It might seem strange to solicit praises for an individual saddled with a job title fraught with negativity. We have come to think of “hustle” in the pejorative sense. That’s so unfortunate. Unfortunate indeed. Hustle is an adverb and hustler is a noun. You hustle in the morning when you get yourself ready for work and the kids out of the door and on the bus stop. You hustle when someone is coming over, with 15 minutes notice, and your front room could use some sprucing. You hustle when you’re working in a restaurant desperately trying to optimize your tips. In none of those examples do we see any elements of criminal activity. All are necessary to simply undertake this job called life.
Going further. When one is employed one has a hustle. And although you may not know it the doctor who works in private practice and the plumber who is on call 24 hours a day – they are one and the same. How so? Nothing comes to them. They have to go out and seek their daily bread. So, one who has a hustle is a state of being where there is a job to be done autonomously – without directions from any other individual. A man or woman who has a hustle is the boss. They are the captains of the fleet and truly, on a daily basis, determine destiny.
Let’s go to examples of hustlers. These examples do not include criminals or evildoers. A pimp or a dope dealer or a corner clocker – these beings are parasites. They can’t make a dime unless someone is sick, misguided, left alone in the world, or in pain. They take and give nothing in return and for that matter they don’t give anything to themselves because everything they do is situational. They have no end game, no set point, and no goals. An example of a hustler comes in the form of James Evans (the father on “Good Times”). He was working on the docks when he could get work in the cold Chicago climate. He was beating pavement with Smitty and if memory serves me he might have done odd jobs for Bookman. James Evans had the weight of the world on his shoulders. His world which consisted of Thelma, J. J., and Florida. It was his sole responsibility and there was no dispute in that fact. All of his outrage and his outbursts went towards that aim.
The entire history of Black men in America should bear witness that a hustler is a very good thing. There are people who wouldn’t have eaten, lived in a warm home, or even gone to the best schools in the land if it hadn’t been for a hustler. This individual for whom no work is to low. The hustler’s anthem is as follows: A check beats a blank. They are not of the fabric of these New Negroes who will let folks starve, bills go unpaid, because they didn’t feel comfortable with available means of employment. The hustler will shovel shit in a torrent of snow and sleet to make sure his child has shoes to wear to the prom. That’s the essence of a hustler, he’s the tough talking angel who hardly ever says he loves you, and more than likely never will. He shows you. He shows you with the sweat on his brow and the stoop of his back. She’s also the woman who works three jobs and magically leaves fifty cents under your pillow when your tooth comes out.
A hustler is not the sole property of Black America or America itself. The hustler is a universal occupation. If it wasn’t for hustlers so many of us would not be the “firsts” of our families and too many of us forget the calloused hands and feet which led us to our seats in towers of ivory and steel. But not today. Today we should take a moment in quiet reflection on hustlers and when our minds recognize the calamities which would have befallen us had we not been the recipient of such hard fought largesse – let’s praise him. And we also praise her. Praises due to the hustlers of this world and the love they bear which cannot be put into some sad, sorry, tired and tawdry words. Just feel it. Look around and see it. It abounds and resounds in our everywhere. We are blessed with the presence of a hustler. Amen.