Who Knew? The Girl Who Was Put in a Box Finds a Home
An ode to my heritage of "otherness"
As a teaching artist, I find my biggest goal is to make my students feel included. On the walls and within the classroom, it is important to me that they see themselves reflected. It is a kind of hidden agenda of sorts, even from myself.
When I hear my students say things like "I paint ugly" or call themselves stupid, my mind translates: “I paint different. I am different. I am not like the others.” Even from such a young age they learn to internalize a certain standard tradition of art. They see the work that ends up on the walls and all they know is it’s not like theirs.
We are not supposed to celebrate difference nor try to understand it. I knew the former very well, if not the latter. So, how, exactly, did I find myself going down the opposite route?
. . .
Growing up, I was always in an endless game of dodgeball. My family members would make sure I knew I was “American” not Jamaican. African-Americans knew I was not ‘one of them.’ Most white Americans figured I was either African-American or Jamaican. Latinos, baffled by my fluency in Spanish, didn’t know what to think.
The rules varied from time to time with one exception: I was the ball that everybody sought to dodge. I enjoyed dodgeball, sure, but not this kind. It was not all that much fun from the point of view of the ball. And, so, whenever I got even a semblance of a say within the classroom walls, something within me knew.