Wednesday, March 26, 2014

One Small Change: Encountering New Neighbors [with Addie Zierman]

I am beyond honored today to be sharing a story over at Addie Zierman's blog as a part of her series, "One Small Change." Addie is an beautiful and compassionate writer, and if you haven't been on her blog or read her critically-acclaimed 2013 book, When We Were on Fire, you are missing out!

Today I'm taking a break from the women's history month project, writing about the getting to know people who are different from me, and how it has opened up new worlds. Here's how it starts:
Photo by Paul Sableman
“We’re gonna search their bags for weapons, drugs, and secular music,” my co-counselor Tanya told me as she selected one of her Christian hip hop CDs as a welcome soundtrack. “I’ve been doing it all summer so I’ll be in the cabin unpacking their bags; you’ll be outside greeting them.”

I nodded, trying to look as unalarmed as possible. I’d elected to stay this last week of summer camp because it seemed like it would be a good experience after a summer of suburban white girls. I was nineteen, and I knew I was too quiet, introverted, and sheltered to have any idea how to relate to these urban youth who were about to pull up. I would do whatever Tanya said. She’d just arrived from an inner city kids camp, plus she was urban herself, which maybe this week was a euphemism for black.

A few minutes later, the first van pulled in. I threw on a polka-dot dress and a purple wig and started jumping up and down, plastering a smile onto my face and opening my arms to these children from Richmond and DC and Pittsburgh, these children who’d seen more violence and discrimination and poverty in their lives than I’d ever seen on TV...

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