I always liked to think that my first adoration in life, was exploring. Flipping through pages in random magazines shaded with deep hues of greens from trees, brown of sands and blue…blue which touched everything from the sky, to the sea, birds and clothes that wrapped themselves around women so comfortably.
But, before I could appreciate the descriptions of places and people I would one day meet, I fell in love with peoples voices and how they could transport me to different places with the mere words written in books and magazines.
And I am so thankful, and extremely privileged to have the gift of literacy. And extremely privileged to have the education required to advance that literacy until I could too document my stories. And while these stories I document will only ever transport me to memories passed, I often stop and wonder, IF my voice could possibly transport other young girls and women to places and people they will one day meet?
I went to P. S ( Public School ) 80… 1 of hundreds that were dotted around the city. But everyone does not dwell in a city consumed by millions of voices. Voices that have ultimately pushed me to where I am and the realizations I have today. The voices that ultimately pushed me into a university. At university, I finally began to have the confidence to pursue what some would ultimately call my life’s purpose.
I entered as a business major because in my 17 year old mind, in order to be successful, I had to aspire to be a business woman, not even knowing what business I had enrolling in school in the first place.
One beautiful fall day, I had left another stressful calculus exam when I passed a friend from my French class. Jonathan Quintayne. I can’t remember our exact conversation but I do remember that it touched me. After spending a few weeks going back and forth in my mind, scribbling on endless pieces of paper…I made one of the best decisions in life. I changed my major to International Studies. I took classes that I actually enjoyed and even though I was still abhorrently lost as to what I could do with such a degree path. I graduated, where I learned more lessons on life. If it wasn’t evident to me before, it was confirmed that I needed a life that allowed me to share my voice and vice versa, have others share their voices with me. Voices thy perhaps would have had to wait years more to share.
Within 4 months of graduation, I moved to a small city in China. Within the first month of enduring stares and unsolicited photos as I passed by, a language barrier so severe (mandarin and English) …I received a letter.
Three pages unexpectedly placed in my hands and I was told very timidly by my student to “not show the other teachers.”
He told me his views on Tiannemen Square. A topic I didn’t research until 3 years later. He told me how he didn’t agree with the government, something that is still punishable even today by the government.
I wish I had kept that letter. I was naive…
But today, I am not.
And while I can willingly afford an education that can carry me, a young black woman, to different countries, that PRIVILEGE still bypasses many…like the young girls and women who wear the blue of the sky wrapped around them so comfortably.