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Coming-of-Age Education Empowerment

Journey to Manhood

At the age of 22, fresh out of college and starting my career, I think about how many young African-American men didn’t have the opportunities I have had or didn’t make it as far as I have at this point their lives. I know many young men who dropped out of school, couldn’t afford school, […]

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¡CUBA VIVA! African Diaspora Caribbean Coming-of-Age Cuba Latin America

¡CUBA VIVA! — Undocumented

This one goes out to all the dreamers, the idealists…the “undocumented.” Undocumented. I always felt the DJ was talking to me when he played songs he knew would “connect” with a certain type of audience. Maybe there were teenagers of my same age all over Havana who felt he was addressing them, too. We were […]

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Black Family Black Teens Coming-of-Age Personal Essay Queer Issues Responsibility Sexuality

What’s the Real Danger Here?

Imagine a 15-year-old black boy sucking dick on a staircase while his mother thought he was at the library. Or a 15-year-old boy going to Pride to have sexual encounters with random men on the street. Or even a 16-year-old boy scared to go to the supermarket out of fear that he might see the […]

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Black Family Black Teens Coming-of-Age Queer Issues Sexuality

Love as a String

2014: A conversation with my father I walked with my father to the store in the rain. “So…” my dad said. “I heard that you were gay.” “I am,” I said as I moved from underneath his umbrella. “Well, you know you are going to hell, right?” I paused, getting drenched in the rain. “And who […]

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Blackness Coming-of-Age Poetry

Playground Elegy

The first time I slid down a slide my mother told me to hold my hands towards the sky. Something about gravity, weight distribution, & feeling the air ripple through your fingers. I remember reaching the bottom, smile consuming half of my face, hands still in the air because I didn’t want it to stop. […]

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Coming-of-Age Identity Multiracialism Whiteness

How to Be Beige

I was wearing my best polo shirt, baggy jeans, and gold hoops on the first day of high school. It was the perfect outfit for a ninth grader at the large New Jersey school I should have been attending, surrounded by all of my childhood friends, but a terrible choice for the suburban New England […]

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Coming-of-Age Identity

What’s in a Name?

I am Aniefre Essien, a man born and raised in the South L.A. neighborhood of Harbor City. Essien is somewhat known in sports circles after the rise of Ghanaian soccer superstar Michael Essien (which also happens to be my oldest brother’s name). The name Essien is found commonly among Nigerians from the southeast part of […]

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Coming-of-Age Identity

Black in Alabama

Mine is the story of a boy who spent his childhood summers becoming black in Alabama, wrestling dirt in the whispering winds of Wetumpka out back of a one-room shack in which his great grandmother raised 15 children. It is the story of a boy who spent time with an old man, fishing the broken […]

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Awareness Coming-of-Age Identity Segregation

Together, We Are Better

My mother and father grew up in segregation. Mickey and Miami have fooled people into thinking otherwise, but Florida is and always was a Southern state. My father was born during the Baby Boom and lived in a shotgun house on the brother side of Jacksonville, the youngest of four siblings. His older brother, Julian, made […]