Editor’s note: Slavery is an integral part of the American story and those who were forced to come to the US in chains, are no less immigrants than any other group. Not only was their freedom taken, but in many cases, their personal family history was lost. On this web site of immigration stories, we pick up their descendants’ story starting wherever the family can trace it.
“Life is like a road full of twists and turns. Learn to enjoy the ride, no matter how empty it is, for every twist and turn, a blessing is always given in return.” Throughout all the different twists and turns that have come my way, I am proud of the life I have been living for over 30 years.
I was born in South Sacramento on June 14th, 1970. Even though I was an only child, I had a lot of fun. My parents separated not long after I hit the age of 2, but then got an official divorce when I was 13. I mainly lived with my mom, especially since my dad was always in-and-out a lot of the time. Despite all this, I went with my mom to visit her family in Boston, Massachusetts often. Even though I was only a little kid, I also knew about some major events in history, such as the 1982 Olympics and LGBT Rights. Also, scientists discovered HIV and AIDS in 1983. Overall, I was a pretty active child.
In the summer of 1983, my mom drove me to go visit my dad and his new girlfriend, Margaret. They lived in Berkeley. However, toward the end of the summer, my aunt Janice became really sick, and my mom needed to stay and take care of her. Because of this, I ended up staying in Berkeley for the school year. I was 12 at the time.
When I got settled in, it took me a week to adjust. During those first few weeks I was able to make some new friends. We did a lot of activities together — from swimming at the Albany Aquatic Center near UC Berkeley on hot, sunny days, to riding our bikes through Blake Garden on cool, breezy afternoons, we had a lot of fun together. In cool and orangey September of 1982, I began my 6th grade year at Golden Gate Academy, a Seventh-Day Adventist School in Oakland. Since I was adjusted to going to a public school, it took me the first two weeks to really adjust to life at a private school. At Golden Gate, the majority of the students were also black — like me. It made me feel a lot more comfortable knowing that there were others who I was able to share my culture with.
Even though I made friends who helped make my transition more enjoyable, a small part of me still felt like an outsider. Majority of the students had known each other since they were in kindergarten, and that sometimes made me a little more shy at times. But, I was able to overcome that feeling and became more comfortable with them. Along with all of my new friends, my dad’s new girlfriend would check up on me from time to time, especially since she was more relaxed than my very strict dad. I was very independent, and I was able to figure a lot of things out on my own. Even though I really loved being a part of the many happy laughs at school and enjoying the cool weather of Berkeley, I really missed my hometown, the sunny and very hot Sacramento, my friends and family back home, and my mom — ESPECIALLY my mom. It was hard not having her around all the time. Even though I talked to her all the time, it still wasn’t as good as having her by my side. Finally, the end of 6th grade came, and I happily moved back to the city of my heart with my amazing mother.
As I go through my life, I hope that one day, I can go back and finish college — even if it’s online. After I had already started, my mother was diagnosed with both diabetes and cancer. I wanted to be there for my mother as much as possible, so I decided to stop going in order to do that. Also, I wanted her to be alive to either see me get married or to see me have my first child. I never officially got married, but I had my first child on March 13th, 2002 at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center. Her name is Mickayla Ann Blake. My mother died on February 24th, 2008, a little over 2 weeks before Mickayla turned 6. I’m happy that I was able to have my first child before she died, because my mother has been one of Mickayla’s biggest influences, and I wanted them to have a relationship.
I’m proud of me being able to become my own person. I’m glad that I’ve learned to agree to disagree. I’m proud that I have been able to accomplish a lot of things, such as graduating high school, my driver’s license, getting a job, and becoming a mother of 4 girls. But most of all, I’m extremely proud of my daughter Mickayla, who is now 15 years old. She has been through so much ever since her grandmother died. But despite all of that, she has been able to grow and become very successful in her life — especially her academics. She is growing into a mature, young woman. All the decisions I have made in my life have shaped me into who I am today — and I will always be proud of that. ‘N Groot lewens besluit is nie ‘n keuse nie, maar eerder ‘n besef dat die besluit reeds gemaak is. A major life decision is never a choice, but rather a realization that the decision has already been made.
This story was written by Mickayla Blake, a student in the Bay Area.