Director of Student Ministries for Galveston Urban Ministries
I moved to Texas in 8th grade as an african american kid in a mostly white neighborhood. Early on I learned how to carry myself in a way that was “culturally appropriate,” which meant not being “too black”. I would slick back my hair with way too much gel and do my best to speak as politely as I could. Everyone seemed to accept me and would comment on how well I carried myself, usually with a hint of surprise. But no matter how much I tried to change it, my reality was that I was still a young man of color. While most of my white friends were having the “birds and the bees” talk I was having the “how to interact with cops so you do not get shot” talk (though I had the “birds and bees talk” too). I even remember being head over heels for this caucasian girl who was into me as well. Wanting to be respectful I went to her father to ask for permission to date her only to see him break into tears because he believed our “imaginary future kids” would have too hard of a time as mixed children. While I have never been physically abused or turned down for a job based on the color of my skin (that I know of), the marred identity that came from these experiences caused an extraordinary amount of pain in my life.
Now, years later, I am a husband, a brand new father, and I work as a mentor to mostly low income students of color in Galveston. While I have come to love and celebrate my black heritage, I still see many of my students and friends fighting against the same stereotypes I battled. I have had middle school students put in jail for what would normally just be a call to parents, and coworkers pulled over and interrogated while riding their bike home. I have heard my students characterized as “the scary kids” from people who did not even know their first names just because of their skin color and the neighborhood they live in.
Racial diversity is about seeing the divine worth in every person. It is about celebrating what makes us unique instead of trying to sterilize our differences. The colors are what make a painting beautiful, not the canvas. I know there are amazing people in this city fighting for real change but we still have work to do! As long as it's “those people” instead of “our people” our city will never fully thrive. When we fail one part of the community, intentionally or unintentionally, we fail the community as a whole. I’ll leave you with this:
“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”― L.R. Knost
Galveston Urban Ministries is a 501 C3 non-profit focused on building holistic relationships to transform the city of Galveston through programs like the Getting Ahead which offers education and mentorship to adults so that they can succeed in life and the Youth Art Collective which teaches low income youth the joy of photography and helps them put on an end of the year Art Show (May 16th). For more information on how you can help change lives please visit www.galvestonurbanministries.org.