It never crossed my mind to be an educator until I met Ms. Dora Hudson. A compact and mighty, open-mouthed laughing black woman. I am smiling as I’m typing this. Living right off Georgetown street on the west side of Lexington, Kentucky, my hometown. She always wore an oversized shirt and shorts bringing in the breakfast, lunch and dinner from her house down the corner from the Black and Williams Neighborhood Center on 498 Georgetown Street. She never complained and I never knew her to lift her voice unless she needed to be heard. She brought me to WECEP, better known as, the West End Community Empowerment Program, her genius. Ms. Dora, as we called her, was a businesswoman. When she interviewed me, she spoke to me like she believed in me before I even believed in myself. She never wasted a word and asked me, “Do you think you could handle it?” Teaching wasn’t something I felt destined to do but I taught English, drama, and chorus that summer. She took a chance on this sheltered college girl whose sights were set on Broadway in New York City. My sights definitely didn’t include teaching in a summer program with kids who tested every ounce of my 23 year old patience, but Ms. Dora changed my life forever.
I came to New York City fresh off of that WECEP summer of 2003 and beaming black children to the fast paced costume shop of New York University. Hectic and bodies everywhere. Moving and shaking and talking all with coffees in their hands. My eyes agape with all the dust ascending to the heavens above Broadway and 8th street. A rickety wood floor and pretentious student designers hoping to impress all their professors was awaiting me on the third floor of the Tisch School of the Arts. I had classes for hours and hours at a time. Literally, five hours of play analysis and white girls telling me my designs didn’t feel accurate because my fictional characters weren’t authentic enough. My professors said there was a freedom in my sketches but I didn’t feel that at all. I felt guilt. I felt shame. I felt like a disappointment. That I left those babies behind. That I left Kentucky. That I moved on without my best friends. That I betrayed my religious community. That my parents missed me. And all that heaviness didn’t showcase my best design work. And why would it? I was broke living in houses that weren’t mine and humbling myself for people who never could grasp the enormousness of everything I held in my body for decades. Everything hurt and I didn’t feel free.