People Like Me

by Chani the Hippie

In 1996, I lived in Marlboro, Massachusetts with my mom, dad, younger sister, and brother. We were one of the only families of mixed race and I’m almost certain we were the only black people in town. One day someone asked my caucasian mother if she was our nanny and what she was doing with “kids like us”. At that moment she made a decision. Weeks later they told me we were moving to my father’s hometown, Detroit.

We moved into a house on 6 mile and Evergreen with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. My world changed. I asked my mom “Why is everyone brown here” and she told me “You’re brown. Everyone around you is too.” I never noticed the color of my skin, but I knew that the people here looked like me. They looked like my dad. They looked like my brothers. They looked like my sisters.

I went to Paul Robeson Academy and my kindergarten classroom was full of little black girls and little black boys with bright eyes and smiling faces. They all welcomed me, and for the first time I felt comfortable at school. I didn’t have to explain why my hair was in braids and twists. I didn’t have to deal with being the only kid not getting an invitation to someone’s birthday party. I didn’t have to deal with being chosen last for teams. I was surrounded by people like me.

Detroit became my home. I was in Chocolate City and I felt like I belonged. Detroit has always felt like home because I have been surrounded by people who shared my struggles, my insecurities, my fears, and my love for our culture.

I have been able to learn about tribes from Africa at Dabl’s African Bead Museum. I have learned the true art of being a b-boy or b-girl with The Foundation. I have seen the art of graffiti, I have marched yelling “Black Lives Matter” in the streets, I have twerked with the black LGBTQIAs at The Woodward. I have learned who I am in the black community and how many layers of blackness are in Detroit.

I have indulged in vegan soul food, Ethiopian food, and Jamaican cuisine. I have the chance to explore different cultures of blackness in Detroit. I have been empowered by the people around me and because of this city I am proud.

In 1996, when my parents decided that it would be best for my siblings and me to be raised in a beautiful city full of people like us, it gave us the best chance we could’ve ever had.

Posted on November 4, 2017 .