The identity of my blackness, my queernes, my womanhood, my body image, and every other intersectional piece of who I am crashed into me like a wave, once I got to college. But before that…I was born to a single, white mother in a conservative-leaning, religious, and hard-loving family. I can’t say anything about my childhood was especially difficult. I was blessed with a mother that gave me all she could and loved me deeply. I grew up in a small, old apartment complex at the edge of a nice, middle-class, suburban neighborhood of Sacramento, CA. I attended good schools and got into academically rigorous programs. There was nothing especially fancy about my upbringing, as my mom supported us on a preschool teacher’s salary. My relationship with my black father and his family was, and has always been, strained. But my parents had an agreement that I’d visit him every other weekend and alternate holidays. My mother insisted on me being exposed to my “black culture” (something I never understood as a child). That is until high school, when I was “old enough” to decide that I did not want to spend so much time with the family that I felt more like a guest around. Of my entire pre-collegiate life, the hardest thing I wrestled with was aligning my queerness to my religious family’s teaching.
As for many, college was a space for me to raise my consciousness in so many areas of my own life and in the world that I live. I learned with my friends that my body shape and size is something to celebrate and love, no matter what society pushes as “beautiful” or even “healthy”. I learned with an even greater sense of gratitude that single parents/guardians are superheroes, especially mine. I understood my responsibility in the relationship with my paternal family. I finally got the exposure to black culture that my mom pushed for as a child. I saw how the Black community is generationally oppressed in America (and everywhere). I chose to transfer universities, during my would-have-been senior year of college, to major in Ethnic Studies. I moved to the Bay Area to study how my people survived the economic system of American slavery and continue to survive, and grow, and thrive in broken American systems that are built for people that look like the majority of our presidents. I learned that my queer identity does not exist to make people comfortable, and that there are many LGBTQ+ leaders that bring me confident hope. I learned that I can love God and love whoever else, and that my queerness is not antithetical to my beliefs. I realized how hurtful and problematic it was to be called an “oreo” at school growing up because I “looked black but acted white”. Critical theory classes taught me to breakdown every premise that American culture offers and to question everything, a tool I will never take for granted. Most of all, college raised my consciousness to see how so much of my identity instersected with oppressed communities, while it also gave me privilege to fight for those communities–this became the burning passion of my heart.
Today, I continue the personal growth that college ignited. I was given an amazing opportunity, in my last year of college, to go from working at a pizza restaurant, to working in the corporate world at Premier. Somehow my new position came with a seat on our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Taskforce. I get to develop my passions and help grow Premier to be a more equitable workplace, offering any member of any community or identity an opportunity and a chance. And then, of course, there’s everyday nuts and bolts of my office job, which 15 year old me learned isn’t terrible, at least at Premier!