Sometimes when we think about times in our lives when we weren’t particularly happy, we only remember the things that led to that feeling of unhappiness. My teenage years were not joyous by any definition. It was a period marked by instability, bouncing back and forth from my father’s house, dealing with extreme depression, self-medicating with promiscuity, and feeling utterly lost 99% of the time.
I started my sophomore year of high school in Indianapolis at Arlington HS. It was a school infested by gangs and violence was an everyday reality. You had to be on guard all of the time. You couldn’t wear the wrong colors, you could talk to the wrong kid, you couldn’t walk down the wrong hallway, you couldn’t even wear the wrong suspender strap down. It was like living in a war zone. I didn’t miss Arlington HS one bit when I returned to NC.
I have many bad memories of my life in Indy and I had some anxiety about coming here. I was shocked to arrive and be greeted by a city with a peaceful serene downtown, full of lush green space, artistic design, and a rich cultural heritage on full display.
Downtown Indianapolis was surprisingly beautiful. The last time I was here I was 15 and, as I mentioned above, all I could remember was being surrounded by gangs and running from the police.
However, during this trip, I also remembered that I experienced my first music concert here. It was MC Hammer, with Vanilla Ice as the opening act and it was an incredible show! I had never seen anything like Hammer. He was so full of life and positivity. He was on stage with what seemed like a hundred other dancers. There were giant hammers coming down from the rafters and he was dancing across the stage like his body had no bones.
Hammer made you feel bliss, extreme joy that made you feel like anything was possible. I remember I didn’t want the show to ever end. I taught me just how power music was to heal. It could transport you to a plain where nothing mattered but the moment. You could put on your dancing shoes and leave all your troubles behind.
I also went to my first “For Sisters Only“ expo that year. I had never been around so many positive black women making moves, owning their own businesses and walking tall with the confidence that comes with being a boss. It was a far cry from what I saw of how black women lived in Eastern NC.
I grew up in a world where being a black woman meant teenage pregnanc, welfare, and life as a servant to whites. Shit, I grew up with black girls having babies in middle school and multiple generations living in housing projects.
Thankfully I had a great mom, who always ensured I lived a good life in NC and, although my life wasn’t that type of dysfunction, I was completely surrounded by it and I felt out of place with the other black girls I grew up with. I reveled being at “For Sisters Only” and being among these black women who embodied who I wanted to grow up to be. It instilled a sense of drive in me. The expo confirmed for me that my life could be what ever I wanted it to be. I remember it gave me a feeling of pride and motivation.
I’m glad I came to Indianapolis because, prior to this visit, my Indy story always started with that time I sliced my arm jumping a barbed fence. This trip has reminded me that it wasn’t all bad. There are also very special nuggets of pleasant Indy memories, memories of experiences that have made me who I am. I’m very thankful for the reminder and I look forward to returning here and making more positive memories as the narrative of my life continues to unfold! 😃