I was going through some of my MySpace blogs from back in the day (while was in college), and came across this one, which I remember so vividly. Take a look:
May 15, 2007 - Tuesday
Boredom Breeds...literally, in this case
Current mood: distressed
So for the past week, I haven't been around, as you may or may not have noticed, because I was in Idlewild, Michigan, performing my play "The Colored Museum". We take a play from Eastern Michigan University up there every summer, in hopes of helping to revitalize this once booming Black Community back into what it was in its heyday.
After one of the shows, I was speaking to an beautiful elderly woman (her silver hair was so shiny and neat...I hope my gray hair turns out as beautifully regal as hers did), and she told me how much she liked the show, but she didn't think that very many people understood it. The play is a satirical account of the black experience in America...it has funny moments, but was written to make black folks uncomfortable enough that they think about their own lives (If you've never heard of it, look it up. "The Colored Museum" by George C. Wolfe)
You see, Idlewild is based in Lake County, Michigan...the poorest county in the state. That means that unemployment rates are high, and not many folks go to, or have gone to college. We come there, trying to persuade the high school students to get out of there, and see the world-through college first. We do this by offering a workshop a few weeks before we get there, and then even having some of the high school students work on our show as interns. One of the girls who interned for us 3 years ago just finished her freshman year at EMU, and we are so proud of her.
Anyway...this woman and I were chatting about how the we changed some of the language in the play, to make it more PG than the PG13 it had been before...and she told me that her favorite scene was one where a man was throwing out all of his childhood items, because he had to conform to society...but the boy inside of him was torn over the issue. The boy said "you can't forget your past...its always there with you", and it made a great impact on this woman. She went on and on about it, but was disappointed that not too many others 'got it'. Then she went on to ask me what the high schoolers thought of it, since we did a private show for them. I told her that they laughed through most of it, since it was funny, but they didn't really understand most of it...with the exception of a scene called "Permutations"...a scene about a teenage girl, who had sex with the garbage man, and instead of having a baby, she laid an egg, and then had to defend herself from her mother.
This was sad, but true. Many times last week, my fellow actors and I spoke on how boring being in Idlewild was. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing to see. No cable to watch. Cell phones barely had any service. The nearest McDonalds was a half hour away, and the highlight of their week was driving a half hour to the nearest WalMart. The high school kids really had nothing better to do than lay down and get pregnant, so that they'd have something to do...if you have a baby to take care of, you're not bored anymore!
The woman and I stood there discussing this for a few minutes. I told her that we do our best to set a good example, and try to encourage them to come to college...she said that's great of us to do, but it won't work. Their mommas don't want them to leave...if a child leaves, that mean less money from the government. If that child stays and has a baby, that's more money. She said that in most households around there, you had 5 generations living in one house, the oldest being 65, then 45, then 30, then 15, and newborn. (Sad, isn't it?) And all because they know that the more folks you have in a household, the bigger your check is. Even one of the interns we had this year was celebrating her first Mother's Day.
The intern asked me about my family. I told her I had 3 babies, and it was no shock to her. The other 2 women in the cast, 23 and 20 had none, which did shock her. Then I told her that all of my kids had the same father. AND we were married. AND I was 'of age' to have them...(she thought I was 24...and 'bout near pissed on herself when I told her my real age)
I guess the point of my story is this; why wouldn't a parent want better for their child? What would I look like telling my kids "no, you cant go to college, you cant make yourself better, i want you to depend on me and this welfare check for the rest of your life!"
Have we really become so complacent in this world? Our elders feel like they cant trust the young people, because we haven't been taught well by our own parents (in most cases, their children), and that we aren't teaching our children to lead in the way They (the elders) need them to.
I don't want to be this way...
True, I wrote this 3 years ago, but it still hits me so hard. I look at my life now, and see the girls I teach. I see my own kids, and I see the kids I go to church with. Its amazing how your environment can dictate your outcome, if you allow it to.
Readers, what are your thoughts? Please share...