When Violence is Your Normal

Oakland 2 Ivy

This essay is one of five first-place winners of Jopwell’s 2016 Black Student Experience Essay Grant.

I never realized I was different until I got to Yale. I thought my life experiences were normal – that everybody had to face adversity and overcome challenges. Most people did in their own ways, but then I realized their struggles weren’t like mine. Their struggles weren’t matters of life and death. Their struggles didn’t pose any threat to their physical body. I guess it was because they weren’t from Oakland, California.

Oakland has a long history of dealing with violence, and so have I. I was born to two loving parents, one with scars from multiple gunshot wounds after being shot on the streets of East Palo Alto. Even their love couldn’t shield me from the dangers of our neighborhood.

I was seven years old when, while riding my bike in the street…

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