I was born and raised a Chicago kid. I grew up on the near Northwest Side of the city in a culturally diverse, blue collar neighborhood. My family was mixed. Both my father and mother had been married with children before me. I had five older half-sisters. My father was the son of a Scottish father, and an Italian mother. My mother was Native American, a proud member of the Nansemond Indian Tribe and Algonquin Nation, just as I am.
Although there were not many people of color in my surrounding city blocks, there was incredible diversity of various European immigrants who came from Ireland, Poland, and Italy seeking a better life. My area code was 312 and most of the clothes on my back came from Kmart, Montgomery Wards, or Sears. We were not rich, but we also did not go without. For the many challenges in my young life, there is no doubt that I learned lessons about adult social interactions, perseverance, and work ethic.
My parents likely felt that the quality of education and athletic training would be greatly improved by moving to a neighboring school district with a stronger reputation and more resources. During those crucial four years, I was incredibly blessed to encounter wonderful people and make what I believe to be life-long connections. My peer group had great diversity of thought and interest.
I was the “jock”. A three-season athlete, multiple varsity letters, state level track and field competitor, with a budding division one football career on the horizon.
But my friends were the kids from drama and music, science and math, and even some of the infamous slackers that were so common among us Generation Xers. I wanted to exclude no good people from my life simply because they were different or had different interests.