As a child, I attended predominantly White schools. But while I was going through their school system, I was still living in a mostly Black neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan. At an early age, I learned what it meant to be Black in an all White space. I learned how it felt to be ignored and looked over based off my outside appearance. I knew I was not like the other kids. My experiences at a young age impacted my adult life heavily. For the first 15 years of my life, I felt like an Earl Sweatshirt lyric. “Too Black for the white kids, and too white for the Black.” The summer between 9th and 10th grade, I begged my parents to allow me to transfer schools and attend a high school in the city. The high school I selected was 100% Black, and was located on the West Side of Detroit. That was one of the best decisions I ever made. Though the school I transferred to was poverty-stricken, the experience I got there was like no other. I thank God everyday for softening my parents’ hearts and allowing me to make such a big decision. There is nothing like learning amongst your own people. At Renaissance High school, I gained a family. I didn’t realize how important this decision was for me until I took ADW and Survey of African American Music. In both of these courses, I learned the importance of Black identity and how critical it is to know where we’ve come from, what we’ve made and how we have influenced the outside world. My matriculation at Spelman has empowered me and truly opened my eyes to the impact of African Americans on America. In relation to Jay Z’s The Story of O.J., the artist explains African Americans as being successful but no matter the success gained, they are still seen as “niggas” to their oppressors. That feeling is very similar to what I was going through as a child. No matter what my grades were in school, or how many activities are participated in, my white counterparts never truly valued me. To overcome this feeling, I decided to focus on myself. I stopped caring about how people viewed me. Either they like me, or they don’t. I stopped worrying because my work speaks for itself. As a community, I think it’d be best if we focused on empowering each other instead of worrying about what others think of us.

Jaylinn Calloway

Jaylinn Calloway

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