“All the people I knew and cared about were in Gary… It was a massive culture shock.“
Produced by Sydney Jarol with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. www.storycorps.org
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Transcript for Had to Been a Journey for You
Do you remember why you had to send me to Portage? What made you have to take me out of Gary schools?
I had to take you out because in my mind they were failing horribly, and I could not see you having a successful tenure there. We applied at Portage High School, and they accepted. I had to pay tuition, and tuition was not cheap, but you were able to go there for the whole four years. And I know that had to been a journey for you at that time.
It was. Because I went to Gary schools all my life, cause all the people I knew and cared about at that point were in Gary. And nobody I knew was at Bishop Knoll or Portage, and it was a massive culture shock to go from being at a predominantly black school to being at a predominantly white school because when I started Portage, there were a handful of black people. I was usually the only black person in my class. If Gary schools were better, I probably would have just stayed and gone to Roosevelt or West Side, and that was not possible because I remember complaining to you about the teachers that I had, and how I just didn’t really come out learning much of anything, and then I go to Portage and then I get all this information, I have all these different options to take for classes, I’m exposed to music.
Yeah, you did have more options at Portage High School, and you had more teachers that really cared about your learning, so, you know, even though it was stressful in more ways than one, you got through it.
Once I got to be a sophomore at Portage, they stopped taking students from certain areas. If you were already at Portage, you were fine, but if you were from Gary, Hammond, or East Chicago, then they would not readily take you, and that was done on purpose because so many parents were sending their children from these three cities to Portage because they knew that their children had an opportunity to graduate and they would not have that opportunity in Gary, Hammond, or East Chicago.
Being at Portage gave me a realistic view of what the real world is like, too. The world that I saw just living in Gary was predominantly black, and for a while when I was younger, I thought that’s what the world looked like, just mostly brown faces of all different shades that looked like mine, and then once I got to high school and that was not the case, I realized that, “Oh, okay, this is what the real world is.”