after james baldwin

June 29, 2020

         While walking back from brunch Saturday morning, I encountered my friend and his whole black family. This was not uncommon since it was Family Weekend. Upon approaching him I asked, “Is this your whole family?” He replied happily, “this is everyone!” I was so overwhelmed with joy, I even said, “this right here warms my heart.” I got head nods and chuckles. As we walked to my dorm, one of my friend’s family members talked to me about what I was studying and where I was from. It was short, but it made me feel good. In my four years of attending college, not one of my family members has made the effort to visit during Family Weekend: I was emotional. And I do understand: it’s out of the way, people are busy with work and other things, but come on. It was beautiful seeing the warmness of a black family supporting their young one who’s in college.

         Later on, I went to the Emporium for some warm headwear. In the Emporium (if you know it, you know how huge it is), I was the only black person that I could see. It was cramped and white families made their way through. I felt isolated, especially since I came in for one thing and the shop stretches for days. The only black people I saw were collector’s Barbie dolls. As I was walking back to campus, I ran into two people that I haven’t formally met but have encountered around campus. The first person was walking with her family, who was black, and gave me a smile. The second person also smiled at me and someone in her family asked me, “how you doin’ sis”. This I felt to my core. I felt so validated and loved by a stranger I will never see again. This is crucial in the black community: to ask another black person how they’re doing even if you don’t know them. I felt special in that moment. I felt seen.

         Pressing the button to cross the street, a white woman approached with her two kids; she grabbed the little girl’s hand. Was she doing that because she saw me or because they were about to cross the street? It’s ambiguous, but it felt like it was because I am black.

         I’ve been feeling heavy lately due to many reasons, but the above situations stay with me. For example, I attended a reading by a black writer and I was almost moved to tears by how well he wrote and that he was there to begin with. When I see black people excelling and doing their thing, I almost feel like there’s a little more hope in the world. I feel so happy and so sad at the same time that it creates a tornado of emotions; I feel that I want to cry, although I am elated. I especially felt this when I saw my friend with his whole family, because I was excited that he has family so present in his life. My family is more spread out. My heart swells whenever I see black families, friends, or groups interact with one another because it reminds me that I can be happy in that way, too.

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© 2023 by MCLA Spires.