A prayer for “Gingo La Tresh”

Ahmed Naqi taught science and mathematics and almost every other subject at the Street Academy of Albany.  He was there when Harriet Gibbons was the principal (the school was renamed Harriet Gibbons High School after Ms. Gibbons’ passing), and he helped change and inspire young minds at the alternative high school for decades.

And he had a laugh.  His laugh could bounce through the walls of the old three-story facility on Clinton Avenue like the echoes off of canyon walls.  He was inspiring and he was beloved and he took great pride in the success of his charges.

Ahmed Naqi.  Photo from 1977 Street Academy documentary film.
Ahmed Naqi. Photo from 1977 Street Academy documentary film.

He also had a mysterious phrase that he repeated many times in the presence of his students.

Gingo La Tresh.

Nobody knew what that meant.  Was it a fancy nickname?  Was it a chant from a foreign land?  Was it an alternative to a curse?

Nobody knew.  As far as we were concerned, it was one of the great mysteries of life.  You know, similar to why hot dogs are in packages of ten and hot dog buns are sold in packages of eight.

From 1981 Street Academy high school yearbook.
From 1981 Street Academy high school yearbook.

I saw Ahmed a couple of months ago at a picnic / get-together for Street Academy students and faculty.  He was in good spirits and we all shared memories of our days at the building at 165 Clinton Avenue.

And, of course, several of us asked him about “Gingo La Tresh.”  What did it mean?

He winked and said, “I’ll tell you later.”

Last night I received a call from Lillian Tillman-DeWitt, who was principal at Street Academy during my time there.  She told me Ahmed was in the hospital.  I could hear the concern and worry in her voice.

And in that moment, I knew the next course of action.  A quick call to my friend Frieda Tillman (no relation to our principal) and we drove over to the hospital.  After wandering through the labyrinth of a medical facility with extra wings and floors and elevators that don’t go to every floor, we found his room.

He was glad to see us.  And we were glad to see him.

We also talked with his daughter, and she gave us information on his condition.  Please understand that out of respect for the Naqi family privacy, I’m not going to mention his medical conditions in this blog.

But I am going to say that if you have any moments today, if you have any seconds to say an extra prayer for Ahmed Naqi, please do so.  The power of prayer is an amazing thing.  And I am sure that the Naqi family would truly appreciate your thoughts and prayers and considerations.

I’ve mentioned in the past about how the time I spent at Street Academy was truly the best family I could have ever wanted.  That place took me from desperation to motivation.  And Ahmed Naqi was one of the teachers who helped guide me – and helped guide hundreds of other students – along the road to a brighter future.

Ahmed was part of a fraternity of teachers.  Educators.  The men and women who were part of our lives for eight months every year.  The men and women who are remembered fondly by those whose lives they touched.

May God bless you, Ahmed Naqi.  And thank you once again for everything you and the teachers and administrators at Street Academy did for all of us.

Gingo La Tresh.

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