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My want to meet Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover) is a little too self-serving. I had a conversation this weekend about this entire campaign and I’m going about it in the wrong way. (Thanks Wondertwin) The reason why I want to meet him is not only because I love his music, his sense humour, his American Apparel hoodies. He represents the one voice I wish I heard growing up. The voice letting me know there was absolutely nothing wrong with me, that I’d be okay. If this was something I felt and still feel all the time, there’s bound to be others in the same boat. I hope these posts inspire you to check him out – honestly and truly.
I grew up middle-upper class, living in a predominantly white neighbourhood in a large house and went to a Christian private school for seven years. I wasn’t raised “hood.” I was never going to be “street.” In private school, I had the same friends in every class, every year. My family fell on hard times, my parents separated and my brother and I remained with my father who raised us. However I did get a severe reality check; the security of my classmates was taken from me and I was heading to a public school.
All of a sudden, I’m the new kid being judged on my clothing since uniforms were not enforced. This was a Brave New World and I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t speak like the other black girls, I didn’t dress like them and I didn’t have a chip on my shoulder BECAUSE I WAS 10 YEARS OLD! Year after year, I was fascinated by cliques, a word I never heard until I entered public school. I didn’t have a place because everywhere was my place. I knew all the words of every Bob Marley and Boyz II Men song but I also knew every lyric Bruce Springsteen ever sang. I obviously watched “Martin” but I also had a long-time crush on Ed Begley, Jr. circa his “St. Elsewhere” days. “ED BEGLEY WHO???” the girls would cackle and point because they didn’t get it.”It” being “me.” Growing up as a black person, being told I wasn’t black enough by my own black classmates should’ve derailed my steady course toward self-discovery. Apparently, I was an oreo, a coconut *single blink* You know, black/brown on the outside and white on the inside. I’m not saying I was a saint but I rarely got in trouble and yet people wanted to start trouble with me because they didn’t understand me.
Why did I talk to everyone?
Why didn’t I swear?
Why did I dress the way I did?
Why did I speak the way I did?
“Why” is the only question they never bothered to ask me. I always thought they should have. Would it have mattered? I don’t think they cared for an answer, they just wanted to let me know I was different and that wasn’t okay. Looking back, I can understand there was some jealousy in the mix. I looked like them but I wasn’t like them and this caused some tension. Pile that on to the usual coming of age stuff and we’ve reached a whole new level of WTF.
I’ll always speak my mind and tell it like it is, I think that’s a part of my charm. Some don’t like it and think by pointing out my faults (as they see them) makes them the bigger person. A friend (whose initials happen to be S.B.) told me recently I was in a zone lately; he referred to it as “Vintage Ari.” I asked him if that was a good thing or a bad thing. He said, “Very good. I read in awe and jealousy of the realness.” This made my heart grow three sizes.
So many of Childish Gambino’s songs speak to the little girl I was and the woman I grew to be. There were several paths I could’ve taken in my formative years, but the demons that attracted my peers left me to my own devices. Instead, I found and still find solace in the small things like music from Anita Baker to Weezer. I don’t hold any grudges to anyone in my past, it definitely made me a stronger person. I still have MANY insecurities to overcome but I try not to let them hold me down and you shouldn’t either. This post has a lot to do with race but you can apply this to any struggles you had or are having in life. Everyone has a story and it’s the classics that are told over and over again. So CG, I may not have lived the same life as you, but I relate to so many of the things you lived through. You’re proof that if I keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll eventually get to where I’m going.
One of my favourite lines from “Hold You Down:”
This one kid said somethin’ that was really bad
He said I wasn’t really black because I had a dad
I think that’s kinda sad
Mostly ‘cuz a lot of black kids think they should agree with that
If you’re a father, you should stick around if you could
‘Cuz even if you’re bad at it, you get Tiger Woods
We warriors, we all need Senseis.
For all the lyrics to “Hold You Down,” please click here.