My first attempt at writing a blog for this site was forced. Instead of letting the subject come to me I tried to pull it out from a place where the sun don't shine and so it ended up... well, honestly? Crap. But now I think I am ready to take a genuine shot so bear with me because even I don't know where this is going.
I have spent most of my summer in the wonderful city of Chicago, Illinois. I took a film class for the equivalent of three college credits and I got a bittersweet taste of the college experience( I think why it was bittersweet will be explained as I go along).
I'm nervous the first day, jittery as all get out and awkward. It has taken a while for me to admit this to myself, but although my social skills with adults may be top notch, my skills with people in my own generation are somewhat lacking, especially in situations like this. I step into the class and as people enter one by one I realize slowly, " I am the only black person, let alone black female in this class, WTF??"
Even though in certain functions in Mississippi I was one of the few minorities I had never felt it to this scale. Out of 18 students I was the only one. Now although this startled me a little, I didn't really care because an experience is an experience no matter what the circumstances may be. So taking this in stride, I got prepared to enjoy the class. And I did, but then another problem arose. I was one of two people who came from the South. The other person was from Dallas which I came to find out isn't as nearly exotic as Mississippi. I began to be asked questions like, "So you're from Mississippi, I hear racism and homophobia are pretty bad down there.." or "I'm afraid to go there because of being accosted by a rogue redneck group." And in my head I'm like, "I guess they don't have people where you are from because these kind of problems exist everywhere, there are different types of beliefs everywhere."
And then I'm struck by the sad epiphany: Miss. is still getting bad press. I'm amazed.
It becomes clear to me that the last time most people heard the word MS (except during the random mentions on the weather channel and abductions of teens) was during hurricane Katrina. When I say Mississippi they see torn down towns and lynchings, since that's mostly what anyone took away from the brief mention of Mississippi history. Then the whole "Prom Night in Mississippi" thing comes on (although it makes me very happy) and shows a side of Mississippi very necessary and prevalent, but perpetuates the stalled view of my Mississippi.
I do my best to undo the damage. I tell them that Mississippi is growing everyday. I tell them of the work I do and how progressive Mississippi actually is. And even though homophobia does exist so does LGBT groups and awesome people who fight for equal rights. I think I've done a good job. I hope they visit.
So more about film school... I tried my hand at directing and while it wasn't an epic fail it wasn't the best of successes. I had a hard time getting people to cooperate with and respect me (did I mention that I was put in an all male group?) And all the guys wanted to do was play and talk. But in the end I came out with my very own film hand edited (with a razor and splice tape) and hand cranked (bolex cameras are the shiz). And I think overall I grew as a person.
On a side note I did have a few more nuances to deal with besides butthole males. I spent most of my time working in an office (that wasn't particularly bad, but at times sleep inducing), and did anybody notice how nonstop the coverage of Micheal Jackson's death was??? I got cast in the following roles: A lemonade stand clerk wherein I couldn't spell 'lemonade' and I got robbed, and a homeless person wherein I got to beat up a person for giving me a kiss on the cheek. How fun!!!!
There was a chick in the morning class who was also the only black female and all I kept hearing was that we look alike. Of course if I was in the mood I would have made arguments and totally waved my black power flag, but I recognized that yes, me and this chick did kind of favor, not just because we shared a skin complexion, and that you have to choose your battles and this one I could let go.
I did a lot of things for the first time: went to an aquarium and almost cried at the beautiful bioluminescence they possessed, rode an El ( those electric trains a.k.a. subways) for the first time and I strutted down the streets of Chicago with my head held high as I grew less afraid of being stole from and more confident in my ability to handle new situations and people.
During a class when we were especially noisy the teacher questioned our maturity and wondered aloud if we were ready to go to college. Although I was a little hurt I found that this question is the reason that I took the course. I wanted to put myself into a new environment and see how I would do. And I passed my own test. I got an A in the class and all the while I kept my head above water and even managed to gain a few comrades. And when faced with the question, " Am I ready to go college?" Despite this upcoming senior year and a whole trail of applications to get through, I can firmly say that I am ready. I am ready to face the obstacles and prove myself worthy of respect and take that respect and give it to others. I may still have a little work to do, but I am ready.