I was born in Newark, NJ, which I now know is the Southside Chicago of New Jersey. Whenever I say or anything about it, people raise an eyebrow like it’s the roughest place on earth. I recall the first time I went back to NJ as a child who was old enough to comprehend my surroundings. It was Thanksgiving, and I was 13. First off, it was my first train ride a far distance. Catching the Southshore to Chicago is one thing, but Amtrak for 22 hours was another. I was in love with the trip itself: the scenery, the different types of people getting on and off at every stop. I had my first Philly Cheese Steak on a train. I saw mountains for the first time in my life. I heard people with accents that made me question if I was the one talking weird. It was the most wonderful culture shock I had ever experienced.
I grew up in East Chicago, IN…a city composed of ONLY Blacks and Mexicans; so when we moved to a town where the majority were white, in 2011, I was more than confused. I even remember saying, “I don’t want to go to school with all these white people…,” as I was only 1 of 3 Black children in the class. I had never had a white teacher before. I went from being the majority to a minority in a matter of months and it was scary. However, it ended up being the best thing to ever happen to me.
Anyway! On Thanksgiving day I experienced the greatest thing ever: My family was not all African American. Some were Jamaican, some were White, some were Latino. The dinner was so diverse and different. Turkey with Puerto Rican rice instead of macaroni threw me for a loop, but I loved it. In that moment, I knew I never wanted to be so sheltered again. I knew that there was more to the world than the little Indiana and I wanted to see it. I wanted to be exposed.
That following summer, I came back with my mom and she left me there for the summer. I made some AMAZING friends, went to New York for the first time and fell completely and utterly in love and when I left, I knew that’s where I wanted to live when I became an adult. Call me crazy, but every time after that I’ve been there, I felt like I was home. When I came back to Indiana, I knew I was just visiting and that now what I knew as home was only temporary. Whenever I’m there, my spirit is renewed. I feel free, I feel complete, and I feel like I can conquer anything. I will definitely miss home and my family and friends that I’ve gained here, but it’s time for a change and a transformation that I’m more than ready for. It’s time for me to become.