On a recent Friday I went to UC Riverside to become part of their Honors Program. 62 miles from the city where I live. 62 miles away from my home. The heat that filled our SUV all the way made me think of possibly ending in Hell after all of this. I expected a mad rush of hate and unfounded prejudice.
I attended, knowing that it was my responsibility to prove the "news" wrong. I had to become the face of South Central for those who had only seen body bags and gangstas come out of my neighborhood. I had to prove all the perceptions wrong. It was a self-guiding task that would prove my reason for being there.
I got there and I found a new world. I felt a rush of awe that filled my body with an urge to say "I made it!" out loud. I saw all restrictions fade away, but then my neighborhood came to mind. I must prove myself worthy.
We had to talk about who we were and where we came from. I said, "My name is Roberto Rodriguez. I was born in South L.A. But don't be afraid, I am not gonna steal anything". I felt a bit stupid saying that but it proved to be an ice breaker. I continued, "I am a Business Economics Major who will one day return to his neighborhood as a teacher." The place went silent as if I had said something wrong. I don't know if the idea of one day teaching my people caused a conflict on ideas or the fact that I had already planned my next step.
We talked more about who we were and what made us special. I gave the fact that I ran for my school plus I ran the Marathon. They were surprised. Everyone slept early (about 1 AM) but I continued to talk to others. I was an enigma and by the end I would be someone to know.
The next day was filled with lectures and more people to impress. I ate alone but that is because they did not know who I was. They saw an individual filled with a treasure that you could only glimpse at but never truly find. I became one of those questions which you can never answer, only look at with awe.
The lectures brought out my intellectual side. I found myself giving lectures of my own during discussion. They were impressed at my knowledge! I gave answers, got questions and answered them like a pro. They were caught off guard and soon I would catch them by surprise.
There was a talent show scheduled for the next day. I had read about it and I knew it was essential for me to win. Not because I am competitive (Even though I am). It was not that I wanted to catch the attention of all (Even if inside I felt like I did). I wanted to prove that their selection was correct. I found myself ready to let LPoeta flow.
"Who wants to be part of the talent show?" I raised my hand suddenly without a second thought in mind. People only knew I knew how to dance, run, lead, and draw. They had found this skill out through one simple case of boredom. I sat listening to the lecture but my mind felt like sleeping. I chose not to. I knew it would be a worse disgrace for me to sleep than to draw. I drew boredom.
The Hall Olympics came and went with our team in second place. The chant which I did in 10 minutes lost and I felt a bit ashamed but it was fun. We got wet, we got to rap. Now came the most important thing this weekend: The Talent Contest.
Before we left our Dorm I chose to give a complete awe session for my group. They had guessed from the chant that I helped make that knew how to write. But the pieces I performed were all winning works of art. I thought, "Will my elementary words have the same effect on Honors?" I thought this as I spoke.........
The Talent Show came and I saw the tricks and singing. I felt the urge to explode and engulf the room with my soul. I was impatient to go on stage. Then the call came "Roberto Rodriguez!"
I got on and saw a New World. I saw people who had never felt the sensation of a lifted soul. I got on and started of with a sentimental poem, for the ladies, entitled "Bronze Queen." It proved to be the ice breaker I needed to not scare them before I got serious, then I really begun.
First was my "Intro" which made them laugh because "I look older than I really am." Then I got a bit serious with "Resurrection." The poem which has made people cry and get hooked by my strength. After this poem, I went into their minds with "Incorrect Perception." All of a sudden they were hypnotized "cuz it turns out I'm the best student. And when I speak I make everyone understand the work more deeply". Suddenly that simply could not speak. I had them thinking deeper and seriously. I ended with my prize-winning two-part poem, "The Separation." In an instant they were being schooled on the idea that, "We are all the same even if it does not seem that way." And with "The End of the Separation" came the applause of comprehension. I proved my position and I made it clear I belonged.
"I won! I won!" I thought as I ran to get my prize. I had proven my worth through tasks that were given. I ate with friends all weekend because they understood my eventual worth.
I did dance at the party we had later on and it seems I proved myself there too. I came back Tuesday with new respect and a new community to call my home but I can't forget where I come from. I literally breathed a bit better when I came back. The world necame smaller and more open for my ideas.
I saw my first trial of what is to come. A life away from "D Ghetto".