Never Leave Your Past Behind
I grew up in a low-income, single-parent family on the far south-side of Chicago. My sister and her family also lived with us. They needed a place to stay while they looked for a more affordable house. One thing my family doesn't do is turn our backs on each other. Sociologists who claim to be experts on non-white families have their own words for this type of situation. They derogatorily label this as a poverty-stricken, Black matriarchal extended family who lives in the ghetto. Yet all in all, we were happy because we helped each other. We were not the type of family who wondered what the next meal would be. We always knew we would have food on the table, but the type of food was a different story.
Plain and simple, our goal was to survive. Survival to us was to get a job and hopefully wake up the next morning. I didn't think about college. Why should I? I didn't even like high school. But, somehow, somewhere an idea was instilled in me. "To be 'somebody,' I must go to college; if I didn't go, I would be a nobody." Because I believed this, I became more distant from my family and friends. I felt ashamed of my family because no one went to college right out of high school except for me. I felt my friends were not worthy of my time because I was in college and they were not. My biggest mistake in life was when I tried to leave my past behind me. It took me nineteen long, painful years to believe and learn never to be ashamed of who I am or where I came from.
Since I lived in an area where there were only Blacks, I wanted to get away from them. I didn't want to witness another murder in front of my house. I couldn't tolerate another ten-to-twenty year old drug seller stopping me and asking, "Hey baby, wanna buy this 'caine." I could no longer look at pregnant teenagers with their kids walking around, looking for the mailman to get their welfare checks. I got tired of staying up past 2:00 a.m. waiting for the house parties to end. The polluted, chemical-like air was getting to me. I even got tired of my next door neighbor wanting to borrow sugar. She actually told me, "I borrow it because it cost too much to buy." This is why I came to St. Cloud, to get away from that environment and to be around the people who were achievers like myself.
Ahh! I was in a white, religious, middle-class area with people who understand the true meaning of education and who were going to get "true" success. These were my role models, people who lived in a nice, clean place. However, I soon found out they didn't feel as highly about me...