“Whatta ya mean?!”
“We’re black. Someone sees us here being loud, they’ll call the cops.”
“For being black.”
“C’mon. For real?”
“He’s serious man. You don’t understand,” another friend chipped in. “It’s different for us.”
These were good kids. Fun loving. Hilarious. Good-natured. Church going. Hard working. Serving their community.
Some of us even spent a night or two outside to protect the sound gear.
Talking about girls, football, rap & metal — and my funny Canadian accent, eh?
I said ‘pop’, they swore it was ‘soda’...
But for our differences, they were crazy teenagers with fears & acne, figuring life out...just like me.
We talked about our plans for the future. The lives we’d lived so far. And some crazy dreams.
They tried to show me the ropes, and help me fit in.
No wonder I stood out, visiting North Philly, from the Great White North.
Here, we were a few blocks from their homes — but in a whole nother world.
I could likely blend in. They could get arrested or maybe even shot.
For doing nothing. But being teens. While black.
And it confused me. I just couldn’t believe it was real. These were kids. Just. Like. Me.
They deserved to belong. It was their city, not mine.
Their path to a favourite joint. But it was laden...
Teaching me a lesson:
Skin colour mattered there.
The more careful it made them, the more I grew madder.
We finally got through those leafy streets. Hit up some bright boulevard.
My friends lit back up. Faces ignited. Smiles alighted.
Had us some damn fine cheesesteaks.
They showed me brotherly love.
We found a different way home. I didn’t want to walk that way again. I wanted my friends.
The way we treat each other. The way we regard the ‘other’.
Refugee. Black. White. Syrian. Gay. First Nations. Wealthy. Homeless. Jewish. Catholic. Sinner. Saint.
But we’ve gotta be in this together. To figure it out. To share this space. With truth, laughter, & lots of grace.
These streets. These coffee shops. These problems. These hopes. Each other.
We all belong to us.