Dear Fetty Wap: Straight Outta Paterson

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On the surface, you and I  may appear to have very little in common–but I would like to believe you and I both reflect what is possible when one refuses to give up on one’s dreams. We didn’t allow our zip code to determine who we would become and where we would dare to go–we’re both straight out of Paterson, New Jersey.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not one to listen to hip hop much but even I couldn’t avoid listening to the buzz generated by Trap Queen. While the hit song propelled you forward in the charts and in the music industry, it also propelled hope forward in our hometown Fetty. As the first industrial city in America, once an iconic and vital part of the silk industry, Paterson flourished. But today, much of the perception of our hometown is one that strikes fear and leaves many dreams deferred.

Saturated by the violence that is ripping our community apart, I can’t help but think of Armoni Sexton, Genesis Rincon, and Nazerah Bugg, just to name a few of those we’ve lost too soon. Fetty this is why I am rooting for you, because you made it out. You persevered. You know what the streets are about, and you decided you wanted your narrative to be different. You had the courage to shift the narrative and your hard work, when met with opportunity, has allowed you to defy so many odds.

For the past couple of years, my dreams have had me traveling across the nation speaking to various audiences, from Ivy Leagues to community colleges in inner cities, my dreams have taken me far beyond the city limits of Paterson. The excitement of it all doesn’t stop me from remembering that no matter how much I succeed in my career, I will always be that little disabled, poor, and gay boriqua from Paterson. It is my hope for you that you enjoy the excitement as well, that you never lose touch with the little boy in you who dreamt of performing on stage.

From the BET Awards to performing on stage with Taylor Swift, your star is on the rise Fetty. As others and myself continue to cheer you on, it is my hope that the Universe continues to protect you. That you continue to represent what talent and brilliance can bloom from the blood stained concrete in Paterson. May you never lose perspective or your sense of self. Keep on your grind.

From one Patersonian to another, keep jamming and soaring to the top.

Sincerely,

Mark

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