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, "...
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... love myself and to love my family. After I knew my family supported me in whatever I did or said, my life began. Mentally, I grew stronger. I no longer felt ashamed of my family or friends. Most of all, I no longer was ashamed of being Black. In fact, I love myself because I am Black.
I feel empowered because of what I have seen and experienced. I am proud because I am the first one in my family to attend college.
I am happy because the people I love have helped me the best way they knew how. The only thing I needed to do was to love myself for who I am and where I came from. In order to do that, as my favorite high school teacher said, "You have to know where you came from before you know where you're going. And, you can't do that by acting like someone else." After all these years, I am proud to announce that I am a Black woman who knows where she's going.
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