A woman looking down as she leans against a desk

“Where I Come From” is a Darling series that pays homage to the cities, towns and countries that we call home. Although we are not defined by where we come from, these places are a defining part of our stories. 

This post was originally published January 15, 2020.

Where I come from most of the faces are brown and black

Where I come from street lines are divides

East side, west side, 8 mile

Where I come from staying out after the street lights went down was not an option

Where I come from children’s laughter filled the air as gun shots echoed in the distance

Where I come bars covered windows of homes covered in Christmas lights

 

Where I come from the teachers pushed us hard

Because they knew what we were up against outside those four walls

That brownstone was both a bootcamp and a safe haven

Equations

Formulas

Essays

Reports

Slideshows

Powerpoints

Speeches

Essays

College Applications

AP Scores

 

A girl sitting on the floor of a library between book cases

 

Now I understand much more than I did back then

Why they pushed us so hard

The teachers, coaches, parents, pastors taught us “black excellence” because

They knew it was a weapon for survival

They knew in the real world, outside the four walls of school, church and home,

That our value, intelligence, opinions, our voices

Would be constantly called into question

In the real world, black excellence was not a thing.

Phrases like “Black Lives Matter” and “Black Girls Rock” would champion our struggle

To be seen, heard, valued, our stories and experiences believed

They would be our battle cry in a world that belittled us to stereotypes and tropes

 

Where I come from the kids grew up to be

Nurses, doctors, engineers, lawyers, writers, entrepreneurs

Where I come some kids did not live to make it past graduation.

The odds were stacked against us, but

The belief that we could be something was constantly surrounding us

Where I come from teachers told us

We could be whatever we wanted to be

And I believed them.

Detroit, thank you for raising me to be strong, smart and relentless.

 

What did your hometown or country teach you? How has it played a part in your identity?

Images via We Are The Rhoads, Darling Issue No. 21

 

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2 comments

  1. Black excellence as a weapon for survival…mmm, felt that. This was striking and beautiful.

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