The last time I saw my first cousin we got into a fistfight in UCLA’s dorms, (neither one of us were students there by the way). The fight was hella petty but what hurt more than my cousin attacking me were the words that came out of her mouth.
“You are just another Black (slight pause) sista running from where she comes from.”
I know the slight pause was because she really wanted to say that I was just another “Black bitch, who was running from where she comes from.”
Her words hurt because it was the furthest thing from the truth. My goals to obtain a college degree was always for the family. To get my grandmother a house so that the ghetto was not the last sights she saw before leaving this earth. I was always wondering what kind of business I could get into that would provide not only myself but my family jobs. My cousin was someone who I kept in mind because she had recently gotten out of prison and now had to wear a felony charge like the scarlet letter.
It has now been one week since I left the small, rural, town where I attended undergrad. I knew that I would never reach my full potential there and that it was always just a stop on my journey. The environment was isolating and did not provide me with many opportunities or access to Black mentors and professionals.
Leaving the town, I left the comfort and arms of a man that took real good care of me. As bad as it hurt to leave not only him but a guarantee of love and safety, I knew that I needed to change locations for access if I really wanted to step into my purpose.
College graduates around the country struggle to find work after graduation. When this is compounded with aspects such as race and class, these issues become more apparent especially if you are African-American.
These facts are irrefutable. This discrimination and disdain for Black bodies is deeply embedded into this country’s fabric. It is the blueprint for its structure and the oil that fuels the engine. Race, capitalism and exploitation is the name of America’s game.
Once I started to learn about the true history of this country it was painful to accept. Knowing the truth is supposed to empower you. For people like my father, he internalized his oppression and the pain that comes with being a Black man in America who is smart but lacks access due to his environment.
Coming back to Los Angeles I have been in my old neighborhood because my uncle is living on the streets. I pulled up on him on Broadway and 62nd in South Central while he laid on the concrete in a sleeping bag. One of the fondest memories I have of my uncle is him coming over to my dads house and coming into my room when I was a kid. He had a real nice brown sweat suit. His chocolate skin was clear and smooth and he had a mouth of pearly whites when he smiled. In his hand he always held a can of Old English or St. Ides malt liquor and he would dig into his pocket and give me a dollar. Now, he was in his 50’s, living a block from the same liquor store he has been buying beer from for 25 years.
I see so many older Black people in distress in my old neighborhood. Homeless encampments that resemble tent cities sit on residential streets. These sites remind me of why I worked so hard to make it to a university and why I promised myself to keep it pushing regardless of what may come my way. The sights of what life can do to you if you become trapped in South Central is written all over their faces. Every line in their skin tells the story of struggle, despair and distorted realities that come with homelessness and wasted potential.
“I keep it pushing I will never give up…..”-Dave East