Steve Coachman, Dorchester

Back when Steve Coachman was coming up, the older guys had Adidas park. That was their patch, right at the corner of Normandy and Intervale. Then came the younger generation: Steve and the rest of the Intervale boys. Their spot was a little down the road.

This was in the late 80s, just as crack was sweeping through. So many stories he wants to tell from that time. Now that he’s out of jail, and making his own way, Steve’s working on a documentary about it all.

Here, in his own words, is how it happened:

“Everybody has their own history of their own street, and what they’ve been through. I’ve been (on Intervale) for a long time, so I’ve seen a lot on that street.

It’s a street that had history even before the Adidas tree situation, even before Intervale as a crew was. I have seen one of my closest friends’ father get killed, you know, right there. I seen a lot of things happen at a young age. And as I grew up, and I seen my neighborhood get more popular as it go along, I got down with that, and that’s why today, I want this story to be told.

The Adidas tree is a tree that was first started by some older guys from around my way. They started, you know, throwing Adidas sneakers on the tree—that maybe had a scuff on it or whatever, something like that, they just threw it on the tree as a symbol of unity, you know what I’m saying? And that tree made a lot of noise in the community. A lot of dudes from different areas—Mattapan, JP, South End—they knew about Intervale, and knew about that tree.

And when I started coming around, I ended up throwing about 30 pair of sneakers up on that tree, too. So I added to that mass of sneakers on the tree.

And I want to say ‘89—somewhere around ‘89—the police and the public works and the paper and everything was out there, and they cut the tree down, figuring there was so much going on in the neighborhood, they wanted to take something that was, you know, treasured, that was down for along time. And they felt that if they would take this tree down, then we’ll lose our, like, foundation—or lose something, you know?

But the tree didn’t make us. We made the tree.

So that’s why I want to do this (documentary).

The media always portrays young black men as monsters or whatever, but it wasn’t like that with us—we wasn’t monsters. We took care of ourselves, and respected everybody else, and they respected us, too.

In the public eyes, yeah, everybody says: “They’re a gang” or “They’re a crew.” But I always said it was a family. Our mothers knew each other’s mothers. We was just real close, and real there for each other. The media always gonna portray five black men sitting on the corner as a gang. Well, it could be five brothers or five, you know, business men. Regardless of what color you are, five people or more is considered by the media as a gang.

We were young men out there, doing what other young men did at that time, you know? We all sold drugs. We all tried to live that life.

Well, I’ve been in and out of jail ever since like, I wanna say ‘85. My first arrest, I was at a kid’s fair, and I got disorderly conduct, and I went to jail and got locked up without probation. I would see, you know, older guys, and I would see how they dress, and I would think, you know, that was cool. So I thought that me getting locked up, women’ll like that, you know what I’m saying?

This last time, I did 6 years and…it kinda like opened my eyes up to a lot, like: I can’t keep doing this. You know, I’m getting older, not younger.

At the time, I had one of my sons living with me and my fiancé. Then once I got arrested, he ended up going down south, and then my moms ended up getting sick and, you know, my fiancé was going through her own problems—and I can’t do nothing for nobody. I’m in prison. And I felt like if I didn’t put myself in this predicament, then none of this would be happening, you know?

I look back sometimes…I look at pictures and stuff, and old letters and stuff, and be like, ‘WOW. I survived A L O T.’

I got shot three different times. I got shot the first time and it’s like, “Okay, I got shot. I’m young, I don’t care.” I got shot again and I’m like “Damn, why am I getting shot another time?” But being young, I didn’t care. You know? I was with “It’s gonna be bullet, or it’s gonna be jail.” And I got both, you know? And I survived it.

I remember when MC first got locked up, back in the early 80s—he was one of the first ones that got locked up—and how dudes tried to come together, put money together, to get him out. Into this day, too, we still do that.

Some of us are doing other things in our life—you know, working, and maintaining our households, and married and stuff like that—but we still have that bond, to where something happen to one of us, we try to do whatever it takes to support that person.

We do the Father’s Day cookout every year. We started in ’88—right there in Adidas park. As we got older, we did it at my house a couple of times. It used to be just for the guys in the neighborhood. Then we started to invite friends. And before you know it, every year, for the past ten years, we have just a humongous cookout.

We don’t get no sponsorship from nobody. We get a permit to block the street off. We get our own entertainment. And we just give back.

Everybody brings family. We get food and drinks and it’s a beautiful thing.”

Steve was interviewed by story ambassador George Powell, who asked at the end whether Steve wanted to give any shoutouts. Here they are:

“First and foremost, I want to thank God. And I want to thank my wife for holding me down and giving me the strength to continue to move on and to better myself.

I wanna shoutout my mama. You know, if she was here, she would be proud of me. But I lost my moms in 2015. But it just makes me not want to give up, and she never gave up neither, so I don’t want to give up.

I wanna shoutout my brother—through all everything I go through, he was there with his ear to listen to whatever I had to say—I wanna give a shout-out to my brother G for inspiring me and giving me the confidence man to do something that I thought could have been impossible, but it’s not. Like Kevin Garnett, I say, ‘Anything’s possible.’ You know?

I wanna give a shoutout to all my homeboys, and my neighborhood, Intervale. I wanna give shoutouts to my homeboys that’s in prison. I wanna shoutout them, saying, ‘Terell, Jason, shoutout to my brothers.’

I wanna shoutout to Darius, Dana—my two brothers from a different mama, but they’re my two close homeboys. And I wanna shoutout to Plummer, Feve, MC, Pimpin’ Big Boo, Antwon, Burger, Goodie and G-Rocker. I wanna shout them dudes out—and my man Lebron, and Rizz, I wanna shout these brothers out, ‘cause God willing, you’ll be seeing a lot about these guys I’ve spoke about.”

Steve’s interview was transcribed by Daniel Bruzzese, a Northeastern University student. It was then edited for length, clarity and flow by Cara Solomon, founder of Everyday Boston, in partnership with George. Cara wrote the intro.