James “Man” Banger, Jr. & Ameerah McCollins Tribute Page

Wow where does one begin??? There are so many stories that I could share about these two. The many memories that were shared with them and fellow classmates are numerous. For the most part, all of the memories were great and everlasting. However, some are not necessarily meant to be shared in person and not on the internet. The reason being is simple: Digital recording is a great tool that will come to bite you in the you-know-what someday. Call me paranoid, but it is what it is.

I kicked this idea around to do a tribute page to two people during my school years that made us smile, laugh, cry, and do things we knew we weren’t supposed to be doing, but we did anyway. So after months of well, just not doing it, here I am behind my trusty MacBook, with my daughter snoring next to me, crafting this. The way I figure, I will share a memory or two of them, and if anyone wants to post a memory in the comments section, please feel free to do so. My intent is to use this as a way to honor and celebrate JB & Meerah’s lives, and to be joyful that we had the privilege and blessing to know them, for truly it was.

James Banger, Jr.

Now when I first met JB many years ago, we did not get along at all. We were part of the new group of students at John P. Freeman Optional School, and like “newbies,” we were trying to figure out where we were going. I just remember this kid who was always trying to talk trash to any and everyone, including me, and sang Bobby Brown and New Edition songs. If you would have told me that just a short year later we would become friends, I would have probably thought you were smoking something. That is exactly what happened though.

James was highly intelligent, charming, laid back, and thought he was Bobby Brown. The cool thing about him though was his ability to be loyal. What I mean by that is if you were a friend of his, he was a friend of yours forever. I remember once in 10th grade, I left my lunch money at home. I did not realize this until just before lunch period. I was pissed and just decided to sit in the lobby. He saw me sitting there and asked if I was eating lunch. I told him I wasn’t, and just as I said that, my stomach started rumbling. He asked me what was really wrong and I told him I left my lunch money at home. He gave me $5 and told me to go eat. That school lunch pizza and tater tots never tasted so good! The next day, I ran into him and tried to give him his money back, but he wouldn’t take it. He told me to buy myself a new t-shirt…lol!!! I would pay him back a year later with a trip to Dixie Queen, and a story that is too hot for the internet…lol!!!

Ameerah McCollins

This is the only pic I had of Ameerah, so yeah it is dated. Seriously, a Charlotte Hornets is truly a throwback!

Where should I start with Meerah??? She was very witty, funny, smart, and just a joy to be around. We hit it off instantly and would do everything from buying and selling candy together, to playing practical jokes on each other, and other people.

I remember bringing some stink bombs to Freeman and she wanted to set one off in Mrs. Kyles room before choir practice. Mrs. Kyles was the choir director for the school, and the animosity (or as we called it back in the day, the “ana”) stemmed from an 8th grade field trip to New Orleans. The stink bombs were made of glass and filled with liquid. Once the glass shattered, the liquid would spread and the funk would hit the fan. Well when I was trying to hand the package to her, one of them fell out of the box. The thing shattered in the cafeteria & the after school program had to suffer instead of the choir class.

Seriously, I could go on forever about these two, but I will hold off. If you have a story to share, please do so. May the laughter begin…

3 responses

9 06 2010
Tasha Horton-Casey

What a wonderful idea…a tribute page to James and Ameerah! I have many wonderful memories of James from the good old Freeman days. At the time, James and my best friend Dynisha were an item. James and I had several conversations on the phone and that is when I really got to know him…only in middle school can you talk to your best friend’s boyfriend on the phone and everyone is ok with it. James was the mastermind behind me “going with” Terrence…lol! James was a wonderful person and although we lost touch after high school I have really fond memories of him. I recall him writing on the back of his senior head picture, “Make me proud!” I hope that I have. He was a just one of those special people who touched alot of people.

10 06 2010
Joseph "Julio" Stansbury

I just wanted to say “hats off” to you Joel, for taking the time and initiative to finally do this. I have a ton of memories from my “J.B.” years. I remember the first time I met Man. I started going to JPF in the sixth grade, even though James didnt come until we were in seventh grade. Anyway, I used to have to sit outside after school to wait until my mom came all the way from Riverview Elementary where she was a teacher. ( sidebar: who remembers when Odie got hit with that rock?? If you were there, you know what I’m talkin about!! After-school at John P. Freeman was CRUCIAL back in the day!) I would usually have to wait until 6 o’clock for my mom to come pick me up most days. So, starting my seventh grade year I would see James sitting and waiting for his ride as well. The funny thing is that we would be sitting there, just the two of us alot of times, and never speak to each other. I tend to be more passive when it comes to speaking to strangers and starting a conversation. This went on all the way up to Labor Day Weekend( usually the first holiday of the school year). Finally, on the last day of school before the holiday, Man couldn’t take it anymore. He had to come over and say something. We already knew of each other because I would be around Tiff and Terrence all the time and he had gotten pretty tight with them from the school dances( sorry about all the “sidebarring”: Exhaust denim overalls and L.A. Gear hikers, enough said..Lol!) So, we started “shootin the bull”( shout out to Freddie Wilkes), feeling each other out to see what we were really about. That’s when we discovered that we were from the same neighborhood! In fact, he lived just one street over from my house. Now I spent my entire childhood living in Westwood and never knew Man before this. That’s just how complicated Westwood is… So we continued to converse to pass the time. That’s when his mom( shout out to Hattie Mae! ) pulled up to get him. He turned to me and said, “when is you mom coming to get you?” I replied with a sad voice, ” not until around six o’clock.” I probably still had an hour or so to wait before she came. Without hesitation, he yelled over to his mom and said ” This is my friend Joseph. We’re gonna take him home. He lives around the corner.” Ms. Banger asked me to call my mom and make sure that it was ok. Now in today’s times I don’t know many parents that would let their child get in a car with strangers. My mom wasn’t the type to let me do it then either. But, for some strange reason, she said ok. Who would’ve guessed that her saying ok would effect the rest of my life. From that day forward, we rode to and from school everyday all the way through high school and graduation. In fact, after a few fights on the neighborhood basketball court that weekend( he kept fouling me[smiling]), we would truly become “Best Friends”. We hung out every single day until he went to the “A” to go to school. I have so many more stories that I could tell. Most of them will never make it on this page though. You just had to be there……. However, this is the memory that marks the beginning of what would eventually lead to a lifetime of memories. To my “Brother for life” Rest in peace. I miss you but will never forget you.

2 09 2013
Nikia (Brooks) Dockery

Wow! Joel this is a really nice tribute!…Ameerah was my best friend but we have a similar story to yours and James. Didn’t think we would be friends let alone best friends after meeting in junior high school at JP Freeman. You said it exactly right! She had me doing things I never would’ve thought about. I just smile every time I think back. It was so hard to lose her, my best friend and the only sister I knew. She truly lived to enjoy life every moment, every day so I hope she knows I will never forget her motto. I LIVE each day knowing I must enjoy the good and the bad because tomorrow is not promised. She will forever live in my heart.

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