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How to Survive a Spiritual Curse (When You Don't Know Shit...Or Have Anyone...)

A Lesson in Perseverance...

Self Portrait in Fall


Part 1: The EDUCATED Fool...

There I was...submitting my ninth application to whatever Nursing School would accept me in New York City. No one really told me that getting a Bachelor's Degree from Brooklyn College in Africana/Latino Studies would not only be a waste of time, but also a chain that linked me to more debt while I looked for a job using that degree. "Why would you want a degree in African/Latino History?" My Guidance Counselor asked.

"Well, because I wanna teach, I think," was my confused answer...and that was the truth. Growing up in public school in New York City, I learned more about the Jewish Experience than the African one and I grew up feeling robbed, but smart...because not only did I have detailed files on Anne Frank, I also knew how to make a Dreidel, and was great at the game. But I digress...I want to study African/Latino History and I wanted to do it in style.

Part 2: Spiritually Homeless

It was a wonderful time, despite what was going on politically. Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, New York was filled with beaming Freshman newly enrolled CUNY's Brooklyn College. I found a small room to rent on Bedford Avenue for $600 a month and shared it with Lisa, a white girl from Pennsylvania, and Star, another girl whose roots were in Haiti and also majored in Africana Studies. During that time, my locs grew and I managed to take more than 135 Credits of every single black and latino class, that Brooklyn College had to offer. I volunteered in Soup Kitchens, marched to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, and protested George Bush Jr.'s utilization of  Guantanamo Bay in Cuba post 9/11. I took courses like "The Black Woman Cross Culturally" and "Black Men in America." I studied the 'Palestine/Israeli' Conflict', and learned all about African History in the Diaspora. Despite everything that I did learn, I was so spiritually homeless. I didn't have anything to fall back on. I saw girls dressed in white from head to toe, on their way to being initiated into Santeria and felt so happy and envious of their journey. They all came from families that supported them, and even encouraged them to find their real spiritual selves. I, on the other hand had a Bible and that was it. "You still read the Bible, sis?" Starr laughed as she was rolling a joint at our kitchen table.

"Yeah, I still read it, I mean...I still be praying and shit." 

"King James was a damn slave driver girl...Slaves obey your Masters? That's some slave shit" she said.

"Yeah, you are so right" I said, now so confused about what or who to believe in. "What do you read?" I asked her taking a hit of her joint sitting on the countertop.

"I'm in training now...Voodoo Priestess."

My eyes widened, as I said a long "wooooow", upon which Starr laughed. 

"I don't worship the Devil girl. That's just my religion."

I shot back another long "wooooow", and gave Starr back her joint. I definitely wanted to know more, but who was I to ask. My family from what I knew was not from Haiti, but the small island close to it, Jamaica. My countrymen were a Bible-Loving people. Even Bob Marley quoted the Bible all throughout his music, living foul according to some while doing it, but still. We didn't believe in "Voodoo," or even "Obeah," which belonged to the island. Solomon in Ecclesiasties said, "Too much study wearies the soul," and after speaking more with Starr, I had to agree. The more I learned about everything, the LESS I knew about anything.

Part 3: Starting Again

So there I was, once again...searching. Searching for anything to belong to. Along with my studies for school, I pulled out everything I learned prior to even getting into Brooklyn College. You would be so surprised to learn what a 9th Grade August Martin High-School dropout could learn while getting her G.E.D. at some Community College. I finally graduated from Brooklyn College and there I was with a degree in African/Latino Sudies, reading Tarot and Palms on the street corner. I was literally LOST. A shitload of debt was on my back and I could not for the life of me find a job using my degree. I finally got a job working in an Art Store on Canal Street in Manhattan. I made $7 an hour and rented another room in Brooklyn. It was winter, and I remember it being so cold because the place where I rented the room didn't have heat. I used a space-heater to stay warm and slept on an air-mattress. A year went by and I was still boiling water to take a shower and working as a cashier. Fed up, I went back online to see where the money was. I went out for some drinks with a friend who graduated Brooklyn College with me, who said she was going back to school. "Going back for what?" I asked, confused as to why she woukd want to go back to school after just graduating a year or so prior.

"Girl, I'm about to do this nursing" she said.

"Nursing?!? Oh hell no", I shot back. "Those girls were so miserable when we was in school", I said.

"You're right", she said "...but that is where the money is."

Part 4: The Beef Begins...

So fast forward to my application process into Nursing School. I, like my friend from Brooklyn College and a few others, were on our way to become Registered Nurses. I was still living in the 'Room with No Heat' as I liked to call it, and was desperate to get into a program. All of my friends got accepted, but I did not. There was one girl who's GPA was lower than mine and she managed to get into the RN-BSN program at Queens College. I was simply devastated. Not only did I have Student Loan people knocking at my door, my $7 an hour job was just not cutting it. I decided to move. I took the two checks that I could put together and decided to rent another room on the old block in Queens on top of "Mr. Phillips." Phillip was a much older Jamaican man who people knew as a practitioner of 'Obeah.' While other rooms were now going for $800 a month, the room on top of Mr. Phillp was a nice $500. I took the room, got the keys and applied to more programs. One school, a private school in New Rochelle finally accepted me into their program and took whatever credits I had accumulated at Brooklyn College which were not many. My commute every day to New Rochelle from Queens by Public Transportation was four hours, enough time for me to sleep, and study. I did this commute for almost three years while in the RN-BSN program and during my last semester, Mr. Phillip and I had a huge falling out. He had a family member that just had come from Jamaica and who needed a place to stay. It was my last semester in school and I simply could not leave. I was so close to graduating and could not pick up and move anywhere during the semester. I stayed in that room, and that was the worse decision I made in my life.

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