Significant Moments in Black History: Mike lands a punch on Stacey — which nobody had ever done — and becomes an Inglewood legend

OPINION: With the entire middle school watching, Mike went from being the new kid from North Carolina to the guy who stood tall against Stacey. Salute.

Trent Cameron, Duane Finley and Sean Nelson as Young Roland, Young Slim and Young Mike in "The Wood." (Paramount Pictures)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Middle school was a tough time for a lot of us. Between puberty, social anxieties and trying NOT to stand out too much, middle school can be hard on any kid. It’s even harder on kids who move across the country in the middle of their 8th-grade year. Such was the case of young Michael Tarver, who moved with his mother and younger brother relocated from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Inglewood, California, when his mother got a new job. 

Thankfully, though, on his first day of school at his new middle school in Inglewood, Mike ran smack into Lavenio “Slim” Hightower and Roland Blackmon. They saw a fellow who looked lost on the playground in the morning and realizing that he would get himself killed in those Inglewood streets without some homies, took him under their wing. Luckily, they also had the same homeroom. Things were looking up for Mike. 

And then she walked into the room. She was Alicia, the most beautiful girl Mike had ever seen. Mike fell in love immediately, which I suppose happened to everybody who ever met Alicia back then. During lunch, though, Ro and Slim dared Mike to grab her booty — a terrible, terrible idea both legally and for Mike’s romantic hopes — and as you can imagine, Alicia wasn’t having it. She told Mike that she was going to tell her brother, Stacey, an older gang member in the neighborhood, who would beat him down after school. She called Mike a “punk” for good measure, and well, you know where this is going. 

At 3 p.m. on that January day in Inglewood in 1986, the entire middle school waited for the fight. Mike was afraid but understood the inevitable: You do the crime, you have to do the time. Or in this case, you have to fight the fight. 

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Right on time, Stacey showed up and asked Mike important questions: “You think my sister a ho or something? You think she a toy?” Mike said “no” to both questions and added that he thought Alicia was pretty. At that point, Stacey, the neighborhood tough, triggered by a young man calling his sister “pretty,” pushed Mike into the fence. Roland and Slim tried to stop the fight, but Stacey asked them the most important question in Black America, “HEY, Y’ALL WANT SOME OF ME?!!?”

Mike, though, was no punk. He told them that it was his fight and then he marched right into the history books, not towards victory but towards eternal respect and his new status as a playground legend. 

Mike told Roland and Slim that it was his fight. Stacey, surprised by this, turned towards Mike and said the only reasonable thing he could say at that point: “WHAT!”

And then it happened. Mike took a swing with his right and landed a punch on the left side of Stacey’s face, a feat never before accomplished. Both Mike and Stacey seemed surprised by this; Stacey took a stunned second to think about what happened before defaulting back to the original plan to beat down Mike, who, let’s just say, ALSO expected the default plan and took that beating like a G. 

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending; a few months later, Mike shows Stacey, again, how real he is, leading to Stacey actually trying to help Mike get a dance in with his sister at the 8th-grade dance. Stacey would even give Mike his nickname, a nickname that stands to this day: Big Mike. 

Everybody who ever ventures to Inglewood hears all of the second-hand stories from those who were allegedly there at school the day that Big Mike from The Wood landed a punch on Stacey.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).

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