After watching ABC’s new six-episode show Soul of a Nation last night that focuses on the Black experience in America (and that opened with a segment featuring Evanston’s reparations initiative), Kingsway Preparatory School founder and Evanston resident Tamara Hadaway asked on her Facebook page:
“Watching #SoulOfTheNation and they asked, ‘When did you realize you were Black?’ Anyone have a definitive moment? My ‘otherness’ was highlighted when, shortly after coming to the US, I was asked if I lived in trees and had a tail when in Jamaica.”
Here are some of the responses to Tamara's post (shared with permission): "When I was in the 4th grade, another student said my skin was the color of the dirt. Right here in the Evanston school district."
"I was 4 year old, in St Francis Hospital, having corrective surgery on both legs. 1970. I had 4 other white roommates and they kept calling me the N word and break my balloons my father had brought me and just messing with me. I eventually had to request to be moved to another room on pediatrics."
"I didn't notice a difference in race til I move to the states at 7 years old. What’s crazy is my neighbors back home are white but that seemed regular to me. Everything here is about race."
"I knew I was black when I was in pre-K, but the real defining moment of knowing the worse part separation of skin color vs hearing of it when I had to endure 3 white men and 1 white woman said to me. Those 4 called me and told me to come down to the police station to identify the rapist.. The 3 were police officers and the lady was a lawyer.
They began telling me at the age of 16 (which was a year after I was raped); that the young white girl who was raped by the same man didn't deserve it.
They said she came from a great family and while I am being a child who grew up in the projects need to speak up to protect her. She didn't deserve what happen to her like I did.
Though, they said they needed justice for her. They wanted me to write my name down confirming the man was a rapist and I need to go away because they only wanted to present her case without getting justice for me. SMH SMH"
"When in Corporate America back in early 80s. I was the only African American Staffing Coordinator. There was just a different vibe. After the Rodney King verdict, I was livid. A caucasian girl walked by me and did not speak, I said, “Oh you can’t speak this morning....” That’s when I knew I was black. I was ready ....LOL"
"I knew I was black, yet at the same time was different bc I was also white and Native American etc. Me being multiethnic was very hard in the seventies bc I was too white, to be black too black to be white. I went through the ringer bc “ race” always offended me bc before scientists proved it, I had an innate sense of all came from Africa and were not separate races just human.
I marked all the boxes except Asian, now I find out I possibly can mark that too so lol.
It was hard, I feel I was victimized by my uncle( mom’s brother) and grandmothers neighbor bc of being half black like a three/five yr old-11 can acknowledge their sexuality and own they caused older boys/men’s attention bc they were the overly sexual black girl total bs! . I in fifth grade was called the n word yet flipped it on the white boy who called me that word bc I went Webster’s on him and told him the description was more appropriate of him. Made our teacher laugh. I had Early knowledge I wasn’t white bc I didn’t look like my mom yet I didn’t recognize my dad or other family in me either."
"It’s so sad, what we have to deal with as Black people. People used to ask me if my father learned how to wear clothes and shoes when he moved to the US and if he fought with monkeys, lions and tigers back in Congo. This is why what you do is so important, because you educate children and even some adults."
"One week into Kindergarten. I desegregated my elementary school in Glenview. Was kicked in the stomach and told “N... are not allowed to play with toys” by one of my classmates. The teacher did nothing"
"I actually thought everyone was black, but we all came in various shades including my blond hair, blue eyes best friend in preschool. Randomly my mom explained that people came in different races."
"I always knew I was black. At an early age my parents taught us what to do and what NOT to do when we were outside of the home. I remember in elementary school how our teachers made differences in us, the white kids were always called on and made to feel important even if their answer wasn’t quite right. I could hold my hand up for awhile wanting to answer the teachers question but never being called, eventually getting tired of waiting and putting my hand down. If by some chance I was called to answer, I remember being told time and time again “that’s not the correct answer “- so at some point I just decided to stop putting my hand up.
It also didn’t help that I was dark skinned I was ignored by some of the kids and called names by others but that didn’t matter to me because at home my parents told me how beautiful I was and how pretty my dark skin was. I was told that it doesn’t matter what shade anyone else was - they were no better than I was... so I was always comfortable in my dark skin... "
"When Martin Luther King died. But I always knew I was black.... I had a hard time with why it mattered it made such a difference... "
Did you know that Kingsway Prep, founded by Tarama, is the only school in the 5th ward? It's an amazing little school that's working hard to grow! You can help by donating to their GoFundMe and getting them closer to their goal!