By Talia Floyd News Writer
I think the places where we live give us names, and not always good ones. I have plenty of names that Baltimore gave me that I would prefer it had kept to itself (Oreo I could really do without). There are a lot of names I wish I had earned, such as Organizer. Nevertheless coming to a new home means coming into a new name. Now I am named college Student, Roommate, and Thrift-shopaholic.
I used to be known as Sister. That is what Baltimore named me. Not just anyone in Baltimore but older, connected, rooted in the self love 70’s, Black with a capital B Baltimore named me Sister.
I used to be known as Queen. Baltimore named me queen; not just anyone in Baltimore but old men on the street, who were honestly a little creepy, trying to sell me something that I really didn’t need. My mother walked anywhere being tall and beautiful with people calling her Queen. That old man, the arabber who sold fruit out of a horse drawn cart; that seemed straight out of story to me and these days is just a story of what once was. The arabber called every Black woman a queen.
I had an “aha” moment. I realized that when people are screaming “Yaaaas queen!” it comes from the places I remember growing up, a little more somber in daylight, on the street. I mean Queens in the place where people make a living at the work that they can find. Queens were waiting for the bus, waiting for their ride, walking to the store, walking to work, spitting out their gum, and picking up other people’s trash. I mean the places where women who are called Queens live and occasionally where they die; now ascended to pop culture but without the context, something unrecognizable even to those who knew it once.
On occasion I was Daughter. At the school board meeting when the woman was saying we need to protect our children she was calling me Daughter.
When we, my twin sister and I, finished that duet on violin and cello, we could have been singing at the top of our lungs off key for a half hour; it didn’t matter. At the end of the event, the show, the open mic women who had designated themselves as Aunt or Mother or Grandmother in our lives would tell us how proud they were. That we were like daughters to them. I miss being called Daughter.
I miss being a daughter to all of those women the most; the people who would pull me aside if I was failing to meet expectations and tell me stories of growing up in Arkansas, in North Carolina, in the projects, or tell me about how their work brought my possibilities into being; the unsaid but clearly implied “don’t waste all my hardwork”. The women who were always busy because they were organizing some thing or other in the community are women that I want to be like but seem to be getting farther and farther away from.
I miss feeling like my identity is confirmed by the people around me. College gives us the opportunity to define ourselves, an opportunity that some of us desperately need because the places we come from stifle the truth of what we are. But I lost my community, the one that called me by name, when I came here. I miss the people who I never knew well but who were always inviting me to be something closer than a stranger.