I am four in this picture. A year from the time this picture was taken, I was living with my mother in a small, run-down house on the East Side of Flint, MI. It would be my home for the next fifteen years. The cradle of security that was my multi-generational home was gone, and I was left at the mercy of the American public school system.
Like approximately 15 million other children in the United States at that time, I was living below the poverty line (that’s about 1 in 4, for those of you in the audience who are keeping track.) If it wasn’t for hand-me-downs from my older siblings and cousins, I very well might have grown up naked. More than one night I went to bed hungry, and I dreaded snow days in the winter, because it meant I would miss out on the free breakfast and lunch that my school provided for me and other low-income students. Yet, as a child, something as abstract as money never crossed my mind. I never knew I was poor until another kid at my school told me that I was.
However, having less in an environment of opportunity can actually be quite empowering. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth…no, all I got was this plastic Spork, and I’ll stab you to death with it if you try to take it from me! When you have nothing, you strive to improve your situation. If you fail, you’re on your own, and it ceases to be an option. Dedication to the tasks at hand becomes your mindset, because otherwise success can never be achieved. When you finally do succeed, there is no false sense of entitlement to a world of worthless peons. I know exactly how hard it is to make it in life because I have watched generations of my family and friends struggle in order to raise me up to where I stand today.
I may be going broke, but I will never be broken.