About

Roanoke + Black.001.jpeg

Roanoke:
A Retrospective

 

For my childhood self — like an oversized hand-me-down, already broken in and comfortable, that I would have grown into and won to appreciate with time. 

 

Preface

 

This [project] began as (is) the pursuit of a spark to its point of original. The project took form as the subsequent excavation and aeration needed to bring this exploration's findings to fruition unfolded before me. I am nearing a decade residing outside of my hometown. In two years I will have lived outside of Roanoke, Virginia as long as I lived there. My relationship to the location of my upbringing has been tenuous at best. For the majority of the past decade, my approach was to sever the ties as completely as possible in the age of social media. However over the past two years I have grown skeptical of the efficacy of that approach.

To be fair, it was decided in haste and during one of the more turbulent times in my life. [Though I understand the impetus that led me to sever ties], the limitations of that choice began to reveal itself as I navigated periods of what felt like stagnation in my early twenties. Questions that seemed preposterous a year prior began [started] beckoning for answers. What if my attempts to cordon off phases of my life were hindering my growth rather than providing me with the clean slate I desired? I must have believed a clean slate was attainable based on my insistence on the severance (this course of action) in the first place. But roughly eight years removed from the decision, I no longer believed a clean slate was possible. And with this revision in personal philosophy, I began searching for how to best to make peace with my hometown. 

Nine years ago, when I first entered college, I was adamant about distancing myself from a place in which I never felt at home. For years, to deny Roanoke felt like small acts of vengeance. Learning over time I altered my answer to the question "where are you from?" to a version the would illicit the least curiosity and minimize the potential for further questioning. I landed on "I'm from Virginia, but four hours outside of D.C." Most people with a connection to Virginia meant Northern Virginia. By adding "four hours outside of D.C." I circumvented that conversation and in most cases the conversation progressed without the person digging any further. If I were feeling particularly resentful I'd explicitly mention my disdain for the place, but more often than not I operated with a sense of hometown ambivalence.

Generally, I acted as though I had been born at the dawn of college orientation week, as though none of the previous years informed the person I was or would become. Of course it directly informed what I studied either as an attempt to better understand what had felt just below the surface and just out of earshot, or as a direct rejection of the norms and ethos of my hometown. And for years this felt both true to my needs and the best course of action. I bring my present self to this project. This iteration of self forged through formal and many more informal lessons.

This endeavor is for the sake of self-restoration. A gift I feel propelled from within to bestow unto my childhood self with the hard-fought, fierce love, and deliberate tenderness that I’ve been learning along the way. A reclamation of self into the identities I aim to proudly center. I intend to acquire the knowledge I craved in my youth. Retroactively swooping into scenes seared in my memory — fulfilling Afrofuturism-informed dreams not bound to space or time — to whisper the perfect retort into my own ear, to defiantly stand in my own defense. I hope to gain a historical grounding around which to tether my young self, a person who, in hindsight, often felt both adrift and stifled. I hope to make peace with my upbringing in Roanoke, Virginia. And in so doing, make peace within myself.