I remember riding down the north side of town seeing the nice houses with kids playing in the yard. They had swing sets and green grass. Parents outside smiling and laughing. As my mother drove through those neighborhoods I often wondered why our family couldn’t have that life? How do families like mine end up where we are? Where did our family history go wrong? What didn’t we do to position ourselves for better lives?
I would hear stories of how generations of people in my family went from slavery to eventually being free. But what did freedom really mean when you start with nothing? And how many generations does it take to have something?
These are the thoughts that went through my mind when I lived here. This is the alley I called my home when I was 16 years old.
There was no backyard here. There was no green grass or a place to play. There were only drug dealer neighbors. Pimps and prostitutes coming in and out of the alley. Loud music and the occasional gunshot. And within these walls there was so much chaos, hurt and pain. I would stare out the window praying and asking God, “At what point will my family ever be free enough, financially stable enough, supported enough, mentally, physically, emotionally strong enough to come up out of what must be what hell feels like some days? When God?”
I remember one day walking out in the alley standing there, staring. There were no chains on my hands and ankles. I was free. The problem was, I didn’t know where to go and where going would lead. But I looked up at this place and imagined the windows boarded up and the place burned to the ground. I looked up imagining myself in a nice house with green grass and a place for my future kids to play. I imagined a home. A home that was safe inside, a life that would get me further from the hell I felt as a child and closer to the heaven that I read God promised to me.