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11 October 2022:

Last night I had a dream. I was back in my first neighborhood in my home state standing in the driveway of my home. These guys said they needed my help sealing the garage door opening but instead of the standard garage door, it was a caged prison door. I saw there were a bushel of apples that were lying around. I asked if I could take them and the guys who I was with said yes. I then saw there were horses in the street. They were white, tan and beautiful. I went to the horses and tried to feed them the apples. Somehow a bag of carrots appeared in my hand, and I would ask the horses what their preference was. Apples or carrots? Somehow, they could talk, and I gave them what they wanted. There were a lot of horses and I fed them all. The only apples left were mushy and I took them home. My mom in the dream got mad at me for taking so long feeding the horses when I needed to be at home getting ready to go on a trip with my family. She also didn't understand why I brought back mushy apples.

Per usual, my dream made NO SENSE to me. Horses don't talk. The garage door of my house is not a prison door. Neither would a horde of horses be gathered in a residential neighborhood on the street in front of my home. When I woke up, I oriented myself remembering where I was and that I am in South Korea. For some reason I started feeling angry again. I quickly reflected on all of the cultural experiences I've had here in Korea. Seeing historical palaces, wearing historical outfits, the language, the food, the heritage, the people. I thought to myself, what do I know of my culture?

As an African American so much of my history that I know, has been rooted in fighting, overcoming, and serving others. Fighting to survive as a slave. Fighting to be recognized in the Constitution as MORE than 3/5 a human; to be seen and treated as a full human. Fighting to have rights like voting. Fighting to be able to receive housing loans in order to build wealth like everyone else. Fighting to be treated with humanity and respect. Placing everyone else’s needs above my own. A little under a decade ago, my father took me and my siblings back to his home in Mississippi. He showed us the land he and his family would farm on and took us to the "slave cemetery " that our family was buried in. To the left of the cemetery was the white side. It was well maintained, and each grave site had what many of us Americans would recognize as traditional headstones. Right next to it was the slave cemetery. It was overgrown with different greenery and not maintained. My dad said there use to be rocks to mark they graves at some time but that had been removed or destroyed. The only remnants of it being a gravesite were the impressions that were left on the ground.

Growing up my parents worked SO HARD to show us and make us believe that we were equal and just like everyone else. In our household, we didn’t talk much about race. Recently, my mom opened up and shared how when she saw how ‘White’ our school was, she felt TREMENDOUS pressure to ensure that we were not a stereotype. She was extremely critical of how we dressed, how we spoke, how we behaved, and our performance in school. For the most part, my parents’ efforts worked- at least for me. I saw myself as just as fortunate as the kids I went to school with and what I knew of Black history: Slavery, Jim crow, segregation, were no longer a thing, not in northern CA at least. I felt I was given an extreme privilege than that of my ancestors and some of the other Black people in more impoverished neighborhoods, so I felt an EXTREME responsibility to make something of my life and give that back to others. While it was a huge source of inspiration and drive, it also was a tremendous amount of pressure because the truth, unknown to me at the time, was that I was NOT like everyone else. The starting lines for my family and those of the children I went to school with were vastly different. And that I alone am not responsible for nor capable of the advancement of an entire race of people. There is a psychological, financial, and social difference to those who arrive to America willingly as immigrants, to those who arrived forcibly in chains. This does not erase or demean how HARD this transition is for immigrants, it just simply acknowledges that there is a DIFFERENCE. I didn't understand that as a kid, but I see it now. Despite everything my parents did to create the illusion that I was just as equal as everyone else, because they did not have an academic or financial foundation, that impacted how they could help me with my schoolwork and other developmental or professional opportunities. They were extremely limited in this area, so I had to find these opportunities for myself and earn the advocacy of others to try and help and/or guide me. My parents also could not control the racist, sexist messages I received daily nor combat how I received or internalized it.

While I was in college, one of my ROTC instructors and I were talking and somehow arrived on the subject of family names. He told me that every family name has a shield. I told him that I wouldn't have one. He then said to me, sure you do. Everyone does. He then did a google search and looked it up to show me. "Look there's your shield" sure enough, there was a British shield for "Hood". I didn't have the heart or the energy to tell him that African Americans who descended from chattel slaves often took the names of their White masters after slavery so we often do not know what our African names are. I played along as it was a thoughtful gesture by him to help me feel included but once again it was a reminder of my blackness.

Since March I've been doing different group therapy sessions and what has been interesting to me is the demographic of people there. 1) everyone (except for me) is enlisted. 2) the majority (not all) of the people are people of color. A lot of us are experiencing very similar things: traumatic experiences in our personal lives, toxicity in our work environment, feeling disconnected from other people, etc. I've joked around with my friends from home telling them that apparently therapy is where you can find the Black people here in Korea, but the sentiment is interesting. Off base, the Koreans have been amazing to me. So many of them have gone OUT OF THEIR WAY to help me navigate the country and enjoy my time here. My brother and sister experienced the same thing when they visited and while I'm not naive to think that there isn't some prejudice for being a foreigner in this country (I've seen it). In the year I've lived here, I have been treated WAY BETTER by the Korean nationals than I have at home. That is something I don't understand.

What I do understand, is that many of us in America do not know our TRUE history or have a very one sided, limited view of it. So many of us do not know where we come from, who America has been and what it is, and how our country rose to power so in turn some of us can lack true awareness of ourselves and how others perceive us. I am discovering more and more how UNAWARE I am of my true self. My Operations Superintendent said to me the other day, "It's like I see you way up here, but for some reason, you still see yourself down here." I told him that is true. In order to get "up here," I've HAD to see myself "down here" in order to maneuver and navigate this white supremacy/patriarchal system that is in America. And unfortunately, as much as I've tried to resist it and make things better for others and myself, some of the messages and actions done to me, I've internalized and its severely damaged me. And I am in therapy now to get on a path to healing and unlearning it.

The more self-aware I become, the less tolerant I am becoming of anything that places me or others like me as 3/5's a human. I am learning more and more that it is not my responsibility to educate others so that I can be treated as a human being or to elevate their consciousness. That responsibility is on them. That work and inspiration is on them to do and seek. The question that remains for me, is where can I be accepted as a fully conscious human?


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