People cross M Street with buildings in the background.
Wknight94 / Wikipedia Commons

As I look back over my life and think things over, I can truly say that I am blessed. I am a living testimony.

My name is Reginald C. Denny. I am a native Washingtonian, born on April 29, 1964 to two wonderful parents, Amelia and Joseph Edward Denny. Both are originally from Bristol, Virginia and both are recently deceased. I am the eighth child of my parents, with four brothers and four sisters.

I grew up in Northeast Washington on 5th and M Streets, now considered the Capitol Hill district of the city.

I attended D.C. public schools from elementary through high school and was a very athletic individual. I was on the boxing and basketball teams and belonged to the Police Boys and Girls Clubs during my early teens. I also sang in several talent shows and participated in performing arts. And my grades were above average.

In the Chevy Chase neighborhood, we were considered to be poor. Yet we had everything we needed.

The only thing missing to me, in those adolescent years, was my parents.

Mom was a dedicated and proud domesticated worker who was highly respected by two prominent lawyers. And Dad was a decorated soldier of the United States Army — a recipient of the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.

But they had separated. I lived with my mom and she worked two jobs, constantly and vigorously, to provide for me and my siblings.

I was pretty much left to myself to figure out how to be a man. Ultimately, the Boys Club and the streets became my father.

(to be continued)