My Double Life


As a child growing up in the Bronx, I remember being very outgoing and outspoken. I had many friends and I wasn’t afraid to bust out into song or dance anywhere I went because I liked it. I was interested in ballet, and any song by the Temptations or the Whispers made me bounce around happily. My youth was filled with schoolwork and running around with my cousins and friends until I passed out wherever I saw fit. My voice was the same as my cousins’, and I was no different than any child in my class, just a bit smaller and bossy like most girls are. 

I remember having many friends, and oftentimes my friends would be fighting for my attention because I was busy with another or distracted by a toy. I never got in trouble for my mouth and I never felt any less equipped because of those around me. 

In 2007, my mother decided to move us upstate, where I would begin the 2nd grade at 7-years-old. On the first day, I arrived just in time for lunch, and I remember my small voice carrying over to a girl next to me with curly, bouncy hair asking her: “Would you like to be my best friend?” Her response was immediate, and I felt happy that I had a friend, but eventually, the differences began to show and my happiness soon faded. 

I remember struggling with deciding what color to paint my family during art class because everyone else had chosen yellow or pink, and I knew that my mom wasn’t either of those colors. For a few months, I used yellow. While waiting for my mom to pick me up after school one day, I remember a girl that I was very close with telling me that her mother was racist and hated black people, but being an innocent little girl and so sheltered from the hateful side, I agreed without knowing what I agreed to. 

Slowly, I began to stop dancing, and my blossoming confidence was snatched away from me. I became the only one. I was the only brown girl with a mop of curls or beaded braids. I felt like I was all alone and had to change to fit into this new world I was thrust into. 

Back home in the Bronx, family members and friends began telling me that I sounded “too white” because my voice changed into what I heard all the time around me from my peers and teachers. I was teased by family members and they told me that I thought I was “better” because I had the option of slushies and fresh chocolate chip cookies at my school during lunch. I stopped dancing because I became self-conscious at a young age and thought dancing was wrong because it wasn’t commonly seen or done at my new school. 

In the Bronx and around family, I had to be Erykah with a Bronx accent who knew all the slang words because I didn’t want to be judged or looked at like I was different than the people at home. At the same time, at school around my friends, I was much softer and calmer with a “white voice” because I didn’t want to be looked at as ghetto or ratchet. 

As I grew up and turned into a young adult attending high school, it got tiring to keep up with everyone else’s expectations of me. I just became the girl with the natural Bronx accent, and I was soft and kind, but also a bit rowdy sometimes because that’s who I was on the inside, not because of what was expected of me.

My double life began to fade into the background, and in its absence, I became who I always envisioned myself to be.