Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma — anything of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
I will never forget reading The Autobiography of Angela Davis during my sophomore year. It was like the best dystopian novel I had ever read. Black Americans were civically engaged; they knew their rights, and they stood up for themselves in accordance with the law; they understood their responsibility to our ancestors. But this dystopia that I read about was real, and Black empowerment had permeated communities across the country. All this progress was inspiring. Then came crack. Like an earthquake, it struck without warning and shook the very foundation of Black livelihood. It destroyed my family, my town, and my people.
While struggling to provide for his grandmother, who raised him, he fell victim to the streets: he became a dealer. He began to sell the same drug that led to the demise of his parents to his people. Cocaine drug him towards the point of no return and thwarted him into the vicious cycle of most repeat offenders: sell drugs, feel rich, re-up, sell more, get caught, serve time, vow to stop, be released, repeat. This was the routine in which I witnessed my dad become so terribly practiced.
Like a thief in the night, crack stole my father from me. When I was one, he was sentenced to two years. When I was four, another two. When I was nine, he left for another year. When I was eleven, another. Unfortunately, this pattern became normalized and I convinced myself that I was fine. When I would learn of his arrest, it was like the rug was being pulled from beneath me. In elementary school, I kept his incarceration a secret. Growing up without a father was crippling and embarrassing. I watched as my predominantly white friends’ fathers dropped them off in the morning, attended back to school night, signed up for a monthly volunteer day, and chaperoned our field trips. I feared the day when someone would ask about my father. I prepared a response: “He lives somewhere else.”
It was not until the day before my eighth-grade graduation, that I began to understand the totality of my circumstances. My mom came into my room and broke the news: this time, my dad had been sentenced to 19 years in prison. This time, I could not hide it. This time, it was featured in the local newspaper: Seaside Man Sentenced to 19 Years for Drug Dealing. Crack struck again.
My situation was not uncommon. While a two-parent home was the norm for many of my White friends, my Black friends’ situations mirrored mine. In the ’80s, crack spread like wildfire. Fathers would sell it, get busted, and go to jail. Mothers would smoke it, get high, and neglect their children. Without parental attention, daughters would develop low self-esteem, get pregnant, and eventually try the drug themselves. Meanwhile, sons would follow in the footsteps of their fathers, drop out of school, and later join them in jail. My father was that son; that is his narrative.
I am his daughter; however, I am determined not to share the same fate; I will break this generational curse. I have struggled to understand how my community can recover. I am reconciling Angela Davis’ reality with my own. Currently, the conversation is about opioids, my natural instinct is to feel bitter, but I am slightly optimistic. If society can understand the devastation that opioids have had in suburban communities, then they will understand how this controlled substance completely obliterated my community. I do not want people to feel sorry for me. I want them to understand the systems that contributed to my experience. For a long time, I blamed my father; I fight every day to be different than what society has produced in him. At the same time, I understand that he is a product of the crack epidemic.Published in