Pushed back against the bathroom stall door by a very large, short haired, black girl named Deon, there I was. I was this 6th grade girl in a school full of white people. I didn’t know what I had done to deserve this treatment. I was very shy. I hated school. I wasn’t social. But I wasn’t mean. I didn’t talk bad about people. If someone talked to me, I was a little shocked to have someone talk to me, but nice. And here I was being bullied. Earlier that day, I received some sort of threat. “I’m gonna get you.”
Rewind a little bit. The school I went to between 1984-1990 was called Linkorn Park Elementary School, and it was as White as it could be. Just 20-26 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Seatack, around the corner was quite the opposite. I remember seeing less people of color in my school then you could count on two hands. This included African American, Hispanic, Asian. For me however, the lines were kinda blurred, because it was not in my nature to think about someones color as some kind of deciding factor about said person.
And then this in particular day happened in a whirlwind and I came face to face with my first cross cultural battle. This girl Deon wanted to fight me. She was shoving me and closing me in. I had no where to go. I remember thinking, “Am I going to fight this girl? Why? I have nothing against her? I’m scared of her. She is bigger than me. But I don’t hate her.” I was deeply hurt, angry, frustrated, and confused. “Why is this even happening?!” Then a voice said, “Just push through and walk away.” A MOMENT of clarity, followed by another voice, “She is probably gonna kick your butt for walking away.” But I did it, I pushed through, quickly, and said, “I don’t want to fight you,” and then kept walking. And she let me.
The next day Deon walked up to me and introduced herself, and we quickly became friends. I never found out why she was so ready to kick my butt the day prior. And I didn’t care. I was just happy to have a friend. I didn’t have a lot, on the account of being shy and all. I found out in high school, a lot of people perceive shyness to be snootiness or snobbery. Go figure, I always thought of it the opposite. Well I never found out the why, but for some reason this kabashed altercation was the bridge that gapped me and my new friend Deon. My life was forever changed and I didn’t even know it yet.
My church, for the most part, was an ALL White church. But my pastor, Desi Allen, and his wife JoAnne played music that was different than anything I ever heard. They played music by a guy named Ron Kenoly. And we visited a church called New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ, Pastored by Bishop Barnett K. Thoroughgood. That man could preach. His church was ALL black. We tried to visit them a few times a year. And they visited us a few times a year. And we would put a spread of food out for them when they came. And they would do the same for us when we came. And we would fellowship. It was beautiful and amazing. Except for this one time though. My mom and I went over to this one table to get something to eat and the sister there refused us. She gave us dirty looks and had an attitude. I instantly thought, “She is prejudice. She hates white people.” But you know what, just being honest, I didn’t care why. All I thought was, “I didn’t do anything to her. Mom and I are being nice. Why is she acting this way.”
She was probably in her 30s or 40s, which meant she most likely remembered, very clearly, segregation, as a child. But I didn’t know what that was. It was never part of my world, at least that I knew of.
I need to squeeze these culturally important memories in. In 1989 I was 9 yrs old, and this group called DC Talk hit the scene. They were Rap, Rock, and Soul. They were like nothing I ever heard, and I liked it! This Rap thing was new to me. And really learning anything of black culture was new to me. In 1992 they came out with “Free At Last” and it dared to bridge the gap, in hopes to unify blacks and whites. As you may know they also had a song “Two honks and a Negro” that they performed on the Arsenio Hall Show. I LOVED what they were speaking, as segregation and treating people different because of their color never really made sense to me. Especially since my friend Deon and my friends that rode the sunday school bus (yep, on sunday mornings we started getting some color at church). I remember “Tearing down the wall” it was a song I would sing along with passionately. It spoke against segregation. DC Talk opened me up to Christian Rap. I am a lyrical person, I write music. When I listen to music, if the music is good, but the lyrics aren’t, I want nothing to do with it. To me, christian Rap is awesome if it’s good lyrically, because you can say so many more words in rap, typically. I listened to a group called A-1 Swift (the first husband and wife gospel rap duo). Then there was Grits, Gospel Gangstas, D.O.C., and much more. I loved black culture, it didn’t make sense to hate the people.
At the same time that music like this was helping me formulate ideas and opinions, somewhere in the mix of my childhood, an amazing black woman, Daphne, and her family started attending our church regularly. She soon became our choir director and this is when I began to realize that I really LOVED to sing. I was singing on stage since 6 yrs of age. But now I wanted to. We were doing music by a choir called Brooklyn Tabernacle. It was amazing! Three, sometimes four part harmony. We didn’t sound like your typical white choir and I was thrilled.
Daphne was a phenomenal choir director. She was also just an amazing woman in general. In fact I watched how she was with her kids and husband and I decided at 12 years old that I wanted to be just like her. She was and still is a huge inspiration in my life. I think back to those times almost daily, and definitely weekly. Her children were and are some of the most beautiful babies I have ever seen (hey they are still babies to her). And she had such a sweet disposition. She never has treated me like I was anyone different in her books. I cherish her friendship and love when I get to see her at church (a different church then the one I grew up in) and hug her neck and catch up a little. I don’t think she can ever know how much she impacted me, musically, as a homemaker, and as a mother.