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Concrete Roses

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This powerful prose piece is the debut creative work of writer Kellen Sharp. Kellen is a freshman studying communication arts with hopes of double majoring in journalism. In addition to prose, Kellen also enjoys writing poetry. 

From the concrete grew a rose. 

Apply this rose to every minority trapped in concrete jungles who were plagued by the sound of sirens wailing. 

The roses were my cousins, who stayed over two nights too many because Auntie was out, busy “working” late. 

 What these metaphors didn’t tell you is that, although our biome may be a jungle, we were surrounded by a food desert.

My mother had always shielded me from the harsh truths of being black in America, so we moved out of the hood when I was young. 

We lived estranged from family, a nice home and amicable neighbors, we were the black sheeps. Lone trotters but were the only things we had.

 I was an only child and she was the only parent I had ever known. 

By the time I was old enough to form an identity,  the state of my very blackness was in question.

There was a time in my youth that my mom and I lived on the road. 

Street lights replaced the night stars and U-Haul trucks were a second home.

 We existed state to state and the only thing that was constant were the fast food joints scattered along interstates. 

We ate fried chicken for what felt like an eternity. I hated the wrinkled skin as it secreted lardish liquid. The heat of the white meat as I tore into and stripped the bland nourishment off of the grey, charred bone. The very smell was revolting. 

Every time we ordered KFC, there was always a slick remark from my cousins.

 See, they grew up in the concrete jungle while I chilled from the canopy fanning myself with health magazines. My predilection was a privilege.

I grew up far away from the jungle, flourishing in fields of Pick & Saves and Whole Foods.

 My very critique of their food choice was a critique of their lifestyles. I felt like my heart was broken.

“You don’t know what it’s like to struggle like this,” I imagined them saying after every mechanical crunch. 

I looked down at my reflection through the Kool-Aid’s meniscus pondering my privilege. 

While I prefered the organic orange chicken from Trader Joes and green shakes from OutPost, my cousins were not afforded the same luxury.

 I couldn’t play savior to a family where I felt the honey packets for the side biscuit were thicker than our bonds.

“Who am I to judge,” I thought. Though we both endowed the unalienable rights of oppression, I couldn’t help but still not feel “black enough” and  utterly inadequate. 

This lack of cultural connection (regardless if it may be as menial as fried chicken) distanced me from my cousins.

Despite, the queasiness I would go home and practice eating the fried chicken daily. 

One bite at a time, I conditioned myself to stomach the beast. 

After weeks indulgence, I was finally able to eat fried chicken without barfing. This social acceptance was at the cost of my health as I had gained some weight in my training.

I tried to show my cousins the alternatives to fast food but they were trapped in the food desert — parched of nutrients. 

The harsh reality of being black in America is that many times you don’t realize the harsh reality you’re living in. To this day I will down a “three-piece” and a biscuit and not enjoy a single bite.

I guess on the hierarchy of being a human, acceptance from others was worth more than my personal health. What a bitch.

I wasn’t necessarily the rose that grew from the concrete and existed in this concrete jungle, I was more like the dandelion that envied the roses, painted its petals red, and forsook water.

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