At 6 am I am standing in a line that stretches along the gates of Vesuvio Playground, a small urban park on the corner of Spring Street and Thompson Street in Soho. At 6:30 am, a CBS news van pulls up to the corner across the street. A young brunette woman and her cameraman jump out of the van and sprint into action. Panorama shots of the line are taken.
While it was released in early October, the video “First World Anthem,” created by the nonprofit organization Gift of Water, has only recently started going viral. The video shows children and adults wearing slightly tattered clothes while standing in front of destroyed homes and desolate fields, reading phrases such as “I hate when my phone charger won’t reach my bed” and “I hate when my mint gum makes my ice water taste too cold.”
I call myself African. Despite being raised in New York, I was born in Ghana and was raised culturally Ghanaian. I understand the language, Twi, though I don’t speak it very well, which people (mostly Ghanaians) point out and make fun of me for.
As of last year, I have lost my status as a permanent resident of New York City. I have in many ways become a stranger to the concrete jungle that taught me that the world contained more than my five-person family and two-bedroom apartment located in the scenic neighborhood of Parkchester, centered in the middle of the Bronx, a borough known for little more than its poverty and baseball team.
On February 18th, three white students competed on College Jeopardy. In the second half of the show, which, thanks to the Internet, can be viewed on YouTube, the contestants sped through five of the six categories, which included obscure topics such as “Weather Verbs” and “International Cinema Showcase.” For 10 minutes, I waited for any of them to choose a question from the sixth category labeled “African-American History.”