“YOU are not of this world, you just live in it”. — My mama used to quote John 17:16 as she would look dead into my eyes while straightening my pleated uniform and looking around our housing project lined street. Our house was exactly 0.4 miles from one of the deadliest housing projects, D-Block, in Yonkers, NY.
Retrospectively, that world that “I didn’t live in” provided me with lessons that has made me a successful administrator and continues to give me an edge over my competitors and peers in the professional world.
This is my ode to the hood:
Mama- You kept us under your wing. Protected us from the world around us.
Yonkers- So different from the oasis you grew up in, on your beautiful island.
Babies having babies, people slinging drugs.
Displaced persons, mangled families
Just trying to live, to rebuild their lives
Fighting against the patriarchy and the weight of systematic oppression
Cops, shrouded in blue, busting down doors, just spitting distance from our own front door
I remember you whispering: “You are not of this world — Remember that”
But I was, Mama.
Because I was not blind, and I was not deaf.
I hoarded the lessons of the street.
Breathing them in until they flowed like oxygen through my veins
Stuffing them deep down.
Burying them away below the layers of brown skin, so that my white,rich peers would not happen to catch a glance of them.
I hid them, so I would not be found out.
So that they wouldn’t call me or assume me- Ghetto
Now I’m a professional and it’s the hood lessons chosen time to shine
The ones that have made me strong, creative, bold:
The importance of the witty clap back.
To use my voice boldly.
To sound the alarm-
To identify- Danger.
I learned ….
Look both ways before you cross the street.
Look up, down and around before making a move. Be strategic
To make something out of nothing.
To create my own sunshine, when skies were gray.
Follow your gut.
It’s ok to be different and to march to my own drum.
A little skepticism is healthy.
Think Twice Before you Speak.
To make the food stretch, when there was little or none.
To tell the truth plainly
To tell a brilliant and clever story
to know when to mind my own business
The importance of boundaries
The significance of family
Both blood and chosen
How to take action and when to break rules
To initiate change and not to wait for it to happen
When it was time to step up to the plate
To be resilient