When people ask me where I’m from, I always say I have “North Carolina branches, Illinois roots.” I live just outside Winston-Salem, but I was born and raised in Chicago, and I’m inordinately proud of that fact. I love where I’m from, I love the neighborhood I grew up in, I love the people that surrounded me there. There are things about Chicago I’m not enamored with and that I wish would change, and hearing news report after news report about the violence staining the city breaks my heart in pieces every time, but it’s never enough to make me wish I’d come from somewhere else. It’s who I am. It informed the kind of person I grew up into. I lived in a very diverse neighborhood, went to diverse schools, found myself surrounded by people from all walks of life. It is probably why I’m so liberal and progressive as an adult. I don’t know that I would have ended up this way if I grew up in the South, where I currently live. I don’t think all Southerners are racist or backwards or ignorant, but I see enough of those things every day to know that it would have affected how I saw the world growing up.
Thank you great-grandparents (on both sides) for settling in Chicago. Thank you, thank you, thank you.