Stolen Scenes

Losing more than an iPod on the streets of North Philadelphia.

By Mike Newall
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 27, 2006

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Illustration by Paul Hoppe

Hamid Floyd never saw the punch coming.

He'd never really been in a fight. When the 16-year-old Cardinal Dougherty senior imagined being in one, he'd dream up some dramatic scenario in which he'd heroically defend the honor of a girlfriend or rush to the defense of a friend.

Like a scene from a movie.

Hamid was more comfortable viewing the world through lenses--specifically, those of a Canon mini camcorder his grandparents bought him for Christmas three years ago and a Sony digital camcorder he bought with $1,000 he earned working at the parish rectory.

With his cameras Hamid directed a series of ensemble comedy sketches he called Philly Basement and a short film about teenage dating called Change of Life.

He scored a $2,000 student scholarship from KYW NewsRadio and took first place in a talent competition sponsored by the House of Umoja. Next fall he hopes to study communications at Temple University.

None of Hamid's film projects deals with the dangers of street life. Though he lives at 32nd and Fontain streets in one of North Philly's most violent neighborhoods, it's a world he doesn't know much about.

"Kids made fun of me for how strict my grandmother was," says the small-framed Hamid, who wears glasses and uses the expression, "excuse my French."

He said this just the other evening while sitting by a window in the rectory office, his jaw still wired from the punch.

"She didn't let me outside past 7:30 at night, and wouldn't let me play off my block until I graduated elementary school," he says. "She wanted me inside, safe in my room, away from the streets and everything that comes with them."

One Friday last month Hamid was finishing up drama guild practice at the church hall, rehearsing a short play based on that week's Bible reading. Tonya Dorsey, the drama guild director, offered him a ride home, but since it was a cool summer evening, he said he'd wait for the bus.

He put his iPod on shuffle, and leaned against the brick wall in front of a dentist's office, waiting for the 48. Dusk was turning into night as he listened to Michael Jackson sing "The Way You Make Me Feel." He was wondering what kind of impression he may have made on his girlfriend's parents a few nights earlier.

Hamid's iPod started playing D12's "Fight Music" just as a commotion broke out in front of the Chinese takeout across the street.

A large group of kids scattered away from the store and toward the bus stop. One kid noticed Hamid nervously stuffing his earphones into his pocket.

The kid whispered something to another kid, and then went and stood on the corner while the friend came and stood next to Hamid, staring him down. The rest of the group stood nearby.

Hamid turned to see if the bus was coming. That's when the fat, meaty fist landed on what felt like the entire side of his face.

Hamid's jaw cracked inward and his head slammed against the brick wall. The fist kept coming, and then there were more fists. Through the chaotic din Hamid could hear someone screaming, "Give me your iPod, pussy."

Somehow Hamid managed to get off the ground. He lost his flip-flops, and ran barefoot down 29th Street. His throat felt cold from the blood he was swallowing.

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