Da Realist 1: Standing up for myself
I was very fortunate to have lots of grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles around when I was a little girl. And I think I learned some of my most important lessons from them. My great aunt Audrey had a tremendous impact on me. She never had children of her own, which is probably why she liked to have me around. She was a no-nonsense kind of person who was serious about good manners and education. She used to tell me, “You MUST BE intelligent.” So, it was clear that I didn’t have a choice.
Aunt Audrey (or Auntie as we called her) taught me to stand up for myself. I was always a little shorter than the children my age and a little timid as well. I stayed with her one summer when I was about four years old. She would drop me at Octavia’s, who would babysit while Auntie was at work. At some point, she began to notice bruises on my back during my bath time. When she asked what happened, I would say “nothing.” Finally, she was fed up and said she’d spank me if I didn’t tell her what was going on. I, of course, spilled my guts. Mike, the babysitter’s son, was beating me up every day. He was also terrorizing his two sisters–one was younger; the other was my age. We told Octavia, but she never did anything.
Mike was one or two years older than I was, so I was afraid of him. But Auntie told me that I better not let him beat me up again. And if he tried, I was to “bite the shit out of him” and don’t let go. The next day Mike was up to his old tricks again–bullying. He hit me, and I latched onto his closest body part, which just happened to be his stomach. I’m good at following directions, so I did not let go. Octavia came and tried to pull me off, but still I hung on until my jaws were tired. According to Auntie, he’s probably still got teeth marks on him today.
Octavia asked me why I had bitten her son. And I was happy to relay that “my Auntie told me to bite the shit out of him.” It’s probably not advice that anyone would give children today, but my aunt was old school. I did not become a habitual biter as a result of the incident, but I did learn that I could stand up for myself. And I’ve had to do a lot of that over the years.
Da Hype 1
If you sit down for any length of time with either of my two parents, they are certain to engage you in a conversation of politics. Both of my parents were working class, blue collar folks, who were heavily engaged in their unions. In places like Maryland, that also meant that they were engaged in the activities of the Democratic party.
My parents never banished me to a place for kids only when an adult conversation was in process, so I heard their thoughts on politics and their thoughts on the way politicians operated our city, state, and federal governments. My first political education came from my home. And, as I became older, I was even expected to participate in those conversations.
When Mrs. Amina, the lady up the street needed people to knock on doors for voter registration and to ensure that voters had a ride to polls, my mother was happy to volunteer me for that job. That was my civic duty. So, when the time came for me to vote, I did so, without reservations. I knew what the inside of a polling booth looked like because I had gone in with my mother for years before.
So, I learned how to engage in politics from my parents. They taught me to stay politically aware, engaged, and most of all active.