The following is the first in a set of 10 stories about my life that lend some peek into who I am and how I got to be the way that I am now.
I grew up in a town called Duncanville. It’s a sleepy landlocked town southwest side of Dallas. We moved there when I was very young and it’s the only home I remember. We went to church at a place 5 minutes from my house and it felt like a good church. We were the only black family there; everyone else was white. This didn’t mean a lot to me because I could sing “I’m In the Lord’s Army” just the same.
The church I went to had a bible competition for the year. The competition was split into regional, state and national competitions over who could sing the best songs, find bible verses in the bible when given clues, and who could memorize certain scriptures. It was literally a contest to see who could be the best at “bibling.” I kid you not, this is serious stuff. I was turnt up about doing “sword drills” once i got to the 4th grade. And turnt up wasn’t even a phrase that people used then.
The first year that I competed I tried bible memorization because it seemed easy. They gave me a tape of several bible verses to memorize and a list of the books of the bible. I listened to the tape every day and worked on learning my verses, my eye contact and being more persuasive with how I said them (I was judged on how persuasive ability and eye contact in addition to knowing the material. As in voice inflection in the right places. Like, what? I mean, come on).
The first year I did decent. I placed first at the regional competition and second (out of three) at state. Only first got to go to nationals (The church I went to was part of a national chain of churches with the same name. You know, like McDonald’s but for Jesus).
The second year I competed I was in the third grade. I signed up for Bible memorization again. I went to regionals and SMOKED that poor other kid. I got a perfect score at regionals. That other kid didn’t stand a chance. He probably has a job in corporate America now. Or maybe a senator.
Then I went on to state and got third. What happened there depends on who you ask.
What I remember is that I was having an off day and was really tired because I had been hanging out with my friends the night before watching the California Raisins Christmas Special. I have no earthly idea what to tell you about that. I mean, it wasn’t even close to Christmas or anything, so why was it even on? But what were we even doing back then that we were watching this crap? Claymaytion cartoons about THE CALIFORNIA RAISINS were on TV? That might be the most 80’s thing that I ever heard of, and that’s saying a LOT.
What I remember is that I was having an off day when it was time to actually give the bible memorization part. Not with the actual bible memorization but with the “eye contact” and “persuasive ability” parts of the grading rubric. What I remember is that I was having a hard time keeping my eyes on the Judges and I even turned my body to face them.
I felt pretty let down about it. It was a big change from how I did at regionals. I didn’t really understand the concept of needing to get rest or having an off day. Those are things that you don’t really understand when you are nine years old.
What my mom says is that the person who got first place did a bad job and forgot her verses. I honestly don’t remember but even more so that doesn’t explain why the person in second place beat me. My mom believed that Texas didn’t want to be represented by a black boy. Again, I just don’t remember. If true, this would have been the first time that I would have experienced such racism.
The next weekend that my mom had me (my parents were divorced at this time and I saw my dad every other weekend) instead of going to that church we drove around and found another church that was predominately black. I went there all through high school and was the lead in most of the youth things except singing.
I went back to the first church years later. They had a split and all the youth were gone but they recognized me as soon as I walked through the door.
How do I feel about it now? It’s hard to say. I think that the underlying idea that you’re going to see in these posts is that I want to believe that people are good. Even when they prove themselves to be otherwise. Even though my world is a little darker now than it was before the election. I don’t know how to be or do anything else than trust people and believe that they are good. And even if that was true about the person who ended up in first place, it doesn’t explain why I got third. Unless they just wanted to make sure that I never made it to nationals. Like, if the first place woman got polio or something then this would prevent me from going in her place.