I started kindergarten when I was six years old. I don’t have a lot of memories of it, but I remember my mother walking me to school some mornings. She crocheted a lot and made me some clothes to go to school. The only things I didn’t like were the multicolor hats she made for me. I didn’t like them and she knew it, but I wore them anyway.
Because I was new and black, I was seen in a strange way. I didn’t feel really accepted. One day, I wanted to play with a group of girls, but they wouldn’t let me because I was black. They stood all around me singing, “You are black. You are black. You are black.” Then tears came to my eyes. I was a lonely and oversensitive girl. When I think of it now, I ask myself how some kids at that age could be so cruel. I guess education comes from our own families. But when we are in a group, we act like everybody else, but we act differently when we are by ourselves unless we aren’t followers. Deep inside, I still have the strange feelings of being in this circle and hearing the girls’ song.
When my mom came to pick me up from school, I didn’t tell her. I don’t know why, but I didn’t tell her. I kept all negative feelings inside, because I didn’t know how to tell her. I also didn’t know if she would have understood my feelings, because she was very irritable. I cried all the time and even over nothing. Sometimes, I didn’t know for what reason I was crying. I think it bothered everybody in my family. I was the only girl, and I didn’t have anyone to rely on except my girlfriends. My brothers sometimes yelled at me, saying “What’s going on? Why are you crying? Stop it!” And I cried more and more because of the way they talked to me.
At a young age, I felt unloved, scared, and frightened by everything, even when I was with my friends. I felt like no one had some time for me. My mother did what she could; unfortunately, what she could do wasn’t enough for us.
Months later, I became friends with other girls and boys from different buildings, including Muriel. Muriel was outgoing, outspoken, full of life, and beautiful. She was a joy to be around, and she had success with boys. Secretly, I felt very jealous of her. I wanted to be like her—white, beautiful, and successful with boys. I was drawn to her. I was trying to get her attention and wanted to be liked. I wanted to be loved by anyone who was nice to me. Muriel teased me a lot about my shyness, and she taught me a lot about boys. I hung out with a group of girls who, in my point of view, accepted me for who I was. At that time, I was a follower. I didn’t have the courage to be myself yet. My parents couldn’t or didn’t want to see that I was different.