This I Believe

Heather - Hialeah, Florida
Entered on April 15, 2007

I believe in the beauty of color: from the awe-inspiring view of majestic purple mountains against a sky emblazoned with the pink and orange tones of sunset to the clean and simple contrast of black text upon a simple white page.

I am intrigued by the way in which the varying shades of our world tease our senses. Spice floods our mouths when red pushes past our lips and trips upon our tongues. Our nostrils flare near malodorous greens and browns. When gray clouds loom overhead, we may feel that we are drowning in blue and long for the warmth of orange.

Yet no other colors quicken the pulse, still the tongue, churn the stomach and set the spirit afire quite like the contrast of white and black.

This is my story.

While at a fair when I was two, my parents met a couple with a beautiful four year old daughter named Keirstan. I was too little to go on the toddler rides alone, so she eagerly offered to play “big sister.”

Keirstan protectively wrapped her dainty, ebony arm around my fair-skinned shoulders and pulled me close. We smiled like a pair of Cheshire cats as my parents memorialized our bright-eyed exuberance on film. We were just two little girls, mindless of the history and struggle that made our newfound friendship so symbolic.

At the age of 11, my optimism was challenged when I was chosen to participate in a magnet program intended to integrate white students into a school with a minority-based student body.

Within the program’s first month, one participant was randomly punched while walking to class and another required stitches when an unopened milk carton was lobbed at her head. One day, my classmates and I were locked inside of the school as the other students rioted outside. I watched helplessly as a group of enraged students threatened my Mom and rocked her car from side to side. For the first time, I saw the world in stark extremes of white and black.

I faced a similar experience when starting junior high school a year later.

Notwithstanding the fact that I surrounded myself with a diverse circle of friends, one of my new classmates accused me of being racist. In the weeks that followed, she threatened me, destroyed my school work and books, hit me and matted my hair with chewing gum. The ordeal came to an end when school security caught her skipping class with a loaded gun in her backpack.

My dazzling world was reduced to a bleak haze, until I stumbled upon a vibrant photograph of two little girls.

When I feel beauty is lost, that photo is my moral compass. I am enthralled by the rainbow luminescence of the carnival’s neon lights and captivated by the way my friend’s silky midnight skin compliments my own creamy complexion.

This profound imagery renews my sense of hope and restores my faith. But most importantly, it reminds me how truly beautiful color can be.