On Being the Token Black at Social Functions

This weekend, my best friend got married to the love of his life.

Now before I even get deep into the story — I want to give a little back story.

Aaron & I have been best friends since high school. One of those kind of friendships where no matter how weird life got, we held it down and remained friends. From High school graduation, to going to culturally opposite (and rival) colleges, inviting each other to holiday functions, and family parties and graduating with damn near the same major- We have plowed through life TOGETHER as the white brother and black sister [Let me also add that both of our last names start with W so most of all of our interractions through school demanded we sit next to one another formally]. Now that I got that out of the way, it should make clear sense as to why regardless of anything; I couldn’t miss this function for anything.. I just wouldn’t allow it.

SO- after receiving my Save the Dates in the mail and followed by the invite– I never once paid attention to the location. Seeing that the bride and groom both live in Chicago, I assumed it would be somewhere close to there- but to my dumb ass fault I didn’t pay attention to the location until well, hell.. it was kind of too late.

Upon preparing my travels, I looked up where Port Clinton, Ohio was and to my surprise I had never once heard of this place. I mean shit, I’m from Ohio but most people told me there isn’t shit to venture above Cleveland for if you’re black and well.. I could see why AFTER I arrived.

After flying from Atlanta to Cleveland at 5 AM I rented a car so that I could continue my travels Northeast for another hour and a half to the Air BnB. For me, I was excited to spend a few hours in Cleveland catching up with a friend from college who I hadn’t seen in seven years, so it was a good time to say the least.

But that’s where the fun halted for that day. As I drove from Cleveland into Port Clinton, driving over the Sandusky Bay bridge surrounded by water to my left, right, and underneath — I found a sort of peace beginning to overcome me.

There’s something about water that calms me, but also the thought of being reunited with friends after going through the worse depression and existential crisis.

When I arrived to the town — To my surprise, it was like scenes of my favorite murder mystery thriller shows. Think: The Sinner, Small towns on Criminal Minds, The town on the movie Birds, and the most recent film GET OUT.

That’s when the serenity turned more into a pseudo-stressed panic.

After checking into my airbnb and receiving suggestions of things to do from my host, I found that this small town was possibly a place where I would meet death. (Yes, I am that dramatic)

After 3-minute drives both east and west, I found that I had seen the entire town, and also all of the black present (after looking in the mirror). Yep- That’s right. The town’s black population was a mere – 1 (ME) and back to 0 when I left.

I quickly pin-dropped my location to all my friends in the surrounding areas of Ohio as I fired off a slew of rage filled messages. “How the FUCK does someone invite me to a place with no black people!? Of course, I knew I ran the risk of being 1 of 1 blacks at the wedding, but in the whole damn town?! FUCK THAT! When I get married, I’m gonna make sure I have my shit in the mot blackest setting ever cuz white people loveeee doing shit like this!” said one message. “Fuckkkkk! Here’s my location! If I don’t text you in the morning make sure they fish me out the got damn lake! I ain’t going to the sunken place without a fight!” read the other.

I mean, I was legit scared, surprised, pissed and annoyed all at once.

“Alicia, you have to look on the bright side about the situation,” my friend responded. “You’ve had a rough couple months and you said you needed a vacation. Maybe the universe is isolating you to share something with you that you need. Sleep with all your clothes on.. drink red bulls for the next couple days and stay alert, but try to be the Lo In The City you are and find the adventure in that place!”

After a few pep talks and a whole lot more bitchin’ I decided to venture off with my camera and plan the next day and a half I had there. [A few Breakdown blogs to follow of things to do!]

I packed my camera, laptop and a new novel I’m reading and headed to the dock for some quiet time. As I sat and workshopped on the Letters to Heaven manuscript — I was bombarded with thoughts and memories.

Just as I had been evolving rapidly — this was the end of an era with Aaron & I’s relationship. Would I have been pissed if he didn’t invite me and not give me the opportunity to decline the invitation? Absolutely. I had taken a moment to realize that — We all have changed.

There have been PLENTY of times that I have invited Aaron (+ the gang) to be the only white people amongst my (partially uppity) black ass family. With the current climate of race relations, it’s become hard to decipher who is authentic and who has been “turned”. While I personally knew in my heart of hearts that there was no malice in the weekend, and it just happened to be a fucked up thing to be the token of a town, one thing stood out in all the messages from the universe on the water on that day.

Friendships are a continuous work in progress. No matter how much growth and how much change — some things will never change. I’m grateful to have a gang of friends who are “woke” to the fucked up things that happen to Black people in America. And I’m thankful that they have enough guts to consistently and openly stand up for what’s right (and wrong) no matter what.

Though it sucked being 1 of 1 in a town, it reminded me of what makes me special. My adaptability, loyalty and my ability to always be the friend others can count on. There won’t always be environments where I am surrounded by people who are like and that’s okay because the world isn’t made that way. It’s important that we all are able to adapt for the greater good.

 

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