Wednesday, April 26, 2006

It's a Different World

I know my parents love me,
Stand behind me come what may.
I know now that I'm ready,
Because I finally heard them say
It's a different world form where you come from.

Back in the day, Thursday nights meant that I was in front of the tv screen getting ready to watch the crew from "A Different World." I remember once telling a friend that I intended on applying to Hillman College. He fell out laughing and offered to give me a thousand dollars if I get into Hillman; this pissed me off so I punched him in the chest and told him that I would get into Hillman. After all, how hard could it be, Ron Johnson got in. He then offered to give me ten dollars if I could just get an application. It took a little convincing but I eventually realized that Hillman College did not exist.

The future was always and still is a different world for me. I spend too much time thinking, planning, strategizing about how I will make things happen in the future. It's the one place where I have always felt comfortable living in, which probably explains why I focus on it so earnestly.

Little by little though, I'm starting to build a similar relationship with the past. I like to think of myself being more athletic, energetic and romantic--not in terms of love--but in terms of what I thought that each day would bring. At one time each day was another opportunity for change in myself and the world and I tackled each as such Admittedly I do more planning than tackling sometimes these days.

Having gone through college and graduate school, two endeavors that were at one time future projects, I am starting to go back and redo in my mind experiences from high school, much like I might have exerted energy at one time, thinking about the fabulous dorm life I was going to have at Hillman, and who was going to play the Whitley to my Dwayne Wayne. Every once in a while I might give a second thought to not going to the senior prom, or never going out for the basketball team.

There are also moments when my future and past intersect. For example the first time I stumbled upon the show My Sweet Sixteen, I thought it was absurd/crazy/and the kids being featured only alternated from freakish to hellish. Was this how rich kids really lived? The same question that I asked while growing up watching shows like "Silver Spoons" or Beverly Hills 90210
is the same question I find myself asking as kid after kid enjoys one ostentatious birthday party after another.

It's been a while since I watched that show (I actually watched three episodes to get to the much hyped "Divo" episode) but when I found this article "MTV's 'Super Sweet 16' Gives a Sour Pleasure"
in today's NYTimes, I had to take a peek. I was curious to read Ogunnaike's take on the show, to see what someone closer to my age thought about the show. Not surprisingly the author, and some of the adults questioned shared my sentiments on "Super Sweet 16."

Just as I was about to pat myself on the shoulder, I noticed a link to another article "Student's Prize is a Trip into Immigration Limbo." Unlike the kids in "Super Sweet 16," Amadou Ly, the young man featured in this other Times Piece had no over the top celebration in front of him. He had no "Bentley's" much less "A Bentley and two homes," like one of the kids mentioned in the "Super Sweet 16" article coming to him. Amadou's plight it goes without saying is much dire than those of his peers featured in the MTV show.

Interestingly enough, these are two sides--maybe even the same side--of the American Dream. On the one hand "Super Sweet 16" promotes the opulence and lavish lifestyles that make America attractive to immigrants, make Americans self-conscious about how we handle our success, and the competitive spirit that makes that success possible and prompts the efforts to top over successful Americans in even the most trivial endeavors.

Amadou's story is also the American Dream, the immigrant kid lifting himself up by the bootstraps, the community patrons interceding on his behalf, and the competition on which his future rests, a competition one might even presume is filled with other young men and women biding for a similar American Dream. For some their performance has been attached to college acceptance, the post 1965 unequivocal green card necessary for climbing up the social and class ladder in the United States.

Amadou, and Aaron (one of the young men mentioned in Ogunnaike's piece) are living in different worlds but same cities, sharing citations in the worlds most prestigious paper on the same day, but being brought to the fore by different writers. The mythic Hillman is a very real possibility for Aaron, while for Amadou it appears to be a real myth at this point as he rides to Atlanta, or "Atalanta," as W.E.B. Du Bois liked to refer to it in Souls of Black Folk. And a century after Du Bois wrote his reflections on "Atalanta," a young man, Amadou, is still dropping his golden apples in hopes of getting his suitor's hand, in hopes of finding the American dream. And as he searches for the dream another young man, Aaron, lives it:
Here's a chance to make it,
If we focus on our goals.
If you dish it we can take it,
Just remember you've been told
It's a different world form where you come from.
It's a different world form where you come from.


2 comments:

MF said...

If you've spent the past living in the future and the present living in the past...when my friend, do you find time to live in the present?

p.s. I wanted to go to Hillman too!!!

DesireeNatalia said...

Hillman=Howard the scenes were shot at Spelman and Morehouse but Howard is Hillman due to copyright laws and a school scared of image corruption as if homecomming is enough, they rejected the use of the name.