the heart of roseland.

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remember your first school, or your first classroom? i remember mine. my first school was salem alternative christian academy, later renamed salem christian academy. my first classroom was located on the second floor of b-building. my first teacher was ms. peters. she rocked finger waves and gold door knocker earrings. i wore size 13 in infant. my only friend was demarcus and my crush was alexis. k-4, kindergarten-4, i was in mrs. thrash’s class. i was left in the gymnasium all alone on my first day. everyone had gone to class and i was just sitting there as the janitor, kente, swept. he walked me to class on my first day because i was lost and confused. mrs. thrash was my teacher. i remember telling her that men don’t cry. i met my first set of twins in that class and played house for the first time. i had ms. bradford as my teacher in K-5. that’s where i met the first boy who didn’t “act like a boy” named tony. he wasn’t into the same shit as us. he hung with the girls and barely talked to us. 

my first grade teacher was ms. robertson. she knew me since i was a baby and knew my parents. ms. bryant was the other first grade teacher. she’s the first person that i met that wasn’t born and raised in america. second grade was ms. fulilove. i encountered my second bully, my first as vondrick boyd. jeremy hill was his name and he could get under my skin like no other. 3rd. grade was a split between 3rd and 4th graders. i still don’t understand how we were in one class. jeremy hill mooned us and i snitched. what can i say? i was a goody two shoes. in 4th grade, i was in ms. bell’s class. i learned so much about discipline from her. she taught us about the election process. bush vs. gore was my first time actually paying attention. we also sang in an hour long madrigal performance for christmas. we had renaissance style costumes. my nigga i wore tights.

fifth grade was ms. robinson’s class. 9/11 was the day after my birthday and i lost my grandfather about a month later. we had our first school scandal when coach jackson was arrested. tough year. 6th. grade was ms. beck. around the time i convinced myself that i could date a grown woman. mr. moore was 7th grade. he sent me to my mom’s office for ms for misconduct. first time ever. we met state senator barack obama that year. 8th. grade was ms. mckinley. she was an underrated educator. she understood what it meant to teach in roseland. we met us senator barack obama that year.

lift every voice and sing has three verses and i knew all three. i watched eyes on the prize before i understood what racism was. we had kwanza celebrations alongside christmas each year. black history bowls and “who am i?” contests helped us learn about our history and our contributions to the world. i spent a huge chunk of my life at salem christian academy. this was the place that my first memories were formed, now it no longer exists. i attended salem from age 3 to 13. in so many ways it shaped the person that i am today. to keep it a buck, i miss that place. i wish my goddaughter would’ve able to attend the school as me and her pops. rev. james meeks closed the doors in 2011. it was a shock to all of us. my mom still worked there and was blindsided by it. i still have some questions about the closing and i’ll write about it soon. 

i don’t know if another school has taken its place in roseland. i don’t know of a private school ran by black people that specifically aimed to teach black children. there isn’t much of a point to this. i’ve just lost a lot of important people from my childhood. when my parents weren’t around these people took care of me. they looked after me as if i were their own. as i’ve grown up, i’ve realized that this isn’t normal. i want this to be normal. damn i’m getting old.

Kelvin Hicks