Country Ghetto Prodigy

We have a peanut festival where I’m from.

Yup. Peanuts.

We harvest them. We celebrate them. And then we have an entire festival devoted to them. Where my parents are from, there’s a peanut factory, their little rickety Black Baptist church on the corner of the road, and the 7/11 where my Grandpa used to hang out with his chipped old pickup truck. You pass by the Virginia Diner, the Market and the John Deere store, and that’s it.

Now, I’m not saying I grew up in poverty. I grew up in the suburbs. Granted, the suburbs where I live got a lot of brown folks milling around. But when it’s time to visit my grandparents, we head to the country ghetto. Have you ever seen Their Eyes Were Watching God?

Yeah, that’s where we from.

I have to say, when you’re from that and you go to a school like this, holidays are hard. You and your cousin, who were best friends growing up, are wrenched apart. Everyone used to praise you for getting straight A’s at school and ask you what you learned in school that day. One day, you realized, people didn’t know what you were talking about. So they stopped asking.

Your cousin, who goes to college to play football in Wisconsin gets all the love. We pass around his championship ring at dinner instead of the pan of sweet potatoes and talk about his games, play by play, but when you try to mention your acceptance into a distinguished major program and the topic of your thesis, the conversation wilts like collards when they hit the hot pan.

And just like that, we rewind, and we all back on the sidelines of T’s game.

And look, baby, I’m not mad at you. In fact, you doing the damn thing. I couldn’t be prouder of you. You’re closer to our dreams of our joint Ebony spread than I am. You have been worthy, carried trophies above your head, seen your dreams come true, the dreams you used to tell me about when we were young. “I’mma be pulling trophies, cuz, I’ma be the champ.”

Back in the day, when we both came from the same cornfields, trying to escape the same reality.

But I have seen my dreams, too. I have met my heroes; I have become bilingual, trilingual, if you count code as another tongue; I will wear the honors of honor and I will graduate from the University of Virginia. I have written my story, but why can’t my family read it?

(Written for the inaugural performance of the Black Monologues at the University of Virginia, 2015. By Ravynn Stringfield.)

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