Journal Entry: 6/28/15. I leave for the Hartford Project today.
Do the people own their city or does the city own its people?
With rap songs and pop punk songs mentioning being stuck in their hometown, you would think that the asphalt was quicksand – that the skyscrapers and office buildings were a fortress, a wall.
Even those who do leave feel gravity pulling them back. That’s where those success stories come from: “Local Boy Makes it out of the Hood, Returns to fund New Outreach Program through Successful Kickstarter”. Homegrown dramatics for the press the grow and eat up. Or bad habits bring them home and keep them there; their families are force fed on the dramatics that follow, the invasive species. And the press lumps them all together.
But the people give the vibes. The spirit or aura of these dense spaces create a barrier that separates tourists and those who gentrify from the veterans. Those who choose to wholeheartedly rep their city because…what else would you do? It’s those people who clearly have an Empire State of Mind in the bowels of suburbia. Those who carry their culture like a virus. Maybe it’s always been symbiotic, maybe we are unaware of the parasite and the host.
Journal Entry: Date Unknown, Summer 2015
Streetlights. The peek out from behind the rooftops. They illuminate the way when I look out my window at night. No matter where I sleep tonight, they will watch over me. They will expose and guard these streets.
Journal Entry: 8/20/15
There are few feelings better than when a friend decides to call. I wasn’t expecting much of anything this summer. It’s the only time left for ourselves before our senior year starts. I’ve been pleasantly surprised as of this past week. She called me with a trip proposal, my first time away with no true guidance. Hey, it distracted me from from crying about my unfinished work so I consider it godsent. (*laughs out of stress*)
Nobody truly has their friendships tested until this year. We all begin to separate, and you realize that your obligatory camaraderie has come to an end. You can cash in your emotional investment! (If you should is different.) Nobody cares anymore, because you have to care about everything leading up to this time. I’ll take it all in stride and build my new self through collective participation and self reflection. Every group takes part; that means Class of 2016, sports, music, church, fandoms, race, gender, ethnicity, and every fleeting interest. Honestly, I’ll talk to anyone who will listen now. I need to get to those who won’t listen somehow. This is my promise to myself and to every odd against me.
Iris Afantchao is a 17 year old first generation Togolese American girl who lives in Connecticut. She describes herself as “your BTF (best tall friend)” on her tumblr, which you can find here. Illustration by Sophia.