Duke's Diary: A Page From My Life
During the blizzard of 1978, Indianapolis was in a state of emergency. With treacherous driving conditions, how was an expecting Ms. Davis (mother) going to make it to the hospital to give birth? The adventure began in a van driven by Alfred Pryor, as he navigated icy roads with swirling, gusting winds and blowing snow. After braving these conditions miraculously, they made it to the hospital. They had a son and named him Charles Edward Pryor a.k.a “Duke.”
I grew up wanting to be the “Duke” himself, John Wayne, the world’s most famous cowboy. Playing cowboys and Indians on the regular with family and friends was a lot of fun. Then, the Michael Jackson era came and I wanted to be a pop superstar just like him. Eventually, I gravitated toward sports and played them all. Track to baseball, football to basketball, all I knew is that I wanted to be successful in whatever I did. I wanted to have a better life and I wanted to be the successful one in my family and in my neighborhood. I knew that one day I was going to be a fresh-to-death, fly businessman who worked downtown in the high-rise office buildings that I could see from my block. I dreamed about working there one day. Yeah I wanted to be the young man that other kids looked up to, just like I looked up to the older guys in my neighborhood. When people heard my name, I wanted them to say “That young man turned out alright…made it…I knew he would make it.” But, the guys I looked up to never really made it. I didn’t know how I was going to get to the top, but I was determined to be successful.
I attended an inner-city public school system until the 11th grade, when my mom decided that I needed a change. In MY mind, things were going great. We had won a city championship and our basketball team thought we were going to be the next big story in Indiana basketball. From the seventh grade, we’d all played together with the same coach. The chemistry that makes a championship team was there. Then it happened. I had been going to school out of my district and my mother decided that it was time for me to go to school where I belonged.
This was a huge change for me, going to a new school and leaving all of my friends behind! I went from a school with mostly minorities to a school in the suburbs with very few minorities. I never imagined it in a million years! When I made the move, there were plenty of people upset with me, thinking that I purposely broke up the group, the friendships and most of all the basketball team.
On the first day at my new school, I had a lot of new experiences. In many of my classes I was the only black guy. Talk about an uncomfortable feeling…Yes sir! I had never felt that way or been in a situation like that. I didn’t feel like I fit in. I only knew about three people in the entire school. Like it was yesterday, I can remember going in to see the basketball coach and telling him that there was no way I would make it at this school. He wrapped his arms around my shoulders and said “Son you’ll be just fine in a few days.” I rehearsed in my mind what I was going to tell my mom. I walked in the house and told her that I couldn’t do this. She told me the same thing the coach told me. Sure enough, things got better and when basketball season rolled around, I was back in my element, which helped my transition and adjustment to the new school.
I guess that was just one of those tests life gives you and you have to pass before you can get closer to your dream. I graduated from Lawrence North High School having some of the best times of my high school career. I still wish I had gone there from the beginning! Those two years helped me learn how to adapt to any environment and still be the person you want to be. No doubt, you have to be able to do that, no matter where you are.
The journey to reach my dream of having that downtown job, the fresh clothes and a new ride continued…with a few detours. College was next and I ended up changing schools three times before I found my place in the sun. The plan was to play hoops and get that degree. I’ve always had an edge about me, mixed with just the right amount of toughness, balanced out with a confident swagger. Eventually, I had to lose the chip off my shoulder and learn a little humility. I managed to hook up with the right people and began to meet some decision makers…yep, important people in important positions.