Yes, You Can: Homeless Boy Gets a Scholarship to Harvard

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by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World

The story of David Boone reads like a movie.  David was homeless all throughout high school, sleeping in the park, staying with friends and getting caught up in unnecessary beefs with local gang members.  Working through all of this, David found his way to acceptance at Harvard University. talks about David’s journey, and it is one of the  most inspiring stories we’ve ever heard.

His book bag became his pillow, stuffed with textbooks first — for height, he says — and papers on top for padding.
In the morning, David would duck into his friend Eric’s house after Eric’s parents left early for work so he could shower and dress before heading to class at Cleveland’s specialized MC2STEM High School. David expects to graduate from there next month as salutatorian of the new school’s first graduating class.

“I’d do my homework in a rapid station, usually Tower City since they have heat, and I’d stay wherever I could find,” he said.


In spite of the obstacles, David persisted.  His family fell apart after their home was fired upon by local gang members.  He was pressured to join gangs and they even tried to jump him.  Getting out of high school was an objective that had to remain secondary to getting out of his situation alive.

 In the summer after eighth grade, he said, gang members shot at his family’s Eddy Road home. He attributes that mostly to the issue of his sister’s boyfriend, but his whole family was affected.

No one was injured, but the family split up. His mother went to stay with a boyfriend, he said. His three sisters went to stay with friends and he went to his friend Eric’s house — for a while. Though Eric’s family took him in for a short time, he said, he couldn’t stay there permanently.

There is no question that David is an absolute hero.  He might even be a genius.  He has navigated the amazing obstacle course known as “The Life of the Black Male in America” and succeeded with flying colors.  His story certainly tells all of us that if we put our minds to something, we can achieve it.  So, for those who are reading, I encourage you to reconsider the obstacles in your life, stop complaining and go for the destiny that belongs to you.

While I applaud David for what he has overcome, I have to also ask a more difficult question:  Why does the life of a black male in America have to be so damn hard in the first place?  Why must so many of our young men be able to dodge bullets, overcome inferior educational systems, get out of bed hungry, and step over crackheads in order to get out of high school?  Do we expect 20 million men to be as strong, focused, disciplined, cautious and lucky as David?  I hope that’s not our plan for overcoming systemic oppression in America.

We must work for a day when David doesn’t have to be a super hero in order to get a chance to live a normal life.  In fact, I bet David isn’t normal at all.  He probably suffers from trauma that will affect him for a lifetime (at least I know I would).  We must get rid of the world in which 5-year old children are shot at birthday parties, and mothers are shot while holding their babies (two crimes that happened in the last two days).  We should fight for resources that provide opportunities and avenues for the Davids of the world to be successful, even if they are not brilliant or perfect.

Besides that, congratulations David, you have an amazing story to tell.  You are also a reminder to the rest of us that anything is possible if we refuse to give up.  Way to my brother, you represent what black men are all about.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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