This post is in response to the Carnival of African-American Genealogy, 4th edition.
I have always lived in the Northeast of the United States, except for the 10 years that I lived in the Washington, DC area after college. I never thought much about freedom growing up. I lived in a small city where minorities had always been present and few. In fact, most of us lived in one of two neighborhoods in the city. While I had been called the N-word every now and then through the years, I never thought that being who I was gave me less freedom than others.
During my senior year in high school, I accidently found an application to Howard University in Washington, DC in the school library. DC seemed far enough away so I applied. I had never heard of Howard before that moment. I got accepted to Howard and more than a few other schools but Howard gave me a full scholarship so I accepted and my parents made plans to drive me down to DC.
My mother had never been out of our city before and I had never been further than Long Island. Driving down Georgia Avenue, we were stunned. The sidewalks were full of Black people – the whole sidewalk! We had never seen such a thing. We were awestruck! We had lived our entire lives in a place where most of the people didn’t look anything like us and neither of us ever even considered that there might be a place where everyone looked like us.
That is when I knew what freedom really was. I didn’t have to be smarter or prettier or quieter or better than anyone else. I could just be me. I was in a place where the color of my skin didn’t matter (much). And there were plenty of folks my shade. Growing up I always felt different even if I didn’t really know why.
I loved my years in DC and the surrounding areas. I moved back to Massachusetts for family reasons several years ago but go back frequently to visit. I hope to retire to Maryland if I live that long.
So What is Freedom to Me? The Opportunity to Be Me.