wait is so long you just go elsewhere? Yeah. No. Not at North Avenue IHOP at 2am. You waited.
On this particular night, a group of dudes who were likely from somewhere in New York City (my guess is Brooklyn), clearly coming off a night of drunken shenanigans somewhere, were waiting for a table as well. What started out as a simple question turned into a memory emblazoned on my brain forever, tatooing a statement into my subconscious from '99 til.
Dude 1: Yo, what are you gonna order?
Dude 2: I don't know, son. Something with some eggs, god.
HOTEP NIGGA: Yoooooooooooooo….do y'all niggas realize that if you order an egg, you're ACTUALLY ordering an UNDERDEVELOPED CHICKEN?
Dudes: Nigga, what?
HOTEP NIGGA: Yo, DO THE KNOWLEDGE, KID. An egg comes from a chicken. An egg COULD turn into another chicken if we didn't eat that nigga. But we eating that nigga so he won't be no chicken. But what he is…is an UNDERDEVELOPED CHICKEN. DO THE KNOWLEDGE, YO. DO THE KNOWLEDGE. IN FACT, from here on out, nobody gets to order eggs, fam. We ONLY order UNDERDEVELOPED CHICKENS. If you want an omelet, my nigga, you ask for a 3 UNDERDEVELOPED CHICKEN omelet.
Dude 1: Dog…are you serious right now?
HOTEP NIGGA: Tell me where I'm wrong, b. What is an egg? It's a baby chicken who ain't hatched. We eating baby chickens. But they aint formed or they would be hatched baby chickens or just regular chickens. Chicklets? What the fuck do you call a baby chicken? Yo, a baby chicken thats what you call it. So we eating these niggas who ain't grown up yet. Or even ain't full baby chickens in the egg. They're underdeveloped. So when we eat eggs, we're eating underdeveloped chickens. DO THE KNOWLEDGE!
This went on for at least another 10 minutes before they were whisked away to their table on the far end of the restaurant and we to ours so I don't know if they stuck to the plan of ordering underdeveloped chickens or not. Which didn't matter because this was ALSO the night that a fight broke out in the parking lot of IHOP and the 40-something, Black woman manager of the establishment went back into her office, and came out with a gun tucked in her apron waistband and went to disperse the crowd.
Yes, the manager of IHOP got a gun and walked thru the restaurant in front of all us patrons as a sign of force to get folks to stop fighting in the parking lot. Man I miss the North Avenue IHOP.
From that day forward, my boys and I kept telling people to "do the knowledge" and its a statement and story that's stuck with me for at least the last 16 years. THAT's the stuff of legend.
As you can imagine, I definitely copped me a "Do The Knowledge" tshirt. So shouts to Student Union NYC for creating a thirt that all of my boys can relate to and wear and remember the good ole days of college in Atlanta in the late 90s.