This article was originally published in the April 2016 edition of Veer Magazine by Josh Whitener
“The first song I wrote was called ‘Magnificent’ and it was a depiction of my everyday life, my everyday struggle in Park Place and my aspiration, my hope for my life being better,” Archie Boone Jr. said.
He’s plainly dressed with a beige sweater and large rimmed glasses. His hair is short, clean cut and faded. He adjusts himself, straightens his back and bushes his shirt as he sits in a folded metal chair in the main lobby of The Focus Center, a nonprofit community outreach center in Park Place. Surrounding him are four older black women awaiting a meeting to discuss mentoring resources at Park Place School which is adjacent to the building.
Boone grew up on Colonial Avenue bordering Park Place, a high crime rated neighborhood during his upbringing.
“A lot of the stigmas that were in Park Place we were catching secondhand. Park Place at that point in time, in the early nineteen, it wasn’t a place you would walk around or hang around,” Boone said. “There’s a fence that goes around one and a half acres of property and there were shootings on the other side of the fence. It was just a real scary place.”
On Christmas Day 2013, Boone, along with friend and hip-hop collaborator A-Rock Dasupa, released “Made in Virginia”. Boone’s lyrical style in the song “Norfolk State of Mind” releases some of his fears surrounding Park Place growing up.
We used to pick cotton off the shores of VA Beach/where them Campostella fellas found a body in the creek/So I sleep with my eyes open-hoping they were joking.
Growing up, Boone was raised by his single mother who struggled to make ends meet with two sons, but was also actively involved in the neighborhood and community.
“My mother…she was an art teacher so a lot of the work that she did, mentoring, tutoring with people here in Park Place, I was a part of that,” Boone said, “I would come to work with her.”
Boone attributes his mother to helping him learn the responsibilities of a man at a young age. Her community involvement was one of the key factors in Boone’s early adolescence.
“I was a pretty smart kid,” Boone said. “My mom kept me in after-school programs.”
He went on to several schools, earning a scholarship at Norfolk Academy where he took classes early that allowed him to be academically ahead of his peers. This led to a scholarship at Radnor High School in Wayne, Pennsylvania.
Upon graduating, he came back to Norfolk at age 19.
“Here I was, back in Park Place, with all my childhood fears,” Boone said. “I went through a lot of anxiety and self-defeat.”
Park Place, he said, did not change. Boone admitted he was lost with no real direction in life. He admitted to abusing substances as a way to numb his anxiety. He turned inward to figure out how he was going to make his life different and meaningful in a neighborhood that provided little growth for it.
“Maybe a year or so [later], as I was going through all this anxiety, the biggest thought in my mind was am I going to live to be twenty-one,” Boone said.
The nature of Park Place, as Boone describes it, is almost its own entity; a character in his life that was perhaps the antagonist against his desire as he strove toward betterment and self-fulfillment. However, his brother, Aaron, exemplified the neighborhoods unruly aspects.
“From the age of fifteen to twenty he was stealing cars, selling drugs, running women. So, all of that was in my house,” Boone said. “I wasn’t afraid for him, I was more so afraid of what path I was going to take. Do I have any way to achieve, to actualize myself in my community? I didn’t feel I did, so I stopped writing music.”
Boone said that his brother told him that “going to jail was the next best thing as going to college”. In that, he conveyed to his brother Archie, perhaps unintentionally, there were lessons to be learned from both sides; that two completely different paths could be taken when living in the environments they were both raised in. Aaron is currently incarcerated in prison for crimes Boone wished to remain private.
It became Boone’s catalyst for change.
Boone’s way of coping with the stress of living in Park Place encouraged him to write song lyrics more for his own therapy. He began reading the Bible as well. Boone’s mother, then Jennifer Boone, was active in the church, but to Archie church didn’t have the same affect.
“To me, the words, that was my therapy,” Boone said. “I took what I understood, my interpretation of Scripture and just painted these pictures of Park Place.”
He began writing again.
“The first song I wrote was called ‘Magnificent’ and it was a depiction of my everyday life, my everyday struggle in Park Place, my aspirations and my hope for my life being better.” Boone said.
He did a lot of praying, meditating. The goal, he said, was to focus anger and anxiety into a positive motivation for writing.
“If I had one song, one meditation: what would it be?” Boone said. “My hope was to become someone here in Park Place that people could respect without buying into what it was offering already.”
Boone was hired as the Program Director at The Focus Center, a nonprofit community outreach center in Park Place, from 2014 to 2016.
Boone has said that, over time, he’s learned how to approach youths in Park Place with a special way of helping them channel their anger and frustrations through various programs and helping them cope with living in poverty and negative influences. Boone says he uses music as “metaphors” or “parables” to teach kids through programs like “The Boys Club”, an afterschool program aimed at mentoring James Monroe Elementary boys.
“Kids need an outlet for poverty, they want it. Because it takes so long for it to happen we need something that really deals with the details of our lives,” Boone said. “I knew that music would not, and could not, be the one thing that I use. It couldn’t be the only thing.”
Boone’s pride is latent. Instead, he conveys a selfless manner in the explanations of his endeavors with The Focus Center. He is confident, however, in how relatable his story is to the youths he mentors.
He continues a musical career that has evolved just as he explains.
“I have about 60 songs published under the name “Vanzetti”,” Boone said. “Once I got married, had children and raised my family I just felt more of a need to come [out from] behind of all that and just be me. I had to find myself.”
This self-actualization has led to his current music production and performances.
“When I did that, I found out that I was just Archie. A-R-C-H-I-E: All Righteous Children Have Inherited Earth. So that’s my promise,” Boone said. “Through righteousness and right standing with God…we can become heirs to the Earth. I feel that even though I’m a man, I’m still a child seeking his father”
Boone creates his lyrics from honesty and faith. His aspiration and dream is that his lyrics reach those who are in need of a relatable story like his.
I’m from a city in Virginia, that’s a part of me/Logically, it’s got to be/Real, like the God in me