By Michael Diaz
I am a student at Lighthouse Charter on the east side of Oakland, where I have lived my whole life so far. Working toward my future I have taken class as Youth Radio in downtown Oakland and have a job at Safeway to make some money to pay for my own equipment. I come from a loving family that supports my decisions. I have written poetry and been around music because of my family. I work to see myself excel as a producer in my future. You can check out more of my work at youthradio.org.
Growing up in East Oakland, I often dealt with problems outside of my control. Sometimes I thought I was the problem. Until I realized I wasn’t alone with these problems and found my way.
I had lived in my grandma’s house with my family for most of my life, up until my uncle went berserk on us and we had to leave. Two months after that, following a short stay at a friend’s house, we got our own place on High Street. It was a small apartment and the neighbors were loud but I was closer to my friend’s houses so it worked out for me.
I was a different shade than most of the other kids, a darker shade, when I attended Redwood Heights Elementary School. I thought something was wrong with me when I would be called things by these lighter shade of kids; they really threw shade at me.
The tostadas and burritos I would eat at home were somehow wrong, according to these kids. I fumbled my words; my clothes were full of holes. Goodwill had a two-for- one deal and my jeans were ripped from playing in the dirt. They were big so I could one day grow into them, and I did after a couple years passed. There were other Mexican kids along with Black kids but they came and went, never staying for too long. These kids of color knew their culture, they were not trying to fit in like I was.
The White Mexican
I felt how far away I really was from other kids who were supposedly “like me” when I came to Lighthouse Community Charter School and felt so out of place. I had painted a coat of white on my canvas when I was expected to have brown on it now. I was placed in a school where kids were a shade like me or darker, and spoke this language with a weird type of tongue.
I was expected to know Spanish when in reality I could barely speak English right, let alone spell words correctly. I saw them drinking Mexican candy, something I had never seen before. I hated hot sauce—still do. We dressed the same, wore the same shoes, but we talked differently and went about ourselves differently. I was accepted for what I looked like, but not how I acted.
I felt alone everywhere I went, my parents would fight, I was failing school, I was good at nothing, I was still trying to fit in as best as I could instead of being branded that white Mexican, and I started having suicidal thoughts. I had started to give up because I felt that I was a mistake everywhere I turned.
Take My Hand
The only thing I had really was singing. I remember at lunch I would fantasize being on a big stage singing songs by Maroon 5 and the Beatles, with millions of fans in front of me. Memorizing song lyrics came easy to me surprisingly; it was the only thing I would remember.
I remember a day back in middle school when I was just done. I had gotten another assignment back with an F. I was trying to think how I had messed up so badly and how I could have made things better but all the things I had tried never worked, even after revising three times. I had started to just give up completely; I even skipped playing basketball that day.
After my mom picked me up from school I was done, tired, stressed out, and just felt dumb. I wanted to go home and cry again. But I remember hearing on the radio lyrics to a fast paced song that rhymed and sounded amazing to me. I heard the words “I’M NOT AFRAID” and my ears opened up like Dumbo’s and I wanted to listen more. What followed soon after amazed me even more, “TAKE MY HAND.”
I was shook from this because I felt I wasn’t alone. Eminem was saying fuck the world and be the change you want for yourself, and fuck everyone else who is against you with an open hand. No matter how badly you messed up, it was up to you on how you were going to change it for the next time. I remember going home and buying the song for my ipod nano and listening to it everyday before and after school to know I had a chance to change it all.
I had come to peace with how people had treated me and that feeling of abandonment had left with every Eminem song I would listen to. With time, I became ever more wise to let more people in on my life so I didn’t need to be alone. I ended up gaining a new sister, her name is Pia. She listened to my story at the time and I listened to hers and realized we came from similar backgrounds. I felt blessed because I lasted long enough to find my source of strength, rap. I started writing my own stories in poems and dealing with my problems in a healthier way than just bottling it up for years. I started to become happy in my new home and not only blended in, but was branded a nickname I feel fits pretty well: