By Freddy Morris
Oct. 6, 2021. I am where I normally am: in a music recording session working on the next Grammy-winning song. I’m in the booth with headphones on, the beat is blasting and abruptly the music is cut in my ears and I’m waved out by my producer.
“Hey, Freddy, step out for a second. The news is going crazy right now.
“Turn on CNN.” I did.
The headline reads: “South Arlington’s Mansfield Timberview High School Shooting.”
“Wow,” I thought. Temporarily the sound of music was suspended by the silence of anxiety and apprehension. What is going on?
Home for me and my family has always been where the music was. My father is a former band member and my mother a former manager of talent. We always felt comfortable around music. That music often took on different forms in our home. From jukeboxes to laughter and ruckus horseplay, we’ve bonded through the art of sound. The house we settled in in South Arlington was chosen largely in part because of its open floor plan, which allowed us to set up instruments and do family jam sessions. The jam sessions are fewer now, but the house still stands as our home and staple for the children and grandchildren.
My first thoughts upon moving to South Arlington, no less Texas, was, “Where are the horses?” I was born in a small town in Mississippi and raised in Milwaukee. I’d never seen so many non-Black people before moving here. It was a culture shock, to say the least — with things like football and religion dominating everyday life. This residential area commonly has 2.5 kids, well-manicured yards and SUVs that more than likely match your neighbor’s SUV. However, one would be remiss to dismiss Arlington as another ‘Leave it to Beaver’ enclave with little-to-no personality. Over the years, South Arlington has grown as an influencer in the hip-hop movement. That movement has allowed the youth here to have an avenue of expression; it’s also been used as a blow horn to air frustrations of suburban life that tends to marginalize the Black and brown experience.
Most recently South Arlington made national news headlines with a shooting at the South Arlington high school, Mansfield Timberview. The residents here were shocked and appalled, yet those truly in the know understood incidents like these exist, albeit in the quietest, darkest pockets of South Arlington. I refer to them as the children in the attic — we know of them, yet don’t speak of them. They are primarily minorities dissatisfied with the imbalanced order of things. In fact, they don’t call Arlington “Arlington,” but “Aggtown.”
Aggtown is a subculture within a larger culture. I would argue that it was born out of incessant need to be heard in an environment that rendered them invisible. Mansfield Timberview’s story isn’t the first time South Arlington garnered national recognition for infamous reasons. In 2006, underground fight compilations “Agg Townz Fights” went viral before virality was a thing. The DVDs boasted Arlington high schoolers brawling it out for respect and peer status at schools such as Seguin, Bowie, Mansfield Timberview and others.
In retrospect, the beauty of music is that it’s found in its tragedy. The same generation that witnessed the era of “Agg Townz Fights” has now grown up. They have children; they are mothers, fathers and productive citizens in our community. Those stories left from DVDs are now reimagined through the music industry.
Ask your friends if they know of a Post Malone. Well, he’s a platinum recording artist from the Arlington area who attended Tarrant County College. Moreover, such Black enterprises as Dirty Glove Ent from Dj Bubba, Beat Bando from Stan Cortez and DJ Souf, and Say Cheese TV’s Shawn Cotton — have all tapped into a wheelhouse of creativity transforming bad into good. As direct products of Aggtown, they pack out venues, do shows with mainstream artists and most importantly mentor the next generation of frustrated youths.
The children in the attic raised themselves with chaos as the soundtrack to their coming-of-age tales. Now that soundtrack plays more like a beautiful symphony of redemption and prosperity. South Arlington, or rather Aggtown, isn’t a bad neighborhood. It’s actually an amazing place for families, but like anything else, if left unattended, devoid of attention and care, can falter.
“Freddy!” my producer yells.
“Hey man, you are daydreaming or something. What do you think about that CNN story?”
I didn’t respond right away. Then, like a random musical note in the perfect key, it hit me. My own experience in the proverbial attic has helped shape my art and guide my life. The music for many in South Arlington has been a saving grace; that grace must be shared fervently.
I lowered my headphones and said, “We have to do more. They need us.”
Total population: 125,465
Female: 52% | Male: 48%
80 and older: 2%
No degree: 4%
High school: 17%
Some college: 32%
Bachelor’s degree: 32%
White: 61% | Black: 16% | Hispanic: 13% | Asian: 5% | Two or more: 4% | Other: 1
Click on the link to view the schools’ Texas Education Agency ratings:
Freddy Morris is a recording-artist and entrepreneur known as “Freddy with the Vest.” He’s a promoter of veganism, political initiatives and travel. He’s an alumnus of Columbia University in New York City and now lives in South Arlington.