“Act like you’ve been here before.”

Jessica Johnson,
Long Beach, CA.

My grandparents took pride in not being a “typical” black family. I grew up in Prince George’s County, MD (about 10mins outside of the nation’s capital) which is home to the largest number of middle class black families in the United States. But outside of my community, I noticed even at a young age that when I traveled (four trips to Europe and twice across the continental U.S.) , attended music enrichment programs (private flute lessons for 15years) and sat in our annual seats at the theater (as a “Performing Arts” Coordinator she created a partnership with the Kennedy Center), there were very few black faces other than my family. And no matter how new or amazing the experience, my Grandmother never wanted us to show our amazement until we were leaving the function. This was her reasoning:

‘They expect that black people have never seen anything or been anywhere. I’m raising you to be well-rounded, so act like you’ve been here before.”

As a child I thought she just didn’t want me to have fun, but when I recall my childhood experiences to others, I’m met with amazement and sometimes skepticism because “black people don’t do that.” So now I understand.


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