I was more nervous than anything. I had never been here before. As I walked up the front steps, the old brick building towered over me. Was that barbed-wire coating the top of the walls and fences? Yeah, it was. The sight reminded me of a gingerbread house, but instead of frosting there were razor sharp slivers of metal coating the shingles. Why would a middle school have the façade of a federal penitentiary? Not only was this my first visit to this specific building, it was my first visit to this side of town. Maybe this was why it was called Southside Fundamental.
We all have our beginnings, our comfortable surroundings and a place called home. It is when you leave home that you grow in the world. My home was an upper-middle class neighborhood on the north side of St. Petersburg. I was way outside of my element when I started middle school at Southside. Lockdowns inside and shootings outside of our protective walls were common occurrences. I quickly realized that this neighborhood may not be as nice as the one I grew up in, but it is still someone’s home. I embraced my new surroundings and quickly made new friends. This initial instance molded my open perception of those around me.
I believe that racial walls can be torn down. People of every race and nationality can work together to achieve ever greater things. The human spirit is resilient and unyielding. Love can be born from hate and enemies can become friends. This may be my naïve, utopian view of humanity but it’s one I can believe in. Why hope for better when you can actively partake in it? Those of us that can embrace differences will ultimately prevail.
It is that which makes us different that brings us together. Not as a family, a community, or a nation, but as a people. Strip away all of the stereotypes, ideologies, and pretensions and all that remains is the human form. We are all people regardless of birthplace, nationality, sex, skin-color, level of education, where we live, or who we love. We can all relate and work to make the world a better place, not only for ourselves, but for generations to come. There, for I say, that divided we conquer. Our relentless individuality and constant uniqueness indefinitely bind us as a species. We are all different and consequently all the same.