A Girl From the Hood Moves to Italy

Today I enjoyed a beer as I sat alongside the Mediterranean Sea.

I can't stop smiling when I consider it.

I'm not sure if the desire to understand the world around me is something I was born with or something I learned. All I know is that the desire to not live a small existence has pushed me to lengths not even I would believe. I have often found myself outside of my comfort zone and it has been wonderful.

I wouldn't normally in my day to day interactions refer to myself as a girl from the hood, but I would be lying if I said I was anything else. I was born in New York to a teenage immigrant girl (though I would say she was always much more than that). I grew up in and around the projects in Yonkers. Statistically speaking, the life chances and the privileges I have enjoyed are rare in light of my upbringing. In fact, statistically speaking I should be working a low wage job, without a degree, on drugs, a young single parent, or worse, dead. Instead I am sitting here with a beautiful view of Italian hills considering how grateful I am to be alive.

If you're from the hood, the ghetto, or a low socioeconomic area, you know that there exists a humanity that is rich and tender but that is often overlooked by those passing by. The hood is a result of systematic oppression. However, the hood is also a place where people who have been oppressed come together to create communities filled with love. I know that if you haven't grown up in poverty this may be hard to understand but it doesn't make it untrue. As I said earlier, I am not sure whether I was born wanting to understand the world but I do know that the love and loyalty I witnessed growing up in Mulford Gardens is the same love and loyalty I find in Dolianova, Italy.

Those who doubted I would amount to anything didn't know that I would one day refuse to live a small existence. It wasn't easy. There were times when my family had no food to eat or even a place to live. It was awful. However, if I had focused all my energy on the forces against me and just said "this is how it is" I wouldn't be here now.

So I am currently sitting in Italy hoping that someone will read this and be courageous enough to seek out an existence separate from the one we are offered at birth.

And when I drink my wine tonight I will quietly toast to those who said I wouldn't make it.