Growing up in deep East Oakland in the 90’s was quite the experience. If you add being raised a raw vegan, not religious–at all, and having a culture that wasn’t white-washed or consistent with the typical Black-American systemically induced experience, then you have a pretty awkward childhood to say the least.
Just imagine being a child from age 5 to 12 years old, throughout the whole public school experience answering questions from both peers and teachers saying, “why are you not religious? you’re going to hell”, then it’s “why are you eating peanuts for lunch” then, “why does your hair look like that” (because we were raised natural and therefore weren’t allowed to wear our hair in a style besides dreadlocks), it was totally insane. I wasn’t even sure what to make of it. I would literally make up anything, especially the religious part. I didn’t get why people cared at all what a child believed in. One day I’d say Christian, the next, I’d be Baptist, the next Catholic, because saying I don’t believe in the same social construct as everyone else would sound pretty strange coming from a young child. Looking back the thought makes me laugh. When holidays would come around that’s when things would get even more hairy. We didn’t celebrate socially constructed holidays because it wasn’t in our culture. I never had anything against anyone who did, but I knew it wasn’t mine. So, for the sake of not getting into a long discussion with middle schoolers who were pretty fucking mean to begin with, I’d just roll with it.
Now that I am an adult and the social consciousness of the world has changed quite a bit, I can be more open about what I actually believe and who I actually am. Nowadays it’s cool to have a cultural identity that isn’t consistent with what was perceived to be normal, its cool to be vegan (hip in fact), everyone has dreadlocks and is not singled out for being in their natural state-of-being. And, although constructed religion still has its place, spirituality is on the rise and it’s unacceptable to tell anyone they’re going to hell just because they ain’t Christian. So, given it was real real rough growing up, being different, having a culture handed down without the brain-wash, I am actually quite grateful. And I feel like I’ve been ahead of the curve by about 25years. I guess it was all just a part of growing pains.