I was born and raised in the city, but they are not the same cities.
Growing up in the inner city and teaching there as an adult forces me to continue to face and confront the issues I encountered as a kid many years ago. Although many people I meet find it hard to believe that I grew up in the city, I am proud to say that I am a product of my environment; one that was rich in culture and opportunity with humble beginnings for those that could see, feel, and hear their inner voice. This is the voice of silence that will bear sound for others to hear. One of the most important lessons I teach in my classroom is the power of silence, voice, and word choice.
We are truly a product of our words, what we say is what we condition our ears and mind to accept and tolerate, why not choose to make it positive. When making that choice, it must be deliberately done with the intent to progress from it. Be optimistic and choose words that will express hope, kindness, and respect, for you are what you speak.
Every year I teach about 100 inner city children and every year I face the same challenges I faced as a kid, the deconstruct of the power of speech. Instead of using it to uplift one another, it is often used to break the spirits of others. This is where I always had voice and this is where my ink began to spill and now this is where I share my words with others.
Sharing my written work to a wider population, other than children, is something that I never thought I would do because I was a very shy kid growing up, almost mute at times. I never intentionally shared my art or any writing unless it was a class lesson, simply because I did not seek approval nor opposition. I chose the silence of voice as a way to communicate how I felt disconnected with this new world I had moved into; I was born on the Island, Santiago, in the city of Praia, and this country was quite foreign that to assimilate was difficult.
The shoreline was no longer close to home, and the streets were crowded with unfamiliar noise, the seasons varied widely, and people were often critical or inquisitive of my ethnicity. The tongue I had known was not familiar to anyone even those that were from the same origin. Silence was my friend except at home. Home stood high upon a triple decker but it held me so very confined that at times I wondered the benefits in moving from the home I knew to here. A couple of years later home was snuggled between the first and third level of another triple-decker. The walls widened and now I was allowed to explore and play, meeting and greeting upon the grass and pavement with other local children but still felt the shadows of my parents hovering over me and my sister from the second floor porch. “Time to come in,” they would say prior to the sun setting or the busyness of the street. It was clear to me that my parents were frightened by the new culture and ambiance of danger that this new city held in its heart.
City street lights flickered
Echoing the despair
in the hearts of the bickered
I felt muffled by the noise
But refused to dwindle
Carving my steps in smiles and echoes of laughter to remain poised
City street lights couldn’t dictate my flight
For my heart was the ruler of will
To overthrow any plight
It was so important for me to see that in questioning the disgruntle nature I was not accepting this to become my standard nor my vision for tomorrow. This is where you find the strength in having a voice. Use your voice to change and challenge the world regardless of criticism and those that will choose to oppress and mute your decibel of sound.
This is why I teach.
This is why I have a voice.
This is why I write.
This is why I share.