This post is going to be a bit different from the rest. I don’t have any tips, or bits of advice, just the ramblings of a particularly reflective mood I was in on the metro earlier today. I’m starting the process of applying to PhD programs (AGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH) and of course I basically have to sell myself and my work on why they should choose (and fund) me to be a part of their program. I need to show them who I am and who I will be as a PhD candidate at their school. I’ll have to string together a series of words that sum up “Bri” in about 1000 words or less. So I decided to write out things that mean “Bri” to me and this is what I came up with…
I was raised to the sounds of Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire. I didn’t know anything hip on the radio because our house was perpetually filled with the sounds of FM 98 or some other old school artists. I was raised to appreciate the genius of Stevie Wonder and respect the sorrow of Marvin Gaye. I knew all the words to Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘Millennium’ album long before I could “talk that stuff and roll with it”. My only peep at what was hip and at all relevant came through the profuse amount of time I spent with my cousin who was 12 years my senior and even though most times she didn’t have a choice on whether to let me tag along with her and her friends she was the definition of cool in my book. I spent a majority of my time with people far older than me and, as a result, people have many times said I speak beyond my years.
When I hear music I like I have to move. Supposedly, I inherited this trait from the women who came before me. My mother says that when her and her younger sister were kids, people would say all you had to do was beat pots and pans and those two would start moving. Whenever they heard music they loved, they had to dance. Learning that only propelled me to want to dance even more, no matter if I was in my bedroom or in a Bath and Body Works if I heard a sound I loved, I had to groove to it. Can’t help it.
I was raised to believe that you stood your ground for your beliefs and that being black I’d be standing my ground a lot. Even though I wasn’t encouraged to be vain or egocentric, one of my first lessons in self-image was “the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice” meaning my dark skin was a badge of honor and beauty. Even though I didn’t get it when I was younger I can honestly say I’ve never wished to be any shade than the one I am. Even when being told by a fairer skinned preschool friend that I was too dark for her to play with or being teased by other kids for being “so black” I never thought the problem was my skin tone but my inability to develop quick comebacks, which is something I still suck at to this day but catch me a couple hours after an argument and I got loads of quips for you.
I have an obnoxious laugh that sounds like a mixture of a hyena’s cackle and a dying dog but I have yet to stop laughing. I love laughing and I love being surrounded by good spirits and people who exude love. The people I love are the people I’d die for, and there is no limit to my loyalty when it comes to those closest to my heart.
In my house, MLK day was not just a day off from school and work it was a holiday and was to be commemorated as such. To this day my mother and I still celebrate every year together because that’s what you do to honor your heroes. I was first introduced to Malcolm X and what he represented by a sweatshirt that my mother had bought long before I was born (and still has to do this day). It has his face in the forefront of the Pan-African flag and the back of the sweatshirt has a famous quote where Malcolm X declares that he is not a racist. Our front room was decorated with paintings of African peoples in casual patterned garb. I always knew Black was beautiful because there was never anyone to tell me any different. Now mind you all the messages of total self-love didn’t make it to me until much later, especially the hair thing…that took a while, but the foundation for me to be an oppression-fighting, Black empowering agent for change was set early on in life.
My perfect memory of childhood isn’t one event but of every Saturday waking up to the sound of the radio being blared from one of the car’s being washed across the street. Wiping the sleep out of my eyes, freshening up, and venturing my way through my house to find my mom either in the kitchen or in the front room planning out her day. Finally putting some clothes on and going next door to find my aunt tending her garden as she did every Saturday. Kneeling on one of her kneepads and asking her countless questions about why she was clipping that plant this way or digging up this dirt even though I never paid attention long enough to actually remember the answers she gave. After hovering behind her for some indefinite amount of time, I would return to my house to see what errands my mom had planned for us to run that day. Those are the days that bring the warmest feelings to my heart when I think back on my childhood. I had great moments but that consistent routine of never knowing, but then again always knowing, what would happen on this most free and magical of days (Saturday).
These are the things that I think most clearly resonate with me when I’m trying to put “who I am” into words. They won’t get me into any schools or earn me any jobs but this would be the most honest representation of myself I could ever present to the world.
Hope this wasn’t too terribly boring,
“Don’t live any longer the way this world lives. Let your way of thinking be completely changed. Then you will be able to test what God wants for you. And you will agree that what he wants is right. his plan is good and pleasing and perfect.”- Romans 12:2